Good English Movies List

Monday, November 16, 2009 at 7:00 am

This Good English Movies List includes a number of cinematic classics from our buddies across the pond. When you’re done reading, rush on over and update your Netflix or Blockbuster Online queue. And speaking of Netflix…

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The Third Man (1949) – Holly Martins (Joseph Cotton), a pulp Western writer, arrives in a Vienna recovering from WWII. He’s there because old pal Harry Lime (Orso Welles) has offered him a job, but he learns upon his arrival that Lime has tragically died. But that’s hardly the end of this film noir classic, as the picture veers from a secret meeting at the top of a ferris wheel to penicillan and a famous speech about cuckoo clocks. And keep an ear out for the perfect movie score from composer Anton Karas, which is still considered one of the best in film history.

My Beautiful Laundrette (1985) – In the days before he was throwing knives at Leonardo DiCaprio and drinking milkshakes, Daniel Day-Lewis starred in this Stephen Frears drama about Omar (Gordon Warnecke), a Pakistani youth living in Thatcher-era London. After taking over a failing laundrette for his uncle, Omar is reunited with Johnny (Day-Lewis), a former lover from high school. A complex love story which also deals with controversial subjects ranging from racism to homosexuality. Certainly ahead of its time for 1985.

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1962) – I always enjoy anti-establishment movies, and this little gem has one of the best “eff u” moments to an authority figure ever filmed. The central character is Colin Smith (Tom Courtenay), a juvenile delinquent sentenced to a stint in a reform school ringed with barbed wire. A talented runner, he catches the eye of The Governor (Michael Redgrave), the school’s administrator, who just so happens to need someone for his upcoming race against the athletes of a nearby school for the privileged. Besides telling a compelling story, The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner also offers commentary on the class struggle taking place in 1960’s England.

24 Hour Party People (2002) – Fans of the Manchester music scene will adore this U.K. film which covers the ’70s through the early ’90s, especially the creation of Britain’s influential Factory Records. Steve Coogan plays Tony Wilson, a “serious fucking journalist” who’s inspired to become a promotor after witnessing a show by the Sex Pistols. Irreverent in the extreme, the fourth wall is frequently sent tumbling to the ground, and music lovers will dig the soundtrack which includes The Clash, Joy Division, New Order, Happy Mondays, and more. Brits should also get a kick out of numerous cameos by U.K. celebrities such as Howard Devoto, Paul Ryder, Smug Roberts, and Terri Seymour.

Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life (1983) – Both a musical and a comedy, The Meaning of Life is comprised of a series of interconnected sketches which deal in hilarious fashion with various stages of the human condition. An organ donor is stunned when paramedics come to collect before he’s dead, an overweight man named Mr. Creosote gives a new meaning to the phrase “projectile vomit,” and a Mr. Grim arrives to discuss some reaping with a group of upper-middle-class twits. There’s plenty more, of course, and it’s all intended to either make you bust a gut or get horribly offended. The last film in which cast member Graham Chapman would appear with his cohorts, it went on to win the 1983 Grand Jury Prize at Cannes.

A Clockwork Orange (1971) – No list of good English movies would be complete without this Stanley Kubrick classic. Based on the novel by Anthony Burgess, it stars Malcolm McDowell as Alex DeLarge, a psychotic youth who loves rape, Beethoven, and a little of the ‘ol “ultra-violence.” With the kind of satirical black humor you might expect from the maker of Dr. Strangelove, A Clockwork Orange follows young Alex as he leads a gang of thugs, winds up in prison, and then volunteers for an experimental procedure which leaves him physically ill in the face of violence or sexual arousal. McDowell’s greatest role and certainly a good film worthy of your attention.

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Goldfinger (1964) – Sean Connery returns as James Bond in this third film of the series. This time around, the suave British spy is pitted against Auric Goldfinger (Gert Frobe) and his hat-throwing henchman, Oddjob (Harold Sakata). Fans of Bond will recognize a number of iconic scenes, including actress Shirley Eaton naked and covered in gold paint and, of course, Goldfinger telling our hero, “No, Mr. Bond. I expect you to die.” And no discussion of the film would be complete without mention of Honor Blackman’s role as pilot Pussy Galore, the best name for a Bond Girl in the history of the franchise (at least under they introduce a woman named Jenny Lou Bigtits).

if… (1968) – Back before he started accepting every crap role thrown his way, Malcolm McDowell actually starred in a number of good English films. Besides the previously-mentioned A Clockwork Orange, he also headed up this satirical look at life in a British public school. The eventual rebellion against the establishment is even more poweful in the post-Columbine era, and it’s said that if… was one of rapper Tupac Shakur’s favorite films.

The Madness of King George (1994) – Nigel Hawthorne received an Oscar nomination by taking his stage role of England’s King George III to the big screen. Mad as a hatter, he runs about his palace fondling woman and generally causing havoc. There’s plenty of comedy to be had, but the film also offers a fascinating look at the changing role of the British monarchy and the frightening state of medicine in the 18th century. As George III is subjected to all manner of bizarre “remedies,” you’ll thank God (or whoever) for modern health care. Also starring Helen Mirren, Ian Holm, Amanda Donohoe, and Rupert Everett.

The Full Monty (1997) – Set in Sheffield, this working-class comedy follows the adventures of six unemployed men as they try to earn enough money to get back on their feet. But when the scheming Gaz (Robert Carlyle) hatches a plan to form a male striptease group, will the average Joes go all the way and do “the full monty”? Presented as a comedy, this English movie also mixes in drama by touching on themes of depression, suicide, impotence, and custody rights. Tom Wilkinson is especially enjoyable as a laid-off foreman who keeps his unemployment from his shopaholic bride, and the Tom Jones’ version of You Can Leave Your Hat On is used to great effect.

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Now that you’ve had a chance to read our Good English Movies List, why not stick around and peruse the following:

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