What? No British movies?

A number of people have complained about my list of favourite films. One person asked if I had stopped going to the cinema in 1984, and someone else pointed out that there were no British or Irish movies in the list. You could say that Carol Reed’s The Third Man is sort of a British movie, but I take the point. So, I started making a list of my favourite British movies, and realised that there were really rather a lot that I liked, so the following set of stills is of a random ten of my top 25 or so.

However, you won’t find much modern comedy in here, and certainly no elaborate re-workings of Britain’s colonial history. And you may note a bias to my home town of Salford and the two most famous old boys of my school…

The usual prize of dinner cooked by Mrs Wilson for the first person who can identify all ten films.


38 thoughts on “What? No British movies?

  1. I’m rubbish at film titles. I could tell you who stars in many of these, what the plot is, and even maker a stab at the year they were released, but titles? Is there a name for that kind of memory loss?

    1. I think it’s called FTMLS … Film Title Memory Loss Syndrome. I have the same problem with the names of verb tenses – VTMLS…

      OK, you can win if you remember SOMETHING about each one….

  2. Half of them I can name straight away, the others I have an idea and can dredge it up if it’s worth it.

    Ken, are you really going to send me dinner to Japan? If so, I’ll get dredging!!

    1. You’re right, these dinner venues are getting trickier.

      I think the best thing is to promise that the invitation holds good for anyone passing through London, and if that isn’t possible, we will try to bring the meal to you. Ten years ago, when our daughter was living in Japan, we could have offered it to you when we came to visit.

      Still trying to work out how to feed the winner of the last competition – he lives in Wisconsin. Things were SO much easier before – the winner of our first competition was Scott Thornbury, so we can feed him on his way to IATEFL Harrogate. 🙂

      1. What is interesting is the number of people who are EMAILING their answers to me. Is the fear of failure so strong in people that they don’t want to risk ridicule for choosing the wrong Ealing Comedy? Or thinking that the still of Julie Christie is from ‘Darling’?

  3. Typical! The likes of Thornbury get fed whilst we poor nobodies starve on the sidelines….

    But as for the emails, I think they are so competitive that they are afraid of giving anyone else an edge.

    As I can’t win, I’ll give you what I know ; P
    TLK, WAI, DLN, SNSM, and P.

    Two Nic Roeg films?

    1. TLK – correct
      WAI – correct
      DLN — correct
      SNSM – correct – and the first of the three connections with Salford.
      P – correct
      2 Nic Roeg films – correct

      Can you find the two other connections with Salford? One is the director of film 8, the other is the location of film 10.

  4. Of course! I love that film! There isn’t a scary one in there called DOK, is there?

    TIOBE – A handbag, Ken!

    A haaaaandbaaaaag?!

    1. I haven’t seen either of the film versions of ‘Earnest’, but I will certainly look out for the 1952 version from now on, having just read the cast list: Michael Redgrave, Richard Wattis , Michael Denison, Edith Evans (of course – who else could play Lady Bracknell?), Joan Greenwood (my all-time theatre heroine for the work she did at Stratford East), Dorothy Tutin, Miles Malleson and the incomparable Margaret Rutherford. My goodness, they don’t make casts like that these days! 😛

      1. I’m being thick again Darren – DOK? And by the scary one, do you mean the Dirk Bogarde and James Fox? Think Robin Maugham and Harold Pinter…

  5. I’ve got all worried about ‘favourite films’. There are so many of them. But as for British films, what about ‘Accident’? An absolute masterpiece. Well, so is ‘If’, come to that. But then I’ve just seen ‘an education’ and find that amazing etc etc.
    Help. (see comment on the other ‘best films’!!)

    1. Just goes to show, no accounting for taste. Missed ‘If’ first time round, and saw it in the 1990s. Hadn’t aged well, frankly.

      Remembering falling asleep during ‘Accident’ but I was a student, and I think I went to see it after me and my Danish assistant Naja had been working all night on the student newspaper. Really. Will go and see it again when it comes to the Riverside.

      But enough of this. Harmer – write down YOUR lists of favourite films and let me have a pop at THEM!

      1. Yes, IF aged a lot, but for anyone forced into that form of education it was a beautiful and wonderful fable – though the last time I saw it, post-Dunblane, Columbine etc it felt very very queasy.

