We review the best TV shows and films currently available on BBC iPlayer. (Click here to skip to our reviews of the best movies on BBC iPlayer.)
For BBC Three recommendations, click here.
Pick of the Week: There She Goes
Raising a child isn’t easy. Raising a child with learning difficulties is even harder. There She Goes is a bravely honest look at the challenges involved in looking after, encouraging and educating a daughter when communication is painfully restricted – a comedy drama that bristles with the huge pain, tiny victories and (more frequently) challenging lows of Simon (David Tennant) and Emily’s (Jessica Hynes) life. Shaun Pye’s script is stuffed with angry one-liners, delivered with relish by the cast. Tennant is wonderfully depressed but in denial (and halfway up a wine bottle) a defeated dad Simon, while Hynes (who recently made her directorial debut with the moving drama The Fight) balances deadpan coming timing with a blank unhappiness that rings powerfully true. They clash with bitterness, or just don’t communicate at all, and the challenge of them reconciling their love for each other and their daughter with the reality of their situation is one that repeatedly delivers heart and humour aplenty. In between them, seven-year-old Rosie is performed wit frustrating, charming and innocent energy by the marvellous Miley Locke.
Available until: October 2019
Pick of the Week: Informer
Just when you’ve got one BBC drama’s claws out of you, another comes along to steal six hours of your life. Nabhaan Rizwan delivers a starmaking debut turn in this gripping thriller about Raza, a young British-Pakistani man from East London, who finds himself arrested. Held by the police with no apparent good reason, he’s actually being lined up for Gabe, a Counter-Terrorism Office who wants to turn him into an informer. The always-excellent Paddy Considine brings a gruff determination to Gabe, who has his own dark past thanks to his undercover exploits, and is nicely contrasted by Bel Powley as Holly, his new partner. As their paths intersect and deceitful motivations come to light, and the stakes get inevitably higher, you’ll be drawn into a web that keeps you hooked. Fortunately, the whole box set is on BBC iPlayer, so you don’t have to wait to get your next fix.
Available until: 20th November 2018
Pick of the Week: The Cry
How do you fill the Bodyguard-shaped hole left in our Sunday nights? BBC One has a compelling answer with The Cry, a drama that switches security conspiracies for the equally gut-churning angst of parents who have to face the unthinkable. Jenna Coleman is brilliant as the anchor around which the show pivots, and she’s sensational in the role of Joanna, a young woman who has found herself a mother and faces all the unromanticised struggles that entails – the pressure felt as she has to try and quiet her child on an airplane is unbearable, only alleviated by the intrigue elsewhere, as her husband, Alistair (Ewen Leslie), takes her to Australia for a custody battle over his teenage daughter with his ex, Alexandra (Asher Keddie). Everyone has their own angst and ambiguities, but what’s impressive about The Cry is that it’s less a mystery thriller and more a nuanced exploration of all the taboos and expectations that face new parents, before they’ve even got to the agonising cliffhanger of the opening episode. Impeccably painful telly.
Available until: 20th December 2018 (Episode 1)
Pick of the Week: Doctor Who: Season 11
As grounded as its opening episode’s title (The Woman Who Fell to Earth) suggests, Chris Chibnall and Jodie Whittaker arrive in the TARDIS with a winning departure from formula. Read our full reviews of each episode here.
Available until: 9th June 2019 (Episode 1)
Pick of the Week: This Country: The Aftermath
BBC Three’s hilarious mockumentary returns for a one-off special that continues to balance understated laughs and unexpected character beats. The Aftermath picks up after Season 2, which saw the unwitting Kerry become embroiled in a criminal enterprise, thanks to her wayward father, and investigates the fallout and the impact on the village.
Available until: 8th April 2019
Beats, Bass and Bars – The Story of Grime
BBC Four has always been an excellent source of music documentaries, and this new one-off is no exception, as British rapper Rodney P tells the story of grime. The journey takes us from the council estates of east London, as the genre grew to become the most important British musical movement since punk, fusing American-style music with UK urban culture.
