Whether you’d call yourself a hardened city dweller or not, this past year has certainly been challenging and has tested the strength of our love affair with London. But if you’re getting itchy feet and aren’t sure if the city life is worth it anymore, these 12 films will be sure to change your mind otherwise.
Fall back in love with the city and watch these 12 films that challenge the grittiness, the silliness and the vibrancy of living in London. And yes, expect to see a lot of Hugh Grant popping up in this selection…
Fall in love with the city in the only way we know how: watching the 1999 hit movie, Notting Hill.
Roger Michell’s Notting Hill is set in the beating heart of Notting Hill and centres around the real life store named The Travel Bookshop on 13 Blenheim Crescent, located just off of the popular Portobello Road. Although the original bookshop it was based on has since closed, another company bought it and the shop now goes by the name, The Notting Hill Bookshop, a nod to its fame from the film.
The film follows William, a British bookseller who’s handsomely played by Hugh Grant, as he meets Anna, an American Actress played by Julia Roberts, as she arrives in his bookshop. But as they fall more and more in love, the pressures of their far from similar lifestyles quickly emerge. Anytime you head to Notting Hill it’s hard not to imagine yourself as William and Anna strolling the streets, arm in arm, even if just for a moment.
East London’s Brick Lane is an area of vibrancy and culture, famous for its street food markets, vintage stores and curry houses. Until we can visit again, explore its beauty through Sarah Gavron’s Brick Lane.
British film director Sarah Gavron made her directorial debut with the release of the 2007 film, Brick Lane, based on the 2003 novel of the same name by Monica Ali. The film follows Nazneen (Tannishtha Chatterjee) as she settles into her new life in Brick Lane after she moves from Bangladesh for an arranged marriage.
Although the marriage isn’t all it’s made out to be. Despite having two daughters and a home, ten years on and she’s still unhappy. It’s only when she meets Karim, a young trader from the local market, that she realises she has the opportunity to break free.
Based on the Helen Fielding novels of the same name, the Bridget Jones franchise has become so culturally popular thanks to its humorous nature and gritty love triangle.
The series follows Bridget (Renee Zellweger), her life and all of its mishaps, from the struggles of being an aspiring publisher to falling hopelessly head of heels for Mark Darcy. All areas of London are shown in the three films, but it’s her little flat in Borough Market that holds a special place in our hearts. Not just because it’s where we see her note down her diary in which the film follows and the chaos she seems to create wherever she is, but also because we get to see and live ferociously through the bustling streets of Borough Market.
Named one of the greatest British movies of all time, Babylon is set in Brixton during the 1980s, and follows Blue, a British-Jamaican, and the struggles he faced throughout his daily life. It explores the hardships faced for those living in poverty and the racial divide that existed in the early 80s in London.
About A Boy
It’s always rather amusing seeing big actors back in their youthful roles and Nicholas Hoult’s (The Great, X-Men, Skins) role in the 2002 British film, About A Boy is one of those moments.
Starring alongside Hugh Grant, About A Boy follows Will, a rich city-type player who pretends he has an imaginary son and starts attending single parent meetings in the hope of sleeping with the available women. Much to his dislike, he then has to make his imaginary son a reality and meets Marcus (Hoult) who goes along with his pretend story. The pair eventually become friends, with Will helping Marcus become a ‘cool’ kid at school (although the cd player incident says otherwise) and Will finally growing up in his thirties.
There are several shots of iconic London landmarks and parks, but if that doesn’t wow you over, the duck and the loaf of bread scene will.
Grab the tissues for this one. Another sensational film from Sarah Gavron, Rocks is a deeply moving film, following a young teenager who fights to keep herself and younger brother out of care.
Starring Bukky Bakray as Shola, nicknamed by her friends as Rocks, we follow the story from her perspective, from returning home to find her mother has left without warning to struggling to buy the groceries at the local supermarket. It’s emotional, hard to watch but also inspiring to see how she manages to get by with her solid group of friends.
Expect skyline shots over the Gherkin and many other of London’s famed skyscrapers as the teenagers dance, sing and muck around on the estate rooftop.
Four Weddings and a Funeral
Another day, another Hugh Grant special. This time it’s in the form of Four Weddings and a Funeral, the movie that follows Charles (Grant) and his bashful friends as they fall in love. It’s Charles’ turn to meet the woman of his dreams, which he does at a friend’s wedding but their love only lasts a night as she returns to America the following day. But their meet cute continues to blossom across three other weddings and a funeral.
Set largely in London, this is one to watch while you’re on a Hugh Grant binge.
You didn’t think we’d miss this gem out now, did you? Fall back in love with the silliness of the city through this loveable little bear, Paddington.
Luckily for us we have two recent Paddington films we can devour during lockdown, both very aptly named after the bear, Paddington and Paddington 2. Become mesmerised by the young bear who travels to London from the depths of Peru and is taken under the wing of the Brown family. From his mishaps and his hilarious adventures, follow Paddington along as he sweeps past some of London’s iconic landmarks, from Buckingham Palace to Paddington Station.
Been So Long
A relatively new kid on the block compared to some of the other films discussed, but Netflix’s Been So Long is set in the thriving Camden Lock and as the story suggests, everyone here has their own story to tell.
Starring the brilliant Michaela Coel, the film follows a young single mother who meets a handsome stranger from her past but she’s unsure if she’s ready to open up her heart just yet. Based on the musical of the same name, you’ll be guided through the tunes and streets of Camden Town, from the iconic Lock bridge to the bustling market.
Withnail and I
Whether you’re a hardened Londoner or a countryside lover, you’ll soon be laughing when you pop on Bruce Robinson’s Withnail and I.
Said to be loosely based on Robinson’s life in London during the late 60s, Withnail and I follows two unemployed Londoners who end up on holiday ‘by accident’ in Cumbria. But alas, it’s not all as it’s cracked up to be. Expect floods of rain, scary country folk and unplesantries along the way.
Attack the Block
Perhaps not the most ‘beautiful’ depiction of London we’ve ever come across, what with there being a literal alien invasion and all, but Attack the Block is a humorous take on your typical science fiction comedy.
Directed by Joe Cornish, expect to be gripping at your seats one minute and in roaring laughter in the next. Starring Jodie Whittaker, John Boyega and Nick Frost, it’s a film you’re going to want to add to your watch list.