Today: April 16, 2024

BFI London Film Festival Top Picks

The 60th BFI London Film Festival once again brings together some of the most exciting, buzzed about films of the year. It is rare for a film festival to be open to the public, and even rarer for a programme that is such a cherry picking of the best of global filmmaking. Giving the public the opportunity to catch these films before they are theatrically released, here we have rounded up some of the titles you must absolutely catch while you can!

Free Fire
With Sharlto Copley, Armie Hammer, Brie Larson, Cillian Murphy, Jack Reynor.
Highly anticipated Closing Night film, said to be a homage to 70s shoot-em-up films. Justine (Brie Larson) has brokered a meeting in a deserted warehouse between two Irishmen (Cillian Murphy, Michael Smiley) and a gang led by Vernon (Sharlto Copley) and Ord (Armie Hammer) who are selling them a stash of guns. But when shots are fired in the handover, a heart stopping game of survival ensues. With Ben Wheatley’s unique aesthetic and flare for mayhem, this is like no other high-octane thriller you’ve seen!

A United Kingdom
With David Oyelowo, Rosamund Pike, Jack Davenport, Terry Pheto, Tom Felton, Laura Carmichael.
Amma Asante is emerging as one of the UK’s pre-eminent filmmakers with this year’s Opening Night Gala, A United Kingdom is a powerful testament to the defiant and enduring love story of Seretse Khama, King of Bechuanaland (modern Botswana) and Ruth Williams, the London office worker he married in 1948 in the face of fierce opposition from their families and the government of the time. An elegant, impassioned drama that also exposes a painful episode in the history of British race relations, and imperial politics. A film for this time and for the ages.

La La Land
With Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, John Legend, JK Simmons.
One of the most talked about films of the year. Damien Chazelle’s love letter to the city of Los Angeles, with captivating lead performances by Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling is a thing of breathtaking glory. Mia (Stone) is an aspiring actress, barely holding down a day job on a studio lot while juggling auditions for second-rate parts. Sebastian (Gosling) is a pianist who struggles to keep his job at a family restaurant where he plays freewheeling jazz instead of stale, cheesy favourites. Already the frontrunner in awards talk, catch the film of the year before anyone else!

With Dev Patel, Rooney Mara, David Wenham, Nicole Kidman, Sunny Pawar.
A film so remarkable in its narrative, if it weren’t based on a true story you’d think it was Hollywood at its most fanciful. As a boy, Saroo, whilst out one night with his brother, falls asleep in a stationary train carriage only to be trapped on board when it departs. Days later, he arrives in Kolkata, hundreds of miles from home and entirely alone. He eventually lands in an orphanage and is adopted by an Australian couple (Nicole Kidman, David Wenham). 25 years later, the adult Saroo (Dev Patel) discovers a new technology – Google Earth – and begins an obsessive search for his original family. A spectacular tribute to the tenacity of the human spirit and an undeniably uplifting cinematic experience.

Queen Of Katwe
With David Oyelowo, Lupita Nyong’o, Madina Nalwanga.
Based on the inspirational true story of young Ugandan chess champion, Phiona Mutesi (captivating newcomer Madina Nalwanga). From an impoverished existence in a Ugandan Township Phiona, under the guidance of Robert Katende (David Oyelowo), whilst unable to read or write, defies the odds and manages to master the intellectually rigorous, incredibly tactical game of chess. With an incredible, vibrant style and extraordinary cast, Mira Nair manages to perfectly capture the authenticity of the story whilst crafting a film of great beauty.

With Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker.
There is much talk hailing this as one of the performances of the year, Amy Adams is magnetic as the professor of linguistics enlisted to decipher the language of extra-terrestrials. Accompanied by scientist Ian Donelly (Jeremy Renner), the chemistry between the two is compelling. One of the most inventive science fiction films of recent years that has implications much closer to home that the typical Alien encounter movie. Denis Villeneuve has created a film that is epic in scope, meditating on the very nature of communication, intimacy and they way we experience love and loss.

Their Finest 
With Gemma Arterton, Sam Claflin, Bill Nighy.
This year’s Mayor of London’s Gala, Their Finest is a sparkling triumph of British cinema, continuing Lone Scherfig’s fascination with British manners finding a new register in this delectable comedic drama. Gemma Arterton is positively luminous as Catrin, a young Welsh copy-writer enticed to London by her husband (Jack Huston), a self-obsessed and wayward artist with little interest in her emotional needs or ambitions. She soon lands a job as a script editor with the Ministry of Information, hired to provide a ‘woman’s touch’ to propaganda films being made during the Blitz. Thrown into the colourful and surprisingly active world of filmmaking in London in the 1940s, her confidence grows and new interests and desires soon ignite. A veritable delight of English acting talent, particularly the incandescent Arterton, and Bill Nighy, who is in irresistible form as a charismatic, past-his-prime movie star. With a slew of top of the board performances, Scherfig has made another intoxicating, yet poignant and socially aware British film that is a delight to watch.


The BFI London Film Festival runs from 5th October-16th October.  

Paula Hammond - Features Editor

Paula Hammond is a full-time, freelance journalist. She regularly writes for more magazines than is healthy and has over 25 books to her credit. When not frantically scribbling, she can be found indulging her passions for film, theatre, cult TV, sci-fi and real ale. If you should spot her in the pub, after five rounds rapid, she’ll be the one in the corner mumbling Ghostbusters quotes and waiting for the transporter to lock on to her signal… Email:

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