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The bfi 100: 11-20



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11. The Bridge on the River Kwai 1957

Directed by David Lean

Cast: Alec Guinness, William Holden, Jack Hawkins, Sessue Hayakawa, James Donald, Geoffrey Horne, Andre Morell, Percy Herbert

Under the single-minded leadership of their Colonel (Alec Guinness at his best as the officer driven slowly mad), British prisoners in a Japanese P.O.W. camp build the eponymous bridge that might eventually be used to assist Japanese troop movement. William Holden is the American officer who plans to destroy it. A film that plays just as well showing the psychological battle of wills as the more epic scenes of military conflict, it won seven Oscars®, including one for screenplay (by Carl Foreman and Michael Wilson, based on Pierre Boulle's novel). These writers, though, were blacklisted, so Boulle, who spoke no English, received the script credit.

12. If.... 1968

Directed by Lindsay Anderson

Cast: Malcolm McDowell, David Wood, Richard Warwick, Robert Swann, Christine Noonan, Peter Jeffrey, Arthur Lowe, Anthony Nicholls

Lindsay Anderson's much acclaimed film marked the beginning of an extended partnership with actor Malcolm McDowell and writer David Sherwin (they made two more films together, further tracing McDowell's character) and confused the establishment with its complex and often cruel expose of an English private school. Eventually a group of three students (led by McDowell) rebel and set about shooting teachers and fellow students from the roof of a school building.

13. The Ladykillers 1955

Directed by Alexander Mackendrick

Cast: Alec Guinness, Katie Johnson, Peter Sellers, Herbert Lom, Danny Green, Jack Warner, Frankie Howerd, Kenneth Connor

Priceless black comedy made at Ealing Studios. A bunch of hardened criminals hide out in a house near to London's St. Pancras station owned by a cheerful little old lady. Led by Alec Guinness (whose fiendish false teeth smack of master-criminal status), the gang's evil plans are constantly foiled by the old lady (played superbly by Katie Johnson) who is just too sweet to be true. Their bickering leads to violence and eventually wonderfully extravagant deaths. Peter Sellers is excellent as the chubby Teddy Boy, here in an early teaming with the equally nasty Herbert Lom (later Chief Inspector Dreyfuss to Sellers' Inspector Clouseau).

14. Saturday Night and Sunday Morning 1960

Directed by Karel Reisz

Cast: Albert Finney, Shirley Anne Field, Rachel Roberts, Bryan Pringle, Norman Rossington, Hylda Baker

Much acclaimed by critics at the time, this early 'angry young man' drama was set in Nottingham and its hero is a factory worker, wonderfully played by Albert Finney. Adapted by Alan Sillitoe from his novel, the film looks uncompromisingly at the life and frustrations of a working class man and the impact he has on the women in his life, played by Shirley Anne Field and Rachel Roberts. It may be grim stuff at times, but under Karel Reisz's direction it is refreshingly honest and at times moving. Music is provided by the jazz musician Johnny Dankworth.

15. Brighton Rock 1947

Directed by John Boulting

Cast: Richard Attenborough, Hermione Baddeley, Harcourt Williams, William Hartnell, Alan Wheatley, Carol Marsh, Nigel Stock

Fresh-faced young Richard Attenborough took a stark acting change of pace, here playing with chilling presence Pinkie Brown, the vicious teenage leader of a gang of slashers. Based on Graham Greene's 1938 novel (adapted by Greene and Terence Rattigan), this is an impressively made thriller from the Boulting brothers (Roy and John also co-produced the film), with fine performances too by Hermione Baddeley as the singer and Harcourt Williams as the lawyer.

