The Shape of Water, Channel 4, 9.30pm

Drawing on influences as varied as Mike Leigh’s film Happy-Go-Lucky and legendary 1950s monster flick The Creature From The Black Lagoon, Mexican horror maestro Guillermo del Torro spins this extraordinary feat of imagination and image-making which wowed the 2018 Oscars with 13 nominations and four wins including Best Picture and Best Director.

It was in Happy-Go-Lucky that del Torro saw and was impressed by British actress Sally Hawkins and it was with her in mind that he wrote the character of his heroine – Elisa Esposito, a mute cleaner at a secret government laboratory to which a strange amphibian creature has been sequestered after its capture in a South American river. And here’s where The Creature From The Black Lagoon comes in, a childhood obsession of del Torro’s and a film he was planning to remake at one time.

The year is 1962, the city Baltimore and, though we’re technically in the middle of the Cold War, this is early 1960s America as viewed by Guillermo del Torro – in other words fantastical, stylised, slightly Gothic and other-worldy. Elisa is drawn to the creature (played by contortionist and regular del Torro collaborator Doug Jones) and strikes up a bond of sorts, communicating using sign language and playing him Benny Goodman records. One thing leads to another and an unlikely love affair blossoms, with Elisa hatching a plan to release the amphibian man into the wild. She enlists the help of her neighbour Giles (Richard Jenkins) and Robert Hoffstetler (Michael Stuhlbarg), another scientist at the shadowy research facility. Not everything goes to plan and, del Torro being del Torro, there’s a magnificent and fantastical final twist to the tale which will have you reaching for the paper hankies.


The Godfather, BBC Two, 10.10pm

Don Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando) presides over an influential Mafia clan, but his youngest son Michael (Al Pacino) claims to want nothing to do with his father's criminal activities. However, when their dad is hospitalised following an assassination attempt by a gangster who didn't take kindly to Vito's refusal to get involved with the drugs trade, all three of his boys step in to keep the family business ticking over - and it's Michael who proves to be the most ruthless. Francis Ford Coppola's 1972 gangster movie is a masterpiece. Although it was Brando's iconic performance as the patriarch that snagged the Oscar and launched a million bad impressions, Pacino is arguably even better as Michael, and the supporting cast is bursting with talent, including James Caan, John Cazale, Talia Shire, Robert Duvall and Diane Keaton.


The Lady In The Van, BBC Four, 9pm

Playwright Alan Bennett (Alex Jennings) moves into a house in Camden and, soon after, a cantankerous woman called Miss Shepherd (Maggie Smith) settles in the same street in her ramshackle vehicle. Alan foolishly agrees to let her take up temporary residence on his driveway. Months turn into years and the playwright despairs as he becomes Miss Shepherd's guardian and suffers regular visits from interfering social worker Miss Briscoe (Cecilia Noble). Teasingly billed as 'a mostly true story', The Lady in the Van is an entertaining screen adaptation of Bennett's award-winning 1999 stage work. Smith reprises her theatre role as the eponymous tramp, unleashing an array of withering putdowns that would surely have her imperious dowager in Downton Abbey clucking with approval.


The Miracle Of Morgan's Creek, Film 4, 12.35pm

Writer-director Preston Sturgess' screwball comedy hot-streak – he made The Great McGinty, The Lady Eve, Sullivan's Travels and The Palm Beach Story in quick succession – culminated with this censor-baiting wartime classic from 1943. Betty Hutton stars as Trudy Kockenlocker, a small-town girl who attends a farewell party for a group of soldiers about to head off to war. The next morning, she wakes up to find she married one of them in a drunken haze – but not only has he already left, she can't get in touch with him as she can't remember his name. When she later discovers she's pregnant, Norval Jones (Eddie Bracken), a local boy who has been in love with Trudy for years and is ineligible for service on medical grounds, steps in to help.


