For those born after 1962, it’s hard to understand what Seattle was like without its most iconic landmark, the Space Needle. It has become such a synonym for the city that many movie and television series have used this unique skyscraper to identify locations. However, many of these productions weren’t even shot in the city and only used some stock footage of the icon. For example the film “Where did you go, Bernadette?” was actually shot in Pittsburgh. Many more, including the Twilight series, Firewall and TV series such as The Killing, were filmed primarily in Vancouver BC. Sometimes the Space Needle featured in these productions isn’t even the reality, just CGI special effects. Still, there were some who not only included the Space Needle in their story, but made it a minor character.
We have compiled a list of productions that featured the Space Needle (real or fake) in outstanding ways. Notably absent from this list are films like “Sleepless in Seattle”, “Ten Things I Hate About You” and “Henry and the Hendersons” because the needle itself was only shown briefly.
First a little history.
The Space Needle was created as a focal point and observation tower when Seattle hosted the Century 21 Exposition, also known as Seattle’s World Fair, from April 21 to October 21, 1962. To promote the event, public notices were drawn up showing images of the needle and many of the buildings in the Seattle Center that are still in use today. You can find these on YouTube thanks to Seattle Achieves.
Bell System, now known as AT&T, made the short film “Century 21 Calling,” which chronicles the adventures of two overly excited teenagers exploring the show. A good piece in the middle of the film highlight and advances in telephone technology during this time. At the end of the film, the children finally make it to the needle. You can view it on AT & T’s channel on YouTube.
And Mariner Films created the short documentary entitled “Seattle World’s Fair”. The needle itself isn’t shown much here, but you’ll see the International Fountain, the infamous “Bubbleator,” and more. You can watch it on the Seattle Channel on YouTube.
Well films in which the Space Needle made a great appearance:
The big screen
“It Happened at the World’s Fair” (1963)
No other film features the Space Needle as prominently as this Elvis Presley film, and as the name suggests, the story (or lack of it) takes place at the Seattle Worlds Fair in 1962. The film shows a scene in which Elvis is in the restaurant Space needle with a nurse feeding at the fair. It’s humorous because the nurse suggests that they eat something on the needle like it’s a local hamburger. The movie itself isn’t great (unless you’re a huge Elvis fan), but vintage footage of the Seattle Center grounds is pleasant to watch.
“Austin Powers 2: The Spy Who Fucked Me” (1999)
This comedy makes fun of Needle and Starbucks by taking over the headquarters of Dr. Evil makes it a landmark. The needle doesn’t get a lot of screen time, but it’s there.
This “found footage” film involved three teenagers who discover that they have acquired telekinetic powers from a strange object that has fallen from the sky. One scene shows a teenage boy consumed by the need for power who rises to the needle’s window and shatters the glass that harms the people in the former Sky City restaurant. The real restaurant closed five years later. Coincidence?
“The Parallax View” (1974)
This political thriller starring Warren Beatty begins with the assassination of a presidential candidate in the Space Needle, followed by the pursuit of the killer on the roof of the Needle! It’s terrifyingly realistic. You will also find a river scene that was filmed at the Skagit River’s Gorge Dam.
The small screen
“Grey’s Anatomy” (2005-)
Since Grey’s Anatomy has aired since 2005, you’ve probably heard by now that the fictional Seattle Grace Hospital helipad is actually the one used at KOMO Plaza. It’s right across from the Space Needle. Most of this prime-time soap is shot in Los Angeles, but the show sends crews and some cast members to the Emerald City from time to time to shoot short scenes to add credibility to the show.
The Space Needle itself only appears for the first 15 minutes of this two-part disaster-themed miniseries before it spectacularly collapses and crashes on the sidewalk during a 7.9 magnitude earthquake. After broadcasting the special local TV channel KING 5, KING 5 explained the inaccuracies related to the tip-over of the needle on the evening news (i.e. the needle is actually made of steel, not concrete, and is designed for a 9.0 magnitude earthquake).
“Seattle Superstorm” (2012)
This film was just one of many disaster films that aired on the Syfy channel before being released on DVD. The problem starts when an unidentified object is shot down by the military and crashes into Puget Sound, causing a variety of strange weather problems including, but not limited to, earthquakes, tornadoes, and lightning strikes. Not a single shot of this television film was actually shot in the city. As for the Space Needle, it suffers a similar fate as it did in 10.5, but the CGI is nowhere near as good.
Technically, the Space Needle was seen in animated form during the opening credits in every episode of this “Cheers” spin-off series. A picture of it also appeared outside Frasier’s balcony window. However, it was the 100th episode of the series (“The 1000th Episode”), in which the 1000th episode of his radio broadcast of the doctor was celebrated. The “Frasier Craine Day” took place in the Needle, on which everyone, including Mayor Rice, gave their appreciation. Other Seattle locations shown were the Pike Place Market and the Monorail.
That Bulgarian-Canadian film (aka “Robo Shark vs. Navy Seal”), which also premiered on SyFy Channel, was dubbed an “ironic creature” that, unlike 10.5 and Seattle Superstorm, was actually shot in Seattle. The bizarre plot depicts a shark / computer hybrid that can follow people anywhere, including Pacific Place Mall! And once again his curtains for the Space Needle.
“Death Note” (2017)
Netflix premiered this film, which was adapted from the Japanese manga series of the same name. Here a student finds a mysterious notebook that can kill anyone whose name is on its pages. And so, as one does, he’s embarking on a personal crusade to rid the world of criminals. Much of the story takes place in Seattle, but it’s the Seattle Great Wheel that ends up getting the big scene, not the Needle.
“The Scooby Doo Show” (1976)
The Space Needle has even found itself in the world of cartoons. Fighting crime must have been pretty lucrative for Scooby-Doo and the gang as they dined twice at the Eye of the Needle restaurant in the episode “A Scared Dog Meets Demons Underground”. The outside only vaguely looks like the Space Needle and is colored red.