The 30 films you need to see at the 2017 London Film Festival

Need help picking which movies to see at London’s biggest annual film event? Here are our top picks
Battle of the Sexes
By Dave Calhoun and Anna Smith |
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The lineup for the 2017 BFI London Film Festival (October 4-15) has been revealed, and the event is fast coming up. The 12-day festival will show over 240 movies from all over the globe – so how can you pick what to see? That’s where we come in. We’ve explored the entire lineup and picked 30 of the most exciting new films being shown. If you want more, explore the festival in full at www.bfi.org.uk/lff and try us again for more updates at Time Out’s guide to the London Film Festival.

 

The best film screenings at LFF 2017

1
BATTLE_OF_THE_SEXES

Battle of the Sexes

Directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris

Cast Emma Stone, Steve Carell, Andrea Riseborough, Elisabeth Shue

Why we’re excited

Where to start? This comedy-drama comes from the directors of ‘Little Miss Sunshine’, it stars Emma Stone and Steve Carell, it’s based on a gob-smacking true story, it’s set in the 1970s and it’s got an LGBT+ theme too. Convinced that men were better at tennis than women, showman Bobby Riggs (Carell) challenged champ Billy Jean King (Stone) to a televised match. Meanwhile she was discovering her sexuality with a hairdresser (the always brilliant Andrea Riseborough).

How to see it

‘Battle of the Sexes’ screens at the LFF on Saturday October 7, Monday October 9 and Saturday October 14. It opens in the UK on November 24.

2
CALL_ME_BY_YOUR_NAME

Call Me Be Your Name

Director Luca Guadagnino

Cast Armie Hammer, Timothée Chalamet

Why we’re excited

Italian filmmaker Luca Guadagnino (‘A Bigger Splash’, ‘I Am Love’) makes lush tales of love and longing among beautiful people. His latest, ‘Call Me Be Your Name’ – a hit at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival – is a story of first love set among Americans holidaying in northern Italy. It stars newcomer Timothée Chalamet as a teenager whose languid summer break is turned on its head when an acquaintance (Armie Hammer) of his father comes to stay. This one sounds unmissable for all lovers of intelligent romantic drama.

How to see it

‘Call Me By Your Name’ screens at the LFF on Monday October 9, Tuesday October 10 and Wednesday October 11. It opens in the UK on October 27.

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3
DOWNSIZING

Downsizing

Director Alexander Payne

Cast Matt Damon, Christoph Waltz

Why we’re excited

With films including ‘Sideways’ and ‘Election’, US filmmaker Alexander Payne has proved himself a master of grown-up comedies which are as much about life’s sadness as making us laugh. His new one stars Matt Damon in a future world where humans are countering their effect on the future of the planet by choosing to shrink themselves and live in a parallel miniature economy. Damon plays Paul, an everyman who decides that he, too, wants to make himself small.

How to see it

‘Downsizing’ screens at the LFF on Friday October 13, Saturday October 14 and Sunday October 15. It opens in the UK on January 19 2018.

4
FLORIDA_PROJECT_THE_trolley

The Florida Project

Director Sean Baker

Cast Willem Dafoe, Brooklynn Kimberly Prince, Bria Vinaite

Why we’re excited

This new film from Sean Baker, the US writer-director behind 2015’s ‘Tangerine’, went down a storm at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival. Painful and joyful in equal measure, it’s set entirely in and around a motel in the shadow of Disney World and follows six-year-old Moonee (Brooklynn Kimberly Prince) and her friends as they make the most of this tiny strange universe they call home while the adults around them struggle to survive. Bria Vinaite gives a powerful performance as Moonee’s flawed, lively mum, Halley.

How to see it

‘The Florida Project’ screens at the LFF on Friday October 13 and Saturday October 14. It opens in the UK on November 10.

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5
ON_CHESIL_BEACH_scarf2

On Chesil Beach

Director Dominic Cooke

Cast Saoirse Ronan, Emily Watson, Billy Howle

Why we’re excited

The novels of Ian McEwan have inspired memorable adaptations, including ‘Atonement’ and ‘The Cement Garden’. Now McEwan himself has adapted his 2007 short novel ‘On Chesil Beach’, which tells of a naïve young couple dealing with the demands of marriage in 1960s England. Saoirse Ronan plays Florence, while Billy Howle plays her fiancé Edward. It’s a quiet, subtle story that deals with the unspoken and thoughts left unsaid, so it’ll be fascinating to see how McEwan translates it to the big screen.

