3 Best Movies to Watch by Bill Paterson

Staff & contributors

One of Shakespeare’s most indelible works is brought roaring to life in this explosive adaptation. The action is transposed from the 1400s to brutalist 1930s England, with the bloody civil war between the houses of Lancaster and York being waged by tanks and planes instead of cavalry. The switch isn’t merely cosmetic, though: in an inspired move, usurper Richard is reimagined here as the fascist head of an army of Nazi-esque Blackshirts (an analog of real militant far-right leader Oswald Mosley). Ian McKellen, who also co-wrote the screenplay, gives an odious but brilliant performance as the titular Machiavellian schemer who will stop at nothing to seize the crown, even betraying his own blood.

McKellen is joined by a gluttony of acting talent: Maggie Smith plays the King's despairing mother, Annette Bening and Robert Downey Jr. are the unfortunate American queen and her brother, while the likes of Jim Broadbent, Bill Paterson, Kristin Scott Thomas, and Jim Carter fill up the royal court. All the richness of Shakespeare’s original writing is retained, charging the performances and the film around them with a grand sense of drama. Peter Biziou’s ostentatious cinematography is a perfect frame for it all, and helps cement this as much, much more than a piece of filmed theater.

Genre: Drama, War

Actor: Adrian Dunbar, Andy Rashleigh, Annette Bening, Bill Paterson, Christopher Bowen, Denis Lill, Derek Lyons, Dominic West, Donald Sumpter, Edward Hardwicke, Edward Jewesbury, Ian McKellen, James Dreyfus, Jim Broadbent, Jim Carter, John Wood, Kate Steavenson-Payne, Kristin Scott Thomas, Maggie Smith, Michael Elphick, Nigel Hawthorne, Robert Downey Jr., Roger Hammond, Tim McInnerny, Tres Hanley

Director: Richard Loncraine

Rating: R

Don’t be fooled by its obvious parallels to Ghost (not a bad film, but a very different one): Truly, Madly, Deeply isn’t much concerned with the supernatural logistics of its back-from-the-dead-boyfriend premise, and it doesn’t feature any psychics or murders, either. In fact, there’s an argument to be made that everything that takes place here happens in its protagonist's imagination — that’s how much it ignores the ‘how’ of it all.

Instead, this deeply warm rom-com from the great Anthony Minghella grapples head-on with the emotional challenges of grief and moving on. Juliet Stevenson’s performance as the bereft Nina is up there as one of the most moving portrayals of loss the screen has seen, and not just because of how believable her intense cry-acting is. When she realizes her deceased boyfriend Jamie (Alan Rickman, as seductive and sardonic as always) has returned to the land of the living, her euphoria brings to aching life the dream that everyone who’s ever lost a loved one must surely have dreamt: how joyous it would be to see them again. Blending such raw observations with wry humor — and anchored by two leads with genuine chemistry — this is a profoundly moving and rewarding movie.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Fantasy, Romance, TV Movie

Actor: Alan Rickman, Arturo Venegas, Bill Paterson, Christopher Rozycki, David Ryall, Deborah Findlay, Frank Baker, Juliet Stevenson, Michael Maloney, Nitin Ganatra, Richard Syms, Teddy Kempner, Terry Molloy, Tony Bluto, Vania Vilers

Director: Anthony Minghella

That one of 1990’s scariest movies is a kids’ movie makes sense when you know it’s an adaptation of a Roald Dahl story (and directed by horror legend Nicolas Roeg, no less). The Witches dispenses with most of the trappings of kids’ films, swapping bright bubbliness and cute animal CGI for macabre thrills and uncanny valley puppetry courtesy of Jim Henson. It’s astonishingly scary, given its PG certification — not just for its intended audience but for adults, too. Death, grief, and evildoers who prey on children all make an early appearance and never leave the film’s frame, stalking young Luke (Jasen Fisher) and his grandmother (Mai Zetterling) across countries as they try to make a new start in England following a family tragedy in Norway. In typical Dahl style though, The Witches — with its creepy premise and high camp touches — finds a clever balance between being nightmare-inducing and deliciously fun, a tonal blend that harks back to the twisted appeal of traditional fairy tales.

Genre: Comedy, Family, Fantasy, Horror

Actor: Anjelica Huston, Annabel Brooks, Anne Lambton, Anne Tirard, Bill Paterson, Brenda Blethyn, Brian Hawksley, Charlie Potter, Jane Horrocks, Jasen Fisher, Jenny Runacre, Jim Carter, Leila Hoffman, Mai Zetterling, Michael Palin, Nicolas Roeg, Roberta Taylor, Rosamund Greenwood, Rowan Atkinson, Sukie Smith, Sverre Røssummoen, Vincent Marzello

Director: Nicolas Roeg

Rating: PG