The best films on BBC iPlayer (24th February 2021)
Staff Reporter | On 24, Feb 2021
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.)
This moving drama of family and addiction is powered by honest performances from Steve Carell and Timothee Chalamet, if not subtle filmmaking.
The Eichmann Show
Martin Freeman stars in this drama about the efforts to broadcast the 1961 trial of Adolf Eichmann in Israel.
The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas
This moving British war film follows young Bruno, who, after his family move from Berlin to near a concentration camp where his father works, makes friends with a Jewish boy on the other side of the barbed-wire fence.
Joan of Arc
Ingrid Bergman stars in this historical epic which follows the young French peasant woman as she leads an army against the English.
A group of young ranch hands set out to avenge their murdered employer, but one of them has other ideas and leads them on a killing spree in this excellent Western starring Emilio Estevez and Kiefer Sutherland.
Surveillance expert Harry Caul (Gene Hackman) values his personal privacy and anonymity above all else. When he and partner Stan (John Cazale) are hired by a mysterious client known only as ‘the director’ (Robert Duvall) to follow a young couple, Harry deduces that the woman, Mary, is the director’s wife, and the man an employee with whom she is conducting an affair. The result is a gripping piece of 1970s paranoia with an intense, low-key turn from a never-better Gene Hackman.
Rural Norfolk provides the atmospheric backdrop to this accomplished debut about a teen trying to find love and escape the influence of his mother’s controlling boyfriend.
Look Back in Anger
Jimmy Porter is an intelligent but frustrated young man, with a chip on his shoulder about his social status compared with that of his impassive upper-class wife Alison in this classic drama starring Richard Burton.
The Bling Ring
Sofia Coppola’s social critique of celebrity wannabe teens in Hollywood is ironically flashy and fleeting.
Jake Gyllenhaal is superb in this gripping drama about a bottom-feeding photographer who prowls the streets at night, listening police radios for crimes he can film and sell to news stations.
Dustin Hoffman’s directorial debut, adapted by Ronald Harwood from his own play, is exactly what you’d expect from the congenial actor; a warm-hearted ode to the act of performance. The result hits all the right notes – and most of them in the right order.
An uplifting celebration of devotion and possibility, Breathe is a swooningly sincere debut from director Andy Serkis.
Shakespeare in Love
Loved not wisely, but too well – this Best Picture Oscar winner by any other name would still be as sweet.
The Place Beyond the Pines
Reuniting Ryan Gosling and Blue Valentine’s Derek Cianfrance, this is an epic tale of failed father figures and loyalty that spans generations – and burns with the intensity of Gosling riding a motorbike around a circle of death. Mesmerising, lyrical stuff.
Peter Strickland’s weird, brilliantly entertaining horror is a frightening, funny number with a uniquely disturbing style.
Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story
This inspiring documentary sees past Hedy Lamarr’s cinematic glamour to her hidden invention.
The Lost City of Z
At the dawn of the 20th century, British explorer Percy Fawcett journeys into the Amazon, where he discovers evidence of a previously unknown, advanced civilisation that may have once inhabited the region. Charlie Hunnam, Robert Pattinson and Sienna Miller are fantastic in James Gray’s true life story of adventure and discovery.
This suffocatingly intense period drama is one of the best films of 2017, with a jaw-dropping performance by Florence Pugh.
Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams star in this unabashedly weepie romantic drama, based on the Nicholas Sparks novel.
A Matter of Life and Death
Powell and Pressburger’s 1946 masterpiece 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.
Gwyneth Paltrow and John Hannah are on irresistably charming form in one of the 90s’ best rom-coms.
Sunset Song is both Terence Davies’ most lavish film and an adaptation of one of Scotland’s most beloved books.
Harrison Ford stars in Peter Weir’s drama about a hardened Philadelphia cop who is ventures into a reclusive Amish community when a child witnesses a savage murder. But when the boy identifies a policeman as one of the killers, Book realises that they are in imminent danger.
Sheila Hancock is excellent in this low-key drama in which Edith, an 83-year-old widow, sets out to climb a mountain in the Scottish Highlands.
