BFI 75 Most Wanted

The BFI 75 Most Wanted is a list compiled in 2010 by the British Film Institute of the most sought-after British feature films not held in the BFI National Archive, and classified as "missing, believed lost". The films chosen range from quota quickies and B-movies to lavish prestige productions of their day. The list includes lost works by major directors and those featuring top-name actors; also films which were top box-office successes in their time but have since disappeared, and works which are believed to be historically significant for some aspect of style, technique, subject matter or innovation.[1]

The earliest film on the list dates from 1913, the latest from 1983. The 1930s is the most represented decade with 24 entries, followed by the 1920s (16) and the 1940s (14). Maurice Elvey, with four films on the list, is the most represented director. The first film on the list is Alfred Hitchcock's 1926 feature The Mountain Eagle, described as "the Holy Grail of film historians".

Since 2012, the BFI has revealed that a number of the films on the list have been found.[2] As of 2017, 18 of the 75 films have been found in their complete form; two others exist in shortened, retitled versions that were re-edited for the United States market.

Films (in chronological order)

  Films that have been found
  Films that have significant segments or scenes still extant, or exist in cut versions, or in poor quality prints
  Films that have been found and exist as complete 16mm or 35mm prints, but not in the BFI national archive
Year Title Director Notes
1913Maria Marten, or the Mystery of the Red Barn Maurice ElveyFrom first year of Elvey's directorial career. Dramatisation of the notorious Red Barn murder, filmed in the actual locations in which the events took place
1914 A Study in Scarlet George PearsonEarliest British Sherlock Holmes feature
1916Milestones Thomas BentleyAmbitious multi-generational family saga
1919 The First Men in the Moon J. L. V. LeighFirst direct H. G. Wells film adaptation
1920 The Amazing Quest of Mr. Ernest Bliss Henry Edwards
1921 The Adventures of Mr. Pickwick Thomas BentleyEarly Dickens adaptation
1921 The Narrow Valley Cecil HepworthStarring Alma Taylor, highly praised for its location shots of the South Downs countryside
1923Love, Life and Laughter George PearsonAcclaimed on release as "a screen classic" and "a masterpiece". On 2 April 2014 Dutch filmmuseum EYE reported that it had discovered a copy.[3] Now in the BFI National Archive.[4]
1923Reveille George PearsonSocially significant World War I drama. Small segments believed to survive in private hands
1923Woman to Woman Graham CuttsHitchcock as assistant director and uncredited screenwriter
1924Lily of the Alley Henry EdwardsExperimental silent without use of intertitles
1924Who Is the Man? Walter SummersScreen debut of John Gielgud
1926London Herbert WilcoxBig-budget "Limehouse" picture starring Dorothy Gish
1926Mademoiselle from Armentieres Maurice ElveyHighest-grossing British film of 1926. A little under one third is known to survive in fragments
1926 The Mountain Eagle Alfred HitchcockThe only lost Hitchcock feature film (his short An Elastic Affair is also lost). One of the world's most sought-after lost films.
1927 The Arcadians Victor SavilleCuriosity as to how a silent version was made of a popular stage musical
1927 The Story of the Flag Anson DyerFirst full-length British animation
1927Tip Toes Herbert WilcoxAnother Dorothy Gish vehicle, mauled by critics
1929 The Crooked Billet Adrian BrunelStarring Madeleine Carroll. May have been released in both silent and sound versions
1929 The Last Post Dinah ShureySolo directorial debut of Britain's only female film director of this period
1930Lord Richard in the Pantry Walter Forde
1930School for Scandal Maurice ElveyOnly film shot in the abortive Raycol colour process. Only screened in black-and-white
1930Too Many Crooks George KingBritish film debut of Laurence Olivier
1931Deadlock George KingFirst British talkie to use a film set as its dramatic location.
1931Hobson's Choice Thomas BentleyConflicting reports as to whether George Formby appeared in this film
1931Lloyd of the C.I.D. Henry MacRae12-part sound serial, the only such ever made in Britain not targeted at a juvenile audience. Known to have been extant in 1977, but has since proved untraceable
1931Two Crowded Hours Michael PowellPowell's directorial debut, an unexpected box-office success
1932Castle Sinister Widgey R. NewmanEarly British horror film, intriguing tagline "Mad doctor tries to put girl's brain into apeman's head"
1932Men of Tomorrow Leontine SaganScreen debut of Robert Donat
1933Counsel's Opinion Allan DwanEarly Alexander Korda production
1933Yes, Mr Brown Jack BuchananBuchanan's first starring and directing role
1934Badger's Green Adrian BrunelFirst production credit of Anthony Havelock-Allan
1934 The Path of Glory Dallas BowerExceptionally sophisticated and polished quota quickie
1934To Be a Lady George KingOnly lost sound film starring Chili Bouchier
1935Murder at Monte Carlo Ralph InceScreen debut of Errol Flynn
1935 The Price of a Song Michael PowellOne of Powell's most favourably reviewed quota quickies
1935 The Public Life of Henry the Ninth Bernerd MainwaringFirst-ever Hammer Films production
1936Educated Evans William BeaudineConsidered the best of Max Miller's films
1936 The Man Behind the Mask Michael PowellPowell's last quota quickie. A print of the American release, titled Behind the Mask, has been found, but it is a cut version of the original UK film.
