The 100 best British films: actors

Explore the top ten British films of all our guest contributors

Linked title denotes top 100 placing

I think they all were powerful countercultural films and alternative stories, which I think is what we do best. They’re ballsy films that punched above their weight because of that. We usually make smaller scale films in the UK than they do in the States or some of the more artistically subsidised European countries. But that can give us a freedom and we should use that to go to unexpected places and push the buttons which get people’s attention. These films did that.

Joanne Froggatt, actor (‘In Our Name’)

David Morrissey, actor (‘State of Play’)

In no particular order:

Kes (Loach, 1969)

The first film I saw which had recognisable people in it from my world. A brilliant film about the state of education in Britain at the time.

The Long Good Friday (Mackenzie, 1980)

Cockney gangsters taking on the IRA. A fantastic thriller written by Barrie Keeffe with a tour de force performance at the heart of it by Bob Hoskins.

It Always Rains on Sunday (Hamer, 1947)

We go on so much about the great American noir films of the ’40s, but this is an English classic of the genre that can live alongside them all.

The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (Powell and Pressburger, 1943)

I could have chosen so many of their films, I think they revolutionised British cinema. But I love this story and Roger Livesey as Blimp is heartbreaking in his goodness and confusion at the changing world around him.

Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (Reisz, 1960)

Don't let the bastards grind you down! Alan Sillitoe wrote a brilliant screenplay from his own novel. And Albert Finney's performance still blows me away. His smile makes you forgive him everything… and there's a lot to forgive!

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

Often voted as the funniest film of all time. And who could disagree. Endlessly funny. I discover new things every time I watch it.

Don’t Look Now (Roeg, 1973)

Again, with Roeg there are so many of his films to choose from. But this is the one I always come back to. From the opening terrifying scene onwards it's a fantastic movie.

Brief Encounter (Lean, 1945)

I know most people would choose ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ when picking a Lean film, but the combination of Celia Johnson, Trevor Howard and Noël Coward for me adds up to one of the greatest films of all time.

Get Carter (Hodges, 1971)

Everything about this film grabs me. The look, the music, the performances. Even though Caine is playing a Geordie with a cockney accent it doesn't bother me at all. He’s magnificent in it.

The Third Man (Reed, 1949)

Adapted by Graham Greene from his own story it’s an amazing look at post- war Europe. Brilliantly shot by Robert Krasker. Superb score as well by Anton Karas.

Thandie Newton, actor (‘Crash’)

In no particular order:

Rafe Spall, actor (‘Hot Fuzz’)

In no particular order:

Nil by Mouth (Oldman, 1997) It’s a perfect film that made me want to be an actor. Ray Winstone is a tour de force.

Secrets and Lies (Leigh, 1996)

My Dad is as good as it gets in a heartbreaking film.

The Small World of Sammy Lee (Hughes, 1963)

Brilliant early 1960s film. Anthony Newley gives a master-class in naturalism.

Life Is Sweet (Leigh, 1990)

Awesome stuff again from my old man. Incredible ensemble cast.

Dead Man’s Shoes (Meadows, 2004)

Paddy Considine is my generation’s De Niro. He’s at his best in this clever, heartwrenching classic.

Performance (Cammell and Roeg, 1970)

Mad, brilliant and 30 years before its time in terms of editing. James Fox is brilliant.

Poor Cow (Loach, 1967)

Carol White is so good in one of Ken Loach’s first films.

A Room for Romeo Brass (Meadows, 1999)

Again Paddy being peerless. I love Shane Meadows.

Shaun of the Dead (Wright, 2004)

Re-watched it recently. It’s fried gold.

Naked (Leigh, 1993)

Thewlis gives one of the all time great performances in this dark, funny, engaging masterpiece.

Manjinder Virk, actor ('The Arbor')

In no particular order:

1. The Third Man (Reed, 1949)

2. Trainspotting (Boyle, 1996)

3. My Beautiful Laundrette (Frears, 1985)

Groundbreaking film at the time which remains groundbreaking today.

4. A Clockwork Orange (Stanley Kubrick, 1971)

5. My Left Foot (Jim Sheridan, 1989)

Daniel Day Lewis is utterly astounding.

6. Moon (Duncan Jones, 2009)

Beautifully atmospheric debut from Duncan Jones.

7. Sense & Sensibility (Lee, 1995)

8. Man on Wire (Marsh, 2008)

9. Billy Liar (Schlesinger, 1963)

I watched this as I was about to work with Tom Courtenay, so I discovered this gem years later. Tom is brilliant in it.

10. Naked (Leigh, 1993)

Jodie Whittaker, actor (‘Venus’)

1. Moon (Jones, 2009)

It stands out as a British film which feels interestingly non-British.

2. Hot Fuzz (Wright, 2007)


3. London to Brighton (Williams, 2006)

A huge achievement in low-budget filmmaking from a really passionate writer-director.

4. Carry on Camping (Thomas, 1969)

Because you can't have a list without a 'Carry On' film.

5. The Innocents (Clayton, 1961)

Classic horror which is still quite terrifying.

6. Kes (Loach, 1969)

Because I'm from Yorkshire.

7. White Lightnin’ (Murphy, 2009)

A recent film, and extraordinary for a British filmmaker. A clog dancer from Virginia played by a guy from Sheffield!

8. The Arbor (Barnard, 2010)

9. Trainspotting (Boyle, 1996)

10. Backbeat (Softly, 1994)

Because when everyone else was watching ‘Dirty Dancing’, I was watching ‘Backbeat’.

Olivia Williams, actor (‘Rushmore’)