Top 100 British Films Of The 20th Century

In 1999 the British Film Institute surveyed 1,000 people working in British film and television to produce a definitive list of the greatest British films of the 20th century. Voters were asked to choose up to 100 films that were “culturally British”.

The Third Man, Carol Reed, Orson Welles,

Polls of this ilk are always fascinating to see. This one featuring the best british films of the 20th century is fairly definitive given that it was commissioned by the British Film Institute which polled key thinkers, practitioners and critics from the world of British film and TV. They were asked to consider films for their “culturally British” qualities, listing up to 100 features each.

The top 10 makes for interesting reading with Carol Reed’s 1949 film The Third Man coming out on top with David Lean’s Brief Encounter and Lawrence of Arabia in second and third place respectively.

The 1960s were the favoured decade, Lean was the most featured filmmaker, Alec Guinness the most featured actor, and Julie Christie the most featured actress. There were no female directors listed.

1. The Third Man (Carol Reed, 1949)

2. Brief Encounter (David Lean, 1945)

3. Lawrence of Arabia (David Lean, 1962)

4. The 39 Steps (Alfred Hitchcock, 1935)

5. Great Expectations (David Lean, 1946)

6. Kind Hearts and Coronets (Robert Hamer, 1949)

7. Kes (Ken Loach, 1969)

8. Don’t Look Now (Nic Roeg, 1973)

9. The Red Shoes (Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger, 1948)

10. Trainspotting (Danny Boyle, 1996)

11. The Bridge on the River Kwai (David Lean, 1957)

12. If… (Lindsay Anderson, 1968)

13. The Ladykillers (Alexander Mackendrick, 1955)

14. Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (Karel Reisz, 1960)

15. Brighton Rock (John Boulting, 1947)

16. Get Carter (Mike Hodges, 1971)

17. The Lavender Hill Mob (Charles Crichton, 1951)

18. Henry V (Laurence Olivier, 1944)

19. Chariots of Fire (Hugh Hudson, 1981)

20. A Matter of Life and Death (Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger, 1946)

21. The Long Good Friday (John Mackenzie, 1980)

22. The Servant (Joseph Losey, 1963)

23. Four Weddings And A Funeral (Mike Newell, 1994)

24. Whisky Galore! (Alexander Mackendrick, 1949)

25. The Full Monty (Peter Cattaneo, 1997)

26. The Crying Game (Neil Jordan, 1992)

27. Doctor Zhivago (David Lean, 1965)

28. Monty Python’s Life of Brian (Terry Jones, 1979)

29. Withnail and I (Bruce Robinson, 1987)

30. Gregory’s Girl (Bill Forsyth, 1980)

31. Zulu (Cy Endfield, 1964)

32. Room at the Top (Jack Clayton, 1958)

33. Alfie (Lewis Gilbert, 1966)

34. Gandhi (Richard Attenborough, 1982)

35. The Lady Vanishes (Alfred Hitchcock, 1938)

36. The Italian Job (Peter Collinson, 1969)

37. Local Hero (Bill Forsyth, 1983)

38. The Commitments (Alan Parker, 1991)

39. A Fish Called Wanda (Charles Crichton, 1988)

40. Secrets & Lies (Mike Leigh, 1995)

41. Dr. No (Terence Young, 1962)

42. The Madness of King George (Nicholas Hytner, 1994)

43. A Man For All Seasons (Fred Zinnemann, 1966)

44. Black Narcissus (Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger, 1947)

45. The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger, 1943)

46. Oliver Twist (David Lean, 1948)

47. I’m All Right Jack (John Boulting, 1959)

48. Performance (Nicolas Roeg, Donald Cammell, 1970)

49. Shakespeare in Love (John Madden, 1998)

50. My Beautiful Laundrette (Stephen Frears, 1985)

51. Tom Jones (Tony Richardson, 1963)

52. This Sporting Life (Lindsay Anderson, 1963)

53. My Left Foot (Jim Sheridan, 1989)

54. Brazil (Terry Gilliam, 1985)

55. The English Patient (Anthony Minghella, 1996)

56. A Taste of Honey (Tony Richardson, 1961)

57. The Go-Between (Joseph Losey, 1970)

58. The Man in the White Suit (Alexander Mackendrick, 1951)

59. The Ipcress File (Sidney J. Furie, 1965)

60. Blow Up (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1966)

61. The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (Tony Richardson, 1962)

62. Sense and Sensibility (Ang Lee, 1995)

63. Passport to Pimlico (Henry Cornelius, 1949)

64. The Remains of the Day (James Ivory, 1993)

65. Sunday, Bloody Sunday (John Schlesinger, 1971)

66. The Railway Children (Lionel Jeffries, 1970)

67. Mona Lisa (Neil Jordan, 1986)

68. The Dam Busters (Michael Anderson, 1955)

69. Hamlet (Laurence Olivier, 1948)

70. Goldfinger (Guy Hamilton, 1964)

71. Elizabeth (Shekhar Kapur, 1998)

72. Goodbye Mr. Chips (Sam Wood, 1939)

73. A Room With A View (James Ivory, 1985)

74. The Day of the Jackal (Fred Zinnemann, 1973)

75. The Cruel Sea (Charles Frend, 1952)

76. Billy Liar (John Schlesinger, 1963)

77. Oliver! (Carol Reed, 1968)

78. Peeping Tom (Michael Powell, 1960)

79. Far From the Madding Crowd (John Schlesinger, 1967)

80. The Draughtsman’s Contract (Peter Greenaway, 1982)

81. A Clockwork Orange (Stanley Kubrick, 1971)

82. Distant Voices, Still Lives (Terence Davies, 1988)

83. Darling (John Schlesinger, 1965)

84. Educating Rita (Lewis Gilbert, 1983)

85. Brassed Off (Mark Herman, 1996)

86. Genevieve (Henry Cornelius, 1953)

87. Women in Love (Ken Russell, 1969)

88. A Hard Day’s Night (Richard Lester, 1964)

89. Fires Were Started (Humphrey Jennings, 1943)

90. Hope and Glory (John Boorman, 1987)

91. My Name is Joe (Ken Loach, 1998)

92. In Which We Serve (Noel Coward, David Lean, 1942)

93. Caravaggio (Derek Jarman, 1986)

94. The Belles of St. Trinian’s (Frank Launder, 1954)

95. Life is Sweet (Mike Leigh, 1990)

96. The Wicker Man (Robin Hardy, 1973)

97. Nil By Mouth (Gary Oldman, 1997)

98. Small Faces (Gillies Mackinnon, 1995)

99. Carry On Up The Khyber (Gerald Thomas, 1968)

100. The Killing Fields (Roland Joffe, 1984)

About the Author
Rory Fish has loved movies since he can remember. If he was to put together an "all time" top 10 of absolute favourites it would have to include North By Northwest, 12 Angry Men and Sunset Boulevard.

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  1. Chris Reply

    Going to add a few of these to my watchlist, thanks for sharing!

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