John Hurt is made a BFI Fellow
The Moment: In 2009, John Hurt is awarded the LFF’s highest honour: the BFI Fellowship. Suitably, Hurt himself calls it “the highest honour possible”.
Why It’s Amazing: Hurt’s as much of a British institution as the BFI itself, so naturally It’s fitting he’s one of their Fellows.
The Moment: Gabourey Sidibe pitches up to promote her first ever movie, the at times difficult-to-watch Precious , in which Sidibe plays an abused teen living in the 1980s.
Why It’s Amazing: This one’s all about the players. Sidibe rivets, Mo’Nique terrifies, and Mariah Carey scrapes off the make-up for a surprisingly accomplished turn.
How I Ended This Summer (2011)
The Moment: Russian director Aleksei Popogrebsky unveils his latest film at the fest. Following two meteorologists stationed on an Arctic Ocean island, it goes on to scoop the Best Film award.
Why It’s Amazing: Said we in our official review: “The polar landscapes and fluctuating weather are superbly shot, while there are compelling turns from the two actors, who bravely perform their own stunts.”
Into The Wild (2007)
The Moment: Sean Penn’s drama made its way to London for the 51st LFF. Emile Hirsch is the young spoilt kid who chucks it all in to live out in the wild.
Why It’s Amazing: With Hirsch delivering a spot on performance, and Eddie Vedder providing an emotive, bare-bone score, this is indie filmmaking of the highest calibre.
The 2009 Film Festival
The Moment: The 53rd London Film Festival featured a whopping 15 world premieres, including Nowhere Boy, Fantastic Mr Fox and wonderful Aussie film Balibo .
Why It’s Amazing: The LFF once again proved it had a way of getting hold of some of the most exciting upcoming films.
Vera Drake (2004)
The Moment: The abortion drama from director Mike Leigh opened the 48th LFF, with Imelda Staunton on fine form as the eponymous abortionist.
Why It’s Amazing: Though Staunton is fantastic, Vera Drake is an ensemble piece that really rivets. Edge-of-your-seat stuff.
Mn kan inte vldtas (1978)
The Moment: Otherwise known under its English title Men Can’t Be Raped , this Swedish thriller debuted at the 22nd LFF and follows a woman who gets revenge on a man who sexually assaulted her. Eat that, I Spit On Your Grave .
Why It’s Amazing: It’s proof if we ever needed it that the LFF is never afraid of approaching a potentially controversial topic.
George Clooney goes red
The Moment: You can always count on George Clooney to bring a little bit of glamour with him wherever he goes. That held true at the 55th LFF, when he attended with Stacy Keibler.
Why It’s Amazing: Clooney outshines even Keibler. How does he do it?
The Moment: Bernardo Bertolucci’s staggeringly ambitious saga (a massive 245 minutes in length) debuted at the festival in '77. It tells the tale of two boys born on the same day whose lives are impossibly different.
Why It’s Amazing: This was the festival’s first ever opening night film (for the 21st London Film Festival in 1977) – and boy did it set a precedent for the films that would follow.
In The Bedroom (2001)
The Moment: We sobbed our hearts out after the film, and then it went on to win the Satyajit Ray Award, which had us reaching for our hankies all over again.
Why It’s Amazing: It’s a modern tragedy that’s truly deserving of all the kudos.
Life During Wartime (2009)
The Moment: Todd Solondz’s comedy drama made its debut at the LFF, telling the story of a group of families and friends all struggling to make do during, yes, wartime.
Why It’s Amazing: It marks Solondz’s entry into more political filmic terrain and features some fantastic performances – not least from the always-dependable Allison Janney.
Out Of Sight (1998)
The Moment: The J-Lo-meets-George Clooney crime thriller debuted at the 42nd LFF in 1998 ahead of being nominated for two Academy Awards.
Why It’s Amazing: It’s J-Lo meeting George Clooney! Proving she can do more than just sing, Ms Lopez shares sizzling chemistry with her co-star. If only she could replicate it again now.
