From tense thrillers to warm comedies and everything inbetween, Yorkshire has produced some of the UK’s most famous and enduring movies over the decades – with the screen industry only growing in recent years.
Here are the 25 greatest Yorkshire films, either prominently made in – or revolving around – the region.
25. Ghost Stories (2018)
Released in cinemas only recently, Andy Nyman and Jeremy Dyson’s creepy portmanteau horror film pays homage to Hammer and Amicus – but it very much ploughs its own furrow of surreal, spine-tingling spookiness as well. Thoroughly entertaining and suspenseful while it lasts, this is a film that also haunts you the more you turn it over in your mind afterwards.
24. A Private Function (1984)
Combine an Alan Bennett screenplay, a game cast including Michael Palin, Dame Maggie Smith and Richard Griffiths, and a story involving rationing and a very messy pig, and you get this winning romp of a post World War II drama. Now something of a forgotten gem.
23. The Damned United (2009)
Tom Hooper and Peter Morgan’s big screen adaptation of David Peace’s novel hinges on a film-stealing performance from Michael Sheen, who plays legendary football manager Brian Clough with the charisma and cockiness you’d expect, but also exposes a vulnerability beneath the bluster. Clough’s tenure at Leeds United was short-lived and explosive. And it makes for great drama.
22. Rita, Sue and Bob Too (1987)
Though controversial, the late Andrea Dunbar’s semi-autobiographical coming of age tale maintains an enduring, energetic resonance. The two Bradford teenagers of the title embark on an affair with an older, married man, in a film that mines both darkness and comedy from its distinctive time and place.
21. My Summer of Love (2004)
One of several Yorkshire romantic dramas that see people find connection across class or cultural divides, this BAFTA-winning story about a relationship between two young women is deftly performed and beautifully bittersweet. As well as making winning use of the surrounding landscape.
20. Kill List (2011)
Ben Wheatley’s disturbing horror is not for the faint of heart; spinning stomach-turning violence and outlandish imagery amid its gritty, fever-dream road trip of drab hotels, grimy lock-ups and ‘anywhere’ suburbia. Nonetheless, its tale of two hitmen and their descent into a mysterious nightmare is an atmospheric tour de force.
19. Calendar Girls (2003)
Led by the ever wonderful Helen Mirren and Julie Walters, the cast of this unashamedly uplifting, crowd-pleasing comedy do a terrific job of bringing to life the true story of a group of Yorkshire women who shed their clothes to raise huge sums of money for charity.
18. The Railway Children (1970)
One of the most beloved of all Yorkshire’s films, many will have fond memories of the displaced Waterbury children befriending Bernard Cribbins’ station worker. You’d have to be made of stone not to get weepy during Jenny Agutter’s climactic platform run.
17. The Secret Garden (1949)
Another story about a relocated youngster based on a celebrated novel, the 40s version of this much-adapted tale is arguably its definitive screen take. Young orphan Mary finds new purpose, and hope, when she uncovers the secret garden of the title at a crumbling estate.
16. Chicken Run (2000)
When Aardman Animations essentially decided to remake The Great Escape in a Yorkshire chicken farm, they hit upon plucky family-friendly gold. Exciting, witty, and full of neat visual gags, it may have been later overshadowed by Wallace and Gromit’s big screen endeavour – but more than holds its own.
15. Phantom Thread (2017)
Robin Hood’s Bay, Whitby and the evocative North Yorkshire coast provide the crucial early setting for Paul Thomas Anderson’s Oscar-nominated slice of intensity. When Daniel Day-Lewis’s fashion designer forms a relationship with a waitress, a web of obsession and angst gradually unravels.
14. Billy Liar (1963)
Arguably the definitive ‘kitchen sink’ movie, this iconic drama helped secure Tom Courtenay’s place as one of Britain’s most exciting actors. As the deluded daydreamer of the title, his web of fantasy and deceit strikes a note that is both amusing and tragic.
13. Wuthering Heights (1939)
With Laurence Olivier as the brooding Heathcliffe and Merle Oberon as the tragic Cathy, this seminal Hollywood rendition of Emily Bronte’s celebrated novel may lack the subtlety of modern versions. But it is perhaps the most enduring and iconic – and a benchmark for all that have followed.
