The ten films that children must see

1st July 2005 at 01:00
Billy Elliot, the heartwarming tale of a boy from a pit town becoming a ballet dancer, is the number one film in a new top 10 list of movies every child should see by age 14.

The list, compiled by the British Film Institute, will be launched at a debate at London's Barbican Centre on July 13.

The institute canvassed its staff and a clutch of European film organisations, and the result is intended to provoke the audience of children's authors, film directors, representatives from the Department for Education and Skills and the public.

Other British films on the list are Kes and Charles Crichton's Ealing comedy Hue and Cry. Buster Keaton's The General, ET and The Princess Bride fly the flag for the United States. There is also a Japanese animated film, Spirited Away.

Amanda Nevill, the director of BFI, said: "It would be unimaginable that children leave school without having studied classic novels. The same should be true of films. So much more is absorbed through the moving image than written text these days.

"This list is as much for parents. It gives them permission to take their children to the movies and demand something different from the multiplexes."

The list of films has already provoked a reaction from children's authors Melvin Burgess and the former children's laureate Michael Morpurgo.

Mr Burgess, who adapted Stephen Daldry's Billy Elliot film into a novel, said: "A list of books that children should have read is a bit dodgy because there are a lot of good books out there. The same is true of films."

Mr Morpurgo would like The Iron Giant, based on his late friend Ted Hughes's book The Iron Man on the list as well as La Guerre des Boutons, an anti-war comedy, and Jour de Fete, Jacques Tati's 1949 silent film.

The former children's laureate, who has written more than 90 books, said:

"Too many films are effectively pap, just sheer entertainment. Children like to be challenged. They like to be troubled. They know life is not simple.

"I have had small success in getting my books turned into films.

Movie-makers say that anything that needs attention or takes time to get into will not appeal to a young audience. It is terribly patronising to children."

Mr Burgess, who has attracted controversy with his books Junk, about teenage drug-taking, and Doing It, about teenage sex, added: "Of course I am pleased Billy Elliot is on there, but it is disappointing there is no sci-fi. I would like the Alien films to be included, and one of my all-time favourites Blade Runner.

"The Americans do make a lot of crap, but they do make some good films too.

I think Laurel and Hardy should be there. Those films still make me laugh, and laughter does not age well, as we know with Shakespeare."

An Angel for May, a film adaptation of Mr Burgess's novel about a time-travelling schoolboy, was shown on ITV in 2002 but has not been on general release.

Director Harley Cokeliss said: "In Britain it is difficult to get anything into the cinemas without blockbuster potential because of the way the distributors think."

Jacqueline Wilson, the children's laureate, would like to see The Secret Garden (1993) on the list and Little Women (1994).

"ET's quite a sweet film but Billy Elliot has a lot of swearing. I don't have a problem with that but some parents of under 14s would."


The pound;5 tickets for the debate over the greatest films, hosted by the British Film Institute and the Barbican, can be booked by calling 0845 1207527. The event is part of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority's English 21 initative, and is supported by The TES and the UK Film Council.

The event, at the Barbican cinema, starts at 6.30pm on July 13

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