It’s film time once again. I’ve gotten great feedback from you on my blog posts about British films set in London and Scotland, so I want to add England to the mix today. I’ve written about 15 books set in England, and now I’m excited to share some of my favorite movies with you.
British Films Set in England
Since I’ve already covered London, I’m going to focus most of this blog post on films set in other parts of England (although many of them feature scenes set in the UK capital). From the countryside to the cities, there are inspiring films that cover England from coast to coast and always have me itching to travel to where they’re set.
1. Shakespeare in Love
But I’ll still start in London, even if it’s a more Ye Olde England version than the London of today. Shakespeare in Love is my all-time favorite film set in England. This romantic classic fuses everything I love about Shakespeare with everything I love about Tom Stoppard, who co-wrote the screenplay.
From comedic scenes with lots of cross-dressing to subtle references to Shakespeare’s plays, the film tells the (fictional) story of Shakespeare falling for a woman he can’t have. And Judi Dench plays Queen Elizabeth I. Need I say more?
2. The Duchess
The Duchess is not only renowned for its sumptuous costume design, but also its setting in some of the most beautiful parts of England. The heartbreaking story of 18th-century English aristocrat Georgiana Cavendish, the Duchess of Devonshire, the film is set against the backdrop of Chatsworth House, one of England’s most famous stately homes, and Bath, one of its prettiest cities.
Another heartbreaking story, Atonement follows the lives of a cast of characters scarred by an event that takes place early in the film (I won’t spoil it for you). The setting moves from place to place, starting at the idyllic Tallis family estate in southeast England and moving from there to France and then London. The movie is beautifully done, and does justice to Ian McEwan’s excellent novel.
4. Sense and Sensibility
Speaking of British films adapted from novels, I’ve seen the movie version of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility countless times. The story of sisters with opposite personalities falling in and out of love, it’s romantic Austen at her best.
While the novel is set in Sussex, Devonshire, London, and Somersetshire, much of the movie was filmed in North Devon. Scenes shot in the area include those at a beautiful 15th-century cottage that has always made me want to pack my bags and move to the English countryside.
5. Great Expectations
There’s been no shortage of movies made from Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations, from those that stay close to the original story to those that move the setting to New York City.
Whichever version you like best (and I have to admit I’ve always had a special place in my heart for the New York City one since seeing it when I was young), they all bring the story of Pip’s unrequited love for Estella to life. Those that stick to Dickens’ setting start out in Kent and move to London, showing scenes from the marshes to the city along the way.
6. The Theory of Everything
The Theory of Everything tells the story of physicist Stephen Hawking’s life in a romantic drama set at Cambridge University in the 1960s. He falls in love with another student there, and scenes of their budding relationship are filmed at locations in and around the university.
These include St John’s College, Queen’s Green, The New Court lawn, and Kitchen Bridge. The film goes on to tell of their marriage and is filmed throughout the UK, but the Cambridge scenes are my favorites. Who wouldn’t fall in love in a place that beautiful?
7. Far From the Madding Crowd
Back to books-turned-films, the 2015 version of Thomas Hardy’s Far From the Madding Crowd always makes me want to go straight to the English countryside and commune with the sheep.
Starring Carey Mulligan (and lots of sheep), it tells a love story on a slow burn throughout the lives of two characters with intertwined destinies. While the novel was set in Hardy’s fictional Wessex, the movie was filmed in West Dorset locations like Sherborne, West Bay, Mapperton House, and Forde Abbey.
8. Calendar Girls
Calendar Girls has to be one of the funniest British films I’ve seen. Set in Yorkshire, the movie is based on the true story of a group of women who pose nude for a charity calendar.
Many scenes were shot in and around Kettlewell, a village in North Yorkshire, and more were filmed in places like Coniston, Settle, Malham, Skipton, and even London. If you want a laugh, this film is the one to watch.
9. Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves
I loved the Disney version of Robin Hood when I was little, and when Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves came out I had to see it. This dramatic interpretation of the legendary English hero who stole from the rich and gave to the poor was set in and around Nottingham, although the movie was filmed everywhere from Wardour Castle in Wiltshire (which stood in for Locksley Castle) to Hulne Priory in Northumberland (which stood in for Maid Marian’s manor).
Sherwood Forest was shot in multiple locations, including Burnham Beeches in Buckinghamshire, Aysgarth Falls in Yorkshire, and Hardraw Force in North Yorkshire. There were even scenes shot in France (but we’ll ignore those).
Back to Jane Austen, Emma is the story of a big fish in a little pond who plays matchmaker one too many times. While Austen’s novel is set in Surrey, the film starring Gwyneth Paltrow was filmed in diverse locations across the south of England.
Scenes of home life and interiors were shot everywhere from Claydon House in Buckinghamshire to Syon House near London and Stratfield Saye in Hampshire. The Surrey village where Emma gets up to her shenanigans was filmed in Evershot in Dorset, and every time I see it I breathe a nostalgic sigh for the countryside.
11. Jane Eyre
Jane Austen can’t have all the fame, even if she shares a first name with another famous novel that has been made into numerous British films over the years. In fact, there have been almost 20 films based on Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre over the last century.
The book, which tells the love story between humble Jane and mysterious Mr. Rochester, is set in the north of England, where Bronte lived. Films have used locations as diverse as Chatsworth House, Haddon Hall, and Froggatt village in the Peak District, and Broughton Castle in Oxfordshire, for their portrayals of places like Mr. Rochester’s house.
12. Billy Elliot
Also set in the north of England, Billy Elliot tells the story of an 11-year-old coal miner’s son who stumbles upon a ballet class and unexpectedly becomes a dancer. Much of the film was shot on location in Easington Village in County Durham, and the rest was shot around the northeast in a range of industrial settings.
Despite the often uninspiring locations, the story itself offers unbounded inspiration as Billy overcomes all obstacles in his journey to become a star of the stage.
13. Pride & Prejudice
I can’t help ending with Jane Austen. There have been many versions of Pride & Prejudice over the years, and the 2005 version starring Keira Knightley is perhaps the one freshest in people’s minds.
It was filmed at stunning locations like Chatsworth House in Derbyshire and Wilton House in Salisbury, both of which stood in for Mr. Darcy’s Pemberley (the gift shop at Chatsworth House even has the fake bust of Mr Darcy from the film on display).
Elsewhere in England, Groombridge Place, a moated manor house in Kent, stood in for the Bennets’ house, Longbourn. Regardless of where the screen adaptations were filmed, the story remains one of the greatest love stories in English history.
There are more great British films set in England in the pipeline, too. A new Robin Hood film is scheduled to come out later this year, and I can’t wait to see how it compares to the previous ones. In any case, I’m sure it will inspire me to get back to Nottingham in the same way all these films have stirred my wanderlust for traveling in England. I hope you feel the same way.
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