Twenty Films to See Before A Trip to London Take in the City Through the Silver Screen Before Stepping Across the Pond
The most unforgettable character in British movies is not a magical nanny, a boy wizard, or a charming martini-drinking spy but the city of London itself. The cobblestone streets, cosmopolitan boulevards, and majestic landmarks of the city by the Thames exist side-by-side with the London of our collective movie imagination. Our celluloid London is a place electric with excitement, filled with romance, regal with luxury, ripe with danger and invariably clouded in ominous fog. Before your trip to the brick and mortar version take a visit to its imaginary counterpart with these must see films.
1939 - The Thirty-Nine Steps Directed by Alfred Hitchcock This dark brooding suspense classic gave birth to Hitchcock’s favorite theme -- an innocent man on the run. Robert Donat plays a visiting Canadian engineer who mistakenly gets accused of murder. Spies want him dead. The law wants him caught. As the noose tightens, Donat crisscrosses rain swept London and ventures into the moody Scottish Highlands to save himself and stop a spy ring trying to steal top-secret information.
1949 - Passport to Pimlico Directed by Henry Cornelius When a group of children roll a tire into a ditch, they set off an old bomb that explodes underground and reveals a long lost document that states the neighborhood of Pimlico actually belongs to the French Duchy of Burgundy. The quirky locals quickly declare themselves an independent state to escape the maddening rationing rules of post-war London. This rollicking comedy by London’s famous Ealing Studios features hilarious turns by British greats Margaret Rutherford and Hermione Baddeley.
1962 - Doctor No Directed by Terence Young World meet 007. Argue as much as you want, in Dr. No, Sean Connery crystallized the role of suave super spy James Bond who liked his martini’s shaken and not stirred. This was the first film in the Bond franchise and included all the high-tech gadgets, beautiful ladies and titillating title sequences that became hallmarks of the 007 series.
1964 - A Hard Day's Night Directed by Richard Lester It is simply impossible not to fall in love with the Beatles in this charmingly madcap delight. The film follows the fab four as they try to make their way by train to a TV studio for a live performance. Natural comedians, the boys ad-libbed some of the movies greatest lines. Classic Beatles songs like: Can’t Buy me Love, Hard Day’s Night and If I Fell are featured throughout.
1965 - The Knack … and How to get It Directed by Richard Lester Lester follows up A Hard Day’s Night with this funny film about the early days of the sexual revolution. All hell breaks loose when three roommates obsession with seducing women is turned upside down by the arrival the beautiful Nancy.
1966 - Alfie Directed by Lewis Gilbert Michael Caine’s breakout role as the rakish ladies man who begins to question what life is all about. The charming film captures all the sites, colors and sounds of London’s swinging 60s scene. The film is remembered for Caine’s charming performance as well as the Burt Bacharach penned title track, which became a hit for three different artists.
1971 - Sunday Bloody Sunday Directed by John Schlesinger A ground breaking British drama that took on the sexual revolution. Considered a masterpiece, the academy award nominated drama tells the story of a female recruitment consultant and a male Jewish doctor who are both in love with a free-spirited bisexual artist played by Murray Head. Emotions fly and life choices profoundly pondered as the trio stumbles their way through the unworkable relationship.
1980 - The Long Good Friday Directed by John Mackenzie Bob Hoskins electrified audiences with his breakout role as Harold, an English gangster trying to become a legitimate business man. Harold’s plans to close a big deal and become relatively clean are wrenched by a string of bombings. As he searches through the London underworld, he realizes his hopes of going straight are a pipe dream and ultimately his past will never let him escape.
1980 - The Elephant Man Directed by David Lynch David Lynch’s first feature and his follow up to Eraserhead; The Elephant Man tells the true story of the severely deformed but highly intelligent John Merrick. Set in Victorian London and shot in crisp black & white; the film depicts Merrick’s struggle to escape his gruesome appearance and become recognized as a true human being. John Hurt’s sensitive portrayal earned him an academy award nomination.
