The 12 Best British Seaside Movies Set on the Beach or Coast

The British Isles have some amazing coastlines. These British movies have settings that highlight the best UK beaches and coasts.
The 12 Best British Seaside Movies Set on the Beach or Coast

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Ah, the sea. It might not be all suntans and cocktails, especially when you're in the British Isles, but there's something uniquely charming about UK beaches and its coastlines.

From quaint islands to traditional fishing villages, here are the best British movies set on the beach or coast that offer a slice of the classic British seaside holiday.

12. Fisherman's Friends (2019)

Directed by Chris Foggin

Starring Daniel Mays, James Purefoy, David Hayman

Comedy, Drama, Music (1h 52m)

7.0 on IMDb69% on RT

Big Hollywood studios aren't known for signing on small British a capella choirs, but believe it or not, it actually happened in this instance—Fisherman's Friends is based on a true story. (Even if, technically speaking, their contract was originally intended as a prank.)

The Cornish band from Port Isaac are exactly what they say on the tin: a bunch of fisherman friends who sing sea shanties together.

Coarsened by ocean salt and early dawns, most of the members are averse to the American world of fame and fortune, but their local popularity (and a grumpy London exec) teach the old dogs some new tricks.

11. The Entertainer (1960)

Directed by Tony Richardson

Starring Laurence Olivier, Brenda de Banzie, Roger Livesey

Drama (1h 36m)

7.1 on IMDb79% on RT

Kitchen sink dramas were all the rage in 1950s Britain. They were tonally drab slices of domestic realism, usually featuring working-class characters and "angry young men" (a nickname for cynical English writers during the decade).

One of these angry men was John Osborne, who wrote The Entertainer. Laurence Olivier—the 20th century equivalent of Kenneth Branagh—starred in both the stage and cinema versions as Archie Rice.

The British music hall era coincided with the British seaside boom (think Punch and Judy, rock candy, and bandstands). By the following century, both had dwindled, leaving Archie to perform to thinning crowds at a Lancashire seaside resort.

10. Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging (2008)

Directed by Gurinder Chadha

Starring Georgia Groome, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Karen Taylor

Comedy, Drama, Romance (1h 40m)

6.3 on IMDb73% on RT

The title Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging sums up everything about this film: the tone, the subject matter, and the age bracket.

Whereas American cinema in the 2000s had the likes of Mean Girls and She's the Man, Britain had this sarcastic gem that was based on the YA novel by Louise Rennison.

Georgia Nicolson (played by Georgia Groome) navigates the world of push-up bras, crushes, and kissing lessons in her coastal hometown of Eastbourne, where the beach is the perfect first-date location.

Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging is a specific kind of throwback to being a teenage girl in Y2K England.

9. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (2018)

Directed by Mike Newell

Starring Lily James, Michiel Huisman, Glen Powell

Drama, Romance, War (2h 4m)

7.3 on IMDb81% on RT

Also called Guernsey for those who hate mouthfuls, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is a quintessential British charmer.

Directed by Mike Newell, the romance drama is bursting with cute cottages and sandy beaches just off the coast of Normandy. It's just a shame about the World War going on.

Set in the 1940s, a London-based author (played by Lily James) visits the island after exchanging letters with one of its residents.

Based on Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows' 2008 novel, Guernsey is perfect for any history lover.

8. What We Did on Our Holiday (2014)

Directed by Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin

Starring Rosamund Pike, David Tennant, Billy Connolly

Comedy, Drama (1h 35m)

6.9 on IMDb73% on RT

If you're wondering what a British family vacation looks like, look no further than What We Did on Our Holiday.

Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin's comedy is a funny, honest, and heartwarming look into everyday British life, inspired by the BBC sitcom Outnumbered.

David Tennant, Rosamund Pike, and Billy Connolly star as a family visiting the picturesque Scottish Highlands. Despite trying to leave their domestic troubles at home, the kids aren't exactly good at keeping secrets.

A sprinkling of dark themes gives What We Did On Our Holiday some depth, but it's otherwise an easy and witty watch.

7. Brighton Rock (1948)

Directed by John Boulting

Starring Richard Attenborough, Hermione Baddeley, William Hartnell

Crime, Drama, Noir (1h 32m)

7.3 on IMDb95% on RT

Brighton is one of the best seaside resorts in Britain, offering a bustling city center that's right beside the refreshing sea air.

Granted, Brighton Rock isn't exactly a sea breeze to watch, but it's still a great movie based on Graham Greene's 1938 novel.

