`Third Man' heads list of century's top British movies
A founder member of The Independent David Lister joined the paper in 1986 as Assistant Home Editor. He became the paper's arts correspondent in 1988 and is now Arts Editor and writes a column each Saturday. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.
Thursday 23 September 1999
The film industry's choices of show today's movie-makers do not have the same affection or respect for the work of their peers as they do for the classic movies of past years.
Films by the late David Lean dominate the top placings alongside films of quintessential Englishness, either the gritty drama of Kes and Saturday Night and Sunday Morning or the Ealing comedies of Kind Hearts and Coronets and The Ladykillers.
The highest contemporary film in the list is Trainspotting at number 10, while British triumphs of the Nineties, Four Weddings And A Funeral, The Full Monty and Shakespeare in Love are placed at 23, 25 and 49 respectively. The most successful British film of all time, Notting Hill, was released just after the poll was conducted.
Unexpected choices abound in the results of the poll. Many will think it is as pleasing to see Nic Roeg's disturbing thriller Don't Look Now in the top 10, as it is surprising to find Carry On Up The Khyber beating The Killing Fields at the bottom of the list.
The poll conducted by the British Film Institute also included the views of the Prime Minister's wife, Cherie Blair, and the Tory leader, William Hague, though the BFI is not saying how they voted. Two celebrities, however, have revealed how they voted. Hugh Grant made Zulu his top choice, while Elizabeth Hurley's number one was The Remains of the Day.
The most prolific entrants in the top 100 are David Lean, who directed six of the films and co-directed one other, and Sir Alec Guinness who appears in nine. Sir Alec is followed by Michael Caine, who is in seven and Julie Christie who stars in six. The 100 films comprise three from the 1930s, 16 from the 1940s, 10 from the 1950s and 1970s, 26 from the 1960s, 18 from the 1980s and 17 from the 1990s.
The BFI director, John Woodward, said: "Any selection of 100 titles can only embrace around 1 per cent of all British films made during the last 100 years and therefore, undoubtedly, everyone will argue that all their favourites should have been included. But it is a truly eclectic mix from Don't Look Now to The Belles of St Trinian's to Kes to Oliver."
Jonathan Ross, who presents BBC's Film 99, added: "British film-making is an industry that has catapulted British talent into the limelight, with the likes of Bobby Carlyle, Kate Winslet and Ewan McGregor being among some of the hottest properties in recent years."
Those surveyed included the Culture Secretary, Chris Smith, the chairman of the Commons Culture, Media and Sport committee, Gerald Kaufman MP, and film and arts figures including actors Richard E Grant and Colin Firth, composer Tim Rice and Notting Hill screenwriter Richard Curtis.
THE TOP 100
1 The Third Man (1949, Carol Reed)
2 Brief Encounter (1945, David Lean)
3 Lawrence of Arabia (1962, David Lean)
4 The 39 Steps (1935, Alfred Hitchcock)
5 Great Expectations (1946, David Lean)
6 Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949, Robert Hamer)
7 Kes (1969, Ken Loach)
8 Don't Look Now (1973, Nicolas Roeg)
9 The Red Shoes (1948, Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger)
10 Trainspotting (1996, Danny Boyle)
11 The Bridge Over the River Kwai (1957, David Lean)
12 If... (1968, Lindsay Anderson)
13 The Lady Killers (1955, Alexander Mackendrick)
14 Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960, Karel Reisz)
15 Brighton Rock (1947, John Boulting)
16 Get Carter (1971, Mike Hodges)
17. The Lavender Hill Mob (1951, Charles Crichton)
18. Henry V (1944, Laurence Olivier)
19. Chariots Of Fire (1981, Hugh Hudson)
20. A Matter of Life and Death (1946, Powell, Pressburger)
21. The Long Good Friday (1980, John Mackenzie)
22. The Servant (1963, Joseph Losey)
23. Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994, Mike Newell)
24. Whisky Galore! (1949, Alexander Mackendrick)
25. The Full Monty (1997, Peter Cattanoe)
26. The Crying Game (1992, Neil Jordan)
27. Dr Zhivago (1965, David Lean)
28. Monty Python's Life of Brian (1979, Terry Jones)
29. Withnail and I (1987, Bruce Robinson)
30. Gregory's Girl (1980, Bill Forsyth)
31. Zulu (1964, Cy Endfield)
32. Room at the Top (1958, Jack Clayton)
33. Alfie (1966, Lewis Gilbert)
34. Gandhi (1982, Richard Attenborough)
35. The Lady Vanishes (1938, Alfred Hitchcock)
36. The Italian Job (1969, Peter Colinson)
37. Local Hero (1983, Bill Forsyth)
38. The Commitments (1991, Alan Parker)
39. A Fish Called Wanda (1988, Charles Crichton)
40. Secrets and Lies (1995, Mike Leigh)
41. Dr No (1962, Terence Young)
42. The Madness of King George (1994, Nicholas Hytner)
43. A Man for all Seasons (1966, Fred Zinnemann)
