Beginner’s Guide to Kitchen Sink Dramas

Posted by Simply HE on

What is a ‘kitchen sink drama’ exactly? This collection introduces you to the very best of them… 

You’ll soon spot the classic patterns of a ‘kitchen sink drama’ in these British post-war realistic dramas about the unvarnished ordinary working class lives of young, disillusioned characters. These are emotionally charged stories of crumbling marriages, desperate lives, class discrimination and failed ambition.


Named by the BFI as one of the ten best British films of the 20th Century, Ken Loach transformed Barry Hines’s gritty novel A Kestrel for a Knave into a moving, searingly brutal and truthful film. Billy Casper (Bradley) is an awkward teenager, stuck in a drab Yorkshire mining town. Home life is miserable and school almost as bad. A glimmer of hope is offered when Billy finds a baby kestrel, which soon becomes the focus of his life. The relationship is all-consuming for Billy and within it he finds a vocation, something about which he can at last be passionate and articulate. 

Cathy Come Home

Probably the most famous British TV play ever. Director Ken Loach’s landmark story of a bright young wife (Carol White) whose life spirals out of control due to poverty and social deprivation and who fights so desperately to keep her children, chilled and shocked the entire British nation. First shown in November 1966, its impact was enormous, provoking questions in the Houses of Parliament.

Up the Junction

Movie version of the BBC TV play that first addresses some of the major social issues of the day. A girl from a rich family in Chelsea is bored and decides to go “slumming” in depressed Battersea. She gets a flat and starts working in a factory and makes some friends there. One of her friends is pregnant but abortion is illegal… Suzy Kendall, Dennis Waterman, Adrienne Posta, Maureen Lipman, Liz Fraser, Hylda Baker and Alfie Bass star.

The Family Way

On the night of their wedding a young couple is eager to consummate their marriage, but a series of mishaps frustrate numerous attempts in this relationship comedy that was considered quite racy for its time. Hayley Mills, Hywel Bennett and John Mills star.

Look Back in Anger

Judi Dench directs Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson in the TV version of John Osborne’s landmark play – a work which had such a profound effect on drama that it is still felt to this day. Branagh’s turn as the mercurial central character, a disappointed working-class graduate railing furiously against bourgeois respectability, was hailed by Osborne as ‘the best Jimmy Porter ever’, while Thompson brings enormous sympathy and depth to the role of the long-suffering Alison.

This Sporting Life

A successful rugby league player’s arrogant and aggressive behaviour undermines his fragile relationship with an emotionally repressed widow. As their affair comes to a bitter end, he devotes himself to the game, but the exploitation he and his fellow players endure takes its toll. Lindsay Anderson’s classic 1960s British drama, stars Richard Harris, Rachel Roberts, Alan Badel, William Hartnell, Colin Blakely and Arthur Lowe.

Woman in a Dressing Gown

Anthony Quayle and Sylvia Sims star in this 1950s British drama about marital strife. Fed up with his wife Amy (Yvonne Mitchell)’s frumpy appearance and bad housekeeping skills, long-married Jim Preston begins an affair with co-worker Georgie, who threatens to break it off unless Jim divorces his wife. Shocked and distressed by Jim’s request, Amy quickly vows to change her slovenly ways, setting out to win back the man she loves, whatever it takes.

Sparrows Can’t Sing

Early 1960s Cockney comedy directed by Joan Littlewood. Returning home from sea after two years, Charlie Gooding (James Booth) finds his home demolished and his wife Maggie (Barbara Windsor) missing. When he finally tracks her down, she's moved in with bus driver Bert (George Sewell) and has a new baby, the parentage of whom is in doubt. As Charlie attempts to win his wife back, his explosive temper soon threatens to undo all his good work.


What’s it all about, Alfie? Michael Caine plays a cold-hearted serial seducer in this Swinging Sixties classic, nominated for five Oscars. Julia Foster, Vivien Merchant, Shelly Winters, Jane Asher and Millicent Martin co-star.

Poor Cow

A young mother has to fend for herself when her brutal husband is jailed. Carol White, Terence Stamp and John Bindon star.

This Is My Street

After moving into a boarding house, Harry tries to seduce Margery, the woman who lives next door with her daughter and husband. She ignores his advances but finally gives in after he helps find her lost daughter. Bored with Marjery, he turns his attentions to her educated sister. Marjery tries to expose the Harry… Ian Hendry, June Ritchie and John Hurt star.

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner

With a screenplay by Alan Sillitoe and direction from Tony Richardson, this 1962 British classic stars Tom Courtenay as a young rebel sent to borstal for petty crimes. Here, he discovers a gift for cross-country running – and during his runs thinks back over the events that tore his family apart. Michael Redgrave, James Bolam and John Thaw co-star.

Saturday Night and Sunday Morning

In the industrial streets of Nottingham, Arthur Seaton (Albert Finney) spends his days at the factory, his evenings in the local pubs and his nights in the arms of another man’s wife. When he meets Doreen however, he is forced to reconsider his devil-may-care attitude. Based on the Alan Sillitoe’s largely autobiographical novel, the anti-establishment energy, gritty realism and outspoken working-class hero make this ground-breaking British film timeless. With Shirley Anne Field

Spring & Port Wine

A Lancashire lass refuses to eat her supper. Her father insists that she ingest every bite. This minor incident snowballs into trouble. 1969 British comedy boasting the rare spectacle of James Mason starring alongside the crop of British sitcom talent – including Diane Coupland, Rodney Bewes, Hannah Gordon and Arthur Lowe! Also starring Susan George, the plot revolves around a family desperately struggling to free itself from the influence of a tyrannical and fanatically religious father.

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