The Best British Movies Ever Made, According to Critics

The British government has been working hard to attract filmmakers in recent years.
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The Best British Movies Ever Made, According to Critics Pathé

What do you think of when you think of movies from the United Kingdom? Perhaps it's shaven-headed gangsters straight out of a Guy Ritchie flick. Or maybe James Bond, sipping on a martini. Perhaps you're imagining Keira Knightley, crying artfully while running through a soggy field in a period drama.

Not many of these cliches make it into the critics' picks of the best of British moviemaking. Of Metacritic's list of the top movies of all time, just 30 of the top 221 films claim the U.K. as a country of origin—although it may not be the ones you expect.

Take two movies from 2013—space thriller Gravity and historical drama 12 Years a Slave.

12 Years was directed by a British director and starred a British actor in the lead role. However it was Gravity, directed by a Mexican and starring an American cast, which labeled itself as a British film.

That's because a large chunk of Gravity's special effects were created in British production studios, while 12 Years was filmed in the U.S., and was based on an American book. In the end, it was British hands which had a far larger role to play in Gravity, despite a couple of high-billed Englishmen in 12 Years.

Many of the top films are recent, and this should come as no surprise—the British government has been working hard to attract filmmakers through tax exemptions. The film and TV industry contributed almost $10bn to the British economy in 2016—80% more than 2011's revenue.

Although big moneymakers, such as the James Bond franchise, don't always get high marks from critics, it's an encouraging step for an industry which has long been overshadowed by its big American brother.

Overall, it's obscure gems which are beloved by critics, compared to better-known films such as Trainspotting or This is England. Coming in at eighth place is The Servant, the little-known 1964 movie, adapted from a 1940s novelette by legendary British playwright Harold Pinter. The film follows a wealthy young Londoner and his manservant, and explores the classic British topics of power and class relations.

Better-known entries include Stephen Frear's 2006 royal drama The Queen and Sacha Baron-Cohen comedy Borat from the same year.

From an Academy Award-winning tale of overcoming cerebral palsy, to a vision of a bureaucratic, dystopian future, here are the best British movies so far.

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30. Brazil (1985). Metacritic score: 88. Director: Terry Gilliam 20th Century Fox