Available until: 11th November 2018
Drowning in Plastic
If David Attenborough’s impassioned pleas aren’t still keeping you awake at night, this new BBC documentary dives into the very real, very harmful consequences of our plastic-loving society, as biologist Liz Bonnin shines a light on the trillions of pieces of plastic drowning our oceans – each one a choking hazard or worse. It’s an eye-opening watch that, to its credit, also finds time to examine the solutions being trialled by scientists, from clean-up operations to alternative packaging. Urgent, important and inspiring viewing.
Available until: 3rd November 2018
The Bank That Almost Broke Britain
On 7th October 2008, the Royal Bank of Scotland collapsed and almost took the entire UK banking system down with it. 10 years later, this documentary retells the story of how the small Scottish bank became a giant in the financial world, before contributing to a gargantuan bail-out that has helped to cripple the economy and society since. Playing out more like a thriller than a documentary, this is grippingly told and an alarming reminder of something that took place just a decade ago and continues to impact our lives today.
Available until: 1st November 2018
Now in its 14th season, this annual search for a new partner to work with Lord Sugar is bordering on tedium, with its unlikeable contestants each competing to be the most self-centred, egotistical person in the room. Amid the mediocre car crash telly, there’s still some amusement to be found in the opening of the new season, as each wannabe suited victor trumpets their own brand. “Mumpreneur.” “The Beyonce of business.” “A human cash machine.” Someone who “doesn’t just grab the bull by the horns, but gets him in headlock and squeezes”. At least there are some new buzzwords to put in your dictionary of idiotic words.
Available until: 15th January 2019 (Episode 1)
Box Set: Bodyguard
Jed Mercurio, the mastermind behind the nail-biting Line of Duty, is back on BBC One with his latest thriller, Bodyguard, and the result is the most nail-biting piece of TV since, well, Line of Duty – and that’s just the opening 10 minutes. Mercurio’s script, helmed by Thomas Vincent (The Tunnel), gets off to a blinding start, as we see copper and war veteran David Budd (Richard Madden) sniff out a possible bomb threat on a train. Is he correct or just suffering from PTSD? That’s the question set up to drive the whole series, and Mercurio doesn’t tip his hat either way, giving Madden plenty of ambiguity to play with, as Budd is assigned security guard duties for PM Julia Montague (Keeley Hawes). She has her own enigmatic stance to decipher, as she pushes through a controversial new counterterrorism bill, and the line between duty of care and political resentment is already blurring after only an hour. Hawes is wonderfully ruthless and cool, while Madden clearly relishes the chance to take a lead role, his bodyguard perched on a knife edge between calm and total collapse. With corruption, bitter former employees and rebellious movements in the wings, prepare to get hooked all over again.
Available until: 23rd March 2019 (Episode 1)
Box Set: Killing Eve
“You’re brilliant. Just don’t tell them everything, or you’ll sound like a nutter.” That’s the advice given to Eve (Sandra Oh) early on in Killing Eve, Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s twistedly brilliant and brilliantly twisted new series. Part serial killer thriller, and part buddy comedy, this is dark, violent, and endlessly witty – a funny, female-led treat that’s one of the best shows of the year. Read our full review
Available until: 31st August 2022
Box Set: Snowfall: Season 1 and 2
John Singleton jumps from Boyz n the Hood back to the 1980s with this thriller that charts the beginnings of Los Angeles’ coke trade. He and his team of writers and directors drift through the City of Angels with a colourful confidence, crafting a period piece full of popping oranges and striking yellows. The scale is as big as the colours are bold, and the show takes its time to paint its canvas, which stretches from the world of pro-wrestling through the corrupt CIA and down to the streets of small-time dealers. That’s where we meet Franklin Saint, a young boy looking for way to get ahead. Damson Idris is fantastic as the ambitious young man, with the work ethic to bring about his plans, even if he doesn’t always have the smarts to be cautious. It’s his journey, past a Speedo-clad kingpin and under a dangerous nightclub, that drives the story forward, and pushes crack into the neighbourhoods proper – supported by an equally compelling cast, it’s that ability to mine the expansive web of stories for individual emotional impact that helps Snowfall avoid becoming an avalanche of ideas without focus. Stitched together with sun-bathed visuals, which give us a taste of positive LA life before it felt the aftermath of the drug epidemic, there’s a poetic elegance to the liberal amounts of polish layered up over this familiar narrative, even at its most heart-stopping early turning point involving a swimming pool and a bulletproof vest. It’s all about the stylish surface, but there’s weighty substance buried beneath – you just have to breathe it in.
