Today the BFI launches BFI Filmography, the world’s first complete and accurate living record of UK cinema. A treasure trove of new information, the BFI Filmography is an ever-expanding record that draws on credits from over 10,000 films, from the first UK film released in cinemas in 1911 through to present day, and charts the 250,000 cast and crew behind them.
BFI Filmography, the world’s first complete and accurate living record of UK cinema, is a treasure trove of new information. This organic record which continue to evolve and grow, draws on credits from over 10,000 films from the first UK film released in cinemas in 1911 through to present day.
There are 130 genres within the BFI Filmography, the largest of which is drama with 3,710 films. Additionally, the numbers reveal that when it comes to film, laughter is nearly four times more popular with filmmakers than love, with 2,347 comedy films versus 625 romance films. More films are made about war than any other subject (582 films) and only 146 have sex as a theme. The most featured characters are Queen Victoria and James Bond who appear in 25 films currently followed by Sherlock Holmes (24 films). UK filmmakers are also more interested in Europe than Great Britain, with 527 films having Europe as a subject, compared with 431 on Great Britain.
Through exhaustive research, the BFI Filmography has discovered some interesting revelations such as the fact the percentage of women cast has largely remained unchanged in over 100 years and less than 1% of films are identified as having a majority female crew.
A look at the most credited actors reveals Judi Dench as the most prolific female actor working today, appearing in 41 films, followed by Maggie Smith with 40 films. The ever-changing taste of the public is highlighted by the actors that have appeared in the greatest number of films each decade. Horror film star Peter Cushing takes the top spot in the 70s, comedy star Robbie Coltrane has the most prolific actor position of the 80s, and ultimate ‘lad-actor’ Keith Allen and actor Sadie Frost are the most prolific male and female actors of the 90s.
Classic drama actors Michael Gambon and Jim Broadbent, both starring in the Harry Potter franchise amongst other notable films, are revealed as having appeared in the most films of the 2000s and 2010s. The most prolific female actor of the current decade is Kate Dickie (Red Road), closely followed by Doctor Who’s Jodie Whittaker and Prevenge writer, director and star Alice Lowe.
James Bond director Lewis Gilbert, also known for Alfie, Educating Rita and Shirley Valentine is the most prolific living director (33 films). He is followed by Ken Loach (27 films) whose first film was Poor Cow in 1968, closely followed by the acclaimed Kes and most recently, the 2016 Cannes Palme d’Or winner, I, Daniel Blake. 2017 saw Gurinder Chadha (Bend It Like Beckham) – the second most prolific female director ever – write, direct and produce Viceroy’s House.
The most prolific actors across the BFI Filmography by decade, reveal the careers of well-known UK screen stars from old to new. Jodie Whittaker, the first female Doctor Who and star of Attack the Block and St Trinian’s, is one of the most prolific female actors of the current decade (12 films). Less familiar names feature as the most prolific actors of all time such as Wally Patch who made 195 films over a 40-year career and female actor Marianne Stone who made 162 films. Currently, Michael Caine (70 films) is the most prolific actor working today.
The BFI Filmography shows that there has been little change in the role of women on screen. The percentage of women cast is the same today as in the early years of cinema. In 1913, 31% of all the cast in 51 films were female actors; of the films made in 2017 so far, the percentage of women cast is just 30% (71 films). Looking at films since 1990, there is a swing in the gender balance in casting on films with an all-female director and writer team, increasing the women on screen by nearly half, from 32% to 45%.
Further insights materialise in analysing unnamed characters and the gender of actors who play them. Stereotypes are dramatically evident, with 94% of all unnamed prostitutes played by female actors and the casting of male actors as drunks registering at 100% before 1985. Casting in more recent years shows some developments, with female actors cast in 10% of drunk character roles since 1985 and an increase in the casting of women as unnamed doctors from 3% to 15% for films made since 1985. However, starkly, this representation does not match reality in the UK today, where women make up 52% of NHS GPs. Additionally, these increases are not consistent across the professions, with a startling 0% of women cast as unnamed Police Inspectors or Police Sergeants, despite the current highest-ranking police officer in the UK being a woman, London Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick.
The development of the BFI Filmography was a major commitment in BFI 2022 and with its launch, the UK is the first major filmmaking territory to make available the complete data of its feature film output. This resource complements the BFI National Archive (established in 1935), which holds one of the largest film collections in the world, and the ongoing work by the BFI to produce detailed credit information on every feature film ever released in the UK (begun in 1934). This unique resource furthers the opportunity for film enthusiasts to discover and view thousands of films from the archive, which are available online on BFI Player and through the recently revamped BFI Mediatheque at BFI Southbank and mediatheques UK-wide.
The BFI Filmography is constantly evolving, with new information being added as UK feature films are released in cinemas. It is available to the public via the BFI website from today.
On screen and casting
The complete picture over time
The BFI Filmography data shows the highs and lows of UK cinema, revealing the 1930s to be the most active decade, with 1,544 films released. The decade with the fewest films released is the 1980s, seeing an all-time low of just 468 feature films. 2015 saw the return of the golden age of cinema in the UK, with 232 films released, the highest annual output since the 1930s.
Infographics present the data in useful visual diagrams, with optional filters and search parameters revealing facts and discoveries that can be easily shared on Facebook and Twitter. It has been designed for the BFI by independent digital design studio MagneticNorth.
The BFI Filmography is available from today at: