The films that captured Glasgow on the big screen

Brad Pitt starring in World War Z, a zombie action thriller partly filmed in Glasgow city centre. Picture: PA
Brad Pitt starring in World War Z, a zombie action thriller partly filmed in Glasgow city centre. Picture: PA
Share this article
Have your say

SCOTLAND’S largest city plays a starring role in a diverse range of cinematic works, from darkly humourous indie films to Hollywood blockbusters, writes Chris McCall


Andrea Arnold’s 2006 bleak tale of a lone CCTV operator working at the now-demolished Red Road flats in the north-east of the city may owe a debt to the work of Ken Loach, but still succeeds on its own merits.

Its hyper-realisitc tone, uncompromising dialogue and unusual camera techniques recall Loach’s equally challenging Sweet Sixteen, which made a star of Martin Compston four years previously. Compston returns in this film and delivers a powerful performance which includes several unforgettable scenes. A critical success upon release – it won the Jury Prize at Cannes – this is not a flick to watch with the family on a Sunday afternoon, but nonetheless deserves its reputation as one of the best features ever produced north of the border.


Written and directed by Stuart Murdoch, the principal songwriter in Belle and Sebastian, this musical drama received mixed reviews upon release in 2014. It has all the whimsical charm you would expect from the man responsible for songs like Sukie in the Graveyard – which may appeal to some more than others – but there’s a genuine spirit at work here. A major selling point of the film is the portrayal of Glasgow as a city of artistic opportunity rather than a windswept land of concrete and gap sites, a refreshing antidote to other cinematic depictions of the Dear Green Place.


A joint Scottish-Danish production, this understated indie flick from 2002 has become something of a cult classic among Scots film fans. Directed by Lone Scherfig, we follow the story of two brothers who inherit their father’s second-hand book shop in Glasgow. An alternative love story with a suicidal leading character, there are enough moments of black comedy and perfectly framed shots of the city to warrant repeated viewings – particularly those filmed at the Necropolis and Kelvingrove Art Gallery.


A genre-bending horror thriller, Jonathan Glazer’s 2014 film won rave reviews for its surreal plot and stomach-jolting plot twists. Scarlett Johansson plays an alien which survives by preying on lonely men, whom she picks up in a chilling fashion from streets across Glasgow. It’s unconfortable viewing and asks some awkward questions about common prejudices concerning sex and class, but it also has moments of real beauty, not least the cinematography in the film’s latter stages. Under The Skin is one of the most original and striking films ever set in Glasgow.


A mediocre zombie thriller released in 2013 that already looks dated, this Brad Pitt vehicle didn’t trouble any end-of-year lists. But it will always hold a special place in the heart of the many Scots who secured parts as extras when the Hollywood bandwagon rolled into Glasgow. Around 2,000 were needed - and at least 3,000 turned up on the day hoping to take part. Glasgow was selected for its apparent likeness to the financial district of Philadelphia, and further exterior secenes were filmed by the oil refinery in Grangemouth. The DVD is destined to be freeze-framed for decades to come as those involved point at the screen and shout: “there’s me!”