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Best 20 Movies Set in London

MovieWeb 2/7/2023 Lisa Ward
© Provided by MovieWeb

London has proven to be an inspirational city for a whole myriad of movies over the decades, covering a wide range of genres to suit any taste. Its bustling and busy nature, rich history, and intricately diverse inhabitants make for a boiling pot of storyline opportunities and many moviemakers have utilized such benefits to make some truly incredible pieces of cinema. One trip to London alone would not even come close to giving you the opportunity to visit all the amazing hot spots of London that have been featured in countless masterpiece movies over the years, and anyone is bound to find at least one spot to impress them.

From rom-coms to zombie horrors, no stone is left unturned when it comes to featuring London as a prominent backdrop! You’ve got your criminal gangs, your international spies, your wizards, and your detectives, all wanting a piece of the action. The rich diversity London provides allows for some incredibly beautiful filming locations to really elevate any movie

The 39 Steps (1935)

The 39 Steps is an early Alfred Hitchcock masterpiece that has also appeared on the West End! This fast-paced spy story thriller features some infamous London hot spots feature throughout the movie like Piccadilly Circus and King’s Cross station.

Richard is just some ordinary guy until he’s met with the misfortune of finding himself thrown into a messy yet intriguing assassination plot related to the ever-so-mysterious 39 steps. Agent Annabella Smith is murdered in an unfortunate way that puts Richard as the number one suspect. This all leads to a completely chaotic sequence of events that sees Richard pursuing Professor Jordan to prevent him from sending sensitive secrets out of the country while being pursued himself by the police for a murder he did not commit. During the intensely hectic race, he experiences an unexpected romance with his accomplice, Pamela, until they eventually find some answers.

The Lavender Hill Mob (1951)

The Lavender Hill Mob is a comedy named after the real-life street of Lavender Hill, in South London. Other prominent features of London to grace the screen include the Bank of England and Gunnersbury Park.

A bank teller, Holland, one day decides that he’s going to steal gold bars from work to help fund his dream retirement. See, he’s worked in the business of delivering gold bullion for 20 years, and now he wants some of the action. After meeting Pendlebury, a souvenir maker, Holland surmises that the two could work quite well together in achieving his plan. Holland could smuggle the gold to Pendlebury who could then smelt it down and mold it into unsuspecting toy Eiffel Towers. They could then have the golden trinkets shipped off to France. The movie is bombarded with unexpected twists in the plot as the two employ professional criminals, Lackery and Shorty, to help bring their plan to life.

Mary Poppins (1964)

A much-loved Disney Animation Studios classic, Mary Poppins presents the ideal portrayal of London. The immense imagination of its creators gifts viewers with a world filled with delightfully entertaining characters in a colourfully vibrant wonderland of dancing chimney sweeps and penguin waiters. Of course, this is far from the real London, but Mary Poppins lets you see it through rose-tinted glasses, if only for a moment.

Jane and Michael Banks are couldn’t have imagined even in their wildest dreams that their new nanny would be none of than Mary Poppins. She fills their lives with magic and wonder and alongside her cockney friend, Bert (Dick Van Dyke), takes them on a range of exciting adventures throughout the movie. She leaves the family by the end of the movie but only after leaving a lasting impression that will stay with the whole family for a lifetime.

The Long Good Friday (1980)

The Long Good Friday is a top-notch gangster movie set in London. Many well-known London top spots feature in the movie, and many of them get thoroughly blown up, including Harold’s favourite pub, much to his dismay.

Prosperous cockney gangster, Harold, is thrown into a most-displeasing situation as just before he’s able to sign a most lucrative deal, everything seems to go horribly wrong around him. His whole organization is falling right before him and he’s seemingly powerless to stop it. He’s got no idea who is behind his unfortunate circumstance and is determined to find out who is trying to wiggle their way in on his action, on his turf. Absolute mayhem overflows in The Long Good Friday as the brutal and determined Harold stomps around the city to get back on top.

