Rewatching it now, it's easy to see why.
25 British Films So Brilliant, They’ll Make You Forget About Hollywood
Anthony Dod Mantle's gorgeous cinematography makes India its very own, and Jamal Patel and Latika Pinto deliver the sweetest romantic moments seen in cinemas this century — including that glorious dance sequence during the credits. Some critics proclaimed it "feel-good" but with the persistent darkness throughout child slavery, battery-aided interrogation, drug-dealing and violence, anyone?
Still, it remains a stunning, Capra-esque Hollywood melodrama that blew the world away, and reminded everyone what a fantastic director Danny Boyle can be — as if that were in doubt. Another Ken Loach slice of unflinchingly-real social examination, another masterpiece that the masses probably won't have seen.
Again focusing on poverty-stricken individuals trapped in the system, My Name Is Joe follows Peter Mullan 's reformed, alcoholic nutter Joe who coaches the local football team in Glasgow's mean streets while trying to avoid the bottle and any bother. Affable, haunted and more sympathetic than Rocky, it's a stunning tour-de-force from Scot-scene regular Mullan, completely deserving of the Best Actor award it won him at Cannes.
Bleak and tragic yet somehow hopeful, many will wish for a less downbeat finale, but such is Loach's commitment to realism. And you rarely see endings that brave in blockbuster territory. This was the film that beat Saving Private Ryan to the Best Picture Oscar, probably because it's fizzier and more frivolous than Spielberg's effort, which the Academy occasionally responds to.
As biopics go, it's high on invention and low on fact, but it's also a delightfully witty literary in-joke, reimagining Shakespeare's life as, well, a Shakespearean comedy of errors. Tom Stoppard's script doctoring left the screenplay littered with in-jokes and direct lifts from the Bard's work, while a game cast of RSC stalwarts like Judi Dench so good as Elizabeth I that her cameo landed her an Oscar and American upstarts like then-ingenue Paltrow and Ben Affleck threw themselves into the caper.
Mixing tragedy and comedy, it may not - quite - be high art, but it's immense fun. The movement towards social realism in British films of the s wasn't merely confined to the present day; this Tony Richardson effort showed that it could be applied to period films too, and bawdy literary adaptations at that. Albert Finney was at his cocky, charming best as the young rapscallion of the title, raised a bastard by a kindly nobleman but denied his true love by his low birth.
Instead, he embarks on a series of love affairs, dogged by a jealous rival, until everything finally comes together at the very last minute. It's meticulously researched and constructed, but all done with such a breezy insouciance and flair, the characters even interacting with the camera and riffing on film style that silent movie opening, for instance , that it feels both thoroughly modern even now and very '60s, winning a clutch of Academy Awards for its trouble. John Schlesinger's follow-up to the Oscar-winning Midnight Cowboy is the most personal film of the filmmaker's career.
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The first film to depict a non judgemental portrait of a homosexual character in a lead role, Sunday Bloody Sunday is an exquisitely explored menage a trois between Peter Finch's gay Jewish doctor, Glenda Jackson's career counselor and the sculptor Murray Head — he of One Night In Bangkok fame whom the couple both love.
This isn't a film about sexuality although Finch and Head's affectionate kiss caused a stir at the time ; it's a film about the minutiae of complex relationships realised through a trio of great performances.
Also keep your eyes peeled for a year-old Daniel Day-Lewis in the minor role as a vandal. The third and still the best of the Potter films, this was the one where things got magical. He's also helped by the fact that this is maybe the best of the books, upping the stakes more significantly than any other single instalment, introducing a welcome element of ambiguity to Hogwarts' hallowed halls with the development that an escaped prisoner may be responsible for the deaths of Harry's parents or, then again, not and that the cool new teacher may hide dangerous secrets.
The films may get progressively darker, but this one had just the right mix of shadows and light. Before presided over Ealing Studios' golden age, Michael Balcon is best remembered for giving a talented East London filmmaker a leg-up in the tough-as-knuckles British film industry. That man? Alfred Hitchcock. He turned out early potboilers for Balcon's Gainsborough Pictures in the '20s before moving across London with Balcon to Lime Grove Studios, the home of this classic romp.
The 39 Steps is a compendium of classic Hitchcock trademarks, from Robert Donat's 'wrong man' to a sinister MacGuffin and a Hitch cameo upset that'd make mortal enemies of the Keep Britain Tidy campaign. Witness, too, the chemistry he sparks between his romantic leads — the feisty pairing of Donat and Carroll squabble their way across the Scottish Highlands and into each other's arms — and the ever-building paranoia as that spy ring does its nefarious work.
The identity of those spies is never specified, but if they're not carrying travel editions of Mein Kampf , you can melt our faces. We hoped and prayed that Aardman's stop-motion magicians could find a way to turn our claymation heroes into movie stars. Could they really sustain the wit and vibrancy of Wigan's delightful duo for a whole hour and a half?
Wouldn't Wallace overdose on cheese along the way? We needn't have worried. The sparkling Curse Of The Were-Rabbit positively brims with ideas and energy, dazzling movie fans with sly references to everything from Hammer horrors and The Incredible Hulk to King Kong and Top Gun , and bounds along like a hound in a hurry. The plot, the part we foolishly thought might let it down, pitches the famously taciturn Dogwarts' alumnus and his Wensleydale-chomping owner Sallis against the dastardly Victor Quartermaine Fiennes , taking mutating bunnies, prize-winning marrows and the posh-as-biscuits Lady Tottington Bonham Carter along for the ride.
