100 Unmissable BBC Films

51. What We Did on Our Holiday (2014)

Directors: Andy Hamilton, Guy Jenkin
Starring: Rosamund Pike, David Tennant, Billy Connolly, Ben Miller, Emilia Jones, Bobby Smalldridge, Harriet Turnbull, Celia Imrie

Andy Hamilton of ‘Outnumbered’ fame uses the successful creative format of talented child actors (in this case Emilia Jones of CODA, Bobby Smalldridge and Harriet Turnbull) in the role of frustratingly precocious children to poke holes in the absurdity of adult life in this memorable and outlandish comedy.

The story unfolds from the point of view of the children of separating parents (Rosamund Pike and David Tennant), who are taking their kids to the Scottish Highlands to celebrate their beloved Granddad’s (Billy Connolly’s) 75th birthday. A farce soon ensues, allowing the children’s innocence to tackle difficult subjects such as divorce and grief, in a light-hearted yet meaningful way. (KD)

What We Did on Our Holiday Review

52. Bill (2015)

Director: Richard Bracewell
Starring: Matthew Baynton, Martha Howe-Douglas, Simon Farnaby, Jim Howick, Laurence Rickard, Bill Willbond, Jamie Demetriou, Damian Lewis, Helen McCrory

The ‘Horrible Histories’ and ‘Ghosts’ troupe made this knowing farce which follows Will Shakespeare (Matthew Baynton) struggling towards his big break as a rockstar playwright, all the while Spanish spies plot to assassinate Elizabeth I. Needless to say that a fun time is to be had for school history geeks and fans of Pythonesque surreal asides.

The Evening Standard British Film Awards nominated Bill’s ensemble (who all play multiple characters), and many parents were pleasantly surprised how much they got out of this historical knockabout aimed at their kids. (SSP)

53. Brooklyn (2015)

Director: John Crowley
Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Emory Cohen, Domhnall Gleeson, Jim Broadbent, Brid Brennan, Maeve McGrath, Emma Lowe

A far cry from a straightforward adaptation of Colm Tóibín’s story of an Irish immigrant woman’s (Saoirse Ronan’s) mostly unhappy love life during the 1950s, this is one of the sharpest, most emotionally-driven and least pretentious critical darlings of the mid 2010s.

It’s pretty baffling that Brooklyn came away from the 2015 Awards Season with so few wins, though Ronan’s performance in particular received acclaim from numerous publications and awards bodies including BAFTA, SAG and the Golden Globes. (SSP)

Brooklyn Review

54. Far from the Madding Crowd (2015)

Director: Thomas Vinterberg
Starring: Matthias Schoenaerts, Carey Mulligan, Michael Sheen, Tom Sturridge, Juno Temple, Victor McGuire

In the most recent big screen adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s groundbreaking period romance, Thomas Vinterberg (Another Round) directs, David Nicholls adapts the novel, and Carey Mulligan is our Bathsheba.

Some might bristle at some of the efforts to modernise the text, but the pristine level of craft on show, the quality of the performances and the sheer beauty of the thing sweeps you helplessly along. (SSP)

Far from the Madding Crowd Review

55. The Lady in the Van (2015)

Director: Nicholas Hytner
Starring: Maggie Smith, Alex Jennings, Jim Broadbent, Dominic Cooper, Claire Foy

Based on the real-life experience of writer Alan Bennett, in which a nomadic and eccentric woman lived on his driveway in a van for fifteen years, the memoirs of this woman dubbed “The Lady in the Van” are adapted into this semi-autobiographical movie (already previously a stage play and radio drama).

Alex Jennings portrays Alan Bennet in this poignant “dramedy” with fiercely political undertones. Maggie Smith stars as the lady in question, Miss Shepherd, encompassing society’s injustice towards the poor. Smith was nominated for her 8th BAFTA Film Award and won the Best Actress at the Evening Standard British Film Awards. (KD)

56. Mr Holmes (2015)

Director: Bill Condon
Starring: Ian McKellen, Laura Linney, Hiroyuki Sanada, Hattie Morahan, Phil Davis, Frances de la Tour

Ian McKellen and Bill Condon reunited triumphantly over a decade after Gods & Monsters to tell a Sherlock Holmes story that isn’t really a Sherlock Holmes story, based on Mitch Cullin’s ‘A Slight Trick of the Mind’.

This is an intimate and often painful examination of the cruelty of dementia with real heart, thought and artistry put into showing the contrast between Holmes in his pomp and the doddery old beekeeper slowly but surely losing himself.

BIFA, Saturn and a number of film journalist collectives nominated McKellen, Condon and Laura Linney’s work for prizes. (SSP)

57. Suite Française (2015)

Director: Saul Dibb
Starring: Matthias Schoenaerts, Michelle Williams, Kristin Scott Thomas, Margot Robbie, Sam Riley, Ruth Wilson, Eric Godon

The Duchess director Saul Dibb moved from one historical era (the 18th century) to another (World War II) for his third feature Suite Française, a film of forbidden romance between a Nazi soldier (Matthias Schoenaerts) and a French villager (Michelle Williams). 

With excellent production design, as well as a number of heavily populated scenes showing off Dibb’s directorial abilities and some excellent photography from Spanish DP Eduard Grau, Suite Française was an adaptation that may have lacked in original plot points but offered more than its fair share of truth, food for thought, and memorable messaging. (JW)

Suite Française Review

58. Testament of Youth (2015)

Director: James Kent
Starring: Taron Egerton, Alicia Vikander, Kit Harrington, Colin Morgan, Dominic West, Emily Watson, Joanna Scanlan, Miranda Richardson

Vera Brittain’s acclaimed autobiographical account of British life in the first World War is the foundation of James Kent’s star-studded feature film. This heartbreaking true story of a young woman (Alicia Vikander) coming of age in one of the most testing times in human history, speaks of the futility of war and the fragile nature of life.

Surrounded by her loved ones, including romantic interests played by Kit Harrington, Taron Egerton and Colin Morgan, Vera’s sense of the world and her place within it is forever shaped by the effects of war and the tragedy she befalls. (JW)

Testament of Youth Review

59. Woman in Gold (2015)

Director: Simon Curtis
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Helen Mirren, Daniel Brühl, Katie Holmes, Tatiana Maslany, Max Irons, Charles Dance, Jonathan Pryce

From My Week with Marilyn director Simon Curtis comes Woman in Gold, a similarly as factual and interesting tale told through more direct means and a more narrow focus.

Telling the story of Maria Altmann (Helen Mirren in a performance that earned her a nomination at the 2016 Screen Actors Guild awards), an octogenarian Jewish refugee taking on the Austrian government in a bid to reclaim the art work she believes belongs to her family, Woman in Gold is a typically emotive feature filled with powerful performances.

Ryan Reynolds is noteworthy by his involvement for foregoing his usual comedic stylings for a more serious and respectful co-lead role. (JW)

Woman in Gold Review

60. A United Kingdom (2016)

Director: Amma Asante
Starring: Rosamund Pike, David Oyelowo, Tom Felton, Jack Davenport, Laura Carmichael, Terry Pheto, Nicholas Lyndhurst, Jack Lowden

A fascinating mid-century true tale of love, class and colonialism directed with verve by Amma Asante, A United Kingdom tells the true story of the Crown Prince of Bechuanaland and future president of Botswana, Seretse Khama (David Oyelowo), who married an English woman (Rosamund Pike), causing an international incident and a succession crisis in the process.

Asante’s immaculately performed film opened the London Film Festival and saw success at the Black Reel awards. (SSP)

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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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