It’s clearly Britain’s week in the international spotlight, with the birth of our new royal overlord, Princess Charlotte Elizabeth Diana, and the election of the new U.K. government. With all this in mind, readers outside of the United Kingdom — which is to say, most of you — might be wondering what it’s like over there right now. The answer, we’re happy to tell you, is contained in these 10 viewing options, all of which are available to stream on Netflix. Tally ho, and all that.
DOCTOR WHO (2005-2013)
For a series that’s about an alien who can travel anywhere in time and space, there’s always been something uniquely British about Doctor Who, and that’s especially true about the first four years of the show following its 21st century revival, which took contemporary British values and imposed them on the rest of the universe. (Not to mention, made Britain unusually popular for alien invasions.)
IN THE LOOP (2009)
Not only is the proud British tradition of satire upheld by this trans-Atlantic spin-off of the wonderful, underrated The Thick of It TV show, but the polite ineptitude of British politics is suitably laid bare in the process. Sure, American politics is all West Wing and House of Cards, but the reality of U.K. politics, as anyone who’s been following the election thus far, is far closer to this.
THE ANTICS ROADSHOW (2011)
Another movie celebrating the fine British tradition of irreverence — although this does take a far more international view of the subject, admittedly — this short documentary has a particularly unusual pedigree, being co-created by art world phenomena and “street artist” Banksy, who co-directed and co-produced with music journalist and producer Jaimie D'Cruz.
You can tell a lot about a culture from its cop television, but quite what Luther — which stars Idris Elba as a troubled cop in London who can’t help but become emotionally involved (and overwhelmed) by the cases he investigates — says about contemporary Britain is open to question. Is the country psychologically scarred? Does it face down an inner darkness on a daily basis, occasionally losing the battle? Does it frown far, far too much for its own good? All of the above might be true.
BLACK MIRROR (2011)
Charlie Booker’s update of The Twilight Zone might feature a number of stories set in the near future, but it’s very much a show of its time, concerned with society’s growing inhumanity as a result of over reliance on technology. Oh, and the inherent evil of reality talent shows on television, but I think we can all agree on that subject.
THE IRON LADY (2011)
It only stands to reason that Meryl Streep would be the ideal choice to play former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. For one thing, she’s Meryl Streep, and for another, bringing in an American to play one of the most divisive British leaders in history was probably the easiest way to avoid some kind of emotional breakdown on the set as Thatcher’s legacy was brought back to life.
56 UP (2012)
The eighth and latest installment of Michael Apted’s series of documentary interviews with the same subjects, seven years apart, catches up with Andrew, John, Suzy, Lynn, Peter and the rest of the group as they head into their second century and deal with being old in the United Kingdom. Both touching and sobering, it’ll illuminates facts about life in Britain in a way that few other things can.
ALAN PARTRIDGE: ALPHA PAPA (2013)
One of the finest comedy creations to come from the United Kingdom in the last 25 years, the very British Alan Partridge (Steve Coogan, who you’ll see again soon enough) finds himself trapped in a very American scenario in his big screen debut, trying to deal with an armed siege that he just maybe is accidentally responsible for.
Bringing Trainspotting writer Irvine Welsh’s novel about corrupt Edinburgh cop Bruce Robertson to life, Filth features James McAvoy gleefully taking advantage of the chance to indulge his worst instincts as the manipulative, misogynistic and misanthropic Robertson. As someone who grew up in Scotland: I’m not saying it’s really like this, but I’m also not saying that there’s no grain of truth in here…
THE TRIP TO ITALY (2014)
More Steve Coogan, who’s one half of the particularly charming double act at the center of this road movie traveling around Italy, with Rob Brydon being the other. Ignore the fact that “Italy” is in the title (and providing the scenery), however; this is really a movie about British men of a certain age having trouble dealing with the fact that they are, in fact, British men of a certain age. (Also, it’s remarkably hilarious.)