Americans sometimes forget about Seattle. More than just the land of coffee and computers, the Pacific Northwest possesses a cultural flair unique to its setting. The weather may be gloomy, but the mountains and the hiking trails definitely make up for the rain. Films and TV shows across the decades often use Seattle for its picturesque landscapes but also for its personality and plethora of businesses. These are the 22 best Seattle movies and TV shows ever set in the glorious city.
Frasier cemented the decision to base a Cheers spinoff around the psychiatrist character from the Boston bar in quick order. Frasier Crane’s personality fit the Northwest perfectly, and the high-level writing of the sitcom allowed it to air for 11 seasons and get a reboot on Paramount+ in October 2023. That popularity cements it as one of the highest-profile titles among Seattle movies and TV series.
2. Grey’s Anatomy
Grey’s Anatomy never goes out of style, with almost 20 seasons set in the Seattle Grace Hospital. Drawing from past medical dramas like ER and Chicago Hope, the series absorbs most of its plotlines with romance and relationships. A spinoff, Station 19, runs concurrently with the original series on ABC.
3. Sleepless in Seattle
Sleepless in Seattle encapsulates everything that makes the city so romantic to create the perfect rom-com from the early 1990s. Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan’s timeless chemistry never fails to display sizzling energy and drama.
4. 10 Things I Hate About You
One of the iconic teen romance movies of the 1990s, 10 Things I Hate About You stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Julia Stiles, and Heath Ledger as mismatched youth trying to navigate tumultuous relationships in the vicinity of the Pacific Northwest. Filming in the Tacoma, Washington area helped to bring authenticity to the setting.
People never knew what would happen in the outrageous world of iCarly. Starring Miranda Cosgrove as a teenage girl with a web show at the dawn of the internet age, iCarly tapped into many of the unique cultural touchstones of the late 2000s while incorporating the Seattle skyline and plenty of references to coffee.
6. Say Anything . . .
What is it about Seattle that makes it such a popular setting for romance movies? John Cusack holding a boom box in front of his love interest’s bedroom window became synonymous with movie magic in the late 1990s thanks to Say Anything. . .
WarGames definitely feels uniquely Seattle with its heavy dose of computers and futuristic technology predictions. Matthew Broderick stars as a computer hacker who accidentally creates a national emergency all over trying to improve the letter grades on his report card. The concept combines retro aesthetics with contemporary security issues.
Although it didn’t get as many seasons as showrunner Ryan J. Condal originally intended, Colony provided a steady diet of science fiction television to cable audiences on USA Network between 2016 and 2018. The residents of an alien-occupied colony move to the Seattle area later in the series after starting out in Los Angeles.
Anyone looking for a more comedic version of Breaking Bad, look no further than the Showtime series Weeds. Starring Mary-Louise Parker as a mother who turns to marijuana distribution to survive financially, the show dabbles in the moral ethics of selling weed and the bonds that force families to help each other while in distress.
10. Once Upon a Time
Once Upon a Time ambitiously combines fantastical elements and classic fairy tale stories in a mashup of drama and even some comedic undertones. The majority of the show takes place in Maine, but a relocation to Seattle later in the series gives it some novel setting flair.
11. The Midnight Club
Mike Flanagan’s one-season The Midnight Club scared viewers worldwide during the leadup to Halloween 2022. The plot revolves around dying people who commiserate over the threat of ensuing horror madness, including many of the tropes they discuss in their own bedtime stories to each other.
12. The Parallax View
Conspiracy theorists and political thriller fans alike love the classic Warren Beatty vehicle The Parallax View. The Seattle-set film supposedly takes many assumptions about the John F. Kennedy assassination and puts them to screen in new ways.
Another romantic comedy set in Seattle, but this time with a specific grunge music flair. The title refers to the singles who live together in an apartment building and operate within their own specific framework of how they want romance and love to manifest themselves in their lives. Bridget Fonda stars alongside Matt Dillon and Kyra Sedgwick.
14. World’s Greatest Dad
One of the most ambitious movies of Robin Williams’ career came out late in his life. World’s Greatest Dad satirizes a teacher’s decision to take advantage of his son’s death by posing as the author of the child’s suicide note. As can be expected, the attention goes awry in darkly comedic ways as the movie progresses, but Williams always entertains.
15. Kyle XY
ABC Family’s (now Freeform) programming doesn’t usually garner much acclaim, but Kyle XY might offer a nice aside for fans of science fiction and mystery. The titular character can’t remember anything about his life, and the journey throughout the show slowly reveals landmark moments from his past.
16. Battle in Seattle
Seattle doesn’t just get a reputation for coffee but also for the strength of its activism. Battle for Seattle loosely depicts the protests at the 1999 Seattle WTO Conference in which police and protestors collided in a violent affair over the meetings inside the Washington State Convention and Trade Center.
Disclosure stars Michael Douglas as a businessman whose life is turned upside down after he must endure unwanted sexual advances from Demi Moore, who plays his boss. The movie’s star power and uncommon plot threads make for an interesting snapshot of American business life in the 1990s, and solidify it as one of the strangest Seattle movies.
18. It Happened at the World’s Fair
Elvis Presley’s acting career didn’t always receive positive feedback, but It Happened at the World’s Fair gives a great look at the types of films Hollywood executives put the superstar into back in his prime. Presley plays an airplane pilot with a penchant for singing (what a shock!) who meanders through misadventures at the World’s Fair in Seattle.
19. American Heart
Jeff Bridges and Edward Furlong build a fantastic father-son rapport in American Heart. The movie follows the pair as they fight through the father’s dark criminal past and the haunting issues that plague his future with Seattle as a backdrop to the plotlines.
20. Harry in Your Pocket
A forgotten gem from the early 1970s, Harry in Your Pocket stars James Coburn as a master thief who can pickpocket even the most secure person. Michael Sarrazin and Trish Van Devere provide adequate supporting work.
21. My Own Private Idaho
Keanu Reeves and River Phoenix conjure electric chemistry as a pair of friends who adventure through the countryside in search of life’s answers. The film touches LGBTQ+ fans and movie buffs alike for its ability to capture the smallest details about male relationships.
22. Harry and the Hendersons
Harry and the Hendersons delivers light-hearted fun to the whole family. John Lithgow stars as the patriarch of a Seattle clan who encounters the legendary Bigfoot! Makeup and effects are quite excellent for the time period.
Shawn Laib is a writer who has loved all things pop culture from a young age. Growing up playing classic Nintendo games and being introduced to a variety of movies and shows, he always enjoyed analyzing and getting to the bottom of the point of a story. As he went into high school, basketball and sports in general became a main focus. Shawn decided to put his skills in English class to good use and majored in the subject area at the University of Washington, graduating with a B.A. in 2020. He began his freelance writing career after college with sites like SUPERJUMP, Den of Geek, and Quote.com. He now remains a fixture with publications like The Manual and Wealth of Geeks.