The best films on TV for free this bank holiday weekend

Captain Phillips, Four Weddings, Ender's Game, Ted, The Wolf of Wall Street, Pacific Rim, Legally Blonde, The Theory of Everything, The Muppets, Toy Story - we could go on, and we do, in this three-day guide to films on TV this bank holiday weekend

Pacific Rim

With the prospect of a bank holiday comes the prospect of cinematic thrills and spills brought to the small screen for our viewing and vegging pleasure. With that in mind, here are some of the best offerings this weekend to watch without any need for a pesky subscription.

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Saturday 26th August 

Captain Phillips (2013) ★★★★★ 10:15pm-12:45am, ITV

Tom Hanks stars in this nail-biting drama based on a true story from Bourne helmer and shaky cam enthusiast Paul Greengrass, which tells the story of the hijacking of a Maersk cargo ship by Somalian pirates, led by breakout performer Barkhad Abdi. It was Abdi who deservedly found himself nominated across the board at awards season, but Hanks’ performance is a masterclass in frailty and composure, and his final scene is gut-wrenching.

Ender’s Game (2013) ★★★ 6:55-9:00pm, C4 

Gavin Hood brings Orson Scott Card’s bestselling sci-fi novel to the big screen. Ender Wiggin is an incredibly gifted child who is whisked off to train in an advanced military academy in space to attack an alien enemy. Hood gives the story time to breathe and consider its moral quandaries, Asa Butterfield brings pathos to the role of Ender, and there is heavyweight support from Harrison Ford, Viola Davis and Ben Kingsley.

Ted (2012) ★★★★ 11:10pm-1:10am, C4

Family Guy creator Seth McFarlane writes, directs and voices the titular potty-mouthed, pot-smoking teddy bear, devoted to his owner and best friend, Mark Wahlberg’s slacker John. Ted’s presence is little more than an excuse to amplify the tried and true struggle between John and his girlfriend Lori (Mila Kunis) over his refusal to grow up. It’s a good thing that as excuses go it’s a pretty hilarious one, with the gags flying thick and fast and a few silly cameos thrown in for good measure.

Dumb and Dumber To (2014) ★ 9:00-11:10pm, C4

The Farrelly brothers’ most famous comic creations, the staggeringly stupid Harry Dunne and Lloyd Christmas (Jeff Daniels and Jim Carrey) return here twenty years since their first outing. Harry goes looking for a long-lost daughter in order to harvest one of her kidneys, and naturally, wacky hijinks ensue, though with a great deal less heart and more shock value than they did in 1994.

The Help (2011) ★★★ 10:40pm-1:00am, BBC2

With the recent success of Moonlight and Hidden Figures, now would be a good time to revisit this 2011 adaptation of Kathryn Stocker’s bestselling novel. Set in 60s Mississippi, it concerns a young aspiring journalist (Emma Stone), who decides to record the prejudicial experiences that black maids Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer have been experiencing under their employers. The tone can be schmaltzy, but Davis, Spencer and Jessica Chastain are all on typically powerhouse form.

The Man in the White Suit (1951) ★★★★★ 7:20-8:45am, BBC2

This 1951 comedy has all the hallmarks of classic British comic pedigree: a starring role for Alec Guinness, direction from The Ladykillers’ Alexander Mackendrick, and production by Ealing Studios. Guinness stars as a brilliant scientist, who invents a fabric which repels dirt and never wears out. The brilliance of such an invention is looked upon with growing horror by both the textile factories’ bosses and workers as they see they’ll be out of a job. Biting antiestablishment satire at a brisk pace.

Sunday 27th August

Toy Story 2 (1999) ★★★★★ 4:35-6:05pm, BBC1                                                                                                                                                             

The first sequel in Pixar’s best-loved franchise sees cowboy doll Woody (Tom Hanks) and plastic space ranger Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) separated, as the former is mistakenly taken by a greasy collector from a yard sale and the latter must rally Rex, Mr Potato Head and the rest of the gang for a daring rescue. This heartwarming adventure is greatly enlivened by the addition of Jesse (Joan Cusack), Stinky Pete (Kelsey Grammer) and loyal steed Bullseye, and has lots to say about moving on from possessions we once held dear. Arguably the best of the trilogy.

Muppet Treasure Island (1996) ★★★★ 2:05-4:05, E4                                                                                                                                        

One of the best cinematic Muppet offerings takes on Robert Louis Stevenson in this lively version of the classic tale. Tim Curry is a delightfully campy Long John Silver, and a young Kevin Bishop is Jim Hawkins. Further cameo support comes in the forms of Billy Connolly and Jennifer Saunders, and the film is replete with catchy musical numbers and the typically amusing romance between Kermit (playing Captain Smollett) and Miss Piggy (playing Benjamina).

