The UK is well known for lots of different things: fish ‘n’ chips, mixed fortunes in football, the Beatles, haggis, and much more. But of all forms of culture perhaps the most pervasive and popular is film – and Britain is no stranger to the silver screen. In fact, some of the very best films ever made have sprouted from the fertile soil of the United Kingdom.
Below we’ll take a look at ten of the very best examples of British filmmaking over the years: those films that have risen to cult fame, kept us firmly glued to the arm chair, and become icons in their own right.
10. A Clockwork Orange (Stanley Kubrick, 1971)
Released in 1971, this movie is probably one of the most well-known cult films in the world. As one of Stanley Kubrick’s most popular titles, this ultraviolent slice of a distopic future is a warning in itself. Standing head and shoulders above any of its peers, it’s an experience that all film lovers should have at least once (even if they never watch it again, which we could almost forgive them for).
9. The Italian Job (Peter Collinson, 1969)
No, we’re not talking about the lacklustre 2003 remake; it’s all about the 169 original. Solidifying Michael Caine as the quintessential British actor, this movie had it all: laughs, girls, and a good old fashioned heist. Oh, and three tricoloured Mini Coopers! And we musn’t forget all of those one liners… all together now – “you’re only supposed to blow the bl**dy doors off!”
8. Trainspotting (Danny Boyle, 1996)
Based on a novel of the same name, 1996’s Trainspotting was one of the first films to explore drug culture in the UK. And boy, did it do it in style. Highly adult in theme and content, this is certainly one for over 18s only.
7. Get Carter (Mike Hodges, 1971)
Another cult film, another entry for Michael Caine. He is the Best of British, after all. And 1969’s Get Carter is potentially his defining role. A story of gangsters, crime, and vengeance, Get Carter has to go down as an all time great.
6. 28 Days Later (Danny Boyle, 2002)
It may seem so, but not all cult British movies were made prior to the turn of the millennium – far from it. In 2002, 28 Days Later showed us the bare streets of London and reinvented zombies for a new generation. A great (gory) slice of cult filmmaking.
Does 28 Days Later make Top 10 Films’ Greatest British Horror Movies of all time list? Find out here.
5. This Is England (Shane Meadows, 2006)
Starkly gritty and realistic, Shane Meadows’ This Is England has quickly risen to become an icon of a film. Released in 2006, it’s even spawned its own spin-off TV series – so it can’t be that bad, can it?
4. Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (Guy Ritchie, 1998)
This movie could easily be credited for bringing the UK gangster film back to the fore in the 90s. Shane Ritchie may be past his prime these days, but Lock Stock will always stand as an exceptional piece of crime movie making – and it’s very funny too.
3. The Rocky Horror Picture Show (Jim Sharman, 1975)
Lewd, absurd, and a little bit strange, the Rocky Horror Picture Show hit at just the right time. It broke all sorts of taboos, and even today it’s considered a little on the risque side. Let your wild side out with this highly unusual, if iconic, British film.
2. Shaun of the Dead (Edgar Wright, 2004)
What 28 Days Later started, this film continued – with a shot of comedy for good measure. Marking the beginning of a slew of great Pegg/Frost movies, Shaun of the Dead is an all-out blast. It’s hilarious, touching, and a genuinely great film.
1. Monty Python’s Life of Brian (Terry Jones, 1979)
As one of the world’s best loved comedy groups, Monty Python have a long legacy of laughs. And this movie is amongst their very best. We could really have chosen any number of their flicks, but Life of Brian stands as an uproarious and uplifting piece of film – and it’ll have you whistling all the way home, too.
Written and compiled by Susan Black.
Susan grew up in rural Wisconsin and now lives in NYC with her two daughters. She likes nothing more than writing on both media and interior design (her first love) and is no stranger to a movie night in with a tub of Ben & Jerry’s.
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