The Fiver: My Favorite Five Must-See British Comedies – What Are Your Top 5?


There’s a great wealth of humour in England, though it doesn’t always catch on here in America. Some films never make it across the pond, and even those that do aren’t always promoted by the American studios that brought them here. Even when they are brought here and promoted here, they can be edited so that an American audience will find them more “appealing”, thus losing their charm. However, we still get some that are great hits and create household names such as Simon Pegg, Richard Curtis, and Jason Statham.

1. “The Boat that Rocked”

With his latest film, “About Time”, coming out this year, it might be worth checking out his last directorial feature, 2009’s “The Boat that Rocked”. Unlike other films that he’s written and/or directed such as 2003’s “Love Actually”, Curtis moved away from his usual romantic comedies by writing about a fictional crew of a pirate radio station. Aside from his usual brilliant comedic writing, the film is stocked with comedy legends, including: Nick Frost, Bill Nighy, Rhys Darby, Katherine Parkinson, Chris O’Dowd, Rhys Ifans, and Jack Davenport. Throw in Kenneth Branagh and Phillip Seymour Hoffman and you have an unquestionably all-star cast. It met with mixed reviews from critics and its complaints about it being too long caused Curtis to make significant edits that reduced the quality of the film (go back and look for my review of the differences). However, whether intentional or by some technical oversight, the blu-ray edition of the original movie is region-free, so pick it up and enjoy this great comedy before Curtis returns to romance.

2. “Mean Machine”

Produced by Matthew Vaughn, the director of “Layer Cake”, “Stardust”, and “X-Men: First Class” who also produced many of Guy Ritchie’s films, 2001’s “Mean Machine” is a British take on the American prison football comedy “The Longest Yard”. Being in the same family as Ritchie’s productions, it stars many of the usual suspects from his films, including Vinnie Jones as an ex-footballer (which he really is), Jason Flemyng as a football announcer/convict, and Jason Statham as high security prisoner-turned-goalkeeper. It has the same gritty feel as any of Vaughn and Ritchie’s gangster pictures and is peppered with a fair amount of drama to show that serving at Her Majesty’s pleasure isn’t all fun and games.

3. “Saving Grace”

A must-see for fans of the programme “Doc Martin” or “The Late Late Show” host Craig Ferguson. Ferguson co-wrote the 2000 film with Mark Crowdy that features recent widower Grace Trevethyn (Brenda Blethyn), who turns to growing marijuana with her gardener (Ferguson) after discovering that her late-husband had cheated on her and bankrupted their estate. Martin Clunes appears in this film for the first time as Dr. Martin Bamford, a character he would play in two television prequel films and would inspire the creation of Dr. Martin Ellingham. As with the “Doc Martin” prequels and programme, most of the movie was filmed in Port Isaac, creating a lot of scenery porn. Of course, in a small village, Grace’s actions create much hilarity and even bring the unwanted attentions of a group of drug dealers, played by Tcheky Karyo (“The Patriot”), Jamie Foreman (“Layer Cake”), and Bill Bailey.

4. “Run Fatboy Run”

Fans of Simon Pegg will enjoy this film done without frequent comedy collaborator Nick Frost. Instead, Pegg teams with friend Dylan Moran (David from “Shaun of the Dead”) in a story about a cowardly man trying to get back together with his estranged love (played by Thandie Newton) after leaving her at the altar. While she has moved on with businessman Whit (Hank Azaria), Pegg’s character decides to participate in the London marathon against Whit to show her he can commit to something. Also appearing to motivate and tease Pegg is “Krod Mandoon” actress India de Beaufort. Featuring Pegg as his typical “everyman” character, you’ll easily find yourself rooting for him to overcome his failings and laugh at his attempts.

5. “Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life”

This often-overlooked film tends to play second-fiddle to bigger Python pictures like “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” or “Life of Brian”, but is not to be ruled out for any serious Python fan. Despite having an overarching theme of human life from birth to death, it plays a lot more like their sketch comedy, with the Pythons taking on multiple roles across vastly different scenes, from a man explaining why Catholicism won’t let him use a condom to a school of fish in a restaurant’s tank watching a friend being eaten. It’s also produced some incredibly memorable moments and songs such as the extremely-obese Mr. Creosote and “The Universe Song.” If you enjoyed the other Python films and their sketch comedy programme, “Meaning of Life” is a must-watch.


  1. avatarkevie says

    The Full Monty, Still Crazy, Local Hero (ok, Brit-American), Lair of the White Worm (yes, it IS a comedy) and Shaun of the Dead. I like that you included Saving Grace and Meaning of Life on your list. Give me an hour and I will probably come up with five more movies.

  2. avatarDavid Ashford says

    Best movie by a mile is “Monty Python’s Life of Brian”. Far, far better than “The Meaning of Life”. We watch it every Christmas & Easter as part of our festivities

  3. avatarPat says

    Local Hero, Waking Ned Devine, MP and the Holy Grail, Fish Called Wanda and Comfort and Joy (good Xmas themed movie, Bill Forsyth’s movie after Local Hero).

  4. avatarMark O'Baldwin says

    Only five? How can I limit myself to only *FIVE*?!? As David A. sez above, _Life of Brian_ is the funniest of the Python movies, even better than _Holy Grail_ & far, faR, FAR superior to _Meaning of Life_ [which was mostly just a gross-fest. Yes, life *is* messy, but still...]

    Nice to see someone else remembers _Comfort & Joy_ [completely made of unobtainium on dvd, stateside: I saw it in the theatres back in the day, having heard it was by the same crew that did the priceless _Local Hero_. _Waking Ned Devine_ is good, but not as good as the other two, IMNSHO.

    FWIW, nobody stateside is going to recognize the title of _Rocking the Boat_, since for some unknown reason it was released here as _Pirate Radio_ [perhaps to capitalize on the success of the Disney PotC franchise?] But it was an excellent flick, and I’m glad to have it in my dvd collection.

  5. avatarYouLiveYouLearn says

    Death at a Funeral for me was one of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen (aside from the first two installments of the Cornetto Trilogy).

    • avatarMarianne Seggerman says

      The author and the commentators make it seem that the Brits have only been making kick ass comedies in the past few decades. NOT TRUE. What about The Importance of Being Earnest? any of the Alec Guiness comedies? The Lavendar Hill Mob, for instance. My favorite British comedy: The Wrong Box and then there’s Tom Jones Morgan, if you consider that a comedy among the more recent stuff I go for a classic: Twelfth Night, with Imogen Stubbs Notice a lot of love for Local Hero – so I guess the Twelfth Doctor is known to at least some.

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