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Third in the Movies That Inspire Travel series, this post offers a selection of movies that inspire you to visit England. Click these links for the Italy and Ireland movie posts. I’m enjoying this series greatly as it combines two of my favorite activities…traveling and watching films. I hope you are enjoying them too. Additionally, my intention is to encourage readers to add countries to their travel lists, inspired by these amazing movies.
While I can’t travel as much right now, due to COVID imposed regulations, I can soothe the longing to do so by watching films with storylines set in the countries I love.
Grab a cup of tea or a mug of hot chocolate and enjoy an evening watching one or two of these movies.
Sense and Sensibility 1995
This Jane Austen classic stars Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman, Hugh Grant and Kate Winslet.
The death of Mr. Dashwood leaves his widow and three daughters poor, as his son from his first marriage inherits all. The women are marginally provided for by a kind cousin. However, marriage prospects for the young women are limited. Sisters Elinor and Marianne possess different perspectives on life and different interests but they love and support each other through challenging circumstances and tangled romantic relationships.
Fun fact: Newcomer Kate Winslet was originally only considered for the small role of Lucy Steele. However, Kate really wanted to play Marianne. When she arrived for her audition, she pretended her agent sent her to read for the role of Marianne. Her reading won her the part.
Bridget Jones’s Diary 2001
Rene Zellweger, Colin Firth, Hugh Grant and Gemma Jones star in this romantic comedy.
Bridget Jones struggles with self perceived imperfections. As a New Year’s resolution, she decides to take charge of her life and make changes. Keeping a diary of her thoughts allows her to discover her own personal truths. When two very different men enter her life during her year of self improvements, and both catch her romantic interest, hilarity ensues.
Fun fact: For the role of Bridget, Zellweger gained 25 pounds, learned to speak with an English accent and worked at a British publishing company for a month. No one at the publishing company recognized her. On her desk she kept a framed photo of her then husband, Jim Carrey. Her co-workers found this odd but did not mention it to Zellweger for fear of embarrassing her.
Gosford Park 2001
Gosford Park, a comedic mystery, starts Maggie Smith, Michael Gambon, Kristin Scott Thomas, Charles Dance, Tom Hollander, Jeremy Northam, Clive Owen and Stephen Fry.
Set in the 1930s, in an old country estate, Lord and Lady McCordle host a weekend gathering. The invitees…rich, pretentious and famous…anticipate a relaxing weekend hunting pheasant. But when a murder occurs guests and members of the below stairs staff go on the suspected murderer list. As an investigation ensues, by bumbling Inspector Thompson, each person does their best to hide his or her secrets.
Fun fact: The well received series Downton Abbey was originally planned as a spin off of this film. Instead it developed into a stand alone series inspired by Gosford Park and set several decades earlier.
Calendar Girls 2003
This comedy stars Helen Mirren, Julie Walters, Penelope Wilton, Linda Bassett and Annette Crosbie.
Middle aged women in the Women’s Institute brainstorm ways to up the fundraising efforts for their local chapter. Last year’s calendar, featuring area bridges, only raised a little more than 76 pounds. Inspiration comes from a member’s husband, who before he dies of leukemia says: “The flowers of Yorkshire are like the women of Yorkshire. The last phase is always the most glorious.”
The women choose to sell a calendar featuring 12 local middle aged women posing nude. They hope to sell a few hundred calendars. The outcome surprises and delights them.
Fun fact; This movie is based on actual events. The real “calendar girls” were all members of the Rylstone Women’s Institute. They make guest appearances in the film.
Alan Rickman, Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson, Liam Neeson, Martine McCutcheon, Laura Linney, Bill Nighy, Gregor Fisher, Colin Firth, Kris Marshall, Martin Freeman, Johanna Page, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Andrew Lincoln, Keira Knightley, Thomas Brodie-Sangster and Lucia Moniz star in this romantic comedy.
Christmas time in London is the setting for this fun romp of a film that follows the interconnected lives of eight very different couples. Each couple deals with their love relationships and their complex lives, some doing so better than others.
Fun fact: The lake in which Firth and Moniz “swim” is actually only 18 inches deep. The actors knelt to give the illusion of deeper water. The lake was also swarming with mosquitos. Firth’s bitten elbow swelled up to the size of an avocado and required medical treatment.
