BFI London Film Festival: a pick of the 2014 programme highlights

BFI London Film Festival 2014: Programme Launch

Channing Tatum, Brad Pitt and Benedict Cumberbatch among the stars of this year's line-up

As BFI Chief Executive Amanda Nevill pointed out today, for UK filmgoers the London Film Festival marks the start of awards-season, acting as it does as a showcase for many of those films that will feature heavily in this year's BAFTA and Academy Awards nominations, alongside the best offerings from around the globe. The LFF has long failed to snag the most coveted international premieres and so sticks with its strategy of cherry-picking the best of other fests. There is, as ever, an advantage to knowing what's good.

With LFF 2013 paving the way for an unusually striking Oscars line-up (with its UK premieres of 12 Years a Slave, Gravity et al), expectations for this year's festival couldn't be higher. Festival Director Clare Stewart was on hand this morning to deliver the programme, commenting that it was, 'great to finally be out of the bunker.' As in recent years, it's divided up into thematic strands: Love, Cult, Dare, Thrill etc.

Already announced were the crowning jewels: opener The Imitation Game, Morten Tyldum's Alan Turing biopic starring Benedict Cumberbatch; the American Express gala Foxcatcher (hotly tipped to be a frontrunner at the Oscars), a psychological thriller from Bennett Miller set in the world of competitive wrestling and starring Steve Carell and Channing Tatum; while David Ayer's Fury, a WWII actioner starring Brad Pitt as a grizzled sergeant, closes the festival, with Pitt confirmed as attending.

Other notable gala presentations include: Sundance favourite Whiplash (from Damien Chazelle), a story of musical mentorship in the guise of a thriller; Jason Reitman's Men, Women and Children, a satire of our screen-obsessed culture; Wild from Dallas Buyers Club director Jean-Marc Vallée, in which Reese Witherspoon fills the walking boots of hiker Cheryl Strayed; Mr Turner, the exemplary biopic of the great British artist directed by Mike Leigh, featuring a virtuoso performance from Timothy Spall; Mommy from wonder-kid Xavier Dolan, which impressed at Cannes; Alan Rickman's sophomore feature A Little Chaos starring Kate Winslet; and Palme d'Or winner Winter Sleep from Nuri Bilge Ceylan.

The Official Competition selection features some choice-looking offerings. New work from British directors Peter Strickland (The Duke of Burgundy), Carol Morley (The Falling) and Daniel Barber (The Keeping Room) line up against an Iranian vampire western (A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night), a Chinese child abduction drama (Dearest) and the latest melodrama from French director François Ozon (The New Girlfriend).

For some the festival will be marked as much by its absences (sadly there's no sign of Inherent Vice, Interstellar or Birdman) as its acquisitions. But if this on the face of it is a less immediately lip-smacking line-up than last year, dig a little deeper and you'll find a multitude of riches.

The 58th BFI London Film Festival runs from 8–19 Oct 2014. Tickets go on sale on 18 Sep.

The BFI London Film Festival

Annual London film festival showing movies from across the world.