Top 20 Things for Film Fans to Do in London
Film and food have always been intrinsically linked. Whether it is movies like Ratatouille or Julie and Julia, or simply the fact that we all love to munch on some popcorn or sweets at our local cinema, it cannot be escaped.
The Edible Cinema has embraced this and created special screenings where you are given a range of mystery food and drink samples to consume at certain points while watching a film, making a truly unique and unforgettable experience. No more cheap, stale popcorn here!
More for the sci-fi and comic book lovers, Forbidden Planet is London’s premiere geek shop. Packed full of toys, memorabilia and clothing, it really is hard for any fan of Marvel or Star Wars not to get far too over excited with their credit card in here.
Arguably, one of the bests places to do your Christmas shopping, this really is a geek paradise.
Everyone knows that British summer time is characterised by cloudless skies and balmy sunshine. What better idea than to put a cinema on top of roofs around the capital? That’s exactly what the Rooftop Film Club has done.
Having now spread to a range of different including the Bussey Building in Peckham, the Queen of Hoxton in Shoreditch and Roof East in Stratford, the group screen a selection of brilliant cult classics, while you lay back in a stripey deckchair and enjoy the hopefully clement weather.
Founded in 2000, the East End Film Festival has always felt a bit like London’s ‘other’ film festival. This in no way takes away from the excitement of it all, as the festival hosts a programme of diverse international indie premieres, as well as a huge range of showings from exciting homegrown talent.
Over the last few years, it has managed to establish itself as more than just a fringe player, and now hosts many much-talked about premieres, as well as hosting a range of A-list guests and featuring live performances by acclaimed musicians.
The ever increasing popularity of outdoor screening has tended to see them pop up everywhere. But realistically, that tends to mean your local park or pub with a roof garden. The Nomad Cinema really does often get some of the most unique locations though, with one truly being the perfect horror moving setting.
Brompton Cemetery has hosted a range of their screening, with the picturesque, if not incredibly creepy 1840 graveyard being the backdrop. What is not to love about sitting amongst the tombstones watching a good old gore fest?
The Electric Cinema is one of the UK’s most beautiful and luxurious cinemas. With leather armchairs, footstools and side tables giving you unrivaled comfort, there is also three 2-seater sofas at the rear of the cinema and six double beds in the front row. This truly is a unique cinema experience, with individual cashmere blankets available.
The cinema also has a range of delightful drinks and snacks, as well as an upstairs diner doing quick and tasty food, which feels like it's straight out of 1950s gangster film.
The London Film Museum is the city’s only major museum dedicated to movies and offers an opportunity to see some of the props and experience an insight into movies made in the city. Since 2014 the museum has had a dedicated focus on London’s greatest film export, James Bond.
The museum currently contains a large collection of over 100 cars, other vehicles and original props, spanning all 24 James Bond films. This really is a must for any die hard James Bond fans.
London has provided the backdrop for countless films, meaning a walk through the capital can be an enjoyable experience for many movie buffs. Whether you take a guided tour through the city, or wing it yourself, you are bound to stumble across a load of recognisable scenes.
Maybe head to the picturesque streets of Notting Hill to get your full Hugh Grant on, or perhaps head to King’s Cross’ Platform 9 ¾ or even to see Paddington. The Old Royal Naval College as well as Horse Guards have both been used for dozens of military focused films, while many of the Thames’ picturesque bridges have either formed the basis for romantic walks or mass destruction alike.
The BFI London Film Festival is the country’s premiere film festival. It offers those in the film industry, as well as the general public, opportunities to see some of the most exciting new films set to come out over the next few months.
The catalogue is usually packed with a range of different tones, styles as well as quality, and as often very few people will have seen the films by this point, reviews may be hard to come by, meaning perhaps you’re taking more of leap of faith than your average cinema trip, but that is all part of the fun.
There has always been a natural fascination from movie fans for the props, costumes and sets that have brought to life the stories that we love. Warner Brothers have collected some of the best elements of the Harry Potter film series into their studio tour, making it unrivalled in the UK.
The tour allows visitors to step into their favourite sets, such as Diagon Alley and the Great Hall, while seeing a range of original costumes, authentic props and learn how the special effects were created to bring magic to life on screen. And of course, if you’re willing to splash a bit of cash, they have one of the most extensive Harry Potter merchandise shops you will find.
The Everyman chain offer some of the most luxurious cinema experiences in London, with plush two seater sofas and armchairs providing incredibly comfortable seating, while a full range of quality food and drink is available delivered to your seat.
Arguably their most notable venue is the Screen on the Green in Islington. Having run as a cinema since 1913, it is the oldest continually open cinema in all of the UK. Your enjoyment of a film is not purely limited to the luxury you’ll experience inside however, as the cinema is one of the most iconic and beautiful on the outside. Checking out the illuminated neon signs at night cannot help but make you feel a sense of nostalgia.
Leicester Square is the UK’s home to film premieres and often you will find the red carpet rolled out at the Odeon there. Perfect for die hard fans to see the stars in the flesh, while autograph hunters and photograph hunters may also get lucky.
With major releases, they will often put on live web streams that are also broadcast onto screens outside the cinema so you can keep up to date with exactly what is going on.