Available until: 31st October 2018
Black Earth Rising
Hugo “The Honourable Woman” Blick returns to the BBC for another superbly provocative drama. The writer is a master at navigating the complex waters of global politics, not because he draws clear lines, but because he understands that there aren’t any. Michaela Coel (Chewing Gum) is on fierce form as Kate, a legal investigator who was adopted and taken away from Rwanda’s genocide and raised by Eve (Harriet Walter), a leading UK lawyer. Both women are remarkable, from Coel’s anger and pain to Walter’s compassion and steely resolve, and it’s their relationship that forms the frame for the show’s thorny subject matter – the pair are pulled apart by Eve’s decision to take on the prosecution of a Rwandan general who has traded in blood diamonds, but also fought to end the genocide in his country. Is he hero or villain? Should he be prosecuted or allowed to retire in peace? And should England allow African nations to come up with their own problems to their solutions? Personal, international, challenging, complex. This is brilliantly accomplished drama that demands your attention. And did we mention John Goodman is in it?
Available until: 28th November 2018 (Episode 1)
This Australian comedy joins two idiotic, inappropriate cops as they take on stakeout duty, sitting in a car in a dockyard to watch what happens to some shipping containers. Checking in with their dispatch, they’re introduced to new copper on the block April, and they soon start to banter between them about their ‘nice-sounding’ colleague – only to realise that the intercom’s still on and she’s heard it all. That’s the main premise of this caustic sitcom, which explores the boundary between socially acceptable workplace communication and foul-mouthed banter. The result is side-splittingly hilarious.
Available until: 13th November 2018 (Episode 1)
Monkman & Seagull’s Genius Guide to Britain
In the words of Homer Simpson: NEEEERRRRRRDS. That sums up the simple pleasure of this unexpected yet inevitable TV series, which pairs up University Challenge rivals (and now friends) Eric Monkman and Bobby Seagull. Armed with nothing but a burgeoning bromance and a passion for knowledge, they travel the UK to look at scientific and technological feats. This opening episode sets the pace and tone, with a trip to Europe’s oldest amusement ride to discuss the familiar principles of centrifugal force, and even a visit to a lawnmower museum. The very definition of the word quaint.
Available until: 22nd October 2018 (Episode 1)
Months after All the Money in the World, Danny Boyle’s take on the John Paul Getty III kidnapping finally makes its way to UK TV screens, courtesy of the BBC. As you’d expect from Boyle, it’s a consummate piece of style: his camera whisks us through this world of wealth that is about to be lopsided by Getty’s disappearance. The cast, meanwhile, are relishing every second they get to sink their teeth into these rich, obnoxious people, from Donald Sutherland as the calculated Getty Senior to Hilary Swank as his daughter, and concerned mother to a stolen son. Brendan Fraser as the family’s fixer, though, is the best of the bunch, as he saunters through scenes with fourth-wall-breaking dialogue, swaggering confidence and a cowboy hat. Whether there’s much substance beneath all this surface will become clear soon enough – the whole box set is available on BBC iPlayer, and judging by the first highly entertaining couple of episodes, will likely prove hard to resist.
