Portland on the Big Screen

The curtains of a movie theater framing the iconic Portland Oregon sign located in downtown Portland. A symbolization of movies and TV series that are set in Portland. Illustration by Everette Cogswell.

Watching TV and seeing the town you’ve grown up in in the background is a weird feeling, enjoying your show and then suddenly seeing the skyline of the city, the iconic Portland sign, or even a familiar restaurant and thinking “Hey! I live there!” While it is a strange feeling, it’s a fun one nonetheless, one that could be worth seeking out. In the instance that you find yourself wanting that, here’s a guide for you. I present to you: Ella’s Guide to Television Set in Portland.

Portlandia – IMDb: 7.8/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%

While this one is a little bit obvious, it feels weird not to start with it. The sketch-comedy show Portlandia was created by SNL actor Fred Armisen, Sleater-Kinney rock musician Carrie Brownstein, and director Jonathan Krisel. The series, which had eight seasons between 2011 and 2018, consists of sketch comedy portraying the life and people of Portland, Oregon. 

Grimm – IMDb: 7.8/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 89%

The Portland-set horror series Grimm, which ran for six seasons from 2011 to 2017, follows Portland Police detective Nick Burkhardt (David Giuntoli). Burkhardt’s lineage of warriors known as Grimms (who have the ability to see supernatural occurrences) leads him on adventures protecting the city from supernatural human and animal creatures that he never could have dreamt were a reality. 

Trinkets – IMDb: 7.1/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 60%

The Netflix original teen drama series Trinkets, which premiered in 2019, has two seasons. The show revolves around teenage shoplifter Elodie Davis (Brianna Hildebrand), who, upon losing her mother and moving to Portland to live with her father, is placed into a shoplifters anonymous support group. When Elodie meets two other shoplifters who go to her school, the girls soon find themselves in more trouble than they had originally anticipated.

Shrill – IMBd: 7.3/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 87%

Shrill, which ran for three seasons between 2019 and 2021, is based on the book Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman by Lindy West. The story follows journalist Annie Easton (Aidy Bryant) who struggles with the relationships in her life and her relationship with her body. The show portrays the life of a struggling woman trying to make a name for herself through a comedic lens. 

Stumptown – IMDb: 7.5/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 93%

The crime/drama series Stumptown (which got its name for obvious reasons) is based on the comic book series (also called Stumptown) by Greg Rucka, Matthew Southworth and Justin Greenwood. The television adaptation, which only ran for one season in 2019, follows the story of war veteran Dex Parios (Cobie Smulders) who works as a private investigator in Portland. While working, Parios also deals with a complicated romance, a gambling debt, and taking care of her brother. 

The Edge of Seventeen – IMDb: 7.3/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%

The drama/comedy movie The Edge of Seventeen, which was released in 2016, is the story of teenager Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld), and the trials and horrors of high school. When her popular older brother begins dating her only best friend, her life is turned upside down in a world of betrayal and hurt that she tries to navigate along with her other problems. 

Leave No Trace – IMDb: 7.2/10, Rotten Tomatoes: 100%

The 2018 movie Leave No Trace, which was based on a true story and well-known Portland legend, tells the story of the lives of a veteran father and his teenage daughter. The two live alone in the depths of Forest Park until eventually discovered by authorities. They are subsequently swept into a somewhat nomadic life in hopes of finding a place to live. 

Coming soon! Wildwood, the movie adaptation of the book Wildwood written by Colin Meloy and illustrated by Carson Ellis, is not only set in Portland but is soon to be made into a film by Portland-based animation company Laika.  Wildwood is the fantasy story of two middle schoolers who find themselves wrapped up in a variety of wonders and horrors within the depths of Forest Park. The release date has yet to be announced.

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