The King's Speech, BBC Two, 9pm

Colin Firth plays Bertie, the younger son of King George V, who suffers from a stammer that makes public speaking an ordeal. His wife Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter, later to be cast as Princess Margaret in The Crown but here playing the future Queen Mum) enlists eccentric Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush) to help, but their sessions take on a new urgency when Edward VIII (Guy Pearce) abdicates and Bertie, now known as King George VI, faces the prospect of addressing a country on the brink of war. There's a reason this film picked up four Oscars, including a well-deserved Best Actor statuette for Firth, and was nominated for eight more. It's a fascinating tale, expertly and movingly told, while the flashes of humour (and some unexpectedly colourful language) mean it never feels too staid.


An Education, BBC Two, 12.30am

In Twickenham in 1961, 16-year-old schoolgirl Jenny (Carey Mulligan) meets handsome stranger David (Peter Sarsgaard) on the street and is flattered by the attentions of the older man. He gradually leads her astray with visits to late-night supper clubs and a trip to the country. As a consequence, Jenny's grades slip and her teacher Miss Stubbs (Olivia Williams) fears her best student is throwing her future away. Based on a memoir by journalist Lynn Barber, An Education is a rites-of-passage story blessed with a touching and humorous script by Nick Hornby. Mulligan's tour-de-force, Oscar-nominated central performance galvanises the film, striking the right balance between determination and vulnerability.


It's A Wonderful Life, Film 4, 3.15pm

It just wouldn't be Christmas without Frank Capra's life-affirming 1946 fable. James Stewart stars as family man George Bailey, who is convinced his beloved wife Mary (Donna Reed) and four children would be better off without him. Poised to jump off a bridge in Bedford Falls, New York, George is rescued by guardian angel Clarence (Henry Travers), who has been shown flashbacks of the father's past. "You see George, you've really had a wonderful life," says the spirit, "Don't you see what a mistake it would be to just throw it away?" It's A Wonderful Life is a perfect festive treat. Stewart, as the suicidal father who is dragged back from the brink by an all-knowing, all-seeing angel, has never been better, and the direction and pacing throughout is virtually flawless.

And one to stream …

Mank, Netflix

Oscar-winning director David Fincher avails himself of the deep pockets of streaming giant Netflix for this high concept homage to the Hollywood of the 1930s and 1940s, set against the background of Orson Welles’s production of Citizen Kane. If the film is new, the screenplay isn’t: it was written in the 1990s by Fincher’s late father, Jack, who also wrote the Howard Hughes biography on which Martin Scorsese based his 2004 biopic The Aviator.

Regarded by many critics for many years as the greatest film ever made, the mystique and myth-making around Citizen Kane and Welles is such that the cinematic wunderkind is popularly thought to have written, directed and starred almost without breaking sweat. Nobody doubts those last two achievements but it’s clear that most of the script was penned by journalist-turned-screenwriter Herman J Mankiewicz – or Mank as he was known. Fincher’s film, shot in sumptuous black and white, delves into Mank’s development of the screenplay, the ideas and events that influenced it and other aspects of Mank’s life, with many scenes told in flashbacks introduced by typewritten on-screen directions as if they themselves were from a script. It all looks great.

Gary Oldman plays Mank, once dubbed “the funniest man in New York” and a wise-cracking alcoholic when we first meet him in 1940. Tuppence Middleton is his wife Sara and a third Brit, Tom Burke, plays Welles. At 62, Oldman is nearly 20 years older than Mankiewicz was when he worked on Citizen Kane and, at 33, Tuppence Middleton is a decade younger than Sara was at the time. Burke as Welles is a better fit – he has the voice down to a tee – and there are decent parts too for Arliss Howard as legendary studio boss Louis B Mayer, Tom Pelphrey as Joseph L Mankiewicz, Mank’s younger brother who would go on to direct films such as All About Eve, and Amanda Seyfried as sassy silent film star Marion Davies (also the mistress of newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst, on whom Welles’s Charles Foster Kane is mostly based).

Mank is admirable rather than engrossing and it helps immeasurably if you at least know your way around the story. If you’ve never seen Citizen Kane, Fincher’s homage to it creation won’t mean much beyond a series of fast-talking scenes featuring men in sharp suits shouting through megaphones and woman who either have to bite their tongues or give as good as they get.