Revivals on The Big Screen: Where to Watch Old Movies in Washington, D.C.?


Mohit Kamboj

Washington, D.C., may not have the same clout as big film cities like Los Angeles or New York City, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a film town. While you’ll surely find mega movie theaters that show summer blockbusters, it might surprise you that you can watch classics on the big screen too.

To find those old revivals, you need to know where to go. In Washington, D.C., these are the top spots to go for catching old-timey revivals.

Landmark E Street Cinema

Landmark’s E Street Cinema is well-known for showing an array of international, independent, and arthouse films. But you may not know that it also has a Midnight Madness series that brings back classics to the silver screen. You will find The Rocky Horror Picture Show with a live shadow cast, along with other vintage films available for your viewing pleasure. There’s also a bar with beer and wine that will make watching retro revivals even more enjoyable.

The AFI Silver Theater and Cultural Center

One of the most remarkable things about the AFI Silver Theater is that it features a massive central screen that completely replicates the historic 1938 Silver Theater. This makes it an excellent spot to cozy up for an old movie. The AFI Silver Theater also shows some of the most adored movies from the 80s and many forgotten treasures. This theater is ideal for cinephiles who feel nostalgic when watching movies from the past.

Suns Cinema

Suns Cinema may be a small, independent theater, but it has a huge cult following. It shows lesser-known independent films from an array of genres. With amenities that include an outside patio and lounge where you can belly up to the bar and grab some popcorn. The mismatched theater seats are a unique touch, but the draw here is the chance to see something that time has largely forgotten.

National Gallery of Art

The National Gallery of Art is renowned for curating film series consisting of classics, documentaries, and avant-garde cinema in its West Building Lecture Hall. Here, you’ll be able to find films with different artistic and cinematic styles, particularly when it comes to art films. With year-round film programming, it highlights some of the best films in the world, all in a traditional theatrical setting. You can expect to find restored historical works, silent films with live musical accompaniments, innovative retrospective pieces, and much more.

Freer Gallery

The Freer Gallery is in the Smithsonian’s Asian art museum, and while you’re sure to love the other exhibits, the film programming highlights the best in Asian cinema. You will find new Asian films and classic ones, all at no charge. It’s a great way to broaden your horizons by seeing movies from different cultures.

Library of Congress

The Library of Congress makes it even easier for you to see old films. At both the Mary Pickford Theater on Independence Avenue SE and the Packard Campus Theater on Mount Pony Road, you can find plenty of carefully curated classics to watch with friends and family. Check the programming schedules to see what’s in store at each Library of Congress movie location.

The National Museum of American History

The Warner Bros. Theater at the National Museum of American History is a beautiful place to see classic Warner Bros. films. While they don’t show them on a regular basis, this one-off spot for catching the oldies is one to add to your list. You’ll also find documentaries and film panel discussions on occasion, plus the exhibit of classic film memorabilia just outside the theater offers an excellent glimpse into the past.

Arlington Cinema and Drafthouse

While it is true that the Arlington Cinema and Drafthouse plays new movies, they tend to show them months after their initial release for less than what you’d pay to see them in their first run. This theater will also play cult classics when they tie into a corresponding event. For example, each year, it shows The Big Lebowski on the big screen.

When to Watch Old Movies in Washington, D.C.

If you’re feeling nostalgic for the past, or you simply want to watch a movie that was made before the current era, you’ll want to visit these theaters. Old movies have a special charm all their own, and there’s something to discover in every genre.

To catch these golden oldie revivals on the silver screen, check these theaters for their schedules of events. You just may discover something new by viewing the films of the last century.