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Design Practice 2 - What Is Good - Best British Films

I went on to look at some of the best films to ever come out of the country, mainly, Low-Budget Independent films. I also looked at high grossing Films that have been filmed in the UK.



Best British Films (via Empire)

I have taken some of my personal favourite British Independant (and some no-independant) films from all eras, mainly via the Empire website...



24 Hour Party People (2002)


Ostensibly a movie about the Manchester music scene between '76 - '92, 24 Hour Party People spends more time mocking its lead character and narrator, record label owner Tony Wilson (played by Steve Coogan), than relaying the stories of Joy Division, New Order and Happy Mondays, all of whom passed through his orbit. But as you roll on the floor laughing when Tony crashes into a tree while riding a hang glider, or gets caught by his wife in the back of a "nosh van" getting "oral pleasures" from a stranger, you really don't mind how much '90s pop culture gets brought to life - or whether what is shown on screen actually happened in the first place. Deftly directed by Winterbottom, 24HPP (as no-one ever calls it) is far, far funnier than anyone should ever expect a biopic to be. If you can call it a biopic. Or expect anything of it at all, really...



Gregory's Girl (1981)



There are many teen comedies, and teen sex comedies. None, however, come close to Gregory's Girl, a story of love and lust burning in all its teenage intensity that manages both realism and unspeakable hilarity without ever forgetting to sympathise with its subjects. John Gordon Sinclair is the youngster struck down with adoration for the gorgeous, football-playing Dorothy (Hepburn), while Grogan plays Susan, Dorothy's friend and a far better bet for the awkward Romeo. It's a familiar set-up, but it's almost never been as beautifully observed or intelligently written as it is here, for which all credit to Bill Forsyth. After all, dates that involve aimless walks and visits to the chip shop will ring just a little bit more true-to-life than American cinema's endless parade of proms, beach parties and sporting events. View it as a companion piece to the director's Local Hero, and settle yourself in for some of the most convincing real-life laughs you will ever see on film.


Four Lions (2010)



On paper, a comedy about radicalised British Muslims blowing themselves up during the London Marathon shouldn't be funny, but with Chris Morris at the helm, nothing can be taken for granted - not even gags about bomb construction or exploding crows. Morris pulls off an incredible trick in extracting comedy from catastrophe with the help of a talented cast, Kayvan Novak to the fore as the earnest Waj with Nigel Lindsay as irascible convert Barry. Morris teases out belly laugh after belly laugh from characters rather than crudeness, sympathy rather than distain, all whilst making a point about the nature of terrorism. For this amazing balancing act alone, Four Lions deserves a place up there with The Life Of Brian in the contentious comedy hall of fame. Sure, the somewhat inevitable ending wouldn't be found in most 'how-to-make-a-money-spinning-comedy' handbooks, but in Morris's masterful hands, you're guaranteed hysteric giggle fits as well as some heavier head scratching.\


Dracula (1958)



Hammer's take on the big daddy of the vampire world (assuming vampires have fathers) is sexier and gorier than any previous adaptation, and most subsequent efforts. Christopher Lee makes an imposing, fiery Count, pitted against Peter Cushing's cool, cerebral Van Helsing in a battle for the soul of Mina Harker and any other comely wenches who happen to cross his path. It's a pacy retelling of the story, only pausing for a moment here and there as Dracula looms threateningly over someone's neck, and it has a rich score that keeps the blood pumping. The Count's gruesome end, flesh peeling and melting in the sun, is an iconic horror image and did much to establish the Hammer style.




Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part Two (2011)


The second most recent film on the list, this gets a spot for doing the impossible: not going out with a whimper. So high were the expectations for this eighth instalment of the series that you would have forgiven director David Yates for locking himself in Dumbledore's office and refusing to come out until it was all over, but instead he turned out an action-packed, character-driven, sometimes brutal finale to the adventures of the boy wizard. Finally there's the all-out magical war that the series had always sidestepped; finally there's a resolution to the Harry and Voldemort conundrum. If nothing else, you have to admire the chutzpah of a series that not only takes time out for a metaphysical jaunt in the middle of the big final battle but also does the unthinkable and lets the bad guy have his victory on the way.

Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels (1998)


There's a perennial pub debate that poses the question: Which is better, Snatch or Lock Stock? Snatch apologists talk a good game, but the correct answer is, of course, Ritchie's jaw-dropping debut. After all, this is a movie that brought the world 'The Stath', Vinnie Jones hammering someone's skull with a car door, and the knowledge that a big purple dildo can be used an offensive weapon. Essentially the shaggiest of shaggy dog stories - to call the plot "complex" is to do it a disservice - it's all so slickly done, delivered with such balls-out confidence and written with such an amazing turn of phrase that somehow the convoluted to-ing-and-froing works like clockwork. So well, in fact, that over a decade later, it remains Ritchie's finest film, a fantastic achievement from a first-time director who took a group of meticulously-cast but relatively unknown actors and spun them into solid fackin' gold.

Brighton Rock (1947)




The glum austerity of '40s Britain has never been better depicted than in this Boulting brothers' crime classic. Set in a Brighton of peeling wallpaper and rusting penny arcades, the setting's decay is mirrored by switchblade-wielding hoodlum 'Pinkie' Brown. As Pinkie, Richard Attenborough dominates the film, and earns a place in British film legend, as the vicious low-life who lures Carol Marsh's love-struck waitress into the underworld. Pinkie is a man who'd throw acid in his grannie's face for an extra HobNob, so we know it's not going to end well for the trusting naf. Still, their lockstep descent into a form of seaside hell, a nightmarish noir kingdom of Brylcreemed mobsters and suited hoods, retains its power to shock. Of Britain's great screen monsters, only Hammer Films' fiends come anywhere close to Pinkie.



Control (2007)



Newcomer Sam Riley takes his place in the pantheon of on-screen rockstars with his depiction of Joy Division front man Ian Curtis. We're saying he's more than a musical match for Andy Serkis's Ian Dury, Gary Oldman's Sid Vicious or Val Kilmer's Jim Morrison - even if his trousers aren't quite as tight. All jittery energy and charisma on stage, Riley's post-punk star is a troubled soul who jerks from elation to despair off it. We know what's coming from the first reel but experienced through the eyes of Debbie Curtis (Samantha Morton), his suicide still comes like a punch in the gut. If Joy Division's music doesn't do it for you - and Riley and co. reprise their greatest moments with more panache than we've any right to expect from non-musicians - there's Anton Corbijn's stunning black-and-white photography to appreciate and Toby Kebbell's hilarious Rob Gretton to enjoy. Frankly, if that's not enough for you, you're a big dog's cock.

Blow Up (1966)




As you'd expect from the man behind L'Avventura and La Notta, Michelangelo Antonioni's swinging London is a pretty high-minded place. The 24/7 sexy romping at fashion snapper Thomas' (Hemmings) pad may look a bit, well, Austin Powers-y these days, but the Italian great was in deadly earnest with his adaption of Julio Cortza's short story. Behind all the chiffon and posing is a seriously smart premise that Brian De Palma would later borrow for his thriller Blow Out (1981). It has Hemmings' David Bailey-alike realising that he's unwittingly photographed a murderer lurking in the treeline of a deserted park. Returning the next day, he stumbles upon the victim's body, only for it to vanish soon afterwards. Will the snapper tear himself away from the sexy romping long enough to solve the case and bring the killer to justice? Come on, this is Antonioni we're talking about. If you've seen L'Avventura, you'll know that he prefers his mysteries unsolved. Blow-Up may not have aged quite as well as peers like Peeping Tom and Darling, but as a period piece of Sixties London, there's none better.

