Electric Cinema, London
Vintage theatre in Notting Hill

If there’s one British word I have yet to start saying, it’s ‘cinema’. Cinema, to me, requires erudite discussions of motifs, archetypes and referring to films by their directors rather than the most famous actor in it. It’s the difference between “Let’s go see that new Cameron Diaz movie!” and “What did you think of the latest Jim Jarmusch film?”. I last saw the Grand Budapest Hotel and everyone was all “Seen one Wes Anderson film, seen ’em all!” I was like, isn’t that the guy who directed all the Scream movies?

I like going to the movies to escape. I enjoy crappy movies with simple and predictable plots that I don’t have to engage many neurons to follow. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate spectacular cinematography and top-notch acting just as much as the next person, but it’s not my primary motivation for going to the movies.

In any case, I’ve been thinking about my time in London and living here has changed my perception of the city. Just as much I love watching movies and TV shows that are filmed in Toronto, I have come to enjoy picking out landmarks and locations in films set in London. It’s the ultimate escapism – feeling like your life is a movie.

Notting Hill (1999)


The Plot: Julia Roberts plays herself, falls in love with the same character Hugh Grant plays in almost every movie he’s in. Romantic comedy ensues.

This is London: Notting Hill is in West London and it’s well-known for its annual Caribbean carnival. The book shop Hugh Grant works at is on Portobello Road – a location I visited on my trip to London last year.

V for Vendetta (2005)

Photo coutrtesy of Roger Ebert
Photo coutrtesy of Roger Ebert

The Plot: Dystopian future based on a comic book (okay, fine – graphic novel) where the government is run by fascists and the people have no freedom. According to some, the future is now.

This is London: Creepy Guy Fawkes masks. Scenes including the Parliament buildings and the Clock Tower. They also blow these up to a soundtrack of the 1812 Overture. Interesting.

Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001)


The Plot: Perpetually single lady Bridget Jones gets up to her quirky antics in what is a goofier Pride & Prejudice.

This is London: Americans faking English accents – I’ve only recently noticed how bad it is. Also, if you make a trip to Borough Market you can spot her flat and the pub where the Hugh Grant-Colin Firth throw-down happened.

Bend It Like Beckham (2002)


The Plot: Sikh girl wants to play football (soccer). Befriends white girl who plays football too. Parents think they’re lesbians. Hilarity and drama ensue. I shouldn’t be so hard on this one – I actually LOVE this movie and watch it often!

This is London: Cultural diversity in all its glory. Set in Hounslow, the suburbs near Heathrow airport.

Closer (2004)


The Plot: Dysfunctional relationships. Natalie Portman plays a stripper. Dark and twisty mind games. Drama ensues.

This is London: True-grit Londoners – the scary ones with scars and tattoos who strut like they’re on a mission and don’t mind shoving you out of the way on the side walk.

Brick Lane (2007)


The Plot: Bangladeshi woman has an arranged marriage with a guy twice her age and moves to Brick Lane in East London. Regrets it.

This is London: Cultural diversity and the charm of the East End. Interesting look into the post-9/11 racial tensions in the Bangladeshi community and Britain in general.

Alfie (1966)


The Plot: Yes, the Jude Law version is a remake. Michael Caine is a stylish womaniser who suddenly grows a conscience.

This is London: Tower of London, Mayfair, Battersea – 50 years ago. It’s awesome to see how the city has and hasn’t changed. Such is a city with such an extensive history.

Nineteen-Eighty-Four (1984)


The Plot: More dystopian tales – people living in the totalitarian state of Oceania.

This is London: Surveillance. Did you know the UK has the highest number of CCTV cameras per capita? Creepy.

Snatch (2000)

Screw London. Brad Pitt shirtless. Yes.
Screw London. Brad Pitt shirtless. Yes.

The Plot: Gangsters, guns, diamond heists, Brad Pitt playing a loquacious Irish gypsy and Benicio del Toro as a mobster. Can’t understand a word they say.

This is London: “London, you know, fish, chips, cup ‘o tea, bad food, worse weather, Mary fucking Poppins.”


What are some of your favourite movies set in your city?


11 thoughts on “9 Films You’ll Appreciate More after Living in London”

  1. Aside from V for Vendetta I haven’t seen any of these. They are now going on my list of pre-London education!

  2. Amazing list! I recently watched ‘Under the Tuscan Sun’ and a ‘A Room with a view’ that were set in my favorite country Italy.

  3. So, I´m still missing Brick Lane and the original version of Alfie:) I really enjoyed Eastern Promises with Viggo Mortensen, for example. The combination of Russian mob family and London was very compelling.

    1. The original version of Alfie is hilarious. I haven’t seen Eastern Promises but I’ll check it out! Thanks for commenting, Elli.

  4. Alyssa this is brilliant! Before I moved to London I loved watching some of these films (years and years beforehand) and now I actually live here it’s amazing watching them and recognising places and buildings 🙂 I actually haven’t seen Brick Lane, but seeing as I live about 5 minutes walk from the actual Brick Lane (and it sounds super interesting) I think I’ll definitely be watching it soon 🙂

    1. Thanks, Beverley! I think it’s a great eye into a community who many people perceive as contributing immigration and curry houses to London. Let me know what you think!

  5. Great list! I always get a pang for London when I see Notting Hill on tv. Also love Bend it Like Beckham, Keira Knightley at her best!

    “The Castle” (Aussie film) is my go-to movie when I’m feeling a little homesick. “Dad reckons fishing is 10% brains and 95% muscle, the rest is just good luck.” hehe 🙂

    1. Hi Brigid,

      I haven’t seen that film, but I’ll definitely check it out. Thanks for commenting!

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