100 Unmissable BBC Films

11. The Life and Death of Peter Sellers (2004)

Director: Stephen Hopkins
Starring: Geoffrey Rush, Charlize Theron, Emily Watson, John Lithgow, Miriam Margolyes, Peter Vaughan, Sonia Aquino, Stanley Tucci, Stephen Fry, Henry Goodman, Alison Steadman, Steve Pemberton, Nigel Havers, Mackenzie Crook

It would be nearly impossible to contain all or even most of Peter Sellers’ personas on screen and off in one film, but Geoffrey Rush has a good stab at it in this biopic of a genius which is refreshingly far from a hagiography.

The sharp and at times unflinchingly dark adapted screenplay comes from Infinity War/Endgame’s Markus and McFeely, and the TV-film went on to win nine Emmys and two Golden Globes. (SSP)

12. Millions (2004)

Millions Danny Boyle

Director: Danny Boyle
Starring: Alex Etel, James Nesbitt, Daisy Donovan, Lewis McGibbon, Christopher Fulford, Pearce Quigley, Alun Armstrong

Directed by one of the UK’s most internationally renowned filmmakers, Danny Boyle, between his modern genre classics 28 Days Later and Sunshine, this relatively scaled back piece tells the story of a young man (Alex Etel) finding a bag of pound sterling in his backyard just days before the currency is to be switched to the Euro.

Featuring all of the fantastical flourishes of Boyle’s most-beloved work (such as Trainspotting), Millions is part down-to-earth class commentary and wondrous boy’s fantasy, a film closer to the filmmaker’s Mancunian heart than many of his further reaching pieces that followed in the next few decades. (JW)

13. My Summer of Love (2004)

Director: Pawel Pawlikowski
Starring: Natalie Press, Emily Blunt, Paddy Considine, Dean Andrews

The winner of the BAFTA for Best British Film in 2005, and a nominee for Best Film at both the Berlin International Film Festival and the European Film Awards, this lesbian drama set in the sun-kissed hills of the Yorkshire dales challenged the status quo of romantic idealism, announcing Emily Blunt as a future star in the process.

Pawel Pawlikowski, the would-be Oscar-nominated writer-director of Ida and Cold War (each present in The Film Magazine’s list of 100 Greatest Films of the 2010s) offered one of the most overlooked pieces of exceptional British cinema this century; an existential, challenging, romantic portrait of class, sexism and relationship prejudice. (JW)

My Summer of Love Review

14. Stage Beauty (2004)

Director: Richard Eyre
Starring: Billy Crudup, Claire Danes, Rupert Everett, Derek Hutchinson, Tom Wilkinson, Ben Chaplin, Hugh Bonneville, Alice Eve, Richard Griffiths, Edward Fox

Set in the 17th century, this star-studded affair tells of the period in stage history in which women were first allowed to perform, Claire Danes (Romeo + Juliet) headlining the cast as a dresser who takes the part of the actor she dresses (Billy Crudup).

The middle entry of three back-to-back Richard Eyre films made in co-operation with BBC Film, Stage Beauty doesn’t have the same impact or outstanding focus as the filmmaker’s earlier Iris or later Notes on a Scandal but remains an interesting watch, the one time Royal Opera director creating a visually engaging and at times powerfully parodic feature that successfully fulfils the BBC’s unofficial mandate of representing and re-evaluating the United Kingdom’s heritage. (JW)

15. A Cock and Bull Story (2005)

Director: Michael Winterbottom
Starring: Steve Coogan, Rob Brydon, Jeremy Northam, Keeley Hawes, Shirley Henderson, Raymond Waring, Dylan Moran, David Walliams

Before he took them around the UK, Italy and Greece, reviewing restaurants and duelling their Michael Caine impressions, director Michael Winterbottom tasked stars Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon with this most meta of film-within-a-film mockumentaries.

