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Top films to watch on TV this week

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Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Bruhl as 1970s Formula 1 drivers James Hunt and Niki Lauda in Rush (Friday, BBC1, 10.45pm)

Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Bruhl as 1970s Formula 1 drivers James Hunt and Niki Lauda in Rush (Friday, BBC1, 10.45pm)

Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Bruhl as 1970s Formula 1 drivers James Hunt and Niki Lauda in Rush (Friday, BBC1, 10.45pm)

Wednesday: Independence Day (1996) Film4, 9pm - Essentially a reworked version of War of the Worlds, Independence Day sees a whole host of aliens visit Earth, intent on destroying it.

After the world's landmarks are laid to waste spectacularly, it seems to fall to the Americans - in the form of cocky, courageous fighter pilot Will Smith, computer genius Jeff Goldblum and plucky president Bill Pullman - to save the planet.

Don't let the flag-waving patriotism put you off - or the Grand Canyon-sized plot holes, such as Smith's remarkable capacity to fly an alien space ship and Goldblum hacking into an alien mainframe with not so much a system error in sight, for that matter - this is glorious escapism. Featuring fun performances, a super David Arnold score and impressive special effects, it's blockbuster that deserved the hype.

THURSDAY

The History Boys (2006) BBC4, 10.40pm

An acclaimed adaptation of Alan Bennett's award-winning play, The History Boys is a deeply moving lesson in schooldays nostalgia, centring on the tug of war between teachers and students at a grammar school in the mid-1980s.

The headmaster (Clive Merrison) is focusing his attention on ushering his brightest boys into the esteemed halls of Oxford and Cambridge. He enlists the services of eccentric English teacher Hector (Richard Griffiths), but he also drafts in impassioned twentysomething supply teacher Irwin (Stephen Campbell Moore).

The boys - who include Dominic Cooper, Russell Tovey and James Corden - find their allegiances torn between inspirational and unconventional Hector, and newcomer Irwin, who favours flashy presentation over rigorous scholarship.

FRIDAY

Rush (2013) BBC1, 10.45pm

During the 1970s, rubber burnt and tempers frayed between two very different Formula 1 drivers: charismatic ladies' man James Hunt and incredibly ambitious Austrian speed fiend Niki Lauda.

Their daredevil duels reached a horrifying crescendo at the 1976 German Grand Prix at the Nurburgring when Lauda's Ferrari burst into flames, trapping him in the inferno. Just six weeks later, Lauda emerged from hospital with extensive scarring, determined to prevent Hunt from claiming the chequered flag at Monza.

This incredible story of courage and resilience is dramatised in Ron Howard's superb biopic. It charts the rivalry between Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and Lauda (Daniel Bruhl) from their early days through to the glamour of the Formula 1 circuit.

SATURDAY

Monsters University (2013) BBC1, 5.15pm

Mike Wazowski (voiced by Billy Crystal) excitedly heads off to university to realise his dream of becoming a scarer. He befriends shy roommate Randall Boggs (Steve Buscemi) and impresses his teachers by regurgitating facts from textbooks.

However, classmate James P Sullivan aka Sulley (John Goodman) gets all the attention and is courted by the Roar Omega Roar fraternity and its dashing president, Johnny Worthington (Nathan Fillion). Eventually, Mike snaps and declares war on Sulley, and the rivals' fates rest on an end-of-term exam, which must be passed or Dean Hardscrabble (Helen Mirren) will expel them from the course.

Monsters University boasts the same appealing cocktail of comedy, action and touching friendship as its predecessor, Monsters, Inc, including some lively supporting performances.

SUNDAY

The Ipcress File (1965) BBC2, 3.45pm

Spy Harry Palmer (Michael Caine) hates his job, but at the same time seems unable to escape it. He's assigned to track down a missing doctor who possesses a file which, if it fell into the wrong hands, could spell disaster. While Palmer immerses himself in his man-hunt, his boss uses him as leverage to secure the information.

Described as 'the thinking man's Goldfinger', this is a must for all devotees of Cold War thrillers. You may have to concentrate to follow the story, but after the first 10 minutes, you're hooked.

Caine, in one of his trademark roles, is on superb form as the devil-may-care leading character.

MONDAY

American Sniper (2014) ITV4, 10pm

Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper, excellent) enlists in the US Navy and gains a reputation for sharp shooting. Away from the base, Chris meets Taya (Sienna Miller). They marry and she raises their family alone while he fights overseas and attempts to outwit an elusive rival sniper called Mustafa (Sammy Sheik).

With each successive tour, Chris returns home unable to communicate effectively with his loved ones. American Sniper is an impeccably crafted biopic of the most lethal marksman in US military history.

Clint Eastwood's film unfolds from Kyle's fervently patriotic perspective and the lack of narrative balance might trouble some viewers. However, the veteran director is more interested in the psychology of a father and husband than wading through the politics and morality of modern warfare.

Online Editors