The 100 best TV shows of all time you have to watch
‘The idiot box’. ‘The boob tube’. ‘The opiate of the masses’. For decades, television was maligned as one of the lowest forms of entertainment available, a conduit for hypnotising slop was actively making the populace dumber. Was that perception justified? Maybe, at times. The fact that it was being beamed directly into your home, and you had little choice in what to watch, made it seem worse. Now, 70 or so years after it became widely available, other mediums are having to play catch up. The best shows compete with movies for cultural positioning, while elite filmmakers make movies for the small screen. The premiere of The Sopranos in 1999 is credited as the big bang that changed TV’s reputation, and the advent of streaming has made it so viewers actually have more to watch than anyone could possibly consume in an entire lifetime. That makes selecting the 100 greatest TV shows much more of a challenge than it would have been 20 years ago. For that reason, we elected to limit the field a bit, leaving off talk shows, docuseries, variety shows and sketch comedy, instead focusing on scripted, episodic dramas, comedies and miniseries. Even then, it proved to be an exhausting task – after all, television has been popular since after World War II. While this list is dominated by 21st century programs, there are hundreds of shows from the pre-Sopranos era that deserve credit for pushing TV forward into its current golden age. Here’s what we chose as the best of the best. Recomme
Inside Kano’s kingdom: the London estate that made ‘Top Boy’ what it is
With Netflix’s smash-hit crime thriller ‘Top Boy’ back for its final season, Thomas Hobbs explores how London’s Samuda Estate became the show’s home turf. The final season of Top Boy arrives on Netflix this week, with the show’s massive global fanbase eagerly tuning in. Filled with drug dealers who can’t decide if they want to hug it out or kill one another on London’s fictional Summerhouse Estate – the rivalry between Ashley Walters’ Dushane Hill and UK rap legend Kano’s Gerard ‘Sully’ Sullivan comes to a head in the finale – as well as powerful messages about gentrification and working-class life, and action sequences that go full Michael Bay, it has another, less well-known key ingredient: Isle of Dogs’ Samuda Estate.The show’s main filming location, Samuda has stood in for Summerhouse Estate since ‘Top Boy’ moved from Channel 4, its home in 2011-2013, to Netflix. (Prior to that, Summerhouse was Elephant and Castle’s Heygate Estate.) Photograph: Jess Hand/Noah BoonIsle of Dogs’ Samuda Estate Built in 1967, Samuda houses around 1,500 residents across its 11-and-a-bit acres. The juxtaposition between its six-storey concrete blocks and 25-store tower, Kelson House, with Canary Wharf’s opulent skyscrapers in the near-distance feels almost Dickensian. Given the show’s themes, it’s the perfect Summerhouse stand-in. During filming, Sharon Clachar, island services manager at One Housing, the private firm that oversees Samuda House, has been an ever-present bridge between the
How Saoirse Ronan’s new whodunnit recreates London’s theatreland
Flipping the Agatha Christie thriller on its head, ‘See How They Run’ is an enjoyably self-aware take on the whodunnit. Its plot has mismatched cops Constable Stalker (Saoirse Ronan) and Inspector Stoppard (Sam Rockwell) investigating the backstage murder of an odious Hollywood producer (Adrien Brody) at The Ambassadors Theatre’s 100th performances of ‘The Mousetrap’. Or as Ronan’s loveable, yet clumsy copper puts it: ‘He took a ski to the face, and it all went downhill from there!’The world of the film may be a heightened take on theatreland’s caprices, but its London locations are very real. Thanks in part to lockdown, the production was afforded unprecedented access to a number of West End venues that doubled up for the Ambassadors Theatre of the movie. The Old Vic, Freemasons’ Hall, and Dominion Theatre were used for interiors; St Martin’s provides its glamorous façade.As production designer Amanda McArthur explains, those iconic spots are the film’s secret sauce. We asked her to walk us through five key London locations from the shoot.
