Top 5 Films / Movies Filmed, Based or Set in Edinburgh

Edinburgh International Film Festival

Every year the Edinburgh International Film Festival engrosses audiences from all over the world with many thought provoking and original screenings. With a programme packed full of feature films, shorts, documentaries and talks this festival will cater for all tastes across animation, late night frights, the best of new British film and foreign productions. This year the festival will take place across several of Edinburgh’s picture houses from 18th – 29th June, so get your programme now!

In honour of this we're taking a look back through some cinematic experiences that were filmed in our capital city, Edinburgh. As it turns out, our city is not so camera shy and has contributed to many great and well-known films. Below I have selected a few that are definitely worth a watch.

Trainspotting (1996)

This is one of the most iconic Scottish films and is a great one to kick off our top picks. Based on the ever-popular Irvine Welsh book of the same name, this Oscar nominated film launched Ewan McGregor’s career. It depicts a young drug addict trying to turn his life around and get clean. Many scenes were filmed near Glasgow, but Edinburgh is still central to the plot and its atmosphere is not lost. This is especially true in the iconic opening scene, where we see two characters being chased down Princes Street.

If you like your Irvine Welsh, you should check out “Filth” with James McAvoy, also set in Edinburgh.

The Illusionist (2010)

Who’d have thought that an animated film would make this list? The Illusionist is an original animated French and British collaboration based on the life of a French Illusionist, who moves to a remote Scottish community, in the 1950s, after work dries up in Paris. All the animation is hand drawn and quite a spectacle, especially the scenes of Edinburgh, where animators show off the city view from Arthur’s Seat.

Chariots of Fire (1981)

Based on the true events of two athletes who competed in the 1924 Paris Olympics, this film displays many parts of the city. The main plot shows how a Scottish Christian and English Jew have to overcome prejudices and social pressures to compete. Ranked within the top 100 British films, one of its most notable achievements was the Academy Award for Best Original Score, by Vangelis, for a well-loved and easily recognisable theme.

Burke and Hare (2010)

This grisly black comedy is the most recent depiction of the famous murderers Burke and Hare, who came in to the business of providing cadavers for the medical colleges in Edinburgh. The plot follows the exploits of the pair, with lashings of comedy throughout. Definitely not a film to watch if you are after a history lesson however, you do get a good few scenes portraying life in Edinburgh in the late 1820s.

Sunshine on Leith (2013)

After the storming success of Mamma Mia: a film based on Abba’s big hits, Scotland’s own Proclaimers thought they would try their hand at it. Adapted from the stage musical, of the same name, Sunshine on Leith follows two ex British Army boys who have returned home from their tour of Afghanistan. Major plot events within the film are supported by Proclaimers’ songs, including, of course, the world known hit “I’m Gonna Be (500 miles)”. A great film if you fancy a singsong!