9 Best Movies to Watch by Daniel Mays

Staff & contributors
In a world where mortality has been overcome, people watch in awe as the as the 118-year-old Nemo Nobody, the last mortal on Earth, nears his end. He is interviewed about his life, recounting it at three points in time: as a 9-year-old after his parents divorced, when he first fell in love at 15, and as an adult at 34. The three stories seemingly contradict each other. Utilizing non-linear cinematography, Belgian director Jaco Van Dormael presents each of these branching pathways as a version of what could have been. The result is a complex, entangled narrative. That and the movie's ensemble cast, featuring Jared Leto, Sarah Polley, and Diane Kruger, have turned Mr. Nobody into a cult classic. The soundtrack, featuring several of the beautifully restrained music by Eric Satie, is also considered a masterpiece. While it is surely not for everybody, this is trippy, intimate, and existential sci-fi at its best.

Genre: Drama, Fantasy, Mystery, Romance, Science Fiction

Actor: Aaron Landt, Alice van Dormael, Allan Corduner, Andrew Simms, Audrey Giacomini, Ben Mansfield, Carlo Mestroni, Catherine Demaiffe, Christelle Cornil, Christophe Beaucarne, Clare Stone, Daniel Brochu, Daniel Mays, David Kennedy, David Schaal, Diane Kruger, Dominique Warnier, Harold Manning, Harry Cleven, Hugo Harold-Harrison, Jack Proudlove, Jan Hammenecker, Jared Leto, Jenna Wheeler-Hughes, John Churchill, Juliette Van Dormael, Juno Temple, Laura Brumagne, Laurent Capelluto, Leni Parker, Linh Dan Pham, Lola Pauwels, Manfred Andrae, Marc Zinga, Marie-Ève Beauregard, Martin Swabey, Natasha Little, Nicholas Beveney, Noa De Costanzo, Olivier Bony, Pascal Duquenne, Philippe Godeau, Philippe Lévy, Pierre Chaves, Renaud Alcalde, Rhys Ifans, Roline Skehan, Sandrine Laroche, Sarah Gravel, Sarah Polley, Serge Larivière, Stéphane Taillasson, Sylvie Olivé, Tanya Trombetta, Tedd Dillon, Thomas Byrne, Toby Regbo, Vincent Dupont, Virginie Bordes, Vito DeFilippo

Director: Jaco Van Dormael

Rating: R

Mike Leigh’s forthright and compassionate depiction of working-class life extends to his period pieces as well. Imelda Staunton is remarkable as Vera Drake, a housekeeper in 1950’s London who quietly performs abortions on the side.

Leigh’s vigilant portrayal of class highlights the stark divide between abortion access for the poor and what is offered to the rich. The storytelling is simple and straightforward, he doesn’t over-sentimentalize or grandstand, but merely depicts conditions as they were. Meanwhile, Staunton’s Vera oozes so much fullness, warmth, and empathy, that the heartbreak that follows is mercilessly palpable. 

Genre: Drama

Actor: Adrian Scarborough, Alan Williams, Alex Kelly, Allan Corduner, Angela Curran, Anna Keaveney, Anthony O'Donnell, Billie Cook, Billy Seymour, Chris O'Dowd, Craig Conway, Daniel Mays, Eddie Marsan, Eileen Davies, Elizabeth Berrington, Emma Amos, Fenella Woolgar, Gerard Monaco, Heather Craney, Helen Coker, Imelda Staunton, Jake Wood, James Payton, Jane Wood, Jeffry Wickham, Jim Broadbent, Joanna Griffiths, John Warman, Leo Bill, Lesley Manville, Lesley Sharp, Liz White, Marion Bailey, Martin Savage, Nicholas Jones, Nicky Henson, Nina Fry, Paul Jesson, Paul Raffield, Peter Wight, Phil Davis, Richard Graham, Robert Putt, Rosie Cavaliero, Ruth Sheen, Sally Hawkins, Sam Troughton, Sandra Voe, Sid Mitchell, Simon Chandler, Sinéad Matthews, Tilly Vosburgh, Tom Ellis, Vincent Franklin, Vinette Robinson, Wendy Nottingham

Director: Mike Leigh

Rating: R

Grounded by Lesley Manville and Timothy Spall’s powerhouse performances, this gut-wrenching family drama from Mike Leigh is an acting juggernaut. Penny and Phil are a working-class couple whose marriage is rapidly deteriorating and pushed to the brink when their son, played by a young James Corden, is hospitalized. 

