Movies to inspire your student life in London
From flesh-eating zombies to Hugh Grant comedies, London has fired up the imaginations of filmmakers for generations. A fair few have become well-known blockbusters across the world, but there are plenty of brilliant films set in the capital you may have missed. So, if you’re an intern or SAF Scholar in London, here are some lesser-known (and one classic) London-based films that give you a taste of London culture.
Last Night in Soho
This time-traveling mystery is by Edgar Wright, the director who also brought us the brilliant comedy horror Shaun of the Dead. Last Night in Soho tells the story of a fashion student in present day Soho who finds herself transported to the 1960s where she’s a glamorous singer. Starring Anya Taylor-Joy and Diana Rigg, this film highlights the past beauty and exposes the seedy side of this London neighborhood. After watching, you might wander around the same Soho streets. Stop by The Toucan for a drink, a key location in this film.
“Simply try for one hour to behave like gentlemen.”
This 1955 Ealing comedy crime caper is one of the all-time greats. Post-war London is on full display here as a gang of crooks pretending to be musicians rent a room from the elderly Mrs. Wilberforce. Starring Peter Sellers and Alec Guinness (with an impressive set of false teeth), the gang assumes their naïve landlady will be a pushover. Instead, they get tangled up in a comedy of errors when old-fashioned manners impede their wicked plans. In 2020, The Ladykillers was a digitally restored to “glorious technicolor” using the original camera negative.
My Beautiful Laundrette
Starring a young Daniel Day-Lewis and shot on a shoestring budget, this 1980’s film by Stephen Frears was not expected to become a hit. But this London film with a gay love story at its heart wowed critics and audiences alike. Set in neon-lit laundrette in a rundown street, My Beautiful Laundrette highlights the political, racial, and sexual tensions of the time. It reveals cultural attitudes prevalent in Thatcher-era Britain and has become a culturally important LGBTQ+ movie, with its own rainbow plaque in Vauxhall. It’s a must-see for any film buff or film student studying in London.
One of the best parts of studying in London over winter is seeing the streets and shops light up with Christmas decorations. If you’re looking for some fairytale tinsel, Last Christmas ticks the festive box. It stars Emilia Clarke, a wannabe singer who works in a Christmas shop and spots a handsome stranger through the window. What follows is a romantic comedy that wanders through the streets of Central London. Critics weren’t keen on this film, but audiences continue to love it Christmas after Christmas because, despite its flaws, this is a charming romantic comedy with a brilliant Wham! song at its heart. Watch it and fall in love with London at its most Christmassy. If you want to visit the little park featured in the film, it’s a community space in the West End called The Phoenix Garden.