When there isn’t a premiere on, the Leicester Square Odeon is still a fully functional cinema, easy to find due to its black granite facade and 120 foot tower. The largest single screen cinema in the UK, you cannot help but get a thrill sitting in the same place where countless stars would have over the years.
No matter how home entertainment develops, there will never be anything to rival the thrill of going to see a movie on the big screen. And very few screens come bigger than this.
There have been many attempts to make cinema even more immersive, from various attempts at 3D to even having vibrating seats. Normally they tend to be cheap gimmicks, but arguably IMAX’s attempt to develop all-encompassing screens and bone shaking sound systems do a good job of enhancing the experience, while staying true to the medium.
Christopher Nolan’s recent offering Dunkirk, which was shot almost entirely in IMAX, is itself a breathtaking piece of immersive cinema, but which is given a new level by seeing it on this huge screen.
Having opened in 2014, PimpShuei is the self-proclaimed best martial arts themed bar in the world. Stepping down into it, it feels like the 1980s never left us, with original movie posters, vintage TV screens and retro arcade games that are often free to play on weekdays.
It may not be a direct film experience, but the bar is often used for screenings, while movies often loop in the background and it is hard to go inside without thinking of all the great Kung-Fu classics that you love
The BFI Southbank is a delightful cinema to watch a film in. Often showing mainstream classics and new releases, the BFI also runs seasons where you can delve into the more off-the-beaten-track movies of old.
But more than that, the whole centre is a brilliant place for learning about and discovering film. The Mediatheque allows you to browse a plethora of old films, while the library contains countless books and documents on the art. The BFI also features one of the best London shops for movie lovers, while its bar and restaurant is one of the most cosy on the Southbank.
The BFI Southbank is also especially good for 18-25 year olds as their young person’s scheme allows you to purchase £3 tickets to any not sold out film, shortly before it starts.
Movies have often been a way for brilliant new bands or forgotten hit singles to be ingeniously used by directors to add something new to their films, while few die hard movie buffs would have resisted the lure to buy the album soundtracks of classic hits such as Trainspotting or Pulp Fiction, where the music is as much a part of the film as the acting or script. Film scores are often one of the only ways that big orchestral music enters in the popular consciousness, and events where the great composers play a selection of their hit scores or where a local orchestra performs along with a classic movie are a brilliant way to truly appreciate this.
The Royal Albert Hall is arguably one of London’s greatest classical music venues, and regularly have events featuring some of the greatest films and scores to have ever existed. It is a truly magical experience to watch great orchestras in this immense setting.
Now such a well-loved phenomenon, it manages to propel old classic to spend months in the UK Box Office Top 10, Secret Cinema may not be that secret, but it is certainly wonderful. The team have managed to transform the usual cinema experience of sitting in a dark room, into a truly an immersive artform.
Taking place each year at a secret location, for normally a secret film, participants arrive to be greeted by a plethora of actors, props and adventures to work their way through before the film, where the action itself is normally enhanced all around by elaborate stagings.
The main downside to the increasingly elaborate productions, is the increasingly costly entrance fee, with tickets to the most recent Moulin Rouge costing between £50 and £150. That said however, there really is no other cinema experience like it.
As a tourist it is easy to stumble down one of the side streets off of bustling Leicester Square and be surprised to be faced with what looks like a slightly grotty office building with an old fashioned cinema letter sign. Having previously been a 60s porn cinema and in more recent years having had a toilet cubicle officially opened by Kevin Smith, the PCC is one of the best cult cinemas in the world.
Featuring a varied programme of current favourites, obscure anime, cult horror and legendary classics, the PCC has become known for some of its especially quirky screenings, such as Tommy Wiseau’s so-bad-it's-good The Room as well as all-night pyjama marathons of back to back Wes Anderson films and bitch-a-long Mean Girls showings. Often raucous, always enjoyable and arguably the best place to watch Christmas films in London, the PCC really is the cinema of the people and that’s why we love it.
Every summer in London, it is hard to escape what feels like every flat piece of space being turned into an outdoor pop-up cinema, but Film4’s Summer Screen at Somerset House is a truly special experience. Having run since 2004, it really does feel like the original and the best, with the breathtaking setting of Somerset House, and wonderfully varied opening DJs providing the perfect backdrop to pre-film drinks and picnicking. The technical team always need to be applauded, for having what is undoubtedly the best outdoor setup in all of London, managing to attain flawless quality for every show.
What makes it more special however is the programming, which always manages to find a perfect balance where even die hard film fans can normally discover something new or relive something much loved. From incredible indie premieres to cult classics, the schedule is a brilliant playlist of exciting and challenging films which must be watched.
Occasionally you do not want sofas and food delivered to your seat, sing alongs and all nighters or being pelted with rain while you sit on a hard concrete floor. Sometimes you just want to let the movie do the talking and have a great all round cinema experience. This is why the Picturehouse Central is the best film experience you can have in London.
With a beautifully designed foyer, it is perfect for pre-film drinks and snacks. The seats are nothing gimmicky or over the top, but are perfectly comfortable, while the audiences tend to be respectful, code of conduct following film lovers (no throwing spoons here) and the projection and sound quality are always top notch. Most of all, the programming is beautifully balanced. You will happily see indie art house films alongside Hollywood blockbusters, while trashy classics sit alongside mind blowing documentaries. It is just everything you could want from treating yourself to a trip to the movies, and that’s why it’s our number one.