John Boulting's gangster flick adaptation is a classic example of film noir, with shadowy characters moving around shadowed settings.

A baby-faced Richard Attenborough stars as the Brighton-based gangster Pinkie Brown, who murders a rival gang and becomes enveloped by guilt.

6. On Chesil Beach (2017)

Directed by Dominic Cooke

Starring Billy Howle, Saoirse Ronan, Andy Burse

Drama, Music, Romance (1h 50m)

6.3 on IMDb68% on RT

Florence (played by Saoirse Ronan) and Edward (played by Billy Howle) are two virgins who make a botch job of their first time together.

Set in the Swinging Sixties, On Chesil Beach centers on the two as they're supposed to be enjoying their seaside honeymoon together but are both anxious about their inevitable consummation.

Step onto the scenic coast of Dorset, where Dominic Cooke offers his quaint directorial debut. The delightful drama was adapted by Ian McEwan from his own novel, which was nominated for a Booker Prize.

5. Ammonite (2020)

Directed by Francis Lee

Starring Kate Winslet, Saoirse Ronan, Gemma Jones

Biography, Drama, History (1h 57m)

6.5 on IMDb69% on RT

Saoirse Ronan once again takes a dip into the chilly seas of Dorset, this time during the 1840s.

Inspired by the speculated romance between real-life paleontologists Mary Anning and Charlotte Murchison, Ammonite takes place on the vintage coast of Lyme Regis.

When a wealthy geologist visits Mary's little village store, she ends up tending to his sick wife who's depressed and frozen to the bone.

Francis Lee's romance drama is as passionate as it is stunning, telling a tender story of secret love.

4. Calvary (2014)

Directed by John Michael McDonagh

Starring Brendan Gleeson, Chris O'Dowd, Kelly Reilly

Crime, Drama, Mystery (1h 42m)

7.4 on IMDb89% on RT

Okay, we're cheating a little by including this Irish movie, but it's not far off! The beaches in Calvary are more like the stormy, gray shorelines of Britain than they are any other beaches in the world.

Brendan Gleeson stars alongside a sparse cast of famous British and Irish faces, all populating a parse west-coast Irish town. It's a place where the sea sprays feel biting and fresh rather than like a sunny vacation.

Father James is measured, calm, a little depressed, and far too smart for his little parish. But is he smart enough to figure out the killer's identity before it's too late?

3. About Time (2013)

Directed by Richard Curtis

Starring Domhnall Gleeson, Rachel McAdams, Bill Nighy

Comedy, Drama, Fantasy (2h 3m)

7.8 on IMDb70% on RT

About Time could easily have been a standard romantic comedy set along the sweeping cliffs of Cornwall. However, Richard Curtis added a little twist that made all the difference: time travel.

When Tim Lake (played by Domhnall Gleeson) turns 21, his father decides it's time to give him the big news: all the men in his family can travel back in time, but only to places they've been before.

About Time is a humorous and uplifting tale that's perfect for hopeless romantics. It also stars Rachel McAdams, Bill Nighy, Tom Hollander, and Margot Robbie, who all put in some fantastic performances.

2. Quadrophenia (1979)

Directed by Franc Roddam

Starring Phil Daniels, Leslie Ash, Phil Davis

Drama, Music (2h)

7.2 on IMDb100% on RT

Technically, half of Quadrophenia doesn't actually take place on the beach, but the most important part of it does!

A cult classic film that perfectly embodies the 1960s counterculture scene, Quadrophenia follows Jimmy Cooper's coming-of-age journey from London to Brighton.

Played by Phil Daniels, Jimmy is a Mod who's disillusioned by his boring life in London. The gang embarks on a scooter rally to the buzzing hub of Brighton, where a riot breaks out against the Rockers.

Loosely based on The Who's 1973 rock opera and directed by Franc Roddam, Quadrophenia is a debut of staggering influence.

1. Bait (2019)

Directed by Mark Jenkin

Starring Edward Rowe, Giles King, Chloe Endean

Drama (1h 29m)

7.1 on IMDb100% on RT

Bait definitely isn't a film for everyone, but it did achieve universal acclaim as one of the best indie films to come out of 2019.

Directed by Mark Jenkin, Bait takes place in an amiable little Cornish fishing village that's corrupted by poverty and gentrification.

Filmed on a vintage hand-cranked Bolex camera, the 16mm film is an art student's aesthetic dream. Hand-processed in black and white, Bait is a visual treat akin to Robert Eggers's The Lighthouse.