There are few things we like better than sitting down in front of a good movie - we have our weekly film club to help students learn English through enjoying one of the latest releases. Movies are also a great way to discover London before you arrive here - here are ten of our favourite London locations in ten great (well, mostly) films.
‘I’m just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her’. Julia Roberts’ famous words to Hugh Grant as they stand in a tiny, rundown travelling bookshop in the heart of Notting Hill. Richard Curtis’ romantic comedy redefined the image of Notting Hill and Portobello Road for the rest of the world, even if the Carnival is still when the area really comes alive.
221B Baker Street. There aren’t many addresses so instantly recognisable, but everyone knows where master detective Sherlock Holmes lives. Arthur Conan Doyle’s books have been made into many films over the years, with the recent BBC series starring Benedict Cumberbatch making great use of many London locations.
Many people still say that William Shakespeare is the greatest writer who has ever lived. Adaptations of his plays are still common in cinema and in the theatre, but the Oscar-winning Shakespeare in Love did things a little differently, imagining a romance between the writer and a beautiful merchant’s daughter who dreams of acting, with the Globe acting as a background to the complicated romantic plot. The theatre still runs productions of Shakespeare’s work to this day!
Part of everyday London life, the underground system has naturally appeared in many films – the most recent image of it perhaps being James Bond crashing a tube through the underground walls, or maybe Thor hitching a ride to Greenwich. For filming, filmmakers use the long shut Aldwych tube station, or the old Jubilee line platforms at Charing Cross. Transport for London have kept train carriages from various periods in working order for film productions to use.
The tennis championships are a highlight of every year here at WSE, and the 2004 romantic comedy Wimbledon of course features the tennis grounds heavily – even if the balls do look a bit CGI’d. It’s a classic, unbelievable, entertaining tale of the underdog – something the British just can’t resist. The tennis grounds really come alive with the rich colours of this underrated romcom.
You’ll often see it in the background of films, as it winds through the centre of the city, but rarely do films have the imagination and resources to make use of the River Thames itself. James Bond, of course, has a budget, and so in 1999’s The World Is Not Enough, has Pierce Brosnan’s 007 in a ludicrous boat chase down the river, shooting out of the side of the MI6 building and bouncing onto the water in pursuit of a dangerous and sexy criminal. Famous landmarks like the Houses of Parliament form the backdrop to the thrilling and waterlogged chase.
The many bridges along the River Thames have also formed important parts of many films. In perhaps the most iconic image of a London bridge, zombie horror 28 Days Later... sees the main character wake up from a coma to find the city of London deserted and desolate. Confused and alone, he wanders across Westminster Bridge, the central location that is usually packed with life instead empty, with litter lying across the road. Director Danny Boyle famously filmed the sequence just after dawn – the only time when the bridge would have no cars or people on it.
In classic Disney musical Mary Poppins, an old beggar woman sits on the steps of St. Paul’s Cathedral, tossing out feed to the gathering pigeons. Mary’s (Julie Andrews) beautiful voice sings: “Early each day to the steps of Saint Paul's / The little old bird woman comes” It’s a beautifully sad moment in a film that often flashes by with bright colours and cheery songs, and London is the iconic backdrop.
The Harry Potter books are perhaps the biggest cultural phenomenon of the past twenty years, so it’s no surprise that Platform 9¾ has become one of the most popular tourist destinations – despite the fact that it doesn’t really exist. (Sorry, muggles.) The wizarding gateway to the Hogwarts Express is a favourite image of children and grown-up children all over the world, and so King’s Cross have built a photo opportunity at the station itself, although sadly not on the platform itself.
The Spice Girls might rival Harry Potter for that title of biggest cultural phenomenon, and there’s few bigger honours for a pop group than landing their own movie. Their iconic Spice Bus is zooming around the city, and needs to make an impossible jump across a Tower Bridge that is lifting up to allow boats through. Cut to the finest special effects you’ve ever seen – a little toy bus leaping over a little model of the bridge.
Which of these do you think of first when you think of London? Are there any places in London that you remember from one of your favourite movies? Let us know in the comments below!