The Great Mouse Detective (1986)

The Great Mouse Detective is an immensely charming animated feature set in Victorian London, England. It’s one of the lesser-known works of Walt Disney Animation Studios, released back in the 80s. However, it deserves so much more recognition as it’s a wonderfully wholesome and imaginative approach to approaching a Sherlock-inspired movie with its own unique appeal.

When little mouse girl Olivia’s father is abducted by a terrifying peg-legged bat, she enlists the help of Basil of Baker Street to help her get her father back. Basil is the ever-so-charming rodent version of Sherlock Holmes and holds all the skill and grace required for the role. The case becomes so much more than locating one abducted mouse and has links to a conspiracy plot against the Crown itself!

Related: How The Great Mouse Detective Saved Disney Feature Animation

A Fish Called Wanda (1988)

Jewel thieves and con artists work against each other in A Fish Called Wanda. A whirlwind of entertaining antics ensues during this comical approach to the classic heist genre. Bermondsey, in South East London, repeatedly shows up throughout the movie as well as a couple of other hot spots.

None other than comedic legend, John Cleese, worked on both writing and directing this movie alongside the equally infamous Charles Crichton. Cleese even starred in the movie as Archie, the unassuming barrister that gets tangled up in a robbery. The characters in the movie each stand strong on their own to create a highly engaging piece littered with endless comedic moments. It’s almost difficult to keep up with who is double-crossing who in this intricate tale, and you’ve really got to stay focussed on following this brilliantly written story, full of intricate webs of deceit.

The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)

Any version of Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens would have been more than satisfactory in featuring a great movie set in London, however, it’s The Muppet Christmas Carol which has the most charm and fuzzy festive feeling for all the family to enjoy. Narrated by muppet Gonzo as he tells the tale to his little rat friend, Rizzo, this movie is a highly charming and engaging take on the story of a selfish Grinch turned neighborhood sweetheart.

It’s another book-to-movie adaptation of Dickens’ work that reprises the character of Ebeneezer Scrooge, the face of Christmas dismay. He doesn’t get away with his miserable life however and is visited separately by three spirits throughout the night that show him the errors of his ways. After his visits from Christmas Past, Present, and Future, Ebeneezer wakes up the next morning a completely changed man, embracing his neighbours and the cheer of Christmas with a wonderful musical finale.

Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994)

Four Weddings and a Funeral is a quintessentially British comedy classic. Some great spots in London feature throughout this movie like South Bank and more notably, the ever so expensive yet beautiful area that the main character Charles calls home, Highbury Fields. It also serves as a brilliantly accurate representation of trying to get anywhere in London quickly – busy public transport often leading to going by foot being a better option.

Charles meets Carrie as he attends a friend’s wedding as best man and the two instantly hit it off. This budding romance is however a slow burner, and even after three more weddings and a funeral, the two never seem to get things going. He’s then met with a conundrum when an old girlfriend comes back into his life; settle for what’s safe, or take a chance on Carrie?

Notting Hill (1999)

Notting Hill is just a long line of great rom-coms lucky enough to feature Hugh Grant at the helm in yet another brilliantly cast role. This movie without a doubt made the very real Notting Hill area of London famous. In addition to this, you’ll also notice the equally famous Portobello Road make an appearance in the movie as well as the likes of the fancy Savoy Hotel.

Grant plays bookstore owner William Thacker. William’s life is changed forever when the beautiful, and very famous actress, Anna Scott, walks into his store. Nothing notable happens during their first meeting, however, another chance encounter gives the two a second chance at potential romance. They hit it off and spend the next few months getting to know each other better. Things aren’t easy with nosy friends and the ever-intrusive press, but it all works out in the end.

Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001)

Bridget is a 32-year-old singleton living in London and a little fed up of how her life is going in Bridget Jones’s Diary. On New Year's she decides that she’s had enough and she decides to take the reigns on her life once more and turn things around. She starts a diary to detail her everyday life, and what an interestingly chaotic diary that will turn out to be. With an eccentric group of friends, whirlwind love life, and an entertaining sequence of events, her diary makes for a brilliant movie!

