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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

question of the day: What are your favorite movies about England?

I’ve arrived in England, and as you read this, I’m probably strolling around Stratford-upon-Avon, reaquainting myself with the town, or else I’m just sitting in a pub having a drink. There’s nothing on the agenda for today — no theater, no touring — which is just perfect after a transatlantic flight and a two-and-a-half-hour drive on the other side of the car on the other side of the road. So I think I’ve earned a bit of R and R.

In honor of my visit — and of my general love of all things British — let’s talk about British movies.

What’s your favorite movie about England, Scotland, or Wales? (I’ll take movies that are obviously about these places even if they aren’t, like how The Lord of the Rings may be set in Middle Earth but the Shire is totally England.)

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)

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  • Leslie Carr

    Four Weddings and a Funeral was released when I was at University and going to exactly the kind of weddings that were depicted in the film. It has always been a reminder to me of how ridiculously fictitious our lives can sometimes appear.

  • The Gaucho

    The Full Monty springs to mind, but so does Monty Python and the Holy Grail…

  • MaSch

    “Kind Hearts and Coronets”, for me. Alec Guinness playing all kinds of upper-class twits is sooo fabulous.

  • RyanT

    Love Actually. It’s one of those movies that I watch at least once a year just to feel all warm and fuzzy.

    Joe Wright! Okay he’s not a movie, but he did do Pride & Prejudice and Atonement which were among the best movies of their years.

    Oh and I can’t forget about Shaun of the Dead. Definitely, definitely can’t forget about that one.

    Truthfully though I can list about a dozen or two more… looove British films.

  • The original (Scottish) ‘The Wicker Man’.

  • Sandy

    ‘Hot Fuzz’, definitely. Stupid action movies seen through British eyes… priceless! Also I second ‘Shaun of the Dead’.

  • CoriAnn

    I second Love Actually–one of my favorite movies of all time.

  • Gee

    “A Fish Called Wanda” – very much in the mould of the Ealing Comedies and hysterically funny.

    Wanda to Otto: “Aristotle was not Belgian, the principle of Buddhism is not “every man for himself”, and the London Underground is not a political movement. Those are all mistakes, Otto. I looked them up.”

    “Educating Rita” – Michael Caine’s superb drunk lecture!

    I also enjoyed “Brassed Off”. I love brass bands and this has the bonus of a great cast including Pete Postlethwaite and Ewan McGregor.

    “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” – stylish and funny.

    There are lots of older films that are true classics but I wanted to go for ones with a more contemporary setting. However, I must mention the great Ealing comedy “The Ladykillers” with Alec Guiness, Peter Sellers, Herbert Lom et al. Perfection – forget the unecessary re-make.

  • hdj

    “28 days later” which hopefully London is not a deadzone you get to UK Maryann ;), Also “American werewolf in London” er.. “Shaun of the dead ,
    and a more non horror stand point ” Trainspotting” but I liked ” Snatch” better, but their both pretty good

  • christine

    Ditto for Love Actually – brilliant movie. In fact, just all of Richard Curtis’ body of work, really: Blackadder, Four Weddings and a Funeral and very probably The Boat that Rocked when it finally gets released stateside.

    But I have to give a shout-out to Gosford Park: it really manages to pack in quite a lot of English-ness.

    For Wales, I will always, *always* think of The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill and Came Down a Mountain. That, and Doctor Who/Torchwood, but this is about movies, not tv. ;)

    And for Scotland, an oldie but a goodie: Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps, with the sheep in the road!

  • Kathy A

    I recently rewatched for the first time in twenty years the classic I Know Where I’m Going, with Wendy Hiller as a young woman driven to improve her lot in life by marrying a rich industrialist on his remote island in the Hebrides. Of course, she ends up stranded on the mainland waiting for the weather to change, and there she meets and falls in love with an impoverished laird/soldier who is also waiting for the weather to change so he can take the ferry over to the island.