        Seriously, I am not sure I COULD do a list of my favourites. There are som many of them. I loved Bringing up Baby for years, but would I like it now? I thought the film of ‘Atonement’ was fine, but disliked ‘The English Patient’. ‘Truly, Madly, Deeply’ is either deeply irritating or truly affecting etc etc

        That’s just coming out of my head as I type. I’ll try and think.




  6. Ken,

    Couple of my favourites in there, W&I being the British film of excellence, IMHO. “Alright here?”

    This still does not address the big question of whether you stopped going to the cinema in 1984, though, unless Salford is still in B&W 🙂

    Like these competitions a lot…. though Mrs. W will be feeding half of Twitterland if you keep running them!


    1. Salford lends itself to black and white, I find. which is why I prefer 60s Coronation Street episodes to the dreadful sit-com with angst it has become.

      And maybe ‘A Taste of Honey’ isn’t THAT great as a movie, but knowing it was filmed a couple of miles away made it very special to watch. And ‘East is East’, set in a Pakistani Salford fish and chip shop circa 1972, is probably in my top 20 movies as well.

      ‘Saturday Night and Sunday Morning’ is supposed to be in Nottingham, right? … but with our Albert in the key role, we all knew it was only really standing in for Salford…

  7. Shows you how much a dumb American knows about Limeys. I’ve practically only watched the literary films like Far from the Madding Crowd (is that 3?). Have always had a crush on pretty, pretty Terrence Stamp. Gets more gorgeous with age. OK – and then there’s the Ladykillers (4) of course.
    Please send titles in time for my Amazon order.

    1. Well done for not being afraid, Anne..

      more info to follow, but here are the titles:
      1 The 39 Steps (1935)
      2 Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949)
      3 Don’t Look Now (1973)
      4 The Lady Killers (1955)
      5 Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960) starring Albert Finney, old boy of my school
      6 The Servant (1963)
      7 Withnail and I (1987)
      8 Secrets and Lies (1996) directed by Mike Leigh, old boy of my school 🙂
      9 Performance (1970)
      10 A Taste of Honey (1961) Not actually THAT great a movie, but affected me strongly as a kid because it was filmed in my home city of Salford.

  8. The best British movie of all time (and possibly the best movie from anywhere of all time) is in fact Billy Liar, a criminal omission from this list, Mr Wilson.

    1. Come on Andy – put your movies where your mouth is – let’s have your Top Ten, then I can take a pop at them.

      1. OK, in rough order…
        1. Billy Liar
        2. Kes
        3. The Third Man
        4. The Life of Brian
        5. Brazil
        6. Kind Hearts and Coronets
        7 Saturday Night and Sunday Morning
        8. Withnail and I
        9. Trainspotting
        10. The Wicker Man

        (I could have included more Ealing comedies, and also the Holy Grail, but tried to go with a bit of diversity)

      2. glad there is so much cross-over here, Andy…

        Billy Liar – hm… I suppose it’s the Finney-Courtenay thing at work there. Interesting that Finney played it on stage. (Talking of stage, i saw the two of them with Kenny Stott in Yasmina Reza’s Art in London about 10 years ago. Magic)

        Kes… hm… it didn’t really do anything for me… sorry…

        Life of Brian … hm x 2 … i never felt the Pythons were as good on film as on TV.

        Didn’t like the trailer of Trainspotting, so didn’t go and see it. Will put this right.

        Also have never seen Wicker Man, and tend to avoid movies, however good, if they are likely to cause nightmares! 😛

        Thanks for the chance to reflect even more on the wonderful thing we call cinema.

    2. Billy Liar is great (no, perfect) it has everything – the acting is utterly superb – especially Courtney and Christie, it is funny (at times very, laugh out loud, funny), it is beautifully scripted, and the ending…well, the ending is everything the ending of a film needs to be (by which I mean kind of sad and definitely thought provoking)

      Surprised you don’t like Kes, perhaps it’s a wrong side of the Pennines thing.

      I know what you mean about Monty Python on TV, but the Life of Brian is so well done, and manages to pull together an entire coherent and brilliantly clever film, while at the same time managing to fill it with fantastic quotable scenes in the Python tradition. I actually think it’s the zenith of their work.

      1. You whetted my appetite to see Billy Liar again, Andy. I was v young when I saw it the first time. As I mentioned to Jeremy, some classic movies don’t age well, but others (Bad Day, Third Man) just seem to get better and better the more you see them.

