Virgin Media released the results of a poll it commissioned, asking a thousand Brits what they thought was the best British film ever made. Topping the list with 22% of the responses: Four Weddings and a Funeral.
This is why All-Time Greatest lists aren't taken seriously, and are good for nothing besides giving bored bloggers something to bitch about. It's not that Four Weddings is a bad movie; it's not. I actually thought it was very good when I saw it lo those many years ago. But the best British film ever? You've got to be fucking shitting me. I didn't complain when it got the token British indie comedy spot in the Best Picture nominations at the Oscars that year, but this is too much. A spokesman for Virgin Media said, "Seeing so many fantastic films in the list is testament to British film talent." Actually, it's pretty good evidence that the average Brit is as ignorant about the filmic heritage of his country as most of us over here in the U.S. are about ours.
Second on the list, behind Four Weddings by just a single percentage point, was Monty Python's Life of Brian. Again, not a bad film, but . . . the phrase "Best British movie" was in the question, wasn't it?
For a bit of contrast, consider the BFI 100, which lists the 100 best British films of the 20th century, as determined by the British Film Institute. Sitting at #1 is The Third Man, starring Joseph Cotten and Orson Welles, directed by Carol Reed, arguably the greatest example of film noir ever filmed. Hang on a second, let me check the Virgin Media list, see where Third Man comes in there . . .
You know what . . . motherfucker, I don't see it! I see Casino Royale, but not The Third Man. Whaddya know about that?
Other titles on the BFI list familiar to us colonists include Dr. Zhivago, Bridge on the River Kwai, and Laurence Olivier's Henry V, none of which are named in the Virgin Media poll. Trainspotting squeaks into the top ten on the BFI list, and it made the Virgin Media list, too, but beyond that there isn't much overlap. Four Weddings and a Funeral landed on the BFI list at number 23, but even that seems high to me. Not that I'm Mr. British Films or anything, but is a funny Hugh Grant movie with a godawful putrid fucking Andie MacDowell as the female lead really the 23rd best movie Britain ever made? Really?
Even the IMDb Top 250 doesn't usually get it this wrong . . . though I see WALL-E has suddenly appeared at #9, and The Return of the King is ranked 14, ahead of Raiders of the Lost Ark, Dr. Strangelove, and Sunset Boulevard, which makes me want to dig up Billy Wilder and plead for forgiveness.