The best 20 films at the BFI London Film Festival 2013

The best 20 films at the BFI London Film Festival 2013

Watch trailers for our top picks, including The Double, Nebraska, Under the Skin, Inside Llewyn Davis and Blue is the Warmest Colour

The 57th annual BFI Film Festival opens in London on Wed 9 Oct with opening gala Captain Phillips – one of over 235 feature films and 134 shorts from 57 countries worldwide. We reckon that's far too many for even the most dedicated of film fans to cram in, so we've whittled it down to the 20 films you don't want to miss.

Captain Phillips

Dir. Paul Greengrass
After his ship is attacked and hijacked by pirates off the coast of Somalia, Captain Richard Phillips (Tom Hanks) must preserve the safety of his crew and save his ship. Naval assistance is soon on hand, but a dangerous standoff develops – and Phillips finds himself used in the pirate’s attempts to escape. Opening the festival, the film is based on the real life incident of the Maersk Alabama in 2009.
Odeon Leicester Square, London, Wed 9 Oct; Cineworld, Haymarket, London,Thu 10 Oct.


Dir. Stephen Frears
Weary political journalist Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan) stumbles across the remarkable story of Philomena Lee (Judi Dench), an elderly Irish woman searching for her illegitimate child who was taken from her by nuns and adopted by a wealthy rich American couple. Already hailed for its mixture of compassion and wry humour, Philomena enjoyed widespread acclaim after screening at the Venice Film Festival.
Odeon Leicester Square, London,Wed 16 Oct; Cineworld, Haymarket, London,Thu 17 Oct; Screen on the Green, Islington, London, Sat 19 Oct

12 Years a Slave

Dir. Steve McQueen
Based on the autobiography of Solomon Northup (played here by Chiwetel Ejiofor), a freeman sold who was kidnapped and sold into slavery, McQueen's Shame follow-up boasts an all-star cast in a searing portrayal of the vicious nature of slavery.
Odeon Leicester Square, London, Thu 18 Oct; Odeon West End, London, Fri 19 Oct; Rich Mix, Bethnal Green Road, London, Sat 20 Oct

Kill Your Darlings

Dir. John Krokidas
Independent drama centred on the aftermath of the murder of David Kammerer by Lucian Carr in 1944. The fledgling masters of the beat generation, Allen Ginsberg (Daniel Radcliffe), Jack Kerouac (Jack Huston) and William S Burroughs (Ben Foster), come together at Columbia University as a result.
Odeon West End, London-Wed 17 Oct; Vue West End, London, Fri 19 Oct

The Invisible Woman

Dir. Ralph Fiennes
Directed by and starring Ralph Fiennes, The Invisible Woman explores the story of Charles Dickens’ (Fiennes) secret mistress, the actress Ellen Ternan (Felicity Jones). Dickens, and the woman whom he came to call 'his magic circle of one', embark on an affair that lasts from the peak of his career until his death.
Odeon West End, London, Wed 17 Oct; Vue West End, London, Fri 19 Oct

Saving Mr Banks

Dir. John Lee Hancock
Biographical drama depicting the life of author PL Travers (Emma Thompson) and the pursuit of filming rights to her novella, Mary Poppins, by Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) in 1937. Saving Mr Banks brings down the curtain on the festival, with Hanks' portrayal of Disney being the first ever in a feature film.
Odeon Leicester Square, London, Sat 20 Oct

Inside Llewyn Davis

Dir. Joel and Ethan Coen
Winner of the prestigious Grand Prix at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, the Coen bothers’ return depicts a week in the life of struggling musician Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac) as he stumbles through a harsh New York winter, desperate for success in the Greenwich Village folk scene of 1961.
Odeon Leicester Square, London, Mon 15 Oct; Cineworld Haymarket, London, Wed 17 Oct; Rich Mix, Bethnal Green Road, London, Fri 19 Oct

The Lady From Shanghai (1947)

Dir. Orson Welles
Welles’ classic noir thriller, newly restored and premiering at this year’s BFI Festival, tells the story of an Irish sailor (Welles), who stumbles into a murder plot on a cruise ship. In one of cinema’s most dramatic scenes, Rita Hayworth stands in a room of mirrors, her reflections creating a mind bending finale.
Vue West End, London, Wed 16 Oct; BFI Southbank, London, Sat 19 Oct

The Zero Theorem

Dir. Terry Gilliam
Acclaimed director Terry Gilliam returns to his familiar dystopian roots, in a satirical stab at the absurdity of the quick-fix-communication obsessed modern day. Withdrawn computer programmer Qohen Leth (Christoph Waltz) is invited to crack a code that could answer any question by the Orwellian organisation, ManCom, but ends up crossing paths with those who would challenge his controlled existence.
Odeon West End, London, Sun 13 Oct; Rich Mix, Bethnal Green Road, London Wed 16 Oct; BFI Southbank, London, Fri 18 Oct


Dir. Alexander Payne
Alexander Payne again explores his penchant for deeply introspective journey-centred dramas, this time in black and white widescreen, with Bruce Dern (who won Best Actor at Cannes for this performance) and Will Forte as drink-addled father and accommodating son respectively. Woody (Dern) believes he has won a fortune, and must travel from Billings, Montana to Licoln, Nebraska to cash in. Whilst his son Grant (Forte) disbelieves the claim, the journey allows him to analyse his father’s character, explore his past and begin to understand him; with Payne’s masterful injection of a wider perspective making this film on par with the masterpiece that was Sideways.
Odeon West End, London, Fri 11 Oct; Screen on the Green, Islington, London, Sat 12 Oct, Cineworld Haymarket, London, Tue 15 Oct