Available until: 14th December 2018 (Episode 1)
Netflix and BBC One team up for this accomplished adult drama, which teases titillation on the surface, as husband and wife Joy and Alan look elsewhere to get a boost for their flatlining sex life. But beneath the steamy scenes that have dominated headlines about the show lies a fantastically written drama from playwright Nick Payne, who balances spiky humour with a deceptively nuanced exploration of infidelity and marital commitment. The always-brilliant Toni Colette and Steven Mackintosh sell the shifts in tone, supported by a scene-stealing Zawe Ashton as Alan’s colleague, a teacher who finds herself in an embarrassing, inappropriate situation at school. Expect communication, consent and chemistry to reel you in over the coming six episodes, which promises a refreshingly frank attitude towards what goes on in the bedroom.
Available until: 9th April 2019 (Episode 1)
After Motherland, the news that Anna Maxwell Martin will be in another BBC Two programme with the word “mother” in the title might make you prepare for a similarly spiky comedy. This one-off drama, though, is as far away from that as you could imagine, as it takes us back to 1993, when a terrorist attack by the IRA in Warrington killed a young boy called Tim. Colin and Wendy, his parents, struggle to cope, while Sue, in Dublin, is spurred into action to form a movement calling for peace. Maxwell Martin is remarkable, leading a nuanced cast that includes a heartbreaking Daniel Mays, a moving Vicky McLure and a understated David Wilmot. Nick Leather’s sensitively written script gives them each a huge amount of grief and tragedy to shoulder. The result is a powerful portrait of determination and unity, as a quest for hope and tolerance emerges out of violence and despair.
Available until: 2nd March 2019
It goes without saying that Press, BBC One’s new drama about newspapers, gets journalism wrong in all the ways that Spotlight and The Post got it right. But it also goes without saying that, as the series is written by Mike “Doctor Foster” Bartlett, the whole thing is utterly gripping anyway. It introduces us to The Herald and The Post, two rival newspapers in northern England that stand on opposite sides of the same town square. One’s a well-meaning broadsheet, the other a tittle-tattle tabloid, and their contrasting attitudes towards what counts as news is the main source of tension. That’s driven by Ben Chaplin, who’s on brilliantly foul form as The Post’s sleazy, witty editor, and Charlotte Riley, who’s wonderful as the wounded Holly, The Herald’s Deputy News Editor whose interest in a hit and run steers a little too close to home than she’ll admit. In an age of clickbait, fake news and celebrity gossip, there’s never been a better time for a drama salaciously poring over the workings of the media. Whether this will tackle such important topics is yet to be seen, but the reporters are rounded characters, the cast have cracking chemistry and you’ll be grabbing your copy of the next issue as soon as it hits the stands.
Available until: 11th April 2019 (Episode 1)
The Mighty Redcar
The Mighty Redcar sounds like a spoof comedy, but BBC Two’s quietly surprising series is actually a real-life soap opera. Filmed over a year in the North Yorkshire town, the resulting portrait of a seaside community largely forgotten by the wider world is a vibrant, engrossing snapshot of modern Britain. The cast of people we meet already rivals that of Albert Square, from mum and daughter Kat and Kaitlyn saving up for Kaitlyn’s prom night dress, 19 year old James trying to stay on the straight and narrow, wannabe musician Dylan whose dreams are endearingly grounded, and the 17 year old Madison Cooper, who narrates the whole thing with an upbeat, charming tone that leaves you rooting for everyone on screen as they struggle to get through the mundane day to day. EastEnders has got nothing on this.
Available until: 26th October 2018 (Episode 1)
A Ben Elton comedy set in Elizabethan times, complete with ruffs, dead bodies and cunning plans? It’s easy to dismiss Upstart Crow, the writer’s new comedy about Shakespeare, as a budget Blackadder – or spend the whole time comparing it to that legendary comedy. Doing so, though, would miss out on what makes the show really quite good.