As Bridget lives in her own flat in the neighbourhood of Borough, many close-by spots can be seen in the movie. These include the Globe Pub (which just so happens to be underneath her flat) and Borough Market. The movie was so well received it managed to pop out another two sequels!

28 Days Later (2002)

28 Days Later is an absolutely brilliant zombie-apocalypse movie following the general plot of the genre including a group of survivors trying to avoid contracting the deadly virus while surviving a crumbling society.

Jim wakes up from a coma to a completely different world than the one he remembers. The once-bustling city streets of London are completely abandoned and there’s an eerie feeling in the air. In fact, this moment provides an iconic moment as you can watch Jim walking along a deserted Westminster Bridge.

It all started when animal activists invaded an animal testing facility to save the animals, but are instead infected with the deadly rage-inducing disease the facility was testing. 28 days after this, the world is in turmoil and zombies run loose. With the help of newfound friends, Jim is brought up to speed on his new zombie neighbors, and they try to survive the horror that unfolds.

Love Actually (2003)

Love Actually shows London in all its festive glory following the intricate lives and love stories of a diverse set of individuals. It’s definitely a Christmas must-watch and involves a star-studded cast including the likes of Colin Firth and Emma Thompson.

While the movie features several different and unrelated stories, it does use its main focus, aged rock star Billy Mack releasing his new Christmas album, as a beacon to hold together the overall plot. It’s a wholesome Christmas movie that resonates well with a wide-ranging target audience so that all the family can enjoy it as the diverse set of characters go about their lives in the five weeks leading up to Christmas. It’s an easy-to-follow rom-com-style movie with an immensely engaging storyline that can be watched every Christmas without getting old.

Layer Cake (2004)

Layer Cake is a London-based crime movie with a kick. Daniel Craig plays an unnamed character who is completely over his head in the criminal world. This role actually acted as a launch pad in getting Craig the role of Bond!

Craig’s character is a medium-time drug dealer in London who approaches his work with the mindset of never going beyond your boundaries and quitting when the going’s good. However, just as he’s about to live the lavish life and enjoy his spoils from dealing drugs, he’s sent on a job by his boss, Jimmy Price, which causes nothing but trouble. Crime lord Eddie Temple needs to find his recently absent junkie daughter and this task falls solidly on Craig’s character’s shoulders. Not quite the easy-breezy turn of life he was hoping for, this action-packed gem will keep you completely invested till the end.

Shaun of the Dead (2004)

Shaun of the Dead is without a doubt one of the funniest zombie movies ever made. It was bound to succeed with the dynamic duo, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost involved. It blends horror and comedy effortlessly into an immensely enjoyable movie filled with classic British humor.

In true stereotypical British fashion, of all the spots in London they could seek refuge from, they first head to the pub. Not quite the infamous London hotspot featured in the majority of other movies in this list, but it’s still a solid London-based movie showing the every day of the city instead, plus zombies. Shaun (Pegg) is having a fairly crappy day when he decides to turn his life around, and one way he aims to do that is to win back his ex. However, his new commitment to bettering his life coincides with the zombie apocalypse. With his unwavering optimism, he takes the potential downfall of mankind as an opportunity to prove himself to everyone, including his girlfriend, by saving them all and hopefully winning the girl.

Related: 10 Movies That Get the Fusion of Comedy and Horror Spot On

Sherlock Holmes (2009)

Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street, London, is a London movie through and through. There have been a host of Sherlock adaptations over the years both as full length-feature movies and TV series, and his story is well-known and beloved. The first feature movie with Robert Downey Jr. as the infamous detective is particularly brilliant. Downey brings out the quirky side of Holmes and while still being intensely intelligent and well-put together, it’s a comedic take on the character that works really well in the movie and shows a new side to the detective.

