Opinion

Who are the top British film stars of the century?

It's all to coincide with St George's Day (tomorrow) though the poll was widened to include all Brits

A recent study by Showcase Cinemas* (the company that runs the cinema at Bluewater) has named Tom Hardy and Judi Dench the best British film stars of the 21st century. 

The survey, which was carried out to celebrate St George’s Day (tomorrow), also found Harry Potter to be Brits’ favourite film, and that almost half of Brits prefer a British-made movie to a Hollywood blockbuster. Strictly-speaking, of course, St George would only be interested in English stars.

In addition, nine out of 10 Brits admitted they feel a sense of pride when they see a British film winning an award.  

The study sees the Mad Max and The Revenant star Tom Hardy beat a host of talent to be named the nation’s favourite British actor. Sean Connery and Anthony Hopkins (both not English) follow closely behind in second and third respectively, while rom-com king Hugh Grant only managed to come in at number 10. What, no Michael Caine?

I like Hardy a lot but I’m not sure I would place him at No 1. But, each to his own. I would have ranked Colin Firth and Benedict Cumberbatch higher.

Famed for her work on James Bond films and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Dame Judi Dench was deservedly voted as the top British actress. Recent Academy Award winner Olivia Coleman placed second, followed by Dame Maggie Smith in third place. Emma Watson, Dame Helen Mirren and Helena Bonham Carter also graced the top 10 actresses list.

Although Emma Watson was pipped to the post as the best British film star of the century, she can still celebrate success as Harry Potter and its sequels were named the best British movies of the period.

The beloved wizarding world of J K Rowling was a clear favourite, with Helen Fielding’s book-turned-film Bridget Jones’s Diary following in second place.

Our love of watching musicals on the big screen is clear, with Les Miserables (French, surely?) picking up the third spot, while the historical war epics Dunkirk and 1917 also made an appearance in the top 10.

What is it about British cinema that captures our hearts? Some 60% of participants said they prefer them to their Hollywood equivalents as they focus more on the storyline as opposed to the blockbuster effects, with almost half (47%) saying they find British films of greater quality.

There is no sign of the nation’s patriotism waning anytime soon, as more than half (59%) of British film fans said they feel a sense of pride when a British movie wins an award.

Mark Barlow, UK general manager for Showcase Cinemas, says: “Our study to celebrate the very best of British just goes to show how much talent there is among our filmmakers and actors.

“It’s great to see Dame Judi Dench taking the top spot as she really is a British icon, and the full list of the favourite films since the turn of the millennium contains some unforgettable titles.

“As we reopen our cinemas next month, we have even more British films to look forward to this year, including Peter Rabbit 2, The Father and, of course, Bond is back in No Time To Die (without Dame Judi whose M popped her cloggs in Skyfall).

The Top Ten Male British Film Stars of the Century

  1. Tom Hardy
  2. Sir Sean Connery
  3. Sir Anthony Hopkins
  4. Colin Firth
  5. Daniel Craig
  6. Benedict Cumberbatch
  7. Liam Neeson
  8. Sir Ian McKellan
  9. Gary Oldman
  10. Hugh Grant
A personal favourite. Gary Oldman in his Churchill garb dances to James Brown

The Top Ten Female British Film Stars of the Century

  1. Dame Jude Dench
  2. Olivia Colman
  3. Dame Maggie Smith
  4. Dame Helen Mirren
  5. Kate Winslet
  6. Emma Watson
  7. Helena Bonham Carter
  8. Emily Blunt
  9. Dame Julie Walters
  10. Keira Knightley

Top Ten British Films of the Century

  1. Harry Potter series
  2. Bridget Jones’s Diary
  3. Les Miserables
  4. Dunkirk
  5. Paddington
  6. The Theory of Everything
  7. 1917
  8. 28 Days Later
  9. Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit
  10. This is England

*Showcase Cinemas are scheduled to reopen across England and Scotland on May 17 and the cinema chain is looking forward to welcoming back guests to the big screen experience. All Showcase cinemas will be operating the Be Showcase Safe programme that was successfully implemented last year, meaning guests can enjoy with cinema experience with peace of mind.

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David Buckley

Dave Buckley is a career journalist. “I once went painting girders for a week and discovered I didn’t like heights,” he says. “Apart from that it has always been journalism for me in one form or another.” Past local weekly publications he has worked for include: the South-East London Mercury* covering the Borough of Greenwich as a junior reporter; Orpington-based News Shopper as a sub-editor; and the Kent Messenger when based in Larkfield, Maidstone, as deputy chief sub-editor. He has also worked for the following dailies/nationals: Daily Express, Today*, News of the World* and Hong Kong Star*. All those marked with an asterisk no longer exist (trend emerging?). He owned and edited a Thailand-based property magazine before returning to England and currently works as a production editor on a car fleet magazine. His first foray into property ownership saw him move from London to Rainham (the Gillingham, Kent, variety). He has subsequently lived in Chislehurst, Petts Wood and Orpington in the Borough of Bromley (which he still regards as being in Kent). In more recent years he owned three different properties on the Kings Hill (West Malling) development.

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