Random Thoughts: London Tube & the Movies

On Monday, IMDb has an interesting poll that asked ‘what is your favorite movie set on a train?’ Well, part of what’s so fun about my recent London trip was taking the underground tube every day, which not only provides a fast and convenient transportation but it’s a fun place for people watching as well.

Photo courtesy of Pixelcrave.net

I didn’t realize how popular London tube system is in the movies until I read this. According to that page, the London Underground Film Office handles over 200 requests a month. Wow! The list of movies filmed in various tube stations are quite long, and it also includes scenes in music videos.

Here are a few scenes I remember that takes place in the London tube, as well as those I haven’t seen that people consider memorable (thanks for NickCooper.org for the great resources on the subject) – beware, list may contain spoilers:

  • V for Vendetta
    Takes place in the final climactic scene where Natalie Portman tearfully says goodbye to the masked-man V. Of course I couldn’t help wincing as I watch the beautiful Parliament building and Big Ben getting blown up to pieces! According to weburbanist.com, the Aldwych Tube Station in London is relatively well preserved, despite not being operational since 1994. making it an ideal location for film shoots. Built on the site of the Royal Stand Theatre, it opened in 1907 and was used as a public air-raid shelter during World War II.
  • Atonement

    This is such a memorable and heartbreaking scene. I kind of predicted it would happen, but when the water just burst out from the wall flooding the people taking shelter underground, I too was flooded with tears. The shot showing Keira’s lifeless body floating in the water is one I won’t soon forget.
  • Love, Actually
    It’s a really brief scene of Colin Firth’s character with hands full of shopping bags coming down the stairs of apparently the Canary Wharf Jubilee line station.
  • Bend It Like Beckham

    Another Keira movie, trust me I wasn’t planning on it. But this was an early one of hers before she became a star. I actually quite like this fun, sports-themed chick-flick with ER’s Parminder Nagra as well as Jonathan Rhys-Meyers as her soccer coach turned love interest. Boy it’s hard to imagine Rhys-Meyers looking all wholesome 🙂
  • Sliding Doors
    With that kind of name, it’s got to involve the bus or the tube, doesn’t it? This one I’ve actually just seen bits and pieces of, but I do remember the scene of Gwyneth Paltrow at the faux Embankment station trying to catch up with John Hannah.
  • 28 Days Later
    This terrific zombie flick gets a nod from even a non-horror fan like me. The main protagonist Jim who was stranded in a hospital ends up meeting fellow survivors who were hiding in a tube station. Lucky for Jim, he meets up with fellow survivors Selena and Mark. They kill the zombies chasing him with a very effective explosion and take him to their hideout in a tube station.
  • The Wings of the Dove
    There are a few scenes in this period film based on the 1902 Henry James novel that are set in the tube station. Apparently there’s even a sexy love scene according to this London Underground facts page. After seeing the trailer, I put it on my Netflix queue pronto. It kind of reminds me a bit of the beautifully-filmed The Age of Innocence I saw recently. Helena Bonham Carter can do period dramas like no other and Linus Roache is a great character actor!

Well folks, do you recall a memorable scene set in a tube or subway station? If so, feel free to chime in the comments section.

59 thoughts on “Random Thoughts: London Tube & the Movies

  1. Samantha

    Re: Atonement, thanks for the spoiler alert! 😉 I wasn’t really planning on ever seeing it, but still.

    1. He..he.. that’s why I put it in red 🙂 You should see Atonement, it’s one that stay with me long after I’m done watching. Beautifully-filmed and heartbreaking story!

      1. asankaguru

        Deathline aka dead meat is a horror film featuring cannibals on the 1970’s underground. They are descendents of trapped construction workers left to die when a shaft collapsed. Brilliantly atmospheric, great tracking shots.

  2. Samantha

    Oh, didn’t even see the red. I don’t like uber-serious movies, most of the time. Real life is depressing enough … I’d rather be entertained. 🙂

    1. Oh, I meant the warning ‘beware, list may contain spoilers’ in red 🙂

      I know what you mean, that’s why I haven’t seen The Road yet, despite hearing good things about it. I can’t stand movies that will leave me depressed or spooked. ‘Atonement’ is not that bad, it pulls your heart strings for sure but it’s not dismal. The cinematography, acting, etc. are wonderful, James McAvoy is amazing in it.

