100 Unmissable BBC Films
81. Sorry We Missed You (2019)
Director: Ken Loach
Starring: Kris Hitchen, Debbie Honeywood, Rhys Mcgowan, Katie Proctor
The spiritual sequel to the Palme d’Or-winning I, Daniel Blake (2016), Sorry We Missed You saw director Ken Loach returned to his muse, the city of Newcastle upon Tyne, to continue his outspoken criticism of the Conservative government’s deliberate and cruel austerity.
Kris Hitchen and Debbie Honeywood play parents Ricky and Abbie Turner who struggle to keep their family afloat despite both working full-time jobs. Loach uses the perspective of Ricky and Abbie’s jobs of delivery driver and carer respectively to depict the continual trauma inflicted across the generations of North Eastern communities, from the miners’ strikes of the 80s to the devastating financial crash of 2008.
Loach’s dedication to realism results in a heart-wrenching drama that earned a BAFTA nomination for Outstanding British Film in 2020, meanwhile his filmmaking partner Paul Laverty won Best Writer at the BAFTA Scotland Awards. (KD)
82. The Souvenir (2019)
Director: Joanna Hogg
Starring: Honor Swinton Byrne, Tom Burke, Tilda Swinton, Richard Ayoade, Jaygann Ayeh, Ariane Labed, Jack McMullen, Tosin Cole
This self-exploratory drama, written and directed as if a self-portrait of acclaimed filmmaker Joanna Hogg’s younger self, is a shining example of the powers of personal cinema.
Starring Honor Swinton Byrne in a British Independent Film Awards-nominated role as a student looking to make a film that projects her personal beliefs, and Tom Burke in a BIFA-nominated supporting turn as good as any in British film for the entire decade, The Souvenir is equal parts deeply affecting drama and form-shaping screen poetry, a deeply beautiful and entirely unmissable entry into the canon of British film. (JW)
83. Stan & Ollie (2019)
Director: Jon S. Baird
Starring: Steve Coogan, John C. Reilly, Shirley Henderson, Nina Arianda, Rufus Jones, Danny Huston
Stan & Ollie delivers exactly what you want from a biopic of an iconic pairing, but is far from first-base. Where it could have been overly broad and general, Jon S. Baird’s film is instead tightly focused in on the contrasting highest and lowest points of Laurel and Hardy’s careers with wit and vitality.
Steve Coogan and John C Reilly have rarely, if ever, been better (the former nominated at the BIFAs, the latter at the Golden Globes) and are equally adept at playing the double act performing or living their own lives. (SSP)
84. The White Crow (2019)
Director: Ralph Fiennes
Starring: Oleg Ivenko, Ralph Fiennes, Sergei Polunin, Louis Hofmann, Chulpan Khamatova, Adèle Exarchopoulos
Based on the true story of a Russian ballet dancer by the name of Rudolf Nureyev who defected to the West during the 1960s, Ralph Fiennes’ third successive feature directorial partnership with the BBC is a period drama of immense construction, a film that jumps right out of the screen for its presentation of a time period as iconic as any in human history.
The cinematography of Mike Eley is exceptional, its grainy exterior capturing a period-appropriate look to an art film about an artist, and its multi-national settings and cast helping to construct a powerful message on maintaining allies through division; a point made louder than ever in the wake of Brexit.
While perhaps not as focused as Fiennes’ other directorial works, The White Crow still has much to offer, its remarkable award-winning set design, beautiful photography and important real-life story being a worthwhile addition to the canon of BBC films. (JW)
85. Ammonite (2020)
Director: Lee Francis
Starring: Kate Winslet, Saoirse Ronan, Gemma Jones, James McArdle, Fiona Shaw, Claire Rushbrook, Alec Secareanu
God’s Own Country director Francis Lee’s BAFTA-nominee and Women Film Critics Circle award-winner Ammonite is a labour-intensive, impeccably detailed and tactile film.
Everyone looks convincingly cold and uncomfortable for the place and time period the story is set in, Winslet’s performance as pariah palaeontologist Mary Anning being all-consuming, hunkered-down and punctuated by telling physical tics, her chemistry with co-star Saoirse Ronan wonderfully tender. (SSP)
86. His House (2020)
Director: Remi Weekes
Starring: Sope Dirisu, Wunmi Mosaku, Matt Smith, Emily Taaffe, Dominic Coleman
His House tells a familiar enough story of a couple moving into a haunted house, but filters it through the real experience and plight of refugees and is all the sadder and more hard-hitting for that.
The film won several awards at the BIFAs, and writer-director Remi Weekes won Outstanding Debut at the BAFTAs for his layered and atmospherically distinctive feature debut. (SSP)
87. Lynn & Lucy (2020)
Director: Fyzal Boulifa
Starring: Nichola Burley, Roxanne Scrimshaw
Fyzal Boulifa makes a striking and noteworthy feature debut with Lynn & Lucy, a visually dynamic drama between underclass friends dealing with life and friendship evolutions, unexpected volatility, and the birth of a newborn child.
Featuring the acting debut of the impressive Roxanne Scrimshaw, nominee at the 2019 British Independent Film Awards, this tale of class, community and a woman’s responsibilities to friends and family isn’t an easy watch, but a truthful one it certainly is. (JW)
88. Misbehaviour (2020)
Director: Philippa Lowthorpe
Starring: Jessie Buckley, Keira Knightley, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Greg Kinnear, Keeley Hawes, Rhys Ifans, Lesley Manville, Emma Corrin
Having made her name on the BBC as director of episodes of ‘Call the Midwife’ and ‘Five Daughters’, Philippa Lowthorpe followed her BBC Film-funded feature debut Swallows and Amazons (2016) with Misbehaviour, the true story of British feminist activists seeking to disrupt the Miss World competition of 1970.
Starring a combination of established British acting talent such as Keira Knightley, Keeley Hawes, Rhys Ifans and Lesley Manville, as well as up-and-comers Emma Corrin and Jessie Buckley, Misbehaviour met the feminist actions of the real-life story with the current era’s feminist movements in cinema and wider society to forge a film very of our time but seeped in the same history and heritage that you would expect of a BBC production. (JW)
89. Mogul Mowgli (2020)
Director: Tariq Bassam
Starring: Riz Ahmed, Aiysha Hart, Anjana Vasan, Nabhaan Rizwan, Alyy Khan, Kiran Sonia Sawar, Sudha Bhuchar
Riz Ahmed’s long-respected career took another jump in popularity courtesy of the back-to-back leading performances in the Oscar-nominated Sound of Metal and this, Tariq Bassam’s BAFTA-nominated Outstanding British Film Mogul Mowgli.
Not too dissimilarly to how the actor already lives a second life as an MC and member of hip-hop group the Swet Shop Boys, Ahmed emotively and passionately personified a cooler than cool musician succumbing to a humbling and limiting illness. It would earn Ahmed a British Independent Film Award for Debut Screenwriter in 2021. (JW)
90. The Nest (2020)
Director: Sean Durkin
Starring: Jude Law, Carrie Coon, Oona Roche, Charlie Shotwell, Tanya Allen, Adeel Akhtar, Anne Reid
A pressure cooker drama following a transatlantic family relocating to rural Surrey to further dad’s seemingly high-flying investments career in London in the 1980s, The Nest is a trying watch but a compelling one.
The tightly-wound performances from Carrie Coon and Jude Law, deliciously awkward social situations, and Sean Durkin’s confident direction, led the film to make the Toronto International Film Festival’s top 10 feature films of 2020. (SSP)
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)