Meet the former pro footballer who’s now fighting for mental health
‘I’ve always been a fighter. My uncle Duke was a champion boxer and instilled that aggression in me from a young age. I ultimately became a footballer, but because of my background in boxing, managers knew I would give them that bite. When I first came through at my local club Crystal Palace at 17, the manager Steve Coppell really believed in me and I played explosively for him. But even though the fans saw me as a fighter for the team, they didn’t see how vulnerable I was behind closed doors. At Palace I struggled with injuries at times, and that’s when depression really started to take hold. When you’re a professional footballer, maybe because there’s a lot of money involved, the public can’t understand how you could ever get depressed. You have to project this idea of being invincible. But we’re all human beings, and when people expect you not to show any chinks in your armour, you just end up bottling things up. I left to join Peterborough in 2000: it was a fresh start. But while I was there, I found out my sister had died by suicide. The Saturday after I found her, I played a match. As footballers, we have a lot of self-pride and ego. I guess I felt too ashamed to take time out to mourn her. As I kept getting more injuries and my marriage broke down, it all built up. In 2009, when I was a player at Charlton Athletic, I tried to end my own life. People thought I had it all, but at that point I didn’t want to live any more. Not long after, I signed to Northampton Town and
Alan Elliott: ‘Aretha didn’t want a film that felt like a eulogy’
When Aretha Franklin played an intimate gig in an LA church in January 1972, the audio track was turned into the highest-selling gospel album of all time. However, most people were unaware that the performance had been filmed too. That footage was mishandled by director Sydney Pollack, then mothballed. Enter music producer Alan Elliott, who has spent 30 years magicking it into a spectacular music doc, ‘Amazing Grace’. He shares its incredible story. Why has it taken so long to make this film? ‘Sydney [Pollack] used an inexperienced crew to film [the gig] and it was a bit of a mess. When I found out about the footage in 1990, I knew I had to fix it but there’s been a lot of obstacles: I had to remortgage my house, then Aretha sued me. It was painful, but when I found out she had cancer I understood. She didn’t want there to be a film that felt like a eulogy.’ What is it that makes this gig so special? ‘Aretha’s energy is like this tsunami and it feels like the building is going to implode. The small setting gives it a unique intimacy too. I watched Beyoncé’s “Homecoming” and she could fit ten of those churches on that stage.’ Aretha Franklin performing in ‘Amazing Grace’. What do you think is driving her on stage? ‘She’s aware Diana Ross and Barbara Streisand are also making films, and she knows she has to nail this performance [to remind people who the Queen of Soul is]. Remember, there’s so much footage of The Beatles and other white musical acts, but this footage of a black
The film lover’s tour of central London
Given its iconic landmarks, red buses and stunning architecture, it’s no wonder that countless movies have filmed on location in London. The city is brimming with countless spots perfect for film locations, whether it's Hamleys (‘Eyes Wide Shut’) or the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel in Kings Cross (‘Batman’). Of course, massive film franchises such as James Bond and Harry Potter have filmed in London, the latter producing many walking tours so that muggles can visit those famous wizarding hotspots. However, for those film lovers who fancy taking a movie meander through the capital, we've put together a map of some famous film locations in London. Below you'll also find the location that each number on the map relates to. So, from the chapel in ‘Love Actually’ to (formerly sordid) Soho backstreets, get your clogs on and explore. [Click here for a zoomable map.]
The unexpected life of a movie location manager
When I tell people I’m a location manager for Hollywood movies they assume it’s incredibly glamorous, but I actually spend most of my time on the phone trying to persuade people to let directors do something crazy. I have to make a director’s vision come to life by finding the perfect location while avoiding anything that could expose a studio to legal liabilities. I love the challenge of finding the right location. For ‘Holmes & Watson’ we couldn’t use the real Baker Street, as it just didn’t look right, and it was too open for us to control the area while we were filming a musical number. We ended up using Gordon Square in Bloomsbury instead. For period films I have to find places that are frozen in time. At the moment, I’m working as location manager on [2019’s ‘Fast and Furious’ spin-off] ‘Hobbs & Shaw’ with Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson. One of its scenes involved landing a helicopter outside St Paul’s Cathedral, the first time a film had got permission to do that. The current terrorism fears made it really tricky to pull off, but my aim is always to persuade people that they’re helping to create movie magic. I was lucky to get my first job as a runner on ‘Band of Brothers’. I got to share a set with Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, even if I just washed cars and cleaned the loos. But I caught the filmmaking bug instantly. I was a student at the time but I dropped out of university. From there I moved through the ranks, graduating from location assistant to an assistant lo
