London In Films: 'Welcome To The Punch' Only The Latest... Are These The 12 Best Depictions Of The Capital?

The makers of British crime thriller 'Welcome To The Punch' scored a bit of casting coup.

We don't mean James McAvoy or Mark Strong - fine actor though they are - but Canary Wharf. Unlike the powers behind 'Skyfall', the creators of the film (out this week) were granted access to shoot in London's financial district, giving the 'international feel' the producers told HuffPost UK they were after.

In doing so, 'Welcome To The Punch' joins a long tradition of films that pay tribute to the sights and sounds of the capital. Whether it's the grit of the East End or the leafy suburbs of the North, London has been a prolific and versatile performer in its own right for decades.

Here we round up 12 of our favourite examples. Some paint a London we recognise, some one we've long forgotten, others, a place we're relieved doesn't actually exist. If we've missed off your favourite, let us know about it.

The Ladykillers (1955)

WHERE: King's Cross

Not that you'd recognise it today, but almost all of this classic crime caper was filmed either at the famous station or in the area slightly to the North, all of which has since been dramatically redeveloped. In fact, Mrs. Louisa Wilberforce - the film's eccentric lead character - lives in a lopsided house over the entrance to King's Cross railway tunnel. For a cinematic record of dilapidated post-war London, look no further.

Mary Poppins (1964)

WHERE: St. Paul’s / East End

If 'London films' was a subject on Family Fortunes, Mary Poppins would probably win you top points and a set of luxury suitcases. Perhaps it's because Disney's East End is the London we most like to imagine really existed (and the one we still sell to tourists), where chipper children obediently follow nice men with mustaches past eccentric bird ladies perched on the steps of St. Paul's (see above).

1984 (1984)

WHERE: Airstrip One

One of the most chilling aspects of George Orwell's dystopian novel was that it was set in London, rather than an imaginary city (even if England has been renamed 'Airstrip One'). Michael Radford honoured this detail with his film adaptation, using locations such as Alexandra Palace, parts of the East End and Battersea Power Station as the backdrop for Winston's doomed rebellion. Just like the people living in it, London has been sanitised by the oppressive Party but glimmers of its individuality still occasionally shine through, such as in the pawn shop scene.

Withnail and I (1987)

WHERE: Camden / Regent’s Park

Although largely set in the Northern countryside, Richard E. Grant's cult comedy has London - not to mention two archetypal London layabouts - firmly at its heart. The feckless, preening actors Withnail and 'I' leave the capital in search of replenishment but find themselves woefully out of their depth, soon winding up back in grotty old Camden. The moving final scene - possibly still Grant's greatest onscreen moment - sees him miserably quoting Hamlet alone in a rain-soaked Regent's Park. Hey, we've all been there.

Austin Powers (1997 - 2002)

WHERE: The 60s

Mike Myer's Austin Powers trilogy played heavily on the rose-tinted view British society has of the 60s when London was, we like to recall, the coolest place in the world, thanks to a sexual revolution, some colourful fashion and, most of all, lots of music. The scene above encapsulates the 'swinging London' of popular imagination perfectly as Austin Powers hops, skips and jumps through a city full of lovely ladies, dancing bobbies and people having a fabulous time. It's a joke, of course, but it's lovely to think London was once something not too dissimilar.

Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels (1998)

WHERE: East End

Shoreditch, Fleet Street Hill, Borough Market and Chalk Farm were just some of the actual London locations used by Guy Ritchie when filming his smash hit heist film 'Lock, Stock...' But the London he set out to capture was the seedy, crime-riddled East End that has been the backdrop to almost all classic British gangster films, from 'Get Carter to The Long Good Friday' to 'Sexy Beast'. This opening scene says it all as Bacon (a breakthrough role for Jason Statham) uses oodles of Cockney charm to peddle knock off goods to some punters before the old bill shows up.

Shakespeare In Love (1998)

WHERE: Globe Theatre

Pre-Victorian London was arguably the most historically accurate character in John Madden's rom-com, which told a fictional tale of London most famous one-time resident, William Shakespeare. Most of the action centres around the Globe Theatre which was, as it is now (albeit with a little more competition) a cultural focal point of the capital, but it also shows the grimey, class-riddled London society we would barely recognise from 400 years. Actually, wait a minute...

Sliding Doors (1998)

WHERE: The Tube

A film in which London life is not merely a backdrop but the central plot device, 'Sliding Doors' explores the whimsical question of how your fate could change if, instead of missing your train in the Underground, you managed to do that annoying thing where you pull the doors open at the last second and get told off by the grumpy driver. As well as the Waterloo & City Line and at Fulham Broadway tube station on the District Line, 'Sliding Doors' includes scenes by the river at Hammersmith Bridge, Belsize park and Fulham Road - only a few scenes short of London walking tour.

Notting Hill (1999)


Some filmmakers tackle London with gritty realism to produce unflinching portraits of a city torn by crime, poverty and cultural tensions. Then there's Richard Curtis. In his world, the capital is a gently blossoming upper-Middle Class paradise in which one needs only to swear mildly, stammer humorously and buy the odd latte to get whisked into a jolly romantic adventure of some sort. His uniquely idealistic take on the capital is aptly demonstrated in the scene above, in which Hugh Grant strolls through an entire year of Notting Hill without once finding his eardrums perforated by a blast of dub reggae sounding from a slow-moving lorry.

28 Days Later (2002)

WHERE: Westminster / River Thames

Perhaps the most vivid (and unrealistic) portrayal of London to be found in any film ever is the opening seen to Danny Boyle's horror thriller '28 Days Later'. The sight of a completely desolate Westminster Bridge in the middle of the day is more unnerving than even the zombies (Piccadilly Circus and Oxford Street get the same eerie treatment). Using the famous empty streets of London was crucial to the way Boyle refreshed a fairly saturated horror sub genre.

Shaun Of The Dead (2004)

WHERE: Suburbia

As any resident knows, London isn't all about Big Ben and Buckingham Palace. For most of us 'London life' resembles trudging to and from the same suburban outpost, punctuated with long spells in our favourite local. It was this reality that formed the subtle backdrop to Simon Pegg and Nick Frost's excellent horror comedy 'Shaun of the Dead', in which an average life in an average part of London is disrupted by an outbreak of zombies.

Sky Fall (2012)

WHERE: Westminster, Whitehall, Vauxhall Bridge, Embankment, Trafalger Square, Underground

The most successful and critically acclaimed James Bond film of all time, 'Skyfall' was all about 007's roots, and while this ultimately led to the Scottish home of the film's title, the preceding 90 minutes belong mainly to London. The capital has featured in the series before of course - think of Pierce Brosnan in 'The World Is Not Enough' sliding down the then-Millennium Dome - but this was the first to make the city feel like part of Bond's life, rather than just a piece of scenery. Memorable scenes include a tense chase in the London Underground and an explosion at MI6.

'Welcome to the Punch' is in UK cinemas from Friday 15 March. Watch the trailer below...