Pride & Prejudice 2005
Keira Knightley, Matthey Macfadyen, Donald Sutherland, Talulah Riley, Rosamund Pike, Jena Malone and Carey Mulligan star in the romantic drama adapted from a Jane Austen novel.
Pride & Prejudice is the humorous and tender story of five sisters growing up in England’s Georgian era. The Bennett Family’s future happiness depends on the daughters marrying well. When the wealthy and seemingly snobbish Mr. Darcy moves into the area, for a summer in the country, the sisters’ lives are upended. Is it love in the air…or is it a battle of the sexes?
Fun fact: Macfadyen, who portrays Mr. Darcy, is very nearsighted. During the early morning scene, in the misty rain, the director stood behind the camera waving a red flag so the actor knew where to walk.
The Theory of Everything 2014
This biographical drama stars Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, Tom Prior and David Thewlis.
The Theory of Everything explores the life of the most brilliant and celebrated physicist of our time, Stephen Hawking. It’s also the love story of Hawking and his wife, Jane. Over the course of their marriage and life together, Hawking becomes ill with ALS, a degenerative motor neuron disorder. As Hawking defies his prognosis and makes amazing discoveries in science, his marriage is challenged to its core.
Fun fact: To prepare for the role, Redmayne lost 15 pounds, trained for four months with a dancer to learn how to control his body, met with 40 ALS patients and kept a chart tracking the order in which Hawking’s muscles deteriorated. He stood for hours before a mirror, contorting his face and between takes stood motionless and hunched over, to stay in character. And he met with Stephen Hawking once for three hours, before filming began. He was afraid to ask the physicist anything.
This fantasy adventure stars Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Julie Walters, Jim Broadbent, Imelda Staunton, Michael Gambon, Ben Whishaw, Matt Lucas, Nicole Kidman and Peter Capaldi.
A young Peruvian bear, with a love for all things British, travels to London in search of a home. Around his neck is a label: “Please look after this bear. Thank you.”
Lost at Paddington Station, the bear realizes city life is not what he imagined. Fortunately, he meets the Brown Family, who kindly offer him a place to stay. All appears to be going well until the newly named Paddington Bear catches the attention of a museum taxidermist.
Fun fact: Paddington Bear is based on an actual lone teddy bear that author Michael Bond noticed in a London store near Paddington Station on Christmas Eve, 1956. He purchased the bear as a gift for his wife and later wrote a story about him. The bear’s appearance in the story…and subsequent movies…was inspired by old newsreels showing train-loads of child evacuees leaving London during WWII with labels around their necks and their possessions in small suitcases.
Downton Abbey 2019
Hugh Bonneville, Sophie McShera, Robert James-Collier, Allen Leach, Michelle Dockery, Phyllis Logan, Laura Carmichael, Elizabeth McGovern, Jim Carter, Joanne Froggatt, Maggie Smith, Penelope Wilton and Brandon Coyle star in this lavish period piece drama.
The film continues the story of the Crowley family and their below stairs staff at Downton Abbey, following the popularity of the long running television series. Set in 1927, the Crowleys and the Downton Abbey staff prepare for the arrival of King George V and Queen Mary while struggling with their own life dilemmas and challenges.
Fun fact: The royal visit of King George V to Downton Abbey was based on his real life visit to Wentworth Woodhouse, an estate in Yorkshire used to film the ballroom scenes in the movie.
This romantic drama, inspired by the Jane Austen novel, stars Anna Taylor-Joy, Johnny Flynn, Mia Goth, Gemma Whelan, Bill Nighy and Josh O’Connor.
Handsome, clever and rich, Miss Emma Woodhouse is without equal in her small town. Desiring that everyone other than herself find true love, Emma moves through a series of comical mismatches and romantic missteps before discovering what real love is all about.
Fun fact: Emma and Mr. Knightley are not wearing gloves during their dance scene, while all the other dancers are gloved. Director Autumn de Wilde felt the bare hands added to the sexual tension between the two characters during their last dance.
Movies That Inspire You to Visit England
Truly, there are SO many movies with English storylines that it was difficult to limit my choices to ten. These are some of my favorites though. And several, such as Emma, have more than one version to enjoy.
All of these films increased my desire to experience England for myself. I’m grateful for the opportunity to visit this beautiful country in 2017.
Until I can return, I’ll stir my memories and create new intentions by watching British films.
What’s your favorite movie set in England?
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