In its third season, David Mitchell remains, as you’d expect, suitably scathing as the burgeoning playwright. He’s a smart piece of casting, capable of giving the archetypal scowling antihero a hint of likeable charisma but also a dab hand at reciting long-winded passages of dialogue that are deliberately wordy with just enough disdain to make their awkwardness amusing. It’s partly so Ben Elton can poke fun at Shakespeare’s blank verse, which can be intimidating, but also so he can poke fun at his own determination to squeeze in as many play references as possible. Season 1 and 2 are also available as box sets.
Available until: April 2019
World’s Most Dangerous Cities
After BBC Three’s Ben Zand in Dictatorland and R Kelly: Sex, Girls & Videotapes, journalist Zands returns for what might his most striking documentary series yet. It does exactly what it says on the tin, taking us into the world’s most dangerous cities, but this is no light-hearted travelogue: Caracas currently boasts the world’s highest murder rate, and Zand and his team have to go undercover as tourists just to be allowed inside. Once there, they surreptitiously film the state of the Venezuelan city, including a scarily tense interview with the members of a local gang, who talk with resentment about the fact that they have no other option in life but to resort to crime.
Available until: 5th March 2019 (Episode 1)
Ancient Invisible Cities
While Ben Rand is uncovering violent, dangerous metropolises, Dr Michael Scott is having a much better time playing with a new 3D-scanning kit. The gizmo allows him to reveal the secrets of Cairo and Egypt, as he explores the first pyramid ever built at Saqqara. If you like history, technology or the idea of an Indiana Jones VR headset, you’ll be in heaven with this infectiously enthusiastic series.
Available until: 23rd March 2019 (Episode 1)>
Mark Kermode’s Secrets of Cinema
Veteran of the BBC’s flagship film show, Wittertainment, Mark Kermode is a critic who needs little introduction, from his bequiffed head and large hands to even larger opinions and even more pointed rants. Here, he presents a guide to cinema one genre at a time, kicking off with the romantic comedy. From When Harry Met Sally to The Shape of Water, his insight is only rivalled by his enthusiasm, not only drawing the influences on Guillermo del Toro’s fishy fling through back to classic fantasy and horror, but also engaging happily with Richard Curtis’ modern version of the genre – by way of the effervescent writing of Nora Ephron. Structure, stereotypes and their subtle subversions are all scrutinised with detail without becoming dry, and the clips are neatly edited together to provide an enjoyable highlights reel over the pacy 60 minutes. The result is film criticism as it should be: accessible, informative and entertaining. There’s even a reference to Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death.
Available until: 15th August 2019 (Episode 1)
Box Set: Pride and Prejudice
Oh, Mr. Darcy! Any chance to rewatch the BBC’s definitive take on Jane Austen’s novel, starring Colin Firth as you know who, is never to be missed.
Available until: 25th July 2019
Box Set: War and Peace
Andrew Davies begins the almost Herculean task of abridging Tolstoy’s literary classic into six hours of television with an impressively zippy first opening, which introduces us to 19th century Russia, as the country is drawn into war with France – and young idealist (and illegitimate son) Pierre Bezukhov finds himself the unexpected heir to his father’s wealth. Paul Dano is excellent as the hot-headed male, a nervy counterpart to the suave Prince Andrei, who wants to use the war to escape his wife. and a potential partner for the equally earnest Natasha Rostova (Lily James). The English-speaking cast and period costumes feel more like Jane Austen than Russia, but the successful juggling of subplots in itself is an achievement.
Available until: 11th January 2019
Box Set: Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle: Season 1 to 4
Stewart Lee is the death of stand-up comedy. His smug tirades and educated, middle-class opinions ruin it for everyone. For those who don’t like his intellectual concerns and patronising tone, he’s impossible to tolerate. For those who do, he makes it impossible to tolerate any other comedian. That’s the brilliance of Stewart Lee’s stand-up: either way, everyone ends up miserable.
