The 100 best British films: Time Out writers

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Explore the top ten British films of all our guest contributors

Linked title denotes top 100 placing

Derek Adams, Film critic

Geoff Andrew, Contributing editor and Head of Film Programme, BFI Southbank

I definitely took this as ‘favourites’ rather than as ‘greatest’ (though I consider all these films great to some degree), and I limited myself to one film for any one director.

I restricted myself to fiction features only which meant no shorts, no documentaries and, as it happened, no animation, which unfortunately meant leaving out truly terrific films like ‘Listen to Britain’, ‘In Absentia’, ‘Creature Comforts’, etc.

I was then slowly and with great regret and difficulty able to come up with two lists (both alphabetical, both rather obvious):

Favourite ten fiction features made in Britain by British directors:

Favourite ten fiction features made in Britain by non-British directors:

I think these lists are actually very different; not least of course in terms of the films’ ‘Britishness’, but if you absolutely force me to somehow come up with a ten best that combines these, here is what I reluctantly come up with; still in alphabetical order, and note too that it includes two shorts!

Least favourite list of favourite ‘British’ films:

Sarah Cohen, Film critic

Ben Kenigsberg, Film editor, Time Out Chicago

Limited to two films per director if director is British-born (hello, Hitchcock and Powell); one film per director if director is American-born (no room for ‘Barry Lyndon’, argh). Also sending apologies to Mike Leigh, James Bond and Carol Reed, the latter of whom could've landed ‘Odd Man Out’ here on a different day. My ranking is semi-random.

Adam Lee Davies, Film critic

1. Mona Lisa (Jordan, 1986)Referred to by another esteemed pollster as 'our "Taxi Driver"', Neil Jordan's seedy bongo noir is a British crime thriller without equal.

2. Brazil (Gilliam, 1985)Slapstick fantasy? Bureaucratic love story? Terrorist laugh-riot? Whatever it is, it’s something close to perfect.

3. The Long Good Friday (Mackenzie, 1980‘Cultchah, sophistication, genius: a little bit more than an ’ot dog – know what I mean?’ Back when British gangster films weren’t just matey larks, ‘shooters’ and boozy shouting matches in Medway lock-ups.

4. Yellow Submarine (Dunning, 1968)Acid-fried lunacy from the Fabs that retains the capacity to twist your melons inside out.

5. Robinson in Space (Keiller, 1997)Like being stranded in a lay-by with a coachload of elderly, wittering sociologists. But in a good way.

6. Withnail and I (Robinson, 1987)Camden Town’s finest filmic hour.

7. Local Hero (Forsyth, 1983)Sweet, mysterious and sharp as a tack, Forsyth’s finest is a ‘Whisky Galore!’ for the Betamax generation.

8. Monty Python’s the Meaning of Life (Jones, 1983)‘Grail’ might be more rounded and ‘Brian’ smarter, but neither come close to the balls-out anarchy of the Pythons’ big-screen swansong.

9. I’m All Right, Jack (Boulting, 1959)A splenetic attack on post-war British society disguised as a winsome, breezy comedy.

10. The Offence (Lumet, 1973)There’s not enough bathwater in the world to wash yourself clean of the grime and complicity that oozes from every frame…

Anna Smith, Film critic

Anil Sinanan, Film critic

Users say

2 comments
Jim
Jim

VERY interesting to see how British critics think of their own films. To my mind they promote a great deal of insignificant tripe over some excellent fare. I think the top ten, while replete with very good films, fails to name any particularly great films, with the notable exception of The Red Shoes. Brief Encounter is the best British film to my antipodean mind. I'd have Peeping Tom higher. Blow-Up, too... but I'm not sure it really qualifies, being directed by a single-minded Italian. Also, I feel Hitchcock should have most of his films very much higher. Also, what is with Don't Look Now being no. 1? Sure, it's not a bad film, but that good? Or perhaps it was a case of death by committee...

bobnessuk
bobnessuk

Wot? Not a single mention of Ken Russell?