The most famous bridges in film and TV
More than just public infrastructure, bridges are monuments of the world’s towns and cities.
Instantly recognisable, we’ve come to appreciate these crossings as symbolic representations of significant locations and the progress of engineering. It’s unsurprising that their cultural impact is just as strong as their structural steelwork, with the most unique and important bridges featuring in art, literature, and film.
As a symbol of strength, power, engineering, and culture, bridges have a variety of purposes in film and TV. Whether they establish the setting or have more metaphorical use in representing characters crossing an emotional barrier as well as a river or valley, bridges play an important role in the film industry. Here, we explore five bridges that often star on our screens, and how it shapes their cultural impact.
Perhaps one of, if not the most famous bridge to appear in film, Brooklyn Bridge has been seen in and used as a set for a countless number of movies. There’s an establishing shot of Brooklyn Bridge in almost every movie set in New York City, from Sex in the City to Spider-Man, The French Connection, and Enchanted. There’s no escaping this colossal cable-stayed and suspension bridge!
Interestingly, it’s perhaps better known for its destruction in many science-fiction films such as Godzilla, I Am Legend, and Deep Impact. However, there’s no need to worry – the bridge still stands strong at 138 years old with no sign of a giant green lizard to tear it down.
Located in Inverness-shire, Scotland, the Glenfinnan Viaduct is a monumental symbol for many wizarding fans. Picture its 21 semi-circular concrete spans carrying the famous Jacobite Train through the hilly pastures of the Scottish Highlands.
The bridge features in four of the eight Harry Potter films, carrying the Hogwarts Express and the eponymous boy wizard to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The viaduct, which opened in 1901, plays a climatic role in the second feature where Harry hangs precariously from a flying car, narrowly escaping the 100ft drop from the viaduct’s impressive height. Glenfinnan Viaduct has since become a pilgrimage spot for many Muggle-born fans of the fantasy films and novels.
An impressive feat of engineering, the Transporter Bridge in Middlesbrough, England, uses a gondola to move pedestrians and vehicles across the River Tees. With a 49-metre clearance below, the bridge avoids affecting river navigation, essential for the region’s industrial economy. Its unique design and impressive engineering are perhaps why it is chosen as a key location for films and TV serials set in the North.
The Transporter Bridge features in Billy Elliot, carrying actors Jamie Bell and Julie Walters across over the river. The engineering history of the bridge is also appreciated in the cult classic comedy Auf Wiedersehen, Pet, reminding people of its regional and cultural importance. One character proudly declares: “The Middlesbrough Transporter Bridge. Designed by the Cleveland Bridge Engineering Company of Darlington.”
Spanning the River Thames, Westminster Road Bridge is used as the perfect establishing shot for any scene set in London. The 250-metre-long arch bridge provides the perfect foreground for the iconic palace of Westminster and the tower that houses Big Ben.
From Dalek invasions to zombie apocalypses, this bridge is often transformed into a film set to show London under siege. It features in the British horror film 28 Day Later, and in the Bond film, Spectre, as the setting for the final standoff between 007 and Blofeld.
Perhaps its green colour, used to represent the leather seats in the House of Commons, has an allegoric use in movies to show power turned on its head.
The Golden Gate Bridge
When you see the Golden Gate Bridge, you know you’re in San Francisco. The rust-red suspension bridge is a commanding monument against the Californian backdrop. It’s no surprise that this American symbol is used so often in film and TV.
Represented in animated form, the bridge takes centre stage in a grapple between a giant moth and a robot in Monsters vs. Aliens, where the cables (each made with 27,572 strands of wire) are used to tie up the menacing mechanoid.
In Rise of the Planet of the Apes, the bridge plays a significant plot point in the film. It becomes a border between the humans and intelligent apes, with their crossing becoming the pivotal moment in which the apes become dominant.
The Golden Gate Bridge has also featured in films such as 007’s A View to a Kill, X-Men: The Last Stand, and It Came from Beneath the Sea. A futuristic version is seen in Star Trek, projecting that the bridge will continue to be a symbol of great engineering even in the far future.
The Tyne Bridge
Spanning the River Tyne and appropriately named the Tyne Bridge, this local monument is more than a regional landmark in the North East of England. It’s also an established set for TV and movies. In 2021, British crime thriller Get Carter celebrated its 50th anniversary. Starring Michael Caine, the film utilised many local landmarks in this industrial heartland, including the Tyne Bridge.
Along Newcastle’s quayside, bridges were utilised for a number of scenes. Caine also vaults the High Level Bridge, while the Swing Bridge features prominently in the background. Bridges on the quayside also feature in a variety of productions in the Northern city, including crimefighting detective Vera and Purely Belter.
Whether showing the strength of human engineering or representing the culture of a region, bridges are symbols of communities and media. The appearance of bridges in film and TV demonstrates their significance in all of our lives.