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) ★★★★★ 11:15pm-2:30am, C4                                                                                                                                      

Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio’s fifth collaboration is their most debauched yet, a hedonistic cocktail of sex, drugs, and the second highest number of uses of the F-word in a film (second, we should add, only to a documentary on the word itself). Terence Winter’s script chronicles the rise and fall of a real life New York stockbroker whose flexible adherence to the law earned him millions, whilst attracting the watchful eye of the FBI. Scorsese employs a jet black comic tone, challenging the audience’s desire to emulate the lifestyles depicted onscreen, whilst DiCaprio is typically incendiary. The real surprises, however, are Jonah Hill as DiCaprio’s best friend and breakout star Margot Robbie as his ludicrously attractive wife.

Pacific Rim (2013) ★★★ 7:55-10:30pm, ITV2                                                                                                                                                                          

Giant monsters from another dimension emerge from beneath the Pacific to destroy the planet. The solution? Idris Elba’s leadership, and giant mechs called jaegers that can go toe to toe with them. Guillermo del Toro’s homage to Japanese Saturday morning cartoons is played straight to a fault, with too much wooden dialogue between city-crunching brawls  and Charlie Hunnam’s accent impossible to place when it is most needed. However, when the creatures emerge and humanity comes to face them the film really finds its groove.

An American Werewolf in London (1981) ★★★★  11.10pm-1.05am, Film4                                                                               

John Landis’ 1981 horror comedy sees David (David Naughton) and jack (Griffin Dunne) attacked on the Yorkshire Moors by a large canine animal, but none of the locals want to tell them what really happened. When David goes back to London, murders start occurring which cannot be explained…Rick Baker’s special effects and makeup are still effective today, as is the blackly comic tone.

Taken 3 (2015) ★★ 9:00-11:15pm, C4

The unlikely action franchise limps to its conclusion, as Liam Neeson’s former operative Bryan Mills (blessed, as we well know, with a “particular set of skills”) finds himself on the run after being framed for murder (and thus no one is actually “taken” this time around). The pace is frenetic, but the action is at times headache-inducingly choppy: look out for the ten second scene of Neeson jumping a fence that contains about 14 cuts – literally. The results are predictably bland.

Bank Holiday Monday 28th August

Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994) ★★★★★ 9:00-11;15pm, Film4

The film which introduced a floppy-haired Hugh Grant to the world, and made Richard Curtis the go-to man for depicting whimsical middle class English life (though Mike Newell was behind the camera on this occasion). There’s awkwardness, drunken slapstick, Andie McDowell’s luminous American love interest (to be emulated in some form in every ensuing Curtis film) and Simon Callow and John Hannah’s delightful couple. Airs directly after Curtis’ most recent effort, About Time.

The Searchers (1956) ★★★★★ 2:35-5:00pm, C5

A quintessential film in the oeuvre of its director, John Ford, its star, John Wayne, and the western genre as a whole. Wayne plays Confederate veteran Ethan Edwards, whose return to his homestead after the Civil War is interrupted by the kidnapping of his niece by Comanches. He embarks on a determined years-long quest to find her, with the spires of Monument Valley looming over him.

Over the Hedge (2006) ★★★ 9:00-10:15am, BBC2

You know that oft-praised Quicksilver scene from X-Men: Days of Future Past? Watch a hyperactive squirrel hopped up on energy drinks and voiced by Steve Carell do it here first, in this underrated offering from DreamWorks. Bruce Willis is the surprisingly duplicitous protagonist, a raccoon who owes a debt of hibernation food to Nick Nolte’s bear, and sets his eyes on a community of nearby animals to help him get it from the nearby human neighbourhood.

Legally Blonde (2001) ★★★★ 9:00-11:00pm, 5STAR

Reese Witherspoon’s hit comedy in which she plays a fashion student and sorority girl who, after being dumped by her boyfriend (Matthew Davis) for not being smart enough to be married to him, follows him to Harvard Law School to prove him wrong and get him back. Witherspoon is a ditzy delight throughout, and with a meaty supporting role from Jennifer Coolidge, what more could you want? Luke Wilson appears as a potential love interest.

The Theory of Everything (2014) ★★★★ 9:00-11:20pm, ITV

See Eddie Redmayne’s Oscar-winning turn as the internationally renowned theoretical physicist, alongside Felicity Jones as his wife Jane, in the big-hearted story of their romance at university, before his diagnosis with motor neurone disease, the initial prognosis of which only gave him two years to live. Redmayne’s physical diminishing over the course of the film is genuinely traumatic, despite the fact that we know the outcome, and former documentarian James Marsh guides proceedings with a sensitive hand. Strong support comes from David Thewlis and Maxine Peake.

Richard III (1955) ★★★★ 6:30-9:30pm, Talking Pictures TV

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With Laurence Olivier’s iconic portrayal of the hunchbacked king, this screen adaptation of Shakespeare serves really just to showcase to a wider audience the performance its star (as well as director and screenwriter) gave on stage. Still, you could do a lot worse than two-plus hours of Olivier doing Shakespeare to see out your bank holiday, especially when he’s in the role of the conniving and dastardly Richard of York, who causes death, destruction, and ultimately his own downfall as he ascends to the throne of England. John Gielgud and Ralph Richardson are on hand to provide stately support.