The Most Iconic Films Set in London
Art9 Minutes Read

The Most Iconic Films Set in London

July 27, 2022 Share

Welcome to DDW’s ultimate round-up of some of the most famous and iconic films set in London. England’s capital.

Image courtesy of Cntraveler

From dystopian landscapes to the bustling underground, London has offered a variety of cinematic backdrops for many iconic and classic films to date. Known as the Metropol capital of England, London is home to some of the world’s most famous sights and locations. Whether it’s Buckingham Palace, Tower Bridge or Piccadilly Circus, the English city offers an infinite variety of locations that through the magic of cinema, takes you on a journey, through alternate universes, eras or even specific historic moments in time. Keeping the city’s trademark landmarks and locations in mind, DDW have shortlisted some of the most iconic films set in London, to date.

Children of Men (2006)

Directed by Oscar Winner Alfonso Cuarón, and set in 2027, Children of Men (2006) tells the story of a dystopian future in which the world faces multiple catastrophic events. Ravaged by climate change, and on the verge of extinction. Alfonso’s London-set dystopian thriller draws inspiration from P.D James’ 1992 novel of the same name. 

Image courtesy of IMDB

The story follows Clive Owen’s Theo Faron, an activist and former counter-cultural terrorist who is offered a shot at redemption when he meets Kee, the first pregnant woman in the new age of human infertility. Alfonso’s dystopian epic had been shot all over London, from Fleet Street to Trafalgar Square.

Even the city’s oldest dockyard, The historic dockyard of Chatham, being used as a safe house. Children of Men is a triumphant display of how cinematic visionaries can make the familiar seem strange. Through the gritty and rundown mise-en-scene to the intricately planned set pieces, Alfonso Cuarón effortlessly transforms the city of London into a futurist city that only seems more realistic by the day.

Image courtesy of IMDB

Paddington (2014)

Next on our list of iconic films set in London is Paddington (2014). Based on the long-running stories, created by Michael Bond. Paul King’s 2014 live-action adaptation of Paddington has the Peruvian bear swap the tropical jungle for a more metropolitan and, to be quite frank, colder climate.

Image courtesy of IMDB

 Shot across West London, Paddington — named after the station he is found in, gives viewers a true to form sight-seeing experience. Taking in London’s heritage, through its iconic architecture, painted pubs and historic malls. Primrose Hill, Hampstead, Pall Mall, Maida Vale and Marylebone are just a few of the city’s tourist hotspots used throughout the shooting. An interesting fact also. In the Ukrainian release of Paddington. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who is also a proud advocate of arts, voiced the Peruvian bear. 

Image courtesy of The New York Times

Skyfall (2012)

Known as one of Daniel Craig’s most successful entries into the Bond franchise, Sam Mendes’ 2012 release Skyfall, whilst not fully set in London, makes incredible use of the location when doing so. 

Image courtesy of IMDB

From the National Gallery to Parliament Square, Tower Hill to the Old Vic Tunnels. Skyfall uses London in the most triumphant fashion holding some of the biggest and most astounding set-pieces in the Bond franchise. Whether it’s Daniel Craig’s bond escaping a crashing tube, shootouts in the court house or the generic car chases. Mendes’ Skyfall makes the most of everything London has to offer. 

Image courtesy of IMDB

The King’s Speech (2010)

Tom Hooper’s oscar-winning historical Drama The King’s Speech (2010) starring Colin Firth, is a perfect example of how through cinematic mastery, modern London, through the use of ensemble costume makers and set designers can teleport the viewer to a historic moment in time.

Image courtesy of IMBD

Telling the story of King George VI, and his language therapist who ultimately helped him overcome his stammer. Hooper’s King’s Speech transformed modern London into 1930s London, shooting in historic places such as Ely Cathedral, Lincoln Cathedral and Lancaster House. Through impeccable set manipulation, the aforementioned location’s interiors were excellently able to replicate the likes of Westminster Abbey. Easily earning a spot as one of the most successful films set in London. 

Image courtesy of FilmAffinity

Withnail and I (1987)

Known as one of Britain’s most iconic cult classics. Withnail and I (1987) is a semi-autobiographical black comedy from the mind of Bruce Robinson. Following two struggling actors needing a break to recharge their batteries, Withnail and I is a simplistic yet notable entry into British film history. With London’s Westbourne, Notting Hill, Ladbroke Grove, Paddington and Chelsea featuring throughout the movie. 

films set in london
Image courtesy of IMDB

28 Days Later (2002)

Written by powerhouse sci-fi enthusiast Alex Garland and directed by Oscar Winner Danny Boyle. 28 Days Later (2002) is a hyper-realistic post-apocalyptic horror thriller which sees London and the rest of the world ravaged by a zombie outbreak. Starring Cillian Murphy and Naomie Harris. Boyle’s horror extravaganza is often as delirious a watch as the virus it focuses on.

films set in london
Image courtesy of IMDB

 Shot with hand-held amateur technique and a lack of precision, 28 Days Later is an aggressive atmospheric horror piece that since its release, has earned its spots on almost every top 50 horror film list. With the film’s most iconic part being the opening, where we follow Murphy’s character as he awakes from a coma only to discover central London empty.

A scene reminiscent of The Twilight Zone’s pilot episode “Where is Everybody”. Shot in Westminster Bridge, Piccadilly Circus, Oxford Street, Trafalgar Park and Whitehall. Boyle’s 2002 horror masterpiece opts for no imitation, creating heightened sense of realism through its gonzo approach. 

films set in london
Image courtesy of Mubi

An American Werewolf in London (1981) 

The final entry on our list of the best films set in London is John Landis’ cult classic An American Werewolf in London (1981). Following two backpacking Americans who encounter and are attacked by a werewolf in the English countryside.

films set in london
Image courtesy of IMDB

Landis’ absurd horror classic takes an unexpected turn as David finds himself unknowingly going on nightly rampages through the streets of London. Filmed in the London underground, London Zoo, Trafalgar Square and Piccadilly Circus. Landis’ instant cult classic stands the test of time giving horror fans and viewers a nostalgic view of 80’s London. 

films set in london
Image courtesy of IMDB

There you have it, this has been DDW’s ultimate guide to some of the best and most iconic films shot in London. Of course, there are so many potential candidates that we couldn’t fit into this list, but furthermore. Below are some honourable mentions that didn’t quite make the list but still exceptionally represent the beauty and heritage, London has to offer. 

Honourable Mentions:

Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange (1971)

Attack the Block (2011)

Layer Cake (2004)

Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994)

Notting Hill (1999)

Trance (2013)

Love Actually (2003)

Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998)

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Author: Eoin McKenna
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28 Days Later
An American Werewolf in London
Children of Men
Danny Boyle
James Bond
london
Oscars
Paddington
skyfall
The King's Speech