Listings and reviews (7)
A revealing portrait of how gentrification is transforming everyday life in London, ‘The Street’ is a fly-on-the-wall documentary focusing on the changing fortunes of Hackney’s Hoxton Street. Famed photographer-turned-director Zed Nelson has spent years filming the area and interviewing locals, and the result is an intimate, almost Dickensian-feeling, film that captures the widening gap between the capital’s working and middle classes. Nelson keeps his lens tightly on local business owners (including bakeries, carpet shops and mechanics), capturing their dejection as they’re forced to sell up to major property firms. The locals talk of feeling isolated while blaming ‘yuppies’ for destroying these beloved local fixtures. By way of bleak juxtaposition, one landlord boasts of offloading a one-bedroom flat for £1,600 a month in just a day. What makes ‘The Street’ so refreshing is Nelson’s even-handedness in exposing flaws in both sides’ arguments. Where another director might have run with a clichéd underdog story of working-class people losing their town to villainous capitalists, he shows the toxicity behind some locals’ resistance to change, as well as the regressive racism that, in a few instances, drives it. You’re left with a feeling that the owners of new upmarket beer shops and galleries aren’t the real villains here, but a capitalist system that has allowed such a rapid rate of change in such a salt-of-the-earth community.If there’s any ambiguity or muddle in this sharpl
Lo más natural sería pensar que una grabación de Aretha Franklin cantando gospel en el momento álgido de su carrera estaría conservada como un tesoro. El cineasta Sydney Pollack, director de títulos como 'Tootsie' y 'Memorias de África', filmó a la diva durante un concierto muy íntimo que tuvo lugar en una iglesia del barrio de Watts, en Los Ángeles. Pollack no archivó el material, ni sincronizó la imagen y el sonido, y la filmación no ha llegado a ver la luz hasta ahora. El productor musical Alan Elliott y el montador Jeff Buchanan han pasado horas en una sala de edición intentando restaurar el metraje que Pollack dejó empantanado. El resultado es 'Amazing grace', uno de los mejores documentales musicales de los últimos tiempos. Con el acompañamiento de las voces del Southern California Community Choir, con sus chalecos plateados, y bajo la dirección del enigmático reverendo James Cleveland, que intenta aguantarse las lágrimas, la película capta a la reina del soul en su máximo esplendor.
El més natural seria pensar que una gravació d’Aretha Franklin cantant gòspel en el moment àlgid de la seva carrera estaria conservada com un tresor. El cineasta Sydney Pollack, director de títols com 'Tootsie' i 'Memòries d'Àfrica', va filmar la diva durant un concert molt íntim que va tenir lloc en una església del barri de Watts, a Los Angeles. Pollack no va arxivar el material, ni va sincronitzar la imatge i el so, i la filmació no ha arribat a veure la llum fins ara. El productor musical Alan Elliott i el muntador Jeff Buchanan s’han passat hores en una sala d’edició intentant restaurar el metratge que Pollack va deixar empantanegat. El resultat és 'Amazing grace', un dels millors documentals musicals dels darrers temps. Amb l’acompanyament de les veus del Southern California Community Choir, amb les seves armilles platejades, i sota la direcció de l’enigmàtic reverend James Cleveland, que intenta aguantar-se les llàgrimes, la pel·lícula capta la reina del soul en la seva màxima esplendor.
Asterix: The Secret of the Magic Potion
Despite being one of the biggest selling comic-book series of all time (352 million copies and counting), ‘Asterix’ has always seemed to polarise English-speaking audiences. Perhaps it’s that this story of a village of Gauls who resist Roman occupation by drinking a magic potion that gives them superhuman strength has an oddly old-fashioned sensibility (man protects his village from outsiders). It’s ironically told, sure, but its oddly nationalistic look at history can feel a little detached from the modern world. With this tenth animated ‘Asterix’ film, directors Louis Clichy and Alexandre Astier work hard to correct this perception with a quirky tale involving the plucky pint-sized Gaul and his portly bodyguard Obelix accompany ageing druid Getafix on a quest. They have to find a young druid who they can trust with learning the recipe for their magic potion, while evil wizard Sulfurix is both a persistent thorn in their side and gets all the best lines. It all moves at a fair old whip and there’s a fun action sequence or two, including one that involves magically enhanced chickens, but a solid quest alone isn’t enough: great animated movies make you get lost in their world and this take on the French countryside looks synthetic and lifeless. The jokes are hit and miss, too. For every gag that lands (like one where Jesus fails to excite a crowd despite being able to magic up fish), another falls flat. Asterix’s plans to infiltrate our borders still need some work.
