6 Great Films Shot in Cornwall and Devon

To celebrate the forthcoming Oscars, we have collected 6 great films that have made the most of the Westcountry, listed roughly in order of critical reception.  There are hundreds of other films that feature the area in a few scenes, but here are those that go that bit further.  Have we missed your favourite?  Let us know on social media or in the comments below.

‘Saving Grace’ (2005)

6 – Ladies in Lavender – (2004)

This civilised, gentle little romantic comedy showcases the talents of Maggie Smith and Judi Dench.  Two ageing sisters find a Polish violinist washed up in a local cove and are faced with some tough decisions when introducing him to the community.  It was largely filmed at Cadgwith, Rosudgeon, Penzance and Helston. 

Picture5 – When the Whales Came (1989)

This quiet, understated drama is based on the fantastic book by Michael Morpurgo.  During World War 1, two children help a strange pariah to protect the narwhal whales mysteriously washing up on the beaches.  Set and filmed in the Scilly Islands, in particular Bryher, and starring Helen Mirren and David Threlfall, this is a little gem that should interest children and adults alike.

4 – Saving Grace (2005)

An unchallenging but thoroughly enjoyable little comedy, in which an badly treated aristocratic lady decides to grow an illicit crop in her greenhouse.  Most notably perhaps, many of the characters (including Martin Clunes’ doctor) continued in the popular ITV series ‘Doc Martin’.  The film also shows off Boscastle and Trebarwith, two attractive coastal villages nearby, and Brenda Blethyn is fantastic.   


Picture3 – War Horse (2011)

Director Steven Spielberg said “I have never before, in my long, eclectic career, been gifted with such an abundance of natural beauty as I experienced filming War Horse.”  The second film on this list that is based on a Morpurgo book (who often set his stories in the South West), the film follows a friendship between a young man and his horse, through the horrors of World War 1.  The early scenes of the film are crammed with beautiful Dartmoor vistas.  The Narracott farmhouse is actually Ditsworthy Warren, a derelict cottage a couple of miles from Sheepstor on the south- west edge of Dartmoor – and although it’s on private property it can be seen from miles around.  Slightly north of that location is Burrator Reservoir, where Albie races Joey against the motor car. 

2 – The Witches (1990)
It’s hard to believe that this film has now been delighting and terrifying children for over 25 years.  Based on the well-loved Roald Dahl book, the film follows a boy and his grandmother in their attempts to stop a coven of witches turning the country’s children into mice.  With wonderful puppetry from Jim Henson, and great performances, it’s an enjoyable ride for parents and children alike.  Although little is made of the Cornish landscapes, most of the film is shot in the impressive redbrick Headland Hotel at Newquay.



1 – Sense & Sensibility (1995)

A must for Jane Austen fans, the stunning 1995 film adaptation of Sense and Sensibility takes top spot for us, starring Emma Thompson and Hugh Grant.  The popular film made use of several locations in Devon:  Saltram House in Plympton stood in for the film’s Norland Park house, while Mr Willoughby’s Estate was in fact Compton Castle; St Mary’s Church in Berry Pomeroy was the location of the wedding between Brandon and Marianne.  Nominated for 7 Oscars, and won one for best screenplay.  Interestingly enough, the serialised version of Sense & Sensibility was also filmed in the county, mostly at Hartland Abbey near us.

Picture (Dis)Honourable mention – Straw Dogs (1971)It has a real cult following, but despite being set and filmed in Cornwall, Straw Dogs is not a film we can easily recommend.  At times it is unbearable to watch – its depictions of violence (and worse) are some of the most controversial scenes in any mainstream film and resulted in it being banned for nearly 15 years in the UK.  Furthermore, its depictions of Cornish people and the local landscape play upon the silly ‘hostile backwater’ stereotype.  However, many critics still see it as an important and compelling piece of landmark cinema, and for film buffs it remains a challenging and fascinating work.  Antagonistic director Sam Peckinpah (The Wild Bunch) secured the services of Dustin Hoffman part 4 years after The Graduate.  Nominated for an Oscar, but distinctly not for the faint hearted.