We’re continuing this month’s theme of Best of British with a look at our favourite films from this tiny island. While Star Wars and Harry Potter don’t feature, we think you’ll all find something to give a watch to for the first time or to take a nostalgia trip on. So put the kettle on and have a gander at these…
There are few film studios as unflinchingly British as Aardman Animations. They made their name producing short films for the BBC, and creating talking-head pieces about the War, the prison system, and everyday British life, becoming a household name through the likes of Creature Comforts, Morph and, of course, Wallace and Gromit. That last pair – the plasticine inventor and his long-suffering pooch – have gone on to become two of the most widely recognised icons of Britishness around the world.
Wallace and Gromit finally got their chance to appear on the big screen in 2005’s Curse of the Were-Rabbit, thanks to a deal with Dreamworks. Unfortunately that deal fell apart soon after due, in part, to Aardman movies simply being too British to sell overseas. It’s hard to get more British than that, so of course my choice this week is an Aardman film!
It’s not, however, Wallace and Gromit. I adore those characters, and I love Were-Rabbit, but it’s never been my favourite of Aardman’s films. That honour goes to their first effort – Chicken Run – a stop-motion riff on The Great Escape but with (you guessed it) chickens.
There’s a tendency in Aardman’s films to go for comedy at every turn – to cram in as many jokes and visual gags as possible. This works fine, especially in something like The Pirates! (in an Adventure with Scientists) which is almost Lego-Movie-crazy at times, but Chicken Run takes a more measured approach. It’s a quieter, smaller, more personal story, filled with slow-burning drama and emotion. Chicken Run is still hilarious, but it takes its time building up to the bonkers set-pieces and, as a result, everything works amazingly together – from the sublime performances to the equally sublime score.
British animation has never been better.
When I think of British there’s one particular genre in films that has always stood out to me – comedy. Comedy with the classic British humor and a tight story always makes me smile and there’s one particular director/writer that always manages to give me memorable quirky characters and that sense of British class. I am talking about the one, the only Richard Curtis.
To be fair all of his films have managed to enthrall me and give a huge chuckle – yet one of these stands out. Making me watch time and time again. A typical rom-com that sees Hugh Grant at his best as a bookseller trying to make ends meet. Then one day one of Hollywood’s most famous actresses just happens to walk into his shop.
To me Notting Hill is a true British classic with many memorable scenes – who can forget the little sisters birthday meal. The crazy welsh man stopping traffic in the middle of London! Or the classic ‘I’m from Horse & Hound.’ It’s a beatiful story with many great one liners and a quirky feel to the whole affair. A film that I defy you not to fall in love with.
When put the request ‘Best of British’ for films I only had one choice. You can keep your Wicker men, Straw Dogs and Railway children. It had to be Monty Python, one of the best writing teams to have ever existed. The influence of so many modern day comedians they took the legend of King Arthur and his quest for the Holy Grail and made it a masterpiece.
It’s considered one of the top 50 greatest comedy films and one of the top geek films. It’s quotable to the max and everyone knows the ‘Knights who say Ni’! And the Black Knight and his missing limbs. It’s a film close to my heart, it’s something very special as it’s silly and with very clever dialogue.
Only bettered by ‘Life of Brian’ a satirical tale where a young man is mistaken for Jesus. (I prefer Holy Grail more tbh).
Overall it has moments which cause terror (the killer Rabbit), wonderful characters (the bridge keeper) and lines involving being turned into newts, bringing out the dead and huge tracts of land.
For there are some that call me…Tim.
Gangster films are often seen to be monopolised by America (particularly by Martin Scorsese), but occasionally Britain gets in on the action as well, and when they do, the results are usually pretty impressive. Nowhere is this more evident than John Mackenzie’s The Long Good Friday, the film that set the standard for London-based gangster films and, thirty-five years after its release, has yet to be bettered.
The Long Good Friday (so called because of its Easter setting and its similarities to Raymond Chandler’s masterpiece The Long Goodbye) follows London gangster Harold Shand, who, in trying to set himself up as a legitimate business man, sees his entire criminal empire start to crumble around him. Anchored by a blistering performance from the late, great Bob Hoskins as the volatile yet fiercely loyal Shand, the film rises above the traditional gangster flick and becomes a complex and thoughtful character study of a man struggling to keep hold of what is most important to him.
Backed by strong support from Helen Mirren (who brings surprising depth to the usual thankless role of the moll) and an excellent Derek Thompson (yes, he of Charlie for Casualty fame), the film belongs to Hoskins, who commands every scene he is in like a civilized volcano, trying to stay calm but ready to explode at any moment. And the film is just as good as he is, its directing and scripting more than living up to its towering central performance.
The Long Good Friday is Britain’s best gangster film, with some of Britain’s best actors giving some of their best performances. In short, it’s a masterpiece – a British masterpiece.
This film was one of the first that Paul B and I bought after we moved in together. Perhaps what is easy to forget of this nightmarish telling of a dystopian future is that it was banned in the UK for almost 30 years. Our DVD of the film, uncut, was one of the first prints you could get of the film for commercial sale in the UK. But what’s it about and why should you watch something that has, in the past, been so controversial?
A Clockwork Orange is based on the 1962 novella of the same name by Anthony Burgess. The film was adapted and directed by Stanley Kubrick, and starred Malcolm McDowell as the film’s main protagonist – Alex, an intelligent, sociopathic gang leader who goes on a huge crime spree with disastrous consequences. Their crimes are many, all very, very violent, because they like a bit of the old “ultra violence”. And it’s still a brutal watch. This film has to be seen at least once, because, despite its outline, it’s nothing like the violent exploitation films we have today, and really tries to draw a mirror up to society and talk about nurture-v-nature in a meaningful way, while conveying a society that – when viewed in the context of Britain today – seems more and more like our own.
Having only just watched this film, it may be a bit premature to say this is my Best of British Film pick. But the truth is, I really, really enjoyed it.
Kingsman is an over-the-top action film – based on a comic by Mark Miller – which I thought looked really quite silly when I first saw the trailer. Okay, okay, I’ll admit it, my interest peaked when I heard Take That’s new song ‘Get Ready for It’ which plays during the credits. The music video has some awesome clips from the film and was actually a better bit of promotion for me than the trailer.
Colin Firth was spectacular as a mentor for the brilliant new-comer Taron Egerton (who plays the upstart, Eggsy, with great panache) and it was refreshing to see Firth in such an active role – Mr Darcy finally kicking arse.
It is a good example of British film – truly British with its Oxfords, (not Brogues) and pays homage to all the great spy films and to a genre that more or less originated in this country.
Also, Mark Hamill was great.
(For a more in-depth Kingsman review, head here ).
James Bond one of Britain’s finest spies, a man who has the license to kill, for queen and country. When Bond celebrated his 50th Anniversary with Skyfall I looked back at all the Bond films and of all the films I’ve watched, I feel that GoldenEye is my favourite film in the series.
Starring my favourite Bond actor Pierce Brosnan who had a rather funny introduction, the film starts off with an awesome bungee jump that builds up with Mr Bond infiltrating a Soviet union chemical facility with fellow agent 006. The mission goes awry with the loss of 006 but Bond gets the job done.
Many years later Bond has to stop a dangerous satellite weapon that can wipe out electronic systems on a large scale. The film features a very interesting chase scene involving a tank and also early on, a race between the Classic Aston Martin DB5 and a Ferrari 355 GTS.
It has the feeling of a good spy thriller with the change of location to cold and tropical locations and a well put opening sequence sung by Tina Turner. GoldenEye is a James Bond film that I recommend as a good British film and a good British Spy film to watch.