Five of my favorite British/Irish movies (if by “five” you mean “six”) from the last 20 years

OK, now first, before you all flip out with “but why not __”, I had to draw the line somewhere. Is this a movie I could watch over and over again? Does it still get me in the same place? Is it not necessarily award-winning and a classic, but more defined (since it’s my list) as one of my favorites? Is it set in the British Isles? Is there something about it that is quintessentially… British? Not just that the characters are British or Irish or Scottish or Welsh, but… does it give you a reflection of the country and/or the time and place in which it was set? Is it relatively recent (say, the last 20 years or so)? Lastly, there aren’t any films on here I haven’t actually seen. So if you want to add a film, fine; but if you want to be all “why didn’t you put THIS in your favorites” just keep in mind that my answer may be a highly disappointing “because I haven’t seeeeeeeeen it!”.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2011) Directed by John Madden; starring Dame Judi Dench, Tom Wilkinson, Bill Nighy, Penelope Wilton, and Dame Maggie Smith. Love and death; I really don’t seem to like a love story unless there’s a death in it, hmm. A great film about growing older and not wanting to become… no longer useful. Finding oneself. Growing. It’s never too late!

The Commitments (1991) Directed by Alan Parker; starring a whole bunch of really amazing singers and actors who you’ve probably never heard of. And Colm Meaney. Don’t ever watch this movie with me if you don’t like my singing, because I will sing through the whole thing. Backup, not lead. Fair warning. Having said that, it’s got one of the best soundtracks I’ve ever heard.

The Full Monty (1997) Directed by Peter Cattaneo; starring Robert Carlyle, Mark Addy, and Tom Wilkinson. Women aren’t the only ones with body issues. “Anti-wrinkle cream there may be, but anti-fat-bastard cream there is not.” This movie is both hilarious and touching, often in the same scene.

Love Actually (2003) Directed by Richard Curtis; starring Bill Nighy, Colin Firth, Liam Neeson, Emma Thompson, Martin Freeman, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Andrew Lincoln, Keira Knightley, Hugh Grant, Laura Linney, Alan Rickman, and basically everyone else who was in England that year. Best Christmas movie ever. Great movie about love, loss, hurting, healing, and living. Let’s go get the shit kicked out of us by love!

Mrs. Henderson Presents (2005) Directed by Stephen Frears; starring Dame Judi Dench, Bob Hoskins, Will Young, and Christopher Guest. A WWII movie told from the point of view of people who were not in the military, and survived – kept on – with grace and humor and by facing fears.

Waking Ned Devine (1998) Directed by Kirk Jones; starring Ian Bannen, David Kelly, and Fionnula Flanagan. A sweet, lovely, hilarious story about friendship, love, death, life, and the truth.


Honorable Mentions:

28 Days Later (2002) Directed by Danny Boyle; starring Cillian Murphy, Naomie Harris, Brendan Gleeson, and Christopher Eccleston. OK, I have to come clean, I’m really only putting this one in because everyone will expect me to. Really I’d rather see it in a list of my favorite zombie movies, or favorite disaster/post-apocalypse movies, but I knew I would get no end of shit from the lot of you if I didn’t put it in. Don’t get me wrong; I love this movie. But other than nobody having guns, it really kind of could be set anywhere.

Across the Universe (2007) Directed by Julie Taymor; starring Jim Sturgess, Evan Rachel Wood, Dana Fuchs, and Martin Luther. I debated putting this one in because most of it is set in the States;  but I think it still evokes the time and places, and with a soundtrack like this….? Well. I never thought I’d like some of the Beatles songs ever done by anyone NOT a Beatle. But Dana Fuchs knocks it out of the park, and Eddie Izzard? Joe Cocker? Pff. Again; knocks it out of the park.

The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain (1995) Directed by Christopher Monger; starring Hugh Grant and Colm Meaney. A very sweet film, along the lines of Waking Ned Devine in the “whole town coming together.” I don’t usually like Hugh Grant (surprising since he’s in three of the movies I’ve listed); this was the first thing I saw him in that I genuinely liked him.

Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994) Directed by Mike Newell; starring Hugh Grant and that curly-haired actress with the nasal voice. Yes, I know her name, but I don’t care for her. So why this movie, then? Because John Hanna reciting “Funeral Blues” (also called “Stop all the Clocks”) gets me every.single.time.

Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels (1998) Directed by Guy Ritchie; starring Jason Flemyng, Dexter Fletcher, Nick Moran, and Jason Statham. This is one of those “where on earth is this film goin— OH MY GOD, they lined everything up perfectly!” kind of films.

Once (2006) Directed by John Carney; starring Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová. If you don’t like this soundtrack, I don’t want to know you.

Pirate Radio (2009) Directed by Richard Curtis; starring Bill Nighy, Nick Frost, and Philip Seymour Hoffman. Just a beautiful, perfect pearl of a coming-of-age, finding-oneself variety. It would probably be higher on the list but I’ve only seen it twice. Er, maybe three times. Also, great soundtrack!

Trainspotting (1996) Directed by Danny Boyle; starring Ewan McGregor, Jonny Lee Miller, and Robert Carlyle. Duh. Dead baby crawling across the ceiling? Ewan McGregor swimming in a toilet? There’s no reason NOT to like this movie!

Everything that Simon Pegg and Nick Frost have done together (but not put on this list more because they’re going to be in the “goofy horror/SF” list when I get that done. But as with 28 Days Later, I knew I’d get a world of shit for not tacking them on.

So, g’wan then? What did I miss? What are your favorites?


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