You’d have expected footage of a peak Aretha Franklin powerfully singing gospel to be protected at all costs. However, the singer’s intimate 1972 show, filmed over two days at a Baptist church in the Watts neighbourhood in Los Angeles, was fumbled by famed director Sydney Pollack (‘Tootsie’, ‘Out of Africa’). He failed to properly archive the filming, which resulted in audio and visual footage that didn’t sync and a film that never saw the light of day. ‘Amazing Grace’ is the result of music producer Alan Elliott and editor Jeff Buchanan remedying this issue by spending hundreds of hours in an editing suite fixing Pollack’s mishandled footage. And their sacrifice is worth its weight in gold, with the result being one of the best music documentaries of recent times. Backed by the Southern California Community Choir, who are each bizarrely dressed in silver vests that look like the inside of a crisp packet, and conducted by the enigmatic Rev James Cleveland, who fights back the tears as he watches Franklin hit frankly outrageous high notes, this documentary captures the Queen of Soul at her purest. It will make even the biggest atheist want to shout out ‘Yes Lord!’ from the back of the cinema – something that happened three times in my screening. One of the best moments in ‘Amazing Grace’ captures Franklin as she struts through the church in a fur coat, a sparkily confident blueprint for the modern pop diva. Another brilliant sequence shows her forcefully instructing one of the
El bosque maldito
¿Qué pasaría si tu hijo fuera un impostor? Ese es el temible tema de esta película de terror irlandesa que explora el peso emocional de la crianza y del cómo educar a un niño puede ser absolutamente desconcertante. La madre soltera Sarah —Seána Kerslake— está criando a su hijo Chris —James Quinn Markey— sola en el campo cuando una noche desaparece en el bosque. Sarah, desesperada, no reconoce al niño nervioso que regresa y pronto se convence de que su hijo fue reemplazado. Aunque muchos de sus temores se sienten reciclados —una secuencia tiene una deuda demasiado obvia con La bruja de Blair— esto no interfiere demasiado. El director Lee Cronin aporta el talento visual suficiente para encerrarte en su mundo, creando una atmósfera temblorosa gracias al penetrante escalofrío. Los dos protagonistas también aterrizan. Kerslake es convincente como la mamá, mientras que Quinn Markey es brillantemente espeluznante como Chris, los ojos del actor infantil que insinúan horrores invisibles, su desempeño al presionar los mismos botones emocionalmente torturados que hizo Danny Torrance en El resplandor o Cole Sear en El sexto sentido. Mirar más allá del miedo a los saltos convencionales y El bosque maldito se trata realmente de las aterradoras incertidumbres de la paternidad, provocando tensiones en las inquietudes cotidianas. Al igual que Babadook, es una película de terror basada en la idea de que criar a un niño a veces puede ser, literalmente, una pesadilla.
The Hole in the Ground
What if your child was an imposter? That’s the dread-inducing theme of this Irish horror film that explores the emotional weight of parenting and how bringing up a child can feel utterly bewildering. Single parent Sarah (Seána Kerslake) is raising her son Chris (James Quinn Markey) alone in the countryside when he goes missing in the woods one evening. A desperate Sarah doesn’t recognise the twitchy boy who returns and soon becomes convinced that her son has been replaced. Although many of its scares feel recycled (one sequence owes an all-too-obvious debt to ‘The Blair Witch Project’), this doesn’t get in the way too much. Director Lee Cronin brings enough visual flair to lock you right into its world, creating a shivery atmosphere aided by a piercing score that brings a chill to the mood. The two central performances also land. Kerslake is convincing as the put-upon mum, while Quinn Markey is brilliantly creepy as Chris – the child actor’s eyes hinting at unseen horrors, his performance pushing the same emotionally tortured buttons as Danny Torrance did in ‘The Shining’ or Cole Sear in ‘The Sixth Sense’. Look beyond the conventional jump scares and ‘The Hole in the Ground’ is really about the terrifying uncertainties of parenthood, drawing tension from relatable, everyday anxieties. Like ‘The Babadook’, it’s a horror film built around the idea that raising a child can sometimes be – quite literally – a nightmare.
