Debuts, breakthroughs, winners and discoveries, courtesy of the London Film Festival.
Excellence isn't good enough. To qualify as a festival favourite you have to deliver something beyond escapism, something that resonates with a very discerning crowd before it staggers the world. It's a rare achievement, captured in this selection of short films and interviews with the people behind many of the most fevered, intense visions of recent history.
Comedy201688 minsDirector: Sean Foley
Julian Barratt is hilarious as the washed-up actor forced to reprise his 80s TV role as a sleuth with a robotic truth-telling eye, to help catch a deranged killer.
The Florida Project
Drama2017112 minsDirector: Sean Baker
Tangerine director Sean Baker presents another visionary take on the wild ups and dangerous downs of life in America’s underbelly, featuring an Oscar-nominated turn from Willem Dafoe.
Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool
Biopic2017106 minsDirector: Paul McGuigan
Annette Bening and Jamie Bell bring to life the true story of the love affair between Gloria Grahame and young, Liverpudlian actor Peter Turner.
Animation & Artists Moving Image201594 minsDirector: Julian Rosefeldt
Cate Blanchett gives a tour-de-force performance in this kaleidoscopic trip through the art manifestos of the 20th century.
After the Storm
Drama2016118 minsDirector: Hirokazu Kore-eda
As typhoons buffet Tokyo, Hirokazu Kore-eda examines a broken family and the father’s dogged attempts to glue it back together.
Action and Adventure201690 minsDirector: Ben Wheatley
Ben Wheatley’s (High-Rise, Sightseers) all-guns-blazing bullet opera, starring Brie Larson, Cillian Murphy and Armie Hammer.
Period drama2016146 minsDirector: Park Chan-wook
Park Chan-wook (Old Boy, Stoker) channels Sarah Waters’ novel Fingersmith, to create a sumptuous twisty psychological thriller full of erotic intrigue.
Comedy2016117 minsDirector: Lone Scherfig
Gemma Arterton sparkles in this witty drama set in the world of propaganda filmmaking during WWII, from director Lone Scherfig (The Riot Club, An Education).
Biopic2016108 minsDirector: Pablo Larraín
Pablo Larraín's bold, inventive detective thriller offers an electrifying contemplation of the Chilean poet's life on the run in the late 1940s.
A Quiet Passion
Biopic2016125 minsDirector: Terence Davies
Terence Davies' elegant and deeply moving biopic of poet Emily Dickinson, played with sensitivity and rebellious spirit by Cynthia Nixon.
Trespass Against Us
Crime201599 minsDirector: Adam Smith
Brendan Gleeson and Michael Fassbender are the father and son outlaws in this exhilarating crime drama with a Chemical Brothers soundtrack.
Drama2015131 minsDirector: Paul Verhoeven
Isabelle Huppert gives an unforgettable performance in Paul Verhoeven’s provocative thriller about one woman’s response to a violent attack.
Drama2016111 minsDirector: Barry Jenkins
Winner of the 2017 Oscar for Best Picture (eventually!), Barry Jenkins’ intoxicating drama follows the furtive life of a gay black boy through 80s Miami.
Manchester by the Sea
Drama2016137 minsDirector: Kenneth Lonergan
Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams shine in this devastating, Oscar-winning drama from Kenneth Lonergan about a man’s painful hometown return.
La La Land
Musical2016128 minsDirector: Damien Chazelle
Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone channel old-school Hollywood glamour in this bright and playful romantic musical from director Damien Chazelle (Whiplash).
A Monster Calls
2016108 minsDirector: J.A. Bayona
JA Bayona's visually inventive and deeply moving story about a boy who draws on his expansive imagination to come to terms with impending loss, adapted from Patrick Ness’ hugely popular book.
A United Kingdom
Drama2016111 minsDirector: Amma Asante
Amma Assante (Belle) directs this impassioned drama starring David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike depicting an interracial romance that changed the world.
Science Fiction2016116 minsDirector: Denis Villeneuve
Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner star as the humans who make first contact with extra-terrestrial visitors in this richly textured sci-fi from director Denis Villeneuve.
Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World
Documentary201698 minsDirector: Werner Herzog
Legendary filmmaker Werner Herzog explores the past, present and future of the Internet in this extraordinary documentary.
Thriller201595 minsDirector: Jeremy Saulnier
A punk band becomes besieged in the backstage hideaway of a hideous neo-Nazi club, in this gloriously tense shocker from the director of Blue Ruin.
My Scientology Movie
Documentary201599 minsDirector: John Dower
Louis Theroux investigates the secretive world of the Church of Scientology, armed with his characteristic deadpan wit.
Comedy2015105 minsDirector: Athina Rachel Tsangari
Athina Rachel Tsangari's biting and hilarious dissection of the male ego was awarded Best Film at the 2015 BFI London Film Festival.