In short, it's the most marvellously English animation there is. Doing for the buddy-cop actioner what they did for the zombie movie with Shaun Of The Dead , Spaced 's creative trio of Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and director Edgar Wright made it two-for-two on the big screen. It's initially a tad jarring to see Pegg as the straight man, but his natural chemistry with long-time real-life pal Frost remains endearing as ever. When he wasn't working his devilish charm on Elizabeth Taylor, hanging out in bars with Peter O'Toole and Richard Harris or hunting sharks with his bare hands, Richard Burton was also a magnificent actor.
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Here's early proof. Burton is very near his best in Tony Richardson's melodrama as Jimmy Porter, a jazz man stuck down the kind of dead end that's filled with British New Wave rebels.
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When he seethes "I have no public school scruples about hitting girls" at the sly Helena Claire Bloom , you know it's no empty threat. He's Steetcar 's Stanley Kowalski on three pints of bitter; the closest thing s Derby has to its own volcano. As claustrophobic and uncomfortable as the John Osborne stage play on which it's based, it was the first salvo in British cinema's class war. Here's a Mike Leigh film even for people who don't like Mike Leigh films, the director's ultra-naturalistic style softened by the period setting and enhanced by the heightened emotions of its characters.
There's not a kitchen sink in sight as Gilbert Broadbent and Sullivan Corduner collaborate to create their Japan-inspired comic opera The Mikado, surrounded by performers who each have their own neuroses and crises and who, incidentally, do their own singing to boot. Broadbent and Corduner are a wonderfully mismatched but mutually admiring pair: one a solid family man, the other a whore-loving drug addict.
The Wicker Man isn't scary in a conventional manner and, arguably, is more of a Gothic mystery than a horror movie, but you'd be hard-pushed to find a more disturbing and horrific film experience.
The 100 best British films
Certainly one of the most chilling British movies ever created, there's something indefinably unsettling about Robin Hardy's strangely seductive cult chiller from the moment Edward Woodward sets foot on the remote Scottish island. While his buttoned-up Christian copper from the mainland searches for a supposedly missing girl, this strange place hauntingly evolves from a small town of eccentric locals to a paranoid-flavoured asylum with no way out.
In the lead, Woodward has never been better except perhaps in The Equaliser , while nobody does sinister menace quite like Christopher Lee and his burning eyes. If Anthony Minghella's death robbed British cinema of one of its most dazzling voices, this heartrending wartime romance stands as a fitting testament to his talent. A Best Picture winner, it's a perfectly judged adaptation of Michael Ondaatje's novel, filled with tenderness and longing. As the North African sun beats down on Ralph Fiennes' enigmatic Count Laszlo, hideously burnt in his crashed biplane, all other considerations strip away but one: his fierce passion for the woman he loves.
Part of its success is down to the stellar crew the Oscar-winning Minghella assembled. Walter Murch's editing another Oscar winner switches from the drama from North Africa to Italy's shell-pocked byways, while John Seale's photography yup, you guessed it gives us one of the best adverts for Tuscany committed to celluloid. If you can watch this film and not want to go straight there and start defusing bombs, you've been watching a different movie.
The Archers' critically-acclaimed gothic melodrama sees Deborah Kerr play Sister Clodagh, a young nun sent with four other sisters to establish a convent in an abandoned Himalayan palace.
At this point, things start to go wrong. Very wrong. Like, nun-going-crazy-with-jealousy-and-putting-on-unnunly-amounts-of-eyeliner wrong. Essentially a psychological drama, Black Narcissus 's emotional resonance in a nun-deprived modern world may be somewhat lessened, but there's no denying its influence amongst modern directors. Scorsese, for one, cites it as one of his favourite films.
Then there's the striking cinematography from Jack Cardiff, a true great of British cinema. The gleaming photography is especially astonishing when you consider that, despite being set in Darjeeling, the film was almost entirely shot at Pinewood Studios. It's no wonder then that Cardiff and art director Alfred Junge both won Oscars for their work.
It remains one of the finest Technicolor productions of all time. We're all familiar with Sir Ben Kingsley, right?
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Small chap, played Gandhi , rather refined and well-spoken. Well, not anymore. In this twist on the gangster movie, he's the psychotic gang boss Don Logan calling the happily retired Gary Dove Ray Winstone back to London from one last job. Creepily magnetic when he's still, absolutely bloody terrifying when he starts spitting out profanities and acting out, it's a performance that will convince you that this man could cow even the hulking Winstone into obedience.
Admittedly, the one-last-job hook has been done before, but the characterization is so fresh and surprising here — and the Costa del Sol setting such a nice change from the usual gloomy skies — that it feels very much like its own beast. The problem with adapting Charles Dickens novels for the screen is that he was, essentially, paid by the word.
The resulting sprawling epics don't make for the sort of lean, muscular narrative that lends itself naturally to film. But what's great about this version of his rags-to-riches fable is that Lean and his fellow scriptwriters managed to find a central story — Pip's Mills love of Estella Hobson — to hang the film around, while still leaving enough space for the more memorable supporting characters Hunt's Miss Havisham, Francis L. The black-and-white photography is gorgeous, some of David Lean 's pre-colour best, and the story sufficiently engrossing that you'll be able to overlook the gigantic top hats.
If you're a Bowie fan hunting for another film starring Ziggy Stardust, this is not the movie you're looking for.