"I think I would always be happy here in this wild, ancient, beautiful place that we call Tyneside."
Sue Bridehead looks back at the lovely Newcastle in Jude (1996) as exactly this. A city with such beauty: with breath-taking modernity juxtaposed against rich, historical elegance.
Naturally therefore, Newcastle Upon Tyne has lent itself as the charismatic setting for several iconic films over time; the city's picturesque landscapes, from the quayside to its historic streets having charmed and inspired many a director and filmmaker across the globe, to paint their stories on the beautiful canvas offered by the city. In many cases in fact, the city with its rich tapestry of culture, and the warmth of the Geordie spirit has transformed into a film character on its own.
Let us consider Michael Cane’s iconic portrayal of Jack Carter in the 1971 classic Get Carter. The gritty crime thriller, featuring many memorable scenes in the heart of the city, such as the majestic Tyne Bridge, had taken Newcastle by a storm. It showcased the city's darker and grittier side, the urban landscape serving as the perfect canvas for the brooding storyline. As Carter navigates the city streets, his character aptly describes the essence and indomitable spirit of Newcastle as "You're a big man, but you're in bad shape. With me, it's a full-time job. Now behave yourself."
I, Daniel Blake (2016) showcases the more intimate and humane side of Newcastle. Ken Loach's heart-wrenching social drama sheds light on the struggles of a Newcastle resident navigating the UK's welfare system. The film's emotional resonance is amplified by the setting as Daniel states, "I am not a client. I'm not a customer. I am Daniel Blake, a man. And I demand my rights!" His dialogue “I, Daniel Blake, am a citizen, nothing less and nothing more” really speaks as the voice of every resilient resident of the city.
The romantic comedy The One and Only (2002), set against the backdrop of St. Nicholas' Cathedral and the picturesque Quayside, which followed a football-mad Geordie pursuing the woman of his dreams, truly captured the essence of love and dreams that resonates with the spirit of Newcastle. As filmmaker Mike Hodges rightly articulates "Newcastle is a city with a rich history, and the locations for filming provide a great backdrop for storytelling."
Films have often leveraged the city’s antique architecture, as a crucial ‘actor’ in their stories. Take, Purely Belter (2000). The film captures the hopes and dreams of two teenagers from Newcastle, as they pursue their dream of owning season tickets for Newcastle United. This is truly a testament to how the city comes to life on reel. The city’s passion for sport, its energy and the camaraderie is captured with such eloquence, even in dialogue, as one of the characters, Gerry, passionately expresses, "Newcastle isn't just a place; it's a feeling. It's a way of life."
The cinematic charm of Newcastle has made film-makers come back here, again and again. This Academy Award-nominated Billy Elliot (2000), a celebration of the human spirit set against the backdrop of the bustling streets of Easington, a former mining village near Newcastle, is also living proof of the city’s embracing spirit of diversity.
Newcastle, with its cobbled high streets and old rustic buildings, has its name etched in the annals of film history: making it a must-visit for cinephiles. It is a city that serves as an inspiring and ever-charming character in its own right on the silver screen. And as Santiago Munez from the film Goal! in 2005, (which again, features the iconic Tyne Bridge and St. James' Park stadium) says while he gazes at the city's skyline and reflects, "This is Newcastle, where legends are born."