1936 The Scarab Murder Case Michael HankinsonThe only Philo Vance film made in Britain
1937 The Vulture Ralph InceLast film directed by Ince before his death in a road accident
1938 The Viper Roy William NeillSequel to The Vulture
1939 The Good Old Days Roy William NeillThe only Max Miller film with a period setting
1939Murder Will Out Roy William NeillPlaying in cinemas at outbreak of World War II
1940Dr. O'Dowd Herbert MasonIrish-set drama, screen debut of Peggy Cummins. Enthusiastically reviewed in Ireland ("a film about Ireland with a animals in the living rooms of the homes.")
1941This Man Is Dangerous Lawrence HuntingtonThe only missing James Mason film. Although it is said to have been shown on British television as recently as 1987, this is a false claim. Dubbed Italian copy traced.[5]
1943Deadlock Ronald HainesConvoluted thriller with John Slater in dual role as twins. It is now available on DVD.[2]
1943It's in the Bag Herbert MasonPopular Gert and Daisy slapstick comedy
1943Squadron Leader X Lance ComfortExtremely well-reviewed at the time of release, sought due to critical reassessment of Comfort's importance in British cinema history. Story by Emeric Pressburger.
1944Kiss the Bride Goodbye Paul L. SteinPre-stardom Jean Simmons role. The Huntley Film Archives states that it has "the whole film".[6]
1944Welcome, Mr. Washington Leslie S. HiscottAmerican soldiers in an English village. Rediscovered c.2015.[7]
1945Flight from Folly Herbert MasonFirst starring screen role of stage star Patricia Kirkwood
1945For You Alone Geoffrey FaithfullLavish wartime melodrama, a huge box-office hit. A 16mm safety print appers in the UCLA Film and Television Archive's online search. [8]
1945 The World Owes Me a Living Vernon SewellLost film from a re-evaluated director. The Library of Congress possesses "nitrate material".[2]
1948Bless 'Em All Robert Jordan HillArmy comedy-musical, screen debut of Max Bygraves. A 2½-minute trailer survives, while a cut-down version titled Be Kind Sergeant turned up on eBay.[2]
1948But Not in Vain Edmond T. GrévilleTense World War II drama by increasingly studied director
1948Somewhere in Politics John E. BlakeleyMancunian Films production starring Frank Randle. An 18-minute segment survives
1949 The Golden Madonna Ladislao VajdaLocation-shot in Italy, starring Phyllis Calvert
1950Double Confession Ken AnnakinPeter Lorre's only non-Hitchcock British film. A DVD was released but is no longer available.[2] A 35mm print exists in an independent archive in the UK.
1952Hammer the Toff Maclean RogersTwo films based on the John Creasey character The Toff. Salute the Toff was released on DVD in November 2013 and Hammer the Toff in March 2016.
1952Salute the Toff
1953Small Town Story Montgomery TullyFootball thriller with appearances by Denis Compton and the Arsenal and Millwall football teams. Starring Donald Houston and Susan Shaw. Has now been found, restored and released on DVD.[9]
1953Three Steps in the Dark Daniel BirtMurder mystery starring Greta Gynt. It is in the collection of the National Film and Sound Archive in Australia.[2]
1954 The Diamond Montgomery TullyThe first British 3D film. According to BFI, however, it was shown only once in 3D, on 13 September 2006 in Hollywood.[10] The first nearly five minutes can also be viewed on YouTube.[11] A complete version was shown on Youtube for several days in September 2017.[12]
1957Alive on Sunday Alfred Travers
1957Second Fiddle Maurice ElveyElvey's last film, it is now available on DVD.[2]
1960Linda Don SharpTeen-drama starring Carol White and Alan Rothwell. Originally shown on a double-bill with Saturday Night and Sunday Morning
1962Crosstrap Robert Hartford-DavisDirectorial debut, reportedly with exceptionally graphic violence for its time. The BFI reported that a black and white negative print of the film was discovered in the early 2010s and digitally scanned. It is now available for screening on the BFI player website[13]and has been shown several times on Talking Pictures TV.
1963Farewell Performance Robert TronsonMurder mystery set in the pop world, with performances from Joe Meek acts including The Tornados and Heinz
1968Sleep Is Lovely (aka, The Other People) David HartBelieved to be experimental in filming style, no evidence of screening to a trade or paying audience
1969 The Promise Michael HayesThe first time Russian playwright Aleksei Arbuzov allowed any of his works to be filmed. Stars Ian McKellen
1971Nobody Ordered Love Robert Hartford-DavisFollowing poor promotion and a critical panning, Hartford-Davis reportedly took back all prints and ordered them to be destroyed after his death
1972 The Cherry Picker Peter CurranMild sexploitation comedy with cast including Lulu, Spike Milligan and Terry-Thomas. Believed to be still in private circulation via inferior quality bootleg copies, but original prints and negatives are missing
1973Symptoms José Ramón LarrazBritish entry in the 1974 Cannes Film Festival. Also believed to circulate privately through bootlegs, but for many years the negatives remained missing. The film was obtained by February 2016 and has since been released on DVD.[14]
1983Where Is Parsifal? Henri HelmanCast includes Orson Welles, Tony Curtis and Peter Lawford. Shown at 1984 Cannes Film Festival but withdrawn before scheduled UK release. Never publicly available in UK or US, the original English-language sources are missing. Director Helman donated "his personal 35mm print, with French subtitles" to the British Film Institute.[2]

