After our article last month about the top five films set in Hong Kong, we now turn our attention to films set in London.
To be honest, it’s a challenge just picking five films for you because so many have used the city as a backdrop to some extent or other.
Indeed, the familiar sight of an old-style “Routemaster” double-decker bus in the background as a convincer to the location has become one of the tiredest of film clichés.
Happily, all the following avoid stooping to that level!
Four Weddings and a Funeral
The first of several Richard Curtis and Hugh Grant collaborations, and often considered to be the best.
It’s set in London – the South Bank and Smithfield feature prominently – with trips to the West Country and Scotland for two of the eponymous weddings.
Another Curtis production, Notting Hill, would have been a possible alternative choice, but we think this is a far better film with some genuinely laugh-out-loud moments.
The Long Good Friday
Noteworthy for being ahead of its time in predicting the regeneration of the Docklands region – including the London Olympics being staged there – this shows London just before the Big Bang, yuppies, and the 80s development boom.
It’s often cited, rightly in our opinion, as the best British gangster film. It’s also often imitated – see Guy Ritchie – but has never been equalled.
The film has a great plot, an extraordinary compelling performance from Bob Hoskins and a whole host of memorable one-liners.
It also gives you the chance to play ‘’What I have I seen him in?” as it’s packed with UK actors who made their name subsequently, including a future Bond – Pierce Brosnan – and Derek Thompson (Casualty).
Passport to Pimlico
This film takes us back in time to the London our grandparents grew up in. It’s set in the immediate post-war period – the time of bomb sites, rationing and a residual unity of purpose and camaraderie from the war-years.
Other Ealing comedies have, understandably, used London as a backdrop – both The Lavender Hill Mob and The Ladykillers could easily have made this list. But this gets the nod as it’s a great story, London is key to the plot, and it contains a wonderful cameo from Margaret Rutherford!
My Beautiful Laundrette
The whole story of London is one of the continual assimilation of immigrants of different nationalities. This history goes back to the Huguenots in the 17th century through Windrush in 1948 and the Ugandan Asians fleeing Idi Amin in the early 70s.
This film, set in south London in the mid-80s, perfectly captures the aspirations of one particular immigrant family and the waspish backlash from some local residents.
It’s also noteworthy as being the first major role for multi-Oscar winning Daniel Day-Lewis.
28 Days Later
A rather topical choice, given that it’s set in the immediate aftermath of a deadly worldwide pandemic.
Directed by Danny Boyle and starring Cillian Murphy (Peaky Blinders) and Christopher Eccleston (Our Friends in the North and Doctor Who), it tells the story of a group of people struggling to survive and to reach a place of safety.
It’s a chance to see the London that very few people get to see – the city of empty streets and silence.
Get in touch
We hope you enjoy watching some of the films we’ve recommended here. If you have any favourites of your own that are set London, please let us know.
You can contact us by email or, if you prefer to speak to us, you can reach us in the UK on +44 (0) 208 0044900 or in Hong Kong on +852 39039004.