How to see it

‘On Chesil Beach’ screens at the LFF on Sunday October 8, Tuesday October 10 and Sunday October 15. It opens in the UK on January 19 2018.

6
ZAMA_man

Zama

Director Lucrecia Martel

Cast Daniel Giménez Cacho, Lola Dueñas

Why we’re excited

It’s been almost a decade since the last feature from Argentinian filmmaker Lucrecia Martel (‘The Headless Woman’, ‘The Holy Girl’), so expectations are high for this eighteenth-century set adaptation of a 1956 novel by Antonio di Benedetto. It tells of Don Diego de Zama (Daniel Giménez Cacho), a minor officer of the Spanish crown who is fighting to relocate from the regions where’s he posted to the distant city where his wife and children live. It promises to be a distinctive portrait of power and struggle under colonialism.

How to see it

‘Zama’ screens at the LFF on Saturday October 14 and Sunday October 15.

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7
BREADWINNER_food

The Breadwinner

Director Nora Twomey

Cast Saara Chaudry, Soma Chhaya

Why we’re excited

This animation is from Cartoon Saloon, the same Irish production house as the lovely 2014 film ‘Song of the Sea’. And its story is eye-grabbing. It tells of an 11-year-old girl in Taliban-controlled Kabul whose father is kidnapped and who pretends to be a boy in order to bring money and food into the family home. If it has anything of the compassion and power of ‘Song of the Sea’, this should be an inspiring, unusual watch for kids and families.

How to see it

‘The Breadwinner’ screens at the LFF on Sunday October 8, Wednesday October 11 and Sunday October 15.

8
EX_LIBRIS_reading_room

Ex Libris – The New York Public Library

Director Frederick Wiseman

Why we’re excited

Frederick Wiseman is a genius of American documentary-making. Now in his late eighties, he always immerses himself in his subjects for months to produce detailed fly-on-the-wall portraits. His latest focus is The New York Public Library, an institution with 92 branches across Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island and a resource of knowledge accessible to all of the city’s residents. ‘Ex Libris’ promises to bring this remarkable organisation to life, and to make an impassioned plea for the importance of culture along the way.

How to see it

‘Ex Libris – The New York Public Library’ screens at the LFF on Wednesday October 11 and Saturday October 14.

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9
THREE_BILLBOARDS_DAY

Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri

Director Martin McDonagh

Cast Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell

Why we’re excited

This is British-Irish playwright Martin McDonagh’s third film after ‘In Bruges’ and ‘Seven Psychopaths’, so naturally we’re excited to encounter his smart and sharp black-comic writing again. This one stars Frances McDormand as an angry grieving mother who places three billboards outside her small Missouri town when her daughter’s murder remains unsolved after seven months. The mouth-watering cast also includes Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell.

How to see it

‘Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri’ screens at the LFF on Sunday October 15. It opens in the UK on January 12 2018.

10
GHOST_STORIES_bridge_1

Ghost Stories

Director Jeremy Dyson, Andy Nyman

Cast Martin Freeman, Andy Nyman

Why we’re excited

Andy Nyman and former ‘League of Gentlemen’ creator Jeremy Dyson first devised ‘Ghost Stories’, a collection of creepy tales, for the stage. Now they’ve brought it to the big screen, with Nyman playing Phillip Goodman, a professional sceptic who’s trying to poo-poo ideas that the supernatural even exists. We hear that the result is pretty chilling, so we reckon that Phillip might just be proved wrong. This plays in the weird-and-wonderful Cult section of the LFF.

How to see it

‘Ghost Stories’ screens at the LFF on Thursday October 5, Friday October 6 and Saturday October 14.

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11
BREATHE_embrace_still

Breathe

Director Andy Serkis

Cast Andrew Garfield, Claire Foy, Hugh Bonneville, Tom Hollander

Why we’re excited

Andy Serkis has found an incredible true story for his directorial debut – and a star to match. The great Andrew Garfield plays Robin Cavendish, a Brit who was struck with polio, paralysed and given months to live. But he and his wife (Claire Foy) refused to give up hope, and their innovations changed the way the medical world viewed disabilities. Stirring stuff.

How to see it

‘Breathe’ screens at the LFF on Wednesday October 4 and Thursday October 5. It opens in the UK on October 27.

