Top up your watchlist... 21 films about working-class Britain

Featuring some of Britain’s most charismatic stars, these films get under the skin of working-class British life. They’re all available to watch with a free 14-day trial on BFI Player. How many have you seen?

The Arbor (2010)

Director: Clio Barnard

The Arbor (2010)

Clio Barnard’s film about Bradford playwright Andrea Dunbar mixes reconstruction, interviews (performed by actors) and scenes from the plays.

The Bill Douglas Trilogy (1972-78)

Director: Bill Douglas

My Childhood (1972)

Bill Douglas’s poetic and profoundly stirring autobiographical trilogy about Jamie growing up in a Scottish mining village in 1945, ending up in a children’s home, later conscripted in the RAF and finally feeling at home.

Billy Liar (1963)

Director: John Schlesinger

Billy Liar (1963)

Tom Courtenay is the clerk whose overactive fantasies compensate for a dull provincial life, in this classic film from the British New Wave.

Bronco Bullfrog (1969)

Director: Barney Platts-Mills

Bronco Bullfrog (1969)

A fascinating record of 1960s suedehead youth culture, largely improvised by a non-professional cast of teenagers from east London.

Bullet Boy (2004)

Director: Saul Dibb

Bullet Boy (2004)

Ashley Walters impresses in this hard-hitting Hackney drama that’s still one of the best of Britain’s black urban crime films.

Burning an Illusion (1981)

Director: Menelik Shabazz

Burning an Illusion (1981)

Menelik Shabazz’s pioneering first feature traces the emotional and political growth of a young black couple in Thatcher’s London.

Deep End (1970)

Director: Jerzy Skolimowski

Deep End (1970)

A darkly comic and compelling coming-of-age story set during a time of social change.

Duffer (1972)

Directors: Joseph Despins and William Dumaresq

Duffer (1972)

A bizarre study of obsession focusing on a teenage boy who is torn between the charms of a fleshly female prostitute and the sadism of an older man.

Face (1997)

Director: Antonia Bird

Face (1997)

Robert Carlyle and Ray Winstone are members of a criminal gang that tears itself apart after a heist goes wrong, in Antonia Bird’s stylish thriller.

Hell Is a City (1960)

Director: Val Guest

Hell Is a City (1960)

Punchy crime thriller with a realist streak as Stanley Baker pursues a fugitive through the streets of Manchester.

It Always Rains on Sunday (1947)

Director: Robert Hamer

It Always Rains on Sunday (1947)

Austerity noir? Ealing’s downbeat but compelling East End thriller.



Lunch Hour (1963)

Director: James Hill

Lunch Hour (1963)

Shirley Anne Field stars in this stylish, highly enjoyable story of simmering tensions and sexual conflict in the work place.

The Moon over the Alley (1976)

Director: Joseph Despins

The Moon over the Alley (1976)

The Moon over the Alley is a bizarre and compelling musical exploring the problems of multicultural Notting Hill residents in the early 1970s.

My Brother the Devil (2012)

Director: Sally El Hosaini

My Brother the Devil (2012)

Sally El Hosaini’s feature debut tells of the love and disenchantment of two British-Egyptian brothers. Gangs, drugs and sexuality come between them.

Pressure (1976)

Director: Horace Ové

Pressure (1975)

Hailed as Britain’s first black feature film, Pressure is a hard-hitting, honest document of the plight of disenchanted black youths in 1970s London.

Prick Up Your Ears (1987)

Director: Stephen Frears

Prick Up Your Ears (1987)

A celebration of outrageous British playwright Joe Orton’s irreverent and charismatic talent, starring Gary Oldman and Alfred Molina.

Red Road (2006)

Director: Andrea Arnold

Red Road (2006)

Andrea Arnold’s highly acclaimed film, winner of top prizes at Cannes and the BFI London Film Festival, is a haunting drama about a woman confronting past demons.

The Terence Davies Trilogy (1976-83)

Director: Terence Davies

Children (1976)

Terence Davies’ Liverpool-set trilogy explores the development of Robert Tucker’s life from victimised schoolboy, through middle age to death.

That Sinking Feeling (1979)

Director: Bill Forsyth

That Sinking Feeling (1979)

Before Gregory’s Girl, Bill Forsyth mate this equally hilarious caper about a group of unemployed teenagers who hatch a plan to steal a job lot of stainless steel sinks.

This Sporting Life (1963)

Director: Lindsay Anderson

This Sporting Life (1963)

Lindsay Anderson’s fantastic first feature masterfully dissects the brutal life struggles of a rough-edged rugby footballer on and off the field.

Under the Skin (1997)

Director: Carine Adler

Under the Skin (1997)

Carine Adler’s sexy and dark debut, starring Samantha Morton in her first major feature film role.

BFI Player logo

Stream landmark cinema

Free for 14 days, then £4.99/month or £49/year.

Try for free