5 Cult British films you should have seen
Though Hollywood is responsible for the vast majority of films that land on our screens, British cinema has produced some gems of its own, despite operating on a relatively miniscule budget. The most successful movies retain a distinctly British feel and often receive a cult following.
With the release of T2: Trainspotting, directed by Danny Boyle, British cinema is once again in the spotlight. We’ve taken a look at five of the best cult films the isle has produced over the last fifty years.
Danny Boyle’s second feature film followed a group of heroin addicts in an economically-ravaged area of Edinburgh. Though it may not sound like the synopsis for a much-loved film, this kaleidoscopic black comedy is dramatic, hilarious and tragic in equal measure. Boasting a cracking soundtrack including Iggy Pop’s iconic “Lust for Life” and arguably the greatest opening five minutes of any film ever, over the last twenty years, Trainspotting has established itself as one for the ages. Fingers crossed the sequel lives up to the original.
This 1971 film saw British acting royalty Michael Caine at the peak of his powers as a frosty London gangster who travels to Newcastle to investigate his brother’s death, only to discover layer-upon-layer of villainy. Slated on its release, Get Carter has since garnered a cult following thanks to Roy Budd’s jazz fusion score and Caine’s iconic gun-wielding pose on the poster – one that has inspired many a magazine editor over the years.
Life of Brian
We couldn’t create a list of the greatest British cult films without featuring the nation’s best-loved comedy troupe. Monty Python shot to fame at the backend of the 1960s with BBC comedy series Flying Circus, and later branched into a series of films. The best of these is Life of Brian, which told the story of Brian Cohen, a young Jewish man who was born in Jerusalem on the same day as Jesus Christ, and was mistaken for the Messiah. Of course, he’s not the Messiah, “he’s a very naughty boy!” This religious satire caused such a stir on its release, including accusations of blasphemy, that EMI Films withdrew funding.
Luckily, Beatles member and Python fan George Harrison was on hand to help finance the film. 39 local authorities in the UK imposed either an outright ban or gave the film an 18 certificate. It was also banned in other countries, including Norway, which led to some of the film’s posters carrying the slogan “So funny, it was banned in Norway!”
Withnail and I
Made for just over £1 million, Withnail and I followed the adventures of two unemployed young actors, Withnail (Richard E Grant) and I (Paul McGann) who lived in a rundown London flat in the swinging Sixties and headed for a booze-soaked adventure to an idyllic countryside retreat. Here they meet Uncle Monty (a star turn from Richard Griffiths). The film was directed by Bruce Robinson, and was an adaptation of an unpublished novel he wrote in late 1969.
Fun fact: Robinson secured half the funding for the film from wealthy oil heir Moderick Schreiber and producer Paul Heller, but was tasked with stumping up the rest. Like Life of Brian before it, George Harrison stepped in and agreed to fund the remainder of the film.
Shaun of the Dead
The most recent film on this list, Shaun of the Dead can lay claim to creating a new genre of cinema: the rom-zom-com (a romantic comedy, with zombies). Fresh from their groundbreaking sitcom Spaced, stars Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and director Edgar Wright teamed up for their first film collaboration, and the beginning of their “Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy” (which later included Hot Fuzz and The World’s End).
Pegg played Shaun, an electronics shop salesman with no direction in life, who has relationship issues and doesn’t get on with his stepfather. Meanwhile, London has been infested with zombies. Best head to the Winchester, have a pint and wait for all this to blow over.