As a UK script consultant and script writer for hire I was looking at the list of best British films on Wikipedia the other day. There’s some cracking films on there, and a lot of dross, or very odd choices too.
I’ll take ‘Gregory’s Girl’ and ‘Local Hero’ anytime, ‘Don’t Look Now’, ‘Get Carter’ and ‘The Long Good Friday’, yes please. ‘The Italian Job’, ‘Withnail and I’, ‘Performance’, ‘Brazil’, ‘The Day of The Jackal’ ‘Mona Lisa’, I can watch these films all day, and I was genuinely pleased to see ‘Carry On…Up the Khyber’ sneak in near the bottom of the list. But there’s a lot I could gratefully do without, and some that I think are barely British films.
‘Brassed Off?’ While I applaud the political sentiment, the film is surely naff? Ang Lee’s ‘Sense and Sensibility’ (or any Jane Austen film – ANY best belongs in the bin) ‘Secrets and Lies’ – uh, ‘The Full Monty’ –uh, ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’ – cripes (the writer Richard Curtis and his whole oeuvre turns my stomach, and I’ve met him once and my opinion remains the same.) ‘The Crying Game’? – Talented director on an odd project, has anybody watched that film in last 10 years? ‘Small Faces’ by Gillies Mackinnon, on the list of best 100 films? ‘The Killing Fields’ is a great movie, but is it a British film? Is it a British subject? I’m not so sure…
So what would I put in the list that isn’t there? Certainly not Same Mendes’ recent ‘1917’ – a terrific technical exercise but a total dramatic failure. If we’re stretching the notion of what’s British I would stick ‘An American Werewolf in London’ in straight away alongside ‘Eastern Promises’. Is ‘The Wicker Man’ on the list? (yes it is) Or any Hammer films at all? Blood on Satan’s Claw? What about the film versions of Alan Clarke’s ‘Scum’ or ‘The Firm’? Are they TV or film? ‘A Clockwork Orange’ is in there – so should ‘2001’ and ‘Full Metal Jacket’ be in there too? What about ‘Barry Lyndon?’
Trainspotting is in the list (but I much prefer Trainspotting 2). Is ‘Quadraphenia?’ there? Is ‘A Sense of Freedom’? (both better than ‘If…’ when it comes down to it). ’24 Hour Party People’? I can’t see it, but I’d rather watch it than say ‘The Madness of King George’. Where the fxxk is ‘Hear my Song’? I can’t see it on the list…
Is there anything in there by Britain’s best writing team? Clement and La Frenais? – ‘The Commitments’ is in there (rightly so too), which they wrote from the book, I also would put forward the little seen comedy Still Crazy straight away which they also wrote. Not many saw it, but it’s one of my favourite British films, funny, touching and it covers the UK music scene of the past 50 years, a kinder British ‘Spinal Tap’. It’s a great knowing tribute to British rockers of the past and is very funny at times.
Is ‘Shaun of the Dead’ in this list? ‘Excalibur’? ‘Rita Sue and Bob Too’? I’m sick of looking now, that’s the thing with lists, you can’t make everyone happy. But seek out Still Crazy (is it on Netflix? – have a look yourself) if you can, it’ll make you happy guaranteed.
Matthew Cooper has been a script writer for hire, UK Script editor and script doctor for over 20 years. He’s written for most of the UK soaps, including writing award winning episodes of Emmerdale, EastEnders, Hollyoaks and Family Affairs and has been BAFTA shortlisted and Royal Television Society nominated as a script writer. He’s also a leading UK script consultant and freelance script writer for hire and online screenwriting expert. You can find some of his broadcast credits on the IMDb. You can get in touch with Matthew on email@example.com or hire him on Peopleperhour
His directorial debut, the rubber reality horror thriller Markham will be released in 2020.