Liverpool is frequently used as the backdrop for many famous films such as Captain America: The First Avenger, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Fast and Furious 6 and Sherlock Holmes. And although we make an incredible backdrop we’ve also got a whole host of TV series & movies which were set in Liverpool and based around our glorious city and people.
Take a trip down memory lane and see which films and TV shows you remember.
Boys from the Blackstuff
An iconic TV series which was first aired in November 1980 followed the lives of five unemployed Liverpool lads during the Thatcher era and the economic depression.
The show followed the characters of Yosser, Loggo, Chrissie, George, Dixie and his son, Kevin as they went on the hunt for employment as tarmac layers, during one of the worst recession the UK had ever experienced.
Boys from the Blackstuff was only on TV for one series but it was highly popular. First broadcast on BBC2 the show was so popular that just nine weeks after its original broadcast it was shown again on BBC1.
The series was highly acclaimed as it portrayed an honest and powerful depiction of the north of England during that time. The most memorable character Yosser Hughes was played by Bernard Hill who went on to star in the film Titanic and Lord of the Rings.
Liverpool 1 was an exciting drama series which followed the fictional Merseyside Police vice squad in the late 90’s.
The star of the show was Detective Constable Isobel De Pauli and her partner Mark Callaghan, with the show following their relationship as they pursued local gangster, John Sullivan, who was Detective Callaghan’s cousin.
The show ran for two series and a total of 12 episodes from 1998 to 1999 and was praised for representing the gritty streets of Liverpool in the late 90’s and the struggles women in the forced faced during that time.
The actors who played DC De Pauli and DC Callaghan are now married with two children after starting their relationship whilst filming for the show. Samantha Womack now stars in Eastenders and Mark Womack has since starred in Babylon, Silent Witness and Murphy’s Law.
Bread was a highly popular TV series set in Dingle which followed the lives of Liverpudlian family, the Boswell’s.
The show, which was set in Thatchers Britain like Boys from the Blackstuff, shows the daily struggles of a family who have become experts at exploiting the system to get by. Not one of the six Boswell’s has an official job but they seem to live a pretty good life from petty crime and cash-in-hand jobs to rinsing the DHSS dry; they were pretty admiral.
Bread was set on Elswick Street in Dingle and ran for seven series and 74 episodes.
The series was written by Carla Lane and was produced by the BBC in 1986 until 1991. Lane also wrote the earlier sitcom, The Liver Birds where there was another family called the Boswell’s which Lane later admitted were probably related.
The Liver Birds
The Liver Birds was a brilliantly funny British sitcom set in Liverpool which charted the lives of two ‘dolly birds’ who shared a flat on the cities Huskisson Street in the Georgia Quarter.
Series one followed the lives of Dawn and Beryl as they experienced new freedoms during the early 1970’s as they explored dating and partying all whilst dealing with work, family and each other.
The second series saw the arrival of Sandra Hutchinson who replaced Dawn for the rest of the programme and was claimed to be the star of the show. With the third series came Carol Boswell, who bought along her extended family and are linked to the Boswell family in the TV series Bread.
Carla Lane and Myra Taylor were the writers and curators of the show and played the original Liver Birds Dawn and Beryl.
The Liver Birds was highly popular during its airing and ran for an impressive 10 series with 86 episodes.
The Liver Birds returned in 1996, 17 years after the final episode was aired for a 7-episode series which the BBC revived. However, after changing the characters and having difficulty with the continuity of the show, the revived series of the Liver Birds failed to impress and following bad ratings it never returned.
Brookside could possibly be described as Liverpool’s most infamous TV series which is still talked about to this day.
With its first airing in 1982, on the launch night of Channel 4, Brookside ran for an impressive 21 years and even more impressive 2915 episodes.
The show followed the lives of a close-knit community who lived in a Liverpool cul-de-sac just off of Deysbrook Lane in West Derby.
Brookside was known for its controversial storylines which attracted a strong and loyal fan base which bought in regular viewers in excess of 8 million. Brookside was home to the first pre-water shed lesbian kiss which was aired in 1994, it was also the first British soap to openly feature a gay character of Gordon Collin in 1985 and the show was praised for its powerful domestic abuse storyline which resulted in murder.