The Moment: It had already made quite a buzz at other fests, but Martha Marcy May Marlene landed good and proper in London last year. Its star, meanwhile, arrived in glittery Chanel, ensuring she was just as talked about as the film.
Why It’s Amazing: It made us all wonder why we’d never heard of this particular Olsen before…
Red Road (2006)
The Moment: Andrea Arnold’s Glasgow-set drama about a CCTV security guard is awarded the Sutherland Trophy, which is presented to the “director of the most original and imaginative first feature film”.
Why It’s Amazing: With hindsight, this was a sign of good things to come, with Arnold going on to make Fish Tank and last year’s Wuthering Heights .
Up In The Air (2009)
The Moment: High off the success of Juno , director Jason Reitman netted George Clooney to play a corporate downsizer who spends most of his life travelling.
Why It’s Amazing: Apart from getting Clooney on the LFF red carpet, the film’s also a slick chuckler with real heart.
David Cronenberg awarded BFI Fellowship
The Moment: The same year that his A Dangerous Method bowed at the fest, David Cronenberg received his fellowship at the BFI.
Why It’s Amazing: Cronenberg was genuinely stoked: “British cinema has been a potent inspiration for me and to be associated with this particular group of filmmakers is tremendously exhilarating.”
A Serious Man (2009)
The Moment: Michael Stuhlbarg stars as a Jewish man living in Minnesota who begins to question his faith when his professional and private lives take a turn for the worse.
Why It’s Amazing: It’s classic Coen Brothers stuff; both bleak and absorbing in the best sense.
Good Night, And Good Luck (2005)
The Moment: Closing out the 49th LFF, Good Night, And Good Luck swan dived into 1950s journalism, getting behind the scenes of a news reporting programme. The result is classy as hell.
Why It’s Amazing: Black-and-white isn’t used often these days ( The Artist aside), but here Clooney makes a hard case in its favour.
The Moment: Delayed after an inconvenient release clash with that ‘other’ Truman Capote movie, Infamous nonetheless wowed at the 50th LFF.
Why It’s Amazing: Sure, Philip Seymour Hoffman netted considerable praise for playing Capote, but Toby Jones proved he was more than up to the task with his own take on the man. In a word: outstounding.
Blue Valentine (2010)
The Moment: Michelle Williams pitches up to promote indie romance Blue Valentine , the hard-to-watch break-up story that had her trading emotional blows with Ryan Gosling.
Why It’s Amazing: Just look at her. All bequiffed and poised in a scarlet gown, she’s the embodiment of a modern-day Marilyn.
The Moment: Screening as part of the 28th London Film Festival, this gloriously gross monster movie may not be high art, but It’s still massively entertaining.
Why It’s Amazing: It’s a crowd-pleaser through and through, and one of our favourite ‘80s movies ever.
The Remains Of The Day (1993)
The Moment: James Ivory’s adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel opened the 37th London Film Festival where it was all-but drowned with praise.
Why It’s Amazing: The film went on to be nominated for eight Oscars, none of which it won (’93 was a tough year). Still, a sure sign of its quality.
The Last King Of Scotland (2006)
The Moment: Kevin Macdonald’s bracing book adaptation opened the LFF in 2006, and shocked viewers with its portrayal of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin.
Why It’s Amazing: Forest Whitaker’s performance as Amin was worth the admission price on its own.
Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang (2005)
The Moment: Writer/director Shane Black ( Lethal Weapon ) revitalised the action genre once again with a sparky, whip-smart cop thriller with oodles of style.
Why It’s Amazing: It features Robert Downey Jr on the best form he had been in for quite some years. We knew he had it in him.
Dirty Pretty Things (2002)
The Moment: Kicking off the 46th London Film Festival, Stephen Frears’ illegal immigrant drama was perfect for the LFF, what with its London setting.
Why It’s Amazing: The Guardian hailed it as “one of the tightest and most intelligent British films in ages”, which is really saying something.
