The British Film Institute presents the best global cinema on-demand:
From classic and contemporary films to the best of the BFI National Archive.

The Childhood of a Leader


This film is certified

Please confirm that you accept our terms of use.


The Childhood of a Leader 2015 12

115 mins United Kingdom Director. Brady Corbet

This ominous study of the evolution of evil follows the progress of a young boy who will one day grow up to become an infamous fascist despot. Growing up in France in 1918, Prescott’s (Tom Sweet) childhood develops in close proximity to the fateful drafting of the Treaty of Versailles, as his father is a diplomat helping to craft its text. As the boy witnesses first-hand the severe societal changes of a continent in transition, his beliefs are moulded, and we witness the birth of a terrifying ego.

While not based on a specific dictator, but rather an amalgam of several historical figures, Childhood of a Leader is an incisive examination of Europe’s painful history which chimes with today’s re-emergence of continental tumult. It’s even more impressive for being the debut work from American actor Brady Corbet, best known for his association with the Borderline Films collective that produced distinctive US indies such as Martha Marcy May Marlene, James White and Christine.

With an intriguing international cast that includes Bérénice Bejo, Liam Cunningham and Robert Pattinson, performing in mix of different languages, this is a bold, highly confident opening statement from its first-time director; one which has drawn comparisons to Michael Haneke’s similar pre-Fascism parable, The White Ribbon. If that weren’t recommendation enough, the film’s stark visuals are accompanied by a marvellously oppressive orchestral score from the great Scott Walker.

Start watching in: 30 days

Finish watching in: 48 hours

Directed by

Brady Corbet


Robert Pattinson

Liam Cunningham

Bérénice Bejo




American Indie


12 infrequent moderate sexual activity




United Kingdom

Read lessRead more

Explore further

View James White
James White
Watch from £3.83

James White 2016 15

Reality bites for a hedonistic young New Yorker who suddenly has to grow up quickly, in a brilliantly acted drama from the team behind Martha Marcy May Marlene.

85 mins USA Director. Josh Mond

View The President
The President
Watch from £3.83

The President 2014 15

Mohsen Makhmalbaf, the great Iranian filmmaker, directs this provocative and disquieting parable about a deposed president.

118 mins United Kingdom Director. Mohsen Makhmalbaf

View The Lovers & the Despot
The Lovers & the Despot
Watch from £3.83

The Lovers & the Despot 2016 PG

Discover one of cinema’s strangest stories: a film director and his star are kidnapped by Kim Jong-il to make movies in the world’s weirdest state.

98 mins United Kingdom Director. Rob Cannan, Ross Adam


View All

Welcome to a new subscription service like no other.

>100s of hand-picked classics and critically-acclaimed films

>Critic Mark Kermode picks a must-see film every week

>No contract, cancel anytime

Cookies Policy

This website uses cookies, as explained in our Cookies Policy.

To accept the terms and hide this message please click 'I accept'.

I accept

Passionate about film? So are we…

Don't miss the email made for the in-the-know film fan:

New releases — on the same day as in cinemas Special collections & unheralded classics Exclusive news on discounts

Never ask | Ask me later