The best films set in London to watch at home

As we all prepare to self-isolate, Luxury London picks some of our favourite, era-defining films set in the capital. Predictably, Richard Curtis and Hugh Grant clear up

18 March 2020

Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998)

"You could choke a dozen donkeys on that! And you're haggling over one hundred pound? What d'you do when you're not buying stereos, Nick? Finance revolutions?”

Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Guy Ritchie’s first and finest feature film, just gets better with age. A sharp, stylish insight into London’s gritty underworld, the film made a household name of its director and kick-started the acting careers of ex-driver Jason Statham and a former footballer by the name by Vinnie Jones – who proved he could be just as intimidating on screen as he was on the pitch. Witty, pacey and packed full of poster-worthy one-liners – “If the milk turns out to be sour, I ain't the kind of pussy to drink it. You know what I mean, Nick?” – Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels is the best British gangster flick of the past quarter-century – know what I mean, Nick?

Chosen by Richard Brown, editorial director

About a Boy (2002)

Having invented a son to impress single mum Rachel (Rachel Weisz), wealthy bachelor Will Freeman (Hugh Grant) faces a conundrum when she invites him, and his fictional child Ned, to a playdate. Enlisting the help of misfit teenager Marcus (Nicholas Holt), Will unwittingly enters into a relationship that forms the basis of this coming-of-age tale, which touches on themes of friendship, suicide and teenage anxiety. In Nick Hornby’s original novel, the story is set in Islington, but the film adaptation is shot across the capital, with Will’s apartment located in Clerkenwell, his local supermarket in Richmond, his hair salon in Westbourne Grove and his favourite restaurants (Otto Dining Lounge and Hakkasan) in Maida Vale and Hanway Place respectively. And let’s not forget Regent’s Park, the scene of Marcus’s accidental crime involving a duck and a stale loaf of bread…

Chosen by Ellen Millard, deputy editor 

Withnail & I (1987)

What a piece of work is man," proclaims a forlorn Withnail (Richard E Grant) in the final scene of Withnail and I, as he recites Hamlet's soliloquy in the rain in Regents Park. Bruce Robinson's cult comedic tale follows two struggling actors, who take a break from their squalid flat in Camden to go on holiday together in Cumbria. This film is therefore not shot entirely in London, but features Kilburn, Notting Hill and Chelsea. The rules of the Withnail and I drinking game? Try match the characters drink-for-drink. 

Chosen by Mhairi Mann, digital editor

Kingsman (The Secret Service and The Golden Circle) (2017)

  

Arguably one of the finest action-comedy films to come out in decades, the Kingsman series is what gave Savile Row swagger, endeared viewers to take up Krav Maga (who can forget the scene of Colin Firth singlehandedly taking down 6 thugs) and made us fall in love with London all over again. From the Gloucester Road mews house of agent Harry Hart to the Kingsman Secret Service HQ in Huntsman, the Kingsman films are riotously over-the-top, funny and the perfect marriage of Hollywood big bucks and British sensibility and charm.  

Chosen by Dom Jeffares, brand manager

Notting Hill (1999)

Hugh Grant's "whoopsie daisies" moment as he hauls himself over the wall of Rosemead Gardens set a new motif for the romcom - breaking into private parks for the sake of courtship (see: Gramercy Park in That Awkward Moment). Richard Curtis’ love story is as much about the city as it is about William the bookshop owner (Grant) and Anna the actress (Julia Roberts), so naturally, there are a few cameos from the city: Anna films scenes on Hampstead Heath, takes down four underdeveloped morons in Nobu on Old Park Lane, and invites William up to her room at The Ritz, after the "surreal but nice" moment where they bump into each other near his store on Golborne Road. London is undoubtedly lovely, but never more so when through the lens of the country’s most romantic director. 

Chosen by Anna Prendergast, senior assistant editor  

Bridget Jones (2002)

Big pants; blue soup; Mark Darcy's Christmas jumper: Almost 20 years on, this romantic comedy about thirtysomething single Bridget (Renée Zellweger) navigating life and love in London is still as relatable and laugh-out-loud funny as ever. Filled with quintessentially British bumbling awkwardness, Jones veers romantically between pesty boss Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant) and human rights barrister Mark Darcy (Colin Firth). The soundtrack is filled with nostalgic gems, like Out of Reach by Gabrielle, as well as empowering female divas like Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross and Chaka Khan. You can also reminisce about a time in London when a publishing assistant could afford a one-bedroom flat by London Bridge. The follow-up films aren't quite so good, but still thoroughly enjoyable.

Chosen by Mhairi Mann, digital editor

Paddington (2014)

“Mrs Brown says that everyone in London is different, and that means anyone can fit in” — even a Peruvian bear with a penchant for marmalade sandwiches. In the 2014 film adaptation of Michael Bond’s beloved children’s book, Paddington Bear (Ben Wishaw) quickly finds a home in the capital with a health-and-safety conscious Mr Brown (Hugh Bonneville), his whimsical illustrator wife (Sally Hawkins) and their two teenagers. Interwoven with a not-so subtle commentary on the nation’s attitude to immigration, this charming British comedy is played out across London, with some of the city’s best landmarks taking a starring role. Look out for Notting Hill’s rainbow townhouses, Portobello Market’s antiques shop Alice’s and the Natural History Museum — to name but a few.

Chosen by Ellen Millard, deputy editor

28 Weeks Later (2007)

Building upon the success of cult-classic 28 Days Later, 28 Weeks Later picks up six months after the rage virus has annihilated Mainland Britain. Though it has been criticised for lacking the humanism of its prequel, one area it certainly doesn’t fall short on is atmosphere; familiar sights in London are transformed into hugely evocative apocalyptic nightmares, our protagonists facing bloodlust zombies for the entire length of the film. Unrelenting and dark, watch both films in a row for the full effect.

Chosen by Dom Jeffares, brand manager 

Truly, Madly, Deeply (1990)

Once upon a time there was a couple who were truly, madly, deeply in love – and then he died. The 1990 movie follows a similar conceit to the Hollywood movie Ghost – but it is much more intelligent, moving and funny. Written and directed by Anthony Minghella, the 1990 movies stars Juliet Stevenson and Alan Rickman. Nina (Stevenson), a professional translator, has lost the love of her life, cellist Jamie (Rickman) and is overwhelmed by grief. Rather than go on with life, Nina dwells on her dead love, slumped at her piano, endlessly playing half of a Bach duet. Then, in a magical sequence, his cello suddenly joins her melody... and Jamie's back from the dead. Over the next few weeks, Nina is ecstatic but the returned Jamie also reminds her that when he was alive he often irritated her. Indeed he continues to do so as a ghost, turning up the central heating to stifling levels, moving furniture around and inviting back ghost friends to watch movies. Could it be the reason Jamie came back was to help Nina get over him by tarnishing her idealised memory of him? Beautifully shot, some scenes were filmed in Bristol, but the majority were shot in Hampstead, Highgate and on London’s South Bank.

Chosen by Dawn Alford, content director