Hunger (2008)



Like Sam Taylor-Wood, Julian Schnabel and, um, Tony Hart, artist-cum-director Steve McQueen turned out to be a dab hand in both kinds of studio. His debut feature, a stark meditation on political protest, largely sidelined the actual politics behind Bobby Sands' (Fassbender) 1981 hunger strike to zoom in on the man himself. It's not an easy watch, by any means. Michael Fassbender's astonishing portrayal of the dying IRA man is disquieting viewing, while McQueen's Maze Prison, faeces-smeared walls, urine sloshing corridors and all, will haunt your dreams. The 33lbs Fassbender lost for the part, a Mechanist-like plunge into emaciation, translates into a performance filled with heavy-lidded determination: the frailer Sands' body becomes the stronger he seems, a dichotomy the actor explores to the full. His 17 minute exchange with Liam Cunningham's Catholic priest offers an electric centrepiece scene captured in one unobtrusive take by McQueen's camera. Okay, Hunger probably isn't a movie to settle down to with a pizza, but it's an essential piece of modern art from a director we'll be seeing a whole lot more from.




Chariots of Fire (1981)

Chariots Of Fire is, perhaps, the definition of a movie that became too successful for its own good. Twenty-first century newcomers to Hugh Hudson's classic sports drama have to dig through a steeplejump's worth of hype, a catchphrase that looms like stormcloud (screenwriter Colin Welland may always regret whooping, "The British are coming" when picking up his Oscar), and a small army of top-hat wearing, ever-so-snooty characters that are hard to not laugh at on occasion. But if you can see through all that, there is a beautiful movie beneath, dealing with devotion and identity, religion and fame. And that's without mentioning Vangelis's still jaw-dropping, if now slightly clich├ęd, score, a synthesiser-heavy masterpiece that somehow sits perfectly with the film's 1920s setting. It's a piece of music so magnificent it'd make Zookeeper watchable, and we don't say that lightly. With the London Olympics year fast approaching, expect the film to return to favour in a blaze of not-on-Sunday patriotism and slightly tuneless whistling. Hurrah!



The Full Monty (1997)

Cynics often carp that British cinema falls into two distinct categories: the glossy costume efforts and the grim-oop-north dramas. This one, however, manages to leaven the grimness (still very much present in the constant shadow of economic meltdown) with a sense of humour and quiet determination, as a gang of unemployed steel workers try to make a little money by, well, stripping completely naked for a horde of baying women. It's a true underdog story, glued together by immensely sympathetic performances, particularly from Carlyle, Addy and Wilkinson, all of whom were launched into Hollywood after their turns here. Worth watching just for the Post Office queue dance scene, wherein each of the team quietly start shifting in time to the music as they await their dole cheques.



The 39 Steps (1935)



Before presided over Ealing Studios' golden age, Michael Balcon is best remembered for giving a talented East London filmmaker a leg-up in the tough-as-knuckles British film industry. That man? Alfred Hitchcock. He turned out early potboilers for Balcon's Gainsborough Pictures in the '20s before moving across London with Balcon to Lime Grove Studios, the home of this classic romp. The 39 Steps is a compendium of classic Hitchcock trademarks, from Robert Donat's 'wrong man' to a sinister MacGuffin and a Hitch cameo upset that'd make mortal enemies of the Keep Britain Tidy campaign. Witness, too, the chemistry he sparks between his romantic leads - the feisty pairing of Donat and Carroll squabble their way across the Scottish Highlands and into each other's arms - and the ever-building paranoia as that spy ring does its nefarious work. The identity of those spies is never specified, but if they're not carrying travel editions of Mein Kampf, you can melt our faces.



The Italian Job (1969)





Ask most film lovers what they remember most about The Italian Job and the mains 'Turin traffic jam', 'robbery', 'Mini' and 'getaway' will feature prominently - and rightly so. But a Boxing Day rewatch will remind any casual fan just what a camp comic triumph this movie is. Sure, it's also about the pride every Englishman feels when British pluck and derring-do win (part of) the day (kind of), but with characters like Benny Hill's Professor Simon Peach, with his penchant for extra-large ladies, and Nol Coward's not-quite-royally appointed crime boss Mr. Bridger, there's no denying The Italian Job's chuckles are firmly rooted in saucy seaside postcards and all that carry on. But it's because of that untouchable team of comic talent - Caine in particular - as well as the pacy robbery antics and the "England! England!" wave of patriotism that crashes out of those Turin sewer entrances, there's no conceivable way anyone born on this sceptred isle can watch The Italian Job without cracking a smile.




