BFI Southbank

Cinemas , Independent South Bank
  • 5 out of 5 stars
(12 user reviews)
33 Love It
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Formerly the National Film Theatre, this much-loved four-screen venue on the South Bank in Waterloo became the BFI Southbank in 2007. For film lovers who know their Kubrick from their Kurosawa, this is London's best cinema. Certainly, it's the city’s foremost cinema for director retrospectives and seasons programmed to showcase international work or films of specific genres or themes. It’s the flagship venue of the British Film Institute and plays home each year to the BFI’s London Film Festival and to the BFI’s seasons, such as 2014’s celebration of sci-fi. BFI Southbank also regularly hosts Q&As with some of the world’s leading filmmakers. The venue itself is a hot spot, with two bar-restaurants (one overlooking the river, nestled under Waterloo Bridge), a bookshop (good for DVDs too) and a library.

Venue name: BFI Southbank
Contact:
Address: Belvedere Rd
London
SE1 8XT
Transport: Tube: Waterloo
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  • Spielberg's first film, superbly scripted by Richard Matheson, made for TV but booking its own place on the big screen: an absolute cracker about a salesman driving along the highway who gradually realises that the huge petrol tanker playfully sna...
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  • Though faithful to the text of Shakespeare's The Tempest, Greenaway's characteristically dense film could hardly differ more from literal adaptations like Branagh's Henry V. Structuring its motifs around the 24 books Prospero took into exile (as i...
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    • A magnificently dark, brooding Western - Wellman's second adaptation of a Walter Van Tilburg Clark novel (he also wrote The Ox-Bow Incident) - set during the 1880s on a small, isolated ranch in the Californian mountains, where the depredations of ...
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    • Time Out says
      • 4 out of 5 stars
      Romanian cinema is so hot right now. Last year, Cristi Puiu’s excellent ‘The Death of Mr Lazarescu’ carved cinematic excitement from terminal cancer, and then at this year’s Cannes, Cristi Mungiu’s ‘4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days’ did the same for i...
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    Average User Rating

    4.9 / 5

    Rating Breakdown

    • 5 star:10
    • 4 star:1
    • 3 star:0
    • 2 star:0
    • 1 star:0
    LiveReviews|12
    NaN people listening
    jutney
    Tastemaker

    I can’t argue with the compliments on the film programming of the BFI, there is nowhere in London that you’d find so much quality in films old and new, nor so much opportunities to see ‘alternative’ ones. But for the all refurbishment in the last (I don’t know, decade?) they could have done a better job with the seats (if you have a somewhat tall person in front of you, you’re doomed; if you’re the tall person, tough luck, no place for your legs – at least on NFT 3 –; and if it’s full, you gonna watch the film completely sideways). And even on the NFT 1 (the main one), the screen is not that big. Also, unless you think of ‘gourmet’ candies when you think of cinema, you’ll have to walk a lot to find normal (and normal-priced) candies. It is still a good cinema, just disappointing considering it’s the main venue of the British Film Institute.

    nicknickn
    Tastemaker

    This must be one of the best film venues in the world, not just in London.

    I love it for its programming as well as the theatres themselves. It always has film seasons, festivals, retrospectives and special events. It hosts Flare, London's best LGBT film festival. It has dozens of showings combined with Q&A sessions with the film makers involved.

    It has a fantastic shop and library. It also has Mediatheque; this is a resource where it possible to search and watch many hours of film and TV for free.

    The Benugo bar and the Riverside  are great places to meet up before or after screenings.

    Dave C

    There's simply no rival in London if you're looking for a cinema that specialises in retrospectives and special seasons on directors or themed work or work from a particular country. Their special events (Q&As etc) are strong, and the venue has massively improved in recent years in terms of being a place to eat and drink before or after a film. Many people now simply use it as a place to hang out without even seeing a film.

    Tiago Almeida
    Tastemaker

    Great venue with really comfy seats. The shop is brilliant for finding obscure films and film-related books. One of the best cinemas in London.

    Sarah G
    Tastemaker

    Hadn't been for a while, having given up my membership to economise.

    It's so lovely - v comfortable cinema, considerate viewers & such a lovely, cosy bar. My only complaint was that our tea was horridly weak even after loads of brewing.

    Hannah D

    The home of London cinema. It is a place where you can feel part of a community of film lovers, young and old, rich and poor, of every background. There is no bigger thrill than seeing your cinematic icons where they belong: on the big screen in front of a packed house. Seeing 'It's a Wonderful Life' at the BFI should be a London rite-of-passage.

    Alexandra L
    Tastemaker

    From the red velvet curtains to the brilliantly eclectic screening schedule to the awesome bar, the BFI is without doubt a diamond in the crown jewels of London things to do...if you are in anyway a fan of cinema and you are in anyway close to the Southbank, you owe it to yourself to visit. 


    Having been there on previous occasions to see films as diverse as 'Gone With The Wind' and 'Boyhood' (an event made all the more special for the Q+A with director Richard Linklater that followed it), I was already a BFI groupie but this afternoon's visit - a 40th anniversary screening of 'Bugsy Malone' and a Q+A with legendary director, Sir Alan Parker, and 'Babyface' actor, Dexter Fletcher - made me desperate to rush home and once again, declare my love for this establishment to all you lovely readers.  Sat in the sunlight flooded bar out front before hand, watching people browse the Southbank Book Market while blue skies provided the backdrop to the glorious skyline of London, I felt lucky to be there, proud to call this city my home and giddy-as-a-10-year-old excited to get inside and start singing along.


    The screens themselves are utterly gorgeous and kept in immaculate condition thanks to the tirelessly helpful and cheery staff who work there. Films shown include recent releases as well as retrospectives that present you with whole new worlds of movie going experiences - the Kathryn Hepburn one introduced me to the sob-fest that is 'On Golden Pond' - and themed seasons that encourage you to be brave and bold when selecting something to watch. Prices vary but are generally no more expensive that what you'd have to fork out for the delight of sitting in a decrepit, sticky floored chain cinema a few streets away and the bar & cafe that sit at the front of the building and spill onto the pavement outside are perfect for a pre-show drink, a post-show analysis or just a mesmerizing people watching date. This is absolutely one of the very best ways to watch movies in London and to support a place dedicated to keeping them alive for each new generation of film goer. 

    Anna
    Staff Writer

    Great place for all who like to see more than the new Avengers. BFI not only shows the latest releases but they are constantly introducing monthly topics revolving around the work of a single person - Katharine Hepburn, Vera Chytilova, Orson Wells to name but a few.


    They have also an amazing bar by the main entrance, and the whole place has a very art-y (but not annoying) ambience. It upgrades the experience of going to the cinema by a few levels compared to the pop-corn entertainment of CineWorld or Vue.

    Daniele
    Staff Writer

    Arthouse film lovers will feel at home here. I particularly like the bar on the side entrance. Been there with a group on a Sunday brunch and worked well for that too.