The best films on BBC iPlayer (14th September 2020)
Staff Reporter | On 14, Sep 2020Reading time: 9 mins
Who needs to pay for a subscription when you can stream new and old cinematic gems alike for free on BBC iPlayer?
We round up the best movies currently available on BBC iPlayer, with their expiry dates listed so you know how long you have to stream them. (Click here to see our reviews of the best TV shows on BBC iPlayer.)
Guy Pearce play a man trying to track down his wife’s killer – but with no ability to make new short-term memories, how will he know when he’s succeeded? Christopher Nolan’s gripping, mind-bending neo-noir is the most personal and disciplined of his career.
The Lost Boys
Joel Schumacher’s 1980s flick about a group of teenage vampires trying to recruit a new member is a genre classic.
Greta Gerwig finds profound universality in everyday specifics with this heartfelt coming-of-age gem.
Hope Dickson Leach’s excellent feature debut marks her and Ellie Kendrick out as talents to watch.
Alfonso Cuaron’s intimate survival thriller is a breathtakingly personal piece of sci-fi.
Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams star in this unabashedly weepie romantic drama, based on the Nicholas Sparks novel.
Jessica Chastain and Idris Elba crackle in Aaron Sorkin’s slick poker drama.
The Damned United
Peter Morgan and Michael Sheen team up for another character-driven winner in this drama about football manager Brian Clough.
Tinker Tailer Soldier Spy
Gary Oldman, Toby Jones, Mark Strong, Tom Hardy, Benedict Cumberbatch. The names attached to this adaptation of John le Carré’s spy classic about a mole in MI5 are enough to make anyone want to watch it – probably for the umpteenth time. The biggest star, though, is behind the camera: Let the Right One In director Tomas Alfredson, who lends events a gripping, clinical finish.
Ginger & Rosa
Elle Fanning is incredible in Sally Potter’s Ginger & Rosa, an intense, moving portrait of youth faced with growing up too fast.
Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon star in Clint Eastwood’s biopic about South Africa’s hosting of the Rugby World Cup in 1995, following the end of apartheid.
David Fincher’s slow-burn thriller about the infamous serial killer and the hunt to work out his identity is a painstakingly constructed masterpiece fuelled by superb performances from Jake Gyllenhaal and Mark Ruffalo, mystery, fear and obsession.
A Matter of Life and Death
Powell and Pressburger arguably hit their peak with this 1946 masterpiece, which sees Peter, a pilot, connect with June (Kim Hunter), a radio operator, as his plane is going down – only for him to unexpectedly survive and fall in love with her. But a messenger from heaven arrives to correct the existential error and escort him to the afterlife. A legal defence of love versus history is mounted, as the romantic epic hops effortlessly between the vibrant, colourful Earth and a black-and-white heaven. A celestial, swooning delight, this is surely one of the greatest films ever made.
The Red Shoes
Powell and Pressburger’s classic tale of ballet, romance, art and fate is at once ravishing masterpiece and haunting tragedy.
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.
Brad Pitt is excellent in this time-travel thriller in which a convict from 2035 is sent back in time to find the cause of a virus which has wiped out most of the planet’s population.
Scottish supermarket shelf-filler Morvern Callar (Samantha Morton) uses her boyfriend’s inheritance after his suicide to escape from her boring life. An emotionally intense road movie from Lynne Ramsay.
The Blair Witch Project
Three students decide to go into the Maryland backwoods to cover the mystery behind the Blair Witch incidents. However, they lose their map and things take an unexpected turn. The result is a seminal found footage horror film that set the template for low-budget scares ever since.
A young couple’s joy at moving into their own new home turns sour as sinister disturbances interrupt their sleep. A camcorder documents their increasingly distressing experience. When things don’t happen, it’s brilliantly disturbing. When they do, it’s a slight disappointment.
