100 Unmissable BBC Films
31. An Education (2009)
Director: Lone Scherfig
Starring: Carey Mulligan, Peter Sarsgaard, Alfred Molina, Olivia Williams, Cara Seymour, Dominic Cooper, Rosamund Pike, Emma Thompson
Carey Mulligan transformed from TV actress to Hollywood darling overnight after starring in Lone Scherfig’s adaptation of Lynn Barber’s memoir, which earned nominations for Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay at the 2010 Oscars.
Mulligan herself was nominated at the Oscars for Actress in a Leading Role and won the BAFTA for Best Actress for her portrayal of Jenny, a 16-year-old schoolgirl whose fierce intelligence has her destiny pegged for glory at Oxford University until she is seduced by David (Peter Sarsgaard), a man nearly twice her age.
It is an ages-old tale of how precociousness and the desire to be grown up is no real replacement for cold, hard, real-life experience. (KD)
32. Bright Star (2009)
Director: Jane Campion
Starring: Abbie Cornish, Ben Whishaw, Paul Schneider, Kerry Fox, Thomas Brodie-Sangster
From the first ever woman to win the Palme d’Or at Cannes, Jane Campion (The Piano), comes this historical romance between renowned poet John Keats (Ben Whishaw) and Fanny Brawne (Abbie Cornish).
Costume designer Janet Patterson earned Oscar and BAFTA nominations for bringing to life the 19th century garb of the characters in question, whilst the Australian Film Institute also awarded Patterson for her production design and handed Greig Fraser (Dune) an award for Best Cinematography, his visual constructions holding a lot in common with Pre-Raphaelite paintings of the time and the film being an unmissable visual spectacle because of it. (JW)
33. The Damned United (2009)
Director: Tom Hooper
Starring: Michael Sheen, Timothy Spall, Colm Meaney, Jim Broadbent, Martin Compston, Stephen Graham, Ralph Ineson
Soon-to-be Best Director Oscar winner Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech) made his feature breakthrough directing biopic regular Michael Sheen as famous Derby County and Nottingham Forest manager Brian Clough attempting to navigate his infamously short tenure in charge of Leeds United.
More than just a simple football drama, this adaptation of David Peace’s critically acclaimed novel won Jim Broadbent a nomination at the British Independent Film Awards, Timothy Spall a nomination at the London Critics Circle Film Awards, and star Michael Sheen a nomination at the Satellite Awards.
The capturing of iconic football manager Brian Clough’s unforgettable spirit births an examination of the folly of obsession and ambition alongside messaging regarding the importance of humility and loyalty. (KD)
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34. In the Loop (2009)
Director: Armando Iannucci
Starring: Peter Capaldi, Chris Addison, Tom Hollander, James Gandolfini, Harry Hadden-Paton, Gina McKee, Olivia Poulet, James Smith, Zach Woods, Anna Chlumsky
Armando Iannucci brings his television satirical masterpiece ‘The Thick of It’ to the big screen, now not only mocking the British political class but also casting a scathing look onto the American political machine. In the Loop depicts the UK and USA’s approach to international affairs as the mere proxy between the real administrative war between these two supposed allied nations.
This satire was appreciated on both sides of the Atlantic, the film earning an Oscar Nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay whilst taking home the Best Screenplay at the British Independent Film Awards (2009). Highlights of this award-winning writing include the clever change of roles of most of the original television cast for their parts in the film (apart from two ferocious constants: Paul Higgins’ Jamie Macdonald and Peter Capaldi’s iconic Malcolm Tucker). (KD)
35. Nativity! (2009)
Director: Debbie Isitt
Starring: Martin Freeman, Ashley Jensen, Marc Wootton, Jason Watkins, Pam Ferris, Alan Carr, Ricky Tomlinson
The Hobbit star Martin Freeman (in the role of primary school teacher Paul Maddens) drives forward the plot of an old drama school rivalry and a love triangle that leads to the reveal of the lie that Hollywood are coming to film his school’s nativity play, leading to an almighty farce.
Where it is light on logic it is big on heart, and includes the most adorable and charming ensemble cast made up of a mass of newcomers and first-time actors who star in the most spectacular musical performance of the Nativity Play.
