Edinburgh is no stranger to the silver screen. From Trainspotting to The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie – and even brand new blockbusters like Avengers: Infinity War – Edinburgh has provided the backdrop for many iconic films over the years.
But Edinburgh has been used as a filming location for plenty of other productions – some of which might surprise you.
Cloud Atlas (2012)
Set in many locations over different time periods, sprawling sci-fi film Cloud Atlas explores how everything and everyone is connected. As well as iconic landmarks like the Scott Monument and Victoria Street, the section set in 1930s Edinburgh also features a visually impressive plate-smashing dream sequence which was filmed inside the India Buildings.
Not be confused with the 2006 magician movie of the same name, The Illusionist is an enchanting animated film by French director Sylvain Chomet. Although technically not filmed in Edinburgh, the city is immortalised in animated form with places like Arthur’s Seat, Jenners, Waverley Station and Broughton Place appearing on screen. The original script was set in Prague, but Chomet changed this to Edinburgh as he loved the city so much.
Hallam Foe (2007)
Following troubled teen Hallam Foe (played by Jamie Bell) as he moves to Edinburgh to uncover the secrets behind his mother’s death, this film was shot mainly in the city’s Old Town. Securing himself a job as a kitchen porter at an unnamed hotel, Hallam ends up sneaking into the hotel’s clock tower to spy on his love interest from the Edinburgh rooftops. The film merges two iconic Edinburgh hotels together. In real life, the clock tower belongs to the Balmoral Hotel, but it was actually the Caledonian Hotel which was used for the interior shots – this is particularly noticeable in the reception area, the staff entrance and the ballroom where Hallam jumps over the suitcases.
The Awakening (2010)
As well as being the star of many movies, Edinburgh has also stepped in for other cities in some films. Period thriller The Awakening begins in London, with St Bernard’s Crescent in Stockbridge filling in for the main character’s London home. The film then moves setting to a supposedly haunted boarding school in Cumbria, but in reality this was a stately home in Earlston in the Scottish Borders.
Sunshine on Leith (2013)
It’s no shock that Sunshine on Leith (a musical featuring the songs of Edinburgh-born band, The Proclaimers) was set and filmed in the city, but some of the filming locations might surprise you. The call centre where Ally and Davy find jobs after returning to Edinburgh is actually the council headquarters at Waverley Court, and the exterior shots of the hospital is really a University of Edinburgh Business School building. Also look out for the cafe where Davy and Yvonne meet – in reality it’s the exclusive SkyBar on Bread Street which is only open to the public one night each month.
The Jacket (2005)
If you venture just outside of Edinburgh to West Lothian, you’ll find Bangour Village Hospital. This spooky site provided the location for a fictional mental asylum in The Jacket, which starred Keira Knightley and Adrien Brody. The film was set in Vermont, USA, but much of it was filmed on location in Scotland.
Death Defying Acts (2007)
Based very loosely on true events, Death Defying Acts tells the story of Harry Houdini’s visit to Edinburgh in the 1920s, and features shots of Princes Street Gardens, The Mound and Calton Hill. An Edinburgh con artist (played by Catherine Zeta Jones) attempts to claim a reward of $10,000, which Houdini has offered to any psychics who can prove their supernatural powers are real. In real life, Houdini was committed to debunking fake mystics. He also visited Edinburgh several times, usually performing at the Empire Theatre (now Festival Theatre), but the events of the film are largely fiction.
Set (as you may have guessed) during the Fringe, Festival offers a darkly comic take on what it’s like to be part of one of Edinburgh’s most iconic annual events. Lots of Edinburgh locations can be seen in the film, from The Stand comedy club to the Leith Links, and the Royal Mile to George Square. The shots of festival-goers were filmed during the 2004 Fringe.
Jude is another film which uses Edinburgh just as a filming location, rather than a setting. This adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s novel Jude the Obscure stars Christopher Eccleston and Kate Winslet. Set in Victorian England, Edinburgh’s Parliament Square, Moray Place and Greyfriar’s Kirkyard all appear in the film, along with a scene filmed in Leith’s Central Bar, which still retains period interiors.
One Day (2011)
After meeting at university in Edinburgh, main characters Emma and Dex start a 20 year friendship and on-again-off-again love affair. Although there are only a couple of scenes set in Edinburgh, there are plenty of recognisable locations packed into just a few minutes. Look out for Arthur’s Seat, Parliament Square, Victoria Street and Moray Place, where Emma and Dex share the kiss that sparks their relationship.
• Honourable mentions to Restless Natives, Chariots of Fire, Regeneration, Shallow Grave, Burke and Hare, Filth, New Town Killers, Tommy’s Honour, The Angels’ Share, Driving Lessons, Greyfriars Bobby, The Da Vinci Code, The 39 Steps