  3. Paris Je t’aime where Steve Buscemi gets mugged in the Paris subway station! I have been to London but I have extensive experience with the Paris Metro!

    1. That’s right, Castor, that was a bizarre scene I thought, but typical of the Coens. If I’m writing about the Paris Metro system, that scene would be on the list. Btw, how long did you live in Paris? I’ve only been there once when I was 13 with my mom, so didn’t really remember much about it.

  4. PrairieGirl

    How about the scene in the train in Casino Royale with Daniel Craig and his new “accountant” that you love so much? 😉
    And you never cease to amaze! Leave it up to you and your never-ending imagination to come up with a post relating the London Underground to movies that it’s been featured in… Clever and very interesting…

    1. That wasn’t on the London tube, I believe it was a train going to Montenegro. But yes, I LOVE that scene!

      Wow thanks Becky for the kind words… especially since I was a bit downtrodden on Sunday that I simply couldn’t think of a single thing to blog about. Corinne teased me how ‘obsessed’ I am with the London tube, I got all kinds of souvenirs from the Transport museum so my mousepad now is the tube map, and so is my pencil 🙂 So it’s kinda natural to feature two of my favorite things, he.. he..

      1. I never actually considered SOME LIKE IT HOT a Marilyn movie, to me it has always been a JackLemon/Toni Curtis flick 🙂 since the two of them make some legendary comedic scenes in it, and the train scenes from the movie are really historical :))

    1. Oh awesome! And four of them set in the London underground! I’ve never seen any of these, but this one in particular sounds romantic:

      Directed by Anthony Asquith (1928, silent, not rated 84 minutes). Two men fall in love with the same woman on the same day at a London Underground station in the 1920s.

      There is something kind of “romantic” I guess taking the train everyday, where you might encounter a captivating stranger. Your eyes meet… a connection is made… but only for a fleeting moment before the door closes and the train whisks you away…

  5. Can’t remember the 28 Days Later chase scene in the tube (been meaning to watch that one again anyway), but Atonement…whoof.

    Very cool post. Awesome idea that I’m sure no one has ever thought of.

    1. The movie is so dark and fast-paced at times I didn’t recognize it at first. But seeing that photo reminded me of the spookiness of it.

      Thanks Aiden, it’s a bit indulgent on my part having just been riding the tube for a whole week & loved it!

  6. Love this idea for a blog post. There have been some memorable movie scenes from the London Underground. Notably: Brief Encounter, Harry Potter and the Philospher’s Stone, The Italian Job (1969).

    FYI: Spoiler Alert On the Atonement entry! Glad I’ve seen it already 😉

    1. Thanks Ronan. Oh, I didn’t realize about Italian Job, but I haven’t seen the other three you mentioned. It is such a great location for all kinds of genre, it can be action, horror, romance, the possibilities are endless.

  7. cant believe no one’s mentioned American Werewolf in London- the quintessential Tube moment, in Piccadilly tube, I think.
    good job getting on imdb again ruth!

    1. What, no jab on Gerard Butler, Ross? I’m surprised 🙂

      Haven’t seen American Werewolf yet, but I’ll take your word for it.

      Thanks! Never fails to make my day!

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    1. I haven’t been on it, but hey, like that’s going to stop me from making a post on it. Thanks for the suggestion Tommy!

  9. ‘Sliding Doors’ and ‘Chronicles of Narnia – Prince Caspian’ spring to mind.

    Also, the British horror movies ‘Creep’ and ‘Death Line’ are both pretty much entirely set on the London Underground.

    1. Oh how could I forget Prince Caspian! Thank you Leigh, yeah that’s a good one for sure. Sliding Doors is one I’ve wanted to see for a while, so this is another reason to do so.

      I don’t watch much horror flicks, but yeah the tube would be a good setting for it.

  10. Marty

    Love this post since I am leaving for London next week! I really enjoyed Atonement and Sliding Doors (love the notion of “what if….” in our lives) and Thank You for posting “Wings of the Dove” trailer–I forgot what a great film it was and need to definitely see it again!

    1. Thanks Marty. Enjoy London, I had such a great time there I could go back anytime!

      Yes, the ‘what if…’ notion is kinda romantic, isn’t it? Like that James Blunt song ‘You’re Beautiful’:

      She smiled at me on the subway.
      She was with another man.
      But I won’t lose no sleep on that,
      ‘Cause I’ve got a plan.

