In Depth

London Film Festival: the ten best films - video

Ten must-see films from the London Film Festival which opens tomorrow

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The London Film Festival gets underway tomorrow, with new cinema from around the world, including Hollywood blockbusters, Japanese sci-fi, Italian comedies, animation for both kids and adults and a wide array of experimental films and shorts. 

But with so much on offer, which films are worth seeking out? Here are ten great titles as recommended by a range of respected reviewers:

The Imitation Game

Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley will be on the red carpet to open the London Film Festival tomorrow with this biopic covering some of the key moments in the life of Britain's most revered code breaker, Alan Turing.

Turing's contribution towards cracking the Nazi Enigma code at Bletchley Park was kept under wraps for years due to official secrecy about his work and squeamishness about his homosexuality.

The film's themes may be "a bit straightforward", says Time Out, and "its various riffs on codes, whether moral, sexual, societal or German [are] plain to see rather than enigmatic or enlightening". But Cumberbatch's "storming" performance provides the film greater depth: "You’ll be deciphering his work long after the credits roll," it says.

Citizenfour

Oscar-nominated director Laura Poitras returns to the festival with a new documentary looking at Edward Snowden's leaks about the NSA and global surveillance. Steven Soderbergh produced the film, whose title refers to a codename used by Snowden. Clare Stewart, the director of the London Film Festival, describes Citizenfour as a "bitingly relevant film that speaks to the political consciousness of our times".

Dearest

After premiering last month at the Venice film festival, Dearest arrives in London with some strong reviews. Variety says that Peter Ho-sun Chan's film about Chinese child abduction could have been heavy-handed and self-righteous, but it takes a "sharp turn … into far more interesting, morally complex territory". The film is not always the most sophisticated, but it "hits audiences twice, aiming first for the heart and later for the head".

Duke of Burgundy

No festival is complete without a touch of erotica, and according to The Guardian, Peter Strickland's dom/sub lesbian drama ticks that box while also offering a surprisingly tender love story. "The Duke of Burgundy will have its detractors," the paper says. "But this is not just a filthy movie. It's a considerable work of art, and one that touches on a rarely discussed side of human sexuality completely free of judgement."

My Old Lady

Maggie Smith and Kevin Kline star in this adaptation of a 2012 Broadway play about a down-and-out writer who inherits a gold mine of a Paris apartment, but can’t sell it while an elderly dowager still living in it. My Old Lady is "compelling viewing" says Roger Ebert, mostly thanks to Kline, "who gives a career-high performance".

Foxcatcher

Bennett Miller won the Best Director prize at this year's Cannes Film Festival for this sports drama starring comedian Steve Carrell. According to Digital Spy, Carrell "turns in a career-redefining performance as disturbed millionaire John du Pont, who sets his delusional sights on a troubled young Olympic wrestling champion (Channing Tatum)". If you see the film and want to know a little more, Miller will be on hand at a screen talk Q&A to answer all your questions.

Whiplash

Whiplash tells the story of Andrew, a promising 19-year-old drummer at a cutthroat Manhattan music conservatory driven by the fear of mediocrity. The film came about as an extension of writer/director Damien Chazelle's 2013 award-winning short film of the same name. The film neither demonises nor lionises its fiercely ambitious protagonist, says Forbes's Scott Mendelson, but "leaves the question of merit up to us, while crafting a wildly entertaining and outright superb film in the process".

Wild

Jean-Marc Vallée's adaptation of the bestselling hiking tale by Cheryl Strayed is the story of a woman who turns to nature for catharsis after her mother dies. The film stars Reese Witherspoon who "excels as a committed figure battling through each rough day," says IndieWire's Eric Cohn. The film was scripted by Nick Hornby and is propelled by "beautiful visuals and a great central performance".

Keep On Keepin' On

This debut documentary by Alan Hicks tells the story of the relationship between legendary Jazz trumpet player Clark Terry and his most recent protégé Justin Kauflin, who happens to be blind. Over the course of four years, Terry helps the 23-year-old Justin to overcome his performance anxiety and unleash his talent. "These two men, 70 years apart, inspire each other," says Roger Ebert "and that inspiration can be infectious".

Fury

Bringing down the curtain on the festival will be Brad Pitt's star turn as a tank commander slogging through Europe in the final days of World War Two. According to the New York Times, the film comes as "one of the most daring studio movies this year", featuring a "relentlessly authentic portrayal of the extremes endured, and inflicted, by Allied troops who entered Germany in the spring of 1945".

For further information on the festival and ticket bookings: http://www.bfi.org.uk/lff

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