One of the oldest among the world’s great cities, with a history spanning two millennia, London has developed quite an interesting culture over time, for better and for worse. In our upcoming comic, Daughters Of Albion, we’ll be showing you a version of London that you’ve never seen before. In the meantime, though, here are 7 suggestions for films that’ll help you get to grips with some of London’s contemporary culture, from the salubrious and the flashy to the gritty and the grimy.
The latest in the much-loved catalogue of Edgar Wright, Last Night In Soho stars Thomasin McKenzie as Eloise, a young woman who has moved to a poky London studio apartment to pursue her ambition of becoming a fashion designer. Deeply inspired by the swinging 60s, she begins experiencing startling dreams in which she is transported back to her dream era. Captivated by the glamour at first, things start taking a darker turn as these mysterious dreams and visions become more vividly violent. Set in the buzzing Soho club scene, this psychological horror offers a surreal depiction of London that you’ll have to see to believe.
The grass is always greener on the other side, as they say. It’s 1969, and two out of work actors are freezing and starving in their broken-down apartment, loading up on booze and drugs to both stave off the cold and pass the sorrowful hours of unemployment. However, when they procure the keys to a country cottage from Withnail’s wealthy relative, they head out with heads filled to the brim with romantic notions of country life, only to unwittingly stumble into the holiday from hell. In this cult classic, slice of life comedy starring Richard E. Grant and Paul McGann, it never gets old watching the two inebriated Londoners and their futile attempts at navigating country culture, spitting out some of the most creatively crass swears that only a drunken Brit could think up! With a script as lyrical as it is vulgar, its introspective takes on the human condition, paired with a beautiful dash of British tomfoolery, Withnail & I is a definite must-see for any Londoner or lover thereof.
Based on The Secret Service, a Marvel comic book by Mark Miller and Dave Gibbons, Kingsman is back in the limelight, with the third instalment The King’s Man having recently been released at the start of 2022. As such, we recommend a catch-up! In the series first instalment, Gary ‘Eggsy’ Unwin is recruited into the secret service and assigned the task of hunting down a dangerously insidious criminal. Set in the Kingsman HQ at London’s Saville Row, this one is an action-filled nail biter with a healthy dash of wackiness thrown in!
The chilling true story of the two notorious crime lords, identical twins Ronnie and Reggie Kray, were known and feared for their savagely cruel dominance over London’s East End club scene. Raised in a dysfunctional environment, Ronnie Kray is the first of the twins to give into violent fantasies, leading his brother, Reggie, to soon follow suit. Together, they rise through the ranks of London’s criminal underworld and become two of the most infamous crime bosses in history. This one seems like a typical gangster movie at first glance but becomes chillingly terrifying when you remind yourself that not only did it happen, but it happened relatively recently in the grand scheme of things.
Most people have probably heard of this one, and if you haven’t, I suggest you check it out! A far more middle class take on the London scene, Bridget Jones’s Diary follows the life of a self-proclaimed spinster and her quest to find love in England’s capital. With its raunchy humour and cold splashes of reality around every corner, this modern Pride & Prejudice parody challenges the fairytale notion of love that many of us fall victim to. It also contains the most British fight scene ever filmed!
In this harrowing time of asylum seekers desperately searching for safety within England’s capital, Dirty Pretty Things remains as topical today as it did at the time of its original release back in 2002. The story of a Nigerian doctor trying to make ends meet in London as a cab driver and hotel clerk, this movie paints a profoundly nuanced picture of life in London’s vast immigrant communities. With its dark, gritty and ultimately devastating exploration of ignorance, exploitation and manipulation, it’s a difficult watch but definitely worth it.
Ending on a truly iconic film, The King’s Speech tells the story of King George VI. Afflicted with a stammer acquired as a result of childhood abuse, The Duke of York struggles with his vocational roles, having been born into a job that requires regular public speeches. And things only become more terrifying when circumstances shove him unwillingly towards the throne. With war looming, the future King is caught in a time when the country requires a strong monarch more than it ever has before – a requirement of which he is painfully aware yet feels a world away from achieving due to his speech impingement. Starring Colin Firth, Geoffery Rush and Helena Bohnam Carter, this movie is impeccably cast and beautifully penned. It’s a fascinating watch filled with emotional hits.
What’s your favourite depiction of Britain’s big capital? Be sure to leave us some suggestions in the comments!