BSA306: British New Wave

British New Wave was a film movement in the 1950s and 1960s in Britain. The films that were produced as part of this movement were often considered “kitchen sink” films as they looked at the everyday life of the working class. Before  the British New Wave, British films were often focused on the middle-class and working-class characters would appear as little more than comic aid or “‘salt of the earth’ cannon fodder.” (Wickham, n.d.) Instead, British New wave put the working class in the center of the story, focusing on their lives seriously.

The only British New Wave films that focus directly on conflicts between the working-class and middle-class are Jack Clayton’s Room at the Top (1958) and Tony Richardson’s Look Back in Anger (1959), whereas many of the later films of this movement focus on the conflicts among those in the working-class (Wickham, n.d.).

I think one of the biggest attractions of British New Wave films is the sense of realism in the stories and characters as they are familiar settings, situations and people.

Some of the most notable modern films that were influenced by British New Wave films are Trainspotting (1996), The Full Monty (1997) and Billy Elliot (2000). Like the films from the 50s and 60s, these films follow working-class characters through their everyday lives. These films, instead of being considered British New Wave films, are instead considered “underclass films”. Similarly to British New Wave films, underclass films, especially of the 1990s, tend to focus on the gender anxiety of male characters and the New Labour politics of ‘rebranding’ UK (Seino, 2010, p. 16).

“The 1990s is the decade of the British social realist film which explores the concept of British identity. It also presents a new national identity of ‘Britishness’, which was represented as the UK‟s creative cultural industry.” (Seino, 2010, p. 21)


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Seino, T. (2010). The 1990s to present: New labour and the new millenium. Realism and Representation of the Working Class in Contemporary British Cinema. Pp. 16 – 21.

Wickham, P. (n.d.). British new wave. Retrieved from:

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