London on screen: how the bridge scene in ‘28 Days Later’ was filmed
It's one of modern British cinema’s most iconic scenes, but how exactly did Danny Boyle manage to capture a deserted Westminster Bridge in ‘28 Days Later’? The location: Westminster Bridge The scene: Jim (Cillian Murphy) wakes from a coma in St Thomas’ Hospital and wanders out into a deserted London. As he walks across an empty, litter-strewn Westminster Bridge, he realises something is seriously wrong. Photograph: 20th Century Studios Then: Danny Boyle’s 2002 zombie classic traded George A Romero’s shuffling undead for super-charged zombies. The challenge was to make London look desolate and post-apocalyptic, according to location manager Alex Gladstone. ‘We shot on a weekend and got there super-early to capture that moment,’ he says. ‘We had to film everything in a morning, which added to the frenetic rawness. There were a few people wandering home after a late night out, but we had police helping keep them out of shot. There were angry drivers beeping at Cillian too, but we edited the noise out.’ Andy Parsons Now: In the wake of recent terror attacks, Gladstone thinks it would be impossible to recreate (and not just because of all the scaffolding). ‘On so many films, the director says: “I want a vision of London that’s never been seen before.” I believe this is the only time that it’s been achieved.’ For more of the city on screen, check out our list of the 30 best London movies.
London on Screen: The Summerhouse Estate in ‘Top Boy’
When ‘Top Boy’ relocated from Channel 4 to Netflix, the Summerhouse Estate also changed postcode. Originally filmed in Elephant & Castle, the search for a new home for Dushane and his pals took the creators to East London’s Isle of Dogs. The location: Samuda Estate, Isle of Dogs The scene: After a few years away, Dushane (Ashley Walters) returns to London to find himself in hock to some dodgy characters. As he walks through his old stomping ground of the Summerhouse Estate, violence isn’t far away. Photograph: Netflix Then: When Netflix brought back ‘Top Boy’, a new Summerhouse Estate was needed, as its original surrogate, Elephant & Castle’s Heygate Estate, was demolished in 2014. ‘We loved the Samuda Estate because you can see the City in the background,’ says location manager Ben O’Farrell. ‘That juxtaposition says something profound.’ Even the characters’ bedrooms were filmed on the estate, where the locals were welcoming. ‘They gave us lots of tea,’ says O’Farrell. Photograph: Andy Parsons Now: O’Farrell hopes the show’s successful revival will have a positive impact on Samuda residents, although he’s keen to point out that the estate shouldn’t be treated as a tourist destination by fans. A new season of ‘Top Boy’ is coming soon and with it, a return to the estate. But what to expect? ‘It’d be visually interesting if it deals with how these inner-city communities are disappearing,’ says O’Farrell. Watch this space. Want to see more shots of our beautiful city on sc
London on screen: visit the Covent Garden flat that housed a Hitchcock serial killer
Just before Covent Garden market’s relocation to Nine Elms Lane, Alfred Hitchcock immortalised the area’s commercial history in his serial killer thriller ‘Frenzy’. The location: 3 Henrietta Street, Covent Garden The scene: Barmaid Babs (Anna Massey) thinks she’s being helped out of a spot by Covent Garden fruit trader Bob (Barry Foster), unaware that he’s notorious serial killer ‘The Necktie Strangler’. He lures her to his flat to become his latest victim. The apartment from ‘Frenzy’ Then: Alfred Hitchcock’s 1972 crime thriller is set in and around the old Covent Garden market. Hitch, the son of a greengrocer, was conscious that the market would soon relocate to Nine Elms Lane and wanted to pay tribute to the London of his youth. Photograph: Andy Parsons Now: The grime and soot have gone and it’s looking a lot more pristine, but murderous Bob’s flat at Number 3 hasn’t changed much down the years, mainly thanks to the Grade II listing bestowed on it in 1973. The bustling fresh produce market seen in ‘Frenzy’ is worlds away from the tourist hub Covent Garden has become. The trader market’s halls are now full of upmarket shops and restaurants, while the London Transport Museum is situated where the old flower market used to be. For more of the city on screen, check out our list of the 30 best London movies.