Comedy2016118 minsDirector: Jim Jarmusch
Adam Driver excels in this effortlessly charming tale of a bus driver poet in New Jersey, filmed with typically groovy elan by Jim Jarmusch.
A Bigger Splash
Thriller2015124 minsDirector: Luca Guadagnino
Ralph Fiennes delivers a sensational performance as one of four passionate souls sharing a villa in the Sicilian sunshine, with jealousy, intrigue and violence simmering beneath the surface.
Drama2015115 minsDirector: Jacques Audiard
Jacques Audiard’s soul-stirring Palme d’Or winner tells of a veteran Tamil Tiger guerrilla who finds fresh violence in his new life in Paris.
Biopic2015124 minsDirector: Jay Roach
Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad, Argo) gives a cracking performance as Dalton Trumbo, the Oscar-winning screenwriter who became a Hollywood outcast.
Drama201586 minsDirector: Ben A. Williams
Russell Tovey stars as a Premier League footballer who shares a fumbled pass (of the sexual kind) with a teammate (Arinzé Kene), changing everything - both on and off the pitch.
Disaster2015105 minsDirector: Roar Uthaug
Seismic rumblings in the Norwegian fjords threaten to start a chain reaction that will destroy the local area. Can it be stopped in time?
Action and Adventure2015106 minsDirector: Hou Hsiao-Hsien
Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s mesmerising, visually stunning tale of love and honour was Sight and Sound magazine’s best film of 2015.
Drama201582 minsDirector: Lucile Hadzihalilovic
The long-awaited second feature from Lucile Hadžihalilović (Innocence) is a gorgeously surreal coming-of-age tale laced with bizarre body-horror.
Cemetery of Splendour
Drama2015120 minsDirector: Apichatpong Weerasethakul
Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s imaginative, sensuous and enigmatic film about soldiers suffering from a mysterious sleeping sickness.
Drama2015136 minsDirector: Terence Davies
Agyness Deyn stars in Terence Davies’ moving drama about a strong young woman facing many adversities in the run up to WWI.
The Forbidden Room
Animation & Artists Moving Image2015119 minsDirector: Guy Maddin
Gleeful and hypnotic, Guy Maddin and Evan Johnson’s phantasmagoric opus reworks improvised rushes into a demented homage to B-movies.
Comedy2014119 minsDirector: Mohsen Makhmalbaf
Mohsen Makhmalbaf, the great Iranian filmmaker, directs this provocative and disquieting parable about a deposed president.
Drama201597 minsDirector: Pablo Larraín
Pablo Larraín’s Berlin prize-winner is a typically stylish, darkly witty tale of corruption, concealment and conspiracy in Chile’s Catholic church.
The Pearl Button
Documentary201582 minsDirector: Patricio Guzmán
Patricio Guzmán’s lyrical, illuminating follow-up to Nostalgia for the Light explores the fateful role played by water in Chile’s tragic history.
Moomins on the Riviera
Animation & Artists Moving Image201477 minsDirector: Xavier Picard
The Moomins sample the delights of high society with a Riviera holiday, bringing mayhem with them.
Documentary201581 minsDirector: Jafar Panahi
Following a personally difficult but artistically rewarding spell making films under house arrest, Jafar Panahi is back on the streets of Tehran.
Historical drama2015106 minsDirector: Sarah Gavron
The time is now for factory worker Maud (Carey Mulligan) as she joins the campaign movement for women’s votes, in Sarah Gavron’s stirring social history.
Biopic2015103 minsDirector: Stephen Frears
Ben Foster is Lance Armstrong in this kinetic account of the cyclist who fell from grace, from acclaimed director Stephen Frears.
Science Fiction2015118 minsDirector: Yorgos Lanthimos
Colin Farrell, Ben Whishaw and Rachel Weisz star in this bleakly hilarious dystopian drama from Yorgos Lanthimos (Dogtooth).
Testament of Youth
Drama2014130 minsDirector: James Kent
Alicia Vikander brings to life the extraordinary life of Vera Brittain, whose affair with a dashing friend (Kit Harington) is cruelly cut short by the onset of war.
Romance2015112 minsDirector: John Crowley
Saoirse Ronan shines as a woman who journeys from post-war small-town Ireland to New York, in Nick Hornby’s adaptation of Colm Tóibín’s best-selling novel.
Mountains May Depart
Drama2015126 minsDirector: Jia Zhangke
Jia Zhangke delivers another ambitious, astute and humane drama, spanning the early days of Chinese capitalism to a vision of 2025.
Drama2014132 minsDirector: Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy
A new arrival at a school for young deaf people is drawn into a nightmarish world of crime and brutality, in this audacious and acclaimed modern classic.
