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Dorset - classic movie locations

Updated on May 16, 2013
Imogen French profile image

Imogen is from West Dorset, in the UK. She works in publishing and writes mainly about the environment, gardening, and vegetarian food.

Dorset is a small but beautiful county on the south coast of England. Its dramatic scenery has for a long time inspired movie makers and directors, and provides a wonderful backdrop for a great selection of classic films.

Some of the following you would expect to have been shot on location in Dorset, particularly the Thomas Hardy adaptations, but there may be one or two surprises here too. Read on for a selection of the best.

Far from the Madding Crowd film poster
Far from the Madding Crowd film poster
Dorset countryside
Dorset countryside | Source

Far From the Madding Crowd

The classic 1967 film of Thomas Hardy's novel was directed by John Schlesinger with cinematography by Nicholas Roeg. It starred Julie Christie as the lady farmer Bathsheba Everdene, with Terence Stamp, Peter Finch and Alan Bates as her three potential suitors.

The film was shot mainly on location in rural Dorset, with exquisite cinematography showing off some of the best of the county, featuring scenes from Abbotsbury, Bere Regis, Blackmoor Vale, Dorchester, Durdle Door, Maiden Castle, Shaftsbury and Weymouth.

More Thomas Hardy films

The Scarlet Tunic, 1997, was shot almost entirely on location in and around West Dorset.

Various made for tv adaptations of Hardy's Tess of the D'Urbervilles have been filmed in and around Dorset, but the major Roman Polanski movie "Tess" was disappointingly all filmed in France.

The French Lieutenant's Woman

This film was adapted from the book of the same name by John Fowles, and was set in the town of Lyme Regis, where the author lived for several years.

With a screenplay by Harold Pinter, directed by Karel Reisz and starring Meryl Streep and Jeremy Irons, the film is a two-stranded story of both the novel, set in 19th century England, and of the (fictional) relationship in the present time, between the two actors while they are filming.

Meryl Streep is the French Lieutenant's woman - a young woman who takes a job as a lady's companion after being deserted by her lover. She suffers from severe melancholy and spends much of her spare time gazing out to sea from the Cobb (the harbour wall) at Lyme Regis, waiting for him to return. Jeremy Irons is the scientist, staying in the town to study the local fossils, who takes a personal interest in the young lady.

This could only have been filmed on location in Lyme Regis, the pretty harbour town on the south-west coast of Dorset, helping to give the film its evocative feel and setting the scene for another movie classic.

Lyme Regis Harbour, setting for "The French Lieutenant's Woman", and Jane Austen's "Persuasion"
Lyme Regis Harbour, setting for "The French Lieutenant's Woman", and Jane Austen's "Persuasion" | Source

Gulliver's Travels

The 1996 tv movie of Gulliver's Travels, was an all-star adaptation of the novel by Jonathan Swift, and starred Ted Danson as Gulliver with Mary Steenbergen as his wife.

The film features some of Dorset's most dramatic coastline between Bridport and Lyme Regis. When Gulliver awakes in Lilliput he is shown lying on the edge of a large cliff at West Bay, as shown in the photo below.

The golden sandstone cliffs at West Bay, Bridport
The golden sandstone cliffs at West Bay, Bridport | Source

Persuasion

The 1995 film adaptation of Jane Austen's Persuasion is filmed on location between Bath in Somerset, and Lyme Regis in Dorset. This film was directed by Roger Michell (who also directed Notting Hill) and starred Amanda Root and Ciaran Hinds.

In a famous scene from the film one of the ladies falls (accidentally on purpose) from the harbour wall at Lyme Regis, into the arms of her desired suitor, and the resulting injury means that she has to have an extended stay in the town.

It is beautifully filmed and is the best adaptation of this novel, which is a typical Jane Austen plot of romance, marriage opportunities and social climbing - all with a hint of satirical irony.

Tamara Drewe

The 2010 film Tamara Drewe is a modern day classic British comedy, and was based on the novel by Posy Simmonds.

Based in the fictional Dorset village of "Ewedown" it tells the story of a young woman returning to her childhood home after leaving and becoming a successful journalist. Her appearance in the village stirs up all sorts of feelings from the past and the present, and gives rise to an unexpected series of humorous, passionate and tragic consequences.

It is, of course filmed in the beautiful countryside of west Dorset, amongst the rural farmland and pretty villages.

It stars Gemma Arterton as Tamara, with a great British supporting cast, and was directed by Stephen Frears, best known for Dangerous Liaisons and his biopic The Queen.

View from Osmington Mills towards the Isle of Portland, Dorset
View from Osmington Mills towards the Isle of Portland, Dorset | Source

The Boat that Rocked

The Boat that Rocked (known as Pirate Radio in the US) was a 2007 British film by director Richard Curtis (Love Actually, Notting Hill etc.)

It was filmed in and around the Isle of Portland, near Weymouth, and tells the story of British Pirate radio in the 1960s. It is a light-hearted comedy, following the exploits of a group of young independent radio disc jockeys who broadcast their radio shows from a boat moored offshore to avoid licensing laws.

How many of these Dorset based movies have you seen?

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    • techygran profile image

      Cynthia 

      4 years ago from Vancouver Island, Canada

      Imogene, I felt quite nostalgic reading about these movies from my more vigorous past life... I seem to remember that an English woman I spoke to told me that "Far From the Madding Crowd" was filmed partly on her sister's farm. I love that old movie as well... I'm curious to know if Julie Christie still acts. I'll have to google that. Lovely shot of Lyme Regis harbour-- and well done!

    • Imogen French profile imageAUTHOR

      Imogen French 

      5 years ago from Southwest England

      Hey thanks, Reynold Jay. Glad you enjoyed it! They are currently casting for a new film version of Far from the Madding Crowd to be shot again on location in Dorset, and have been holding auditions in my town for locals to be extras. I love the old version, though, and find it hard to imagine being able to improve on that.

    • Reynold Jay profile image

      Reynold Jay 

      5 years ago from Saginaw, Michigan

      I'll never forget the settings in Far from the Maddening Crowd. I saw the movie the week it was released and catch it on cable from time to time. I remember the role of the impaired individual was important to the entire story and keep some of the plot lines in mind when I write novels. Now you have me intrigued with the Gulliver's Travels. I'll keep an eye open for it. I think I have seen the French Lieutenants' Woman however don't remember any of it. Your HUB makes me want to buy a ticket and get over there. Enjoyed your HUB a big bunch.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      5 years ago from The Caribbean

      I haven't seen many movies, so it's not really strange that I haven't seen any of these. They all seem so good! Dorset must be a real place to host such versatile settings. Thanks for this information.

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 

      5 years ago from New Delhi, India

      Wow! What a beautiful location!

      I have seen 'Far from the maddening crowd', 'Persuasion', 'Gulliver's travels.'

      Thanks for sharing the hub and pictures!

    • ytsenoh profile image

      Cathy 

      5 years ago from Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, Missouri

      Imogen, very nice and interesting. "The French Lieutenant's Woman" was one of my favorite movies and have seen at least twice. Now I know where it was filmed. Thank you. I loved the view of Streep on the pier in her black cape. Thanks for educating us on Dorset.

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