Brookside was different to other TV soaps at that time due to its relatively small cast, focussing on six households and the early cast consisting of just 16 characters. The show was hailed as one of the most ‘authentic’ TV shows in British history with 75% of the cast being played by Scousers including; Ricky Tomlinson, Jennifer Ellison, Dean Sullivan, Sue Johnston, Sue Jenkins and Michael Starke.
Scully was a popular British TV drama set in Liverpool in the mid-1980’s and focused on school boy Scully who had his heart set on playing for Liverpool FC.
The comedy drama only ran for 7 episodes which consisted of six half-hour episodes and a final one-hour special but never the less it was highly popular. The storyline followed Francis Scully as his teachers tried to convince him to appear in the school pantomime with the promise he’ll get a trial with his beloved Liverpool FC.
Scully’s house was situated on Bluebell Lane in Huyton but not all of the scenes were set in Liverpool. The school, Central High School for Boys was set in Manchester but has since been demolished.
A recurring theme of the show is Scully’s daydreams which feature Kenny Dalglish and other famous footballers with the series being remarkable for featuring many of the Liverpool football club’s first-team squad of that era.
Notably, the musician and songwriter Elvis Costello played Scully brother, who also wrong the theme song “Turning the Town Red”.
Scully was played by Andrew Schofield who was from Kirkby in Liverpool and has since gone on to have a long career in acting featuring in films such as Side and Nancy, Hamlet and Under the Mud.
One Summer is a British television drama set in Liverpool.
Created in 1983 by Willy Russell who also wrote Educating Rita, Shirley Valentine, Blood Brothers the series followed two teenage boys who escape from their dismal lives by running away to Wales one summer.
David Morrissey and Spencer Leigh play the two 16-year-old boys who find an abandoned cottage and decide to start a new life for themselves even if it is with an unsuspecting hermit.
Billy and Kidder are the stars of the show which was broadcast on Channel 4 for five one hour episodes in the early 1980’s and sees the boys get in all sorts of trouble during their summer away.
Willy Russell once stated that his intention was to create a film adaptation of the TV series but sadly this never materialised.
David Morrissey has gone on to become a household name with films and TV shows including; The Other Boleyn Girl, The Walking Dead, Nowhere Boy and The Reaping.
There have also been a number of films set in Liverpool which have really put our city on the map including;
The Bullion Boys
The Bullion Boys was a Liverpool based film which was a part of Screen One- a British television anthology which produced films and dramas for the BBC.
Based on a true story, The Bullion Boys was produced for the fifth series of Screen One in 1993.
Set in 1940 in the Liverpool docklands, The Bullion Boys was based on a true story of a group of scouse dockers.
The plotline focuses on Britain’s gold reserves which were transferred to Liverpool for safety reasons because of the threat of German invasion. The story featured a group of dockers who handled the move with their leader Billy Mac who hatch a plan to steal some of the gold bars to take for themselves.
The movie was highly acclaimed and won an Emmy award for drama in 1994.
The dry humour which runs throughout this 90-minute film was fully cast with British actors including David Jason, Brenda Blethyn and Geoffrey Hutchins.
As many know, David Jason has since starred in a number of incredible productions including Only Fools and Horses and A touch of Frost.
This award winning film is still a classic to this day and not only in Liverpool.
The romantic comedy follows the life of Shirley Valentine, a bored Liverpudlian housewife who’s in a loveless marriage. She decides to go on holiday to Greece with her flamboyant friend Jane, played by Alison Stedman.
After being abandoned by Jane as soon as they arrive, the usually reserved Shirley is forced to make her own fun and finds companionship with Greek tavern owner, Costas. After falling in love with the freedom Greece has to offer, Shirley decides not to take the flight home and instead makes a new life for herself.
Pauline Collins, played Shirley in the hit rom-com was well loved by women all over the world who connected with her life and dreams. Paula won a number of awards for playing Shirley including a Laurence Olivier, Tony, and Drama Desk award.