Marc Wootton is the heart of the film as Mr Poppy: classroom assistant and hype man, going on to star in two of this film’s many sequels. (KD)
36. Made In Dagenham (2010)
Director: Nigel Cole
Starring: Sally Hawkins, Bob Hoskins, Rosamund Pike, Miranda Richardson, Andrea Riseborough, Jaime Winstone, Lorraine Stanley, Nicola Duffett, Geraldine James, Daniel Mays, Roger Lloyd Pack
This four-time BAFTA-nominated feature from Saving Grace and Calendar Girls director Nigel Cole bucked the trend of the ordinarily dour output of British cinema, offering something altogether more fun and uplifting without losing any of its artistry.
Featuring a stellar cast, from which Sally Hawkins, Rosamund Pike and Bob Hoskins were nominated for British Independent Film Awards and Miranda Richardson was nominated for a BAFTA Film Award, this dramatization of a 1968 strike against sexist workplace agenda must also be praised for coming ahead of the recent trend towards feminist films, and features a strong message of alliances and togetherness holding more power than some may think. (JW)
37. Coriolanus (2011)
Director: Ralph Fiennes
Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Jessica Chastain, Brian Cox, Gerard Butler, Vanessa Redgrave, James Nesbitt
The first of three distributor-director collaborations between BBC Film and Ralph Fiennes in the 2010s, and the filmmaker’s feature directorial debut, Coriolanus is a visually impressive war-fuelled political thriller with a cast about as stacked as any in BBC Film history.
Starring Fiennes himself, with strong support from the BIFA-winning Vanessa Redgrave as well as Jessica Chastain and Gerard Butler, Coriolanus is top of class as regards acting and is generally a noteworthy film that trends towards exploring class and political evil in a story that is as much of a modern tragedy as its Shakespeare-written source material of the same name. (JW)
38. The Iron Lady (2011)
Director: Phyllida Lloyd
Starring: Meryl Streep, Jim Broadbent, Richard E. Grant, Susan Brown, Alicia da Cunha, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Iain Glen, Alexandra Roach
Meryl Streep’s performance in the role of Margaret Thatcher, one of the most controversial political figures of the 20th Century, earned the legendary actress her third Academy Award for acting, making her one of only three actresses in history to have ever won three or more Oscars.
More than just an engrossing whirlwind of who’s who in contemporary British History (each presented with first-rate impressions from an ensemble British cast), The Iron Lady attempted the near impossible; to humanise one of the United Kingdom’s most contemptible figures. (KD)
39. Jane Eyre (2011)
Director: Cary Juji Fukunaga
Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Michael Fassbender, Jamie Bell, Holliday Grainger, Tamzin Merchant, Craig Roberts, Sally Hawkins
Cary Joji’s Fukunaga’s adaptation of the ever-popular Charlotte Brontë novel of the same name uses Art Direction to emulate the gothic nature of the original story, filming certain interior scenes by only candle and fire light.
Often adapted to the screen, innovations were made when filming the period drama in an attempt to strive for originality, Jane Eyre being nominated for Best Costume Design at both the BAFTAs and Academy Awards.
The plot follows the point of view of a mousey governess, Jane Eyre (Mia Wasikowska), whose small, timid appearance belies the fiercely independent spirit within. She finds her equal in her new employer, Mr Rochester (Michael Fassbender), whose dark past threatens to destroy their newly found love. (KD)
40. My Week with Marilyn (2011)
Director: Simon Curtis
Starring: Michelle Williams, Eddie Redmayne, Kenneth Branagh, Julia Ormond, Pip Torrens, Toby Jones, Philip Jackson, Jim Carter, Victor McGuire, Dougray Scott
While considered by some to be too light of a biopic to truly explore one of the world’s most iconic figures, My Week with Marilyn does tick a lot of boxes for fans of the famed actress, including a stellar Oscar and BAFTA-nominated lead performance from Michelle Williams.
Simon Curtis, who’d made his name on TV and would go on to direct fellow BBC Film release Woman in Gold (as well as Goodbye Christopher Robin), was tasked with realising this adaptation of Colin Clark’s book of the same name, his narrow scope of Monroe’s story allowing for some terrific moments of nostalgia, an interesting exploration of the wider arts, and a number of awards nominations at both the Oscars (Williams, plus Kenneth Branagh in Supporting Actor) and the BAFTAs (Williams, Branagh, Judi Dench in Supporting Actress, Costume, Hair & Makeup). (JW)
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)