Ten Great British Comedies You Must See

Some of the funniest comedies ever made come from Britain. The UK is simply an unbeatable country for comedy, so I’ve decided to list ten of my favourite – ten of the best – British comedy films that you simply must see.

Hot Fuzz (2007)

Edgar Wright’s supreme triumph, Hot Fuzz is a superb and loving tribute to an entire genre of cop and buddy action flicks. Mixing surreal action with incredible comedy, Wright manages to successfully create one of the best cop comedies I have ever seen, and an absolute unmissable hit.

Shallow Grave (1994)

Danny Boyle’s first feature, Shallow Grave is the shy younger brother to its successful follow-up Trainspotting, which is definitely not a comedy. Some could argue that neither is Shallow Grave, but I think it has that special, sly dark streak of black comedy that turns an otherwise routine thriller into something very special indeed.

Life of Brian (1979)

Arguably the funniest and most successful Monty Python film, Life of Brian is easily my one Python selection for this list, a beautiful send up of long fabled bible tails, turning the Holiest of them all, Jesus, into a laughable, funny, joke-ridden young Englishman named Brian, who, whilst perhaps not being the messiah, is certainly a naughty boy.

In Bruges (2008)

Martin McDonagh’s incredible debut feature, In Bruges is an original, captivating and unpredictable buddy comedy with a helpful splatter of violence and drama. The dialogue is absolutely unforgettable (“YOU’RE an inanimate FUCKING object!”), the actors are perfectly cast, and the film’s plot is so wonderfully timed, with twists no one sees coming.

A Fish Called Wanda (1988)

Long after Python broke up, two of its key members, John Cleese and Michael Palin, returned to make another, different kind of comedy. Throwing together a mixture of British and American actors, its a heist film completely unlike any other, totally ridden with unforgettable jokes, stellar acting and a perfectly written screenplay which understands its comedy and plays all the right cards.

Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994)

Though I’ll admit to not loving this upon my initial viewing, it has after time occurred to me what a marvelous British romcom this is. Hugh Grant and Andie MacDowell lead the way in this fascinating and very funny comedy, never going over the top and always retaining a special charm which is what makes it so enjoyable.

Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998)

Guy Ritchie’s supreme achievement, a film I liked even better than its more loved counterpart Snatch, is inarguably one of the most amazing, funny, terrific heist pictures ever made. The comedy is stellar, with countless one-liners, memorable characters, perfect plot twists and genuinely brilliant timing.

Shaun of the Dead (2004)

While not quite retaining that certain je ne sais quoi that Hot Fuzz would have three years after it, Shaun of the Dead is still a very funny sendup of a beloved genre, directed with skill and written with love. Its impossible not to laugh as jokes are rapidly thrown at us not at a pace which becomes overpowering, but at a speed which is still believable, even if over-the-top.

Snatch. (2000)

Guy Ritchie’s Lock, Stock follow-up Snatch was applauded and acclaimed by audiences and critics as his best film yet, and that’s not that far from the truth. Snatch has quickfire humour, a plot so messy but tidily organised that it becomes almost too much to comprehend, and acting that is simply transcendant of your average comedy, almost Oscar-worthy.

Withnail and I (1986)

A classic British comedy if ever there was one, Withnail and I is one of the most beloved and enjoyable British films ever made. Set in the English countryside, it’s a charming story of two unemployed actors whose quiet holiday soon gets very out of hand, in a manner which comes somewhere between Hot Fuzz and Straw Dogs, but a lot funnier and with virtually no violence.


That’s my list. Are there any others you’d like to add? Leave a comment below. Thanks.

Posted on October 17, 2011, in Lists, Movies and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 46 Comments.

  1. The Irish aren’t going to be very happy with you for putting ‘In Bruges’ in there!!!

    How about ‘In the Loop’, have you seen that?

    • I knew it was Irish, but I didn’t want to exclude it based on a simple technicality, as I love it so much.

      No, I haven’t seen IN THE LOOP.

  2. Plenty of nice picks on there. The Guy Ritchie films are great fun, and Monty Python fully deserves their status as comedy geniuses. Also nice to see Shallow Grave on there, which tends to get lost in the shuffle when people talk Danny Boyle. I quite liked that one.