While Manville and Spall are centered as the leads, Leigh draws a staggering amount of depth from Corden as well as a young Sally Hawkins who plays a neighbor. Despite being one of Leigh’s grimmest films, there is still a profound sweetness lingering at the edges as the story teeters between despondency and hope.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Alan Williams, Alex Kelly, Alison Garland, Badi Uzzaman, Ben Crompton, Brian Bovell, Daniel Mays, Daniel Ryan, Di Botcher, Diveen Henry, Dorothy Atkinson, Edna Doré, Emma Lowndes, Gary McDonald, Heather Craney, Helen Coker, James Corden, Jean Ainslie, Joe Tucker, Kathryn Hunter, Leo Bill, Lesley Manville, Marion Bailey, Mark Benton, Martin Savage, Matt Bardock, Maxine Peake, Michele Austin, Oliver Golding, Parvez Qadir, Paul Jesson, Peter Stockbridge, Robert Wilfort, Russell Mabey, Ruth Sheen, Sally Hawkins, Sam Kelly, Timothy Bateson, Timothy Spall

Director: Mike Leigh

Rating: R

A thrilling and fun film about a British working class bunch who find themselves in confrontation with the rich and powerful. This happens when their once-in -a-lifetime job lands them not on ly the expected money and jewelry, but documents with big secrets. The phrase "the good version of Jason Statham" applies not only to the actor but to the whole film - as it is enjoyable like all similar heist movies but adds that sadly forgotten thing called character. If you liked The Italian Job, The Town, or even films like Argo; you will love The Bank Job.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Alistair Petrie, Alki David, Andrew Brooke, Angus Wright, Antony Gabriel, Bronson Webb, Colin Salmon, Craig Fairbrass, Daniel Mays, David Suchet, Don Gallagher, Dylan Charles, Georgia Taylor, Gerard Horan, Hattie Morahan, James Faulkner, Jason Statham, Julian Firth, Julian Lewis Jones, Keeley Hawes, Michael Jibson, Mick Jagger, Peter Bowles, Peter de Jersey, Richard Lintern, Rupert Frazer, Rupert Vansittart, Saffron Burrows, Sharon Maughan, Stephen Campbell Moore

Director: Roger Donaldson

Rating: R

Atonement is a tribute to cinematography, an epic film that might just remind you why you fell in love with movies to begin with. A young girl and aspiring writer has a crush on the man her older sister loves, so the young sister indulges her imagination to accuse the man of a crime he didn't commit. The two are separated and the latter is then sent away to prison and after joins the army.  As the young girl grows up and realizes the true consequences of her actions, what can she do, what can anyone do, to remedy such a wrong? Winner of two Golden Globes and nominated to 6 Academy Awards.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Ailidh Mackay, Alfie Allen, Alice Orr-Ewing, Anthony Minghella, Benedict Cumberbatch, Billy Seymour, Brenda Blethyn, Bronson Webb, Charlie von Simson, Craig Douglas, Daniel Mays, Elliott Francis, Felix von Simson, Gina McKee, Harriet Walter, Ian Bonar, James McAvoy, Jamie Beamish, Jérémie Renier, John Normington, Johnny Harris, Julia West, Juno Temple, Keira Knightley, Leander Deeny, Lionel Abelanski, Mark Holgate, Michel Vuillermoz, Michelle Duncan, Neil Maskell, Nick Bagnall, Nonso Anozie, Olivia Grant, Patrick Kennedy, Paul Stocker, Peter McNeil O'Connor, Peter O'Connor, Peter Wight, Roger Evans, Romola Garai, Saoirse Ronan, Tilly Vosburgh, Tobias Menzies, Vanessa Redgrave, Vivienne Gibbs, Wendy Nottingham