Available until: 12th January 2019
The Misadventures of Romesh Ranganathan
Australia? Dara Ó Briain did a show there. Vietnam? Jack Whitehall went there with his dad. Cuba? Michael Palin. Brazil? Michael Palin. That’s Romesh Ranganathan going through the options for his new BBC travel series, which dispatches him to the world’s unlikeliest places for a holiday. Comedian travelogues are far from original, but Romesh Ranganathan has good form in the genre, with his travel series for BBC Three (Asian Provocateur) bringing a highly personal angle to a homecoming journey – it even brought his mum along in Season 2, setting a trend for comics bringing parents on travel shows with them. Fortunately, this new show finds another novel hook for Romesh’s travels, taking him to destinations that are deemed hostile or dangerous. He kicks off with a trip to Haiti to see if his preconceptions about the voodoo-loving culture is correct. He spends a week in Port au Prince, guided by journalist Jeremy Dupin, and there’s much mileage to be had in the unseen sights the programme unearths, from cathedrals destroyed by the earthquake to slums and a rapping session with a local musician – and, yes, a voodoo ceremony. Romesh is characteristically frank and entertainingly sceptical. “If it’s shit, I’ll tell you it’s shit,” he promises. The result is a likeable showcase for a charming TV presenter. “Is your mum coming?” his cameraman asks him at the start. “No,” comes the amusingly blunt reply. “Why would my mum be coming? Is your mum coming?”
Available until: 2nd July 2019 (Episode 1)
After the smash hit success of Keeping Faith, it’s a pleasure to BBC One Wales mystery Hidden get a proper airing on BBC Four in its Saturday night subtitled slot. That means you’ve got a psychological thriller stacking up on BBC iPlayer that’s just begging to binge-watched, and it doesn’t disappoint. The eight-part thriller follows DI Cadi John and DS Owen Vaughan, as they investigate the discovery of a body in Snowdonia National Park – the body of a woman missing since 2011. The discovery opens old wounds in the community, not to mention family tensions and anger at police incompetence. It looks early on like we’ve already got a clear handle on who’s responsible, but with classy visuals and a solid cast teasing some intriguing characters studies yet to unfold, there promises to more than enough meat on these bones to chew over. The occasional Welsh subtitles are a cool bonus.
Available until: 2nd June 2019 (Episode 1)
Mortimer & Whitehouse: Gone Fishing
The Trip, but with fishing instead of food. That’s the premise behind this charmingly low-key chat between Paul Whitehouse and Bob Mortimer, who go fishing in Norfolk for little reason other than catch some tench and shoot the breeze about health, childhood and bad Robert De Niro impressions. It’s not shockingly revelatory or a gripping gossip fest – and that’s exactly the point.
Available until: 24th July 2019 (Episode 1)
Our Girl: Nigeria Tour
Michelle Keegan is back as Georgie, everyone’s favourite plucky army medic who throws herself into her work training Nigerian forces, only to find herself pitched headlong into danger. Fighting against Boko Haram is the new element of tension in her latest tour, but it’s the focus on grief and trauma that marks this new season out, as the BBC military drama doesn’t shy away from exploring the emotional conflict that faces troops away from the frontline. With its soldier banter and occasionally broad characterisations, it would be easy to turn one’s nose up at Our Girl, but with Love Island on our screens, the reminder that women can have professions that have historically been associated with men is something worth celebrating, not least because of Keegan’s superbly charismatic central performance.
Available until: 23rd January 2019
Box Set: Our Girl: Season 1 to 3
One of the BBC’s best dramas of recent years has been something different to the norm, following Molly, a young army recruit who has to find her feet in a hostile territory – not to mention a military force full of men. Starring Lacey Turner in Season 1, it was a thrilling, charming drama that combined the tension of Afghanistan conflict with a talented cast (including Game of Thrones’ Iwan Rheon). The later seasons replaced Lacey with the excellent Michelle Keegan, playing Lance Corporal George Lane, with ben Aldridge reprising his role as the good-hearted but haughty Captain James. The result was no less stirring, and found fresh suspense and topical threats in a Nepal Tour, not to mention a moving conclusion. Ahead of Season 4, which takes the group to Nigeria, the first three runs are back on BBC iPlayer. Don’t miss them.
