Starter for 10 (film)

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Starter for 10
Starter for ten.jpg
US release poster
Directed by Tom Vaughan
Produced by
Written by David Nicholls
Music by Blake Neely
Cinematography Ashley Rowe
Edited by Heather Persons
Distributed by Icon Film Distribution (UK)
Picturehouse (US)
Release dates
  • 10 November 2006 (2006-11-10) (UK)
  • 23 February 2007 (2007-02-23) (US)
Running time
92 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Budget $8,287,000[1]
Box office $1,736,394[2]

Starter for 10 is a 2006 British comedy-drama film directed by Tom Vaughan from a screenplay by David Nicholls, adapted from his own novel Starter for Ten. The film stars James McAvoy as a university student who wins a place on a University Challenge quiz team. It premiered at the Toronto Film Festival in September 2006, and was released in the UK and Ireland on 10 November 2006, and in Canada and the US on 23 February 2007.


In 1985, Brian Jackson is a first-year university student and information sponge. Since his working-class childhood in Southend-on-Sea, Brian has loved the TV quiz show University Challenge, whose famous catchphrase—"Your starter for 10"—gives the film its title. Soon after arriving at Bristol University, Brian attends a party where he meets the politically conscious Rebecca, with which he seems to have an instant connection. Brian attempts to join their University Challenge team but narrowly fails to secure a spot when he helps another potential candidate, Alice, cheat on the qualifying test. Brian falls for the glamorous Alice and tries to date her, despite her multiple signals that she only sees him as a platonic friend. As the term starts, Brian is invited to join the University Challenge team after one of the other members falls ill. The captain of the team, Patrick Watts, is a stuck-up post-grad who has managed to remain team captain despite never having achieved success on University Challenge. Brian immediately impresses the rest of the team with his wealth of trivia knowledge and uses his time with the team to get closer to Alice, eventually getting invited to her house for Christmas vacation. Unfortunately, Brian embarrasses himself in front of her family by getting stoned while trying to impress Alice. He returns to campus to spend the rest of his vacation and meets back up with Rebecca. They once again hit it off, but as they are hooking up, he inadvertently calls her "Alice", offending her and ruining the moment. Following his romantic failures, he talks with Spencer, his friend from back home who informs him that he is in legal trouble due to his criminal pursuits. Brian invites him to campus for a party before he has to face the judge.

During the party, Patrick insults Spencer's upbringing and belittles him to the rest of the partygoers. In retaliation, Spencer hits Patrick in the face and disrupts the party. In the aftermath, Brian shares a drink with Rebecca and tries to apologize for his behavior. However, Rebecca still feels that Brian is in love with Alice and encourages him to follow his heart and tell her how he feels. He takes her advice and arrives at her flat to declare his love, but discovers Spencer already there. Excited by his violent behavior at the party, she had invited him back to her place. Brian feels betrayed by both Alice and Spencer, especially since he had told his friend how he had felt about her. Brian falls into a depression and struggles with not only concentrating during University Challenge practices, but also with his studies, threatening his enrollment at school. Patrick becomes increasingly frustrated with Brian, and just as they arrive for their University Challenge match, he berates him for his lack of focus. Brian headbutts Patrick in response, but only ends up knocking himself unconscious. He is revived backstage by Rebecca who has come to watch the show and gives him encouragement before he is escorted to the set. However, as he is being brought back to his team, Brian is briefly left with an opened envelope containing the questions for the upcoming challenge. He reads one of the cards before putting it back in the envelope, and inspired by the relative ease of the question, he rejoins his team. The match starts off poorly, with nerves clearly getting to Patrick as he flubs several questions and puts the team in a hole. However, Brian slowly but surely digs them out of it, rapidly getting into a groove as he answers question after question. As the match is heating up and Brian's team has all the momentum, Brian inadvertently gives the answer to the card that he had previously seen even before the judge even has time to read the question. Realizing that Brian has seen the cards, the judge suspends the match and Brian's team is disqualified.

Brian returns home and falls back into another depression, sleeping all day and ignoring all incoming calls. His mother tries to get him out of the house, but the only person who is finally able to reach him is Spencer. He tells Brian that the judge had gone easy on him and that he is sorry for his behavior and proud of Brian for chasing his dreams at University. Inspired by his friend, Brian returns to school and meets with his professor, promising him that he is back for good. He then blows off Alice to visit Rebecca at a protest against nuclear weapons. He asks her if it she could ever forgive him for all the mistakes he has made, and if they can start over. She replies that he already knows the answer, and they kiss as the movie ends.



Despite being set at Bristol University, the main quad and Gustave Tuck lecture theatre of University College London were used as sets. The University of Bristol Students Union building is in fact the university's School of Chemistry. The Granada TV studios are actually at the back of BBC Television Centre: the corridor (actually leading to the BBC multi-storey car park) was transformed for a day for the filming in 2005 with the addition of a Granada logo and pictures of past stars. The buildings at the end where a demonstration was held in which Brian tells Rebecca how much he likes her is the Queen Mary Court and King William Court at the University of Greenwich. Brian's home is shown as a quaint seaside cottage, supposedly located in Westcliff-on-Sea. These scenes were actually filmed in the small village of Jaywick, near Clacton-on-Sea, with the real Westcliff bearing little resemblance to its onscreen depiction. Clacton Pier was used for the scenes set on the pier at Southend-on-Sea.


The film received positive reviews, with an 89% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 75 reviews; the site's consensus states: "Starter For 10 is a spirited coming-of-age tale that remains charming and witty even as it veers into darker territory. The unique setting of a quiz show makes the film wittier than your average romantic comedy."[3]


The soundtrack features music from Kate Bush, The Cure, The Psychedelic Furs, Buzzcocks, Yazoo, Motörhead, The Smiths, Echo & the Bunnymen, The Undertones, Tears for Fears, The Style Council, among others. The song "Ace of Spades", which appears at the beginning of the film, was performed by Motörhead in the "Bambi" episode of The Young Ones, filmed in Bristol, that included the University Challenge spoof.


  1. ^ "BFI | Film & TV Database | STARTER FOR 10 (2006)". 16 April 2009. Retrieved 6 August 2010. 
  2. ^ "Starter for 10 (2007)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 6 August 2010. 
  3. ^ Starter For 10 at Rotten Tomatoes

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