12
FINAL_YEAR_THE_table

The Final Year

Director Greg Barker

Cast Barack Obama, John Kerry

Why we’re excited

Many film-goers will be forgiven for wanting to be transported back to the presidency of Barack Obama, and this documentary might go some way towards fulfilling that wish. It follows Obama and his inner circle during the last months of the previous US administration, with a special focus on foreign policy and Obama’s desire to leave behind a firm legacy in that area. It means that we’re given insider access to discussions over such issues as Syria and climate change, and the film also promises a special insight into the 2016 election. Prepare to feel nostalgic.

How to see it

‘The Final Year’ screens at the LFF on Sunday October 8 and Monday October 9.

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13
LEK_AND_THE_DOGS_naked

Lek and the Dogs

Director Andrew Kötting

Cast Xavier Tchili

Why we’re excited

The LFF has a strong Experimenta section, showing innovative films at the wild edges of cinema. This new film from Andrew Kötting (‘Gallivant’, ‘Swandown’) is based on a play by Hattie Naylor and tells of Lek (Xavier Tchili), a man who withdraws from society to live with canines. Kötting enjoys playing with visual styles, sound and performance, so expect this to be rewarding if you’re willing to expand your definition of what cinema can be.

How to see it

‘Lek and the Dogs’ screens at the LFF on Saturday October 14.

14
BLADE_OF_THE_IMMORTAL_sword

Blade of the Immortal

Director Takashi Miike

Cast Takuya Kimura, Hana Sugisaki, Sota Fukushi

Why we’re excited

This samurai action thriller is the hundredth feature film from the legendary Japanese director. Takuya Kimura plays a guilt-ridden samurai who’s defied death and hopes to redeem himself by helping a young girl whose parents were killed. Obviously, this means tracking down many murderers and fighting them in the most spectacular fashion possible. Stay away if you don’t like blood.

How to see it

‘Blade of The Immortal’ screens at the LFF on Sunday October 8 and Monday October 9.   

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15
SHAPE_OF_WATER_THE_lady

The Shape of Water

Director Guillermo del Toro

Cast Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Octavia Spencer

Why we’re excited

An inventive new fantasy sci-fi from the imagination of the director of ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’, ‘The Shape of Water’ is sure to be a cult hit – and we wouldn’t be surprised to see it showing up in awards season too. The wonderful Sally Hawkins plays a mute woman who befriends a strange aquatic creature while working in a secret US lab. Horror, sci-fi and gothic romance are set to blend in a concoction to get Del Toro’s fans salivating.

How to see it

‘The Shape of Water’ screens at the LFF on Tuesday October 10, Wednesday October 11 and Friday October 13. It opens in the UK on December 4.

16
LET_THE_SUNSHINE_IN_bed

Let The Sunshine In

Director Claire Denis

Cast Juliette Binoche, Xavier Beauvois

Why we’re excited

Claire Denis is one of the great talents of French cinema, and the fact that Juliette Binoche stars in her latest film only makes it all the more tempting. ‘Let the Sunshine In’ sees Binoche playing a Parisian artist struggling in her personal life, and we watch her going through various encounters with friends and lovers in her attempt to make sense of her romantic self. There are small roles for a few well-known actors (including Gérard Depardieu). It’s a deceptively simple film that will have you talking about what it means long after it ends.

How to see it

‘Let the Sunshine In’ screens at the LFF on Friday October 13 and Saturday October 14.

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17
I_AM_NOT_A_WITCH_facepaint

I Am Not A Witch

Director Rungano Nyoni

Cast Margaret Mulubwa, Dyna Mufuni

Why we’re excited

Join a travelling witch camp or become a goat? That’s the choice given to eight-year-old Shula (Margaret Mulubwa) in a bold fairytale set in Zambia. Strong word from the 2017 Cannes Film Festival suggests this could be one of the big hits of the LFF’s First Feature section, and one with plenty to say about attitudes to women.

How to see it

‘I Am Not A Witch’ screens at the LFF on Thursday October 12, Saturday October 14 and Sunday October 15. It opens in the UK on October 20.