    A wonderfully romantic film, and one to which the more modern Local Hero owes a lot. It was filmed on location in the islands, and takes advantage of the natural beauty of the landscape. Interesting trivia tidbit: the actor who played the dashing young laird was stuck in London doing a play, so the outdoor scenes with his character were done with a stand-in, and they filmed his stuff in close-ups with a very convincing backdrop in the studio. You really can’t tell he’s not there in Scotland!

  • Pollas

    A Fish Called Wanda
    Snatch Love the movie’s last lines:

    “Anything to declare?”
    “Yeah. Don’t go to England.”

  • JosephFM

    24 Hour Party People. Mad-chester! John Simm singing Blue Monday.

  • Grinebiter

    The best moment in “Shaun of the Dead” was when a certain lady (was it Shaun’s Mum, I don’t remember), has been chewed by a zombie and reports the experience as “They’re a bit ….bitey, dear”. That is pitch-perfect for the quintessential middle-class Englishwoman.

    “Howard’s End” is also good for the class system. No one has mentioned “Carrington” yet, so I shall.

    How about “Shakespeare in Love”?

  • Mark

    Withnail and I, which feels like it’s much more about England than simply set in England. Likewise, for Wales, Twin Town. Oh, and Nil By Mouth.

  • Mimi

    Love this. Well, I’m not original, but I’m going with Gosford Park and Shaun of the Dead too. And can I include the BBC’s Pride and Prejudice (1995), though technically a miniseries?

  • TMS

    For comedy it would have to be “The Full Monty” especially as I live in Sheffield for a while and recognized many of the locations. For horror “28 Days Later” as the isolation felt in a deserted London is amazing but for a retrospective look it would have to be “This is England”.

  • Christina

    The British PBS series BRIDESHEAD REVISITED springs to mind – if that isn’t quintessential Britain, I don’t know what is. Not technically a movie, but it should be/have been.

  • Kate

    Any of the Wallace & Gromit movies for England. And for Scotland, although it’s a TV show, not a film, “The Monarch of the Glen” (first season only!). For Ireland, “The Legend of Roan Inish.” Sorry, Wales, I got nuthin’.

    Good call on Withnail & I, Mark!

  • Gee

    Ah – not fair choosing TV. That’s a very different proposition!

  • LaSargenta

    Lots of great movies listed. I loved I Know Where I’m Going and Kind Hearts and Coronets.

    But, too, in recent years, I’ve got to say that Small Faces (set in Glasgow, but more about a time and adolescence than the city) was great.

    Others: This Is England, Riff Raff, Young Soul Rebels, Mona Lisa, Brazil, In The Name of The Father…I think my taste has gotten darker as I’ve gotten older.

  • Kim

    Trainspotting (although that’s Scotland, of course). Billy Elliot (love that film). Ummmm – I do like Four Weddings except for Andie MacDowell (wish it had been Julia Roberts). The English Patient (if the old Empire counts).

    Brideshead Revisited was on ITV in the UK (in case there are any other British readers who had to google what ‘British PBS’ was).

    And if we’re allowed to mentioned TV – the BBC six part Pride & Prejudice with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle. Classic!

  • allochthon

    Love Actually, Shaun of the Dead and another callout to 24 hour party people, and John Simm singing Blue Monday. Goosebumps!

    Also, The Second Coming. TV movie, but close enough?

    Oops, one more. A Room with a View.

  • Lisa

    no Shane Meadows fans then?

  • Jennie

    ‘Tommy’ – because it was all rockers v mods when I first lived in England

    ‘Gosford Park’ – because it’s such a wonderful study of the English class system’s last hurrah.

    And ‘Atonement’ – just because right now it is one of my favorite movies about anything.

  • Paul

    “Four Weddings and a Funeral”, but with Julia Roberts? No! Make that thought go away!

    I liked “Shadowlands” about Lewis learning that faith is harder than his theology.

    I liked “Shawn of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz” but I don’t think they are about England, are they? They are making fun of Hollywood.

