Top 10 British Comedies

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With brand new British comedy Downhill set to be released on DVD this coming Monday 16th June, we count down the most memorable comedies to have graced cinema screens over the years…

Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949)
Deemed by man to be one of the best British comedies of all time, the Ealing Studios distributed film starred Alec Guinness famously in eight different roles (each one a member of the D’Ascoyne family). The plot itself is primarily told in flashback by Louis Mazzini (Dennis Price), an imprisoned Duke writing his memoirs in the lead-up to his hanging.  Other notable Ealing comedies include Passport to Pimlico (1949) and The Ladykillers (1955).

Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
The Monty Python comedy crew, consisting of Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Michael Palin, were directed by Terry’s Gilliam and Jones in this first of three feature-length films (followed by Life of Brian in 1979 and 1983’s The Meaning of Life). A regular placement in many polls compiling the greatest films of all time, let alone comedies, the films is comprised of wholly new material in which King Arthur’s quest to find the Holy Grail is parodied.

A Fish Called Wanda (1988)
This heist-comedy film was co-written by John Cleese, who also took lead acting duties alongside Michael Palin, Jamie Lee Curtis and Kevin Kline (who won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role as ‘weapons-man’ Otto. The film follows London-based gangsters who haplessly plot a jewel heist, despite being a bunch of double-crossers. Naturally, where hilarious chaos ensued, this comedy wormed its way into hearts of audiences worldwide.

Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994)
Notable somewhat for being the first film scripted by British stalwart Richard Curtis which starred Hugh Grant (in all his bumbling Englishman glory), Four Weddings and a Funeral was a sleeper hit, earning its place as the highest-grossing British film at the time. Mike Newell directed the antics of a group of friends through which we’re led by Grant’s character Charles, who is besotted with Carrie, an American woman (played by Andie McDowell) whom he repeatedly meets at a series of weddings (four, to be precise) and a funeral.

Notting Hill (1999)
Yet another film written by Richard Curtis which stars Hugh Grant, Notting Hill tells the story of  William Thacker, an independent travel bookstore owner who one day serves Hollywood movie actress Anna Scott (Julia Roberts) – and falls in love. Quintessentially British, the film features a memorable turn form Welsh actor Rhys Ifans, who plays Thacker’s uninhibited flatmate Spike.

About a Boy (2002)
This adaptation of Nick Hornby’s novel may not be the perfect film you remember it to be, but remains an immensely watchable comedy-drama from Weitz brothers, Chris and Paul. The film stars Hugh Grant as shallow bachelor Will Freeman who lives a carefree lifestyle, but his life is unexpectedly rocked when he meets 12-year-old Marcus (a star-making turn from Nicholas Hoult) through a lady he is dating.  What follows is a charming on-screen partnership whereby Freeman begins to see Marcus as a mate, and help him through his troubles with some often laugh-inducing results.

Shaun of the Dead (2004)
Introducing the cinematic universe to Spaced’s powerful three Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and director Edgar Wright, this lovingly-crafted comedic homage to George A. Romero’s Living Dead trilogy is just as loved as those films they grew up watching with Romero himself vocal of his love for Shaun of the Dead. Their Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy comprised of follow-up efforts Hot Fuzz (2007) and last year’s The World’s End, with each a solid British comedy film, but it is this film which remains the firm favourite.

In the Loop (2009)
Armando Iannucci’s critically-acclaimed satirical black comedy spin-off from the equally as acclaimed BBC comedy series The Thick of It follows government officials and advisors in a behind-the-scenes capacity who aren’t sure whether to promote or prevent a very probable oncoming war with the Middle East. Standout performances come in the form of Peter Capaldi’s very, very sweary Malcolm Tucker, enforcer of the Prime Minister, and Tom Hollander’s foolish Minister for International Development Simon Foster, not to mention a cameo from the late James Gandolfini as Lieutenant General Miller.

The Inbetweeners Movie (2011)
Take a small-time E4 comedy series set in a fictional town in England and put it on the big screen and set it in Crete and apparently you get a recipe for blockbusting success. Obviously, this is down to writers Damon Beesley and Iain Morris and the Inbetweeners themselves: Will (Simon Bird), Simon (Joe Thomas), Jay (James Buckley) and Neil (Blake Harrison). After completing their final year at school together, the four head on a party holiday where misadventures follow – as well as laughs. Lots of laughs.

Downhill (2014) 
TV commercial director James Rouse’s big-screen debut Downhill tells the story of four old school friends who reunite decades later in order to complete an epic coast to coast walk across the United Kingdom. The comically incompatible foursome are led by Gordon (Richard Lumsden) and include Keith (Karl Theobald), Simon (Jeremy Swift) and Ned Dennehy’s delightful scene-stealing troublemaker Julian. As revelations are revealed, strops are thrown and feet begin to ache, this comedy not only charms, but enlightens.


Downhill is released on DVD and digital platforms on 16th June 2014 

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Alton loves film. He is founder and Editor In Chief of BRWC.  Some of the films he loves are Rear Window, Superman 2, The Man With The Two Brains, Clockwise, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, Trading Places, Stir Crazy and Punch-Drunk Love.



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