Boys Dont Cry (1999)
The Moment: In a rare moment of unashamed awards-snaffling, Kimberly Peirce’s film nabbed both the Satyajit Ray Award and the FIPRESCI Prize in 1999.
Why It’s Amazing: If there was any film that deserved to get two of the awards handed out at the LFF, it was Boys Don’t Cry.
Noel Fielding Plus Three
The Moment: As his Bunny And The Bull premiered at the 2009 LFF, Noel Fielding took to the red carpet.
Why It’s Amazing: Instead of being escorted down the red strip with a gorgeously-attired model, Fielding was accompanied by three girls in fish costumes. Brilliantly odd.
Eastern Promises (2007)
The Moment: Screened a week before its UK release, Eastern Promises was an integral part of the line-up at the 51st London Film Festival.
Why It’s Amazing: It was, essentially, David Cronenberg proving once and for all that he could do emotional drama just as well as he could do body horror.
The Moment: Michael Fassbender re-teamed with his Hunger director for this unconventional drama, which has Fassy playing a sex obsessive.
Why It’s Amazing: The film, obviously, is a goliath, but the team behind it also descended on the fest, with the triple-whammy of director Steve McQueen, star Michael Fassbender and future TF Hotlist winner Abi Morgan all talking passionately about the film.
Slumdog Millionaire (2008)
The Moment: After showings at the Telluride and Toronto festivals, Danny Boyle’s colourful firework of a movie exploded onto LFF screens. The rest, as they say, is history.
Why It’s Amazing: It didn’t earn the tag of 'the feel-good film of the decade' for nothing. We all danced out of the cinema.
Ralph Fiennes receives BFI Fellowship
The Moment: Fiennes is “extremely honoured and delighted” to receive a fellowship at the 55th LFF, where his directorial debut, Coriolanus , screened.
Why It’s Amazing: It was a shock that Fiennes hadn’t received the award beforehand, having impressed for so many years.
The Road (2009)
The Moment: John Hillcoat brings his adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s apocalyptic novel to the LFF. Viggo Mortensen is the man attempting to keep his son alive in a world with no rules.
Why It’s Amazing: We hadn’t seen something this unremittingly bleak in quite some time. For that, we were grateful.
Danny Boyle awarded a BFI Fellowship
The Moment: The Brit filmmaker may not have won the Best Film award for 127 Hours , but he still went home happy after receiving a BFI Fellowship award.
Why It’s Amazing: Just read Boyle’s reaction: “I am shocked, flattered and delighted to receive the Fellowship on behalf of everyone who has helped me make the films, the successful ones and the not so successful ones, and on behalf of all runts in every litter.”
The Kings Speech (2010)
The Moment: It didn’t get any awards at the LFF, but The King’s Speech definitely got people talking. Then it went on to sweep the floor at the Oscars. Nice one.
Why It’s Amazing : It proved that the Brits really do know how to make a stunning period drama. We still got it.
Lost In Translation (2003)
The Moment: It didn’t win any awards, but Sofia Coppola’s film spoke for itself at the 47th LFF, with Bill Murray turning in a pitch perfect performance as an aging actor stranded in Japan..
Why It’s Amazing: Coppola’s recurrent themes of loneliness of misplacement continued with her third feature, but they never feel strained or tired.
Into The Abyss: A Tale Of Death, A Tale Of Life (2011)
The Moment: Werner Herzog’s disturbing documentary about men waiting on Death Row finally made it to London after jogging the film fest circuit. It picked up the Grierson Award for Best Documentary.
Why It’s Amazing: Herzog’s film is as unflinching as the man himself, meaning it totally deserved the accolade.
Garfield, Mulligan, Knightley
The Moment: Andrew Garfield, Carey Mulligan and Keira Knightley open the 54th London Film Festival with their new movie, Never Let Me Go.
Why It’s Amazing: They’re the next generation of British film, and they’re just super-duper dapper. Our man crush on Garfield gathers momentum.