18
MUDBOUND_truck

Mudbound

Director Dee Rees

Cast Jason Mitchell, Garrett Hedlund, Carey Mulligan, Jason Clarke

Why we’re excited

Dee Rees (‘Pariah’) is a hot new director and her latest film has a fantastic cast and an emotive 1940s-set story. Based on Hillary Jordan’s prize-winning book, it follows Carey Mulligan’s character Laura to her new Mississippi home with her husband (Jason Clarke). Racial tension comes to the surface when two men (Jason Mitchell and Garrett Hedlund) return from war and strike up a friendship that breaks local taboos.

How to see it

‘Mudbound’ screens at the LFF on Thursday October 5, Friday October 6 and Saturday October 7. It launches on Netflix in the autumn.

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19
IVAN_TSAREVITCHET_AND_THE_CHANGING_PRINCESS_3

Ivan Tsarevitch and the Changing Princess

Director Michel Ocelot

Cast Yves Barsacq, Marine Griset

Why we’re excited

French master animator Michel Ocelot’s style is immediately recognisable: he uses detailed silhouettes to tell enchanting stories with a global slant in films including 1998’s beguiling ‘Kirikou and the Sorceress’. This latest work, screening in the LFF’s impressive Family strand, is a collection of four stories, drawing on people and places from over the world. If this is anything like Ocelot’s previous films, expect to be enchanted. For kids and adults alike, his work is magical and surprising.

How to see it

‘Ivan Tsarevitch and the Changing Princess’ screens at the LFF on Saturday October 7.

20
LEAN_ON_PETE_horse

Lean on Pete

Director Andrew Haigh

Cast Charlie Plummer, Steve Buscemi

Why we’re excited

British filmmaker Andrew Haigh has made a name for himself in recent years with the insightful, tender dramas ‘Weekend’ and ‘45 Years’. Now Haigh has written and directed his first film set in the US, and it’s an adaptation of a novel by Willy Vlautin telling of a teenage boy from a troubled background in Oregon who hits the road with a new friend: a racehorse called Lean on Pete. Haigh is a great director of actors, so we’re especially looking forward to seeing Charlie Plummer in the lead role (as the boy, not the horse).

How to see it

‘Lean on Pete’ screens at the LFF on Thursday October 5 and Friday October 6. It opens in the UK on February 16 2018.

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21
THELMA_wires

Thelma

Director Joachim Trier

Cast Eili Haroe, Okay Kaya, Ellen Dorrit Petersen

Why we’re excited

This character-driven horror is being spoken of in the same breath as ‘Ginger Snaps’ and ’Raw’, so we’re picturing a tense, female-focused coming-of-age shocker. Thelma is a biology student who discovers apparent superpowers when she leaves home. This comes from Norwegian director Joachim Trier, who is best known for thoughtful dramas such as ‘Louder Than Bombs’ – his step into genre territory could be a winner.

How to see it

‘Thelma’ screens at the LFF on Saturday October 14 and Sunday October 15. 

22
DARK_RIVER_01

Dark River

Director Clio Barnard

Cast Ruth Wilson, Mark Stanley, Sean Bean

Why we’re excited

After ‘The Arbor’ and ‘The Selfish Giant’, any film from Clio Barnard is cause for excitement. Ruth Wilson plays Alice, who comes home for the first time in 15 years after her father dies. She believes the family farm is rightfully hers but with her elder brother (Mark Stanley) already in situ, expect tensions to brew. Stunning shots of the Yorkshire landscape are a given — as are intense, engrossing performances directed by one of Britain’s finest.

How to see it

‘Dark River’ screens at the LFF on Saturday October 7 and Thursday October 12. 

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23
FANTASTIC_WOMAN_A_side

A Fantastic Woman

Director Sebastián Lelio

Cast Daniela Vega, Francisco Reyes, Luis Gnecco

Why we’re excited

Sebastián Lelio’s drama is being compared to the work of Pedro Almódovar, and it’s co-produced by Maren Ade, who gave us the darkly hilarious ‘Toni Erdmann’. Daniela Vega stars as a trans woman who is forced to fight for her rights after the sudden death of her partner. With his family turning against her, she must battle to be recognised by the law – while recalling the romance she once had.

How to see it

‘A Fantastic Woman’ screens at the LFF on Friday October 6 and Tuesday October 10. It opens in the UK on March 2 2018.