    Actually, I do like the English TV we get over PBS, and I think those shows are more about England than the movies, because the movies have a broader audience in mind.

  • I’m sure I’ll think of a dozen more as soon as I post this, but for ones I love that haven’t yet been mentioned:

    Miss Potter (Renee Zellwegger as Beatrix Potter.

    Waking Ned Divine.

    Saving Grace (Craig Ferguson in what I’m almost certain was a precursor to Weeds, whether deliberately or inadvertently.)

  • Yep, knew I’d think of another one. Sorry ’bout the double post. Shallow Grave.

    And I misspelled Ned Devine above. Oops. Get out the red pencil. Guess I was thinking the movie was divine.

  • Best Scots film: Local Hero – with Wedge (Denis Lawson) as the town lawyer/bartender/hotel owner/restauranteer/wabbit killer (“It had a name! Two names!”).

    Best Brit film: HOLY GRAIL! HOLY GRAIL!

    Best Welsh film: …yeah, you got me there…

  • Love Actually!

  • iakobos

    Pride and Prejudice (1995) My wife and I watch it regularly. It’s probably my all time favorite romance.

    Sense and Sensibility (1995) Probably my second favorite romance.

    Black Beauty (1994) So I’m a tough guy but dang it if the end doesn’t make me tear up (not that I let my wife see it) every time.

    Monty Python and the Search for the Holy Grail The funniest, most irreverent, most quotable British movie ever, IMO.

  • t6

    For me?

    To Sir With Love.

  • bats :[

    Well, poop if it’s a miniseries, but BBC’s Brother Cadfael (and he was a Welsh monk, too!).

  • RyanT

    I should be caned for forgetting Billy Elliot and Gosford Park. What is wrong with me?

  • MaSch

    If there are people wanting to mention the BBC Pride and Prejudice, I will call for all four seasons of “Blackadder”, as well as all other things Blackadder, excluding “Blackadder Back and Forth”.

  • Grinebiter

    I liked “Shadowlands” about Lewis learning that faith is harder than his theology.

    I liked “Shawn of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz” but I don’t think they are about England, are they? They are making fun of Hollywood.

    FYI, Paul, there was a BBC production of Shadowlands prior to the film, where Lewis was played more credibly by Joss Ackland than by Hopkins. To balance that, however, Joy Davidman was played by Claire Bloom, as far nicer than Debra Winger, the real person being less nice still.

    I think you’re partly wrong about the two Simon Pegg films. Obviously they are satires on Hollywood conventions, but they are also satires on the English. The Tidiest Village competition is very real. Beware!

  • What an odd question! The best film “about” England? (Is there a film “about” the United States?) If I take the question literally, the closest I can come is 84, Charing Cross Road, which is “about” an American writer’s love affair with British literature, and the antique book shop that provides her with such. I’m off now to wonder if there are films “about” Canada…

  • Jim Mann

    A number of the Jane Austen films come to mind.

    But also the Harry Potter films.


  • Chrys*

    ALFIE with Michael Caine!!! I loved the subject matter, much better than my generation’s remake with Jude Law.

    Love Actually, a fave
    28 Days Later & Shaun of the Dead are great too

  • Grinebiter

    Nice to see “84, Charing Cross Road” appearing so often on this list. Re Persephone’s question, a “film about England” has to tell you something about England as such, as opposed to other, allegedly English-speaking, places (wink).

    Here’s a story about the American author of the book that was made into that film. She was once reading in Quiller-Couch, how, of the two possible sentences: “He was transported to his place of residence in an intoxicated condition” and “He was carried home drunk”, only the second was good English. Helene Hanff assumed that this simply had to be a typo, because if words are good, then more words necessarily have to be better, right?

  • RogerBW

    Went The Day Well?

    Very much about what it means to be English.

  • Jerry Colvin

    Notting Hill, Remains of the Day, I Know Where I’m Going, A Room With a View

  • StrangeAgent

    I’m surprised no one mentioned “A Man For All Seasons.” Well, guess I just did.

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