London has earned a reputation as one of the world’s great cultural hubs, and its cinema is no exception.
With film festivals from around the world flocking to the capital every year, not to mention Roma’s ground-breaking success at this year’s Oscars, there’s never been a better time to try something new.
Whether you’ve a taste for Nordic noir or Chinese horror flicks, these are our picks of the best spots to discover international cinema across the capital.
As the capital’s only cinema dedicated to foreign language films, it’s only right to start here. The embassy-like Ciné Lumière is run by the Institut Français and specialises in modern and classic French cinema, but it also screens films from around the globe. It only has one 220-seater screen at present, which shows at least three films a day, but a smaller room is in the works for this summer. If you’re 25 or younger, tickets are just £5. For everyone else, it’s £9, or £7 on Mondays.
17 Queensberry Place, Kensington, SW72DT, institut-francais.org.uk
ArtHouse Crouch End
ArtHouse Crouch End quickly became a local institution when it opened in an old Salvation Army headquarters in 2014, and it’s not hard to see why. It has a friendly, retro atmosphere and its two intimate screens – which each sit around 85 – play a range of arthouse, foreign and independent documentary films.
159A Tottenham Lane, Crouch End, N89BT, arthousecrouchend.co.uk
Behind Deptford Cinema’s modest shop front lies a seemingly endless depth of cinematic knowledge – they curate Latin American, South East Asian and Nordic film nights on a regular basis. Arthouse fans are particularly well catered for, but there’s something for everyone to enjoy in the incredible diverse line-up. The cinema, which is run as a not-for-profit community project, is one of the most joyous celebrations of film in the city.
39 Deptford Broadway, SE84PQ, deptfordcinema.org
A charitable centre and ‘creative hub’ in Bethnal Green, Rich Mix celebrates global as much as local culture, which is reflected in the programme of international films it shows on its three screens. Any typical week will see the venue host screenings of western blockbusters, European arthouse films and Asian dramas and romantic features, as well as screenings of National Theatre productions. They also host family-friendly screenings appropriate for parents with babies.
35-47 Bethnal Green Rd, London E16LA, richmix.org.uk
Regent Street Cinema
Regent Street Cinema dates back to 1848 and has recently dedicated itself to hosting a number of international film festivals since its reopening in 2015. In the past couple of years, these have included the UK Asian Film Festival and the Australian Film Festival. 2019 sees the venue hosting London Turkish Film Week too.
The cinema is perfect for classic movies, frequently showing gems from Hollywood’s golden age, sci-fi greats and the kind of critically acclaimed films sometimes slip through the cracks.
307 Regent St, Marylebone W1B2HW, regentstreetcinema.com
Other honourable mentions
The BFI’s cinema on the South Bank often shows previews of films before general release. With a programme curated by a panel of film experts, you can usually trust that their pick of international films are of a high standard.
It’s not only independent cinemas who promote foreign language films, though. Curzon commonly offers at least one or two alongside their staple of English language arthouse titles, as does Picturehouse. Both chains have outlets across London and tend to be more comfortable and welcoming places than your average multiplex.
Though not a dedicated cinema, the ICA (Institute of Contemporary Arts) regularly shows foreign language films, and likewise cultural behemoth the Barbican, whose film offering often has an international flavour.
It’s also worth keeping an eye on annual international film festivals that happen regularly in the capital, though bear in mind that these change location and date regularly, so check their websites for details.