Holmes and Watson thought they’d closed a new case on catching the deadly serial killer Lord Blackwood. That is until he somehow manages to return from the grave and start again from where he left off. With his trust Watson by his side, Holmes must use his unique detecting skills to unravel the mystery that will spiral deep into a tangled mess of murder, black magic, and deceit.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011)

Every single Harry Potter movie has a touch of London involved, and the final movie of the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 is no different. Iconic locations around London appear throughout the movies like London Zoo in Philosopher’s Stone and the Millennium Bridge in Half-Blood Prince. In addition to this, it would be careless to fail to even mention King’s Cross station and Platform 9 and 3 quarters where the final scene is shot, seeing Harry grown up and seeing off his own children as they board the train to Hogwarts!

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 sees the finale of the golden trio’s adventures and brings the franchise to one mighty conclusion as Voldemort is once and for all vanquished. The final two movies in the franchise sway away from the confines of Hogwarts, and you’re treated to a whole host of interesting spots spread out across both England and Scotland, but London holds onto its prominent presence in the movies right up until the very end.

Attack the Block (2011)

Brixton is invaded by aliens in the impressively fresh and unique piece of cinema that is Attack the Block. Mankind’s fate seems up in the air as the only thing to be standing between all mankind and total destruction, is a bunch of BMX-riding kids with attitude problems.

A completely misplaced young woman makes an unusual alliance with the group of ruff and reader inner-city kids in the fight of a lifetime against their alien attackers. They all band together to protect their turf and the movie turns an ordinary London apartment complex, into a warzone against extra-terrestrial life. Shot mainly in Elephant and Castle, London, this movie features a gritty and real side of London different to the image you get from the rest of the movies in this list.

Paddington (2014)

Paddington is a brilliantly executed book-to-movie adaption bringing to life the most beloved character with roots as far back as the 1950s for a modern-day audience. The wholesome and undeniably adorable Paddington Bear moves to London all the way from the deepest darkest Peru and is welcomed into the Brown family. The movie takes some liberties from the original story in order to implement a sequence of events that prove incredibly fun and enjoyable to watch, as well as some moments to keep you on the edge of your seat.

The most notable of London spots featured in the movie would be Paddington Station, as this scene is where Paddington was found and thus how the Brown’s decided on his new name; as no one can pronounce his true bear name. In addition to this, the exciting and nail-biting climax between Paddington and a museum taxidermist determined to add him to her collection, was shot at The Natural History Museum. The perfect choice for the movie’s brilliantly planned conclusion!

Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014)

Eggsy’s life is turned when he learns of a secret organisation that wants him on their side in Kingsman: The Secret Service. He starts off as a misunderstood youth; his dad died when he was young and his mother now finds herself in a relationship with a bully of a man who mistreats both her and Eggsy, with an equally unlikeable son of his own. After finding himself in a pickle after a collection of situations involving the bully man’s son, Eggsy turns to the aid of the mysterious Harry Hart, who somehow once knew Eggsy’s father.

Harry introduces Eggsy to the Kingsman and, after some brutal training and a selective recruitment process, Eggsy becomes one of the next Kingsman, taking after his father who he finds out died trying to save the world. It’s no smooth sailing for Eggsy, and dangerous encounters follow his recruitment, but his life is made undeniably better by the arrival of Harry and the Secret Service.

Enola Holmes (2020)

Enola Holmes is a Netflix special that was so well received upon release it managed another, equally impressive sequel. The story takes you to late 19th Century, London, England. Enola (Millie Bobby Brown) finds one morning that her mother (Helena Bonham Carter) is nowhere to be found. There are no obvious clues as to her whereabouts or reasons for disappearing. Not the best example of parenting!

After a free and lively childhood, Enola is thrown into finishing school in an attempt to dull her rough edges and turn her into a ‘proper’ lady. Of course, she has none of it and quickly makes her escape in pursuit of finding her mother in London. She could never have imagined the mysteries that would follow as she meets runaway Lord Tewkesbury and gets dragged into dealing with a conspiracy that could put the whole country’s future in dismal jeopardy.

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