Best Edinburgh Films: 22 movies set in Edinburgh ranked from best to worst including Trainspotting, Avengers and Fast and Furious

From action packed thrillers to musicals, comic Gothic horror and Trainspotting, Evening News Entertainment Editor Liam Rudden highlights 22 of the best and the worst movies ever filmed in the Capital.

By Liam Rudden
Tuesday, 30th November 2021, 11:34 am
F9 - Fast and Furious 9: Chris 'Ludacris' Bridges and Roman Tyrese Gibson in action in Edinburgh
F9 - Fast and Furious 9: Chris 'Ludacris' Bridges and Roman Tyrese Gibson in action in Edinburgh

Do you agree or disagree with these rankings? Let us know what you think and join the conversation at the bottom of this article

F9 Fast & Furious 9 - 2020

Filmed over 19 days in September 2019, F9 featured 11 different areas of the city centre, including Waterloo Place, George Street, Cockburn Street, Victoria Street, Royal Mile, Melville Street and the Museum of Scotland. The final result is 12 minutes of explosive footage as Vin Diesel and the gang roar through the Capital leaving carnage and mayhem in their wake. It is a brilliant slice of escapism that finds Edinburgh holding its own against any other location in the world. Arguably one of the best uses of the Capital on screen, the Hollywood names become incidental as Edinburgh makes starring appearance. Ranking 1/22

Ben Whishaw atop the Scott Monument in Cloud Atlas

T2 - 2017

Trainspotting may have made Irvine Welsh a household name and that chase along Princes Street, when it still had a John Menzies, may have become iconic but much of the rest of the movie was shot in Glasgow. Nonetheless, Edinburgh welcomed Renton, Spud, Sickboy and even Begbie back with open arms after 21 years for T2.

The Cav, the Scottish Parliament, the Foot o' the Walk Jobcentre, Muirhouse shopping centre, Royal Circus, St Stephen's Church and the now gone ruins of Shrubhill bus works all feature in the second instalment. Returning director Danny Boyle said: "The good will from local individuals and organisations towards the production made it an absolute pleasure to be back filming in the city."

Controversial view, I know, but T2 is the better than Trainspotting. Ranking: 2/22

Maggie Smith in The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie - 1969

One of the first films to truly showcase the Capital's majesty, Ronald Neame's cinematic retelling of Muriel Spark’s story of a headstrong young teacher in 1930’s Edinburgh has become a classic and is certainly one of the ‘creme de la creme’ when it comes to the city’s celluloid appearances. Starring Maggie Smith, it features atmospheric shots of Edinburgh Academy on Henderson Row as well as at the National Museum, Greyfriars Churchyard, Dalmeny House and Barnbougle Castle. A must see. Ranking: 3/22

Restless Natives - 1985

Have been an extra in Restless Natives I admit I'm biased, but it really is a great wee feel-good film. Following the adventures of two working class lads who don clown and wolfman masks to become modern day highwaymen, it’s driven by Big Country’s anthemic score. With hundreds of extras lining the street, Princes Street and The Mound are all put into good use for an epic chase scene as are the Lawn Market and Victoria Street and Terrace. Wester Hailes and Nehaven Harbour are also used to great effect. A great Scottish comedy, up there with Gregory’s Girl. Ranking: 4/22

Ewan McGregor and Ewan Bremner on location for T2, the Trainspotting sequel on Princess Street on July 13, 2016

Sunshine on Leith - 2012Director Dexter Fletcher's film about life, love and coming home is based on the hit stage musical built around the music of the The Proclaimers.

As the title suggests, much of its action takes place in and around sunny Leith; Constitution Street, Bernard Street and The Shore all feature, while Edinburgh is represented by The Mound, Grassmarket, Calton Hill, North Bridge, Hanover Street and Royal Mile.