Joanna Lumley also starred in the movie as Marjorie majors, an old school rival of Shirley’s. Since the film’s release in 1989, the script has been adapted to many screenplays and stage shows.
The 51st State
The 51st State has one of the best A-list casts the city has ever produced.
The storyline follows an American Master Chemist who heads to Britain to sell a new drug he created all whilst quickly becoming entangled in a web of betrayal and deceit.
After an exciting blow-up, which only the main character ‘Lizard’ survives, Elmo comes to Liverpool to again pursue his get-rich-quick dreams through the sale of his dodgy drugs formula. The film which is largely set in Liverpool features a lot of scenes at Anfield stadium where many meetings and deals and had.
The film features an all-star cast of Samuel L Jackson, Meat Loaf, Robert Carlyle and Ricky Tomlinson, who as we know is a true Scouser.
Premiered in 2001, the film also had an alternative title of ‘Formula 51’ which is used in America.
Our Day Out
Our Day Out was originally a television play written by Willy Russell in 1977 and first aired on BBC2.
The film follows a group of deprived Liverpool school children from Dingle Vale School as they go on a school trip to Conwy Castle in North Wales.
The ‘Progress Class’ who are mostly illiterate take the trip under the supervision of their teacher Miss Kay and Headteacher Mr Briggs. The kids, as expected, get up to all sorts of mischief including stealing sweets and even animals from the local zoo as well as going missing.
A majority of the film takes place aboard the ‘Maghull Coaches’ bus which is driven by Peter Tilbury who since starred in Birds of a Feather, Casualty and Miss Marple.
The television version of the film was later developed into a stage musical which was directed by Bob Eaton and performed at Liverpool’s Everyman Theatre.
Nowhere Boy is notably one of the most recent films to be set in Liverpool.
The 2009 biographical musical drama follows the teenage life of Liverpool and world legend, John Lennon of The Beatles. The film tells the story of how John was separated from his mother at a very young age and was brought up by his aunt and uncle, Mimi and George Smith in Liverpool.
Following a reunion with his mother in Blackpool, the film depicts Johns growing interest in rock ‘n’ roll music during the years of 1955 to 1960 when he meets the rest of what became The Beatles or as they were first known; The Quarrymen.
The biographical film was written by Lennon’s half-sister Julia Baird and was released in the US on the 8th October 2010 which coincided with the 70th-anniversary celebrations of Lennon’s birth.
The soundtrack features several of the songs played by The Quarrymen as well as other Beatles tracks.
Aaron Taylor-Johnson is the British actor who played John Lennon in the movie and has gone on to star in other blockbuster films such as Kick-Ass, Avengers and Captain America.
Blood Brothers is one of the most famous film adaptations in the world with the script being used for the third biggest musical production there has ever been.
Written by Willy Russell, the story follows two fraternal twins, Mickey and Eddie who were separated at birth. Their separation takes them to two completely opposite ends of the social spectrum ensuring their lives are worlds apart.
Russell originally wrote Blood Brothers for a school play back in 1982, for Merseyside Young People’s Theatre (MYPT) which is now Fuse: New Theatre for Young People. He then developed the script for a musical production at Liverpool’s Playhouse in 1983 which start Andrew Schofield, Barbara Dickson and George Costigan.
Despite the success it went on to achieve, the musical was only mildly received in its first adaptation. However it did get commissioned for London’s West End where it went on to achieve the Oliver Award for Best New Musical.
Blood Brothers now is a brand in itself with musical productions all over the world in residency, numerous film adaptations and a number of prestigious awards including a Tony.
Writer Willy Russell is also the mastermind behind a number of famous Liverpool movies including Shirley Valentine, Educating Rita and Our Day Out, despite not being from Liverpool Russell has a love of the city which is greatly depicted in every movie he makes.
Do you have any more suggestions for great movies or TV shows set in Liverpool? We’d love to hear your thoughts so comment below and let us know.
If you love reading about Liverpool’s great history why not read our historic look at Bold Street, Chinatown and the Albert Dock.