Big Ben in film: Top 5

Adam Brannon HeadshotBy Adam Brannon. Big Ben has been standing alongside the Houses of Parliament since 1859 and has become a symbol of the UK’s incredible engineering talents.

So when news broke on August 14th 2017 that its bells would fall silent for four years whilst necessary maintenance was carried out, it was met with a degree of sadness from the British community. In fact, the news was reported across the globe, showing just how important a landmark the clocktower actually is, not just to people living in the UK, but by fans of our history too.

This got me thinking, how many films has Big Ben featured in, and more importantly, has it ever featured in any truly amazing sequences in films well-received by viewers and critics alike. So, with that in mind, I decided to trawl through the archives and count down the top 5 scenes featuring the gargantuan timepiece.

5) Mary Poppins

Mary Poppins at Big Ben

Photo by Disney.

Ah, Mary Poppins. Still to this day it remains one of Disney’s hottest properties. So much so that Emily Blunt is currently filming Mary Poppins Returns, the sequel to the 1964 masterpiece.

Alongside Dick Van Dyke’s dreadful British accent, the film features another UK staple in film, Big Ben. As Julie Andrews’ titular character is gliding along, black umbrella in hand, she flies straight past the iconic landmark in a scene that has become nearly as well-known as the film itself.

4) Peter Pan

Peter Pan at Big Ben

Picture by Disney.

The 50s were good to Disney. They released five of their greatest animated films in that decade alone. With classics like Lady and the Tramp, Alice in Wonderland, Sleeping Beauty jostling for attention, it would take a near-masterpiece to pull focus.

Thankfully, Peter Pan remains one of the best films from the House of Mouse. With stunning animation and a story with real emotional resonance, it’s a must-watch for parents and children alike.

Of course, seeing the main characters standing atop Big Ben and walking along the clock face’s hands is a scene that remains with you even after the film has ended. The backlighting from the clock itself looks almost lunar and is breath-taking in every sense of the word.

3) The Great Mouse Detective

The Great Mouse Detective

Picture by Disney.

Ah Disney, you do love Big Ben don’t you? This personal favourite of mine and a largely forgotten film from Disney’s back catalogue is more British than a crumpet tea party and is an incredibly dark adaptation of the Basil of Baker Street children’s books by Eve Titus.

The climactic scene in which our titular hero battles the villainous Professor Ratigan (he’s a rat, get it) atop Big Ben is terrifying and mesmerising in equal measure. It’s a truly horrific sequence made all the more awful by its excessive length.

Scared for life is not the word. The Great Mouse Detective is worth a watch for its take on the Queen alone.

2) V for Vendetta

V for Vendetta

Photo by Warner Bros.

A truly underrated British film featuring talent like Stephen Fry and Natalie Portman. Following world war, London is a police state occupied by a fascist government, and a vigilante uses terrorist tactics to fight the oppressors of the world in which he now lives.

It’s as bombastic as it sounds and a great one to watch on Bonfire Night in the UK. With its impressive special effects and exceptional sequence showing Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament being obliterated, it certainly deserves a silver medal here.

1) Reign of Fire

Reign of Fire

Photo by Touchstone Pictures.

Dragons and destruction. What more could you want? Reign of Fire is another underrated flick that’s actually great fun and filled with pretty good special effects. There are also some cracking performances from Christian Bale and Matthew McConaughey.

But the pièce de résistance is the wide, landscape shot of a totally destroyed London being surrounded by you guessed it, dragons. The eerily quiet cityscape is incredibly well put together with Big Ben’s hollow shell rising above everything. Stunning.

Do you think there’s an appearance that should have made the list? Leave a comment in the box below. I reply to them all.

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