BFI London Film Festival 2019: 10 Must-See Films

We run through our top picks for this year's best and most anticipated films

The 2019 BFI London Film Festival, a must-attend event for cinema fans living in the capital, will run between October 2nd-12th. And this year's line-up is downright epic, with works from acclaimed directors like Martin Scorsese, Noah Baumbach, and Rian Johnson – not to mention Timothée Chalamet with a bowl cut, Daniel Craig doing a Southern accent, and Robert Pattinson starring in, well, everything?

And yet with a whopping 229 films on offer over the two week-long event, how is a person possibly meant to decide what to see? Luckily we've made choosing easy with these picks for the 10 most unmissable films in this year's line-up. If you only get the time to catch one, you'd probably do well to make sure it's one of these…



See it if you like… Apocalypse Now, Dogtooth

Having drawn comparisons to Apocalypse Now and “Lord of the Flies,” the enigmatically-titled Monos sets its sights on a group of teenage guerrillas tasked with guarding a lone prisoner atop a mountain, deep in the jungles of Colombia. Isolated and cut off from the outside world, the group live as a kind of cult, complete with bizarre rituals and odd customs. The film – directed by Alejandro Landes – unravels as a kind of fever dream – a mad, hallucinogenic ride that's certain to inspire mountains of discussion. If you're looking for something to be burned into your retinas this coming LFF, look no further than Monos.

Get Monos festival showtimes.


Marriage Story

See it if you like… Kramer vs. Kramer, Scenes From a Marriage

Scarlett Johansson! Adam Driver! Married! In a film by Baumbach! Sometimes the cinematic stars just align and we're gifted with a movie like Marriage Story, a portrait of divorce that promises to be funny, sad, and deeply, deeply moving. Baumbach, of course, has proven himself a masterful observer of human relationships in the past with films like The Squid and the Whale and Frances Ha, though early buzz suggests Marriage Story is his best yet: a Kramer vs. Kramer for the modern age, with outstanding turns from both Johansson and Driver. Catch it at LFF before it's released on Netflix all the way in December.

Get Marriage Story festival showtimes.


The Personal History of David Copperfield

See it if you like… The Death of Stalin, The Favourite

From one brilliantly witty mind to another. The comic genius that is Armando Iannucci (The Thick of It, The Death of Stalin) collides with arguably history's greatest storyteller, Charles Dickens, for the very idiosyncratic The Personal History of David Copperfield. Set to be screened as part of the festival's Opening Gala on October 2nd, one can expect all the sardonic asides and whip-smart one-liners we've come to associate with Iannuci's body of work – and lots of heart, too. With Dev Patel as David, not to mention Ben Whishaw, Tilda Swinton, and Hugh Laurie in supporting roles, this one's a real showcase for great British talent.

Get The Personal History of David Copperfield festival showtimes.


Portrait of a Lady on Fire

See it if you like… Call Me by Your Name, Vita and Virginia

One of the most beloved and acclaimed films to hit the festival circuit this year (and winner of the Queer Palm at Cannes), Portrait of a Lady on Fire tells the story of an artist (played by Noémie Merlant), hired to paint a picture of a French Countess’s daughter (Adèle Haene), and the burgeoning romance between them. In a brilliant narrative wedge, the Countess' mother plans to use said portrait as a way of enticing potential male suitors. Beautifully acted and shot, and as tender and emotional as any romantic drama in memory, writer/director Céline Sciamma has at once redefined the period drama and created her masterpiece.

Get Portrait of a Lady on Fire festival showtimes.


Knives Out

See it if you like… Clue, Murder on the Orient Express

Rian Johnson takes a well-earned break from the Star Wars universe (he's set to helm his own trilogy next year) for this clever spin on the Agatha Christie-style murder mystery, featuring Daniel Craig in a hilariously-accented role as an investigator called upon to solve a crime in – you guessed it – an old house. The cast Johnson has assembled for Knives Out is truly epic, one which – alongside Craig – includes Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Jamie Lee Curtis, Toni Collette, Don Johnson, Michael Shannon, Lakeith Stanfield, and Christopher Plummer (and breathe). Likelihood is you'll be hard pressed to find a more entertaining yarn at LFF this year.

Get Knives Out festival showtimes.


The Painted Bird

See it if you like… Come and See, The White Ribbon

This hugely controversial epic, based on the 1957 novel by Václav Marhoul, arrives at the London Film Festival with one hell of a reputation, having prompted several walkouts at this year's Venice Film Festival. This, of course, should only peak your interest in The Painted Bird further. Essentially an episodic nightmare set during the holocaust, it's a three-hour-long kick in the teeth, and one that puts its Jewish boy protagonist through hell as he tries to find his way home. Primed to offend and stir up trouble, word has it that The Painted Bird is also a brilliant slice of phantasmagoric filmmaking prowess – and perhaps even a masterpiece.

Get The Painted Bird festival showtimes.


The King

See it if you like… Henry V, Outlaw King

The King took a bit of a beating during its world premiere last month at the Venice Film Festival, and yet it's still bound to be one of the most talked about films of the year based on its performances alone. How could we resist Robert Pattinson, after all, donning a ridiculous wig and speaking in a questionable French accent, as he faces off against Timothée Chalamet – cinema's boy wonder with a bowl cut – in this adaptation of several Shakespeare plays? The answer is: we can't. Directed by Animal Kingdom's David Michôd's, with a script he wrote alongside Joel Edgerton (also here), make way for a bloody, historical epic.

Get The King festival showtimes.


The Irishman

See it if you like… Anything by Scorsese, c'mon

Martin Scorsese talked up The Irishman for so long it seemed unlikely it would ever actually happen – and yet here we are. Starring Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci (coming out of retirement just for this), this gangster epic – utilising some remarkable de-aging technology – will run at an admittedly intimidating 210 minutes, making it this year's most notably gargantuan effort by an established auteur. Produced by Netflix and based on the acclaimed non-fiction book “I Heard You Paint Houses,” it looks fully primed to be the most Scorsese-y Scorsese picture ever made. Just inject it directly into our veins, please.

Get The Irishman festival showtimes.


The Lighthouse

See it if you like… Mandy, Midsommar

William Dafoe and Robert Pattinson talking in crazy accents, going mad in a lighthouse? Why, it's the stuff that cinema was made for! Written and directed by the unique talent that is Robert Eggers, whose folk horror yarn The Witch became a huge hit back in 2015, The Lighthouse comes to us like something created in a nightmarish vacuum and then cast out into the night. Shot on 35mm in stark black and white, it's a visually bold work that has already found itself on the receiving end of some very enthusiastic early reviews on the basis on its performances and a hypnotic, dread-filled atmosphere. Also: thar be mermaid fetishes.

Get The Lighthouse festival showtimes.


A Beautiful Day In The Neighbourhood

See it if you like… The Theory of Everything, Sully

Tom Hanks was born to play American icon and TV personality Fred Rogers, in as much as he's similarly beloved by the population at large. It's no surprise that A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood – helmed by Can You Ever Forgive Me? director Marielle Heller – features yet another award-worthy turn from the great actor, then, in a film lauded at the Toronto Film Festival for its relentless charm. If The Painted Bird isn't giving you those “fun for all the family” vibes, this might be your best bet… though don't say we didn't warn you: Beautiful Day comes with a certified weepy warning, so make sure to bring all the tissues you can carry.

Get A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood festival showtimes.

For a comprehensive look at all the films playing at this year's BFI London Film Festival, head over to our dedicated page for all the showtimes and more info.

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