On July 28th, 2022, Bernard Cribbins sadly passed away. His death marks the loss of a beloved entertainer, widely considered a national treasure in his native England.
A multi-faceted entertainer, with talent as a singer, an actor and a comedian, Cribbins was able to engage all sorts of audiences. He had an undeniable charm that made him immediately likeable, and his distinct accent set him apart from his contemporaries. For those who know and love his work, now seems a perfect time to dive back in, but for newcomers, Rotten Tomatoes is a good guide to check out his best movies and TV shows.
8 Blackball (2003) – 41%
A uniquely British take on a distinctly American genre, blackball is unlike any sports movie out there, as it’s about crown green bowls. The plot follows Cliff Starkey, a rebellious young bowls player, who must team up with an older, more traditional player to beat the Australian team.
Cliff Starkey’s grandfather, Mutley, is played by Cribbins and it’s a naturally charming performance. Mutley and Starkey have a sweet relationship in the movie, with Mutley always there for his grandson, no matter what. Don’t be put off by the low score, as blackball is a certified cult classic.
7 Daleks: Invasion Earth 2150 AD (1966) – 69%
Based on an internationally-known TV show, which will appear later in this list, Daleks: Invasion Earth 2150 AD further develops The Doctor’s greatest enemy. The plot follows the Doctor and his companion as they arrive on Earth, only to find it has been taken over by the Daleks.
Cribbins appears as Tom Campbell, the companion to Peter Cushing’s titular doctor. Cribbins portrays a likeable and noble soul, having stumbled into the TARDIS accidentally after attempting to apprehend a robber. He and Cushing have a comradery that’s just a joy to watch, and the movie itself is delightful fun. It’s considered a must for fans of a certain sci-fi show.
6 Carry On Spying (1964) – 83%
Another entry in the iconic parody franchise, Carry On Spying is an unabashedly ridiculous rip on the James Bond franchise. The plot follows Agent Simpkins, and his three young trainees, as they attempt to thwart the evil plans of STENCH, an organization hellbent on destruction.
One of Agent Simpkin’s trainees is Cribbin’s Harold Crump who shows audiences how funny he can be. With a script that’s harmlessly silly, Cribbins manages to elevate the material to where audiences will be laughing out loud at innuendos and crude insinuations. Carry On Spying is light and inoffensive fun, and it’s perfect for family movie night.
5 The Mouse On The Moon (1963) – 86%
From Richard Lester, whose name can be found on beatles flick A Hard Day’s Nightcomes The Mouse On The Moon. The story follows a minute country (Grand Fenwick) that convinces the Americans and the Soviets that they need money for a space program. In reality, they want their plumbing fixed.
Cribbins portrays Vincent Mountjoy, the leading astronaut at Grand Fenwick. His on-screen presence is unmistakeable, and his dialogue is hilarious. With such a ridiculous premise, the movie could’ve fallen flat. But the actors, including Cribbins, play things as straight as possible, never letting the audience know that they’re in the joke.
4 Doctor Who (2008-2010) – 90%
A series that has continued for the last six decades, Doctor Who has gotten pretty much to the point of being a national institution. The series follows the titular doctor, who, along with his ever-changing companions, travels through time and space in his TARDIS, a spaceship that looks like a phone box.
Grandfather to Donna Noble, who could be considered one of the series’ most overlooked companions, Cribbins’ Wilfred Mott is warm and kind, only ever wanting the best for his daughter. He wants her to travel the world, watching the stars every night and hoping to see her, and leaps for joy when he gets his wish.
3 Frenzy (1972) – 90%
Yet another classic picture from Hitchcock, who would famously cameo in his movies, frenzy is a classic thriller with tinges of murder and mystery. The premise is as follows: a serial murderer is strangling women with a necktie. The police have themselves a suspect, but he’s the wrong man.
While not the main player, Cribbins as Felix Forsythe manages to once again prove to audiences that he is a fine dramatic actor. His performance is rough as his character, and he fits in the Hitchcock universe like a hand fits in the glove. For fans of Cribbins, this is a must-watch, and the same goes for Hitchcock fans.
2 Fawlty Towers (1975) – 100%
Written by and starring John Cleese and Connie Booth, Fawlty Towers is British comedy at its absolute finest. The series follows Basil Fawlty, an easily-agitated hotel manager, as he tries desperately to keep things in check, while only ever making things worse for himself.
Cribbins makes a guest appearance as Mr Hutchinson, a disgruntled customer who gets on Basil’s bad side. With his constant ranting, Cribbins is wonderfully entertaining, managing to stand up to the comedic talents of Cleese. What’s more, their fight in the hotel lobby should surely go down in the annals of British comedy history.
1 The Railway Children (1970) – 100%
With a sequel recently hitting the big screens 52 years after the original, The Railway Children is surprisingly relevant all these years on. The plot follows three children who, after the enforced absence of their father, move to Yorkshire with their mother, and try to figure out why he disappeared.
Cribbins appears as Albert Perks, the station porter who, the children learn, doesn’t celebrate his birthday. It’s a wonderfully tender performance, as his fast-talking but effortlessly charming station porter makes for a lovely viewing experience, and his relationship with the three children is adorable. The Railway Children is not only essential viewing for Cribbins fans, but essential viewing for moviegoers, in general.
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