BFI London Film Festival 2019 is officially in full swing, and these are the female-fronted films you have to see

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Megan Murray
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The 2019 BFI London Film Festival kicks off today (2 October) – how exciting! Here are our best picks of what’s on, with an emphasis on all the brilliant female talent. 

With its fantastic museums, feminist exhibitions and immersive pop-ups, London is a bubbling cultural hub at the best of times. But this week the city has reached a new level, thanks to the opening of the 2019 BFI London Film Festival.

The festival will run from the 2 to 13 of October and the first bit of good news is that the festival’s nominations list features more female-directed films than any other festival this year. The second, is that they look bloody good. 

There are four categories, including official competition, first feature competition, documentary competition and short film award. Across these not only are there some outstanding films starring actors such as Laura Dern, Tilda SwintonIsla Fisher and Alicia Vikander, but a whopping 40% of the films nominated have been directed by women, too.

From Billie Piper’s Rare Beasts to Portrait of a Lady on Fire directed by Celine Sciamma; not only is this set to be an exciting industry moment, but it means we’ve got a must-watch list that will see us through ‘til next summer.

Below are the best films either featuring or directed by women from the 2019 BFI London Film Festival, as picked by Stylist’s entertainment director Helen Bownass. 

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Films to watch with leading performances from female actors 

Marriage Story 

Scarlett Johansson stars alongside Adam Driver as a married couple whose once wonderful relationship descends into a messy divorce. Laura Dern also features and looks to be rather fantastic. 

Jojo Rabbit 

Johansson plays the mother of a 10-year-old boy in Nazi Germany, who looks to his imaginary friend for advice after he finds a Jewish girl in hiding.

Hope Gap 

Annette Bening and Bill Nighy star as a divorcing couple in this brilliantly British and hilarious drama. 

Knives Out 

This whodunnit has a sparkling, stand-out cast including the like of Jamie Lee Curtis, Toni Collette and Katherine Langford.

Earthquake Bird 

This female-fronted noir thriller is set in Tokyo and follows a love triangle that goes seriously wrong. Alicia Vikander looks to give a mesmerisingly intense performance. 


Isla Fisher stars in Greed, the story of a billionaire who holds his 60th birthday on the Greek island Mykonos and ridiculousness ensues. 

The Aeronauts 

Felicity Jones plays fearless balloon pilot Amelia Wren who flies higher than anyone has before to discover the secrets of the weather.

The Peanut Butter Falcon 

Dakota Johnson plays the caregiver of a young boy with Downs Syndrome in this sweet and funny Mark Twain-style adventure story. 

Official Secrets 

Based on a true story, this tense docudrama stars Keira Knightley as whistleblower Katharine Gun, who in 2003 leaked that the United States eavesdropped on diplomats from countries tasked with passing a second United Nations resolution on the invasion of Iraq.

Films to watch with female directors 

Rare Beasts 

Billie Piper’s directional debut comes in the form of a British anti-rom com. She also stars alongside Lily James, playing a career-driven single mother.

A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood 

This heartwarming film tells the real life story behind the friendship between journalist Tom Junod and television star Fred Rogers, starring the lovely Tom Hanks and directed by Marielle Heller.

Judy And Punch 

Mia Wasikowska stars in this dark comedy about 17th century puppeteers, Judy and Punch, who appear to be children’s entertainers with a strange twist. Mirrah Foulkes directs this bizarre but brilliant-looking film. 

Portrait of a Lady on Fire

Celine Sciamma directs this beautifully-executed French drama follows the intensely romantic relationship between two women; one the painter and one the muse. 


Set in London, this gritty drama directed by Sarah Gavron follows a popular teenage girl who is determined to look after her brother when her mum suddenly leaves. 

Lingua Franca 

Olivia (Isabel Sandoval, who also directs) is an undocumented Filipino transwoman living in Brookyln and working as a caregiver to the elderly Olga (Lynn Cohen). But when she starts running out of options to attain residency she looks to the family, and marital green card, for help. 

The BFI London Film festival runs from 2 to 13 October and there’s a host of events and screenings available throughout the festival. Film screenings will be taking place across a few different venues so always double check the location of anything you plan on watching. 

Ticket prices range between £10-20 depending on the day and time of your viewing, you can book tickets and find out more information here

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Images: Netflix / Kimberley French. © 2018 Twentieth Century Fox


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Megan Murray

Megan Murray is a senior digital writer for, who enjoys writing about homeware (particularly candles), travel, food trends, restaurants and all the wonderful things London has to offer.

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