    I’d definitely add In the Loop to the list. No movie in years has made me laugh as much as that one. Four Lions is another good modern one. And the meta-tastic Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story is quite lovely as well, with Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon at the top of their game.

    Great post, sir. Keep up the good work!

  3. I recommend Four Lions as well. It was wonderful. I also need to mention Gregory’s Girl. It’s a classic you should check out if you haven’t. So charming. The Full Monty, have you seen that? And for something newer: I liked Submarine quite a bit.

    • I have seen the latter two you mentioned, THE FULL MONTY and SUBMARINE, but not the other two. FOUR LIONS is definitely gonna be watched soon as it is not a difficult one to find.

  4. For once I can say I have almost seen all the movies you mention! It’s a great selection and the UK produces interesting films with a different feel…

  5. Great list there Tyler, al my faves are in there. And yes for once on your site I have seen every film!!

    As Colin says The irish are gonna get ya for putting In Bruges in a UK list!!

  6. I think of ‘Trainspotting’ as a comedy when I watch it, it’s that black humour that I really shouldn’t enjoy but I do; still need to see ‘Shallow Grave’…
    ‘Shaun of the Dead’ is AWESOME, Edgar Wright’s fantastic πŸ˜€
    ‘Life of Brian’s great, but I prefer ‘Holy Grail’ πŸ™‚

  7. I remember the first time I saw A Fish Called Wanda. I must have laughed for several hours AFTER the film ended. Great stuff! Not a bad scene in that film.

    I still need to see Hot Fuzz in its entirety. And Shaun of the Dead is just hilarious! LOVE IT!

  8. Hi, Tyler and company:

    Excellent choices!

    Like Nostra, I’ve seen most of them.

    Still get a kick out of Hot Fuzz, Especially for Timothy Dalton’s bad guy. Edward Woodward and the wondrous treasures of the Constabulary’s Weapons Vault.

    Still prefer Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels over Snatch. Guy Ritchie has a knack for making the most of his bad guys. It’s a treat to see P.H. Moriarty’s ‘Hatchet Harry’ evolve from Bob Hoskin’s, chauffeur, ‘Razors’ in The Long Good Friday nearly two decades earlier. Also Alan Ford’s impeccable, polysyllabic ‘Brick Top’ in Snatch proves a force to be reckoned with.

    • Yeah, Guy Ritchie has come up with some insanely brilliant characters. A lot of what makes his movies so great is the characters; the dialogue they speak is so perfectly written and delivered in such a wonderful way by the talented actors. Such quotable films!

  9. Great list. Love love love In Bruges and Lock Stock.

    My one addition: THE TRIP!!

    • I’ve been shying away from Michael Winterbottom’s films for a while now, mainly because of an unpleasant experience with that piece of crap 9 SONGS, which I did not like, but I may have to face the music and start watching more of his films, starting with THE TRIP.

  10. Can’t say I’m the biggest fan of British humor. I did see Snatch and In Bruges which I quite liked but didn’t love. I also liked Shaun of the Dead although I find it to be a bit overrated.

    • It’s certainly not for everyone; it’s a very special sort of cinema that isn’t very accessible to certain people, especially those unprepared for it. You either take it or leave it.

  11. Fantastic list, Tyler! Out of your choices my favourites are Shaun of the Dead, In Bruges and Hot Fuzz. Hot Fuzz is probably my favourite. I’ve seen in so many times but still find it hilarious.

    I agree with Jessica’s suggestion, too. The Full Monty is good fun and there’s one particular scene in a bank that is just fantastic.

    • Yeah, I never get tired of HOT FUZZ. Or any of the movies on this list, really. They have such an insanely high rewatchability factor, if there is such a thing.

      I did consider THE FULL MONTY for this list; don’t know why I didn’t just put it on there!

  12. I think this may be the most pleasant list you’ve made πŸ˜›

  13. Good to see British comedy getting a little love. I grew up thinking that the entirety of British comedy was Benny Hill and Monty Python, and it was so refreshing to find out that there’s so much more.

    The Trip and In the Loop are both fine movies (recommended by others here in the comments section).