Director: Joe Wright

Rating: R

Bryan Cranston, best known for his role as Walter White in the Breaking Bad series, stars as Robert Mazur, a federal agent, who goes undercover to infiltrate the trafficking network of Colombian drug kingpin Pablo Escobar. With the film based on Mazur’s memoir, Bryan Cranston gives an impressive lead performance that captures the intense distress that deep cover can bring. Besides Cranston, co-stars Benjamin Bratt, Diane Kruger, Amy Ryan, and an exceptional John Leguizamo are entirely persuasive and make the film experience enjoyable and intense. The Infiltrator is entertaining and maintains a good pace, with a great cast that makes it a true joy to watch, especially for those who enjoy stories based on real criminals. 

Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller

Actor: Amy Ryan, Andy Beckwith, Art Malik, Benjamin Bratt, Brad Furman, Bryan Cranston, Carsten Hayes, Daniel Mays, David Horovitch, Diane Kruger, Dinita Gohil, Ekaterina Zalitko, Elena Anaya, Georgia Braithwaite, Gino Picciano, Jasmine Jardot, Jason Isaacs, John Leguizamo, Jordan Loughran, Joseph Gilgun, Juliet Aubrey, Lara Decaro, Leanne Best, Matthew Stirling, Michael Pare, Natalie Davis, Niall Hayes, Olympia Dukakis, Richard Katz, Rubén Ochandiano, Saïd Taghmaoui, Tim Dutton, Tom Vaughan-Lawlor, Yul Vazquez

Director: Brad Furman

Rating: R

With every new Aardman production, their stop motion animation technique becomes more and more seamless, looking practically indistinguishable from the work being put out by other animation studios that use CG. However, Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget also threatens to flatten into the same kind of entertainment churned out by other studios at a faster rate. There isn't as much personality to either the story or the art direction—which gave the first Chicken Run film such a sense of urgency—and any ideas about how one's radical beliefs are tested with age never really get off the ground. And yet, what Aardman is able to do with actual tactile models will never not be impressive, these rebellious chickens standing as a tribute to handcrafted storytelling that will never be replaced.

Genre: Adventure, Animation, Comedy, Family

Actor: Alison Dowling, Amy McAllister, Bella Ramsey, Daniel Mays, David Bradley, David Brooks, Harry McEntire, Imelda Staunton, Jane Horrocks, Josie Sedgwick-Davies, Julia Sawalha, Kate Harbour, Lynn Ferguson, Miranda Richardson, Naomi McDonald, Nick Mohammed, Peter Serafinowicz, Ramanique Ahluwalia, Rebecca Gethings, Romesh Ranganathan, Sam Fell, Sam Wilkinson, Sarah Counsell, Shobu Kapoor, Sudha Bhuchar, Tamaryn Payne, Thandiwe Newton, Tim Bentinck, Tom Doggart, William Vanderpuye, Zachary Levi

Director: Sam Fell

Rating: PG

It isn't even just because it's a sequel, but every bit of Your Christmas or Mine 2 seems like it was sourced from other films with more personality, resulting in a stew of holiday tropes driven entirely by contrivances and conflicts that should be more easily resolved. And yet there's something that keeps the film far more tolerable than insufferable, as both Asa Butterfield and Cora Kirk compensate for the artificiality of the drama with authentic emotion. There are funny moments throughout and a decent supporting cast (who are given precious little to do), but all this adds up to a film that still feels like it was meant to be played in the background.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Alex Jennings, Angela Griffin, Anna Behne, Asa Butterfield, Christopher Sherwood, Cora Kirk, Daniel Mays, David Bradley, Jane Krakowski, Karl Markovics, Natalie Gumede, Ram John Holder, Rhea Norwood, Simon Hatzl

Director: Jim O'Hanlon

Rating: PG-13