You would probably enjoy this article from today's Torygraph on classic British movies .
A good friend and I have long admired the English for their acting abilities. It's our theory that they're so good because in their own society, (particularly in decades past) they were keen observers of nuances in social status and pecking order -- thus giving them keen insight into playing desparate characters to a "T." Also, at least in "bye gone" times, terrifically good actors, "stars" -- would be happy to play a smaller "character" role if was suited to them.
Having said that, (are you ready for the handgrenade?) -- I can't STAND Lawrence Olivier's HENRY V. I wouldn't have followed him to the corner, much less "the vasty fields of France." And he was too OLD to play Hamlet.