TV & Showbiz

Five quintessentially Manchester films you need to watch

Whether you’re new here or just love reminding yourself of how wonderful Manc culture is, this handful of films paints a pretty good broad strokes picture.

Danny Jones Danny Jones - 8th April 2024

The world of Manchester film might be quite a relatively small one in the grand scheme of British and global cinema but, as with our world-famous music, there’s something to be said for how we depict the way of life around here.

Be it putting a positive shine on the ‘grim up North’ stereotype, rightly repping our sporting or musical heritage or celebrating the cultural heroes that have come from these parts, we have all the time in the world for Manc cinema and think it deserves shouting about more.

So, rather than waiting for others to pull their finger out, in the words of Thanos: “I’ll do it myself” – well, we will, but you catch my (our) drift.

Without further ado, here are five classic Manc films that you need to see if you haven’t already.

Five must-watch films about Manchester

1. 24 Hour Party People

First off, why not start with none other than a tribute to Mr Manchester himself, Tony Wilson? Made back in 2002, it’s quite mad how bang on and familiar this film still feels today and it’s a perfect dose of nostalgia for those who were around during this time, plus plenty of chuckles to go along with it.


Directed by Michael Winterbottom and starring legendary local actor Steve Coogan as the iconic presenter, Factory Records owner, nightclub manager and music mogul, the comedic dramatisation of the Manc music community from 1976 to 1992 does just as much toying with caricatures as it does dive into the origins of the Madchester scene and beyond.

A quintessentially Manchester film and cast.

2. Looking For Eric

Next up is a cult favourite among not just Manchester United fans and football lovers in general but people all over Europe, especially here in Britain and with our French cousins, for obvious reasons. I mean, red or not, who doesn’t love Eric Cantona?


Written and directed by veteran Ken Loach and starring Salford-born screen veteran Steve Evets (Brassic, Wuthering Hearts, Pirates of the Caribbean), it revolves around a Manc postman living through whose life falls apart before visions of the footballing hero help him try and get in back on track.

Eric ‘the King’s acting at its finest.

3. East is East

From one working-class story to another which also sheds a spotlight on the South Asian experience in 1970s Greater Manchester, beloved British comedy East is East is another story full of emotion, social commentary and the UK’s relationship with race.

Centring around a Romeo and Juliet-esque multi-cultural romance, the 1999 classic always pulls at our heartstrings and is, at its core, about the universally binding theme of family. Semi-autobiographical and adapted from Ayub Khan-Din’s original play of the same name, it’s a belter.

Still such a touching story and one of the most iconic Manchester films of all time.

4. Control

Back to the music side of things, we can’t remember many more gripping Manchester-centric films than 2007’s Control, all about the life Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis. Heartbreaking and brilliant.

Compellingly portrayed by Sam Riley, who himself was part of the short-lived Noughties band 10,000 Things, and lovingly brought to life by Dutch photographer and director Anton Coribjn – himself a huge fan of the seminal Manchester four-piece. It won a total of 31 awards when it released and it’s no wonder.

Find us someone who doesn’t rate this film and call them and you a liar.

5. There’s Only One Jimmy Grimble

Our fifth and final Manchester film pick is the one and only Jimmy Grimble – and as we all know, there’s only one. A staple movie for most Manc kids growing up in the ’90s and 2000s, football fan or not, everyone loves an underdog story – especially when the surroundings look so familiar.

Without spoiling too much, the 2000 film revolves around a young boy who finds a very special pair of boots and his future changes forever. One for the Blues (if you know, you know) and even this early clip alone still gives us chills to this day:

Childhood memories just come flooding back.

Honourable mentions

Now, obviously, there are more than just five films related to Manchester and it was hard to little down to just a handful, so we’ve kind of cheated and given you a few more in case you get through the list dead quick or having simply watched most of these far too many times already.



A bit of a sharp mood change for sure but the 2018 dramatisation of Peterloo, one of the most important moments in this region’s heritage, it’s a local history lesson that most people have skipped and for those who have only a cursory knowledge of the massacre, it’s a pretty eye-opening watch.

Spike Island

While Spike Island itself is Widness, we couldn’t not give a shout-out to a film all about The Stone Roses and their infamous 1990 concert. In truth, we’re not going to pretend this is a five-star flick, some of the acting gets pretty sketchy and Emilia Clarke’s attempt at a Northern accent is best not spoken, but we’ve still got a soft spot for the moment in Manc pop culture consciousness it tries to capture.

A Kind of Loving

Last but not least, a lesser-known one to most for sure but A Kind of Loving is one of those your mum and dad or grandparents tell you about and you never quite see what they were on about until you watch it. Another no-nonsense kitchen sink drama filled with normal people, this 1960s feature film is shot all over the tne boroughs, with glimpses of Miles Platting, Clayton, Beswick, Radcliffe and more.

Turns out the older generation love it for a reason. Give it a go.

Lovingly restored for modern audiences too.

Read more:

For all the latest news, events and goings on in Greater Manchester, subscribe to The Manc newsletter HERE.

Featured Images — Film 4/Momentum Pictures