Ok, so weve had another albeit much lower key royal wedding this weekend, as the Queens granddaughter Zara Phillips wed her Rugby captain boyfriend Mike Tindallso Im feeling all patriotic again and want to let you know what I believe are the 10 Greatest British films of all time! Us Brits produce a diverse range of films these days, covering anything from psychological horror to mushy romantic comedies via gripping wartime thrillers and tense emotional dramas. And by George, we do it blooming well at times! So in honour of celebrating all that is spiffing about this glorious nation of ours, heres what I consider to be the 10 greatest British films of all time
10. THE LAVENDER HILL MOB (1951)
Combining hilarious madcap comedy with thrills and suspense aplenty, this Ealing film is exactly what comedy is about. One of the films that helped give the studio a name for itself, it is resplendent with timeless humour and enough plot twists and turns to keep modern day audiences engaged. Alec Guinness
and Stanley Holloway
are at their comic best in roles that allow them to display a splendid on screen chemistry. With expressive and impressive camerawork from director Charles Crichton
, the Eiffel Tower scene and London car chase remain awe-inspiring to this day. With a brand new Bluray and DVD release out now, theres never been a better time to check out or revisit this British comedy classic!
09. LOVE ACTUALLY (2004)
This sentimental romantic comedy has pretty much become synonymous with Christmas, the nostalgic period within which the narrative is set. Combining multiple storylines with an array of likeable characters its feel good cinema at its best. Stand out performances belong to Emma Thompson
, Liam Neeson
and (surprisingly?) the extremely lovable Martine McCucheon
! Each make their characters entirely relatable to viewers, in a way that draws you into their lives and makes you care about them. The entire cast are excellent within their given roles, including some fine comical turns from Joanna Page, Martin Short
and even Hugh Grant
as the PM. If theres one thing that we Brits always do better than our pals across the pond, its ensemble cast productions. Whilst the Yanks have produced some captivating films that include multiple characters and narratives, with large-scale flops such as Valentines Day (2010) also under their belts, it seems the ensemble romcom is very much our genre!
08. SATURDAY NIGHT AND SUNDAY MORNING (1960)
As the social tides and moral attitudes of Britain changed with the dawning of a new decade, so did British cinema. The kitchen sink drama was born in 1960, which featured a more realistic depiction of Britain and included lower class characters with regional accents (rather than the very clipped and formal BBC British that successful actors adopted) and suffering the woes of everyday life such as poverty, unemployment, violent relationships and unwanted pregnancy things that they majority of cinemagoers in 60s Britain could somehow relate to.Stripped of the glamour of Hollywood productions from the time, the genre proved popular and Saturday Night and Sunday Morning
is a prime example. Albert Finney
is exceptional as the lovable rogue Arthur Seaton who finds himself getting his fling of the moment Brenda (Rachel Roberts
) up the duff. Facing the problems of Brenda being married and the illegality of abortion, Arthur really is in a jam. A very frank and honest film, the issues of sexual freedom and abortion are not glossed over, giving viewers a more authentic look at the nation during the 60s era. Bleak and gritty, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning is a tense drama that everybody should seek out, as well as being representative of this new wave of British cinema.
07. A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH (1946)
Similar to the US, Britain churned out a number high profile war films both during and after the Second World War in an attempt to build morale throughout the conflict and to keep spirits high after the devastation was felt afterwards. A Matter of Life and Death
is a unique production in this canon of films, being full of enough sentimentality and nostalgia to give Its a Wonderful Life a run for its money as the ultimate contemplative film! David Niven
is full of his usual charm and is a joy to watch as British aviator Peter Carter, who must convince a celestial court that his time on Earth should not be over. From the opening sequence to the end credits, the film will leave viewers in awe at its sheer beauty. Directors Michael Powell
and Emeric Pressburger
have created an incredibly invigorating and though-provoking film that remains engrossing to this day. Visually inventive and narratively solid, this is simply post war British cinema at its absolute best.
06. TRAINSPOTTING (1996)
This harrowing tale of drug abuse is a graphic and disturbing look at a social problem that exploded during the 1990s. Attempting to realistically capture a slice of the Edinburgh drug scene, director Danny Boyle takes an unprejudiced look at addiction and depicts both the immense pleasure and gut-wrenchingly dire lows that come with it. Catapulting Ewan McGreggor into superstardom, his performance of Renton the addict wishing to come clean despite the lure and coercion from friends to stay on the scene is nothing short of exceptional. Using impressive visual effects to capture tripping out on screen, Boyle creates a film that has a huge impact on viewers that will never be forgotten. Demonstrating that the UK film industry was capable of making films outside of the usual romcom or other comedy films that we increasingly became
05. GOLDFINGER (1964)
With its Aston Martins, stiff language and dry carry on humour Goldfinger
is a quintessentially English film. It is also features a countless amount of comically absurd lines and set-pieces which are often very cringe-worthy and which give the impression at times that the film is just always chasing after the next gag. That being said, the movie runs at a breathneck pace throughout, is terrifically entertaining and has an irresistible dramatic energy which absorbs you fully into the films whacky arena. To the films credit the action sequences are very well presented with a fantastic score that makes a true art form out of maximising the tension and excitement on screen. And even the films dated and sillier moments still remain as likeable as the charming protagonist himself. Often regarded as the film which helped to transform the Bond Movies into their own genre and no Top 10 list of British films could get away with not including Bond!