Nominated for the Alexander Korda Award for Best British Film and multiple BIFAs, A Cock and Bull Story might not have captured the hearts of audiences to the extent of spiritual sequel series ‘The Trip’ but it’s still a very clever comedy indeed. (SSP)

16. Match Point (2005)

Director: Woody Allen
Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Emily Mortimer, Matthew Cooke, Alexander Armstrong, Paul Kaye, Brian Cox, Penelope Wilton

A would-be romance turned thriller, Match Point is a movie about bad people doing bad things, and has that trademarked Woody Allen pessimism at the heart of its presentation.

Starring an array of talent, including hot up-and-comers of the time Scarlett Johansson and Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Match Point was the winner of Best Foreign Film at the 2006 César Awards and earned Woody Allen a nomination for Best Writing, Original Screenplay at the 2006 Oscars. (JW)

17. Mrs Henderson Presents (2005)

Director: Stephen Frears
Starring: Kelly Reilly, Judi Dench, Bob Hoskins, Christopher Guest, Will Young

From director Stephen Frears, of My Beautiful Laundrette and High Fidelity fame, comes a true story of a British socialite (played by the ever-unmissable Judi Dench) who chose to buy a theatre and convert it into an often nude performance space in the early 1930s.

Featuring a notable late-career performance from the iconic Bob Hoskins, and packed with a series of class-related comments and jibes, Mrs Henderson Presents earned four nominations at the BAFTAs in 2006 (Lead Actress, Original Screenplay, Costume Design, Music) and a further two nominations at the 2006 Oscars (Lead Actress, Costume Design). (JW)

18. Opal Dream (2005)

Director: Peter Cattaneo
Starring: Sapphire Blossom, Christian Byers, Vince Colosimo, Jacqueline McKenzie, Robert Morgan

A passion project written and directed by Paul Cattaneo, the filmmaker behind late-90s British mega-hit The Full Monty, 2005’s Opal Dream is a serviceable family movie about one girl’s relationship to her imaginary friend.

Set in the cinematic Australian outback, Opal Dream features a number of memorable visuals, and there’s no doubt that it excels in expressing the positives of love and imagination even through our hardest of times (a message that seemed to be very poignant in a post-9/11 landscape). Christian Byers was nominated for the Young Actor Award by the Australian Film Institute in 2006. (JW)

19. Shooting Dogs (2005)

Director: Michael Caton-Jones
Starring: Hugh Dancy, John Hurt, Dominique Horwitz, Louis Mahoney, Nicola Walker, Steve Toussaint, David Gyasi

Starring a pre-‘Hannibal’ Hugh Dancy opposite one British cinema’s most respected names, John Hurt, this two-time British Independent Film Awards nominee (director, production) from Michael Caton-Jones (The JackalOur Ladies) was something of a critical hit, with Sam Toy of Empire Magazine describing it as “just short of greatness”.

Set just as civil war breaks out in 1993 Rwanda, Shooting Dogs tells of the bravery of a priest (Hurt) and a school teacher (Dancy) choosing to remain in the country to help those in need. It’s a film that is underseen, but one with a story that is unforgettable to all who’ve witnessed it. (JW)

20. The History Boys (2006)

Director: Nicholas Hytner
Starring: James Corden, Dominic Cooper, Andrew Knott, Jamie Parker, Sacha Dhawan, Richard Griffiths, Frances de la Tour, Clive Merrison, Stephen Campbell Moore, Samuel Anderson, Russell Tovey, Penelope Wilton, Adrian Scarborough, Georgia Taylor

Long-time collaborators Alan Bennett and Nicholas Hytner brought their six-time Tony Award-winning play about a precocious group of working class Yorkshire-born schoolboys studying for the Oxbridge entry exams to the big screen in an almost parodic depiction of the British educational and class systems.

The play’s initial cast reprised their roles in the film, and with the passage of time this group of actors can now be considered a British ensemble: BAFTA Nominations were claimed by veteran thespians Richard Griffiths and Frances de la Tour in the role of the boys’ teachers, whilst the role of Oxbridge hopefuls marked the beginning of auspicious careers for the likes of James Corden and Dominic Cooper. (KD)

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  • <cite class="fn">Holly</cite>

    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 :))))

    • <cite class="fn">Admin</cite>

      That’s so pleasing to hear! There are many hidden gems amongst this line-up and a fair few tearjerkers. Enjoy! (Joseph Wade)

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