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10 Extraordinary Movies Set In London That Will Inspire You To Visit!

10 Extraordinary Movies Set In London That Will Inspire You To Visit!

London has a lot to offer for both national and international filmmakers. The country has modern cityscapes as well as a strong sense of history with iconic architecture and natural features like the mighty Thames River. So it will come as no surprise that there are so many wonderful movies set in London.

London is one of the most emblematic cities in the world. The ancient walls of this city have seen eminent figures make decisions that would change the course of history. Its influence over the world cannot be understated, yet London has given us more than kings and politicians: thinkers like Darwin, Dickens and Shakespeare are just a few of them. Within the borders of the city, the old and the new coincide, and ideas flourish.

London has been a favored filming location by directors all over the world. This is no surprise; the sights of this city have plenty of stories to tell. It’s not everywhere that you can find some of the most modern buildings ever made, like the spiraling skyscraper known as The Gherkin, and some of the oldest, such as The Temple of Mithras, a reminder that the city was once a Roman settlement.

London is a place out of a storybook. In this article, we present some of the most beautiful movies set in Londons olden streets.

movies set in london - best london films

These London films have narratives that rely on their settings as much as their main protagonists, and as a result, spectators get a glimpse of this iconic country through the director’s eyes. To honor the concept of cinematic travel, we have also assembled lists of our favorite films shot in some of our all-time favorite travel destinations: Romania, Italy, Mexico, Ireland, Australia, Japan, Alaska, and Israel.

Wondering where to watch? It depends on where you live in the world and which streaming services you have. We link to the streaming service we watch on in each case - be it Netflix, Amazon Prime, Apple TV+, or elsewhere.

You can get one month free of Amazon Prime (or a 6-month trial for students) of Amazon Prime and also get immediate access to FREE Two Day shipping, Amazon Video, and Music. While you won't be charged for your free trial, you'll be upgraded to a paid membership plan automatically at the end of the trial period - though if you have already binged all these, you could just cancel before the trial ends.

Apple TV+ also has a one-week trial, and Hulu has a one-month trial (which can be bundled with Disney!). Another option might be using a VPN to access Netflix titles locked to other regions. Netflix is now available in more than 190 countries worldwide and each country has a different library and availability. US Netflix is (understandably) one of the best. 

While we wish everything could just be in one place - for now, it seems these are the best streaming platforms to watch on.

movies set in london - best london films
movies set in london - best london films
movies set in london - best london films

Paddington (2015)

Paddington (2015), by Paul King, is a comedy film based on the Paddington Bear. The character of Paddington first appeared in 1958 in Michael’s Bond children’s book “A Bear Called Paddington.” Since then, over twenty books about him have been published, and countless figurines have been sold. Paddington has been a staple of British culture for the last fifty years. With this adaptation, which combines live-action and animated characters, the cuteness of Paddington captivated the whole world: the movie was very well-received, both by critics and general audiences. A sequel, Paddington 2, was released in 2017 to even more critical acclaim.

The film tells the story of Paddington (voiced by Ben Whishaw), a young bear who leaves his home in the Peruvian jungle in order to visit London. There he meets the Brown family, who, after realizing he’s lost, Mary Brown (Sally Hawkins) invites him to stay in their house. The Brown children, Judy and Jonathan, are ecstatic. Even though Mary’s husband, Henry (Hugh Bonneville), is reluctant to take this stray bear into their home, Paddington’s charm will change his life and that of their family for the better.

Paddington is a love letter to London and its history. It portrays the city as a place where anyone can find themselves at home, no matter where they come from. The first Londoner site that Paddington visits is, coincidentally, the Paddington Station, the central terminal for all the railways in the city. Even though it isn’t shown in the movie, a statue of this famous bear now stands in the station. Paddington shows some of the most beautiful parts of the city and is a must watch for anyone interested in the British capital.

A Hard Day’s Night (1964)

A Hard Day’s Night (1964), by Richard Lester, is a comedy adventure starring The Beatles. It follows John, Paul, George and Ringo in the hours before a television performance during the height of what was known as Beatlemania: the massive fanaticism over The Beatles that took over Great Britain and America during the sixties. A Hard Day’s Night received two Academy Award nominations (Best Screenplay and Best Score) and has been ranked as one of the greatest films of all time by Time magazine.