Available until: 17th November 2018
This charming collection of comedy shorts balance sharp observations and witty writing with infectious imagination. Read our full review
Available for over a year
It’s been five decades since Kenneth Clark’s 1960s series Civilisation was first broadcast – you can catch up with the whole thing from the archives on BBC iPlayer. Now, BBC Two is rebooting the programme, and the extra ‘s’ on the end of the title is hugely promising stuff. From its opening hour, Simon Schama is thinking as big as it gets, trying to pin down the rise of creativity across the globe, from the first signs of scratches on pots for decorative purposes to paint swilled in mouths and blown out against cave walls. It may not have the fantastic beasts of Blue Planet II, but this is stunning stuff, with visuals that match the epic scope of what the Beeb is attempting to achieve. Whether there’s too much packed into an hour or not, the good news is that the show is available on BBC iPlayer for over a year for everyone to catch up with.
Available on BBC iPlayer
“I have written and directed a film about veganism,” says Simon Amstell. “I’m sorry.” If you laughed at that, you’ll love this. Set in 2067, when the human race has apparently converted entirely to veganism – an alternate universe to rival The Man in the High Castle and SS-GB for unnerving chills – Amstell’s mockumentary looks back at the years when people slowly began to realise the horror of consuming meat, eggs and other produce sourced or derived from animals. The film purports to explore the strange, alien idea that humans and animals aren’t equal, aiming to break the taboo surrounding Britain’s carnivorous past. It’s a neat way to tackle an oft-derided concept, by deliberately presenting what’s considered normal as the absurd – but Amstell, crucially, doesn’t lose sight of the ridiculousness of his own concept. The result is simultaneously laugh-out-loud funny and unsettling – and, most of unsettling of all, is the knowledge that, deep down, you may even feel yourself being won over by Amstell’s viewpoint. A thought-provoking, rib-tickling, stomach-churning satire. Read our full review.
Available until: March 2019
As BBC iPlayer’s Original Drama Shorts return for another season, one of 2014’s best, My Jihad, returns as a miniseries of three 15-minute films. The first introduced us to Fahmida (Anjli Mohindra) and Nazir (Hamza Jeetooa), two single Muslims who crossed paths at an unsuccessful speed-dating night. Picking up events one month later, this is a universal exploration of love in modern Britain that packs in twice as much warmth and wit as most 30-minute shows do in a whole season. (Read our full review.)
Available until: June 2020
Original Drama Shorts
BBC iPlayer continues to prove a platform for new talent with its latest bunch of shorts. From a moving demonstration of isolation and connection in an online age to a darkly funny – and unpredictable – story of female love and family loyalty, this is an impressively versatile collection of stories that are more than worth spending time with. (Read our full review.)
Available until: June 2020
Ian McKellen stars in this quietly smart take on the Baker Street detective, a sensitive and elegant meditation on memory, wrapped in an ingenious unpicking of the Sherlock mythology.
Available until: 5th November 2018
In 2010, Sergei Polunin became the British Royal Ballet’s youngest principal dancer ever. In 2012, he sensationally quit in a cloud of depression, drug use, and erratic behaviour. This documentary portrait of ballet’s bad boy lacks emotional punch but seriously delivers on the dancing.
Available until: 22nd October 2018
Hollywood’s Brightest Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story
Alexandra Dean’s inspiring documentary about Hollywood wild-child Hedy Lamarr charts her incredible life story, as she flees to America after escaping her Nazi sympathiser husband and ends up conquering Hollywood – oh, and co-invented 1940’s wireless technology. A figure of invention and intelligence who deserves recognition beyond her pioneering cinematic achievements.
