Starter for 10

March 9, 2007 0 By Fans
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Set in 1985, working-class student Brian Jackson (McAvoy) navigates his first year at Bristol University.

Release Year: 2006

Rating: 6.7/10 (8,189 voted)

Critic's Score: 69/100

Tom Vaughan

Stars: James McAvoy, Alice Eve, Rebecca Hall

In 1985, against the backdrop of Thatcherism, Brian Jackson enrolls in the University of Bristol, a scholarship boy from seaside Essex with a love of knowledge for its own sake and a childhood spent watching "University Challenge," a college quiz show. At Bristol he tries out for the Challenge team and falls under the spell of Alice, a lovely blond with an extensive sexual past. He's smitten, and he carelessly manages to hurt the feelings of Rebecca Epstein, a friend whose politics and wit he admires. The Challenge finale is coming up; maybe Brian can redeem himself and still avoid being a prat.

Writers: David Nicholls, David Nicholls


Joseph Friend

Young Brian

James Gaddas

Martin Jackson

Catherine Tate

Julie Jackson

Mark Gatiss

Bamber Gascoigne

Robert Cawsey

University Challenge Competitor

Rasmus Hardiker

University Challenge Competitor

Guy Henry

Dr. Morrison

James McAvoy

Brian Jackson

James Corden


Dominic Cooper


Simon Woods


Sule Rimi


Joe Van Moyland

Hippy at the Party

Rebecca Hall

Rebecca Epstein

Benedict Cumberbatch

Patrick Watts


Official Website:
Picturehouse |

Release Date: 9 March 2007

Filming Locations: BBC Television Centre, Wood Lane, Shepherd's Bush, London, England, UK

Opening Weekend: £207,345
(12 November 2006)
(84 Screens)

Gross: $177,442
(18 March 2007)

Technical Specs


Did You Know?


Despite the fact she plays his mother Catherine Tate is only 11 years older than James McAvoy.


Factual errors:
ISTR institutions did not enter every year in the original series. They were invited to compete on a rota basis.


Brian Jackson:
Got an announcement to make. I'm gonna be on University Challenge.

Julie Jackson:
What a relief. I thought you were gonna say you were gay.

User Review

Sweet, moving, emotional winner

Rating: 10/10

I attended the world premiere of "Starter for Ten" at the Toronto
International Film Festival. First things first. Just as director Tom
Vaughan did in introducing the film, let's get the explanation of the
title out of the way. The plot centers around a group of university
students competing on "University Challenge," a popular UK quiz show in
which the host begins by announcing, "Starter for Ten…" The American
equivalent would be, "I'll take Famous Armadillos for 20, Alex." Now
that we're set in place, let's get set in time.

This is a period piece — 1985, to be exact. And make no mistake about
it — the filmmakers went all out to recreate the mid-80's — sets,
costumes, hair and, most importantly (for this writer, anyway) the
music. And oh, what great songs. That had me from the word "go."
Finally, we need a protagonist. One who is captivating enough to
command 90 minutes of our time. And this is, perhaps, the crowning
achievement of this film. His name is James McAvoy, and he had no less
than three films screening in Toronto this year. Talk about prolific.
Though a bit older than the character Brian Jackson, he's convincing as
a teenager off to discover himself and of what he is capable, in
school, life, and affairs of the heart. He wins us over because he
commands the screen and the script, and has the eyes of innocence and
vulnerability with which we can all identify. He is everyman — every
boy/man — and no doubt we see our own coming-of-age through his eyes.
Throw all those elements together with a compelling love story and you
have a formula for success. I asked McAvoy after the screening what his
most difficult scene was. Without giving anything away, I'll just say
that he becomes emotional at times, and quite convincingly. He told me
that he had to keep reminding himself that it was Brian who was sad,
not James. That's powerful stuff. This is a sweet, moving film which
left me wanting more. I'll take "Starter for Ten," and I think you
will, too.