London is one of the most filmed cities in the world. From modern romantic comedies to ’60s classics; London has generously shared its incredible chemistry with the makers of many iconic films. If you haven’t noticed, it looks pretty good on camera. Chances are you’ve watched at least five of these films (if you haven’t, who even are you?), but the real question is, how many of these London film locations have you visited? Which one is most familiar to you? Maybe you live or lived very close to one of these?
While one cannot rely on movies to portray an accurate picture of what London is like, there is still nothing like curling up on the couch on a cold Saturday night and watching a London movie.
Let me tell you some are just damn fine movies.
So, here’s the Ultimate Best London Movies list.
VERY IMPORTANT: This list is my own opinion, and if you think any of these movies are rubbish, by all means, please tell us in the comments!
101 Dalmatians (1961)
It doesn’t get more London than this. For children all over the world (except those lucky enough to be born in in the city, of course) this must be the main reference of what London looks like. The story takes place in the streets of London, with recognisable houses that are – again – said to be inspired by the Regents Park area.
An American Werewolf in London (1981)
After a werewolf attacks two American students while they’re on a field trip through England, one of them dies, and the other is sent to a hospital in London. The survivor, called Jack, then remains at the house of his nurses, where he discovers that he is now a werewolf. Located on Earl’s Court, 64 Coleherne Road, this house is for the fans among us. Another memorable scene in which London plays an inevitable role is the fantastic scene at Tottenham Court Road Station, where Jack the werewolf is chasing a London business person. And the massacre scene on Picadilly Circus of course, where director John Landis managed to make the busiest square of the capital very chaotic than usual.
Notting Hill (1999)
After all, it’s this film that turned Portobello Road into a must-visit for most visitors – hence the huge crowd you’ll find here as soon as the Saturdays market opens. The funny thing is that the market doesn’t look like the cute neighbourhood where poor bookshop owner Will lives in the movie because of its success (and do we dare to dream about the real value of his iconic blue door house?). In that sense, this film is about a London that does no longer exist, but it still manages to make every single person that watches it fall in love with London.
Of course, there are plenty of other locations around London which feature in the well-loved rom-com, including the Ritz Hotel, where William manages to disguise himself as a Horse and Hound reporter. Up north, in Hampstead Heath, you can also visit the movie set within the movie set. Kenwood House is a hidden gem which is worth a visit, even if you aren’t a Notting Hill fan – not that such a person exists, of course.
This Oscar-winning English musical, based on Oliver Twist novels by Charles Dickens, depicts pretty much what life in London was like in the ’60s. Nonetheless, to the shock of most people, the entire film was filmed on stage sets. It doesn’t alter the fact that the storey revolves around Oliver abandoning the countryside for the big city, where he gets involved in all kinds of adventures across London’s streets. The outstanding craftsmanship of the set builders of the film has made the film as realistic as it gets, leaving many people wondering where to find the spectacular London shown in this classic film.
The original Alfie film is a celebration of the British capital, rather than the sequel that came out in 2004. Alfie takes the audience on a journey through London while living his casanova lifestyle, with the numerous monologues in which main character Alfie talks into the camera, a very unusual way of filming back then. In this movie, we see beautiful (and original) shots of King’s Cross Station, Notting Hill Gate and the Tower Bridge, all filmed during the Swinging ’60s, a time when London was the world capital of cool.
Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001)
It all begins with Bridget singing ‘All By Myself’ in her cute little flat in Bermondsey, the area which turns out to be the backdrop to many other main scenes of the film. Bridget Jones’s Diary pictures London as a city everyone should want to live. A city where amazing things happen, but where your friends are always just around the corner and more importantly – always have time for you. Also, a city in which you can easily find someone (remember Mark Darcy ‘coincidentally’ standing behind Bridget in a corner shop?). However unrealistic that maybe, this film does remind you of how lucky we all are to experience this city day in, day out.
Harry Potter (1997 – 2007)
From platform 9 ¾ in The Chamber of Secrets, shot at Kings Cross Station, to the wizard’s pub The Leaky Cauldron that’s located in Leadenhall Market, all Harry Potter movies perfectly catch the magic potential of London.
For the big fans amongst us, you can take yourself on a Harry Potter tour along with all the most famous sites of every one of the seven movies. A perfect activity for the future holidays and much, much more fun than going into the always-packed Harry Potter studios!
Love, Actually (2003)
This is Not only our favourite London movie but also our favourite Christmas movie. In Love, Actually, London is a background character, which is OK. The stories of the various characters in the film unravel against a Christmas themed backdrop that’s hard not to notice. I especially love the insight into what a British Christmas season is like.
The King’s Speech (2010)
This Oscar-winning adaptation of the real story of George VI, the stammering King of England, finds its principal décor in the British capital. From the Duke and Duchess’ house – a typical London house in the Hyde Park area – to the consulting studio in which pretty much the whole story progresses, the atmosphere in this film breathes London. Through great use of all the historical buildings this city offers, The King’s Speech makes it very easy to help you visualise what London was like in the 1920s.
Les Miserables (2012)
Though supposedly set in France, Les Miserables was actually shot in the UK for the most part. Passed off as Paris in the movie, the Old Royal Naval College is where Lamarque’s funeral procession was held. The Greenwich location has been a very popular movie set and has featured in a range of films, including the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.
Four Weddings And A Funeral (1994)
Hugh Grant, floppy hair, befuddled look. It has to be a 90s London rom-com, right? In Four Weddings And A Funeral, you can catch him running along the South Bank, kissing Andie MacDowell outside his flat at 22 Highbury Terrace, or getting cold feet at Priory Church of St Bartholomew the Great (named St Julian’s in the film) in Smithfield.
Furthermore, you and your beau could reproduce the first night of Charles and Carrie together at the far end of the Metropolitan line – Amersham is home to both The Kings Arms and the Crown Hotel, collaborating to make ‘The Lucky Boatman’ in the movie.