Editor’s Note: In anticipation of Edgar Wright’s upcoming film The World’s End (which hits theaters in August) this Top 10 list is a guest post that comes to us from Zeke Iddon, a writer at the New York Film Academy.
Much greater than the loose collection of stereotypes which British humour sometimes gets painted with, its comedy export is a weird and wonderful tapestry which caters to just about every taste. And ‘export’ is a good term for our comedic output, since many British shows are licensed, remade (for better or worse) and studied at film schools the world over.
With Simon Pegg and Nick Frost’s new film The World’s End coming out in August, it is only fitting to evaluate some of the best British films in the canon of comedy. The list below captures some commercially successful must-sees as well as more obscure choices, but all ten are guaranteed comedy gold.
About a Boy
Not only is it funny to see Tony from the highly acclaimed UK show Skins (Nicholas Hoult) start his career as a scheming, blackmailing child, this may be Hugh Grant’s best role to date.
His self-absorbed, aloof character Will is the perfect foil to Nicholas Hoult’s Marcus and his rendition of “Killing Me Softly with His Song” goes down as the best out of tune solo in moviedom.
Cruise of the Gods
One of Baby Cow Productions’ finest releases, this hilarious movie chronicles a fan tour in honor of the fictional 1980s sci-fi TV series The Chidren of Castor.
The stars, Any Van Allen (Rob Brydon) and Nick Lee (Steve Coogan) engage in ridiculous antics as Brydon’s character, the washed up “special cruise guest,” tries to work through his feelings of animosity toward his co-star (Coogan) who went on to bigger and better things such as Sherlock Holmes in Miami.
Death at a Funeral
Keeley Hawes and Matthew Macfadyen transfer their real life romance to the big screen in this comedy about…well, death!
Macfadyen’s father has passed away and he and his wife are hosting the wake at their country estate, opening their home to their dysfunctional family and friends. Peter Dinklage co-stars in this one.
A Fantastic Fear of Everything
No list of British comedies, appreciated or not, would be complete without a Simon Pegg film.
This low-budget comedy in which Pegg plays Jack, an unpublished children’s author and crime novelist obsessed with murder. The film has a low score on Rotten Tomatoes, but don’t let that dissuade you – the scene in the basement is one of the funniest film moments in British comedy.
A Fish Called Wanda
Anything written by John Cleese is bound to be funny. Michael Palin’s portrayal Ken Pile, an animal lover with a debilitating stutter, is about as funny a character as one can find in a film… and how many films have you watched where someone is attacked with a steamroller?
Four Weddings and a Funeral
This British rom com made headlines back in its day, but quickly slipped from the cannon despite being the highest grossing British film in history at the time, raking in $245 million.
If you haven’t already seen it (or haven’t seen it in a while), a revisit to the tight script and flawless character acting will quickly remind you why Four Weddings did a lot for pushing British film back to the global forefront.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
A cult classic that is often underappreciated as abstract and spacey (forgive the pun) by American audiences, this movie is based on Douglas Adams’ novel and includes a world where the dominant life forms are automobiles, depressed robots are the norm and the secret to life is 42.
Life of Brian
To be fair, it’s probably rash to call any Monty Python movie be underrated, especially one that has been cautiously called the best comedy of all time.
But Life of Brian is famous for all the wrong reasons. Not only did it push the envelope on cultural conventions of the 1970s, names such as Biggus Dickus and the fact that the Python comedy troupe sent the script to a canon at Windsor for approval (the canon agreed the script was not blasphemous, but “extracting the maximum comedy out of false religion and religious illusions”) makes Life of Brian all the greater.
The Tall Guy
Rowan Atkinson’s role as Ron Anderson is pure genius, mainly owing to his excellent caricature of himself.
Accused of overplaying the sex and underplaying the comedy by American audiences, audiences more exposed to British humor nowadays will more than likely find it a humorous and enjoyable rom com.
David Mitchell and Robert Webb have been comedy staples on British TVs for some time now, but not many people are aware of their non-TV work. Magicians is one such film that was released without much of a bang in 2007.
While it didn’t receive great acclaim from all quarters, it’s an absolute must-see for Mitchell and Webb fans (or anyone who has a penchant for magic). It’d be great to see the duo in other film leads now that they’ve got more experience under their belt, too.