Here’s where to find Lindsay Lohan’s mansion in ‘The Parent Trap’
A family classic retooled for a new generation, 1998’s ‘The Parent Trap’ gave us not one, but two adorbs Lindsay Lohans as twin sisters in a mistaken identity caper that spanned the Atlantic. On the UK side, the film showcased one of the most impressive west London des res this side of a Richard Curtis movie, where Annie (Lohan) lives with her mum (Natasha Richardson). Photograph: Disney‘The Parent Trap’ (1998) The location: 23 Egerton Terrace, Knightsbridge, SW3. The scene: Two girls (Hallie and Annie, both played by Lindsay Lohan) realise they are secret twins after meeting at summer camp, so they hatch a plan to swap places. Hallie, who has to pretend to be British, goes back to London, where her mother (Natasha Richardson) and Annie live in an opulent Victorian home. Then: Built on the site of a Georgian mansion, Egerton Terrace has a rich history. The 1851 census shows lawyers, doctors and even an official in the Queen’s household lived on this exclusive street, each with live-in servants. By the time ‘The Parent Trap’ was remade in 1998, the road had grown to become Britain’s most expensive street, making No. 23 (which was No. 7 in the film), a Grade 2 listed residence with French windows and a doric porch, the perfect location for Lohan’s posh mum to reside. Photograph: Jess Hand, Time Out Now: The area hasn’t changed much since 1998 – or even the 1800s – and maintains its Georgian grandeur. In 2015, Lohan showed up at the house to take an Insta selfie, writing: ‘
Been to the London park where Jude Law and Natalie Portman got ‘Closer’?
A dark snapshot of pre-Tinder dating in the big city, Mike Nichols’ Closer sizzled and skulked through a variety of recognisable London locations. But one of its key locales is a lot less well-known... The location: Postman’s Park, EC1 The scene: Flirty obituary writer Dan (Jude Law) chats up redhead Alice (Natalie Portman) while taking a stroll through the City. They end up in Postman’s Park admiring the garden’s stunning memorial plaques. ‘I’ve been here before,’ notes Dan, mournfully. Then: This beautiful park, which opened in 1880, was at the core of Mike Nichols’ 2004 psychodrama, providing Law’s character with a place to reflect in-between hopping from Portman’s to Julia Roberts’s beds. Its name derives from its position opposite the General Post Office building. In 1900, sculptor George Frederic Watts created a memorial shelter with vibrant glazed plaques in the park. They were dedicated to ordinary men, women and children who lost their lives saving others. Photograph: Andy ParsonsPostman’s Park IRL Now: Bar the tree ferns and a goldfish pond, the park has changed little since 1900. Its historic winding paths, flowerbeds, benches and lawns all remain. Architectural historian Edmund Burd says: ‘It is a truly unique garden with a poignant history – an oasis of calm at the heart of our bustling city.’ It’s easy to miss but well worth a visit. Closer is streaming on Amazon Prime, Apple TV, YouTube and Google Play.How Tom Cruise landed a chopper in Trafalgar Square: the
London on Screen: What happened to the house in Mike Leigh’s ‘Naked’?
The location: 33 St Mark’s Rise, Dalston Photograph: First Independent Films The scene: The scene Mancunian drifter Johnny (David Thewlis) washes up in Hackney in Mike Leigh’s 1993 classic, slumped on the doorstep of his ex (Lesley Sharp). The musty bedsit becomes a base from which the nihilistic philosopher staggers his way through London, leaving a messy trail of sex, violence and barcode conspiracy theories in his wake. Then: In a 2008 book, Mike Leigh recalls how, during pre-production in 1992, his ex-wife, Alison Steadman, and a location manager ran into his office shouting: ‘We’ve got it!’ when they discovered this gothic E8 pile. He liked that the detached house could be viewed from so many angles, something he wanted viewers to do with the film. ‘It was the edge I was looking for,’ remembers Leigh. Photographer: Gobinder Jhitta Now: The exterior has barely changed, although the house is now divided into a pair of two-bedroom flats. But the once-fading east London suburb where Leigh filmed is now a desirable postcode with flat whites for a fiver. According to Zoopla, the road has seen a 200 percent rise in property values over the last 20 years. Johnny wouldn’t recognise it. A 4K restoration of Naked is in cinemas Nov 12. Mike Leigh season runs at BFI Southbank, Oct 18-Nov 30. Where does Naked appear in our list of the 32 best London movies of all time?What is Mike Leigh’s favourite London movie? Filmmakers and actors pick their faves.