The 39 Steps
The very definition of classic. Hitchcock’s 1935 thriller, which goes from London to the Forth Bridge and back again, takes in everything from spies to handcuffs. Shackled together for the duration, Robert Donat’s Hannay sets the template for Hitch’s wrong-man-on-the-run, while Madeleine Carroll’s sniping love interest adds a fun comic touch. The low-key climax may not be the Big Ben-straddling stunt of the 1978 remake, but this is cracking, tense stuff.
Willy Russell’s famous play was brought to the big screen by Bond director Lewis Gilbert in 1983. Starring Michael Caine and Julie Walters, the class-difference comedy remains hilarious despite the couple’s formulaic relationship and features two actors at the top of their game.
The Blair Witch Project
A trio of filmmakers go on what should have been a simple walk in the woods in this hugely influential, definitive found footage horror.
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.
This well acted biopic reveals some of the madness behind the revered biologist Jacques Cousteau.
The Children Act
High Court judge Fiona Maye is given the case of a 17-year-old Jehovah’s Witness who refuses to undergo a blood transfusion for leukaemia that could save his life in this earnest adaptation of Ian McEwan’s novel.
Scottish filmmaker Anthony Baxter captures the fallout of the Flint water crisis in this urgent and eye-opening documentary.
Whitney: Can I Be Me?
This poignant portrait of the iconic singer is lacking in insight but not in impact.
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.
Stan & Ollie
Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly capture the magic of entertainment and friendship in this warm, winning biopic.
Mr Blandings Builds His Dream House
Cary Grant and Myrna Loy star in this comedy about a family forced out of their Manhattan apartment court disaster when they buy a dilapidated country house, fit only for demolition.
This superbly acted coming-of-age Brit flick isn’t exactly what you’d call a comedy – but it’s a helluva set.
British Films on BBC Two
Gymnast Frankie Box delivers a starmaking performance in Eva Riley’s fantastic coming-of-age debut.
This beautifully atmospheric coming-of-age mystery is a confident, stylish calling card for debut director Claire Oakley.
One Man and His Shoes
This excellent, unflinching documentary charts the story of the Air Jordan phenomenon, showing the sneakers’ social, cultural and racial significance and how groundbreaking marketing strategies created a multi-billion-dollar business.
Silver Screen Classics
Silver Screen Classics: Collection 1
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).
Silver Screen Classics: Collection 2
Just when you think BBC iPlayer can’t spoil us any more, up pops a second wave of classic films from RKO Pictures, one of Hollywood’s Golden Age studios. This collection includes the classic Gershwin musical A Damsel in Distress, classic 1950s chiller The Thing from Another World, and more Katherine Hepburn, Ginger Rogers and Cary Grant than you can shake a stick at. Other titles include: Second Chance, I Remember Mama, Holiday Affair, Bachelor Knight, Yellow Canary, Primrose Path, Sylvia Scarlett, Hotel Reserve, Anne of Green Gables and Anne of Windy Poplars.
David Robert Mitchell’s riveting horror does for pedestrians what Jaws did for sharks.
Six years after the death of her husband, Amelia struggles to discipline her out of control 6 year-old Samuel, a son she finds difficult to love. Samuel’s dreams are plagued by a monster he believes is coming to kill them both. When a disturbing storybook called The Babadook turns up at their house, Samuel is convinced that the Babadook is the creature he’s been dreaming about. The Babadook astutely unites the wry, modern storybook incarnation with the genre’s disturbing past. The result is one of the horror movies of recent years.
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.
The first horror film producer Val Lewton made for RKO Pictures redefined the genre by leaving its terrors to the audience’s imagination. A Serbian émigré in Manhattan believes that, because of an ancient curse, any physical intimacy with the man she loves will turn her into a feline predator.
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 classic, which sees a group of people barricaded in a farmhouse to survive the reawakening of the dead, remains as chillingly relevant as ever.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Wallace & Gromit: Shorts
Enjoy a triple-bill of Aardman’s charming stop-motion duo with The Wrong Trousers, A Grand Day Out and A Matter of Loaf and Death all available to stream.
This underrated sci-fi is an original, inventive family adventure.
Kung Fu Panda
This un-lethal furball of a film is perfect for kids of all sizes
This flawless family comedy will make you laugh, cry and fall in love with Hugh Grant. What more could you want?