    • I grew up loving Monty Python and Fawlty Towers, so movies like the ones listed were refreshing for me as well. I’ll be seeing IN THE LOOP in the next few weeks, probably, knowing how slow I am to get around to certain films.

  14. Nice choices! The only one I haven’t seen is In Bruges though I’ve heard nothing but good things. I second (third?) In The Loop, and if you haven’t seen it I also recommend the preceding show The Thick of It. πŸ™‚

  15. Hmmm. I am most definitely going to leave a second post on this once I’ve had a good think about what is missing. For now however I will simply voice my opinions on your list with the adamance and fervour of every other pseudo-intellectual hiding behind the security of anonymity the internet provides.

    Firstly, one film per director especially if said director is an auteur like Guy Ritchie or if the material is from the same source such as Pegg/Frost.

    With that said Hot Fuzz trumps Shaun of the Dead. BLASPHEMY! you shout hysterically at your computer screens. A friend at film school once recommended I watch a TV series called Spaced as it was exactly my style of humour. I do have a broad humour spectrum and when I did eventually get my hands on it I fell a sleep somewhere around episode three and didn’t bother with the rest. Fans of Spaced of course would have rejoiced at their two favourite underachievers bumbling their way through zom… “don’t say the zed word,” undead hordes in a feature film. I have tried to love this film as others do. I’ve seen it four times and still think it is only mildly droll at best and highly overrated. Hot Fuzz on the other hand is clever tongue in cheek homage to action/slasher films that is a laugh a minute and continuously amusing with repeated viewing. Let the abuse begin.

    Shallow Grave. I do like Shallow Grave but never did I consider it a comedy film, not to say it doesn’t have some great dialogue and darkly comic moments as do most British films of every genre. Trainspotting I would consider a comedy despite the interludes of downright morbid material.

    Life of Brian is not my favourite Python film however it is their most important one and deserves to be on this list over their other films for that reason. It is a ‘must see.’

    If we are including Irish films as you have with In Bruges I must wholeheartedly but respectfully tell you that this film should be relegated to second place as Ireland’s most iconic comedy to make way for Intermission. I’m sure I’ve mentioned that Intermission is Ireland as The Castle is to Australia.

    A Fish Called Wanda. πŸ™‚ No complaints. As a side note I would like to say I do enjoy Fierce Creatures too which many regard as a travesty when compared to Wanda.

    I have never seen 4 weddings and a Funeral from start to finish. I should and one day will get around to it. Until then I will say my favourite Hugh Grant comedy is About a Boy. I do wish he could have played Lockheart in Chamber of Secrets as well.

    Snatch vs. Lock Stock is a big called. I prefer Snatch for repeated viewing but Lock Stock is probably a better pick for ‘must see.’ But we could debate the two forever.

    Withnail and I. Enough said. “We’ve gone on holiday by mistake.” It’s always nice to see Richard E. Grant pop up in films every now and again. If you ever want a tolerable ‘date movie’ to watch check out Love Hurts. Richard is great.

    “I shall return!”

    P.S. you get kudos if you know where the quote is from. Hint: It was very awkwardly and dramatically delivered by an actress in a well received film released in the last several years.

    • I suppose HOT FUZZ is better than SHAUN OF THE DEAD, but I do like the latter quite a bit. A lot, actually. SPACED is probably better than both of them, now I think about it.

      I haven’t seen INTERMISSION but I’ve certainly heard of it.

      I don’t know from what film that quote comes, but it sounds familiar and I feel like I should know it.

      • It is a tough quote without the delivery. It was Julianne Moore to Mark Ruffalo in The Kids Are All Right. My brother and I use it a lot. It’s one of the funniest lines in the film, after of course, “Well I need your observations like I need a dick in my ass!”

        • Ah, THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT. Didn’t love that movie… I mean, I liked it and all… but sometimes it just got annoying. I gave it a 6/10.

  16. I can proudly say I’ve seen ’em all. I love Hott Fuzz and I also think Shallow Grave is borderline black comedy tipping more towards psychological drama. Great list, but I’d put Holy Grail in place of Life of Brian.

  17. I like Hot Fuzz, A Fish Called Wanda and Four Weddings. British humor can be so irreverent but they’re funny!

  18. Furrealz? That’s mavlleousry good to know.

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