1. Underground (1928)
As the opening of this silent romance states: ‘The Underground of the Great Metropolis… contributes its share of light and shade, romance and tragedy and all those things that go to make up what we call “life”.’ Which in this film means a love triangle involving a gorblimey sparky, a mild-mannered ticket collector and an innocent shopgirl. But the real reason we still watch ‘Underground’ is to check out the wiggly-line maps and fugged-up smoking carriages.
2. Quatermass and the Pit (1967)
Excavations beneath our fair city often turn up ancient oddities: obscene Roman artefacts, unexploded bombs, the odd CGI dragon. So when a team of workmen refurbishing an old station stumble across a strange capsule, they assume it’s some kind of wartime souvenir left by Mr Hitler. In fact, the truth is far more terrifying: prehistoric telekinetic satanic Nazi grasshoppers from Mars! Time Out would like to take this opportunity to welcome our new insect overlords.
3. The Bed Sitting Room (1969)
The last tube can be pretty surreal. Fertile ground for Spike Milligan, then, when he came to write this frenzied, anti-establishment rant. Arthur Lowe and his 17-months pregnant daughter find themselves stranded in the ultimate existential feedback loop as the last remaining passengers on the still-somehow operational Circle Line following a nuclear holocaust. These days, the line’s trains bump up on the buffers at Edgware Road before going back the way they came, which somewhat spoils Milligan’s metaphor.
4. The Boy Who Turned Yellow (1972)
More wacked-out Circle Line surrealism, as the 12-year-old hero of Michael Powell’s final film loses his pet mouse at the Tower of London, has a troubling encounter with a caped oddball and wakes up bright yellow for no apparent reason. The most memorable scene takes place in an almost unrecognisable tube carriage: Powell painted the walls, the maps, even the passengers in lurid yellow. If you’ve been on the Circle Line after chucking-out time you’ll know the feeling…
5. Sliding Doors (1998)
This cosy British sci-rom-dram-com made Gwyneth Paltrow a huge star. In a Sloane-friendly reboot of that old butterfly-effect set-up, she plays a comfortably-off Londoner for whom a missed tube train has life-altering consequences. How many of us can honestly say it doesn’t pop into our heads every time those doors slide shut right in our tired, beaten faces?
6. The Wings of the Dove (1997)
Yes, Helena Bonham Carter and Linus Roache do their costume drama scowling and swooning thing on the tube. But this film serves as a reminder of just how ancient the Underground is: we’re in swinging Edwardian London, with the lords, ladies and footmen, yet – steam engines aside – it’s still the jostling den of iniquity we know and love.
7. Death Line (1973)
Ever had the feeling that the creepy character at the end of the carriage was watching you, almost hungrily? Might be a good time to check out this witty, gruesome horror flick about a little-known social threat: cannibals on the tube. But ‘Death Line’ is no Daily Mail-style ‘stamp out the underground menace’ rant. Indeed, it’s a hard-hearted viewer who doesn’t feel a twinge of empathy with the poor man-eating mutant, marooned to forever, wander these dank tunnels, mournfully howling the only three words he’s ever learned: ‘Mind the doors…’
8. An American Werewolf in London (1981)
The underground can be creepy, especially if you’ve seen John Landis’s slasher, in which a city gent is pursued through the echoing tunnels of Tottenham Court Road station by a growling, hairy-backed stalker. Anyone who remembers punk gigs at the old Astoria will know exactly how he feels.
9. Reign of Fire (2002)
When will those thrill-crazy fools at TfL learn that excavating under London is a passport to mayhem? Not content with digging up Nazi insects, they were at it again for this daffy dragon apocalypse romp. Christian Bale and Matthew McConaughey play the ragged, hobo-bearded survivors who must journey deep into the ruins of Westminster station to destroy the lizards’ lair. Crossrail engineers: don’t say we didn’t warn you.
10. Skyfall (2012)
How remarkable that it took James Bond 50 years to stop fannying about in sports cars and speedboats and finally go to work on the tube like a normal Londoner. His journey naturally involved chasing a camp blond villain, dodging explosive charges and nearly getting squished by a falling train, but hey, we’ve all had those tough-commute days. Tom Huddleston
Read our other London top tens.