The two-layer problem is defined as the coexistence of two immiscible fluids, separated by an interface surface. Under the shallow-flow hypothesis, 1D models are based on a four equations system accounting for the mass and momentum conservation in each fluid layer. Mathematically, the system of conservation laws modelling 1D two-layer flows has the important drawback of loss of hyperbolicity, causing that numerical schemes based on the eigenvalues of the Jacobian become unstable. In this work, well-balanced FORCE scheme is proposed for 1D two-layer shallow flows. The FORCE scheme combines the first-order Lax–Friedrichs flux and the second-order Lax–Wendroff flux. The scheme is supplemented with a hydrostatic reconstruction procedure in order to ensure the well-balanced behaviour of the model for steady flows even under wet–dry conditions. Additionally, a method to obtain high-accuracy numerical solutions for two-layer steady flows including friction dissipation is proposed to design reference benchmark tests for model validation. The enhanced FORCE scheme is faced to lake-at-rest benchmarking tests and steady flow cases including friction, demonstrating its well-balanced character. Furthermore, the numerical results obtained for highly unsteady two-layer dambreaks are used to analyse the robustness and accuracy of the model under a wide range of flow conditions.