        Am also going to google to try to find out why Finney didn’t play Billy Liar!

  9. Blimey,

    I may give this a go (in no particular order) for a modern-ish top something-or-other…

    Withnail and I – http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0094336/
    Magnolia – http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0175880/
    American History X – http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0120586/
    Happiness – http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0147612/
    Blade Runner – http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0083658/
    Apocalypse Now – http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0078788/
    Barry Lyndon – http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0072684/
    The Big Lebowski – http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0118715/
    37º2 le Matin – http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0090563/
    Cidade de Deus – http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0317248/
    Fight Club – http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0137523/
    American Beauty – http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0169547/
    Snatch – http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0208092/
    Gran Torino – http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1205489/
    Amores Perros – http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0245712/
    Twelve Monkeys – http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0114746/

    Those would be some of mine (from a man who has over 600 films on DVD 🙂


    1. Blimey!

      Who said cinema is dead. Marvellous list, as far as I can see… Blade Runner is probably my number 11…

      I must admit to not even having heard of American History X. Your link tells me it’s ‘Rated R for graphic brutal violence including rape, pervasive language, strong sexuality and nudity.’

      I don’t think I would have gotten Dede into a cinema to see that.

      Just two caveats – you really think ‘American Beauty’ is good enough to be in your top .. er … 16. I thought Mendes directed it as if it was a stage play.

      And ‘Gran Torino’? Only seen the trailer, but it looked like a slightly classier version of ‘Death Wish’. Please tell me I’m wrong, wrong, wrong…

  10. Kenneth,

    Shame you couldn’t drag Dede to see American History X, despite the rating it’s a powerful drama about racism and that young bloke actor, whasshishame is excellent in it.

    American Beauty – may have been directed like a stage play, but the dysfunctional turn of the century USA feel is superb, I reckon.

    Gran Torino? Well, Eastwood simply gets better the older he gets, and I thought it was a classic.

    In three of my films there’s a little thread: Philip Seymour Hoffman (now a lead actor, but in his time a secondary actor who managed to steal most films he was in).


  11. Can I add another one of my favorites? “Malcolm X” starring Denzel Washington. Oh, oh, and my favorite French one: “Amelie de Montmartre” – fantastic directing and music!

    1. Hi Vicky,

      you can add TEN of your favorites if you like!

      I guess Amélie de Montmartre is the movie that was simply called Amélie here? It also appears as ‘Le fabuleux destin d’Amélie Poulain’ on film sites.

      I thought the first 5 minutes of that movie were utter magic, but then – as a father of two daughters – I got the most terrible reality kick-in, and wondered what I would think if one of my girls behaved like that….

  12. Yes, that is the one!
    Well, you are right! However, what I really liked about Amelie’s character was that she helped other people (her father, the mentally challenged boy at the grocer’s and the man who had been estranged from his daughter among them). And the actress is very expressive – I think a landmark in her career!

  13. You can’t talk about British films and not mention David Lean. My daughter’s name is Lara and my son is Lawrence. I don’t mind which you pick but you must pick one of them.
    I love films too much to make a list of ten but a few at random (not all British) that are worthy of note, for one reason or another:
    Cyrano de Bergerac with Gerard Depardieu
    Jean de Florette also with Gerard Depardieu
    Monster by Roberto Benigni
    The Bicycle Thieves
    The Shawshank Redemption (Idiotically called “Dreams of Escape” in Spanish)
    The Godfather
    All quiet on the Western Front (though the last time I saw it I was 15, I think)
    The last of the Mohicans (One of the few films that I prefer to the book)
    Dangerous Liaisons
    The three colours trilogy (Kieslowski)
    Almost any Ang Lee before he got into cowboy flics
    The Road Home (a beautiful Chinese short film).

    I don’t expect much agreement as I disagree with most of the films suggested by everyone else. American beauty!?!

    1. I agree with you about American Beauty, but the ‘beauty’ of it is how diverse our opinions are – and we haven’t even got into considerations like how old we were and who we were with. I like SOME of your films, and think I’m the only one I know who doesn’t think Shawshank is a great movie – man manages to get through entire film without denying he murdered his wife, then goes to live on beach? Hm…

      Casanblanca is a fabulous movie, but I can’t forgive them using that model airplane! 🙂

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