Starter for 10 (film)

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Starter for 10
Starter for ten.jpg
US release poster
Directed byTom Vaughan
Written byDavid Nicholls
Based onStarter for Ten by David Nicholls
Produced by
CinematographyAshley Rowe
Edited byHeather Persons
Music byBlake Neely
Distributed by
Release date
  • 10 November 2006 (2006-11-10)
Running time
92 minutes
CountriesUnited Kingdom
United States[1][3]
Box office$1.7 million[2]

Starter for 10 is a 2006 British comedy-drama film directed by Tom Vaughan from a screenplay by David Nicholls, adapted from his 2003 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 International 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, with its catchphrase, "Your starter for 10...". Soon after arriving at Bristol University, Brian attends a party where he meets left-wing Rebecca, with whom he feels an instant connection. Brian attempts to join the University Challenge team, but narrowly fails to secure a place when he helps another candidate, Alice, cheat on the qualifying test.

Brian falls for the glamorous Alice and tries to date her, despite her signals that she sees him as a friend. As term starts, Brian is invited to join the team after a member falls ill. The captain, Patrick, is a stuck-up post-grad who has remained captain despite never having achieved success on University Challenge. Brian impresses the team with his trivia knowledge and uses his time to get closer to Alice, eventually getting invited to her house for Christmas.

Unfortunately, Brian embarrasses himself in front of her family by getting stoned while trying to impress Alice. He returns to Bristol for the rest of the vacation and meets Rebecca again. They 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 to Spencer, his friend from Southend, who admits to being in legal trouble. Brian invites Spencer to a party before his court appearance.

During the party, Patrick insults Spencer's upbringing and belittles him. Spencer hits Patrick in the face and disrupts the event. Afterwards, Brian shares a drink with Rebecca and tries to apologise for his own behaviour. However, Rebecca still feels Brian loves Alice and encourages him to follow his heart and tell Alice how he feels. He takes her advice and arrives at Alice's flat to declare his love, but discovers Spencer there. Excited by his violent behaviour at the party, Alice had invited him back. Brian feels betrayed by them both, since he had told Spencer how he felt about Alice.

Brian gets depressed and struggles with concentrating during University Challenge practices and his studies, threatening his university place. Patrick becomes frustrated with Brian, and as they arrive for their University Challenge match, berates him for his lack of focus. In response, Brian headbutts Patrick, but only succeeds in 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.

On the way, Brian is briefly left alone with an open envelope containing the quiz questions. He reads one of the cards before putting it back in the envelope, and, inspired by the relative ease of the question, rejoins his team. The match starts off poorly, with nerves clearly getting to Patrick as he fails to answer several questions and puts the team in a hole. Brian slowly but surely digs them out of it, getting into his swing as he answers question after question.

As the match is heating up and Brian's team has the momentum, Brian inadvertently gives the answer to the question he had previously seen before quizmaster Bamber Gascoigne has even begun to read it (he has merely introduced it as "an astronomy question"). Realising that Brian has seen the cards, Gascoigne suspends the match and Brian's team is disqualified.

Brian returns home and falls into another depression, sleeping all day and ignoring calls. His mother tries to get him out of the house, but the person who finally reaches him is Spencer. He tells Brian that his court case has gone better than expected, and that he is sorry for his behaviour and proud of Brian for chasing his dreams.

Inspired by his friend, Brian returns to Bristol and meets his tutor, promising he is back for good. He then stands Alice up to find Rebecca, who is taking part in a political demonstration. He asks her if she could ever forgive him for his mistakes, and if they can start again. She replies that he already knows the answer, and they kiss.



Although 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 slightly run-down seaside house, supposedly located in Westcliff-on-Sea. These scenes were actually filmed in the small village of Jaywick, near Clacton-on-Sea. Clacton Pier was used for the scenes set on the pier at Southend-on-Sea.


The film received positive reviews, with a 90% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 78 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."[4]

Alice Eve later commented that there had been a "big debate" over whether the title of the film would be meaningful outside the UK, and that it "just didn't travel".[5]


The soundtrack features music from The Cure, The Smiths, The Psychedelic Furs, Buzzcocks, Yazoo, Motörhead, Echo & the Bunnymen, The Undertones, Tears for Fears, The Style Council and Kate Bush, among others.[6]


  1. ^ a b "Starter for 10 (2007)". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Retrieved 21 February 2021.
  2. ^ a b "Starter for 10 (2007)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 6 August 2010.
  3. ^ "Starter for 10 (2006)". British Film Institute.
  4. ^ Starter For 10 at Rotten Tomatoes
  5. ^ Stern, Marlow (11 July 2017) [18 May 2013]. "Alice Eve, the Beautiful New Trekkie, Talks 'Star Trek Into Darkness'". The Daily Beast. Retrieved 19 September 2022.
  6. ^ "Starter for 10 Soundtrack (2007)".

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