Available until: 27th October 2018
How to Train Your Dragon 2
Hiccup and Toothless return for another animated adventure, which sees the young Viking face the prospect of one day taking over from his dad as chief of the tribe, as well as the threat of an alpha dragon master with his own flame-breathing army. Loyalty, parenthood and kick-ass flying sequences combine to make a mature and moving family story. Who said sequels had to be rubbish?
Available until: 28th October 2018
Department Q: The Keeper of Lost Causes
A Scandinavian crime franchise powered by economic storytelling, Department Q’s trilogy gets off to a strong start with this thriller starring Nikolaj Lie Kaas and Fares Fares as odd-couple police outsiders give cold cases to solve. This is by-the-numbers Scandi crime, but the numbers add up to something enjoyably tense.
Available until: 29th October 2018
Department Q: The Absent One
This highly competent crime drama has all the benefits of Scandinavian noir but without the need for binge-viewing.
Available until: 6th November 2018
Department Q: A Conspiracy of Faith
The Scandi odd-couple cold-case series returns with its most absorbing character drama yet, but A Conspiracy of Faith’s real success lies in marrying that complexity with a cracking pace: the gripping scripts get a new cinematic style by director Mikkel Nørgaard, punctuating the gradual puzzle-solving with the franchise’s first real bursts of action. Cracking stuff.
Available until: 6th November 2018
David Oyelowo is unrecognisable as Martin Luther King in this stirring, powerful drama, which follows his historic march for voting rights in Alabama in 1965.
Available until: 13th November 2018
Man on the Moon
Jim Carrey is remarkable in this biopic of controversial comedian Andy Kaufman. Star of Taxi and Saturday Night Live, Kaufman’s unorthodox humour was often misunderstood.
Available until: 3rd January 2019
Nuts in May
Director Mike Leigh’s iconic tale of camping holidays and all the hazards involved. Alison Steadman and Roger Sloman play Keith and Candice-Marie, who arrive at a Dorset campground for 10 nights of idyllic bliss, only for things to go inevitably awry…
Available until: 25th July 2019
The Rack Pack
BBC iPlayer’s first scripted original drama follows the rise of snooker in the 1980s, as a young Steve Davis faces a heated rivalry with Alex “Hurricane” Higgins. Snooker may not be the most exciting or mainstream sport, but the film understands that it’s about people as much as potting – and Will Merrick as Davis and Luke Treadaway as Higgins are uncannily good, one hilariously awkward and the other tragically self-destructive. Together with business guru Barry Hearn (a brilliant Kevin Bishop) crafting a new, professional era for the sport, The Rack Pack is a moving tribute to a bygone sporting age and a legend who simply wouldn’t exist today. The result is something everyone should go snooker loopy over, whether they’re fans of the sport or not. Read our full review.
Photo: BBC / Zeppotron / Keiron McCarron
Adam Curtis’ latest documentary is perfectly at home on BBC iPlayer, freed from broadcasting constraints to ramble through the last three decades of global history to try and work out how we got to today’s world of Donald Trump and Brexit. The result is typically simplified and willfully obtuse, but there are thought-provoking flashes of inspiration amid the experimental mash-up of polemic and pop culture. Clocking in at almost three hours, no one else is making documentaries like this, and that’s something to be celebrated.
Available until: October 2021
BBC iPlayer’s second original feature is the follow-up to teen documentary Beyond Clueless. Young director Charlie Lyne and the Beeb’s streaming platform prove a scarily perfect match, the lack of constraints giving him the chance to fully embrace the experimental nature of his film essay. The documentary stitches together clips from existing horror movies to explore how and why they scare us, but instead of an explanatory voice-over critiquing and giving context, we’re given a whispered narration from an anonymous woman who is working through her own fears. Contrasting cuts and eerie echoes arise during the hypnotic 80-minute montage, quietly raising questions while offering a fresh insight into films that have, in some cases, become all too familiar. As interesting as it is creepy. (Read our full review.)
Available until: October 2020