4 Best Movies to Watch by Stephen Frears

Staff & contributors

An inspired by true events tale about an elderly Irish woman trying to find the child she was forced to give up many years earlier. Steve Coogan co-wrote the script and, though the base story is a tragic one, his special brand of very subtle, wry wit is apparent in the dialogue throughout. Judi Dench plays the mother who had kept her “sinful” past a secret for fifty years and, being Judi Dench, I don’t need to bother going on about her exemplary talent, suffice to say she’s charming beyond measure in the role. Steven Frears directs, as usual, deftly, and keeps the story compelling scene after scene, intensifying the emotions inherent to each, whether they be heart-warming, comedic, or outright enraging. Whoever decided to let Steve Coogan have his way with the script, it was a brave and wise choice and together this cast and crew have produced a wonderful and important piece of cinema.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Amber Batty, Anna Maxwell Martin, Barbara Jefford, Cathy Belton, Charissa Shearer, Charles Edwards, Charlie Murphy, Elliot Levey, Florence Keith-Roach, Frankie McCafferty, Gary Lilburn, Judi Dench, Kate Fleetwood, Mare Winningham, Marie Jones, Michelle Fairley, Nicholas Jones, Nika McGuigan, Paris Arrowsmith, Peter Hermann, Ruth McCabe, Sara Stewart, Sean Mahon, Simone Lahbib, Sophie Kennedy Clark, Steve Coogan, Wunmi Mosaku

Director: Stephen Frears

Rating: PG-13

Daniel Day-Lewis earned his breakout performance as Johnny, a reformed skinhead in this tale of  interracial gay romance in Thatcher’s Britain. Gordon Warnecke plays Johnny's lover Omar, the aimless son of a Pakistani intellectual who is given a leg-up by a successful uncle when he’s put in charge of rescuing a failing laundrette in gritty South London. Remarkably, Omar and Johnny’s romance isn’t presented as all that transgressive; far more central are the experiences and attitudes towards “assimilation” of Omar’s British-Pakistani family, the elders of whom live double lives and indulge both their financial and sexual greed. My Beautiful Laundrette is transgressive in many ways, but mostly in the dizzying array of tensions it sets its sights on — racial, ideological, class, generational, and gender — an ambitious quality that can, admittedly, overwhelm at times. But ambition is an admirable flaw for a film to have, particularly one as sharp and groundbreaking as this.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Ayub Khan-Din, Badi Uzzaman, Bhasker Patel, Charu Bala Chokshi, Chris Pitt, Colin Campbell, Daniel Day-Lewis, Dawn Archibald, Derrick Branche, Dulice Liecier, Garry Cooper, Gerard Horan, Gordon Warnecke, Jonathan Moore, Nisha Kapur, Ram John Holder, Richard Graham, Rita Wolf, Roshan Seth, Saeed Jaffrey, Shirley Anne Field, Souad Faress, Stephen Marcus

Director: Stephen Frears

Chiwetel Ejiofor stars as a disgraced doctor-turned-immigrant cab driver who inadvertently stumbles upon London's black market organ trade. Audrey Tatou and Sophie Okonedo also star as fellow "illegals" struggling to make ends meet in the shadows of England. This film is about illegal immigrants, it is told from their perspective, and because of that it becomes so humane that it indulges in social commentary. It's a really interesting, sometimes thrilling, watch.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller

Actor: Adrian Scarborough, Audrey Tautou, Benedict Wong, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Damon Younger, Darrell D'Silva, Deobia Oparei, Israel Aduramo, Jean-Philippe Écoffey, Jeffery Kissoon, Josef Altin, Kriss Dosanjh, Michael Mellinger, Nizwar Karanj, Noma Dumezweni, Paul Bhattacharjee, Ray Donn, Sergi Lopez, Sophie Okonedo, Sotigui Kouyaté, Zlatko Burić

Director: Stephen Frears

Rating: R

In this neo-noir crime drama, John Cusack, Anjelica Huston and Annette Bening play a trio of con-artists in modern day (1990) California. Roy (Cusack) is a small-stakes hustler prone to swindling bartenders and drunken sailors for pocket money, while Lilly (Huston) plays his estranged mother who reappears in his life while working a series of horse track bluffs. Myra (Bening) notches in between the two of them as Cusack’s boisterous yet conniving girlfriend, and the instant mutual dislike between her and Lilly sets the film’s course of action in motion. It’s a fun, edgy thriller that will leave you guessing up until it's shocking finale. Elevated immeasurably by Elmer Bernstein’s old-fashioned, hard boiled music score, The Grifters is a real feather in the hat for both director Stephen Frears and producer Martin Scorsese.

Genre: Crime, Drama

Actor: Anjelica Huston, Annette Bening, Billy Ray Sharkey, Charles Napier, David Sinaiko, Eddie Jones, Frances Bay, Gailard Sartain, Gregory Sporleder, Henry Jones, Ivette Soler, J.T. Walsh, Jan Munroe, Jeff Perry, Jeremy Piven, Jimmy Noonan, John Cusack, Jon Gries, Juliet Landau, Lou Hancock, Martin Scorsese, Michael Laskin, Micole Mercurio, Noelle Harling, Pat Hingle, Paul Adelstein, Richard Holden, Robert Weems, Sandy Baron, Stephen Tobolowsky, Steve Buscemi, Sy Richardson, Teresa Gilmore, Xander Berkeley

Director: Stephen Frears

Rating: R