London on screen: the guinea pig-themed café from ‘Fleabag’
Given that in ‘Fleabag’ the titular character charged £12.55 for a cheese sandwich in this café, it’s no wonder that it’s changed hands (although we hope the guinea pigs are safe). Here’s the story behind the location... The location: 20 York Rise, NW5 1ST. The scene: After her best friend is killed in a traffic accident, twentysomething Londoner Fleabag (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) is left to manage a quirky guinea-pig-themed café. When a customer picks up a cheese sandwich, Fleabag tells him it costs £12.55. He shakes his head in disbelief, to which she replies: ‘London, eh?’ Then: In 2016, producers of the BBC comedy needed a nondescript eaterie to turn into a haven for guinea pigs and self-loathing. Highgate greasy spoon the Village Café fit the bill. Andy Parsons Now: ‘Fleabag’ is a cult comedy and Waller-Bridge a Hollywood star, but the Village Café is no more – it’s now a Turkish place called the Bold Café & Restaurant. The café’s manager, Ibrahim Aksu, took a call from the BBC asking for permission to film there again for season two. The snag? He was six weeks into a refurbishment so the design team from the Beeb had to return it to its previous look. ‘It was weird going backwards,’ he says. The café is now almost unrecognisable from its ‘Fleabag’ days. ‘I’m thinking about getting a guinea-pig photo on the wall’, says Aksu, ‘just so people can see how much we’ve changed!’ RECOMMENDED: For more of the city on screen, check out our list of the 30 best London movies
London on screen: the strip club from ‘Mona Lisa’
Take a trip back into the seedy Soho of the past with British neo-noir ‘Mona Lisa’. The location: 28 Wardour Street, W1D 6QN. The scene: Hood-with-a-heart George (Bob Hoskins) works as a driver for high-class escort Simone (Cathy Tyson). When she persuades him to help her look for a missing teenage prostitute, his first stop is dingy strip club Tunnels of Love. Photograph: Handmade Films Then: When ‘Mona Lisa’ was filmed in the mid-’80s, Soho was home to a world-famous red-light district. Sex shops and porn cinemas huddled around Walker’s Court and Berwick Street. It also spilled into Chinatown, where Tunnels of Love was filmed. George’s ruthless gangland boss, Mortwell (Michael Caine), meanwhile, uses the Raymond Revuebar as his bolthole. Photograph: Andy Parsons/Time Out Now: ‘Mona Lisa’ is a Brit crime classic and its seedy Soho is long gone, with Tunnels of Love now a Chinese restaurant. ‘This stretch of Wardour Street was transformed by its pedestrianisation in 2010,’ says architectural historian Edmund Bird. ‘It’s a much safer pedestrian promenade [these days].’ When ‘Mona Lisa’ was released in 1986, Soho’s sex industry was at its peak, but Westminster City Council and the Metropolitan Police subsequently closed down most of the venues. For more of the city on screen, check out our list of the 30 best London movies.
London on screen: How ‘GoldenEye’ turned Somerset House into St Petersburg
‘GoldenEye’ sent 007 to Russia, right? Well, kinda. James Bond’s car chase across St Petersburg was actually filmed a lot closer to home: right in the middle of London, in fact.The location: Somerset House, Strand. The scene: After branding him a ‘sexist, misogynist dinosaur’, M (Judi Dench) sends MI6 secret agent James Bond (Pierce Brosnan) to Russia to investigate a supposed terrorist attack. He’s greeted at the airport by CIA operative Jack Wade (Joe Don Baker), but the old banger he’s driving quickly breaks down on a bustling street. Then: With Cold War tensions still high in 1995, ‘GoldenEye’ director Martin Campbell had only limited filming time in Russia. Enter Somerset House as a double for St Petersburg. ‘It looks imposing and authoritarian,’ explains production manager Crispin Reece. ‘It was a cold, grey April day [when we filmed], so it was a shoo-in for Russia. We imported 40 Russian cars and got them to drive around and around in the square.’ Andy Parsons Now: Somerset House has been open to the public since 2000, becoming a buzzy tourist location in the process. It’s also popped up in films including ‘X-Men First Class’ and had a second Bond outing, ‘Tomorrow Never Dies’, where it doubled for the MoD. You can watch movies there this summer too (though no Bond films), as part of the Film4 Summer Screen season. Find out what’s showing at Somerset House this summer in the Film4 Summer Screen season.For more of the city on screen, check out our list of the 30 be
