The term British New Wave, or "Kitchen Sink Realism", is used to describe a group of commercial feature films made between 1955 and 1963 which portrayed a more gritty form of social realism than had been seen in British cinema previously. The British New Wave feature films are often associated with a new openness about working class life (e.g. A Taste of Honey, 1961), and previously taboo issues such as abortion and homosexuality (e.g. The Leather Boys, 1964).
The New Wave filmmakers were influenced by the documentary film movement known as "Free Cinema". Free Cinema emerged in the mid-1950s and was named by Lindsay Anderson in 1956. They were also influenced by the Angry Young Men, who were writing plays and literature from the mid-1950s, and the documentary films of everyday life commissioned by the British Post Office, Ministry of Information, and several commercial sponsors such as Ford of Britain, during and after the Second World War.
The films were personal, poetic, imaginative in their use of sound and narration, and featured ordinary working-class people with sympathy and respect. In this respect they were the inheritors of the tradition of Mass Observation and Humphrey Jennings. The 1956 statement of the Free Cinema gives the following precepts: "No film can be too personal. The image speaks. Sounds amplifies and comments. Size is irrelevant. Perfection is not an aim. An attitude means a style. A style means an attitude."
A group of key filmmakers was established around the film magazine Sequence which was founded by Tony Richardson, Karel Reisz and Lindsay Anderson who had all made documentary films such as Anderson's Every Day Except Christmas and Richardson's Momma Don't Allow.
Together with future James Bond producer Harry Saltzman, John Osborne and Tony Richardson established the company Woodfall Films to produce their early feature films. These included adaptations of Richardson's stage productions of Look Back in Anger with Richard Burton and The Entertainer with Laurence Olivier. Other significant films in this movement include Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960), A Kind of Loving (1962), and This Sporting Life (1963).
After Richardson's film of Tom Jones became a big hit the group broke up to pursue different interests. The films also made stars out of their leading actors Albert Finney, Alan Bates, Rita Tushingham, Richard Harris and Tom Courtenay.