16. Get Carter 1971

Directed by Mike Hodges

Cast: Michael Caine, Ian Hendry, John Osborne, Britt Ekland, George Sewell, Geraldine Moffatt, Tony Beckley, Rosemarie Dunham, Dorothy White, Petra Markham, Glynn Edwards, Alun Armstrong, Bryan Mosley, Bernard Hepton, Godfrey Quigley, Terence Rigby

Recently re-released by the bfi and long the subject of cult status, Mike Hodges' Get Carter is a tough and thoroughly compulsive crime thriller that delivers the gangland goods with great aplomb. Michael Caine is Jack Carter, the London-based villain returning to his native Newcastle to bury his brother, who sets about antagonising the local gangsters until his finds out who was the killer. Caine is suave, sadistic and sexy, but then everyone here is pretty nasty. Playwright John Osborne appears as one of the camp Newcastle bosses, while the late Bryan Mosley (Coronation Street's Alf Roberts) also has a key role.

17. The Lavender Hill Mob 1951

Directed by Charles Crichton

Cast: Alec Guinness, Stanley Holloway, Sidney James, Alfie Bass, Marjorie Fielding, Edie Martin, John Gregson, Gibb McLaughlin, Sydney Tafler, Audrey Hepburn

Superb Ealing comedy, with Alec Guinness in great form as the innocuous civil servant who manages the impossible and steals three million in gold bullion from the Bank of England. That Guinness is perfect as the modest Everyman is what makes this film such a classic, but there are marvellous supporting performances too from Stanley Holloway, Sid James and Alfie Bass as his accomplices. Watch for a young Audrey Hepburn as Chiquita in the opening sequences. T.E.B. Clarke's wonderful script won the Oscar® for Best Story and Screenplay.

18. Henry V 1944

Directed by Laurence Olivier

Cast: Laurence Olivier, Robert Newton, Leslie Banks, Esmond Knight, Renee Asherson, George Robey, Leo Genn, Ernest Thesiger, Ivy St. Helier, Ralph Truman, Harcourt Williams, Max Adrian, Valentine Dyall, Felix Aylmer, John Laurie, Roy Emerton

Filmed during World War II and clearly aimed at boosting the confidence of the British, this is a remarkable film version of Shakespeare's play. It was Olivier's debut as a director and he brought passion, spectacle, humour and real poetry to the film, but is also outstanding as the passionate Plantagenet Henry who, at 27, defeated the armies of France at Agincourt. Among the impressive cast are Robert Newton as Ancient Pistol, George Robey as Falstaff and Harcourt Williams as Charles VI. Olivier received a Special Academy Award in 1946 for bringing this film to the screen.

19. Chariots of Fire 1981

Directed by Hugh Hudson

Cast: Ben Cross, Ian Charleson, Nigel Havers, Cheryl Campbell, Ian Holm, Nicholas Farrell, Alice Krige, Daniel Gerroll, John Gielgud, Lindsay Anderson, Nigel Davenport, Patrick Magee

An absorbing, moving and much-acclaimed drama which in the early '80s looked like spearheading a British breakthrough in Hollywood. That didn't really happen, but Lord (David) Puttnam's production remains a remarkable achievement, tackling many issues under the umbrella of a true story. Two men - a devout Scottish missionary Eric Liddell (Charleson) and a Jewish Cambridge student Harold Abrahams (Cross) - strain and train to run in the 1924 Olympics. The film debut of director Hugh Hudson, it won four Oscars® (for Best Picture, Colin Welland's script, Milena Canonero's costumes and the score by Vangelis).

20. A Matter of Life and Death 1946

Directed by Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger

Cast: David Niven, Roger Livesey, Kim Hunter, Marius Goring, Raymond Massey, Abraham Sofaer

A quite perfect romantic fantasy from the team of Powell and Pressburger, which also gave David Niven one of the best roles of his career. He plays Peter, a World War II pilot who falls for an American radio operator (Hunter) as his plane is about to crash. But heaven makes a mistake and he survives, only to meet the girl in person and fall deeply in love. Now he must plead for his life at a celestial court. Handled with great compassion and intelligence by all involved.

 

 

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