Continuing my list of the fifty Greatest British Cult Movies, here is my selection from 20 -11:
20. KES Ken Loach (1969)
One the most remarkable screen performances by a child actor. David Bradley plays Billy Casper, a bright, scrawny 15-year-old kid who is frequently bullied at home and at school but finds an outlet for his frustrations by keeping a pet kestrel. Based on a novel by Barry Hines, it is a moving and brilliantly observed study of hope amid the drabness of working class life in Northern Britain.
19. SHAUN OF THE DEAD Edgar Wright (2004)
The definitive modern day zombie movie with a fine comedy duo of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. Good jokes about struggling to tell the real zombies from the ‘normal’ brain-dead citizens with plenty of surprisingly gory splatter effects.
18. THE THIRD MAN Carol Reed (1949)
If this was a list of best British movies, this would be my number one (a previous blog post explains why). As with Brief Encounter, it is more classic than cult although as a devotee I couldn’t live with myself if I had not included it here.
17. MY BEAUTIFUL LAUNDRETTE Stephen Frears (1985)
Daniel Day Lewis’ breakthrough movie that hit all the right buttons. He plays the boyfriend of a young Asian who taps into his entrepreneurial spirit to do up a run down laundrette. Scripted by Hanif Kureishi it is a politically astute snapshot of 1980’s Britain intelligently addressing themes of homosexuality, racism and the burgeoning yuppie culture.
16. THE LIFE OF BRIAN Terry Jones (1979)
I rate Monty Python & The Holy Grail as a better movie but their rewriting of the biblical story merits inclusion in this list as it succeeded in upsetting all the right people. More of an affectionate satire that an anti-religious tract but such subtlety was lost on up-tight believers who failed to see the funny side.
15. LOCK, STOCK AND TWO SMOKING BARRELS Guy Ritchie (1998)
The fact that Guy Ritchie’s subsequent movies have largely failed to live up to the promise should not detract from his bold debut in which he made a convincing bid to be Britain’s Tarantino. A heist that goes pear-shaped may not be the most original storyline but the smart script and fast moving scenes carry the day.
14. QUATERMASS AND THE PIT Roy Ward Baker (1967)
This TV spin off is another Hammer films production but not a straight horror. Instead it’s a sci-fi mystery based on weird scenes in the London underground system. The military join forces with boffins to ID alien life forms in a buried spacecraft. The key to making such far-fetched plots credible is to play it straight and this rule is followed to the letter.
13. DRACULA Terence Fisher (1958)
Any Hammer Horror movie would fit well in this list and I’ve settled on the mother of all vampire movies with the peerless Christopher Lee as the Count and the suave Peter Cushing as Van Helsing.
12. THEATRE OF BLOOD Douglas Hickox (1973)
A perfect vehicle for the wonderful Vincent Price as Edward Lionheart, a stage actor whose hammy performances in Shakespeare plays are ruthlessly savaged by critics. To reap his revenge he despatches each in a gruesome manner as described in the Bard’s plays. Blood and guts fun and thrills from start to finish.
11. NAKED Mike Leigh (1993)
Character is all in Mike Leigh movies and Naked is no different although the inner city locations are also crucial. David Thewlis as a kind of low-life everyman, too clever by half who expresses a high level of biting cynicism that borders on nihilism. Imagine an on-screen version of The Fall’s Mark E. Smith then you won’t be far off. This is Leigh’s darkest and edgiest movie by a long chalk with a scarcely concealed rage at the dire state of Thatcher’s Britain. It shows vividly how ordinary lives were reduced to a mundane point where, as Jarvis Cocker sang in Common People, “you smoke and drink and screw because there’s nothing else to do”.
The top ten is next!!!