Fletcher said at the time: "Sunshine On Leith is a love song to Edinburgh… Edinburgh is without a shadow of a doubt one of the most photogenic cities in the world, and not just because of the architecture but also because of how the light plays, which is very important in a film, and as much as it has grandeur it also as a real kind of texture to it, a real gritty street kind of feel, that, obviously, any story needs." A film that get a thumbs up from me for making the songs of The Proclaimers better than ever. Ranking: 5/22

16 Years of Alcohol - 2003

Sunshine On Leith

Based on the semi-autobiographical 1987 novel by Skids front man Richard Jobson, 16 Years of Alcohol starred Kevin McKidd as Frankie, a violent alcoholic skinhead, the product of a violent childhood, with a love of ska music. From Tron Square to Drummond Street, Potterrow and many other Capital landmarks, from bars to record shops, there's no doubt that the city shares a starring role in this movie. A hard-hitting movie well worth a look. Ranking 6/22

The 39 Steps - 1959

Not to be confused with Hitchcock’s 1935 black and white version, Ralph Thomas' remake of The 39 Steps, starring Kenneth More, might have seen much of its interior filming take place at Pinewood Studios, but watch out for a now fascinating sequence filmed in a very different Waverley Station and another in the long gone Princes Street Station, also known as the Caledonian. Based on John Buchan's spy novel of the same name, the film includes the famous scene set on the Forth Bridge in which on the run diplomat Richard Hannay makes his escape. Another classic. Ranking 7/22

The Acid House - 1998

Dark and gritty, The Acid House is an adaptation of three short stories by Irvine Welsh; The Granton Star Cause, filmed on location in Muirhouse and Pilton, including Ferry Road Drive; A Soft Touch, filmed on location in Niddrie; and The Acid House with scenes in Leith. Depicting the Edinburgh of its time, it’s a hard watch in places but worth it. Ranking 8/22

Complicity - 2000

The Acid House

Complicity, based on the 1993 Iain Banks' novel of the same name, follows an idealistic journalist, played by Jonny Lee Miller, who has written articles exposing establishment corruption. When people named in his articles are found brutally murdered, suspicion falls on him and must clear his name. This gripping thriller, featuring the late King’s panto star Andy Gray cast against type, finds cameras capturing the action at Calton Road, Wellington Court, George Street, Cambridge Street, Cornwall Street and even at the newsagent in the Grassmarket. Queen’s Drive, St Mary’s Street, the Forth Road Bridge, Granton Harbour and The Scotsman Building on North Bridge also feature. Ranking: 9/22

Trainspotting - 1996

Irvine Welsh and Danny Boyle’s collaboration may now be one of the best known ‘Edinburgh’ films ever, but having been brought up in the Edinburgh of the time it leaves me cold. And don’t get me started on the animatronic baby scene. There were, however, some notable performances and that, aforementioned, iconic chase scene. Given the choice of the two to watch, Choose T2, I would. Ranking: 10/22

Our Ladies - 2019

Michael Caton-Jones coming-of-age comedy-drama caused the director/producer to observe: "The purpose of choosing any location is to create an emotional reaction and the beauty of Edinburgh is that you can choose places that reflect whatever you want to say, whether it be old and grand or scruffy or whatever. There's so much variety, I could have shot Our Ladies five different ways and it would have looked different every time." Another feel-good favourite with some great local up and coming talent, it’s one to watch, if just for the views of Victoria Street from a hidden camera. Ranking: 11/22

Read More

Read More
Fast & Furious 9: Every film scene in Edinburgh reviewed

Avengers: Infinity War - 2018

Crowds turned out to watch when Avengers: Infinity War brought the Marvel Universe to the Capital with superheros popping up everywhere, they were to be found on Cockburn Street, the Royal Mile, in St Giles' Cathedral and at the Waverley Station. Speaking at the time, Rosie Ellison, Manager at Film Edinburgh, said: "Edinburgh truly is a star of this blockbuster hit. The filmmakers were looking for something unique, Gothic and dramatic and Edinburgh’s Old Town with its medieval architecture fitted the bill." Seemed like a lot of disruption for not too much return, although the faux Cockburn Street was interesting to see. Rating: 12/22

The Battle of the Sexes - 1959

Charles Crichton's feature film starred Peter Sellers as Mr Martin, a mild mannered clerk employed in the MacPherson tweed company, under threat of modernisation.Filmed on location, The House of MacPherson was 45 George Street, viewed from South St Andrew Street towards Waverley Station, while the RSA stood in for the station exterior and an entrance on the High Street became an off-licence. Holyrood Park became 'the countryside'. Rating 13/22

Cloud Atlas - 2012

This epic, and at times confusing, sci-fi movie from Tom Twyker and the Wachowskis spans five centuries, exploring how the actions and consequences of individual lives impact one another in the past, present and future. The Edinburgh scenes brought Ben Whishaw and James D'Arcy to the Scott Monument, the City Chambers, Victoria Terrace and in India Buildings. An intriguing film, though Edinburgh feels almost incidental. Rating: 14/22