The most iconic scene in A Hard Day’s Night is its introduction: the band members run through the streets of a British city while being chased by a horde of fans. They hide everywhere they can, but their fans still keep chasing them. As they arrive at a train station, The Beatles hop on a train and leave for London. What follows is a true rock-and-roll adventure featuring some of The Beatle’s greatest songs, like “Tell Me Why,” “She Loves You,” and the titular “A Hard Day’s Night.”

This is a great movie to watch if you want to get acquainted with one of the most significant cultural icons of Great Britain. A Hard Day’s Night documents the height of the biggest music band of the sixties, maybe ever. The Beatles influence was felt everywhere, not only in the music industry. They played a part in the counterculture movements of the time and inspired young people from all over the world to make their voices heard. A Hard Day’s Night shows the rise of four lads from Liverpool who would leave a mark in British culture and the world as a whole.

Notting Hill (1999)

Notting Hill (1999), by Roger Michell, is a romantic comedy set in the titular neighborhood in London. It stars Julia Roberts as Anna Scott, a famous American movie star visiting London, and Hugh Grant as William Thacker, a divorced owner of a small bookshop in Notting Hill. Other famous British actors like Hugh Boneville and Rhys Ifans also appear in the movie. Notting Hill was written by Richard Curtis, one of the best British screenwriters, known for his romantic comedies set in the city of London. Upon its release, the movie became the most successful British film ever and received several Golden Globe and BAFTA nominations.

The movie begins when Anna visits Will’s bookstore. Even though she’s being coy about her identity, covering her face with glasses and a scarf, Will takes notice of how beautiful she is. Later in the day, they bump into each other, and Will spills juice over her clothes. Since he lives close by, Will invites her to his home and offers her a clean shirt. Anna thanks him and, before leaving, kisses him. From here on, we’ll see the pair fall in love with charming Notting Hill around them while dealing with Anna’s stardom and Will’s fears.

Located in West London, Notting Hill is known for being home to several cultures and all kinds of people. This neighborhood is also notorious for its Victorian townhouses painted in lovely pastels. Several sites of Notting Hill are featured in the movie. The apartment with a completely blue door where Will lives is still there, as is also the cinema and restaurant featured in the film. The most iconic location in the movie is, without a doubt, the private gardens that the couple breaks into. These gardens can be found all over the neighborhood, but the one where the movie was filmed are known as the Rosmead Gardens. Notting Hill captures the beauty and charm of this unique neighborhood and is easily one of the best movies set in London..

Bridget Jones’ Diary (2001)

Bridget Jones’ Diary (2001), by Sharon Maguire, is a romantic comedy based on a novel of the same name. Both movie and novel are a modern reinterpretation of the 1813 Jane Austen novel Pride and Prejudice. Like Notting Hill, this hit romance was also written by Richard Curtis, with the collaboration of Andrew Davies and Helen Fielding, the author of the novel. It was a commercial and critical success, leading to Renée Zellweger’s first Academy Award nomination. It was followed by two sequels, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (2004) and Bridget Jones’s Baby (2016).

The movie stars Zellweger as Bridget Jones, a woman who finds herself under the attention of two men. Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant) is charming and beautiful, and he’s also her boss at a publishing company. Mark Darcy (Colin Firth) is a clumsy and rude childhood acquaintance of Bridget’s. As the movie develops, we see Bridget go for the obvious choice, the stunning Daniel. Rather quickly, she finds out the secrets he hides behind his pretty face. Like Pride and Prejudice, this movie’s Darcy turns out to be a much better choice, even though he has a hard time expressing his love for Bridget. 

One of the things that Bridget Jones’ Diary does best is showcase some of London’s best sights. The impressive Royal Courts of Justice in the City of Westminster can be seen when Bridget fails at her reporting job. During her daily commute, Bridget walks through the iconic Tower Bridge, a staple of London. But it also shows more understated places: the famous pub known as The Globe also appears in the movie. Perhaps the most delightful sight in the movie is the Shad Thames, the street by the river Thames that still maintains its Victorian look.

