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Erotic nuns and killer cowboys: 15 must-see films at London Film Festival

2021’s line-up includes Paul Verhoeven’s nunsploitation shocker Benedetta, Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Tilda Swinton-starring Memoria, and Céline Sciamma’s time-travelling fantasy Petite Maman

So you’ve realised the only thing in life that brings you happiness is movies. That’s a problem you have to fix – but first, there’s the BFI London Film Festival. From October 6 to 17, cinemas around the capital (and, for many films, in cities across the UK, and on BFI Player) will screen some of the most audacious, most buzzworthy, most electrifying films of the upcoming year, many of which might never play in a theatre again. (Yes, a few might be truly terrible, but that’s part of the fun – you hated it, but you hated it first.)

With the BFI’s Festival Director saying she’s “expecting a good turnout, about 80 per cent of filmmakers”, it means there’s a decent chance your favourite auteur or perhaps least-favourite actor will be there in person, to do an intro, a Q&A, and an awkward exit when they walk towards the wrong door. On offer is more than 300 films, as well as installations, industry talks, and a preview of season three of Succession, an event that’ll be maddening when everyone laughs over the subtle, rapid-fire jokes, but is the kind of one-off event that the London Film Festival delivers. If we’re honest, it’s actually the hottest screening of the lot – most of the Succession cast are expected to attend.

When choosing your tickets, it’s worth considering your priorities. The French Dispatch comes out in cinemas the same month – but maybe you’ll walk the red carpet behind Timmy Chalamet. If you investigate the BFI website properly, it’ll tell you which films don’t have UK distribution yet – these undiscovered gems are often where festival memories are made. Otherwise, here’s 15 films we think you should watch, depending on if you’re more into K-Stew being royally weird, Paul Verhoeven unleashing lesbian nuns, or another transcendent wonder from Apichatpong Weerasethakul.

BFI London Film Festival runs from 6 to 17 October. Tickets are on sale to members now, and to the public Monday September 20 at 10am