The New Girlfriend
Melodrama2014108 minsDirector: François Ozon
Ruth Rendell provides the source novel for this delicious tale of deception and identity, from the master of mischievous melodrama, François Ozon.
Drama2012129 minsDirector: Mike Newell
Pip, a poor blacksmith's apprentice, becomes a gentleman with the help of an unknown benefactor. A BAFTA-nominated telling of the Dickens' classic.
The Lives of Others
Drama2006138 minsDirector: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
The winner of Best Foreign Language Film at the 2007 Academy Awards is a rich and intriguing political mystery.
Drama2014111 minsDirector: Alice Rohrwacher
An enchanting, otherworldly coming-of-age drama about a teenage girl who enters her unwilling family into a TV talent show.
Song of the Sea
Animation & Artists Moving Image201493 minsDirector: Tomm Moore
Tomm Moore’s Oscar-nominated animation follows the magical journey of Ben and his sister Saoirse, the last Seal-child.
The Invisible Woman
Biopic2012111 minsDirector: Ralph Fiennes
Ralph Fiennes directs and stars in this adaptation of Claire Tomalin’s book about the long-standing affair between Charles Dickens and Nelly Ternan.
Still the Water
Romance2014119 minsDirector: Naomi Kawase
Naomi Kawase’s visually ravishing, beautifully composed film tells the story of two youths growing up and falling in love on a Japanese island.
Drama201498 minsDirector: Christian Petzold
Nina Hoss is superb as concentration camp survivor who assumes a new identity, in Christian Petzold’s intricate post-WWII thriller.
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
Horror2014101 minsDirector: Ana Lily Amirpour
If you only see one Iranian vampire western this year, make sure it’s this one. A female vampire stalks a ghost town in Ana Lily Amirpour’s arresting debut.
Love Is Strange
Drama201495 minsDirector: Ira Sachs
Ira Sachs’s refined Manhattan-set drama sees Alfred Molina’s Ben and John Lithgow’s George in the latter days of a tender, loving 39-year relationship.
Period drama2014110 minsDirector: Lisandro Alonso
Viggo Mortensen is a distraught Danish military man searching his fugitive daughter in Lisandro Alonso’s visually breathtaking drama.
Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films
Documentary2014106 minsDirector: Mark Hartley
A documentary love letter to the golden of exploitation cinema and the output of Cannon Films, the cut-price studio that challenged Hollywood.
Drama2014138 minsDirector: Xavier Dolan-Tadros
With stylish and charged intensity, Xavier Dolan charts the fractious relationship between an uncontrollable teen and his fun-loving mother.
Action and Adventure2013109 minsDirector: Wong Kar-wai
Wong Kar-Wai’s lavish martial arts biopic tells the story of Ip Man, the legendary trainer who became Bruce Lee’s mentor.
Queen and Country
Comedy2014115 minsDirector: John Boorman
John Boorman’s follow up to Hope and Glory finds 18-year-old Bill called up for National Service against the backdrop of the Korean War.
Drama201482 minsDirector: Pawel Pawlikowski
The Best Film winner at the 2013 BFI London Film Festival is an exquisitely shot, moving drama about a Polish nun exploring her family past, from UK-based director Pawel Pawlikowski.
Documentary2014128 minsDirector: Sergei Loznitsa
An essential and explosive documentary about the Ukrainian civil riots and protest movement, from the acclaimed director of In the Fog.
The Duke of Burgundy
Drama2014104 minsDirector: Peter Strickland
Peter Strickland’s visually and aurally intoxicating tale of sadomasochistic power-play is a daringly erotic sensory feast.
Documentary2014181 minsDirector: Frederick Wiseman
The inner workings of London’s National Gallery are laid bare in this absorbing, forensic examination by revered filmmaker Frederick Wiseman.
The Imitation Game
Biopic2014115 minsDirector: Morten Tyldum
Benedict Cumberbatch’s roundly acclaimed performance anchors the incredible, Oscar-winning story of code-breaker Alan Turing.
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Drama201293 minsDirector: Benh Zeitlin
Set in a Deep South delta, Zeitlin’s feature debut takes a child’s eye view of poverty, adult apathy and ecological crisis. Hallucinatory fare
Beyond the Hills
Drama2012152 minsDirector: Cristian Mungiu
Cristian Mungiu's scarily plausible drama about a nun's friend suffering for her love in a nunnery; obsession and superstition wreak havoc.
Documentary2014108 minsDirector: Randall Wright
A portrait of the beloved British artist, drawing on his own home-movie footage and with revealing contributions from his friends and colleagues.
Biopic200896 minsDirector: Steve McQueen
Northern Ireland, 1981. In the Maze prison, Bobby Sands begins a hunger strike to reclaim the status of Republican inmates as political prisoners.