Hallam Foe - 2006

Starring Jamie Bell and Sophia Myles, Hallam Foe suspects his step mother is responsible for his mother's death. Leaving home he travels to Edinburgh where he falls for Kate, who bears a striking resemblance to his mother. Shot on location at the Caledonian Hotel, Cockburn Street and the City Art Centre, Hugh Gourlay, location manager, observed at the time: "Filming in Edinburgh is always such a delight because the team at Film Edinburgh are always there to point you in the right direction and ensure that everything is covered." Again, it’s Edinburgh that makes it worth watching. Ranking: 15/22

The Adventures of Greyfriars Bobby - 1961

Edinburgh's favourite dog got the Disney treatment in the Sixties, which saw the famous pet celebrated on screen after receiving the freedom of the city by joining the massed pipes and drums as they paraded on Edinburgh Castle Esplanade. Bakehouse Close, just off the Royal Mile, was used for the exterior shots of John Gray's (the dog's owner) family home. However, Stirling doubles for Edinburgh through much of the film. Strictly for the kids. Rating 16/22

One Day - 2010: Three stars out of five

A film of David Nicholls' best-selling novel of the same name, Lone Scherfig's One Day stars Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess and tells the story of Dex and Emma who, after one day together, begin a relationship that lasts a lifetime.

Filmed at Arthur's Seat, Warriston Close, Moray Place and Forres Street, Parliament Square, Calton Hill and on Victoria Street and Terrace, Scherfig told Film Edinburgh her experience filming in the city gave her, "Some of the best work days ever, which just makes me want to come back. One Day opens and ends in Edinburgh, but a few shooting days only made you want to do more. It is a very generous and easy place to work... and I didn't worry too much about sometimes finding ourselves in spots that have been photographed many, many times before." Ranking: 17/22

Shallow Grave - 1994This black comedy crime film was Danny Boyle’s directorial debut. Starring Ewan McGregor, Christopher Eccleston, and Kerry Fox it follows a group of flatmates in Edinburgh who set off a chain of events after dismembering and burying a mysterious new tenant who died and left behind a large sum of money. If Edinburgh doesn’t look like itself in this one, there’s a simple reason why, although Flat 6 North East Circus Place was pivotal to the movie, it was predominantly shot in Glasgow as the Glasgow Film Fund awarded producers a £150,000 grant. Watched it once. Disappointing. Rating: 18/22

Filth - 2013

Jon S Baird's screenplay based on the Irvine Welsh novel of the same name is a black comedy crime thriller. Even stars James McAvoy, Jamie Bell, and Jim Broadbent couldn’t rescue it. A bit of a hot mess, it's worth a look just to play spot the location, but that’s about it. Ranking: 19/22

Mary Reilly - 1996

Stephen Frears brought Julia Roberts and John Malkovich to the Capital for this ill-fated movie, which saw sight-seers head to Calton Road and the Old Town in the hope of catching a glimpse the Hollywood stars of this gothic horror inspired by Stevenson's Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. It bombed in the box office and was panned by the critics, indeed, Roberts found herself nominated for Worst Actress at the Razzie Awards. More a case of Jekyll and... hide. Is this the worst film ever made in Edinburgh? Almost. Ranking: 20/22

Burke & Hare - 2010

This unfortunate black comedy took over much of the Grassmarket to recreate the Edinburgh of the 1820’s for a loose retelling of the exploits Burke and Hare. Directed by John Landis and starring Simon Pegg and Andy Serkis as the protagonists, Burke & Hare is an unfunny curiosity (Comic Strip meets Carry On) that has aged badly. Took two sittings before I finally made my through the whole thing. Will never get that time back. Ranking: 21/22

Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga - 2020

Filming of this painful romantic musical comedy from David Dobkin, written by and starring Will Ferrell, came to Edinburgh as it followed the adventures of Icelandic singers Lars Erickssong and Sigrit Ericksdóttir as they prepare to represent their country at the Eurovision Song Contest. Sorry, has to be done: It's nil points’ from me. Couldn’t finish it. Not often I hit the off switch. Ranking 22/22

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this article. We're more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by coronavirus impacts our advertisers.

If you haven't already, please consider supporting our trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription