Seattle on the silver screen

Rating Washington set films and series

by Darby O'Neill, Art Director

“10 Things I Hate About You” 1999 | PG-13 Overall Rating: 10/10 Depiction of Washington: 10/10

The Pacific Northwest is nothing short of a marvel. With its percolating buzz and breathtaking scenery, every view is a picture, and every picture tells a story. That’s  probably why so many movies and television shows have chosen Washington state to set their tale. From media that would be completely altered had it taken place anywhere else, to other throwaways such as “Rick and Morty” or “Frasier” that make you go, “wait that’s supposed to be here?” So without further adieu, here are a few of my takes on movies and shows set right here in home sweet home.

You could have me at gunpoint and I still could not muster up 10 things I hate about this movie to save my life. A modern retelling of William Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew,” “10 Things I Hate About You” is a rom-com staple. Its period-typical late ‘90s clothing and superb soundtrack create an unmatchable vibe of joy, nostalgia, and sheer coolness, also making the film a staple in many a teenage Pinterest board.

Alongside a talented and lovable cast, the movie’s location also lends to its infamy. “10 Things” is set in Washington, featuring pivotal scenes at Gasworks Park, The Paramount Theatre, the Fremont Troll, and Stadium High School in Tacoma. The film’s romanticization of Seattle’s sights and quirks feel gorgeous without taking away from the story. As a Seattleite viewer, recognizing settings in the movie is an instant shot of street-cred, making you fight the urge to stand up and shout, “I’ve been there!”

If there’s one movie on this list that you would even consider watching, make it this one. “10 Things” is a wonderful, offbeat coming-of-age story and especially a must-watch if you’re from Washington. Ultimately, I would go as far as to say that this is one of my favorite movies ever. At least, it’s definitely in my top 10. (See what I did there?)

“Practical Magic” 1998 | PG-13 Overall Rating: 8/10 Depiction of Washington: 7/10

“Practical Magic,” though likely a bit more obscure to our age demographic, has been a long-time favorite of my family’s and one I thought I should recommend. While probably too dark for a toddler-aged Darby to have been viewing, the movie tells the irreverent tale of two witch sisters, (Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman) raised by their eccentric aunts who have long since sworn off magic. They have to revisit their powers, however, when they accidentally murder the youngest sister’s violent boyfriend, attempting to cover up the incident and resurrect him. The Washington location isn’t too essential, but it’s a nice spotlight based on a quaint town on Whidbey Island. With gorgeous plantlife as well as a charming Victorian-style house built on Whidbey solely for the movie, Washington lends the perfect environment for the spellbinding and twisted events that occur.

“Sleepless In Seattle” 1993 | PG Overall Rating: 9/10 Depiction of Washington: 10/10

Surprisingly, I had never seen this movie up until a few weeks ago upon writing this article, and let me tell you I spent my life ROBBED. I don’t really know by whom, but I was robbed nonetheless. This flick had me squealing like a pig and blushing like a thermometer, exclaiming at my TV with every emotion humanly possible.

The plot flowed rather naturally for this kind of movie, and maybe it’s just my sweet spot for call-in-radio narratives, but I was hooked right away. With great acting and smart humor, it was perfectly sweet and appropriately cheesy — just what I would expect for a film that’s made such an iconic name for itself.

What really makes this movie magical, though, is the setting of Seattle, which seems obvious given the title. The city is almost a character, in the way that its location is essential to the driving plotline and a constant point of reference to understand the story’s layout, (yes, we really are way up there in the corner.) Apart from many recognizable shots such as Alki Beach and Pike Place Market, this movie has a way of realistically bringing Seattle to life. The most unbelievable part of the film was Meg Ryan’s ability to get the same open parking spot on Lake Union twice. On a personal note, having a father who moved from Baltimore to Seattle (just like Ryan does in the film,) shortly before “Sleepless” was filmed, made my viewing extra fun.

Editor’s note: Not to be confused with the Phineas and Ferb season 3 episode, “Meepless in Seattle,” which is just as, if not arguably more, iconic. A Gen Z hero, sure, but the episode ultimately reinforced some harmful Seattleite Stereotypes. Really disappointed in Meep. I expected better from him. 3/10.

“Twilight” Saga 2008-2012 | PG-13 Overall Rating: 6/10 Depiction of Washington: 4/10


Of course, how could I talk about Washington-set media without addressing everyone’s favorite vampire/werewolf heartthrob classic? Different from the movies mentioned prior, I believe that “Twilight” romanticizes Washington state in a way that feels unjustified. I think I speak for most Washington locals when I say that our state isn’t all dark and mysterious forests, nor is it really anything special when talking about a small town such as Forks, where “Twilight” is supposed to take place. Nothing amuses me quite like a Twilight fan traveling to Forks only to realize. Having been there myself, I am of the opinion that Forks is insanely overhyped. The whole city is about two blocks long, and the only tourist-y activities to enjoy there include a mediocre Twilight museum, and a second mediocre Twilight museum.

I won’t get too deep into my opinions on the franchise, as the only time I’ve watched the movies was half-asleep, in the car, on the aforementioned Forks road trip. I could very well be in the wrong here, but I never surrendered to the “Twilight” mania nor did I ever grasp what made everyone so crazy about it in the first place. A crucial pop-culture reference to know about, but one that was never really my cup of tea. I was, however, always a fan of telling people I was “Team Jacob” with no actual basis solely to tick them off.


“Grey’s Anatomy” 2005- | TV-14 Overall Rating: 1/10 Depiction of Washington: 1/10

All art by Darby O’Neill

Having seen a sparse and very spread-out episode selection of “Grey’s Anatomy,” I’m sort of going out on a whim here, but I feel confident enough in my opinion where I’m probably right either way. Floofy and overdramatic, the egregiously long 20-season show simply isn’t for me. And I don’t want to get too personal, but just know that I am likely to make several inferences about who you are as a person if you walk up to me and tell me with your whole chest that “Grey’s Anatomy” is your absolute favorite show. The only exception to this rule is my grandmother, which might be saying something if you are watching “Grey’s” under the age of 60.


As far as I know, the only things really tying the show to Washington are some transitional shots of the Seattle skyline that appear from scene to scene. “Grey’s” could be set literally anywhere else in America and it would not change a single thing about the plot. Which is fine, not every piece of media has to have a super relevant location, but the fact that the show’s writers randomly selected Seattle is likely the origins of my grudge. This dull and insubstantial show could have picked anywhere else to take place but instead felt compelled to tarnish our reputation as a city. I truly don’t know how long it will take to rebuild our pride now that we are related to “Grey’s” by association. 


The only thing saving this show from getting less than a 1 on my rankings is Patrick Dempsey’s existence. I actually have no clue how he performs on the show, but he gets automatic “Enchanted” points.