Urban cinema has only existed since the mid noughties. Since then it's become a cult sub-genre in it's own right. Urban British films are more often than not centred around deprived and troubled communities, particularly youth.
This Is England - 2006
Set in the mid 1980's and depicting the life of a teenager from a working class family growing up without his father, Shane Meadow's This Is England is essentially an autobiography of his teenage years. Shaun (played by Thomas Turgoose), joins a gang of skinheads who befriend him after he consoles in them he's being bullied at school. Although all the skinheads are older than him they find they have a lot in common and become the best of friends. However, being a skinhead in the 1980's wasn't just about reggae music and Dr. Martens. Shaun soon finds himself caught up in the forefront of racially driven violence and EDL hate gangs. A must see for anyone who's interested in subcultures and anything British.
Kidulthood - 2006
Perhaps the most high profile British urban film is Kidulthood. The first in a series of films directed by Menhaj Huda and written by Noel Clarke, followed by Adulthood and Brotherhood. Kidulthood documents a day in the life of several teens from inner city London. After finding out they have the day off from school due to the suicide of a classmate who was bullied, the youths run riot around the city for a day, committing petty crimes and indulging in casual sex. However this all comes to an abrupt end when a house party turns into a mass blood-shed after gang rivalries all get too much. The Kidulthood film series is a must watch.
Sket - 2011
Telling the story of a Kayla, young Geordie girl who falls into the wrong crowd and becomes involved with one of London's toughest female street gangs, Sket can be a particularly tough watch at times. After Kayla's sister is violently murdered by the leader of one of London's toughest organized crimes gangs, she decides she wants revenge. She quickly becomes involved with a rival gang. The all female gang is led by the man hating, tough as nails Danielle. After a gruelling series of initiation rituals, the gang decide to help her get her revenge on her sisters killer. As previously mentioned, it can be a tough watch at times featuring intensely emotional and highly violent scenes - not for the faint hearted.
iLL Manors - 2012
Musician Plan B, aka Ben Drew, released a song title iLL Manors in 2011, documenting the London riots earlier that year. What a lot of people don't know is that the following year he went on to make a film of the same name. iLL Manors tells us the story of an array of characters, stuck in the streets of Forest Hill in East London, where Drew grew up himself. When asked about the plot of the film, the rapper tells us "Everything in the film is true. I't hasn't necessarily happened to me, but it's happened to someone I knew somewhere along the line." There are some gruelling moments throughout the film. It definitely gives us an insight on how life might be for the less fortunate. "You show me a chav, I'll show you a kid who's been let down, kicked down, abused and excluded" is another quote direct from Drew himself.
Bullet Boy - 2004
Universally recognised as the first film to document modern street gangs in England, Bullet Boy tells the story of fresh out of jail 18 year old Ricky (played by Ashley Walters) and his 12 year old brother Curtis. After the pair clash with another group of youths in a minor incident, things escalate quickly and before they know it they're involved in an all-out street war. Documenting how hard it can be growing up in an environment where guns, knives and drugs are part and parcel of everyday life before you've even finished your teen years, the film is hard hitting at times.
Harry Brown - 2009
Starring the famed Michael Caine, Harry Brown depicts an elderly ex-serviceman living on a council estate in inner city London. After gang violence becomes extremely provident in his area, Brown becomes more worried daily and is scared to leave his house. Fast forward a little and we find out his best friend Leonard (David Bradley) has been murdered by the local gang. This is the turning-point moment where Harry has had enough of it all. As the police won't tackle the problem due to complications, Harry takes matters into his own hands, set on solving gang crime in his area via vigilante style justice. The film hints at classic British gangster movies throughout and overall is a solid watch from start to finish.
Shank - 2010
Set in the not too distant future, Shank portrays a world in which street gangs have completely taken over London, it's total anarchy. Lead character "Kicks" is played by Adam Deacon, known in the genre for his fame in Kidulthood and Adulthood. Something notable is that whilst filming was in progress in Walworth throughout 2009, local residents actually complained about how violent the films depiction of the area was. The film also features Kaya Scodelario as Tasha, famous for her role as Effy throughout the Skins series. Shank definitely stands out as one to watch amongst the vast plethora of British urban films due to the unique "set in the future" plot.
On That Note
There are endless British crime films that tell us the story of modern day gang culture. However many are simply clones of one another, with similar characters, plots and narratives. The films we've listed here are the pioneers of the genre, or ones that stand out from the rest due to thrilling stories. We would highly advise watching all of the films on this list when you find the time.