See also


  1. BFI 75 Most Wanted BFI National Archive. Note: For references and further information for individual films, follow this link then click on the appropriate film name.
  2. Josephine Botting (29 November 2012). "BFI Most Wanted: our discoveries so far". BFI. Retrieved 9 January 2013.
  3. Filmmuseum ontdekt meesterwerk.
  4. "BFI Most Wanted". British Film Institute. Retrieved 6 September 2019.
  5. "BFI Most Wanted". BFI. February 2017. Retrieved 17 July 2017.
  6. "Film: 91524". Retrieved 30 May 2014.
  7. Brooks, Richard (10 January 2016). "Wartime film returns to big screen after going Awol for 72 years". The Sunday Times. London. Retrieved 10 January 2016. (subscription required)
  8. "For you alone / produced by F.W. Baker; directed by Geoffrey Faithfull". UCLA Library Catalog. Retrieved 6 September 2019.
  9. "Small Town Story: 'lost' football film tells tale of corruption and lure of the big league - video". The Guardian. 12 August 2014. Retrieved 14 February 2016.
  10. "The Diamond / BFI Most Wanted". British Film Institute. Retrieved 26 May 2014.
  11. "The Diamond – 1954 First British 3D Film (intro)". Retrieved 26 May 2014 via YouTube.
  12. "The Diamond (1954) Dennis O'Keefe, Philip Friend 48 hours ONLY!". YouTube. Retrieved 3 September 2017.
  13. "Crosstrap on BFI Player". Archived from the original on 28 March 2017. Retrieved 20 April 2017.
  14. "Lost Euro-Horror Film 'Symptoms' Unearthed by Mondo Macabro! [Exclusive]". Retrieved 6 February 2016.
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