04. THE WICKER MAN (1973)
This deeply affecting horror film is one of the British greats! Superior in my opinion to the spectacular and often celebrated Dont Look Now (also 1973), The Wicker Man
taps into the very roots of our fears whilst simultaneously ripping the fundamental laws of cinema from under our feet. The shocking climactic sequence is something that is rarely seen in cinema, leaving viewers questioning what has actually just happened! Refusing to give us a resolute ending or a resolution of any kind, in fact it simply takes everything we are familiar with in cinema and turns it on its head With brilliant performances from the likes of Christopher Lee
and Edward Woodward
, The Wicker Man will certainly stay with audiences forever. However, no matter how many viewings you indulge in, the finale never fails to shock, abhor and remain one of the most powerful moments within cinema in general, not just British film.
03. PEEPING TOM (1960)
Released only a few short months before Alfred Hitchcocks smash hit horror Psycho, Peeping Tom
has become a cult classic that has always found itself in the shadow of Hitchs masterpiece. However, despite this, Michael Powells
disturbing film takes an equally in depth look at a socially and psychologically unhinged monster and builds a similarly terrifying portrait. Employing gritty, unsettling handheld camera shots to depict the murder scenes, Peeping Tom is an experiment in realistic horror that could have easily occurred within any town in Britain. Powell goes to great lengths to build suspense and nerve shattering tension, but is also intent on creating sympathy for antagonist, Mark Lewis (Carl Boehm
). Boehm is incredible in the title role, intuitively creating a character that women want to nurture due to his outwardly shy and timid nature, only to find that he is in fact a predator who finds sexual gratification in recording the murders of attractive young women. Overall, the film is an unnerving watch, but viewers will come away finding theyre questioning the voyeuristic, almost perverted nature of watching the very pastime they have just been enjoying
02. BRIEF ENCOUNTER (1946)
This very British look at an extramarital love affair that is embarked upon at a train station screams of the moralistic view held by the nation in the post-war UK. The beautifully restrained performances from lead actors Celia Johnson
and Trevor Howard
mimic the complex dilemma their characters find themselves in. Johnsons Laura is tempted to commit adultery, but her strong moral compass prevents her from allowing herself to betray her husband. The film may sound all doom and gloom, but in actuality it is a very real representation of ordinary love. Theres no hyperbolic fantasy affair or overly dramatic plot points, instead, Brief Encounter is the story of two ordinary people who fall deeply in love when their home situations and society forbids them from doing so. Based on Noel Cowards stage play, the film possesses all of the wit, charm and heartbreak that he captures within his original material. It is virtually impossible not to moved by the narrative or Johnson and Howards performances, whilst proving to audiences that the drama of tales such as Romeo & Juliet are not the only fictional representations of realistic love.
01. THE THIRD MAN (1949)
Film noir had always been a very American genre, but when British director Carol Reed
adapted the Graham Greene
novel of The Third Man
, us Brits showed that we were equally capable of achieving the gritty aesthetic and compelling narrative associated with the genre. In fact Reed created a film that almost perfectly encapsulates the entire style and ethos of the noir, with its engaging and suspenseful plot, expressive and complex camera angles and note-perfect performances. Orson Welles
, Joseph Cotton
and Alida Valli
all give incredible performances, slotting into their allotted roles seamlessly. The Third Man may not display a British ethos in the way that Brief Encounter does, or tackle a social issue that affects the nation as Trainspotting does, but theres still something uniquely British about this stab at the film noir film. Infinitely more refined than much of Hollywoods noir output, The Third Man does not appear as a cheap crime movie B-picture, but a work of art. Not only is it the ultimate British film, its a classic of cinema in general and a film that everybody should see! This list tries to take into account the vast variety of genres that British filmmakers have worked within, so in this attempt some films that I would have also liked to include were skipped in the name of diversity! Had I been compiling a Top 100, the following would certainly have featured: THE 39 STEPS (1935) THE RED SHOES (1948) THE INNOCENTS (1961) A TASTE OF HONEY (1961) ALFIE (1966) CARRY ON CAMPING (1969) GET CARTER (1971) FRENZY (1972) DONT LOOK NOW (1973) WITHNAIL AND I (1987) THE CRYING GAME (1992) SHAUN OF THE DEAD (2004)