Considering it is such an iconic location it is perhaps not too surprising that the River Thames has become a major feature of many feature films, acting as the perfect location for boat chases, riverfront pubs, pirate getaways and young magicians who fancy going for a night-time flight. Here’s our rundown of some of the films that have featured the Thames, and the most memorable scenes on the river.
James Bond: Spectre
Bond is no stranger to the Thames. Pierce Brosnan famously shot a memorable boat chase along the river when he was playing Bond in The World Is Not Enough (see movie still below), in a sequence that included landmarks such as The O2 Dome and the MI5 Building at Vauxhall. More recently though, Daniel Craig’s Bond got his own chance to show that he can helm a boat chase as thrilling as anyone’s, when Craig hit the water for a scene in Spectre, which you can watch the filming of right here.
Intriguingly another one of London’s waterways was also included in Spectre, as a hidden away spot called ‘Dead Dog Basin’ in Camden, on Regent’s Canal, was used as a double for Q’s top secret underground workshop. Next time you watch the film keep an eye out for it, it’s almost impossible to believe those scenes were shot on a cold December’s day in busy Camden.
The Long Good Friday
Classic London gangster film The Long Good Friday, which shot Bob Hoskins to worldwide fame, featured a number of locations along the Thames. To start off with there were a couple of prominent scenes shot on the riverfront just off Wapping High Street. On Dundee Street, which runs all the way down to the river, in a stretch known as the Pool of London, the film crew built a set for the ‘Lion and Unicorn’ pub, which was one of the targets for the bombing campaign that is a big part of the film’s story.
And we have another bit of trivia for you about this area. Just a little further down Wapping High Street you come to Pier Head, two terraces of beautiful Georgian houses that run all the way down to the river. The finest of the buildings is actually owned by the film’s co-star Helen Mirren, who must have liked the area so much she wanted to live there!
One of the most famous scenes in the movie is set in a pub. It’s here where Harold meets Billy and utters his memorable threat: “Walk to the car, Billy, or I’ll blow your spine off!” The exterior of the pub was an actual pub in Downham in South London but the interior was set in The Waterman’s Arms which is right by the Thames on the Isle of Dogs. It’s a bit of a legendary boozer that one as it used to be owned by the writer and broadcaster Dan Farson, who was a chronicler and partaker of London’s bohemian lifestyle back in the 1950s.
You can watch the trailer for The Long Good Friday below, featuring quite a few Thames cameos:
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
The Thames was a feature in many of the Harry Potter films. There’s even a Wiki page dedicated to all of its appearances in the series. One of the most memorable scenes to feature the Thames was in Order Of The Phoenix when Harry and his friends take a night-time flying trip (which you can watch below) down the river, almost flying headlong into a cruise ship before passing the Houses of Parliament.
However, perhaps the most iconic Thames-set scene is from Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince. The opening scene shows the Millennium Bridge crumbling after an attack from Lord Voldemort’s Death Eater forces. It’s perhaps not too surprising then that if you go to the Millennium Bridge on any given day you’re in with a good chance of seeing some Harry Potter fans, visiting London from all over the world, taking a few selfies in homage to one of their favourite movie scenes.
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
The fourth instalment in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise was filmed at Pinewood Studios in London, and so naturally, the Thames was the perfect river location. In On Stranger Tides, Jack Sparrow (played by Johnny Depp) has to escape from the English guard (you can see some of the shots of the filming in Greenwich‘s Old Royal Naval College here), as well as making an escape along with Angelica (played by Penelope Cruz) from the Captain’s Daughter tavern, exiting through a trap door before landing in the Thames.
Intriguingly there were plans for the film to recreate the famous Frost Fairs that happened between the 17th century and early 19th century, when the Thames would freeze over and people would come from the local areas for events on the ice, in what was called the “carnival on the water”. However, due to a change in the budget this was deemed too pricey and unfortunately was never filmed.
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
As if appearing in the James Bond, Harry Potter and Pirates of the Caribbean films wasn’t enough, the River Thames also made a cameo in the third Spielberg-directed Indiana Jones film. In perhaps one of the most famous sequences in the film Indiana Jones (as played by Harrison Ford) and his colleague Dr. Schneider get chased after finding half of the holy grail tablet and have to jump into a boat to getaway, where they get shot at and eventually manage to squeeze between two huge ocean liners. The pursuers eventually catch up with Indiana though get pushed under the propeller of the boat as they get overcome in a final stand-off. Though supposedly all occurring in Vienna, this scene was actually shot at Tilbury Docks in Essex.
Here’s a still of that boat chase below:
These are just a few of the films to feature the Thames. There’s also Batman Begins, Fantastic Four, and there are sure to be plenty more in the future. Even the Absolutely Fabulous movie – set for release in July 2016 – will feature Kate Moss emerging from the Thames with fag in mouth.
Get Your Own Slice Of The Thames
If catching up on all of those scenes has got you in the mood to try out a bit of the Thames why not have a look at hiring one of our fleet for a boat party, or getting involved in one of our special events on the river.