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The ten best Manchester movies

Our list of the ten best films set in Manchester


From industrial powerhouse to booming cultural hub, the North of England’s greatest city has always held a magnetic attraction for artists, musicians and storytellers. So it’s no surprise that Manchester’s history on film is crammed with popular classics, from hard-hitting realist dramas to coal-black comedies, plus the occasional zombie…

Film, Drama

24 Hour Party People (2002)

The greatest modern Manchester story of them all, the rise and fall of Factory Records, becomes a gangbusters black comedy in the hands of director Michael Winterbottom. This cosmic carnival of excess, banter, musical genius and blink-and-miss-em cameos comes complete with a hero-talks-to-God moment so perfect it’d make Charlton Heston choke on his chips: ‘You were right about Mick Hucknall. His music's rubbish, and he's a ginger’. Amen! 

Manc-est line: ‘We obviously have nothing in common. I'm a genius, you're all fucking wankers.’

Film, Comedy

East Is East (1999)

‘Oh, east is east and west is west and never the twain shall meet’ wrote Rudyard Kipling, somewhat short-sightedly. His axiom has since been disproved by decades of comfortable integration, which is the central theme of Ayub Khan-Din’s witty, good-natured and nostalgic-with-an-edge tale of an interracial marriage in 1970s Salford.

Manc-est line: ‘Piss of out of my house, and take Laurel and Hardy with you.’


A Taste of Honey (1961)

Ah, the British New Wave of the 1960s: an entire decade of dodgy oop-north accents, adolescent angst and issues-based filmmaking. Based on Shelagh Delaney’s cause-celebre stage play, ‘A Taste of Honey’ may not have survived as well as some of its contemporaries – its pretty patronising towards its sexually profligate teenage heroine – but as a window into a lost world, it’s absolutely fascinating.

Manc-est line: ‘I hope to be dead and buried by the time I reach your age. Just think you've been living for forty years!’


Hell Is a City (1960)

As the kitchen-sink movement gained momentum, even Hammer tried to get in on the act with this convincingly grimy police procedural. The plot may be age-old – smart cop Stanley Baker guesses correctly that a recently escaped convict will return home to recover his lost spoils – but the execution still feels bracing, particularly in the depiction of Baker’s troubled home life.

Manc-est line: ‘You’d rather be in a pub than at home, with low women sitting round the bar!’

Film, Drama

Control (2007)

In stark contrast to ’24 Hour Party People’, the Ian Curtis story is here rendered as pristine coffee-table angst under the GQ-cover lens of photographer Anton Corbijn. Worth a place on this list for its rapturous depiction of backstreets and housing estates, it’s so damnably self-important that you can’t help feeling Curtis would have pissed himself laughing.

Manc-est line: ‘Side effects include drowsiness, apathy, and blurred vision... I'm taking two.’

Film, Comedy

Hobson's Choice (1954)

David Lean’s feisty adaptation of Harold Brighouse’s play took Manchester movies onto the world stage: the film won the Golden Bear at the 1954 Berlin Film Festival, and Best Film at the BAFTAs shortly afterwards. Charles Laughton is his usual sly, corpulent and magisterial self as the tyrannical shopkeeper cursed with three headstrong daughters.

Manc-est line: ‘There’s been a gradual increase of uppishness towards me.’

Film, Comedy

Looking For Eric (2009)

Is there a more Mancunian image than Eric Cantona chatting on a rooftop to former Fall bassist Steve Evets? Sure, the footballer may be from France or somewhere originally, but dammit if he isn’t a Manc at heart. Ken Loach’s oddball fantasy explores hero-worship and everyday desperation with the lightest of touches.

Manc-est line: ‘I'm up to here with your philosophy. I'm still getting over the fucking seagulls!’

Film, Horror

The Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue (1974)

Okay, so only the first few minutes actually take place in Manchester. But there’s never been a funkier depiction of the city on film, as hippie-haired Ray Lovelock bolts up his antiques shop, fires up his Norton motorbike and thunders through Piccadilly to the groovy strains of Giuliano Sorgini’s giallo score, on his way to a rendezvous with a zombie invasion.

Manc-est line: ‘I wish the dead could come back to life, you bastard, so then I could kill you again.’

Strumpet - Manchester Movies

Strumpet (2001)

It was shot for TV, but Danny Boyle’s just-about-feature-length performance movie fully deserves a place on this list, if only for Christopher Eccleston’s punchy recitation of Manc legend John Cooper Clarke’s profanity-strewn poem ‘Evidently Chickentown’. Eccleston plays a wordsmith who teams up with a guitar playing girl (Jenna G) to form a musical duo, and ends up on Top of the Pops.

Manc-est line: ‘You’re nowt but a fleabitten mongrel, you know that?’


Love on the Dole (1941)

The first notable Manchester movie – it’s actually set in Salford – is an appropriately dour and contrary piece of work. Released during the war, when filmmakers were supposed to be love-bombing British audiences with jolly, patriotic escapism, the film is instead a bleak, insightful depiction of depression, poverty and pre-marital sex. Needless to say, it wasn’t a big hit.

Manc-est line: ‘You marry for love and find you've let yourself in for a seven day a week job with no pay. And you don't find it out 'til it's too late.’

Top 25 summer films of 2015

Film, Comedy

Pitch Perfect 2

Director: Elizabeth Banks

Cast: Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Hailee Steinfeld

The ladies are hitting the high notes (we hope) as Anna Kendrick and Rebel Wilson return as the fearless frontwomen of campus a cappella group The Bellas. The first ‘Pitch Perfect’ followed the gang on a national competition tour. This time they’re headed to Germany (really?) for a global competition.

Film, Horror


Director: Gil Kenan

Cast: Sam Rockwell, Rosemarie DeWitt, Jared Harris

We were dubious when this remake of the classic suburban fright flick was announced – it looked like just another cheap Hollywood cash-in. But when it emerged that ‘Monster House’ creator Gil Kenan was set to take charge, The prospects of ‘Poltergeist’ improved immeasurably: his films have precisely the right blend of spooky thrills, oddball invention and emotional heft to suit this story of a young girl abducted by vengeful ghosts. The cast is great, too.

Film, Fantasy


Director: Brad Bird

Cast: George Clooney, Britt Robertson, Hugh Laurie

Taking inspiration from a Disneyland theme park ride, this fantasy from ‘The Incredibles’ director Brad Bird follows the adventures of a young runaway who is transported to an alternate universe where the best of human endeavour has created a flawless utopia. The trailer promises grand vistas, retro-future technology and Clooney laying on the twinkly old-Hollywood charm.

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