28 Days Later (2002)




Whether we're going to technically class it as a zombie movie or call them "infected", there's no question that Danny Boyle's film juiced up British horror in particular and the horror genre in general. Shot on a digital video that manages to look both gritty and gorgeous, combining moments of heart-stopping terror with stretches of quiet horror at the profoundly unnatural sight of an empty London, it's become the new benchmark, inspiring a wealth of imitators but few equals. Boyle's eye for talent pays off too: newcomers Cillian Murphy and Naomie Harris hold the attention even at the heart of the storm, however many of the monstrous horde pursue them, while Christopher Ecclestone's late appearance reminds us that people don't have to be infected to be seriously disturbing. Still, it bears repeating: those infected are reallyfast and seriously scary.






Dead Mans Shoes (2004)




Most films on this list are here primarily because of the person behind the camera. In this case, and with no disrespect to Shane Meadows' assured direction, it's the stunning turn by its star and co-writer, Paddy Considine, that's won it a place. He's the spine of the film, an ex-soldier who returns to his hometown and brings down a world of pain on the men who bullied his younger brother. The result is a sort of Sympathy For Mr Vengeance for Derbyshire, a brutal but strangely compassionate look at a ruthless and violent figure, a sort of slasher movie in reverse. A showcase for a deserving actor, and a perfect example of the indie sector's ability to tackle storylines that studios would shy away from, this is one of the finest British films in years.






Kes (1969)



Still Ken Loach's best film, this beautifully etches the relationship between 15 year-old Barnsley school boy Billy Casper (David Bradley), bullied and beaten at home, ignored at school and the baby kestrel he nurtures and loves. It's a fantastic mixture of the poetic - cinematographer Chris Menges beautifully lenses sequences of Billy with his bird on the moors - and the everyday - the boredom and rhythms of school life have rarely been captured. Everyone remembers Brian Glover as the sadistic sports teacher who runs away with a farcical football match, but this is a film full of great performances, especially Bradley as a vulnerable, believable hero. Anytime someone bashes the British Film Industry with a Sex Lives Of The Potato Men or a Fat Slags, it's heartening to remember we are also capable of sublime brilliance like this.



This Is England (2005)



From the opening credits' blare of Toots & The Maytals' ska classic '54-46 (That's My Number)', rhythmically synched with an identity parade of Falklands-era heroes and villains, there was a sense that Shane Meadows was going to deliver a film to live up to its mission-statement title. And so it proved, even if the BBFC's draconian 18 certificate meant that the people it was aimed at couldn't actually see it. Set in the Nottinghamshire boondocks, This Is England is a slice of Brit realism with an energy all of its own, a film with serious fire in its belly. The source of its zeal, Meadows, tiptoes between brutality and tenderness with the poise of a dancer - albeit a dancer who looks a bit like a prop forward. It's a celebration of friendship, a love letter to its director's teenage years (Thomas Turgoose's Shaun surrogates for the young Meadows) and a big old 'V' sign to the National Front. It also spawned terrific telly in the shape of Channel 4's This Is England '86. Pretty good for a self-professed 'cult' movie.




A Clockwork Orange (1971)




Malcolm McDowell always claimed that while making A Clockwork Orange he was under the impression that it was a comedy. As Hans Gruber might say: "Ho... ho... ho". On its release in 1971, amid a hurricane of controversy that would eventually lead Stanley Kubrick to pull his film from cinemas, a comment like that would have had Daily Mail readers spluttering into their morning tea. Now, however, it seems somehow apt: the 20 minute rampage by the droogs, Alex's "rehabilitation" and his friends' recruitment into the police force and so on, are in their own dark and twisted way, extremely funny. But, more importantly, they're also shoulder-shakingly prescient. To this day, its impact on the first-time viewer cannot be denied. Here, movie-lovers, is a crash course in humanism (featuring massive dildos, orgies and brainwashing) only Kubrick could deliver.