12. The Woman In Black (2012)
Daniel Radcliffe’s young, widowed solicitor encounters a cursed village and a terrifying phantom when he journeys North to the eerie Eel Marsh House. A nerve-jangling rendition of Susan Hill’s book, the hair-raising scares are deftly handled, it has ominous atmosphere in spades, and the fine supporting cast add weight to a sinister tale.
11. God’s Own Country (2017)
A hit at major film festivals, including Sundance, Francis Lee’s story of an angry, hard-drinking farmer and the solace he finds with a migrant agricultural worker has been widely praised. And with good reason. It’s one of the finest British films of this decade.
10. Little Voice (1998)
Jane Horrocks is mesmerising as a shy young woman, whose remarkable singing voice is discovered by Michael Caine’s washed-up, small-time showbiz manager. Brenda Blethyn completes the central trio as LV’s overbearing mother, in a film from Mark Herman that avoids simple rags-to-riches triumph in favour something far more complex and profound.
9. Four Lions (2010)
Undoubtedly controversial on release, but ultimately a brave piece of pitch-black comedy, Chris Morris’s film follows a group of hapless, accident-prone would-be Jihadists as their plans to launch a devastating terrorist attack become ever more farcical. Four Lions’ satire is rich and hard-hitting; mocking the madness and hypocrisy of warped ideologies, and taking aim at various other targets besides.
8. Room at the Top (1959)
Nominated for a whole clutch of Oscars, Jack Clayton’s searing, stylish drama brings an almost Noir-esque sense of swagger and menace to its gritty Yorkshire setting. Something of a landmark film, it explores class tensions and lust with confident aplomb, through the story of frustrated would-be social climber Joe.
7. Tyrannosaur (2011)
Paddy Considine’s hard-hitting directorial debut centres on three incredible performances. Peter Mullan is magnificent as a violent, bitter widower living on a rough estate. Eddie Marsan is terrifying as a deceptively banal domestic abuser. And Olivia Colman is simply heart-wrenching as a well-meaning charity shop worker, whose encounter with Mullan’s wreck of a human being seems to offer a shred of hope to both. A painfully sad, but remarkable film.
6. Sightseers (2012)
Another cult road trip treat from Ben Wheatley – written by stars Alice Lowe and Steve Oram. Two love-birds on a caravanning trip take in the beauty spots and quaint museums of Yorkshire and the Lakes. But one of them is the most casual of serial-killers, and the other might be about to develop a taste for murder. Darkly funny in the best possible way.
5. This Sporting Life (1963)
Richard Harris’s violent young miner finds glory on the rugby pitch, but little fulfillment off it, in a kitchen sink classic that remains a critical darling and cult favourite. Harris is all fiery fury as the tortured, self-destructive Frank; Lindsay Anderson, who would go on to direct If and Look Back in Anger, brings his trademark fly-on-the-wall sensibility to the drama.
4. The Full Monty (1997)
Robert Carlyle, Tom Wilkinson, Mark Addy and the rest of the Sheffield strippers all excel in a surprise global smash comedy that proved universal in its themes. Out of work, low on self-esteem and looking for purpose in life, a group of unemployed men find hope and friendship when they decide to put on quite the show at a local club.
3. The Selfish Giant (2013)
Clio Barnard’s beautiful, agonising film might be one of the most powerful down-to-earth dramas of recent times. Two adolescent boys, the large but sweet-natured Swifty and the enterprising tearaway Arbor, bunk off school to spend time engaging in illegal horse-cart races, and steeling scrap metal for cash. The film’s central friendship and cast of characters sing with authenticity. The story goes to deep and profound places.
2. Brassed Off (1996)
Stephen Tompkinson gives a superlative performance as a debt-ridden miner moonlighting as a clown, and the late, great Pete Postlethwaite is on immense form as his band leader father. Postlethwaite’s famous speech resonates with power, as the people of a Yorkshire colliery town fight the closure of their local pit. The Grimethorpe Colliery Band’s rousing music on the soundtrack is the icing on the cake.
1. Kes (1969)
Encapsulating the bittersweet impact of so many movies on this list, Ken Loach’s take on the Barry Hines novel lives long in the memory for any who watch it. Billy Casper’s rural escape with the kestrel he finds and rears is dotted with unforgettable scenes that range from the hilarious (Brian Glover’s football coach) to the infuriating (the early caning scene). One of those rare films that really does feel real, so naturalistic are the performances and filming, and so relatable the drama.
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[Main image: Fox Searchlight]