Top 10 Films Portraying The Life Of Travelling Communities

To celebrate the release of Adam Smith’s compelling thriller Trespass Against Us which looks at a family of Travellers in Gloucestershire, we have compiled a list of the Top 10 cinematic portrayals of Travellers.

10. Sky West And Crooked (Mills, 1966)

Sir John Mills’s only directorial effort, Sky West And Crooked (AKA Gypsy Girl), looks at the turbulent life of a young girl (Hayley Mills) who starts burying animals as part of a ritual, disturbing the townsfolk. She becomes involved with a handsome Gypsy boy (Ian McShane), giving a new look at young romance within a sub-culture.

9. Aferim! (Jude, 2015)

Winner of the Best Director award at 2015’s Berlin International Film Festival, Aferim! tells the story of a 19th century Romanian policeman who is hired to find a Gypsy slave who has fled from his estate. The film highlights how prevalent Gypsy slavery was centuries ago, and is presented with beautiful cinematography and performances.

8. Near Dark (Bigelow, 1987)

Bill Paxton, Film actor and director, Top 10 FilmsKathryn Bigelow’s ultra-cool, ultra-violent vampire Western may not be specifically about Gypsies, but it does spotlight a travelling group of vampires who live and journey across the country in trailers. It’s more of an American take on the Gypsy, but certainly gave an alternate representation of that type of group.

7. The Way (Estevez, 2010)

During Martin Sheen and co’s Camino de Santiago walk, they have an unpleasant altercation with a Gypsy group. A young boy steals Sheen’s bag, and leads them off-road and eventually down a path of self-discovery. The boy’s father – in a more positive light – helps Sheen and his band of hikers, in what is one of the most touching scenes in the film.

6. Drag Me To Hell (Raimi, 2009)

The Gypsy Curse is such a well-known phrase, that Drag Me To Hell’s villainous Gypsy woman works so well as a recognisable figure of scorn and scares. Sam Raimi’s gleefully dark film brings the destruction and dread of the Gypsy curse to full force with Drag Me To Hell.

5. Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows (Ritchie, 2011)

Guy Ritchie’s brash, fun approach to the character of Sherlock Holmes showed us a different side to the famed detective. In the sequel to the box-office smash, Holmes and Watson find themselves up against Moriarty, using the helping hand of a Gypsy, Simza (played by Noomi Rapace). There is also a hidden gem in the film, where Watson and Simza disguise themselves as anarchists part of the “Sept Grenouilles” (The 7 Frogs) – funny because Gypsies hate frogs. Screenwriters Michele and Kieran Mulroney certainly did their research there.

4. Chocolat (Hallström, 2000)

The film that cemented Johnny Depp as a sex symbol, Chocolat saw him as a beautiful Gypsy who seduces Juliette Binoche’s chocolatier. The mysterious aspect of the character and Depp’s approach to Roux benevolently reflected the enigmatic element of a Gypsy.

3. Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (Charles, 2006)

Sacha Baron Cohen’s brilliant comedy, that poked fun at dozens of people, also focused on the Gypsy people, taking the mick out of the mystic Gypsy persona. Although, the town of Glod, Romania, where they filmed the Gypsy scenes, were less enthused about the representation.

2. The Hunchback Of Notre Dame (Trousdale / Wise, 1996)

One of the darkest Disney movies out there, The Hunchback Of Notre Dame held few punches with presenting the gritty urban landscape of 15th Century Paris. From the deformed protagonist, to the mother-murdering villain, and a very sexualised Gypsy dancer, this was a different Disney film. The latter’s representation is heroic and fun, giving the lead character Quasimodo a great supporting partner. The beautiful colours and attractive name (Esmeralda) made the Gypsy something many audiences found to be compelling.

1. Snatch (Ritchie, 2000)

Brad Pitt as an Irish “pikey” wasn’t something many would have expected the Hollywood star to pull out of the bag, but Pitt’s Irish boxer Mickey is one of the best parts of this crime comedy. The Travelling band are pivotal to the plot here, and whilst seeming quite unscrupulous, they also get the biggest laughs, and the best scenes – take away what you will, there was certainly a draw to Mickey and his merry men.

Trespass Against Us is released in cinemas March 3. You can watch the trailer here:

Written and compiled by Piers McCarthy

About the Author
Piers McCarthy runs the website Diegesis Digest which he calls “another Ku-brick in the wall of film blogging”. From the high-brow history to the contemporary cavalcade in movies, and the eclectic episodes of the best TV around, Diegesis Digest is a site dedicated to any thought on film and television.

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  1. Dale Reply

    Nice list. Drag Me To Hell is Raimi at his best.

  2. Dan Grant Reply

    Really interesting piece. Near Dark is one of my faves and I’m glad to see Chocolat on here. I’ve always wanted to check out The Way, so thanks for mentioning it.

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