BFI Southbank

Cinemas , Independent South Bank
  • 5 out of 5 stars
(12 user reviews)
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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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  • Time Out says
    • 3 out of 5 stars
    Dr Indiana Jones: a hokey, old-fashioned movie action-hero from the childhood of many film-goers who was based, back in the burgeoning summer blockbuster days of the early 1980s, on a hokey, old-fashioned movie action-hero from the childhood of di...
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  • Time Out says
    • 4 out of 5 stars
    Many questioned director Steven Spielberg and producer Peter Jackson’s decision to render Hergé’s classic series of comic-book Boy’s Own-style adventures in performance-capture animation. But it’s hard to imagine that either live action or traditi...
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  • Time Out says
    • 3 out of 5 stars
    Steven Spielberg plunges us into an overlit, twee vision of early twentieth-century Devon at the start of ‘War Horse’ and we spend much of the rest of this harmless, conventional adaptation of Michael Morpurgo’s novel seeking – even aching for – t...
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  • The initial idea for Spielberg’s latest sprung from the real case of Alfred Merhan, an Iranian man who, by a bizarre bureaucratic quirk, lived in Paris’s Charles de Gaulle airport for 11 years. A better film exists about him: British photographer ...
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  • Why did I have to marry a sentimentalist?’ Daphna (Ayelet Zurer) indulgently moans at the husband (Eric Bana) who has dashed across a continent to her bedside for their firstborn’s arrival. It’s an odd question to hear in a Spielberg film, and an ...
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  • As Cox has been at pains to point out, this is not the story of the Sex Pistols but a love story pure and simple. And since love is never simple and rarely pure, Cox follows his emetic pair, Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen, on their long downhill sl...
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  • The source book of Orson Welles, and still a marvellous movie. Thematically less resonant than some of Welles' later meditations on the nature of power, perhaps, but still absolutely riveting as an investigation of a citizen - newspaper tycoon Wil...
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  • Far more modest in ambition than most Spielbergs, and so less portentous and bombastic, this is the director's most likeable film in ages, even if it's insubstantial, overlong and, frankly, a touch redundant. It's a jaunty mix of light suspense, r...
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  • Almodóvar's first feature shows how many of his obsessions and themes sprang fully formed from the start. Some scabs he feels compelled to pick at: drugs, adverts, musical numbers, sexual violence, and that dodgy topic, female masochism. Pepi (Mau...
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  • Shanley's full-blown romantic fantasy, shot almost entirely on stylised sets, is a dreamlike allegory about heroism and personal fulfilment. Curiously, in a film so dependent on narrative and visual artifice, it is Hanks' multi-faceted performance...
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Average User Rating

4.9 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:10
  • 4 star:1
  • 3 star:0
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  • 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.