The Woodsman (2004)
The Moment: Nicole Kassell’s gruelling, controversial drama – which paints an unconventionally sympathetic portrait of a paedophile – wins the 9th Annual Satyajit Ray Award.
Why It’s Amazing: The film was made for just $218 and edited on an Apple Mac.
The White Ribbon (2009)
The Moment: Set in a north Germany village, Michael Haneke’s riveting, mesmerising drama depicts the harsh reality of pre-World War I life.
Why It’s Amazing: It just is. Stylish, restrained, intoxicating. This is a true master at work.
A Prophet (2009)
The Moment: Having wooed Cannes, Jacques Audiard brought his prison-set drama to London, where it astounded critics and audiences alike. Audiard returned home with a Best Film award.
Why It’s Amazing: The film’s a brutal, utterly involving masterpiece. That award went to the right man.
We Need To Talk About Kevin (2011)
The Moment: After premiering at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, Lynne Ramsey’s film made waves at the LFF, where it was named Best Film - and rightly so.
Why It’s Amazing: The film itself is a ticking time bomb with heaps of style and some jaw-dropping performances. Awesome to see it recognised in London.
The Lives Of Others (2006)
The Moment: Director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck picked up the 11th Annual Satyajit Ray Award for his riveting, engrossing drama.
Why It’s Amazing: It’s a dramatic thriller with some seriously big ideas under its hat – not least what it’s really like to live under totalitarian rule. Terrifying and gripping in equal measure.
The Moment: Edgar Reitz’s shocking, informative and (yes) educational series, which chronicles the history of Germany in unforgiving detail.
Why It’s Amazing: In celebration of the series, the LFF showed every one of Reitz’s instalments over the festival’s five days.
The Idiots (1998)
The Moment: Lars von Trier may have caused a stir at Cannes a few years later (note to self: don't mention the Nazis), but he was the darling of the LFF in 1998 when his film The Idiots won the FIPRESCI Prize.
Why It’s Amazing: It’s the centre piece in von Trier’s fantastic Golden Heart Trilogy, one of the few movie trilogies that really works.
Little Voice (1998)
The Moment: Based on Jim Cartwright’s play The Rise And Fall Of Little Voice , Mark Herman’s dazzling adaptation opened the 42nd LFF in 1998. Talk about a curtain-raiser.
Why It’s Amazing: It’s one of those films where every piece works. Jane Horrocks is bewitching as the eponymous crooner, while Michael Caine’s a miserable git you really love to hate.
David Tennant Inspires Gawps
The Moment: Just before he quit playing the Doctor, David Tennant attended the 2009 festival with Glorious 39 , in which he played an MP. Naturally, the crowds loved him.
Why It’s Amazing: This image alone sums it up beautifully – a girl in a crowd gawps at her idol as he poses for photos and signs autographs. Magic right there.
The Artist (2011)
The Moment: Hot off its surprise success at Cannes, The Artist blew into the 55th London Film Festival like a fresh gust of Riveria air. We loved every monochrome minute of it.
Why It’s Amazing: Easily the feel-good hit of the year, this was the film that everybody was talking about come the close of 2011. Sometimes, the world just gets it right.
American Beauty (1999)
The Moment: Sam Mendes closes out the 43rd London Film Festival in serious style with his sumptuous tale of obsession.
Why It’s Amazing: Dark, foreboding, blithely humorous – American Beauty ensured that this particular festival went out with a bang.
The 31st LFF
The Moment: The 31st LFF has a special place in our hearts not just because it opened with the fantastic A Prayer For The Dying , but because it also screened Manhunter , RoboCop , Predator and The Princess Bride.
Why It’s Amazin g: It shows once and for all that the festival really is for the people – you want killer aliens? You got ‘em!
The LFF Launches
The Moment: A group of critics in 1953 first raised the idea of a London film festival, which BFI director James Quinn (top right) eventually put into action at the National Film Theatre, screening around 20 films for members of the public.
Why It’s Amazing: It was the beginning of something very special, obviously, but the festival’s unique motto as a festival for the public was key to its success.