The Increasing Trend Of The Location Guide For Movie Fans

Having trundled across to Prague on one of those flights which make you wonder if you'd have got more legroom by shipping yourself off via air freight, it was nice to discover once there that my guide book was able to tell me I was standing in the very square used prevalently at the start of Mission: Impossible. This set me thinking. Movie geeks, like real people (although, as we all know, not really like real people) like to travel too. Wouldn't it be nice if, assuming they survive the in-flight showing of the latest Jennifer Aniston Rom-Com with their passion intact, they have a movie-themed guide book when they get there. As ever, it seems as though I wasn't the only one with such an idea.

The bridge Tom Cruise runs along in Mission: Impossible...

...just as the car blows up here.

The movie guide book industry seems to be growing at a decent pace. Interest in seeing the filming locations of popular productions is typified by articles such as this one, which accentuate the connection between visiting a location and experiencing the mood, look and sensibilities of a film. But are the many guides actually useful? Or is this just a cheap way of selling goods to film fans, with little in it for them apart from limited opportunities to gawp at characterless fa├žades of otherwise uninteresting buildings?

The kind folks at Anova Books decided to help me find out and sent a copy of London Movie Guide (which appears to be short of a definite article but, hey ho) by Simon James my way. The weighty guide is available on a certain famous book-led website which doesn't pay me enough to link to them for a very reasonable £11.99, which seems a fair price for something with a glossy cover and lots of pages.

The first pointer to its quality comes on page four where the endorsements start and no less a famous London person than Boris Johnson declares the publication 'brilliant' twice in the same sentence. Boris and the London Tourist Board might not have been so keen on it had they read James' introduction which summarises London's film-making weather as such;

'Rain? No problem. Sun? Use lights.'

So, no such luck if you want your Hollywood star to appear with that 'just kissed by the sun' tint but look, if this bloody thing is good enough for Boris then it is good enough for me.

The book is separated out by post code and area, making it easy to navigate to either a) the area you live in (if you happen to be a Londonite) or b) the area you're visiting (if you are what is locally known as 'an outsider'). The main bulk of the content is comprised mainly in a 'train of thought' style, which looks as though James has tried to mind dump all of his retained information about London filming locations on to the page as quickly as possible like so;

'The main doors of Her Majesty's Prison Wandsworth, opposite Heathfield Avenue, are seen in Law And Disorder (1958), during which Michael Redgrave is released after serving various terms. Stanley Baker as The Criminal (1960) is released temporarily. In Poor Cow (1967) Carol White visits Terrence Stamp, and again the doors are seen in Ooh... You Are Awful (1972). Julia Ormond parks in Heathfield Avenue to supply dentistry to the inmates, especially Tim Roth, in Captives (1994).'

I must admit, this is distracting at first but once you settle in to it and grasp the concept that you're probably only going to read brief chunks in one go it becomes easier to take. The back of the book contains both a street index and a film index so if you're a fan of a particular film (or, erm, of a particular street) then you can quickly pick out the locations you need to visit to complete your slightly OCD-alike geekdom. The inclusion of the indices shows that, despite appearances to the contrary, these books are really more reference guides than out and out tourist fodder. They aid the movie-obsessed tourist in finding locations by not listing films by year, or by arbitrary rating, or alphabetically but by house number and post code. The intention seems to be mainly that you will then build your own 'to see' list and negotiate your own route with the A-Z (read: iPhone) which seems like a decent amount of work but really, in such a definitive publication, is the only way to properly go about things.

Famous London views, such as those seen prominently in Last Chance Harvey, are catered for, as are the more niche, backstreet, filming locations.

For those not willing or able to plan their own trip, the book contains eight suggested walking routes, complete with map and brief instructions. These serve as both a 'how to' guide to create your own routes (invariably they start at a tube station and include optional 'detours' to locations you may want to pass by) and as an easy way to get something tangible out of your purchase. Being 'an outsider' I haven't been able to test the routes out but the areas of London that they cover are fairly well known. It'd be very easy, for example, to combine the route on page thirty-three (which takes in filming locations from productions such as Harry Potter and 28 Days Later) with a sightseeing expedition to The London Eye, The Houses Of Parliament, et al. The maps also include filming locations which are just off the routes they cover so if you want to augment your day with a few extra trips then it's perfectly possible to do so.

The fact that you can combine regular sightseeing with film sightseeing easily is really the book's main selling point. The hand-holding guides are great for the more casual geek whilst the easy-reference indices cater for the hardcore movie walker. Books like Anova's are available for several European cities and beyond and if they all follow this sort of structure then they're well worth an additional purchase to ensure you don't leave your movie obsession at home.


  1. At the risk of sounding like a massive movie geek - which I suppose I am - I took a vacation five years ago solely to see the filming sites for "Last of the Mohicans" (my favorite movie). I loved every second of it. And yes, someone had published a location guide book for it. Thank goodness.

  2. Interesting concept for a book, although I don't know if I would intentionally use up time of a trip in another country for the sake of visiting movie shooting locations.

    Sometimes such things just happen though. Being a massive James Bond Bond (of the books and the films) it was pretty cool when, three summers ago while touring some European countries, I had the chance to walk, eat and drink in some of the same places areas 007 went to, but it wasn't as though I had intentionally to whatever country in question with the idea of going where Bond went.

  3. Nick - You see, I do think that is as valid a reason for a vacation as any but hey, you're preaching to the choir here! Glad it lived up to your expectations.

    Edgar - I think the good thing about these books is that, as I say above, you can combine them with regular sightseeing. You can see a lot of non-film London by following the walks in this one for example.

  4. Fantastic original post!! These types of books have been around for a while. I knew of one in the early 00's solely on sites of UK soap operas like Coro st, East Enders etc, and another on UK TV programmes in general. I think they are a great idea as I'm a film geek and would get a buzz from visiting those sites. Sure behind it all is probably a countries tourism industry promoting them as well Nothing wrong with that as all concerned wants to wring as much cash out of a film as they can. As you say they can take you off the beaten tourist tracks, and hence taking money into otherwise tourist dollar free areas.
    But god you should have seen the swarm of books of LOTR site books here! We even had TV programmes. Sure it was big news in a small country but it got a bit much!
    There are even books on celebrity graves!

  5. Thanks Brent, kind words! Very interesting to hear that they've actually been around for a while - I certainly feel like their popularity/visibility has increased over the last year or so but it makes sense that they've always been here. I'm off to a filming site on Sunday as it happens and I'm already quite excited about it - something about visiting the locations does, I think, give you a feel of the artistic processes involved with creating a film.

    And yes, I can imagine there are loads in NZ. I have to admit, it'd almost certainly be a purchase for me if I ever got to visit.