Making a selection of the best British movies of all time is not the easiest task. Throughout the years England, Scotland and Ireland (yes for the sake of it, we also count Ireland) have produced an astonishing amount of top British films. Here the greatest UK films out on DVD and Blu-ray.
When making this top 10 we realised we could not please everyone. In the end we have tried to find a fair compromise between the old classic English movies, and the more recent ones. We have also tried to find a balance between the different genres. We have also been inspired by the expertise of the British Film institute that released their top 10 films from the UK in 1999.
You can also read our selection of the best English tv serieswith trailers and reviews.
This is a subjective list, Based on our taste, and on our perception of the general popular opinion.
Top 7 best English Movies – the greatest films from England of all time
The English movies include trailers, reviews, and IMDB Ratings.
1. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)
- Directed by Stanley Kubrick
- Cast: Peter Sellers, George C. Scott and Sterling Hayden
- IMDb Rating: 8.6.
One of Britain’s, and in fact the world’s, greatest filmmakers. Stanley Kubrick (Clockwork Orange) has made a modest amount of films in his day, but they are all terrific. We recommend watching his entire oeuvre. In our opinion Dr. Strangelove is his finest work. It was nominated for four Oscars, and has impressed generations of film fans ever since. Originally intended to be a thriller based on the book ‘Red Alert’ by Peter George, Kubrick realised that the script should actually be turned in to a comedy/satire. This was done with great success. Stanley Kubrick has never actually won an Oscar fo best director. He did manage to win one for the special effects of the cult classic ‘2001: A Space Oddysey’
IMDb Synopsis: ‘An insane general starts a process to nuclear holocaust that a war room of politicians and generals frantically try to stop.’
Trailer of Dr. Strangelove:
2. The Third Man (1949)
- Directed by Carol Reed
- Cast: Orson Welles, Joseph Cotten and Alida Valli
- IMDb Rating: 8.5.
The number one on the British Film Institute’s top 100 of best British movies of all time in 1999. And it is a well deserved spot. It is one of world’s cinema most well-known old classics. It is a film by Carol Reed whose other movies do not really enjoy the same fame and popularity as this one. It is starring Orson Wells (director of the great all-time classic Citizen Kane) and Joseph Cotten who also plays a part in Citizen Kane. This mysterious film-noir film was awarded with one Oscar, and a BAFTA Award.
‘IMDb Synopsis: Pulp novelist Holly Martins goes off to shadowy, postwar Vienna, to find himself investigating a mysterious death of an old friend, black-market opportunist Harry Lime.’
3. Trainspotting (1996)
- Directed by Danny Boyle
- Cast: Ewan McGregor, Jonny Lee Miller, and Ewen Bremner
- IMDb Rating: 8.2..
An intrusive film that nowadays still has great popularity. It is a cultfilm that everyone knows. Trainspotting is directed by the English Danny Boyle who recently is doing very well, releasing the one big blockbuster after another (Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours). The great performance by a young Ewan Mcrgregor makes that this film is on our best English movies list. The film tells the story the life of junkies in the drugsscene of the Scottish Edinburgh. It shows us how difficult it is to say farewell to drugs, when your whole environment is associated with it. Trainspotting was nominated for an Oscar and came in 10th on the BFI best British films list.
Trailer of Trainspotting:
4. Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
An absolute all time classic that everyone should see. It is a film by Legendary British filmmaker who has an impressive 6 movies in the BFI top English movies (The Bridge on the River Kwai, Doctor Zhivago etc.). It received an incredible amount of seven Oscars, among them one of the two Oscars that David Lean would receive in his career.
IMDb synopsis: ‘Epic rumination on a flamboyant and controversial British military figure and his conflicted loyalties during wartime service.’
5. Monty Python: The Life of Brian (1979)
- Directed by Terry Jones
- Cast: Graham Chapman, John Cleese and Michael Palin
- IMDb Rating: 8.2.
According to us not only one of the best English movies, but also the very best comedy of all time. What the monty python crew has done in terms of timing and originality is unrivaled. John Cleese is and will always be the king of laughter. Not just in movies but also in British tv series (Fawlty Towers, read about it in our English TV Series section). Besides Life of Brian we can also recommend the other movies in the series.
IMDb Synopsis: ‘Brian is born on the original Christmas, in the stable next door. He spends his life being mistaken for the messiah.‘
Trailer of the Life of Brian:
6. Withnail & I (1987)
- Directed by Bruce Robinson
- Cast: Richard E. Grant, Paul McGann and Richard Griffiths
- IMDb Rating: 7.7
A film that did not receive a lot of awards, or was an instant succes everywhere. Through the years it has received sort of a cult status, and is now considered to be one of the funniest comedies of all time. It made it on the Guardian’s top 10 of the funniest movies.
‘Two lazy city boys get invited to spend some time on one of their uncle’s countryside’s estate.’
7. Secrets & Lies (1996)
- Directed by Mike Leigh
- Cast: Timothy Spall, Brenda Blethyn and Phyllis Logan
- IMDb Rating: 8.0
A great film by modern film makes Mike Leigh (We can really recommend his 2010’s ‘Another Year’). The film was nominated for 5 oscars and has won tons of other prizes. This comedy drama stars the great English Actor Timothy Spall who most people now know as Wormtail in what without a doubt is England’s most popular film series – Harry Potter.
IMDb Synopsis: Successful black woman traces her birth mother to a lower-class white woman, who denies it; emotions run high as everyone’s secrets are exposed.
Scene of Secrets & Lies:
For a complete list of the best English Movies, you should have a look at the BFI Best British Movies List.