These top five films set in London will outshine any bus tour through the traffic jammed inner-city, and offer you front-row seats on the journey through today’s, yesterday’s and possibly tomorrow’s London.
Mastermind Michelangelo Antonioni created a creeping psycho-thriller in the backdrop of London’s stylish 60s. A photographer Thomas (David Hemmings) ceaselessly roams London on the lookout for inspiration. Stumbling across an arguing couple at Maryon Park in Greenwich, Thomas is caught taking a picture of them. Following this, mysterious characters begin to share an interest in these photographs and Thomas begins to obsess over the taken pictures. Magnifying them until he believes to have uncovered a dark secret hidden in the corner of the frame, he becomes conflicted by moral questions doubting his sanity. Even his glamorous studio in Notting Hill becomes uncannily unsafe as Thomas struggles to make sense of this puzzle. This classic is a must-see, exploring how the editing of photographs or film can reflect the mental processes of a conscious mind.
Dirty Pretty Things
This British drama film from 2002 is a shockingly realistic examination of the secret side of present day London. Written by Steven Knight and directed by Stephen Frears, this film gives forgotten undocumented immigrants a voice. The former Nigerian Doctor, Okwe (Chitewel Ejofor), juggles two jobs to survive in the unforgiving metropolis. By day he is a mini cab driver, by night, the receptionist of a sleazy Hotel in Wandsworth. Discovering a human heart in the toilet, Okwe realises the consequences these side businesses can bring. With the help of Senay (Audrey Tautou) and other struggling immigrants, Okwe is unwillingly thrown in the fight against illegal organ trafficking and the sinister world of an unseen London. Dirty Pretty Things is a multicultural fairytale which holds its audience in suspense whilst dispersing humorous optimism within its bleak reality.
28 Days Later
An empty London might seem like a wonderfully peaceful dream, unless bloodthirsty zombies were to lurk behind every corner. This is unfortunately the case in Danny Boyle’s dystopian horror-film, in which a virus has led to the collapse of society. Unconcerned in a coma, Jim (Cillian Murphy) has slept through this waking nightmare and finds a completely deserted city after waking up in St. Thomas’ Hospital. His journey through the normally bustling Trafalgar Square and Piccadilly Circus becomes spine-chilling when confronted with their emptiness. After the first contact with infected former citizens, he is rescued by an experienced duo of survivors. A breathtaking struggle to survive develops in this unworldly transformed London. For horror-film fanatics this Zombie apocalypse is a genius redefinition of the genre, whereas easily scarred beginners will be drawn in by London’s deserted beauty and a heart quenching psycho-thriller.
A Clockwork Orange
Brutally disturbing, Stanley Kubrick’s ninth film is a view of London’s future from the past. Futuristic Britain has become a breeding place for drug wars, rape, and violence in general. Gang leader Alex (Malcolm McDowell) is a Beethoven enthusiast and dangerous psychopath in one. After another one of his crime-escapades, Alex is sentenced to 14 years in prison. Offered a chance to be released early, he willingly partakes in the “Ludovico process”, a treatment that promises rehabilitation to inmates within two weeks. Alex becomes an instrument for campaigning politicians, and is released as a broken man without freewill. London’s corners filled with brutalist architecture become the perfect backdrop for this gory classic. Overall, Kubrick creates a world full of shockingly surreal images, which formulate an unforgettable critique on growing totalitarianism.
Children of Men
Another uncanny prediction of Britain’s future can be found in Alfonso Cuaron’s dystopian drama. In 2027 the world has not witnessed a single birth within twenty years. Riots have become normality, and illegal immigrants are forced into concentration camps. London’s Fleet Street becomes a crumbling façade, only held together by modern screens that regurgitate propaganda. Theo (Clive Owen) is kidnapped by an underground activist group and introduced to the woman who carries the first child since the fertility crisis began. Theo is entrusted to escort her to a safe-haven ashore of Britain. Unable to trust anyone, except a brilliant Michael Caine as a friendly hippie, the story dives into a wild chase-thriller. Captivating action sequences, in which the camera itself is sometimes hit by blood or ricochets, and sincere moments of empathy make Children of Men one of the best films of the 21st century.