Margaret Thatcher ruled the United Kingdom as Prime Minister between 1979 and 1990. Despite securing the role for over a decade, she remains one of the most hated characters in Britain. Her death in 2013 led to “Ding-Dong!” “The Witch Is Dead” reached number two in the UK charts.

Under their Conservative leadership, Britain experienced a severe recession, Section 28 was introduced, trade unions’ powers were restricted and widespread strikes occurred. Hostility increased as people were pushed into poverty and racism and homophobia became widespread.

The destructive effects of Thatcher’s rule have long been the subject of British cinema. At the time, filmmakers such as Mike Leigh and Derek Jarman expressed this discontent in their works, voicing the frustration of those affected by the Tory’s repressive policies.

From comedy dramas like Rita, Sue and Bob tooto current films that capture the essence of this era, such as 2022 Blue jeansHere are ten films that capture the destruction of Thatcher’s Britain.

10 films that capture the state of Thatcher’s Britain:

Babylon (Franco Rosso, 1980)

Babylon remains one of the most impressive filmed documentaries of British racial tensions, but is woefully underrated due to its initial censorship. The film was banned in the United States and rated X in the United Kingdom for its authentic portrayal of black, working-class British youth. It was deemed “too controversial and likely to inflame racial tensions.”

Still, Babylon is an essential excerpt from Thatcher’s Britain and shows the gravity of problems such as institutional racism and police brutality. Despite the difficulties the characters face, they never lose the sense of community that keeps them going Babylon a powerful and necessary watch.

Blue jeans (Georgia Oakley, 2022)

Under Thatcher’s government, Section 28 prevented the promotion of homosexuality. This becomes a focus of Georgia Oakley’s debut film: Blue Jean, will be released in 2022. The film is set in 1988 and is about a sports teacher who balances her identity as a lesbian with her job while hiding her sexuality from her colleagues. However, when one of her students discovers her in a gay bar, Jean must do everything she can to protect her secret from being revealed.

In an interview with mailboxdOakley explained: “We wanted to tell a story that was a little more intimate than a larger ensemble piece about the broader politics of Section 28. But it was a juggling act – we didn’t want to do a portrait of a teacher without involving some of this amazing reactionary movement that arose as a result of Section 28.”

Letter to Brezhnev (Chris Bernard, 1985)

In Chris Bernard’s tenderly humorous language Letter to Brezhnev, audiences are introduced to working-class characters in Liverpool who work dead-end jobs and only find a way out on damp evenings. While Teresa, who works in a slaughterhouse, wants to have fun with men, her sensitive friend Elaine is desperate for contact and hopes to find a way out of her miserable, uneventful life.

The film is full of quintessentially British humor, with great performances from Alexandra Pigg and Margi Clarke. Despite the film’s obvious focus on romantic relationships, Letter to Brezhnev is truly an exploration of ambition, class and gender, with the film focusing on the leads’ desire to break out of their confining lives hindered by their social status.

In the meantime (Mike Leigh, 1983)

Few British directors have captured the British state over the decades as consistently and provided authentic snapshots of working-class life as Mike Leigh. Although he has made several films that portray the Thatcher era well, High hopes To Life is Beautiful, In the meantime might be his most fascinating.

The made-for-television film starring Tim Roth, Phil Daniels, Marion Bailey, Gary Oldman and Alfred Molina is about a family living in distress in London’s East End. Leigh explores the everyday lives of characters affected by the country’s recession, using his usual blend of humor and precise sociological nuance.

My beautiful laundromat (Stephen Frears, 1985)

Class, race and sexuality collide in Stephen Frears’ poignant drama My beautiful laundromat, with Daniel Day-Lewis in his groundbreaking role and Gordon Warnecke. Day-Lewis plays the leader of a group of aggressive right-wing boys, but he quickly separates himself from the pack and begins a relationship with his childhood friend, Warnecke’s Omar.

The film explores, often comically, the relationship between different communities, with Omar coming from a Pakistani family. Set in the middle of Thatcher’s reign, the film confronts the Tories’ beliefs that the only way to success lies in selfishness, which is reflected in Omar’s entrepreneurial family members.

Proud (Stephen Beresford, 2014)

The 1980s saw miners’ strikes, with opposition coming directly from the Tory government, making it one of the largest strikes in British history. Stephen Beresfords Proud, published in 2014, depicts the “Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners” movement and was met with overwhelming praise. It won the Queer Palm at the Cannes Film Festival and won Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer at the BAFTAs.

Proud is a tender but powerful film full of British humor that never underestimates the seriousness of the issues at hand. The film is an important reminder of a critical moment in recent British history, with outstanding performances from actors such as George MacKay, Bill Nighy, Imelda Staunton and Paddy Considine.

Rita, Sue and Bob too (Alan Clarke, 1987)

Adapted by Andrea Dunbar from her play of the same name, Rita, Sue and Bob too The story revolves around two teenage girls who embark on a life-changing affair with the married man they are babysitting. Living in run-down housing estates in Bradford, the girls find excitement in the illicit affair, which eventually leads to violence and confrontation. However, Alan Clarke’s film retains the recognizable Nordic humor that provides comic relief throughout.

Advertised as “Thatcher’s Britain with its underpants down”, Rita, Sue and Bob too is an honest portrayal of the British working class during the destructive and oppressive rule of the Iron Lady. Clarke is open and not afraid to tackle important issues like racism and domestic violence. The film perfectly encapsulates a special moment and remains one of the most poignant British films of the period.

The last of England (Derek Jarman, 1987)

Derek Jarman was a true visionary who used diverse creative outlets to explore themes surrounding identity, queerness, and society. In The last of EnglandJarman takes a highly experimental approach to expressing his anger and disillusionment with Thatcher’s government. He combines striking aesthetic choices with stark indictments of the destruction wrought by their policies, making it one of his most personal and moving works.

Named after the painting by Ford Madox Brown, the film mourns the loss of England, with Jarman highlighting the increasing presence of homophobia, poverty, and general decay and destruction. It’s a hauntingly beautiful watch with appearances from Tilda Swinton and Spencer Leigh.

This is England (Shane Meadows, 2006)

This is England It may be one of the few films on this list made decades after Thatcher’s reign, but it remains one of the most incredibly artful explorations of that period. With confrontational realism, Shane Meadows documents the rise of fascism and white supremacy among working-class skinheads in the 1980s.

Equally hilarious and moving, This is England still rings just as true today. Meadows questions what it means to belong and examines how the tense social and political climate of 80s Britain made it incredibly easy for many people to become indoctrinated into extreme beliefs, which placed a young, vulnerable boy at the center of the chaos presented.

Withnail and me (Bruce Robinson, 1987)

Richard E. Grant and Paul McGann play two down-and-out drifters in Bruce Robinson’s Withnail and meThey spend most of their time drinking in their run-down apartment. The film raises interesting questions about class as both characters come from wealthy backgrounds. Still, both struggle to make ends meet and are disillusioned with their prospects.

Although the film is set in 1969, the importance of the Thatcher government in which the film was made is clearly felt and defines its socio-political themes. Using a slightly earlier time period, Robinson channels the struggles and class politics that characterized the Thatcher era, suggesting that with the Baroness at the helm, Britain might as well remain stuck in the past.

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