Shaun of the Dead (2004)



At Shaun Of The Dead's big, beautiful heart, there's a single, simple joke: modern-day Londoners behave much like zombies, so what if there was an actual zombie apocalypse? Would all the Tube-going, bum-scratching commuters even notice? Brought to the screen by the Holy Comedy Trinity that is Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and Edgar Wright, it's a masterpiece, right up there with Evil Dead II as one of the finest horror comedies ever made. It's a film so good that even if you don't like horror, you love this movie. It's a film so good that even if you don't like the Spaced crew, you love this movie. It's all because it was written, produced and acted with such passion, energy and sheer, unadulterated charm that it's nigh-on impossible not to enjoy. No matter what magnificent deeds the trio accomplish in the future, we have a sneaking suspicion that Shaun Of The Dead will remain many folks' favourite.




Monty Python's The Life of Brian (1979)



Most of us know by now the origins of Python's second proper movie - at a press conference, Eric Idle laughingly suggested that their next project would be "Jesus Christ - Lust For Glory". What they eventually came up with was much better - an unrivalled satire on religion, and quite possibly the funniest movie ever made. Trouble was, no-one in the film business had the balls to make it. From its opening sequence (the first joke is a pratfall) it's evident that this is going to be Python of the highest standard, but it's the cohesion of the story that makes this all work so well. In sending up not Christ (who is, technically speaking, treated with reverence and kept at arm's length), but all of the petty, political, opportunist zealots around him, the troupe had finally found in their subject an idea ripe for ridicule large enough to accommodate their rapid gag rate and breadth of style. Of course Brian isn't the Messiah (that'd be the boy up the street), but you try telling them - and the financiers - that. Enter Empire's favourite Beatle and cornerstone of the British film industry for the next decade, George Harrison (and his money), and the rest is history. The creation of Handmade Films. Uproar. Outrage. Censorship. Genius.




Trainspotting (1996)


Trainspotting didn't so much reinvigorate British cinema as spike filmmaking heroin into its vein. In adapting Irvine Welsh's cult novel, director Danny Boyle re-teamed with the winning creative talent behind Shallow Grave (producer Andrew Macdonald, screenwriter John Hodge) and the result is another offbeat rush of dark, orgasmic cinema. Ignoring tabloid arguments of whether the movie glorifies drug use or not (it doesn't), a grotty depiction of the Edinburgh junkie subculture just shouldn't be this enjoyable. But in fusing wildly imaginative style (Renton's plunge into the filthiest toilet in Scotland) with naturalistic but witty dialogue, an impossibly iconic soundtrack, some truly disturbing imagery (the baby, anyone?) and, er, Dale Winton, it spoke to the '90s chemical generation. From Robert Carlyle's 'tache-totting psycho to Jonny Lee Miller's Connery-worshipping wideboy, it's also full of memorable, quote-worthy characters, while Mark Renton remains the performance of Ewan McGregor's career.




A Few more Recent Films that have been filmed in the UK;-



Clash of the Titans - Warner Bros. Pictures / Legendary Pictures / Thunder Road Pictures / The Zanuck Company, USA / Gorgon Productions Ltd, UK.

Get Him To The Greek - Universal Pictures / Apatow Productions, USA

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Parts 1 & 2 - Warner Bros. Pictures, USA / DDDCo Ltd / Heyday Films, UK.

Inception - Warner Bros Pictures / Legendary Pictures, USA

The King's Speech -  The Weinstein Company, USA / Bedlam Productions, UK / See Saw Films, UK

Alice in Wonderland - Walt Disney Pictures / Team Todd / Tim Burton Animation Co. / The Zanuck Company, USA.

The Boat That Rocked - Universal Pictures, USA / Working Title Films, UK




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