Mary Poppins (1964)

Mary Poppins (1964), by Robert Stevenson, is a timeless classic. The story of the nanny who brings music and joy to the Bank’s family’s lives has charmed the young and the old. Produced by Walt Disney, to this day is hailed as the best live-action movie ever made. Mary Poppins was thoroughly lauded upon its release, becoming the biggest hit of 1964. The film garnered thirteen Academy Award nominations, of which it won five: most notably, Best Actress and Best Original Music Score and Song.

The movie is set in London during the spring of 1910. When Mr. Banks (David Tomlinson) returns to his home after a long day of work, his wife, Winifred (Glynis Johns), tells him that their nanny has quit and that their children are nowhere to be found. A family friend brings Jane (Karen Dotrice) and Michael (Matthew Garber) home: it turns out they had been looking for a lost kite in the park. Their misbehavior leads Mr. Banks to put out an ad for a very strict and severe nanny. But the next day, Mary Poppins shows up at their door. She’s a young, charming, and magical woman, literally: we see her descending delicately from the sky with her open umbrella. While she’s not the nanny Mr. Banks wants, she is what the family needs.

Mary Poppins presents an enchanting depiction of London. Since it was filmed entirely in a studio, the set designers worked with the animators and painters at Disney to create the inspired look of the movie. The award-winning song “Chim Chim Cher-ee” shows the sight of London’s rooftops and chimneys during the night. One of the most moving songs in the film, “Feed the Birds,” features the St. Paul’s Cathedral, the mother church of London, founded in 604 AD. The park where the children play and where the movie ends (with the song “Let’s Go Fly a Kite”) is inspired by Regent’s Park, a landmark of the city.

Oliver! (1968)

Oliver! (1968), by Carol Reed, is another timeless classic. This musical drama film is based on a stage musical of the same name. Both film and musical are adaptations of the 1838 Charles Dickens novel Oliver Twist, the sad story of the young orphan turned pickpocket in mid-19th century London. Oliver! won six of the eleven Academy Awards it was nominated for. These Oscar wins include both Best Picture and Best Director. The movie has been ranked by the British Film Institute as the 77th best British film of the past century.

The story of Oliver Twist has been told time and time again, but never as well as in Oliver!. It’s a faithful adaptation of the original book, preserving the somber and saddening aspects of the first movie, particularly in its portrayal of the industries running on child labor and England’s treatment of child thieves. But its musical numbers bring the story of life in a different way: they add a certain charisma to the experience and elevate Oliver’s adventures. The movie was made in 1968, and still holds up as the best film adaptation of the literary classic.

Like Mary Poppins, Oliver! is a movie filmed entirely on sets. Yet part of the movie’s charm comes from its depiction of London as a place not quite real, as if we saw it from a child’s eyes. That’s part of the magic of these old movies: while building the sets where the movie would take place, the artists can go beyond what’s real and bring to the screen something that we have never seen before. This movie is an indelible part of London’s culture and a must-watch for anyone interested in British cinema.

Shakespeare in Love (1998)

Shakespeare in Love (1998), by John Madden, is a romantic period drama set in 16th century London. While most of the events depicted in the film are fictional, the characters are inspired by actual historical figures. The biggest influence for the making of the film was Shakespeare’s plays: some are performed in the movie, and others are referenced through its plot. It was widely acclaimed upon its release, winning seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, Best Actress (for Gwyneth Paltrow), and Best Supporting Actress (for Judi Dench).

Shakespeare in Love tells the fictional story of a young William Shakespeare (Joseph Fiennes), who’s trying to write his seminal play Romeo and Juliet, and the woman with whom he falls in love. As he holds auditions for his new play to be performed in the legendary Rose Theatre, Viola de Lesseps (Gwyneth Paltrow) attends disguised as a man —women actors were banned at the time— and impresses everyone with her acting skills. Shakespeare learns her secret during a ball at Viola’s house and falls completely in love with her. Inspired by his love, he writes Romeo and Juliet as we know it. But sooner or later, someone else is bound to learn Viola’s secret.

This is a great film to watch if you are interested in London’s long-standing theatrical tradition. It shows a moment in time when the theatre was the preferred entertainment by the masses, a time when plays took place every day in front of a packed room. Shakespeare in Love does a great job at portraying 16th century London. We see the two sides of the city: the dirtiness of the theater against the lavish ball that the Lesseps family organize, or the regal sight that is Judi Dench as Queen Elizabeth I.

