Everybody has their own favourite film. Some are easily understood, others more obscure, but alongside them all, are the greats, films which many people consistently rate as among the best. As much as I love Hollywood movies, I am very passionate about those produced in my homeland. Here are 8 classic British movies to add to your own personal list.
The Red Shoes, written and directed by Powell and Pressburger, was made in 1948. It starred Moira Shearer as Vicky, a ballerina who is cast in a new ballet. She falls in love with the ballet’s composer but is forced to choose between her lover and her career. It all ends tragically, as Vicky, running to meet her lover, is killed by a train. Moira Shearer, Marius Goring, and Robert Helpmann all star in this classic British movie, which was said to have been inspired by a meeting between the dancer Diaghilev and the ballerina Diana Gould.
The Third Man is a film noir, made in 1949, by director Carol Reed. The screenplay was written by Graham Greene and many critics rank it as a masterpiece. Orson Welles and Trevor Howard were among the stars in this story based in post-war Vienna. An American writer comes to look for his old friend Harry Lime, who has offered him work. But on his arrival he discovers that Lime has been killed. At the funeral, he meets various people who knew Lime, and eventually becomes suspicious that his death may not have been an accident.
Don’t Look Now is a 1973 thriller directed by Nic Roeg. Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland star as a couple whose lives become complicated after meeting two elderly sisters in Venice, where they have gone to try and recover from the death of their daughter. Visions and premonitions ensue and take an increasingly sinister turn. This classic British movie was adapted from a short story by Daphne Du Maurier. It was filmed in London and Venice, and the city is as much of a star of this film as the actors.
Kind Hearts and Coronets is regarded as one of the best of the black comedies to come out of the famous Ealing Studios. Made in 1949, it’s set in Edwardian England, where the son of a woman cast out of her aristocratic family dreams of reclaiming the dukedom. When just eight members of the family stand between him and the title, he decides to murder them all. Also famous as one of the best examples of the work of actor Alec Guinness, this classic British movie can still add value to a rainy afternoon.
Chariots of Fire won four Oscars. Made in 1981, written by Colin Welland, and directed by Hugh Hudson, it’s based on the true story of the 1924 British Olympic athletics team, and in particular Harold Abrahams, an English Jew who struggled with prejudice, and Eric Liddell, a devout Christian, who was almost forced to drop out of the team because his beliefs wouldn’t allow him to run on a Sunday. It sounds a bit worthy, but in fact it’s a glorious film with an all-star cast which captures the spirit of the Age and the days when sportsmanship was what counted.
Lawrence of Arabia is a 1962 film based on the life of T E Lawrence. It was directed by David Lean and as well as being a classic British film, it is widely considered to be one of the greatest and most influential films in the history of cinema. The movie, which stars Peter O Toole as Lawrence, covers his experience in Arabia during World War 1, and in particular his involvement in the Arab National Council. Lawrence struggles with the levels of personal violence inherent in war, and his divided allegiance between his native Britain and his new compatriots in the Arabian desert.
Brief Encounter was made in 1945 by director David Lean and stars Trevor Howard and Celia Johnson. The screenplay was written by Noel Coward but there is little of his trademark throwaway humour. This is one married woman’s struggle with her emotions when she meets a doctor by chance at a railway station and they fall in love. The affair is doomed by convention and conscience and they agree to part. This classic British film is also primarily known for the soundtrack, Rachmaninov’s 2nd Piano Concerto, and lovers of the film can’t even hear the music without reaching for a handkerchief.
Originally a children’s book published in 1906, The Railway Children, made in 1970, is one of the best loved films of our time, and anyone over the age of forty will hold a small place for it in her heart. It’s the story of the Waterbury family who move to a house near the railway after their father is wrongly imprisoned. The three children find amusement in watching the trains on the nearby railway line and waving to the passengers, many of whom become friends. The last scene, when Roberta is reunited with her father on a station platform, is guaranteed to soften the hardest of hearts.
Why not curl up on the sofa with a box of chocolates and revel once again in any of these classic British Films. We can all be proud of them even if some are black and white! What are some of your favourite classics?
Top Photo Credit: Filmonix
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