London on screen: the tailors from ‘Kingsman: the Secret Service’
While it may have met its end in ‘Kingsman: The Golden Circle’, that shouldn't stop you from scoping out the IRL tailors that houses the fictional home to Kingsman’s London HQ. You might not find a secret spy organisation, but you will get yourself one fine suit... The location: 11 Savile Row, Mayfair. The scene: Teenage waster Eggsy (Taron Egerton) spends his days stealing cars before dapper spy Harry Hart (Colin Firth) offers him a way out as a member of the Kingsman, a secret intelligence service. They meet at an inconspicuous tailor’s that turns out to be its secret HQ. Then: Director Matthew Vaughn would regularly buy suits from Savile Row’s famous Huntsman tailors, which has been running since 1849 and was frequented by Winston Churchill. When his producing partner and friend Pierre Lagrange bought the shop in 2013, he fixed on the idea of using it in his new spy caper. ‘He was looking at our mirrors and hangers and imagining secret weapon caches,’ says Lagrange Andy Parsons Now: Tourists regularly stop to take selfies next to the gold plaque by the door that reads ‘Kingsman’. ‘It’s been the best marketing we could hope for,’ Lagrange says. In the sequel, ‘Kingsman: The Golden Circle’, the shop was blown to smithereens. But Lagrange hints that it could be back for further ‘Kingsman’ films: ‘They are making a prequel, so it’s good news for us.’ RECOMMENDED: For more of the city on screen, check out our list of the 30 best London movies
London on screen: how Greenwich played home to the Paris uprising from ‘Les Misérables’
Head to SE10 for a glimpse of (slightly altered) French history. Just don't expect to see Hugh Jackman doing a song and dance. The location: Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich The scene: The noble Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) lies dying in a church as young lovers Cosette (Amanda Seyfried) and Marius (Eddie Redmayne) pay their respects. He dies and his spirit is transported back to the tumultuous streets of Paris during the uprising of 1832. Then: While SE10 isn’t the most obvious spot to recreate revolution-torn France, ‘Les Misérables’ director Tom Hooper and his crew turned the courtyard of Greenwich’s Naval College into Parisian streets for the 2012 musical. ‘We had an Indian wedding going on during filming,’ says Ian Allchin, operations manager at the college. ‘They were so happy when they saw the Elephant of the Bastille monument on set; it was like a sign from above so they all took photos in front of it.’ Now: The Royal Naval College has since popped up in everything from ‘Thor: the Dark World’ to ‘The Crown’, providing funds to help maintain this World Heritage Site. Allchin admits it isn’t easy balancing a music college, university, tourist spot and film set, but insists: ‘We’ll never completely close the college for a studio, as we want to give our visitors a chance to walk through a fully functioning Hollywood film set.’ For more of the city on screen, check out our list of the 30 best London movies.
London on screen: the mansion block from ‘Repulsion’
Taken from the first of Roman Polanski’s ‘apartment trilogy’, the exterior of this Kensington mansion block has barely changed in over 50 years. The location: Kensington Mansions, Earl’s Court. The scene: Beautiful manicurist Carole (Catherine Deneuve) is pursued romantically by Colin (John Fraser), who offers to drive her back to her flat block. He’s unaware that Carole is suffering from androphobia, a pathological fear of men, and that trying to woo her could prove fatal. Then (above): Director Roman Polanski needed a distinctive flat that echoed Carole’s claustrophobia. Built in 1890, Kensington Mansions had initially been home to middle-class families. According to architectural historian Edmund Bird, the area had become ‘down-at-heel’ by the time ‘Repulsion’ was filmed there in 1964 and ‘was known as “Kangaroo Valley” as so many young Australians and New Zealanders settled here in the ’60s’. The interiors of Carole’s flat were actually shot on a set in Twickenham. Now: Despite the gentrification of the surrounding area, the block’s facade has barely changed in 54 years. It looks remarkably similar to the building where Carole (spoiler alert) stabs her perverted landlord. Polanski’s film is now viewed as a masterpiece, the first in his so-called ‘apartment trilogy’ (‘Rosemary’s Baby’ and ‘The Tenant’ were to follow). For more of the city on screen, check out our list of the 30 best London movies.