The 100 best British films: industry players – part two

Explore the top ten British films of all our guest contributors

Linked title denotes top 100 placing

Bruce Goldstein, director of repertory programming, Film Forum, New York

I realise when I put hands to keyboard that picking only ten is nearly impossible. But you are asking for personal favourites, so here off the top of my head:

Sandra Hebron, artistic director, BFI London Film Festival

I have taken you at your word and picked my favourites… which of course doesn't necessarily equate with the best (I'm aware with some directors that the work I love the most is not necessarily their most lauded). I'm sure that everyone is probably saying that ten is such a hard call... I feel as if 50 would be more like it. Narrowing down to one film from Powell and Pressburger’s work, in particular, just feels impossible. I could write a different top ten every day. But for argument’s sake, here are the ones I'm going with:

The ones I didn't have room for include: Whisky Galore (Mackendrick, 1949), Last Resort (Pawlikowski, 2000), Bill Douglas Trilogy (1972, 1973, 1978), The Last of England (Jarman, 1987), Wonderland (Winterbottom, 1999), A Matter or Life and Death (Powell and Pressburger, 1946), Naked (Leigh, 1993), Brief Encounter (Lean, 1945), Fires Were Started (Jennings, 1943), Went the Day Well? (Cavalcanti, 1942), A Diary for Timothy (Jennings, 1945), Orlando (Potter, 1992), Riff Raff (Loach, 1991), Hunger (McQueen, 2008)...

Larry Kardish, MOMA, New York

In no particular order…

Charles McDonald, publicist

1. Culloden (Watkins, 1964)

Made for TV, I know, but it has been released. Just the most amazing visceral, reality-style look at an appallingly brutal eighteenth-century battle. Wanted to include his ‘War Game’ too but…

2. A Matter of Life and Death (Powell and Pressburger, 1946)

So inventive, sweeping and witty...

3. School for Scoundrels (Hamer, 1960)

Being a Terry-Thomas fan of huge proportions, this is the apotheosis of his cad-dom. ‘Tough cheese’ et al. The scene at the smart restaurant is a classic.

4. Barry Lyndon (Kubrick, 1975)

Hopefully this will pass muster as a Brit film. Sublime. Impossible not to continue watching if glimpsed on TV.

5. This Is England (Meadows, 2006)

Tough. Moving, beautifully made. What an evocation of the period.

6. Last Resort (Pawlikowski, 2000)

Small but perfectly formed. Truly poetic.

7. Ratcatcher (Ramsay, 1999)

Elegiac. Strangely non-British feel to the film. Mesmerising. What a debut.

8. Kes (Loach, 1969)

Tough choice from among his films but its got to be this, the daddy of them all.

9. Prospero’s Books (Greenaway, 1991)

Still to receive its due acclaim, I feel. Extraordinary kinetic vision and an apt testament to the great John Gielgud’s favourite role.

10. Fish Tank (Arnold, 2009)

Such a strong new voice for British cinema.

Mehelli Modi, director, SecondRun DVD

Here are my ten films but there’s absolutely no way that I can place them in order!

There are so many films I feel dreadful for not having mentioned but I had to give myself a very clear-cut criteria – and decided that these would be ‘British’ films which I would be happy to keep watching again and again. And these are filmmakers whose body of work is remarkable (but only one film of theirs could be chosen).

So, in strictly alphabetical order:

Vic Pratt, Curator (Fiction), BFI National Archive

Here are my picks. My favourites tend to vary wildly depending on what I've been watching or thinking about lately – and I'm a bit off the beaten track with some of these – but I hope they might be of some use. I felt compelled to include a documentary cos no-one ever does.

In no particular order:

Brian Robinson, programmer, BFI London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival

I love spectacle and intense psychological drama. Thorold Dickinson’s ‘Queen of Spades’ delivers a chilling vision of Russian eighteenth century aristocratic life with great art direction. I’m surprised how many of my films are from the 1960s but it was an astonishing time for British cinema. If I could have an eleventh it would be anything by Powell and Pressburger but my guilty favourite is ‘The Tales of Hoffmann’, a richly over the top continental confection.

Tessa Ross, controller of film and drama, Film4

In chronological order:

Jonathan Rutter, film publicist, Premier PR

I’ve restricted myself to one title per director, even though I was tempted to include more than one for Mike Leigh and Hitchcock.

Louis Savy, artistic director, Sci-Fi London Festival

1. School for Scoundrels (Hamer, 1960)

I love this film for everything it says about class and snobbery; vastly underrated. I think the cast deliver  a superb look at life.

2. A Clockwork Orange (Kubrick, 1971)

Another film dealing with British life, power and class. Dark, disturbing and whilst the production values may lose something today, the basic ideas are strong and scary as ever.

3. Robinson in Space (Keiller, 1997)

Patrick Keiller’s wonderful film that describes the ‘problem of England’ – just wonderful.

4. Great Expectations (Lean, 1946)


5. A Matter of Life and Death (Powell and Pressburger, 1946)

Perfect fantasy film… just perfect.

6. The Long Good Friday (Mackenzie, 1980)

Brilliant class, excellent.

7. A Fish Called Wanda (Crichton, 1988)

Brilliant comedy.

8. Brazil (Gilliam, 1985)

9. Oliver! (Reed, 1968)

10. The Red Shoes (Powell and Pressburger, 1948)

I found whittling it down to ten titles extremely difficult. Ten other titles that carry great personal significance are:

Barry Lyndon (Kubrick, 1975)

The Innocents (Clayton, 1961)

Under the Skin (Adler, 1997)

sleep furiously (Koppell, 2008)

Proud to Be British (Broomfield, 1973)

Orlando (Potter, 1992)

Jubilee (Jarman, 1978)

If... (Anderson, 1968)

A Matter of Life and Death (Powell and Pressburger, 1946)

Peeping Tom (Powell, 1960)

Adrian Wootton, chief executive of Film London

1. Great Expectations (Lean, 1946)

Best Dickens adaptation ever!

2. The Third Man (Reed, 1949)

Best British/European thriller and Greene’s finest achievement as screenwriter.

3. Night and the City (Dassin, 1950)

American film noir comes to London.

4. A Matter of Life and Death (Powell and Pressburger, 1946)

Brilliant romance with philosophical debate; P and P’s greatest work.

5. Performance (Cammell and Roeg, 1970)

End of the Swinging ’60s in this rock ’n’ roll gangster movie.

6. Distant Voices, Still Lives (Davies, 1988)

Still Terence Davies’s masterpiece. His sweet, savage and sometimes bitter look at working-class life in Liverpool.

7. Caravaggio (Jarman, 1986)

Perhaps Jarman’s most conventional but also his most coherent work.

8. Chariots of Fire (Hudson, 1981)

The British were coming – and now the Olympics certainly are.

9. Naked (Leigh, 1993)

Arguably Leigh’s angriest and edgiest movie, looking at London at the tail end of the Thatcher era.

10. The Queen (Frears, 2006)

Stephen Frears and Peter Morgan’s most successful collaboration, which is insightful and hugely entertaining.