Goodbye to Language
Drama201470 minsDirector: Jean-Luc Godard
Jean-Luc Godard’s typically innovative and playful meditation on technology, love and language was acclaimed one of the best films of 2014.
Drama2013105 minsDirector: Joanna Hogg
Joanna Hogg's sleek and minimalist comedy about a pair of artists and their emotional attachment to their ultra-modernist apartment.
The Kid with a Bike
Drama201187 minsDirector: Luc Dardenne
The Dardennes' powerful, award-winning drama tells of a troubled and volatile young teenager abandoned by his dad and 'adopted' by a hairdresser
Documentary201496 minsDirector: Ron Mann
An illuminating documentary about American cinema’s maverick genius Robert Altman, featuring unseen home movies and extensive interviews.
Drama201393 minsDirector: Richard Ayoade
Richard Ayoade’s stylish and sinister adaptation of Dostoevsky’s story stars Jesse Eisenberg in a dual-role as a timid office clerk confronted by his confident, scheming doppelganger.
Drama2013105 minsDirector: Ritesh Batra
Mismatched lunchboxes lead to an unlikely romance in this exquisite Indian drama, brimful of tantalising food and elegantly delivered wisdom.
Once Upon a Time in Anatolia
Crime2011151 minsDirector: Nuri Bilge Ceylan
A modern masterpiece from major filmmaker Nuri Bilge Ceylan, following police and prosecutors as they escort a murderer through the bleak Anatolian steppes in search of a buried body.
Like Someone in Love
Drama2012105 minsDirector: Abbas Kiarostami
Abbas Kiarostami’s excursion into Japanese filmmaking is a masterly study of duplicity and role play centred around a student and her double life as an escort.
The Selfish Giant
Drama201391 minsDirector: Clio Barnard
Two Yorkshire tearaways struggle with life and friendship in this challenging, compassionate growing-up tale by the director of The Arbor.
Tom at the Farm
Drama2013103 minsDirector: Xavier Dolan-Tadros
Dark psychosexual thriller from prodigious Canadian director Xavier Dolan, following a young man who finds himself embroiled in a dangerous game of deception.
Drama2011114 minsDirector: Michael Winterbottom
Tragedy befalls a young Indian woman when she falls in love with a rich British man in Michael Winterbottom's sharp Thomas Hardy update.
Stranger by the Lake
Drama2013100 minsDirector: Alain Guiraudie
A young man witnesses a violent crime at a gay cruising ground and becomes obsessed with the killer in Alain Guiraudie’s acclaimed mystery-thriller.
Drama197598 minsDirector: Peter Hall
Peter Hall’s extraordinary, long-unseen work of sublime poetic realism traces three generations of one Suffolk family and their lives in the farming industry.
We Are the Best!
Drama201398 minsDirector: Lukas Moodysson
A raucous coming-of-age comedy about three schoolgirls who form a punk band in 1982 Stockholm, from director Lukas Moodysson (Show Me Love).
We Need to Talk About Kevin
Drama2010112 minsDirector: Lynne Ramsay
Tilda Swinton gives a BAFTA-nominated performance as the mother of a teenager who commits a high school massacre. With Ezra Miller and John C. Reilly.
The White Ribbon
Drama2009143 minsDirector: Michael Haneke
Michael Haneke's Cannes prizewinner, set in a pre-WW1 German village, explores the oppressively strict social conditions that gave rise to Nazism
Inside Llewyn Davis
Drama2012100 minsDirector: Joel Coen
The Coen brothers’ funny, melancholic elegy to early 1960s folk music follows a struggling songwriter through a winter’s worth of misdeeds, mishaps and lost cats.
Drama2014110 minsDirector: Susanne Bier
Two of the planet’s biggest stars – Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence – align in this extravagant period drama set in depression-era America.
Drama2012110 minsDirector: Fernando Meirelles
Jude Law, Rachel Weisz and Anthony Hopkins lead an ensemble cast in a sleek thriller exploring the way our lives interconnect across the world.
Crime2010124 minsDirector: Peter Mullan
Peter Mullan's forceful drama about a boy who becomes embroiled in gangland life in 1970s Glasgow, peppered throughout with a rich vein of black humour.
Drama2008120 minsDirector: Danny Boyle
Danny Boyle’s crowdpleaser, based around the Indian version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire?, won the Oscar for best picture.
Drama2004124 minsDirector: Hans Weingartner
Three anti-capitalist activists kidnap a wealthy businessman, only to be confounded when he declares his own radical past.
Comedy200897 minsDirector: Stephan Elliott
Jessica Biel plays the brash American fiancée who disrupts an upper-class family in this delightful Downton Abbey-esque tale of high-society hijinks.
Drama2010124 minsDirector: Mike Leigh
Mike Leigh's drama about contented couple (Jim Broadbent and Ruth Sheen) who play host to various friends, each struggling to find happiness.