Caine and Olivier

Taking the top spot as my all-time favourite British film is Anthony Shaffer's brilliant, labyrinthine tale of a country house, the Lord of the Manor and the pretender to the throne. Shaffer's razor-sharp pen guts and cannibalises the pre-war detective genre in much the same way that Wes Craven carved up and then feasted on the slasher movie in the 1990s. Although this is no ghost story or grisly horror, Sleuth's tongue in cheek approach to costume, design and soundtrack steeps the whole movie in a strange kind of broken-dolly creepiness as the action lurches from quirky, through witty, before descending into something altogether darker.

Based around the simple idea of a staged burglary at a remote manor house, the storyline starts quite conventionally before taking a sharp detour into hidden agendas, psychological torture, humiliation and revenge as the characters are locked together in a battle of wits that has no beginning, no end and no clear rules.

Originally written as a stage play, it's a testament to Shaffer's scripting genius that he can hold the viewer's attention for over two hours while only ever employing a maximum of two characters on screen at any given time. In fact, there are only three live characters in the whole movie, but I don't want to spoil the plot for anyone who hasn't seen it.

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Grant and McGann

As the dark winter months are softened by our own seasonal excess, it seems only right to raise a glass to Bruce Robinson's boozy tale of two down-and-out actors struggling with poverty, existential angst and an ill-judged country break in the rain-lashed Cumbrian hills. With Richard E Grant and Paul McGann heading up a very capable cast, Withnail and I continues to be a firm favourite more than three decades since its first release.

As the swinging sixties draw to a close, our anti-heroes begin to wonder if there's more to life than booze, drugs and waiting for the next acting job, so they flee London's drizzling grime in search of a simpler, more wholesome slice of life. Alas, what they find is perpetual rain, unfriendly locals and Withnail's upper crust Uncle Monty lurking in the shadows, hell bent on indulging his own sexual desires far from London society's prying eyes.

With hugely entertaining characters and a scintillating script, Withnail and I is easily one of the most memorable, hilarious, strangely profound and oddly poignant British films ever made. The mere mention of this movie (especially in a pub) releases a barrage of unsolicited quotes, quips and comebacks that can keep a large group laughing long past closing time.

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From the pen of the late, great Anthony Shaffer comes one of the most chilling, iconic and original films in all of movie history. Set on the fictitious Scottish island of Summerisle, the Wicker Man features superb performances by Edward Woodward as police Sergeant Howie and Christopher Lee as Lord Summerisle. Woodward has said that Howie was the best part he ever played, while Lee maintained that the Wicker Man was his finest film.

Supported by a deep bench of quirky and accomplished character actors, director Robin Hardy follows the increasingly labyrinthine twists and turns of Sergeant Howie's investigation into the apparent disappearance of a young girl. Every step Howie takes into that remote community's strange rites and customs brings him closer to his own carefully planned and agonisingly awful demise.

Hardy skilfully exploits Shaffer's slow but relentless ratchet-turning writing to build a richly detailed, absorbing and thoroughly grounded society in which the hapless Howie quickly becomes lost, flounders and is ultimately destroyed. With a memorable music score and some excellent cinematography typical of the era, the Wicker Man is one of many films that disprove the idea that only a big budget production with aggressive marketing can stand the test of time.

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Ultra-violence, drugs, sex, crime, punishment and the human capacity for evil are just a few of the subjects covered by one of the most talked about releases in all of movie history.

With its outlandish characters, outrageous costumes and memorable direction, Stanley Kubrick's outrageous dystopian pantomime creates a world which is both totally unrealistic and yet unsettlingly familiar. Nothing in this retro-futuristic fantasy looks or sounds quite like the world we know, which helps to keep the viewer off-balance during the whole cinematic experience. Like a blurry photocopy, the costumed facsimile of Alex and his droogs kind of resembles something from our everyday experience, even though it's a misshapen and fuzzy representation of the reality we all share.

As we follow Alex on his journey from joyously psychotic gang leader, to reluctant prisoner, through willing guinea pig and political patsy, we know we're watching a psychodrama set in an imagined world, yet that does nothing to quell a strange yet poorly defined feeling of unease this movie often conjures in its audience.

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