1984 - Greystocke, the Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes Directed by Hugh Hudson The Tarzan story gets a modern take in this 1984 adaptation of the classic man raised by ape tale. Sumptuous scenery of Edwardian London, and a tender performance by Sir Ralph Richardson, gives the film an epic splendor. Christophe Lambert plays the titular hero who discovers that London high society is more savage in its way than the wilds of the African jungle.
1988 - A Fish called Wanda Directed by Charles Crichton Some call this screwball thriller one the funniest films ever made. John Cleese, Kevin Kline, Jamie Lee Curtis and fellow python alum, Michael Palin cross, double-cross and triple cross one another as they plot to steal a fortune in jewels. Palin’s performance as a stuttering hitman is a classic bit of film comedy.
1994 - The Madness of King George Directed by Nicholas Hytner In this adaptation of master British dramatist, Alan Bennett’s play, Nigel Hawthorne, plays the monarch whose descent into madness has his court of royal doctors guessing while causing a flurry of political backstabbing and personal revelations. An eye-opening look at closed door royal mechanization, 1800 century medical practices and personal upheaval.
1998 - Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels Director Guy Ritchie Former video director Guy Ritchie’s high-octane break-out film which also launch Jason Stathem into the stratosphere. The action never stops in this comic heist in Britain’s answer to Pulp Fiction. Barrel’s tells the story of four working class London guys who get in way over their heads after losing a high-stakes poker game and suddenly find themselves owing half-million dollars to a notorious London gangster named “Harry the Hatchet.”
1999 - Notting Hill Directed by Roger Mitchell Hollywood meets London in this classically styled romantic comedy from the same recipe that gave us Roman Holiday. In this version Hugh Grant plays a shy bookstore owner in the charming London neighborhood of Notting Hill who crosses path with the world’s most famous movie star played by Julia Roberts. Beautiful scenery, and the always amusing Hugh Grant, make this a fine bit of cinematic fluff.
2001 - Bridget Jones' Diary Directed by Sharon Maguire In the film adaptation of the wildly popular Helen Fielding novel of the same name, Renee Zellweger plays the determined diary keeper committed to self-improvement and on the lookout for love.
2006 - The Da Vinci Code Directed by Ron Howard Tom Hank’s crisscrosses Europe in this big budget adaptation of Dan Brown’s mammoth blockbuster. After a murder inside the Louvre, clues in Da Vinci paintings lead to the discovery of a religious mystery protected by a secret society for two thousand years – a revelation which could shatter the foundations of Christianity.
2007 - Cassandra's Dream Directed by Woody Allen Woody Allen at his dramatic best. Like the heart-wrenching Crimes and Misdemeanors, Allen explores the dark places of family life and human desire. Colin Farrell and Ewan McGregor play brothers who turn to crime when their financial problems begin to mount. As things go out of control, the brothers turn on each other in this tale inspired by the Greek myth of Cassandra.
2009 - Sherlock Holmes Directed by Guy Ritchie Guy Ritchie contemporary take on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s celebrated detective. Robert Downey Jr. brings all his charisma to the role of fiction’s most beloved super sleuth. Downy and Ritchie’s Holmes is considerably more roguish and bare-knuckled then previous incarnations of Holmes but style triumphs and the combination is pure popcorn. Jude Law adds to the mix with his crisp depiction of Holmes’s stalwart partner Watson.
2009 - The Young Victoria Directed by Jean-Marc Vallee. A stunning piece of historical fiction, The Young Victoria, stars Emily Blunt as the young queen trying to navigate her way through the turbulent first years of her rule. Blunt is radiant as the young queen in the film whose sumptuous costumes and grand scenery were crafted with the highest attention to detail.
2011 - The King's Speech Directed by Tom Hopper Colin Firth’s Academy Award winning portrait of the stuttering Prince George who needed to overcome his debilitating speech impediment to help lead his nation through the dark days of World War II.