100 Unmissable BBC Films
91. Never Rarely Sometimes Always (2020)
Director: Eliza Hittman
Starring: Sidney Flanigan, Talia Ryder
The world still loves telling women, but especially teenage girls, what to do with their own bodies, so Eliza Hittman’s Sundance and Berlin award-winning abortion drama now seems more essential viewing than ever.
Naturalistic, raw and emotional, we are kept sometimes uncomfortably close to Autumn’s (the incredible Sidney Flanagan) trying experience, and if the “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” interview scene doesn’t get you, then you must be made of stone. (SSP)
Never Rarely Sometimes Always Review
92. Supernova (2020)
Director: Harry Macqueen
Starring: Colin Firth, Stanley Tucci
Supernova is a drama as much about what is left unsaid to loved ones in their time of need as it is about living with dementia.
The astronomical imagery and the thematic links to the workings of the brain and the limitlessness of love are hugely affecting, but what makes the film is the honest, unadorned central performances from Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci as an incredibly believable couple, which deservedly attracted the attention of BAFTA and the European Film Awards. (SSP)
93. After Love (2021)
Director: Aleem Khan
Starring: Joanna Scanlan, Nathalie Richard, Talid Ariss, Nasser Memazia, Sudha Bhuchar
After Love is a very modern look at loss, lies and living with regret.
Joanna Scanlan’s white Muslim widow travels to Calais to see the other family her late husband was keeping secret from her, and her perspective is shifted irrevocably.
Scanlan’s warm but raw performance won her Best Actress at the 2022 BAFTAs, and director Aleem Khan was nominated for Outstanding Debut at the same ceremony. (SSP)
94. Ear for Eye (2021)
Director: Debbie Tucker Green
Starring: Lashana Lynch, Tosin Cole, Danny Sapani, Danielle Vitalis
Released just a matter of weeks after Lashana Lynch burst into the mainstream spotlight as the new 007 in No Time to Die, Debbie Tucker Green’s experimental sophomore feature could be no better timed to impact as many people as possible with its strong presentation of the black experience on both sides of the Atlantic.
Speaking to the current moment’s tragic racial inequalities, Green abandoned the kitchen sink roots of her debut film for something more akin to an art piece, Ear for Eye being a mesmerising piece of cinema you’d be more likely to find in your local art gallery than at a big multiplex. (JW)
95. The Mauritanian (2021)
Director: Kevin Macdonald
Starring: Tahar Rahim, Jodie Foster, Shailene Woodley, Benedict Cumberbatch, Zachary Levi
2021’s The Mauritanian was Kevin Macdonald’s first dramatic feature in seven years following a period in which he had returned to documentary filmmaking. The director of Oscar-winner The Last King of Scotland vitally put the director’s non-fiction history to best use, telling a story of a well-discussed real-world issue: the should-be illegal detaining of prisoners without charge.
Featuring Jodie Foster in a rare acting role as the lead on-screen draw, The Mauritanian sought awards attention, star Tahar Rahim being nominated for Best Actor at both the BAFTA Film Awards and the Golden Globes in 2021. Overall, Macdonald’s project earned five BAFTA nominations and two Golden Globe nominations, its portrayal being among the most powerful, eye-opening and perspective-changing of any film made in the 2020s thus far. (JW)
96. People Just Do Nothing: Big In Japan (2021)
Director: Jack Clough
Starring: Allan Mustafa, Asim Chaudhry, Steve Stamp, Hugo Chegwin, Lily Brazier, George Keywood
People Just Do Nothing: Big In Japan represents the ultimate creative success story: what started as university friends mucking around and making videos on YouTube led to a BAFTA Award-winning BBC TV series about wannabe MCs producing a Pirate Radio Show in Brentford (Kurupt FM) and eventually this feature film.
The plot follows the aftermath of the end of Kurupt Radio when one of the crew finds out that one of their songs has been used in a Japanese gameshow, thus starting the quest for fame and fortune in a fish out of water saga that leads to the gang wreaking havoc in the Far East. (KD)
97. The Phantom of the Open (2021)
Director: Craig Roberts
Starring: Mark Rylance, Sally Hawkins, Jake Davies, Christian Lees, Jonah Lees, Rhys Ifans, Simon Farnaby, Mark Lewis Jones, Nigel Betts
A British comedrama based on the real-life “worst golf player in the world” Maurice Flitcroft (Mark Rylance), The Phantom of the Open is all of the earnest and well-meaning drama of Britain’s class-focused film history combined with the UK’s equally as reputable dialogue-focused comedy, a hearty and genuinely funny portrait of family life.
