With the 2022 British Film Institute (BFI) London Film Festival captivating cinema fans from 5 to 16 October, there’s no better time to look over the best British pictures from the last decade.
From war films to social commentaries, British cinema has provided audiences with some truly memorable films. Now that winter is approaching, the cold weather gives you the perfect excuse to sit in and enjoy some excellent British cinema.
So, read about five of the best British films of the last decade.
1. Skyfall (2012)
Director Sam Mendes was drafted in to orchestrate the 23rd instalment of the James Bond franchise, with Daniel Craig extending his legacy as cinema’s most famous secret agent.
In this film, things go awry for 007 and MI6 after Bond’s latest assignment doesn’t go to plan, leaving the agency under attack from a mysterious assailant who seems hell-bent on destroying them once and for all.
The opening scene is one for first-time viewers to look out for as it took two months to shoot the 12-minute sequence. It required many more months to prepare the scene before filming, with the production team even drafting in 200 crew members from the UK and a further 200 from Turkey, where it was filmed, just to get the scene completed.
In this addition to the James Bond film series, Judi Dench returns as M, while Q and Moneypenny make their first appearances during Craig’s tenure as Bond.
Skyfall was nominated for five Academy Awards and won two, for Best Sound Editing, and Best Original Song for Adele’s opening ballad.
2. Steve Jobs (2015)
In this British-American co-production, well-renowned director Danny Boyle and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin give audiences an insightful retelling of the professional life and personal struggles of Apple co-founder, Steve Jobs.
As the driving force behind a new age of technology, the story paints a picture of Jobs before the release of the Macintosh computer in 1984 and throughout his career. Viewers are brought behind the scenes during the dawn of digitisation, where Jobs is at the epicentre of a technological revolution and making great sacrifices to see Apple’s success.
The pursuit of his vision for the future of technology starts to create problems in his personal life and relationships, and Jobs is faced with new challenges outside of his business. Boyle and Sorkin creatively take us on Jobs’ journey to finding a balance between his vices and his passion for innovation.
Steve Jobs had its European premiere during the BFI London Film Festival in 2015, making it a good choice to celebrate this year’s event.
3. 12 Years a Slave (2014)
This moving story, directed by Steve McQueen, tells the true story of Solomon Northup, played by Chiwetel Ejiofor, as he endures the despicable reality during times of slavery in the United States.
Originally a free man with two children and an accomplished violinist, Northup’s world is turned upside down as he is sold into slavery.
The film is inspired by the writings of the real-life Solomon Northup and follows his journey as he is kidnapped and forced into slavery on the false premise of being offered a job. From here, the film explores his life on various plantations and the terrible treatment he is forced to bear as he fights to maintain his dignity.
Legendary composer Hans Zimmer notably provides the music for this epic, helping it to secure an Academy Award for Best Picture. Audiences of the 57th annual BFI Festival, in 2013, were lucky enough to experience the European premiere of 12 Years a Slave with cast members in attendance.
4. 1917 (2019)
In what appears to have been a productive decade for director Sam Mendes, this addition to his portfolio shares a story inspired by the experiences of the first world war listed in the autobiography of his grandfather, Alfred Mendes.
As Alfred was given the task of running messages and orders through “no man’s land”, the film pulls clear inspiration from the memories in the autobiography – the plot centres around two British privates ordered with delivering a message to another battalion to prevent a deadly ambush.
Travelling many miles on foot to fulfil their mission, the two messengers are challenged in unimaginable ways throughout their journey, with their lives at constant risk.
A defining characteristic of the film is its one-shot composition. It was edited in such a way that the scenes flow congruently throughout the film, giving the mesmerising illusion of being filmed in one continuous shot.
Immense effort went into filming 1917 and it even had 1,584 metres of trenches dug especially for it!
This all seems to have paid off, however, as the film won three Academy Awards. These were for Best Cinematography, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Visual Effects.
5. I, Daniel Blake (2016)
This powerful social commentary, directed by Ken Loach, tells the story of Daniel Blake, a 59-year-old widower. The story follows the events of his life after he suffers a heart attack and is forced off welfare benefits and back into work.
Despite being declared unfit to work by his doctor, Daniel is denied any employment benefits. While he fights a tedious appeal process to receive the support he deserves, the film draws attention to dynamic social and political issues as he develops a friendship with a single mother of two also struggling with the welfare system.
Among its accolades is the 2017 BAFTA award for Outstanding British Film. On top of this, I, Daniel Blake was well-received at Cannes Film Festival in 2016 where it won Palme d’Or and even received a 15-minute standing ovation from the audience.