Manchester films to enjoy at home and how to watch them

Manchester is a star in all these movies, from 1960s classics and music documentaries to football favourites
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You’ve watched all the latest hits on Netflix and Amazon Prime and you’ve ploughed your way through the countless DVDs that had been gathering dust on your shelf. But how about watching something with a more local feel?

From old classics to recent smash hits, via music documentaries and football films, all of these movies star Manchester.

Hell is a City

This super stylish 1960 British crime thriller film, in which DI Harry Martineau and his partner pursue a dangerous escaped convict at loose in Manchester, is a proper cult classic. Largely shot on the mean streets of Manchester, it’s also an incredible record of the city as it existed over a half-century ago. The Refuge Assurance building (now the Kimpton Clocktower hotel) on the corner of Oxford Street and Whitworth Street was a key location in the climactic chase sequence.

Available to rent on BFI Player online for £3.50.

A Taste of Honey

This down-to-earth and moving story about a teenage girl’s pregnancy following a one-night stand and her bond with a gay art student was written by Salford lass Shelagh Delaney when she was just 19. The play, which pioneered the “kitchen sink” realism movement of the late 1950s and 1960s, is now considered a modern classic. In 1961, it was made into a film starring Rita Tushingham and Dora Bryan featuring lots of scenes shot on the streets of Salford and Manchester. Its cultural impact has grown over the decades, influencing everything from Coronation Street to The Smiths.

Available to rent on BFI Player online for £3.50.

Mrs Lowry & Son

Mike Leigh’s 2019 film focuses on the relationship between one of the greatest artists of the 20th century, L.S. Lowry (Timothy Spall) and his unhappy and controlling mother (Vanessa Redgrave), with whom he lived all his life. Filmed locally, the biopic opens in Pendlebury with a cameo appearance by Salford’s The Lowry theatre itself at the end.

Available to stream on Netflix, or to rent on Curzon Home Cinema, Microsoft Store, Rakuten TV, Amazon Video, Sky Store, Apple iTunes, Google Play Movies, YouTube and BFI Player online from £1.99.

Peterloo

Salford-born Mike Leigh’s epic 2018 film is all about the events surrounding the 1819 Peterloo Massacre, when a peaceful pro-democracy rally at St Peter’s Field in Manchester turned into one of the bloodiest episodes in British history. Maxine Peake stars with strong support from Rochdale-born actress Christine Bottomley as a vociferous member of the Manchester Female Reform Society.

Available to stream on Amazon Prime, or to rent on Apple iTunes and Microsoft Store online from £2.49.

Being Frank: The Chris Sievey Story

This 2019 documentary traces the life and career of Chris Sievey, the Manchester artist who created Frank Sidebottom. Director Steve Sullivan tells his story through a wealth of wonderful archive interspersed with interviews with those who knew Sievey best. There are also anecdote-heavy contributions from Jon Ronson (who fictionalised his experience in Frank’s Oh Blimey Big Band for the 2014 film Frank), John Cooper Clarke, Johnny Vegas and Ross Noble.

Available to rent on BFI Player online for £3.50.

24 Hour Party People

No Manchester film list would be complete without Michael Winterbottom’s 2002 comedy-drama biopic about Manchester’s legendary music scene from the mid-late seventies to the early nineties. Steve Coogan famously stars as Factory Records founder Tony Wilson.

Available to stream on Amazon Prime, or to rent on Google Play Movies, Apple iTunes, YouTube and Sky Store online from 99p.

Joy Division

Grant Gee’s 2007 music documentary tells the story of Joy Division, with TV clips, newsreel and interviews including the three surviving members of the group plus Tony Wilson, Peter Saville and Pete Shelley (of Buzzcocks). There’s also wonderful footage of modern Manchester as well as the city in the late 1970s.

Available to stream on Amazon Prime.

Control

A nice counterpart to Joy Division is Anton Corbijn’s 2007 feature film written by Salford’s Matt Greenhalgh, which follows the story of lead singer Ian Curtis (played by Sam Riley) from schoolboy days of 1973 to his suicide on the eve of the band’s first American tour in 1980.

Available to stream on Amazon Prime, or to rent on Microsoft Store, Chili, Talk Talk TV, BFI Player and Apple iTunes online from £2.49.

Liam Gallagher: As It Was

For a more recent slice of Manchester music history, this 2019 film tells the emotional story of how Liam went from the dizzying heights of his champagne supernova years in Oasis to the wilderness years of boredom, booze and bitter legal battles.

Available to rent on Amazon Prime, Apple iTunes, Google Play and Sky for £3.49.

Supersonic

Want more Oasis? This 2016 documentary charts their meteoric rise from the council estates of Manchester to some of the biggest concerts of all time in just three short years.

Available to stream on Netflix, or to rent on Microsoft Store, Rakuten TV, Chili, Apple iTunes, Talk Talk TV, BFI Player and Sky Store online from £2.49.

George Best: All By Himself

This 2017 film explores the footballer’s extraordinary life, from his electrifying debut with Manchester United at the tender age of 17 through the glory years when United won the 1968 European Cup and decline. Heartbreakingly, his extraordinary gift was decimated by his own addiction.

Available to stream on BBC iPlayer, or to rent on Rakuten TV, Apple iTunes, Google Play Movies, Chili, Microsoft Store and YouTube online from £2.49.

The Keeper

German goalkeeper Bert Trautmann won over even his harshest opponents by winning the FA Cup Final for Manchester City in 1956 – famously playing on with a broken neck to secure victory. This 2019 film focuses on Bert’s relationship with Margaret Friar and his experiences as a German soldier as well as the football.

Available to stream on Now TV, or to rent on Rakuten TV, Curzon Home Cinema online from £3.99.

Busby

This 2019 film from the team behind The Class of ’92 shines a spotlight on legendary Manchester United manager Sir Matt Busby. The documentary not only charts how Busby changed the shape of Manchester United and the game itself, but the city too.

Available to rent on Sky Store, Apple iTunes, Rakuten TV and Microsoft Store online from £3.49.

Looking for Eric

A man trying to put his life back on track gets some advice from an unexpected benefactor (former Manchester United player Eric Cantona) in this quirky 2009 comedy drama from  director Ken Loach.

Available to stream on Amazon Prime, or to rent on Apple iTunes, Amazon Video, Rakuten TV, Google Play Movies, YouTube, Microsoft Store and Chili online from 99p.

Have we missed any? Let us know.

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