Manila in the Claws of Light (1975)

Dir. Lino Brocka
A young farmer (Bembol Roco) ventures into the dangerous sprawl of the Philippine capital Manila in search of his girlfriend (Hilda Koronel), who has been sold into prostitution. In what is an extremely valuable and powerful film, Manila in the Claws of Light is a triumph of Filipino cinema and a subtle diamond at this year’s festival.
BFI Southbank, London, Sat 19 Oct

Night Moves

Dir. Kelly Reichardt
Dakota Fanning continues her ascension from child star to an increasingly impressive young actress in Reichardt’s political thriller. Three outcast militant environmentalists (Fanning, Jesse Eisenberg and Peter Sarsgaard) mount a terrorist attack, creating media frenzy. In the aftermath, they each have their own reflections and issues as a result which are explored intricately as the narrative progresses.
Odeon West End, London, Tue 15 Oct; Vue, West End, London, Wed 16 Oct; BFI Southbank, London, Thu 17 Oct

Only Lovers Left Alive

Dir. Jim Jarmusch
Adam (Tom Hiddleston) and Eve (Tilda Swinton) are a pair of ancient vampire lovers reunited after being parted, whose reverie becomes threatened with the arrival of Eve’s sister, Ava (Mia Wasikowska). With a near perfect cast for the venture, the film combines the gothic legacy of vampire literature with modern day reflections of the human condition and emotion.
Odeon West End, London, Sat 19 Oct; Odeon West End, London, Sun 20 Oct

Blue is the Warmest Colour

Dir. Abdellatif Kechiche
Winner of the Palme D’Or this year, Kechiche’s romance between fifteen year old Adéle (Adèle Exarchopoulos) and blue-haired art student Emma (Léa Seydoux) is one of the most eagerly anticipated foreign imports this year. With much debate after Cannes surrounding the film's more controversial scenes, Blue Is the Warmest Colour is also touted to be of the most candid love stories in modern cinema.
Curzon Chelsea, London, Mon 14 Oct; Curzon Mayfair, London, Thu 17 Oct

Under the Skin

Dir. Jonathan Glazer
Yet another much-anticipated selection from this year’s offerings. Sexy Beast director Jonathan Glazer returns with the otherworldly Laura (Scarlett Johansson) roaming Scotland and preying upon unsuspecting men, until something triggers a surprising response fwithin her. The Angels' Share star Paul Brannigan also features.
Odeon West End, London, Sun 13 Oct; Odeon West End, London, Mon 14 Oct


Dir. Rob Brown
Award winning UK writer and director Rob Brown returns with Sixteen, a story about a young man struggling to escape the ghosts of his past. Juma (Roger Jean Nsengiyumva), formerly a child soldier in the Congo, has fled to West London and strives to live a normal life. Events occur, however, that challenge his ability to leave the soldier in him behind.
Vue, West End, London, Mon 14 Oct; ICA, Carlton House Terrace, London, Wed, 16 Oct

The Double

Dir. Richard Ayoade
In this eagerly anticipated adaptation of Dostoyevsky’s novella from Submarine directer and IT Crowd star, Richard Ayoade, a young professional is forced into an intense rivalry with his doppelgänger. Simon (Jesse Eisenberg) is a frustrated and under-achieving employee of a government association and awkwardly fumbles his attempts to woo fellow colleague Hannah (Mia Wasikowska). To cap off his misfortune, his exact double advances smoothly throughout the organisation and seduces Hannah on the way leaving Simon increasingly despondent.
Odeon West End, London Sat 12 Oct; Vue, West End, London, Sun 13 Oct; Hackney Picturehouse, London, Mon 14 Oct

The Congress

Dir. Ari Folman
The follow-up to the highly praised Waltz With Bashir, director Ari Folman presents a warped and psychedelic alternate reality in which Robin Wright (playing herself) attempts to save her acting career in an age-conscious Hollywood by selling her image in a digitised world. After her contract expires, she is summoned to a dystopian reflection of society that nonetheless possesses elements of our own.
Vue, West End, London, Thu 10 Oct; Screen on the Green, Islington, London, Fri 11 Oct; Vue, West End, London Sat 12 Oct

My Mummy is in America and She Met Buffalo Bill

Dir. Marc Boréal and Thibaut Chatel
One of the picks of the animated offerings this year, the cartoon tells Jean Regnaud’s award winning tale about a lonely boy who finds solace in reading far-fetched postcards from his absent mother in America. In a story that is as tragic as it is uplifting, My Mummy... will appeal to audiences young and old.
BFI Southbank, London, Sun 13 Oct

Enough Said

Dir. Nicole Holofcener
Whilst the main attraction of Enough Said will be the uncharacteristically tender performance from the late, great James Gandolfini, this film also has a more than worthy story and strong supporting cast. Clumsy divorcee Eva (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) finds solace both in new friend Marianne (Catherine Keener) and new boyfriend Albert (Gandolfini). Frustratingly for Eva, Albert's past relationship with Marianne threatens to throw a spanner in the works.
Odeon West End, London, Sat 12 Oct; Vue, West End, London, Sun 13 Oct; Ritzy, Brixton, London, Mon 14 Oct