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The BAFTA Film Awards are an integral part of Hollywood’s annual awards season, helping to set the pace for the Academy Awards, and often recognizing movie-making accomplishments that other major awards ceremonies such as the Golden Globes and the SAG Awards overlook. Ahead of this year’s event, which takes place on Sunday, and airs that night at 9/8c on BBC America, here are 10 times the BAFTAs rewarded awesome performances that might otherwise have missed out on a really big acting award.

Carey Mulligan in An Education (2009)

Mulligan earned Oscar and Golden Globe nominations for her performance in this brilliant coming-of-age movie, but the BAFTAs went one better and handed her the Best Leading Actress trophy. As Jenny Mellor, a precocious English school girl seduced by a duplicitous older man, Mulligan delivers an authentic blend of intelligence and naivety that definitely deserves this kind of major recognition. She even beat out Saoirse Ronan (The Lovely Bones), Gabourey Sidibe (Precious), Audrey Tautou (Coco Before Chanel), and Meryl Streep (Julie & Julia).

Jamie Bell in Billy Elliott (2000)

Bell’s stirring performance as a young boy who overcomes prejudice to become an accomplished ballet dancer wasn’t even nominated at the Oscars or Golden Globes, but the BAFTAs made amends by voting him Best Leading Actor in a Leading Role – even ahead of Russell Crowe in Gladiator. At just 14 years old, he’s still the award’s youngest ever recipient.

Miriam Margolyes in The Age of Innocence (1993)

Martin Scorsese‘s adaptation of Edith Wharton‘s classic novel picked up a clutch of Oscar and Golden Globe nominations, but Margolyes’ memorable performance as the formidable Mrs. Mingott was only shortlisted by the BAFTAs. She went on to win the Best Supporting Actress prize that year, pipping her co-star Winona Ryder.

Colin Firth in A Single Man (2009)

In 2010, Firth won just about every major movie award for his performance as King George VI in The King’s Speech. But he was arguably just as impressive the previous year in director Tom Ford‘s stylish Christopher Isherwood adaptation, A Single Man. BAFTA duly voted him Best Leading Actor for his turn as a depressed British university professor sleepwalking through life in ’60s California, setting him up for back-to-back wins in the category.

Dev Patel in Lion (2017)

Patel won the BAFTAs’ Best Supporting Actor prize for his heartwarming performance as Saroo Brierley, the Indian-born Australian businessman who was reunited with his biological mother after finding his hometown on Google Earth. He had to settle for nominations from the other majors awards, so this home-grown recognition must have felt especially sweet – especially seeing as he beat out that year’s Oscar winner Mahershala Ali (Moonlight), plus Jeff Bridges (Hell or High Water), and fellow Brits Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Nocturnal Animals) and Hugh Grant (Florence Foster Jenkins).

Jude Law in The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)

Law’s signature role as handsome playboy Dickie Greenleaf was nominated by the Academy and Golden Globes, but the BAFTAs handed him the Best Supporting Actor trophy. He even beat fellow Brit Sir Michael Caine, who won the equivalent award at that year’s Oscars for his performance in The Cider House Rules.

Kristin Scott Thomas in Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994)

Scott Thomas’s elegant and acerbic Fiona is a real scene-stealer in this classic British rom-com, so it’s surprising that the BAFTAs were the only major awards guild to give her a nomination. She did go on to win that year’s Best Supporting Actress prize, though, triumphing over a field that included her Four Weddings co-star Charlotte Coleman.

Scarlett Johansson in Lost in Translation (2003)

Starring opposite Bill Murray in Sofia Coppola‘s wistful comedy-drama gave Johansson her career breakthrough, but rather surprisingly, she wasn’t Oscar-nominated for the role. The BAFTAs helped to make amends by nominating her twice for Best Actress that year – once for Girl with a Pearl Earring, the other for Lost in Translation – and handing her the statuette for the latter. As well as beating herself (essentially), Johansson triumphed over Uma Thurman (Kill Bill: Volume 1), Naomi Watts (21 Grams), and beloved British character actress Anne Reid (The Mother).

Pauline Collins in Shirley Valentine (1989)

Collins won Tony and Olivier awards for portraying Shirley Valentine, a middle-aged housewife enlivened by a holiday romance, in Willy Russell‘s stage play of the same name. She deservedly added a BAFTA Leading Actress award for her touching performance in the movie adaptation, but had to make do with only being nominated at the Oscars and Golden Globes.

Chiwetel Ejiofor in 12 Years a Slave (2014)

Ejiofor’s haunting portrayal of an African-American man born free before being sold into slavery earned him nominations at the Oscars, Golden Globes, and SAG Awards. The BAFTAs named him Best Leading Actor that year ahead of a shortlist that included Tom Hanks, Christian Bale, Leonardo DiCaprio and Bruce Dern.

As well as watching the BAFTA Film Awards on Sunday at 9/8c on BBC America, you can stream the red carpet arrivals live from London, starting at Noon at

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By Nick Levine