Till to The Beanie Bubble: the seven best films to watch on TV this week

A passionate and furious film about a 14-year-old boy killed in the US in the 50s, and a quirky story about Beanie Babies becoming a word-of-mouth craze

Pick of the week


The murder of 14-year-old Emmett Till in 1955 in Mississippi was a landmark moment in the recent history of racist oppression in the US – and it gets an appropriately furious treatment in Chinonye Chukwu’s fact-based drama. Danielle Deadwyler is passionate and affecting as Emmett’s mother Mamie, whose fears about her bubbly, confident son leaving the safety of Chicago for the deep south – where racial tensions are more heightened – are tragically realised. The film skilfully shows how her grief and determination to get justice have to be weighed against the wider social impact, not least the political opportunity it offers for the Black civil rights movement.
Monday 24 July, Prime Video



Leslie Ash and Phil Daniels in Quadrophenia.
I predict a riot … Leslie Ash and Phil Daniels in Quadrophenia. Photograph: The Who Films/Allstar

Franc Roddam’s cult British film is based on an album by the Who, but their songs are mostly background to a straight kitchen-sink drama of teenage rebellion. Phil Daniels stars as Jimmy, a mod in 1964 west London who’s up for a scrap with any rockers there or, come the weekend, in Brighton. The tribal nature of his and his friends’ lives is fascinating – from their music and clothes to the Lambrettas they race around on and the amphetamines they pop. A young supporting cast includes Ray Winstone, Toyah Willcox and, preening away as the coolest mod Ace Face, Sting.
Saturday 22 July, 10.50pm, BBC Two



Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor in Cleopatra.
Love at first sight … Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor in Cleopatra. Photograph: Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

Everything about this historical drama is epic. The story of the ancient Egyptian queen and her affairs with Roman leaders Julius Caesar and Marc Antony deals with the rise and fall of empires. The film was the most expensive ever made, got through two directors and saw its lead actor, Elizabeth Taylor, hospitalised twice, while her affair with co-star Richard Burton (playing Marc Antony) made global headlines. And it’s four hours long. But what a show it puts on – sumptuous and melodramatic, with the real-life passion between Taylor and Burton quite clear.
Sunday 23 July, noon, BBC Two


Erin Brockovich

Julia Roberts in Erin Brockovich.
Seeing it through … Julia Roberts in Erin Brockovich. Photograph: Universal/Allstar

Julia Roberts rightly won an Oscar for her role in Steven Soderbergh’s 2000 biographical drama. As Erin, a hard-up single mother of three, she has an everywoman empathy and innate intelligence that sees her talk her way into a job with Albert Finney’s California law firm, and then take the lead on a case of industrial pollution by a gas and electric company, which led to health problems for hundreds of people. It’s the little folk v the big corporation, so it’s easy to take sides, but there is plenty of wit and the thrill of the chase as Erin outsmarts the suits.
Monday 24 July, 9pm, Great! Movies


The Blair Witch Project

The Blair Witch Project.
Fear of unknown … The Blair Witch Project. Photograph: Pathe

Its found-footage format has now become commonplace in horror, but when this film came out in 1999, backed by a viral marketing campaign, it was hard to tell what was real and what wasn’t. Three students go into the Maryland woods to make a documentary about a local legend … and never come back. Largely improvised and filmed entirely by the actors, it relies on the unseen being as scary as the seen and succeeds brilliantly, as things go bump – and then bumpier – in the night.
Tuesday 25 July, 11pm, Sky Sci-Fi


The Beanie Bubble

Elizabeth Banks and Zach Galifianakis in The Beanie Bubble.
Comfort baby … Elizabeth Banks and Zach Galifianakis in The Beanie Bubble. Photograph: Apple TV+

What with the recent Nike/Jordan film Air, there now seems to be a strain of films telling quirky stories about products. In this enjoyable comedy-drama, directors Kristin Gore and Damian Kulash tell all about the Beanie Baby, a soft toy that became a word-of-mouth craze and a cash cow for creator Ty Warner (Zach Galifianakis). The focus is not on the petulant, Wonka-ish Ty, though, but the women who played a big part in his success: his partner Robbie (Elizabeth Banks), intern Maya (Geraldine Viswanathan) and girlfriend Sheila (Sarah Snook), whose two kids assisted in the toys’ creation.
Friday 28 July, Apple TV+


I Wanna Dance With Somebody

Naomi Ackie as Whitney Houston in I Wanna Dance With Somebody.
Sing-along … Naomi Ackie as Whitney Houston in I Wanna Dance With Somebody. Photograph: Everett Collection Inc/Alamy

An attempt to put Whitney Houston back on the pedestal that recent documentaries have threatened to knock her off, Kasi Lemmons’s biopic gives us a large dose of the singer’s phenomenally popular music and her standout live performances (expertly lip-synced by star Naomi Ackie). Despite being far from a misery memoir, it touches on her secret relationship with Robyn Crawford, a troubled marriage to Bobby Brown and her drug addiction, while her tragic ending precludes any redemptive story arc.
Friday 28 July, 8pm, Sky Cinema Premiere


Simon Wardell

The GuardianTramp

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