24
PARTY_THE_groupshot

The Party

Director Sally Potter

Cast Kristin Scott Thomas, Patricia Clarkson, Timothy Spall

Why we’re excited

The director of ‘Orlando’ and ‘Ginger and Rosa’ is a terrific talent who’s assembled an excellent cast for her latest film. Kristin Scott Thomas plays a politician who is hosting a celebratory party, but we’re guessing there are a few dark turns as well as popping corks: the film’s tagline is ‘a comedy of tragic proportions’.

How to see it

‘The Party’ screens at the LFF on Tuesday October 10. It opens in the UK on October 11.

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25
JOURNEYMAN_head

Journeyman

Director Paddy Considine

Cast Paddy Considine, Jodie Whittaker, Tony Pitts

Why we’re excited

’Tyrannosaur’ was an astonishing directorial debut for Paddy Considine, so we’re quietly confident in his ability to floor us with his second feature: a story about an amnesiac boxer. The director also stars as Matty, who is struggling to rebuild his life with his wife Emma – played by future Doctor Who and LFF regular Jodie Whittaker. 

How to see it

‘Journeyman’ screens at the LFF on Thursday October 12, Friday October 13 and Saturday October 14.

26
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6 Days

Director Toa Fraser

Cast Jamie Bell, Mark Strong, Abbie Cornish

Why we’re excited

Set in 1980, this London-set terrorism thriller has plenty of modern relevance as well as being a shocking true story. It stars Mark Strong as the hostage negotiator brought in when six gunmen take control of the Iranian Embassy in London’s Mayfair. The excellent Jamie Bell plays the leader of the SAS team drafted in. The odds look good for a gritty and gripping watch.

How to see it

‘6 Days’ screens at the LFF on Tuesday October 10, Thursday October 12 and Sunday October 15.

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27
PICKUPS_01

Pickups

Director Jamie Thraves

Cast Aidan Gillen, Stuart Douglas Harris

Why we’re excited

Aidan Gillen plays an actor who’s preparing to play a serial killer, and takes the prep a little, well, seriously. The scene is set for a bitterly funny comedy from Jamie Thraves (‘The Low Down’) that explores a mid-life crisis as well as diving into the weird world of acting. And given that the lead character is also called Aidan, we’re anticipating a playful, post-modern slant.

How to see it

‘Pickups’ screens at the LFF on Sunday October 8 and Thursday October 12.

28
FAITHFUL_bike

Faithfull

Faithfull

Director Sandrine Bonnaire

Cast Marianne Faithfull, Mick Jagger

Why we’re excited

Lauded French actor-director Sandrine Bonnaire managed to get unprecedented access to Marianne Faithful for her life story, which combines frank interviews with archive footage. Once the toast of swinging London, the singer, songwriter and actor was left living on the streets before she made her remarkable return.

‘Faithfull’ sounds like a must for fans as well as younger viewers keen to learn more about a living legend.

How to see it

‘Faithfull’ screens at the LFF on Thursday October 5 and Friday October 6. 

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29
PROFESSOR MARSTON & THE WONDER WOMEN_wonder

Professor Marston & The Wonder Women

Director Angela Robinson

Cast Luke Evans, Rebecca Hall, Bella Heathcote

Why we’re excited

‘Wonder Woman’ made history at the box office this year, but her creators were even more groundbreaking, according to Angela Robinson’s drama. Luke Evans plays Dr William Moulton Marston, who conceived of the comic book character with his wife Elizabeth (Rebecca Hall), a fellow psychologist. But there may have been a third hand in Diana Prince: Olivia Burne (Bella Heathcote), who lived with the couple in a polyamorous relationship. Intriguing.

How to see it

‘Professor Marston & The Wonder Women’ screens at the LFF on Tuesday 10 October, Thursday 12 October and Sunday 15 October. It opens in the UK on November 10.

30
GOOD_TIME_corridoor

Good Time

Directors Josh Safdie, Benny Safdie

Cast Robert Pattinson, Benny Safdie

Why we’re excited

Robert Pattinson has been making impressive choices since the ‘Twilight’ series ended, and this might be his best post-Edward Cullen movie yet. It’s a down-and-dirty New York-set crime thriller in which Pattinson plays one of two brothers who we follow over one long dark night when they’re on the run in the city after a botched bank job. It’s one of those films which you might need to lie in a dark room after seeing just to get your breath and your sanity back. And that’s a positive in our book.

How to see it

‘Good Time’ screens at the LFF on Thursday October 5 and Sunday October 8. It opens in the UK on November 3.

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