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Top 10 Movies on British Icons

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Written by JJ Heaton These famous figures got the best big screen treatment. Welcome to WatchMojo UK, and today we’ll be counting down the Top 10 Movies on British Icons. For this list, we’ll be highlighting the best films based on the lives of important historical, political and cultural figures from the UK. Entries must be mostly focussed on the icons in question, with brief cameos not included, and we’ve limited our rank to one movie per icon, no matter how many portrayals of Churchill there have been! Special thanks to our user WordToTheWes for submitting the idea on our interactive suggestion tool: WatchMojo.comsuggest
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Top 10 Movies on British Icons


These famous figures got the best big screen treatment. Welcome to WatchMojo UK, and today we’ll be counting down the Top 10 Movies on British Icons.

For this list, we’ll be highlighting the best films based on the lives of important historical, political and cultural figures from the UK. Entries must be mostly focussed on the icons in question, with brief cameos not included, and we’ve limited our rank to one movie per icon, no matter how many portrayals of Churchill there have been!

#10: “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” (1975)
King Arthur

There are many movies about King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table, but this has to be the silliest. The first original feature-length from the famed comedy troupe, Monty Python, “The Holy Grail” is an absurd and humorous retelling of Arthur’s quest for the coveted Cup of Christ, filled with bizarre situations and a cavalcade of quotable lines. It may not be the most educationally verifiable version of the Arthurian legend, but it isn’t something you’ll forget in a hurry.

#9: “Lawrence of Arabia” (1962)
T. E. Lawrence

Often regarded as one of the greatest films ever made, and winner of seven Oscars including Best Picture, “Lawrence of Arabia” ensures that its subject’s story remains etched onto history. Focused primarily on Lawrence’s service during World War I, Peter O’Toole’s portrayal of the titular character is still widely praised, and the film’s iconic visuals and score are so burned into the popular conscience that you probably know them even if you’ve never seen the movie itself.

#8: “Legend” (2015)
The Kray Twins

Portraying one real-life figure is tough enough for any actor, so how about playing two? Infamous London gangsters The Kray twins may have been portrayed on screen before, but Tom Hardy was the first to play both Ronnie and Reggie, in this 2015 crime thriller. And Hardy nails both roles, flitting between the seemingly calm Reggie and the gruff, psychopathic Ronnie. His performance highlights the similarities and differences between these notorious criminal brothers.

#7: “The Gathering Storm” (2002)
Winston Churchill

Of the many, many movies documenting the life of wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill, this 2002 TV film was heaped with praise. Focusing on Churchill’s life leading up to World War Two and his attempts to warn the British government against appeasing Hitler, Albert Finney’s portrayal of the future Prime Minister won him an Emmy, a BAFTA and a Golden Globe. Bolstered further by an all-star supporting cast including Vanessa Redgrave, Jim Broadbent and Derek Jacobi, this biopic is hard to beat.

#6: “Pride” (2014)
Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners

Tackling a pivotal time in UK LGBT history during the Thatcher administration, “Pride” sheds light on an unexpected alliance between the LGBT movement and the National Union of Mineworkers. Painting a comic but sincere picture of events at the time, the movie includes stellar supporting roles by British mainstays like Bill Nighy and Imelda Staunton, along with star-making turns from George MacKay and Ben Schnetzer. It’s a standout tribute to a significant effort, which brought much-needed attention to both the mining industry and the gay community.

#5: “The Imitation Game” (2014)
Alan Turing

A man mistreated by his country, and often mis-remembered, Alan Turing’s story gets the attention it deserves with this Oscar-winning drama. Benedict Cumberbatch stars as Turing, an early AI expert and genius mathematician, whose machine cracked the German communications code in World War Two, helping the Allies win the war. Cumberbatch brings out the brains, but also shows Turing’s vulnerability within an intolerant society. History shows how Turing was later prosecuted by the government for homosexuality, and this film only highlights the incredible injustice he experienced.

#4: “Nowhere Boy” (2009)
John Lennon

Everyone knows at least a bit about John Lennon, but this 2009 film highlights some lesser-known parts of his formative years. “Nowhere Boy” does cover Lennon’s early music and his friendship with Paul McCartney, but the film mostly tackles John’s tumultuous relationships with the mother who abandoned him, and the aunt who raised him. With definitive lead performances from Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Kristin Scott Thomas, “Nowhere Boy” uncovers a rarely-explored side of one of the music industry’s most famous sons.

#3: “Chaplin” (1992)
Charlie Chaplin

Covering the legendary actor’s life from poverty-stricken childhood to his later years in Switzerland, this biopic from director Richard Attenborough pays homage to a true cinematic legend. Chaplin is played by Robert Downey Jr. in an Oscar-nominated performance, tackling the highs and lows of the comedian’s Hollywood career and his often-troubled personal life. Though some critics dismissed the movie as glossy and bloated, Downey’s performance was widely, and rightly, praised.

#2: “The Queen” (2006)
Queen Elizabeth II

Helen Mirren and director Stephen Frears had a tough job ahead of them depicting a still-sitting queen on film, but the final result was a royal success. Focusing on the events in the wake of Princess Diana’s death, “The Queen” shows the monarchy and government in disagreement, while public approval continually swings. Mirren bagged a Best Actress Oscar for her lead performance, and she even earned approval from Elizabeth II herself. Extremely high praise, indeed.

#1: “The Theory of Everything” (2014)
Stephen Hawking

Playing a world-famous scientist might be a daunting task, but Eddie Redmayne wowed worldwide audiences when he starred as Stephen Hawking in 2014. Showing Hawking’s life through his relationship with his first wife, Jane, “The Theory of Everything” follows him through his university years and ALS diagnosis to the completion of “A Brief History of Time”. The film, thanks largely to Redmayne’s performance, brings one of modern history’s greatest minds to the big screen, for a story of love, life and conquering adversity.
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