The British Film Institute presents the best global cinema on-demand:
From classic and contemporary films to the best of the BFI National Archive.

A Star Is Born

Stars announce themselves with performances of note in films of record, showing the skills that would go on to bring them global glory.

Exceptional talents gather here, marking those roles which became a calling card for future celebrity.

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A Star Is Born
View Short Term 12
Short Term 12

Short Term 12 2013 15

Oscar winning Brie Larson stars as care-worker confronted by a troubled teen whose case history provokes a reminder of her own past.

97 mins USA Director. Destin Daniel Cretton

Brie Larson had several film credits before ST12, but it was the smash indie drama that really represented her breakthrough.

Her award-laden turn in Room accelerated her ascent, and she’s now firmly in the realms of superstardom having been cast as Captain Marvel.

View The Railway Children
The Railway Children

The Railway Children 1970 U

The beloved children’s classic about a London family who move near a Yorkshire railway station; one of the classiest examples of British period nostalgia.

104 mins United Kingdom Director. Lionel Jeffries

Jenny Agutter made her film debut as a 12-year-old in East of Sudan, but it was her lead role in both the TV (1968) and film (1970) versions of The Railway Children that brought her fame.

Months later she followed it with another precocious turn in Nic Roeg's Walkabout, begetting an exceptional career.

View Unrelated

Unrelated 2007 15

On a Tuscan break a fortysomething woman finds herself drawn to the company of a group of partying teens, including a young Tom Hiddleston (in one of his earliest roles).

96 mins United Kingdom Director. Joanna Hogg

Long before Thor, Tom Hiddleston earned his indie stripes with his charming performance in Joanna Hogg’s understated comic drama.

And commendably, he’s stayed loyal to Hogg by appearing in her two subsequent features, Archipelago and Exhibition.

View The Ipcress File
The Ipcress File

The Ipcress File 1965 PG

The coolest spy of all – Michael Caine’s Harry Palmer – makes his brilliant big screen debut in this landmark British spy thriller.

109 mins United Kingdom Director. Sidney J. Furie

Michael Caine may have already had a meaty supporting role in Zulu the previous year, but he first lead the line in this cult Len Deighton spy thriller.

And it really propelled his career, spawning two immediate sequels and ushering in a torrent of quality roles that would define his stature in British cinema.

View For Those in Peril
For Those in Peril

For Those in Peril 2013 18

An intense and mysterious drama about the lone survivor of a strange fishing accident who’s outcast and persecuted by his fellow villagers.

92 mins United Kingdom Director. Paul Wright

His star may still be rising, but George MacKay’s ascent looks assured.

Although he had plenty of screen credits already, his starring role (and subsequent Scottish BAFTA win) in For Those in Peril accentuated his star potential.

View Red Road
Red Road

Red Road 2006 18

Andrea Arnold’s highly acclaimed film, winner of top prizes at Cannes and the BFI London Film Festival, is a haunting drama about a woman confronting past demons.

109 mins United Kingdom Director. Andrea Arnold

Also a Scottish BAFTA winner, Kate Dickie has progressed to supporting roles in cultural behemoths like Prometheus and Game of Thrones.

But her first feature role was a lead, a stunning one at that, as she astutely anchored Andrea Arnold’s audacious drama.

View Play Me Something
Play Me Something

Play Me Something 1989 15

Tilda Swinton stars in a playful and ingenious cine-essay on the art of storytelling, from art critic John Berger and filmmaker Timothy Neat.

72 mins United Kingdom Director. Timothy Neat

Now another Marvel star (Doctor Strange), Tilda Swinton was once figurehead for a more experimental brand of cinema, being a regular muse for Derek Jarman.

And in this period she also appeared in this ingenious cine-essay from Timothy Neat and esteemed art critic John Berger.

View Herostratus

Herostratus 1967 15

A young poet (Michael Gothard) hires a marketing company to turn his suicide into a mass-media spectacle

142 mins United Kingdom Director. Don Levy

In a similar vein, the great Helen Mirren also made her feature debut in an experimental work, Don Levy’s startling and subversive media satire.

Fans will be pleased to see that, even in a small role, she imparts all the magnetic allure for which she'd later be famed.

View The Party's Over
The Party's Over

The Party's Over 1963 12

The partying of a wild group of beatniks lead by Oliver Reed has shocking consequences. Written by Marc Behm, directed by Guy Hamilton and with music by John Barry.

94 mins United Kingdom Director. Guy Hamilton

An alternative route to the big time for some British stars was via Britain's thriving youth and exploitation cinema.

Oliver Reed snarls his way wonderfully through beatnik drama The Party’s Over...

View The Wild and the Willing
The Wild and the Willing

The Wild and the Willing 1962

Ian McShane and John Hurt made their feature film debuts in this swinging 1960s drama centring on a group of students and their sexual exploits and escapades.

109 mins United Kingdom Director. Ralph Thomas

... While Ian McShane and John Hurt make their feature debuts in Ralph Thomas’ little-seen student romp.

The Wild and the Willing also boasts an early role for Samantha Eggar.

View The Crane
The Crane

The Crane 1993

Jude Law makes his film debut in this unusual short as a man who loses his job, his home and his fiancée, all in the space of one day.

16 mins United Kingdom Director. Philip O'Shea

Short films can also act as a calling card – usually for talent behind the cameras rather than those in front.

But Jude Law caught the eye in this quirky early short and within a year was fronting Paul W.S. Anderson’s feature Shopping.

View Penny Points to Paradise
Penny Points to Paradise

Penny Points to Paradise 1951 U

The first screen outing for Goons Show stars Peter Sellers, Spike Milligan and Harry Secombe is a cheerful comic escapade set in Brighton.

72 mins United Kingdom Director. Tony Young

View Let's Go Crazy
Let's Go Crazy

Let's Go Crazy 1951 U

Peter Sellers and Spike Milligan shine in a series of sketches and multiple roles, in this madcap mixture of music-hall and anarchic comedy.

33 mins United Kingdom Director. Alan J. Cullimore

Peter Sellers and fellow Goons Spike Milligan and Harry Secombe filmed these two comic capers before they were even broadcasting their landmark radio show.

View Soapbox Derby
Soapbox Derby

Soapbox Derby 1957 PG

Children’s Film Foundation adventure that sees a young Michael Crawford scrapping with a rival South London gang in Battersea.

64 mins United Kingdom Director. D'Arcy Conyers

View Operation Third Form
Operation Third Form

Operation Third Form 1966 U

John Moulder-Brown (Deep End) fronts a crack children’s spy unit in this ripping boy's own adventure.

56 mins United Kingdom Director. David Eady

And the family films of the Children’s Film Foundation offered early roles to Michael Crawford and John Moulder-Brown among many others.

View Radio On
Radio On

Radio On 1979 18

Chris Petit's cult classic is one of the most striking feature debuts in British cinema – a haunting blend of edgy mystery story and existential road movie.

100 mins United Kingdom Director. Chris Petit

Some precocious screen talents even go on to have great careers outside of cinema.

Sting’s strumming cameo in Radio On was filmed just as The Police broke through.

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