      Can’t wait to see Wings of the Dove, it’s already on my Netflix queue.

  11. PJ

    Though it’s probably British (national) rail in more scenes than the Underground but what about Derailed? The entire plot revolves around a (supposed) chance meeting on a train (Clive Owen/Jeniffer Aniston) which turns into many more meetings.
    V for Vendetta of course is the most obvious one!

  12. TexDeadHead

    How about “Quatermass and the Pit”, aka “Five Million Years to Earth” in the U.S. – that one had the Martian spaceship lodged beneath the London tube.

    1. I just looked that up, sounds like a pretty terrifying movie. To those who are interested, here’s the plot from IMDb: While digging a new subway line in London, a construction crew discovers first: a skeleton, then what they think is an old World War II German missle. Upon closer examination the “missle” appears to be not of this earth! This movie examines the age old question of how we came to be on this planet.

      Looks like it was filmed on set though, not on an actual tube station(s).

  13. Adam

    There’s a steadicam sequence at a Tube station in the Harvey Keitel film “The Young Americans”. I’d like to say it was at Tottenham Court Road, but I can’t remember as it has been at least 15 years since I saw the film.

    About 10 years ago there was a portmonteau film called “Tube Tales”, including segments directed by Jude Law and Ewan McGregor. Never saw it, and don’t know anyone who did.

    For Paris metro films: I’d kick off with “Zazie dans le metro” (although this is an ironic choice – those who have seen the film will know why), “The American Friend”, “Le Dernier Metro” (obviously), “Last Tango in Paris”, “Le Samurai” and “Amelie” to name just a few. But I guess that’s for another list, another blog!

    1. Thanks for the tip about ‘Tube Tails’, I like Jude & Ewan a lot so I’ll search for that.

      @ Adam, I’ll wait until my trip to Paris to start the Paris Metro list 🙂

      @ Fairportfan, yeah I believe it was Tottenham. We took that line a couple of times to go to the British Museum.

  14. Fairportfan

    Tha Wikipedia article linked above says that the “American Werewolf” scenes were shot at Tottenham Court Road station.

  15. Also, Darling. Julie Christie bellows at Dirk Bogarde while they’re going down the escalators in the tube. I don’t know why that scene’s so effective. Claustrophobia, maybe.

    1. Must be Julie Christie’s flick in her hey day. I agree, riding those escalators in the tube during rush hour can be quite claustrophobic!

  16. Jordan

    I know this isn’t a film, per se, but it is a mini-series, and a spectacular book: Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. This is all about the tube (and should be remade as a Hollywood movie with much better production values and acting).

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  18. Dave

    Arent we forgetting An American Werewolf in London and Creep which was inpired directly by the scene from american werewolf!?

  19. SailorJill

    Memorable subway scenes for me include the end of ‘Crocodile Dundee’ where Mick clambers sheep-like, over the shoulders of the people in a crowded subway station to get the girl, Steve Buscemi’s subway confrontation in ‘New York Stories’, scenes set during the Blitz of frightened Londoners sheltering from the Luftwaffe’s bombs in London’s Underground, ‘Money Train’, the ends of both ‘Speed’ and ‘Spiderman II’, Rebecca de Mornay and Tom Cruise getting hot and heavy in ‘Risky Business’ and a meeting on a train in ‘Happenstance’.

    1. Hmmm, perhaps I should start a NY Subway & the Movies list one of these days 🙂

      That scene in Spidey II is awesome, though it was actually filmed in Chicago. I love the ending of Speed, too, Keanu in one of his best roles!

  20. Gil

    American Werewolf in London. The way the camera follows the guy and the werewolf through the tube station was great.

    1. Good thing I haven’t watched American Werewolf before my trip or I’d be spooked taking the tube late at night 🙂 I think the camera trick is key in making it look even more scary!

  21. Sean

    Near the end of “28 Weeks Later”, when Scarlet, Tammy, and Andy are escaping the military and the infected, they have to go down into a Tube station, and because there’s no electricity, the whole thing’s seen through the Night Vision scope on the rifle that Scarlet has. Pretty intense stuff, especially as you see them having to walk around or over dead bodies!

    1. Haven’t seen this one, is it as good as the first movie? In the original, I found that the military folks are as scary – if not more – than the infected people! I don’t usually like horror flicks but ’28 Days Later’ is a great film!

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