The relation between an actual place and how it is portrayed in a movie can be quite tricky, because the way glamorous or peculiar film characters wander the streets of a city or explore its rural counterparts has often very little to do with what gives a town or country its actual identity. Annika recently explained how the way she imagined New York City after watching certain movies and TV shows actually differed from how her life in NYC turned out to be in actuality. The film student in me sometimes wants to scream and shout, especially when Glasgow stands in for Philadeplhia (World War Z) or Iceland for Greenland and Afghanistan (The Secret Life of Walter Mitty). But even though I know that movies don’t necessarily show us the truth about their set locations, I still loved being inspired to travel by them.

Whenever I have a trip coming up, I try to soak up as much information about my destination as possible. Part of that is binging over Netflix documentaries and finding the coolest movies that are based or were shot in that location. I still have a reasonable amount of time before my upcoming trip to London in December, and while I can’t wait to finally go, that means, I have two months to fill with pictures set and shot in London. There are so many movies to choose from, but here are 10 of my favorite must-see movies to find all the inspiration for going to London.


1) Legend (2015)


This recent film about the gangster twin brothers Kray, with Tom Hardy and Emily Browning in the lead roles, is set in the rough crime scene of 1960s London. Now, if those are not some of my favorite things combined in one movie. Not crime obviously, but Tom Hardy (yummy and terrifying in a double role), London and the 1960s. If you are into swing music, loads of eyeliner and strong Hackney accents, this is just the film for you.

Great images of East London street views blend in with local pubs, central night clubs and the kind of atmosphere you imagine when you think of what made London the gritty, but cool centre of Europe.

2) Notting Hill (1999)

Notting Hill London Films and Movies

Alright, I admit it, this is one of those films that give you a completely wrong idea of life in London, BUT it is just lovely anyways. Just in case you don’t know the story, here are the basics: Will (Hugh Grant), who owns a travel bookshop in Notting Hill bumps into a Hollywood film star (Julia Roberts)and they basically fall madly in love, although love never comes easily in a Hollywood love flick. They take us through Notting Hill, to cinemas and restaurants, along Portobello Road, the Ritz and many other places in West London.

The most important about this film is this though: get a travel bookshop in London, and before you know it, Ryan Gosling might walk in and you can spill some orange juice on him!

Get Notting Hill on DVD here!

3) Closer (2004)

Closer London Films and Movies

Closer has always been one of my favorite love movies, even though (or because) it does not have a happy ending. It is hardly romantic at all – I’m not even sure I want to call it a love movie anymore… but what it certainly is, is a movie that makes me want to go to London.

I don’t know if it is Julia Roberts drop-dead gorgeous loft flat/studio, the prospect of walking with someone like Jude Law through the parks and streets of London, or having a blind date with a sea turtle at the London Aquarium. This film makes life in London so alluring!

Find the DVD here.

4) A Clockwork Orange (1971)

A Clockwork Orange - London Films and Movies

While A Clockwork Orange is not necessarily the most flattering film about London’s (fictional) underground – to be honest, which crime movie is actually flattering? – it is nevertheless a classic. It is all there: the hipster bar, the Cockney slang, the trouble you definitely don’t want to get yourself into when in London.

Thank God, this is dystopian!

Invest in a classic right here.

5) The Harry Potter series (2001-2011)

Harry Potter - London Film and Movies

For a lighter and more fantastical image of London, indulge in a movie marathon and watch Harry Potter 1-7 in one weekend. Have a notepad at hand and write down all the London locations you see across the films, and you will find that you have a full list of places to see and things to do to fill a couple of days in the city!

Kings Cross Station, St Pancras Station, the London Zoo, Leadenhall Market, Piccadilly Circus, the Tower Bridge, Westminster tube station, and of course the Warner Bros. Studio Tour – there is so much magic to see. For more guidance, try one of the Harry Potter guided tours, for example at London Walks.

You can buy the DVD collection here.

6) Mary Poppins (1964)

Mary Poppins - London Films and Movies

Could you think of a more iconic children’s film set in London? No, that’s right, I can’t either. Weirdly enough, the film was of course not even shot in London, but completely in a Beverly Hills studio – Hollywood, ey?

And yet, as Mary Poppins descends from the sky and dances over the rooftops of the East End, who doesn’t secretly wish to plan a supercalifragilisticexpialidocious trip to London themselves?

The film is available here.

7) A Hard Day’s Night (1964)

A Hard Day's Night - London Films and Movies

Although originating in Liverpool, the Beatles reached some of their most important milestones in London – from recording at the Abbey Road Studios to their last ever concert on the rooftop of Apple Records just off Regent’s Street.

Seeing A Hard Day’s Night not only brings alive their beautiful music, but also gives you an idea of what it was like to be in London in the 60s, and which things you could do on a fun day out. Do it like Ringo: have a pint in a pub, walk along the canals or rent a bicycle! Of course there are also rockstar-themed city tours!

Get the movie here.

8) Snatch (2000)

Snatch - London Films and Movies

Snatch is a good film to prepare yourself for and accept that in London you will very likely bump into someone whose accent you don’t understand, no matter how hard you try. But really, it is just one of Guy Ritchie’s London-based crime movies that could easily make you think, everybody is in deep trouble in that city.

Fact is, these films are simply entertaining and almost make you want to get caught up in a ‘Comedy of Error’ – as long as Brad Pitt is involved, that is.

Snatch is available here.

9) Skyfall (2012)

skyfall london films

The shots of London in the latest Bond movie (the next will actually be out this year) could be used as ‘Visit London’ ads. Westminster, the crowded tube, the National Gallery, the skyline – there is hardly an iconic image of London that is not in this movie.

Packed with action, a beefy Daniel Craig and plenty of threat to our beloved London this is just the right film to prepare yourself to fall in love with London (and plan a trip to Scotland too)!

Find the DVD here.

10) Love Actually (2003)

Love Actually - London Films and Movies

Although I’m not the biggest fan of this movie, it is a Christmas classic after all. And seeing that I will be going to London in the holiday season, this seems like a suitable preparation.

The movie shows Trafalgar Square, Hype Park, Somerset House, the Millennium Bridge, Canary Wharf, Notting Hill, of course, Heathrow Airport, and many more famous London locations - the list is so comprehensive, Buzzed even made a London guide based on the movie.

Already looking for the perfect Christmas gift?


So, if you have a trip to London coming up, or if you just need an excuse to curl up in your bed next weekend and watch films to inspire you to travel, I hope you will enjoy at least a few of these titles. Or do you have any other favorite London-based films? If so, share them in the comments section!

This is a post by Kathi Kamleitner.

Kathi Kamleitner was a regular contributor at Travelettes from 2013 to 2019. Originally from Vienna, Austria, she packed her backpack to travel the world and lived in Denmark, Iceland and Berlin, before settling in Glasgow, Scotland. Kathi is always preparing her next trip – documenting her every step with her camera, pen and phone.

In 2016, Kathi founded Scotland travel blog to share her love for her new home, hiking in the Scottish Highlands, island hopping and vegan food. Follow her adventures on Instagram @watchmesee!