The Year That Was: 2010′s Top Five British Films

Former People Magazine film critic Leah Rozen continues Anglophenia’s look back at 2010 with her selections for the top 5 best British movies of the year. You can read her previous column on ‘Black Swan’ and ‘The Red Shoes’ here.

Ruth Sheen, Jim Broadbent in Another Year

To make this list, there had to be a scene in the movie in which someone sang “God Save the Queen,” be it either the British national anthem or The Sex Pistols‘ more vituperative version.

Just kidding. For my purposes, to qualify as a British film and therefore to be eligible for consideration here, a movie needed to lay claim to at least two of the following: it was shot in England, was financed with pounds, is about British characters, stars English actors, or the director is native-born. It also had to have played in theaters stateside in calendar 2010.

 That gave me nearly two dozen films, including documentaries, from which to choose. These ran the gamut from big star, big bucks, studio-made extravaganzas like Robin Hood — now there was a clunker — to tiny, blink-and-you missed ‘em, low-budget indies like The Disappearance of Alice Creed. Overall, it was a decent though not dazzling year for British film.

The list is highly subjective. What would be the fun of putting it together if it wasn’t? It’s more about what I liked than what did well at the box office. If box office was my concern, I’d have included Inception, a film I admired for its ambition but never felt fully drawn into emotionally.

Here, in alphabetical order, is the list:

Another Year

Another year and yet another winner from director-writer Mike Leigh, whose quiet, intimate drama (opening Dec. 29 in the U.S.) follows a longtime, happily married couple (Jim Broadbent and Ruth Sheen), along with friends and family, over the course of an ordinary year. As he did in Secrets & Lies and Happy-Go-Lucky, Leigh shows that to be content in life is a matter of luck and deciding to be happy, a combination some find more difficult to achieve than others.

Exit Through the Gift Shop

Banksy is the pseudonymous, English graffiti artist famous for sneaking his paintings onto the walls of major museums. He directed this intriguing, entertaining documentary about the world of street art and a would-be filmmaker, and also appears in it, though his face is hidden behind a hooded sweatshirt and his voice electronically altered. There was pre-release speculation that the movie was an extended hoax, a Borat-like satire. No matter what the truth, it’s definitely art.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I

Call me hooked. The series about the young wizard and his pals just keeps getting better the older these kids (Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint) get and the darker the films become. Yes, in some ways this seventh and penultimate movie (the final chapter is due next summer) is merely a place marker setting up the climactic final battle yet to come between Harry and the evil Lord Voldemort. But it still managed to offer more thrills, chills, and spills, along with real emotional resonance, than just about any other movie this year.

The King’s Speech

Who knew a movie about overcoming a speech impediment could be this compelling? Colin Firth delivers a beautifully nuanced performance as England’s George VI, who suffered from a debilitating stutter. What gives the movie its punch is that there’s a vital reason for the king to find his voice: so that he can speak out against Nazism and Fascism, inspiring his people, as England enters World War II.

Made in Dagenham

This is the kind of empowering but also just plain fun working class drama that the British do so well (think Billy Elliot and The Full Monty) and which Hollywood no longer bothers to make. Dagenham depicts a dramatized version of a real life, landmark successful strike for equal wages by women factory workers at a Ford auto plant near London in 1967. Sally Hawkins, Bob Hoskins, and Miranda Richardson star, along with some swinging ’60s outfits.

Runners-up: Inception, The Infidel, Kick-Ass, Never Let Me Go and Tamara Drewe.

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