The London guide – Pop culture style

Ah, London. The capital of the UK, one of the most important and famous cities in the world and enough landmarks to fill an entire guidebook. But let’s tackle things a bit differently.

I got an inspiration for this post. When my friend came back from his holiday in New York, he showed me a map of the City as defined by superheroes. Seeing how London is arguably the second most famous and influential city in the world, I was surprised that there was a lack of attention there to the influence London has on pop culture. So rather than just listing off the London landmarks that are must see and others which aren’t, I decided to list off the landmarks – as told by films, television and books. So when you arrive in London, you can see what the capital’s landmarks have truly been through.

Big Ben

Big Ben and the Palace of Westminster

To a non-Brit, this is probably the first thing they think of when they think of Britain. As a result, it is Hollywood rule that if a scene takes place in Britain, there MUST be a shot of the Palace of Westminster and the Elizabeth Tower (Big Ben is only the name of the biggest bell inside the tower). Next to the tower is Westminster Bridge, a place where the Daleks were during their invasion of Earth in the 22nd century.

The tower got destroyed in Doctor Who as part of the Slitheen’s plot to destroy the world. It also seems to be playing a part in the next Bond film. A potential target for SPECTRE? Speaking of Bond…

MI6 Headquarters

This building is not supposed to exist. No one is supposed to know about it, as it is the headquarters of the Secret Service. No one is also supposed to know how this building is ironically enough one of the most prominent buildings in London, thanks to the Bond movies. It also got blown up in Skyfall. But no one’s supposed to know that.

Walkie Talkie building London

The City of London and Canary Wharf

The City of London is where all the high rise skyscrapers are, though only two are really important from an iconic perspective. The Gherkin is the prime example of the strange architecture, and it is featured in Thor: The Dark World (which also has a cameo from Tower Bridge). The other buildings in the area, like the Cheesegrater, the Heron Tower and the Walkie Talkie (20 Fenchurch Street), aren’t as famous but are still pretty impressive (apart from the Walkie Talkie, no one likes that. Buildings are supposed to taper inwards, not outwards). Note to directors who want to film an action movie in London; if buildings and landmarks are to be destroyed, the Walkie Talkie should be the first building to be destroyed. Trust me, the Brits will appreciate it.

The other large skyscraper is the tallest building not only in the UK, but in Europe. The Shard is new, and as a result hasn’t been in much lately. The only major thing is again, Doctor Who, when the Doctor drove up it to fight the Great Intelligence. The iconic design is sure to be in many other movies.

Canary Wharf is the other financial district of London (there are TWO!?). One Canada Square (what does it have to do with Canada?) is the second tallest building in the UK and was the headquarters of Torchwood before the Cyberman/Dalek war destroyed it. The building was also seen in the fifth Harry Potter film.

Harry Potter London Zoo image

Other landmarks

Harry Potter has put many London landmarks on the map. King’s Cross Station of course is where Platform 9 3/4  is located, and if you go there, there is actually a trolley located halfway through a wall. Piccadilly Circus (otherwise known as the UK’s Times Square) is seen in both Sherlock’s opening credits and also in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1. Sherlock has of course made 221B Baker Street famous, and there is a Sherlock Holmes museum there. Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery are in the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary, while Trafalgar Square is also briefly seen in the first Captain America film (and again seems to be in Spectre).

Trafalgar Square London

Greenwich is the location of the final fight in Thor: The Dark World, while Tower Bridge (NOT London Bridge) has been surprisingly underused in pop culture. The Tower of London is the location of a secret UNIT base and also where the Doctors were imprisoned in the 50th.

The London Eye is once again a pretty underused landmark, but Doctor Who has once put it to good use, using it in the very first revival story. St Paul’s Cathedral is the site of another iconic Who shot (Cybermen walking down the steps) and the spiral stairs are used in Harry Potter. The London Zoo Reptile House has shot to fame due to the famous scene in the first Harry Potter film when the python escapes. In reality, it is home to a black mamba, who I bet has no idea why he/she is always surrounded by people looking at the plaque instead of him/her.

Gherkin Building in London

And that was a brief pop culture guide to London. Seeing how I want to see my capital city in as many films as possible, I’ve got here several ideas for film scenes or plot-

  • A fight scene on top of the Shard or the Gherkin. This should be done with stuntmen and wires, not CGI. This would probably be in a James Bond film or some other action film, though the film needs to be good.
  • St Paul’s Cathedral’s dome being an alien spaceship (though in Doctor Who it may contain the Master’s TARDIS)
  • Big Ben should be taken over by aliens who want to rule Britain. Actually, that may be happening already, just look at George Osborne. I am certain he is an Auton.
  • Tower Bridge in an epic car chase, which ends with the hero’s car falling into the Thames. For extra tension, the bridge should be opening and a car flip would be perfect. I’m thinking again of a James Bond film, but any film with a scene like that would be amazing.
  • A fight in the River Thames in Pacific Rim 2. The jaegar should use the Walkie Talkie as a bat, completely destroying it, before impaling the kaiju on top of St Paul’s.

St Paul's London

So that’s the pop culture guide to London. London has so many world famous landmarks and buildings and I’m sure that many films and TV shows will put the city to good use.


One thought on “The London guide – Pop culture style

  1. Very amusing and well written review – but I am not sure that the Thames is deep enough for the ‘Pacific Rim’ scenario.

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