Film can feel like the odd medium out in this city. We love it (see Seattle International Film Festival) but don’t produce a ton. While plenty of movies are set in Seattle, few are actually filmed here, and even fewer reach a wide audience. Still, here are the ones you need to know.
One of the most subtly Seattle-set movies (no Space Needle) is also one of the most beloved. Sure, the boombox scene in Say Anything was shot in LA, but John Cusack’s lovelorn Lloyd spends plenty of Cameron Crowe’s classic driving past sights like the Guild 45th and Fremont’s Waiting for the Interurban.
Crowe returned a couple years later with romantic dramedy. Any trope you can peg on 1992 Seattle—Fabio-haired grunge, flannel, coffee, yuppies—manifests in Singles. Is it truly a classic, casting off the calculated hipness of its setting to air deep human truths about young dating life? Nope. But you won’t be a Seattleite until you can glibly dismiss it.
A 1996 grunge documentary could easily become another part of the brouhaha around early ’90s Seattle. But Hype! smartly looks at how grunge was as much a feat of marketing, especially by Sub Pop, as of art, and for proof of the film’s persisting relevance, you need only know that it ends with people complaining about condo construction.
In 10 Things I Hate About You, a tale as old as Shakespeare, Julia Stiles and Heath Ledger tromp all over the city: paintballing at Gas Works Park, prom at the Paramount Theater. It’d be easy to mock it for landmark collecting, but this comedy’s too damn charming for that.
The city’s most recent hallmark is also one of its best. Humpday was made in the city, by an actual Seattleite (local writer-director Lynn Shelton). The film follows two straight male friends who decide to have sex with each other on camera. What could just yuck it up for bromance laughs instead becomes a tender, intelligent take on sexual identity, masculinity, and progressive Seattleite inclusiveness. It’s also very funny.