BFI Screen Guide - British Documentaries

by TheWanderingFish | created - 15 Jan 2012 | updated - 15 Jan 2012 | Public
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1. 24 Hours (2000)

86 min | Crime, Drama

Feliks, professional killer, has only 24 hours to get to the distant island, where his beloved woman and the money for the custom made is waiting for him. Lyova Shalamov and his brother Garik have also 24 hours to find and to kill Feliks.

Director: Aleksandr Atanesyan | Stars: Maksim Sukhanov, Andrey Panin, Sergei Novikov, Mikhail Kozakov

Votes: 161

2. Any Man's Kingdom (1956)

20 min | Documentary, Short

A documentary showing aspects of long-disappeared rural life in Northumberland in 1953.

Director: Tony Thompson | Star: Stephen Murray

Votes: 10

6. Kitchener's Great Army in the Battle of the Somme (1916)

74 min | Documentary, War

Documentary (with some re-enacted footage) of the British army's participation in the Battle of the Somme in France during World War I.

Director: Geoffrey Malins | Star: Beauvoir De Lisle

Votes: 325

9. Britain at Bay (1940)

7 min | Documentary, Short

Britons rally together to defend the island against the Nazis who were occupying neighbouring countries.

Star: J.B. Priestley

Votes: 20

12. Coal Face (1935)

11 min | Documentary, Short

Documentary showing the dangerous working conditions in a Welsh coal mining community.

Director: Alberto Cavalcanti | Stars: W.H. Auden, Montagu Slater

Votes: 274

13. Cutting Edge (1990– )
Episode: The Complainers (1997)


A look at the lives and opinions of three consumer crusaders who stand up for the rights of dissatisfied customers everywhere.

Director: Dominic Savage

14. The Conquest of Everest (1953)

Not Rated | 78 min | Documentary, Adventure

Documentary that covers the famous and successful expedition of the Everest conquest by Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary, the first climbers to reach its peak.

Director: George Lowe | Stars: Meredith Edwards, John Hunt, George Band, Tom Bourdillon

Votes: 195

16. Crowd Bites Wolf (2000 Video)

23 min | Documentary, Short

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Director: Flaco Blag | Star: Flaco Blag

Votes: 5

17. A Day in the Life of a Coal Miner (1910)

9 min | Short, Documentary

A coal miner says good-bye to his wife and children, and heads off to work. He reaches the mine, prepares his lamp, and then descends into the mine along with some other workers. As he and ... See full summary »

Votes: 207

18. Desert Victory (1943)

62 min | Documentary, War

The Allied campaign to drive Germany and Italy from North Africa is analysed, with the major portion of the film examining the battles at El Alamein, including a re-enactment.

Directors: Roy Boulting, David MacDonald | Stars: Harold Alexander, Winston Churchill, Adolf Hitler, Bernard L. Montgomery

Votes: 216

20. A Diary for Timothy (1945)

40 min | Short, Documentary

This brief documentary-style film presents the status of Great Britain near the end of the Second World War by means of a visual diary for a baby boy born in September, 1944. Narration ... See full summary »

Director: Humphrey Jennings | Stars: Michael Redgrave, Myra Hess, John Gielgud, Frederick Allen

Votes: 591

21. Drifters (1929)

49 min | Documentary

A silent documentary film by John Grierson telling the story of Britain's North Sea herring fishery.

Director: John Grierson

Votes: 274

22. Drinking for England (1998)

50 min | Documentary

Explores the importance of an attitudes towards consumption of alcohol in English society by following five subjects through interviews, recitals of poetry, and song.

Director: Brian Hill

Votes: 25

23. Education for the Future (1967)

10 min | Documentary, Short

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Director: Derrick Knight

Votes: 7

24. Every Day Except Christmas (1957)

37 min | Documentary, Short

A day in the working class market at Covent Garden in London, where fresh fruits, vegetables and flowers are sold.

Director: Lindsay Anderson | Star: Alun Owen

Votes: 141

25. The Face of Britain (1935)

18 min | Documentary, Short

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Director: Paul Rotha | Star: A.J. Cummings

Votes: 33

26. The Family (1974– )

30 min | Reality-TV

"The Family" (1974) is one of the first "reality" shows in the history of television. Modelled after the US TV series "An American Family (1972), this 12-part series documents the daily life of a working-class family from Reading, UK.

