Edinburgh’s varied architecture and stunning location has made it a popular choice location for film makers over the years. Its cobbled streets, iconic Edinburgh Castle and choice of two extinct volcanoes make it a spectacular setting. There are also an array of numerous other famous landmarks in Edinburgh that have made it onto a film set.
Movie making in Edinburgh began as early as 1935 when the director Alfred Hitchcock chose the iconic Forth Bridge as one of the scenes in his adaptation of John Buchan’s adventure novel The 39 Steps. Diplomat Richard Hannay flees to Scotland to escape the police and to complete the spy's mission and flees over the Forth Bridge. Cornered by the police on the Flying Scotsman train, he jumps from the train and hides on the bridge. The use of the bridge in the film is an artistic licence, as the bridge is not on the route of the Flying Scotsman!
Other films featuring the Forth rail bridge include Carry on Regardless. A.G. Barr also used the bridge in posters advertising its soft drink Irn-Bru, with the slogan "Made in Scotland, from girders".
The 1981 film Chariots of Fire and the 2017 T2 Trainspotting both featured scenes from the Edinburgh landmark of Arthur’s Seat, Holyrood. In Chariots of Fire, Arthur’s Seat is a scenic backdrop to a conversation between Eric Liddell and his sister Jennie. The famous opening and closing scenes of the movie were filmed at West Sands Beach, St. Andrews, Fife. In the 1996 Danny Boyle film Trainspotting Renton and Spud go for a sunset run up Arthur’s Seat. Despite the movie being set in Edinburgh, most of it was actually shot in Glasgow. However the opening scene, with the chase down Princes Street into Waterloo Place, accompanied by Iggy Pop’s Lust for Life soundtrack, is one of the most iconic film scenes in modern British cinema.
The 2011 movie of the David Nicholl’s book One Day starts with a pre-dawn silhouette sequence featuring Arthur’s Seat, Calton Hill, Waverley Bridge and the Balmoral Hotel, then returns to Edinburgh with a flashback at the end when Dexter and Emma climb Salisbury Crags. The characters' iconic kiss featured on the main film poster is the intersection of Moray Place and Forres St.
Linking the old and the new towns of Edinburgh and located in Princes Street Garden, the Mound was the feel-good setting for the 2013 movie Sunshine on Leith featuring The Proclaimers song “I’m Gonna Be (500 miles)”. Set and filmed in Edinburgh, other Edinburgh film locations included Leith, Constitution Street, Bernard Street, Grassmarket, Shore, Calton Hill, North Bridge, Hanover St and the Royal Mile.
Some of Edinburgh's most notable landmarks and buildings are located on the Mound, including the National Gallery of Scotland, the Royal Scottish Academy, the spires of the University of Edinburgh's New College, the General Assembly Hall of the Church of Scotland, the elegant domed Headquarters of the commercially owned Bank of Scotland, and its museum, Museum on the Mound. The Assembly Hall on the Mound also featured in Chariots of Fire.
Famously JK Rowling stayed in room 552 at the Balmoral Hotel, with its famous clock tower whilst she finished writing the Harry Potter series with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Visitors can stay in the JK Rowling Suite. Close by, the Edinburgh landmark the Scott Monument featured in the sci-fi movie Cloud Atlas, starring Tom Hanks, Hugh Grant and Halle Berry. Frobisher climbs to the top of every morning to contemplate his thoughts.
In the 2018 best-selling movie Avengers: Infinity War, Edinburgh's Old Town and the Edinburgh Royal Mile acts as the hideout for Scarlet Witch and Vision and is the backdrop for a thrilling battle between the Avengers and Thanos' henchmen.
A short drive from Edinburgh, Rosslyn Chapel is the film location of the climactic scenes of the 2006 movie adaptation of the Dan Brown novel Da Vinci Code, again starring Tom Hanks. The aerial view of the Chapel in the film was based on a one-sixth scale model, specially created, because the Chapel itself was under scaffolding at the time but all the interior scenes were filmed inside the Chapel. Thanks to the movie, this is one of the most famous landmarks in Edinburgh.