44. Black Narcissus (1947, Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger)
45. Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943, Powell, Pressburger)
46. Oliver Twist (1948, David Lean)
47. I'm All Right Jack (1959, John Boulting)
48. Performance (1970, Nicholas Roeg, Donald Cammell)
49. Shakespeare In Love (1998, John Madden)
50. My Beautiful Laundrette (1985, Stephen Frears)
51. Tom Jones (1963, Tony Richardson)
52. This Sporting Life (1967, Lindsay Anderson)
53. My Left Foot (1989, Jim Sheridan)
54. Brazil (1985, Terry Gilliam)
55. The English Patient (1996, Anthony Minghella)
56. A Taste of Honey (1961, Tony Richardson)
57. The Go-Between (1970, Joseph Losey)
58. The Man in the White Suit (1951, Alexander Mackendrick)
59. The Ipcress File (1965, Sidney J Furie)
60. Blow Up (1966, Michelangelo Antonioni)
61. Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1962, Tony Richardson)
62. Sense and Sensibility (1965, Ang Lee)
63. Passport to Pimlico (1949, Henry Cornelrus)
64. The Remains of the Day (1993, James Ivory)
65. Sunday, Bloody Sunday (1971, John Schlesinger)
66. The Railway Children (1970, Lionel Jeffries)
67. Mona Lisa (1986, Neil Jordan)
68. The Dam Busters (1955, Michael Anderson)
69. Hamlet (1948, Laurence Olivier)
70. Gold Finger (1964, Guy Hamilton)
71. Elizabeth (1998, Shekhar Kapur)
72. Goodbye, Mr Chips (1939, Sam Wood)
73. A Room With a View (1995, James Ivory)
74. The Day of the Jackal (1973, Fred Zinnemann)
75. The Cruel Sea (1952, Charles Frend)
76. Billy Liar (1963, John Schlesinger)
77. Oliver! (1968, Carol Reed)
78. Peeping Tom (1960, Michael Powell)
79. Far From the Madding Crowd (1967, John Schlesinger)
80. The Draughtsman's Contract (1982, Peter Greenaway)
81. A Clockwork Orange (1971, Stanley Kubrik)
82. Distant Voices, Still Lives (1988, Terence Davies)
83. Darling (1965, John Schlesinger)
84. Educating Rita (1983, Lewis Gilbert)
85. Brassed Off (1996, Mark Herman)
86. Genevieve (1953, Henry Cornelius)
87. Women in Love (1969, Ken Russell)
88. A Hard Days' Night (1964, Richard Lester)
89. Fires were Started (documentary, 1943, Humphrey Jennings)
90. Hope and Glory (1987, John Boorman)
91. My Name is Joe (1998, Ken Loach)
92. In Which We Serve (1942, Noel Coward, David Lean)
93. Caravaggio (1986, Derek Jarman)
94. The Belles of St Trinians (1954, Frank Launder)
95. Life is Sweet (1990, Mike Leigh)
96. The Wicker Man (1973, Robin Hardy)
97. Nil By Mouth (1997, Gary Oldman)
98. Small Faces (1995, Gillies Mackinnon)
99. Carry On Up the Khyber (1968, Gerald Thomas)
100. The Killing Fields (1984, Rowan Joffe)
FROM ART HOUSE TO CARRY ON: WHAT MADE THE UK'S CINEMA CHARTS
The Third Man: 1949
These were the days when a novelist really had a say in a movie adptation of his work. As screenwriter Graham Greene had a true collaboration with director Carol Reed. Dominated by Orson Welles's hauntingly evil performance and beautifully shot by cinematographer Robert Krasker, who won an Oscar, the film is full of haunting sequences, enriched by the atmospheric zither rendition of The Harry Lime Theme by Anton Karas.
Brief Encounter 1945
The ultimate tear-jerker, the ultimate expression of repressed English emotion and the ultimate moment for Carnforth in Lancashire, whose railway station was the location for this romantic awakening in a respectable middle-class couple. David Lean directed this expansion of Noel Coward's one-act play. Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard shared the starring roles with Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto No. 2.
Lawrence of Arabia 1962
David Lean again, making a true Oscar-winning epic, aided by Robert Bolt's screenplay and a charismatic performance by 30-year-old Peter O'Toole. It can also be argued that the desert so memorably photographed by Freddie Young should share the plaudits. Omar Sharif's arrival at the isolated well and the long shot of his ride across the shimmering sand is still said to be one of the most treasured cinematic moments.
The 39 Steps 1935
Easily the best of the three versions of the John Buchan novel, and one of Hitchcock's most powerful films. It starts in a music hall before moving to the Scottish highlands as Robert Donat flees after being falsely accused of murder. The attachment, literally, by handcuffs heightens the sexual chemistry between the languid Donat and the icy Madeleine Carroll. Hitchcock said at the time: "I am out to give the public good, healthy, mental shake-ups."
Great Expectations 1946
The third David Lean film in the top five, this evocative and memorable adaptation should have warned future film makers not to compete, though the warning was ignored. The opening sequence of young Pip being surprised by Magwitch in the graveyard has caused generations of film goers to gasp in fear. John Mills was a vulnerable and charming Pip, Jean Simmons an alluring Estella and Martita Hunt the definitive Miss Havisham.
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