The King’s Speech (2010)

The King’s Speech (2010), by Tom Hooper, is a historical drama about the life of King George VI (Colin Firth), his efforts to overcome his stammering, and his friendship with his speech therapist Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush). This movie was written by David Seidler, a playwright and film writer who had struggled with stammering himself and found solace in King George VI’s story of perseverance. The movie is one of the most-watched dramas of the decade and was nominated for twelve Academy Awards. Of these twelve nominations, it won Best Director, Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Actor (Colin Firth’s first and only Oscar win).

Before being King George VI, the monarch was known as Prince Albert. He struggled from a young age with stammering and no physician seemed to know how to help him. That is until he met Australian language therapist Lionel Logue in 1934, two years before he became king. For years they met for daily treatments and became close friends. The movie shows Albert hearing himself after his therapy with Lionel and being amazed at the lack of stammer in his speech. The movie’s central conflict, the titular king’s speech, takes place in 1939: Albert, now a king, must broadcast the declaration of war against Nazi Germany to the world.

The King’s Speech is a great movie, not only for history buffs. The design and visual style of the film was thoroughly lauded, particularly its depiction of Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey. Anyone interested in movies set in London should see this film: it offers a particularly vulnerable sight of the lives of the Royal Family, and The King’s Speech’s depiction of the royal sites in London is like no other.

Skyfall (2012)

Skyfall (2012), by Sam Mendes, is the twenty-third James Bond movie. It tells the story of an aging Bond (Daniel Craig) who returns to work for the British Secret Intelligence (MI6) after being presumed dead for three months. He returns to the fray after the MI6 Building is bombed by a terrorist, Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem), who has a personal relationship with Bond’s boss, M (Judi Dench). He will manage to catch the elusive Silva and bring him back to London, but that may not be for the best. Skyfall is the most-watched movie in the James Bond franchise. It received several accolades due to its stellar direction by Sam Mendes, including two Grammys, two BAFTAs, and two Oscars.

Skyfall’s conflict beings when the MI6 Building is attacked. This stunning construction houses the Secret Intelligence Service of Britain and sits right by the Vauxall Bridge that crosses the River Thames. The meetings with the chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament, Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes), take place in an accurate representation of the British Parliament. The training grounds for the MI6 recruits were filmed in the Old Vic Tunnels, a series of tunnels under London that now host several art installations. Skyfall also features a thrilling chase through the London Underground, taking the characters to several famous tube stations.

Like most Bond films, Skyfall features a fair amount of globetrotting: it sees James Bond visiting Istanbul, Shanghai, and his home in the Scottish Highlands. Yet, out of the new Bond movies starring Craig, this film brings the spy conflict to London more than any other. It offers some of the best-looking shots of the city, showing the sleek modern architecture of some of its renovated landmark buildings. Skyfall is a thrilling ride through the city, perfect for lovers of action and spy-thrillers.

Phantom Thread (2017)

Phantom Thread (2017), by Paul Thomas Anderson, is a historical drama set in 1950s London. It tells the story of a dressmaker Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis), his sister Cyril (Lesley Manville), and his unhealthy relationship with his muse Alma Elson (Vicky Krieps). It was the last role of highly-esteemed actor Day-Lewis’ before retiring from acting.

Considered one of the best films of the decade, Phantom Thread was praised for the performances of its main characters, direction, screenplay, score and, most of all, costume design. It’s no surprise that the film won an Academy Award for its costumes.

This is a great movie to watch for anyone interested in the world of fashion and haute couture. One of the best aspects of Phantom Thread is its authentic portrayal of London couture during the 50s. The style of the dresses that Woodcock produces is based directly on those of that era, as is the way that he himself wears. Even the way the women pose and show themselves is extremely accurate. It paints a mesmerizing picture of what couture art was back then.

Phantom Thread also manages to show some stunning London sights. The house where the Woodcocks live, for one. This luxurious townhouse is known as the Fitzroy Square, an aristocratic residence that was supposed to encompass the whole square, but constructions stopped after the Napoleonic Wars. It’s also the house where writer Virginia Woolf used to live. The striking landscape through which Reynolds and Alma walk during their honeymoon phase is the Cleveland Way National Trail which is located in North Yorkshire. This enthralling tale of ambition and obsessiveness is one of the few to really take you back to 1950’s London.