5 Best Movies to Watch by Joe Tucker

Staff & contributors

A woman yearns to find her biological mother, another woman struggles with infertility, a third wants to connect with her rebellious daughter. Director Mike Leigh has the prowess to seamlessly weave these stories together, and part of the joy is knowing, that like clockwork, these narratives are set on a spectacular collision course.

As melancholy as it is optimistic and as funny as it is tragic, Secrets & Lies is a perfect example of Leigh’s oeuvre and earned him a Cannes’ Palme d’Or. The film features a full cast of his regulars with the fantastic addition of Marianne Jean Baptiste as Hortense - the woman who sets the wheels of the film in motion.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Alison Steadman, Amanda Crossley, Angela Curran, Annie Hayes, Anthony O'Donnell, Brenda Blethyn, Brian Bovell, Claire Rushbrook, Clare Perkins, David Neilson, Denise Orita, Elizabeth Berrington, Emma Amos, Frances Ruffelle, Gary McDonald, Gordon Winter, Grant Masters, Hannah Davis, Jane Mitchell, Janice Acquah, Jean Ainslie, Joe Tucker, Jonny Coyne, Kate O'Malley, Keylee Jade Flanders, Lee Ross, Lesley Manville, Linda Beckett, Liz Smith, Lucy Sheen, Margery Withers, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Metin Marlow, Mia Soteriou, Michele Austin, Nitin Ganatra, Paul Trussell, Peter Stockbridge, Peter Waddington, Peter Wight, Phil Davis, Phyllis Logan, Rachel Lewis, Richard Syms, Ron Cook, Ruth Sheen, Sheila Kelley, Stephen Churchett, Su Eliott, Su Elliot, Su Elliott, Terence Harvey, Theresa Watson, Timothy Spall, Trevor Laird, 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

Growing up and growing old over time leads to natural separation between friends, but it doesn’t mean that you’ll never see each other again. Career Girls depicts an ordinary reunion between two women Hannah and Annie, but through the subtleties of writer-director Mike Leigh’s dialogue, and the chemistry between Katrin Cartlidge and Lynda Steadman, it captures the weathered yet fond friendship they share, despite all that has happened to them. It’s naturally bittersweet, the same way we remember old friends, but it's also comforting, just having a friend that sees you for who you are, regardless of the time that has passed since you’ve last met.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Andy Serkis, Joe Tucker, Kate Byers, Katrin Cartlidge, Lynda Steadman, Margo Stanley, Mark Benton

Director: Mike Leigh

From the director of Drive comes Bronson, the true story of a man who was sentenced to seven years in prison but ends up spending three decades in solitary confinement. Tom Hardy is phenomenal in this dark comedy. His character is so likable and you quickly feel sorry for what he is going through. No one can help him no matter how much he asks for it. Bronson has class, great acting, hilarious comedy, and a true story backing it up. There is nothing not to love about this film.

Genre: Action, Crime, Drama

Actor: Amanda Burton, Hugh Ross, James Lance, Joe Tucker, Jon House, Jonny Phillips, Juliet Oldfield, Katy Barker, Kelly Adams, Luing Andrews, Mark Powley, Matt King, Neil Broome, Tom Hardy, Tracy Wiles

Director: Nicolas Winding Refn

Rating: R

To be fair to this visibly low-budget adaptation of H. G. Wells' seminal science-fiction novel, it doesn't always settle for the cheap way out. Though it still leaves much to be desired in its visual effects, awkward action scenes, and generally unimaginative direction, Fear the Invisible Man makes a valiant effort to deepen its story by placing a strong, unlikely protagonist at its center (played in all seriousness and with admirable resolve by Mhairi Calvey). Since the titular villain isn't actually the star of the show—nor is he made out to be an ever-present threat, like in the modern 2020 adaptation—this version of The Invisible Man is able to circle relatively newer ideas about a woman's "invisible" place in the world, and how she's tempted to go down a path of pride and violence. If only the rest of the film could keep up with the script's ambition.

Genre: Horror, Science Fiction, Thriller

Actor: David Hayman, Delroy Brown, Emily Haigh, Grahame Fox, Joe Tucker, Marc Danbury, Mark Arnold, Mhairi Calvey, Mike Beckingham, Simon Pengelly, Wayne Gordon

Director: Paul Dudbridge