Struggling writer Jack and his family move into the deserted Overlook Hotel, only for bad things to happen. But Stanley Kubrick lets the bad things surface slowly, relying on the creepy soundtrack, Jack Nicholson’s unhinged presence and incredibly freaky special effects to set the mood. The masterpiece is so intricately assembled that there’s even a documentary looking at all the conspiracy theories surrounding the movie – including the suggestion that it’s a secret confession to Kubrick helping to fake the moon landing.
I Walked with a Zombie
A nurse tending a paralysed woman on a Caribbean island discovers that her charge hides a terrifying secret. Jacques Tourneur’s 1943 classic stars Frances Dee and Tom Conway.
Night of the Living Dead
George A Romero’s 1967 classc, which sees a group of people barricaded in a farmhouse to survive the reawakening of the dead, remains as chillingly relevant as ever.
David Robert Mitchell’s riveting horror does for pedestrians what Jaws did for sharks.
Minding the Gap
Bing Liu’s Oscar nominated documentary Minding the Gap is the coming-of-age saga of three skateboarding friends in their Rust Belt hometown, hit hard by decades of recession. Read our interview with Bing here and our full review of the film here.
Facing Franco’s Crimes: The Silence of Others
Storyville strikes gold again with this very powerful documentary that reveals the reality of life after Franco’s dictatorship fell in Spain, with a government-sanctioned ‘pact of forgetting’ the crimes that victims suffered. Filmed over several years, the sensitive but shocking snapshot of the nation’s fascist past is a reminder not to let history repeat itself again.
Welcome to Chechnya
This gripping, chilling documentary about atrocities against Chechnya’s LGBTQ+ population is one of the most important films of the year.
Keith Haring: Street Art Boy
This entertaining documentary presents the definitive account of international art sensation Keith Haring, who blazed a trail through the art scene of 80s New York and revolutionised pop culture.
Silver Screen Classics
BBC iPlayer has the rights to a bunch of classics from old Hollywood studio RKO, including Citizen Kane (1941), King Kong (1933), Suspicion (1941), The Magnificent Ambersons (1942) and Top Hat (1935). Others include Angel Face (1952), Beautiful But Dangerous (1954), Blackbeard the Pirate (1952), Bringing Up Baby, Carefree (1938), Fort Apache (1948), The Gay Divorce (1934), Kitty Foyle (1940), Love Affair (1939), Miracle of the Bells (1948), Mr Blandings Builds His Dreamhouse (1948), My Favourite Wife (1940), She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949), The Sky’s the Limit (1943), The Spanish Main (1945), The Velvet Touch (1948), Vivacious Lady (1938) and Wagon Master (1950).
iPlayer Originals and Exclusives
Happy New Year, Colin Burstead
Tragicomedy directed by Ben Wheatley about the difficulty of family relations. Middle-aged Colin organises a New Year’s Eve gathering for his extended family. Read our review
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.
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.)
The Fear of God: 25 Years of The Exorcist
The Exorcist is, without a doubt, one of the scariest films ever made – and, without a doubt, the man most determined to convince you of that fact is Mark Kermode. The BBC critic is known for his ardent love of William Friedkin’s seminal horror, so it is no surprise that in 1998, he wound up presenting a documentary marking its 25th anniversary. 21 years on, however, it is a surprise that BBC iPlayer should bring it back to our screens for Halloween, after the documentary has existed in various cuts in various places but never available to stream legally until now. Read our full review
Julia Donaldson Shorts
The definitive adaptation of Julia Donaldson’s book tells the magical tale of a mouse who takes a walk through the woods in search of a nut – and tells everyone he meets of his imaginary creature.
The Gruffalo’s Child
A little Gruffalo ignores her father’s warnings and tiptoes out into the snow in search of the Big Bad Mouse in this charming sequel.
The story of a keen young dragon in his first years at Dragon School.
Room on the Broom
A kind witch invites a surprising collection of animals to join her on her broom, much to the frustration of her cat.
The Highway Rat
A greedy rat (David Tennant) travels the highway in search of other animals’ food, before his sweet tooth finally leads him to a sticky outcome.
Stick Man tells the tale of a happy-go-lucky father’s epic journey to make it home in time for Christmas.