Top ten British films

Guilty pleasures and the difference between what we claim to watch and what we do watch are recurring themes in these blogs. So it was with great interest that I read the results of Radio Times’ search for the greatest British films, in which 2,500 readers voted from a combined shortlist drawn up by Barry Norman and Andrew Collins in seven categories (a list is in this week’s issue). You might expect the results to be full of ‘classics’, but you’d be wrong. Oh, there are some in there, but the top 10 contains some real surprises. Here’s the list:

1. Monty Python’s Life of Brian

2. The Full Monty

3. Four Weddings and a Funeral

4. Trainspotting

5. Lawrence of Arabia

6. Shaun of the Dead

7. Withnail & I

8. Brief Encounter

9. Zulu

10. Monty Python and the Holy Grail

Shaun of the Dead I can kind of excuse as these lists invariably have something brand new in them, but would it be there if the poll was repeated next year? It’s a strange mix otherwise. I’ve never understood the lure of Four Weddings myself (its inclusion did almost provoke a Hugh Grant style response, I must admit), but I can understand most of the others (but do we really need two Monty Pythons?).

Where are the Ealing comedies? Powell and Pressburger? Classic war films such as Bridge Over The River Kwai? The Third Man? Merchant Ivory? I blame the television companies for not showing such films as much as they used to and for shifting them off to specialist digital stations. People’s viewing habits are driven by what’s on DVD these days—and how prominently said DVDs are displayed in the shops. Classic films rarely get a look-in. (Please go, right now, to wherever you rent or buy from and choose one classic title. For me. You won’t regret it.)

The poll was commissioned to accompany the BBC and UK Film Council’s initiative, the Summer of British Film. British Film Forever, a seven-part weekly series on BBC2 (starting on July 28) will examine the movies by genre—thriller, romance, social realism, costume, horror/fantasy, war and comedy. Then following each programme, a classic example of the genre, sparklingly restored, will be show in 136 cinemas nationwide.

A great idea, but you may not agree with the seven chosen films: Goldfinger, Brief Encounter, Billy Liar, Henry V (the Olivier version), The Wicker Man (of course, the original. How do I write rolling my eyes?), The Dam Busters and Withnail & I.

But try to go and see at least one or they’ll never do it again. We won’t get to see the really good stuff if they think there’s no support.

For more details, go to