Stars: Tom Bernes, Christopher Wilkins, Gary Wilkins, Heather Wilkins

Votes: 17

27. Five and Under (1941)

18 min | Documentary, Short

Childcare for working women during the Second World War.

Director: Donald Alexander | Star: Beatrix Lehmann

Votes: 15

28. Gallivant (1996)

100 min | Documentary

When British filmmaker Andrew Kotting decided to tour the perimeter of Great Britain with his grandmother Gladys and his daughter Eden, he brought a film crew along. The result is this often humorous and picturesque documentary.

Director: Andrew Kotting | Stars: Andrew Kotting, Eden Kotting, Benji Ming, Gladys Morris

Votes: 184

31. Handsworth Songs (1987)

61 min | Documentary

Documentary examining the 1985 riots in London and Birmingham's Handsworth district that erupted in reaction to the repressive policing of black communities.

Director: John Akomfrah | Stars: Pervaiz Khan, Meera Syal, Yvonne Weekes

Votes: 129

33. Forty Minutes (1981–1994)
Episode: Heart of the Angel (1989)


This film documents one day in the life of Angel station on the Northern Line of the London Underground in the days before its refurbishment. We see the ticket collectors, station manager ... See full summary »

Director: Molly Dineen | Stars: Derek Perkins, Ray Stocker

Votes: 23

35. Housing Problems (1935)

16 min | Short, Documentary

Slum conditions, slum clearance, bright new public housing.

Directors: Edgar Anstey, Arthur Elton | Stars: Councillor Lauder, Mr. Norwood, Mrs. Hill, Mrs. Graves

Votes: 251

36. I Think They Call Him John (1964)

28 min | Documentary, Short

A day in the life of John, an elderly, widowed, childless, world war veteran living all alone.

Director: John Krish | Stars: Bessie Love, John Cartner Ronson, Victor Spinetti

Votes: 65

37. The Intimacy of Strangers (2005)

20 min | Documentary, Short

You use to have to make an effort to overhear other people's intimate conversations. Now you have to make an effort not to. The Intimacy of Strangers is a story of life, love, loss and hope... See full summary »

Director: Eva Weber

Votes: 16

40. Johnny Cash in San Quentin (1969 TV Movie)

60 min | Documentary, Music

A unique concert given to the long term inmates of the famous jail. Johnny and June sing 'Wanted Man' ( written especially for the concert by Bob Dylan) and 'San Quentin', (written by Cash ... See full summary »

Director: Michael Darlow | Stars: June Carter Cash, Johnny Cash, Marshall Grant, W.S. Holland

Votes: 179

43. Land of Promise (1946)

67 min | Documentary

Described as a 'film argument' about homes and houses, this film is in three parts showing houses as they were, houses as they are and houses as they might be.

Director: Paul Rotha | Stars: Frederick Allen, Elizabeth Cowell, Henry Hallatt, Herbert Lomas

Votes: 15

44. Let It Be (1970)

G | 81 min | Documentary, Music

The filmed account of The Beatles' attempt to recapture their old group spirit by making a back to basics album, which instead drove them further apart.

Director: Michael Lindsay-Hogg | Stars: John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr

Votes: 4,907

45. Listen to Britain (1942)

Not Rated | 20 min | Documentary, Short

A depiction of life in wartime England during the Second World War. Director Humphrey Jennings visits many aspects of civilian life and of the turmoil and privation caused by the war, all without narration.

Directors: Humphrey Jennings, Stewart McAllister | Stars: Leonard Brockington, Joseph Macleod, Bud Flanagan, Chesney Allen

Votes: 1,376

46. Lockerbie: A Night Remembered (1998 TV Movie)

60 min | Documentary

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Director: Michael Grigsby | Star: Saul Reichlin

Votes: 11

47. London (1994)

Not Rated | 85 min | Documentary

An inspiring tale through London by pictures narrated by Paul Scofield.

Director: Patrick Keiller | Stars: Paul Scofield, John Major, Norma Major, Dennis Skinner

Votes: 455

48. Sport at Heart (2005)


Featuring cameos from some of Britains best loved sports men and women, film, TV and radio personalities, the film captures the heart and soul of London and helped the capital city to win ... See full synopsis »

Director: Daryl Goodrich | Stars: Ade Adepitan, Jo Ankier, David Beckham, Samantha Bond

Votes: 7