Craig Roberts, known for his starring turn in Richard Ayoade’s Submarine, writes and directs an enjoyable and promising opening entry into his feature directorial filmography, and the ever-reliable Sally Hawkins (as Maurice’s wife Jean) offers another show-stealing turn in this wholehearted, funny and ever-so-British BBC film. (JW)
98. The Power of the Dog (2021)
Director: Jane Campion
Starring: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst, Jesse Plemons, Thomasin McKenzie
Headlined by award-winning performances from Benedict Cumberbatch, Jesse Plemons, Kirsten Dunst and Kodi Smit-McPhee, The Power of the Dog re-evaluated the American Old West for modern times, infusing the traditional themes and tropes of the genre with deft social commentary and striking artistic strokes.
A film timeless in its presentation but frighteningly relevant to the contemporary post-#MeToo landscape in its deconstruction of toxic masculinity in all its forms and throughout generations, The Power of the Dog earned Jane Campion a well-deserved Best Director Oscar, announcing the history-making filmmaker’s return to the awards circuit and thus back to the forefront of the industry. (JW)
99. Pirates (2021)
Director: Reggie Yates
Starring: Tosin Cole, Reda Elazouar, Elliot Edusah, Kassius Nelson
Former Radio DJ Reggie Yates turned to what he knew for his feature directorial debut Pirates in 2021, his energetic and rhythmic comedy about pirate radio DJs looking to celebrate New Year’s Eve the best way they possibly can being one an uplifting and wholeheartedly enjoyable experience.
Starring a number of rising names and making the best of music throughout, Pirates looks and feels like a love letter to London’s multiculturism, its liveliness, its youthfulness. Set in the late 90s, there’s a nostalgic tinge to proceedings too, Yates looking back on a time in which the UK’s non-white and less affluent communities felt hope and joy for the first time in decades. (JW)
100. The Souvenir: Part II (2021)
Director: Joanna Hogg
Starring: Honor Swinton Byrne, Tilda Swinton, James Spencer Ashworth, Alice McMillan, Oli Bauer, Ariane Labed, Jaygann Ayeh, Charlie Heaton, Richard Ayoade
The rarest of things: a perfect sequel.
Adding to the self-reflective and rhythmic work of her original film The Souvenir, director Joanna Hogg used The Souvenir: Part II to explore the importance of a different relationship in her life: the one she had with her mother. Honor Swinton Byrne is equally as affecting as in the original film, while her real-life mother Tilda Swinton is fantastic in a more prominent role.
Part II takes the filmmaking analogy to another level, creating a bespoke piece not about the act of creating cinema necessarily (though the narrative very much tells this story), but of how artistic endeavour can bring about a greater understanding of one’s self, how the pursuit of greater truth that is so indelible to the fabric of art can be freeing, evolutionary, and even cathartic. (JW)
For over thirty years, the British Broadcasting Corporation has championed low budget filmmakers, art-house voices, and uniquely British stories, offering a rich and diverse catalogue of unique and often award-winning cinema. These one hundred films, from the audience pleasers to BAFTA-winners, have each left an indelible mark on the cinematic landscape, their very existence teaching the British public and wider global population of the United Kingdom’s past, its history, its heritage, and through casting up-and-coming talents has ensured its future too.
As a state-owned broadcaster, the BBC has always held the responsibility to inform, to educate and to entertain the British public, and through each of these films it has more than fulfilled its duty, proven its worth. As a result of its work, many of the brightest careers in world cinema have been born (both behind the camera and in front of it), while integral diverse voices have found a platform from which to launch new ideas and present different stories.
Which of these one hundred BBC films do you like the most? Were you surprised that the BBC were involved in making any of them? Let us know in the comments below, and be sure to follow @thefilmagazine on Facebook and Twitter for updates on more insightful movie lists.
I was so surprised to see that some of these were BBC films! I haven’t seen many yet but We Need to Talk About Kevin is the best of those that I’ve seen so far!!! And of course nativity :))))
That’s so pleasing to hear! There are many hidden gems amongst this line-up and a fair few tearjerkers. Enjoy! (Joseph Wade)