The 100 best British films

Time Out counts down the best British films, as chosen by the film industry

By Dave Calhoun, Tom Huddleston and David Jenkins, with Derek Adams, Geoff Andrew, Adam Lee Davies, Gareth Evans, Paul Fairclough and Wally Hammond. Explore the individual top tens of every contributor.


Trainspotting (1996)

Dir Danny Boyle (Ewan McGregor, Robert Carlyle, Jonny Lee Miller)

Choose life, etc

At the planning stage of this survey, not a single member of the Time Out Film team would’ve expected Danny Boyle’s eye-wateringly hip, epoch-defining second feature to make much of a dent, let alone break in to the top ten. Yet here we are, and it seems that ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ (which didn’t place) was not enough to make us overlook the ambition, charisma and sheer, blood, sweat and shit-soaked brio of this 1996 Irvine Welsh adaptation which gave Ewan McGregor a role that – if we’re being honest – he has never bettered.

The film – which now bizarrely makes the mid-1990s Britpop fad appear to have been the cultural highlight of modern times – told of happy-go-lucky junkie Mark Renton (McGregor) and the band of mischievous associates he would occasionally call friends, including Spud (Ewen Bremner), Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller), Tommy (Kevin McKidd) and Begbie (Robert Carlyle). It’s still a lively watch, especially in the way its meandering, episodic first half emphasises the highs of pub fights, drugs scores, casual sex and a sub-aqua, Eno-scored mission down the world’s most disgusting lavatory bowl, only for the second half to condemn the drug culture that so many claimed it was glamourising.

Director Danny Boyle had already shown with his previous film, ‘Shallow Grave’ (1994), that he could reel off a juicy, character-driven yarn which had depth and ambiguity, but what makes ‘Trainspotting’ stand above the crowd is the industrious way in which he uses editing and camera movement to convey time, activity, violence, love, ecstasy and pain. Plus, is this the greatest opening five minutes ever? DJ