Finding that your wallet isn’t renewing as quickly as the seasons? Wondering how you can afford to keep going to the cinema? Worry not. Our Radiant Circus guide to FREE films in London this Spring & Summer is crammed with no-cost film nights, festivals & special events*.
There’s something for every adventurous film fan here, from silent cinema to new releases, documentary film to experimental animation, tasteful world cinema to exploitation shockfests.
Some free events are programme-specific and will come and go with the seasons. Others are a permanent state of mind. Some promoters invite you to make a donation (but only if you are able…). Most events book up really quickly – or have ticketing limits – so please click when you can.
We’ll update this guide as more attractions come to our attention. Let us know what we’ve missed in the comments below or via DM on Twitter.
QUICK LINKS: Austrian Cultural Forum / Birkbeck Cinema / Free Film Festivals / Genesis Cinema / House Of Vans / Italian Cultural Institute / Japan Foundation / Korean Cultural Centre / Vito Project / World Wide Weird.
The Austrian Cultural Forum promotes cultural contacts between the UK and Austria. They organise events and support projects in the fields of music, performing arts, visual arts, literature, film and science.
There’s a regular programme of free films in London, of which we really like the look of their current celebration of Erich von Stroheim. Choose from: FOOLISH WIVES with live music from John Sweeney (26 APR 19:00); and, QUEEN KELLY (02 MAY 19:00).
Birkbeck Institute for the Moving Image (BIMI) has a busy year-round programme including the always excellent ESSAY FILM FESTIVAL.
Their free films in London include the following exciting titles: LA HAINE (05 MAY 14:00); FOCUS ON JAMES MASON inc. a screening of THE RECKLESS MOMENT 35mm (26 MAY 13:00); THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL (01 JUN 18:00); and, PRECIOUS (02 JUN 14:00).
The ‘Tragedy & Sexuality’ season starts with LILYA 4-EVER (08 JUN 18:00) and a RADIANT CIRCUS favourite, BLACK NARCISSUS (15 JUN 18:00) – read about our Sabu fandom here. Then there’s a double bill of excellent docs under the title ‘Of Great Events & Ordinary People’: THE HOUSE OF COCO (22 JUN 18:00); and, MEMORIES OF A PENITENT HEART (23 JUN 14:30).
Finally – for now, more events are promised – we’ve booked for the next Vasari Digital Animation Series: a talk by curator of experimental animation, HERB SHELLENBERGER (30 JUN 14:30). We loved our experiences at Edge Of Frame (02 to 04 MAR 2018 – see our writeup here) and can’t wait for more.
We often struggle with the elevated and hugely variable ticket prices and practices at London’s film festivals. The wonderful folk at Free Film Festivals support community programming that is just what it says, free. Whilst not all of the festivals are in the spring or summer – and films range from rare repertory to more mainstream fare – there’s a host of activity year-round, including ‘make a film’ challenges.
With programmes popping up across London, there is too much for us to cover here. Instead, head to your local festival to unlock more free films in London: Camberwell; Catford; Charlton & Woolwich; Ealing; Herne Hill; New Cross & Deptford; Peckham & Nunhead; Streatham; and, West Norwood.
You can also contact the folk at Free Film Festivals to consider starting your own.
Everyone’s East End local hosts regular free nights in their Bar Paragon, often focused on silent cinema rescored by house band, Grok (“a blend of post-rock guitars, melodic bass, responsive rhythms and atmospheric electronics”). Next up is BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN (29 APR 18:30).
The skateboarding staple screens regular free films in London in its 100 seater cinema. Choose from:
WESTWOOD: PUNK, ACTIVIST, ICON (27 APR 19:00) with the lovely folk at Dogwoof. Booking limited to two tickets per customer.
D.I.Y. – “celebrating low budget flicks at their best” – continues with: ANIMAL KINGDOM (20 APR 17:00 & 19:00); CLERKS (22 APR 14:00 & 16:00); NAPOLEON DYNAMITE (28 APR15:00 & 17:30); MEMENTO (29 APR 14:00 & 16:00); LOST IN TRANSLATION (03 MAY 17:00 & 19:00); CONTROL (05 MAY 15:00 & 17:30). No booking required (but you might have to wait for the next screening if things are busy).
The Italian Cultural Institute in London is the official Italian government body dedicated to promoting Italian language and culture in England and Wales. They promote a number of free films in London, including several in partnership with Nick Walker at Rochester Kino where you are invited to join the post-film discussion, Salon Italia.
SPRING EXPLORERS! offers a seasonal selection of films about characters in transition. Screening across 3 days (20 to 22 APR 2018), the films are: PATEMA INVERTED which includes an intro from anime guru Helen McCarthy (20 APR 18:40, Courthouse Hotel); MAMESHIBA (21 APR 14:45, Soho Hotel); THERMAE ROMAE (21 APR 17:00, Soho Hotel); and, TWENTY-FOUR EYES (22 AP 14:40, Courthouse Hotel).
The Koren Film Festival at the Korean Cultural Centre promotes regular free films in London under the banner ‘Korean Film Nights’. Screening in the centre’s basement just off Trafalgar Square – which in itself feels pretty fabulous – the current season focuses on Korean novels that have been adapted for the screen. Some of the titles get a second chance screening at Deptford Cinema.
Titles include: EARTH (16 APR 19:00, Deptford Cinema); WHITE BADGE (26 APRIL 19:00, KCCUK); A PETAL (10 MAY 19:00, KCCUK – also 22 MAY 19:00 at Deptford Cinema); THE OLD GARDEN (24 MAY 19:00, KCCUK); THE UNFAIR (07 JUN 19:00 – also 19 JUN 19:00 at Deptford Cinema); MY BRILLIANT LIFE + Q&A with author Kim Ae-ran (28 JUN 19:00, KCCUK).
No limitations on booking (that we can see).
The Vito Project is a series of free monthly screenings at the Cinema Museum designed to bring generations of LGBTQ+ folk together to mix, watch films and share ideas. Organised by ReShape, donations are encouraged to help propel the project forward.
The next film is HARD PAINT aka Tinta Bruta (25 APR 19:00, The Cinema Museum), a Brazilian film recently shown at the Berlinale Film Festival, where it won the Teddy Award for best LGBTQ feature, and BFI Flare. We really liked it.
World Wide Weird is dedicated to the enjoyment and celebration of the lesser known cinematic treasures of world cinema. Past events have included LE ACCELERATOR, DR BUTCHER MD, Bollyhorror staple BANDHA DARWAZA and RADIANT CIRCUS favourite, Lucio Fulci’s THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY in double bill with CAT IN THE BRAIN. There are occasional Q&As and frequent double bills. A great place to expand your world cinema horizons.
Next up is double bill of Italian 1970s exorcism, BEYOND THE DOOR + THE ANTICHRIST (21 APR 18:00, The King & Queen).
Seating is strictly limited to 40 and is on a first come first served basis.
> What have we missed? Tell us in the comments below or via DM on Twitter.
Join the hunt for adventurous moving pictures.
Never miss a frame with a new monthly membership at Patreon.
*THE SMALL PRINT: As accurate as we could make it. Apologies for any mistakes. Updates & corrections will be made to the online version. We don’t filter by age/certification: all readers & subscribers should be 18+. We only include events you can book for at the time of posting. Please click quickly!
Featured image: MEMORIES OF A PENITENT HEART (2016).