When you’re choosing which of London’s cinemas to visit, you’re going to want to look at the big picture.
Sure, location comes into it. As does which films are on, when. But what about the seats, the snacks, the booze – the whole cinema experience? Because these days that experience has moved up a few notches from the stale popcorn and sticky floors of your childhood multiplex – we’re talking plush velvet sofas, cashmere blankets and Champagne for two.
To ensure you make the right choice at the right time, here’s our list of the finest cinemas in London:
NORTH LONDON CINEMAS
Everyman Hampstead | Hampstead
Best for: seat-service
It’s the original Everyman – a beautifully luxurious cinema with two screens boasting both comfy chairs and sofas, as well as fancy food and drink delivered straight to your seat. Programming-wise they show a mix of mainstream films and smaller independents, with a few broadcasts from London and NYC’s premier cultural institutions (theatre, ballet, opera, etc.) thrown into the mix.
The Lexi Cinema | Kensal Rise
Best for: supporting the local community
We like the Lexi because it gives back. It’s staffed predominantly by local volunteers and gives 100% of profits to charity. Boutique in size, there are a couple of rows of regular cinema seats, as well as two rows of slightly comfier velvet tub chairs at the front. For drinks, they have a small bar with some great craft beers, and there’s options like Joe & Seph’s popcorn for snacks.
Screen On The Green | Islington
Best for: retro lovers
It’s a one-screen wonder offering both seats and sofas. As a member of the Everyman family, it also offers the same luxury seat-service as Hampstead, meaning you can order a ‘Build Your Own Sundae’ with any two ice-cream scoops and your choice of three scrumptious toppings, before heading to the screen, where someone will hand-deliver it to you.
Arthouse Crouch End | Crouch End
Best for: programming beyond cinema
As the name suggests, this handsome former Salvation Army Hall offers cinema, live music, comedy, and theatre. While they do occasionally screen some of the bigger blockbusters, this is one of the best cinemas in London for catching the more independent, arthouse stuff. We’re particularly fond of them for their ‘baby-safe’ screenings at Tuesday lunchtimes, offering mums and dads the chance to catch a film worry-free and instead, openly ooh and ah along with their little’uns.
Everyman | Muswell Hill
Best for: seeing new films in style
This art deco cinema in North London is now a Grade II* listed gem offering pizza, snacks, and build-your-own sundaes. Besides new releases, they also screen recorded theatre, opera and ballet shows, as well as the occasional documentary and gig flick. And on top of that, there’s even special premiere-style screenings with Champagne receptions and a black tie dress code.
Finsbury Park Picturehouse | Finsbury Park
Best for: reclining seats & legroom
The newest of the Picturehouse clan, this behemoth has seven screens with which to show all manner of blockbusters, classic flicks, documentaries, and arthouse specials. And very importantly, the seats ALL recline. But it’s most eye-opening feature? Is the mural in its lobby by British painter Dale Lewis. It’s a mad, slightly surreal, vibrantly colourful jumble of distorted faces, warped bodies, bizarre animals, and serene flowers. It’ll probably make more sense after a visit to the Members Bar.
Address: Unit 1 Cinema LS, 17 City North Place, N4 3FU | Adult ticket price: £8.20-15.30 | Ticket promos: Mondays all day (not bank hols) £8.20 | Membership? Yes | For screenings and tickets, head here.
The Phoenix | Finchley
Best for: a touch of history
Open since 1912, The Phoenix is one of the oldest cinemas in London. It’s also loved for being independent which, despite recent money troubles, it’s proudly managed to remain. Admittedly the lobby and cafe could probably do with a touch of modernising, but the stripped-back, mismatched thing they have going on definitely has its own sort of charm. Either way the single screen is beautiful – art-deco in style with red seats and a thick gold curtain – showing mostly arthouse and independent films.
Stow Film Lounge | Walthamstow
Best for: unusual settings
Stow Film Lounge describe themselves as the “antithesis of the multiplex”, and it’s true – so radical are they, they don’t even have a permanent home. Instead, they pop up in unusual and spectacular venues across North London, from churches to forest clearings. The roster tends to be populated with classic films, and often features a little something extra, like the ‘Cabaraoke’ that followed their recent screening of Cabaret.
Address: Ever-changing | Adult ticket price: £10| Ticket promos: None | Membership? No | For screenings and tickets, head here.
EAST LONDON CINEMAS
Barbican Cinema | Barbican
Best for: making a day of it
As well as two art galleries, two theatres, a concert hall and a tropical conservatory, The Barbican offers a three-screen cinema, one of which holds a mighty 280 seats. As well as most of the mainstream stuff, they’re notably good at programming interesting festival screenings, as well as some older stuff, documentaries and foreign language films, often accompanied by Q&As.
Hackney Picturehouse | Hackney
Best for: pre or post hot food and fancy snacks
It’s a pretty big, modern, glass-fronted cinema in the middle of Mare Street – opposite Hackney Empire. There are four screens in total, showing everything from big blockbusters to smaller arthouse pieces; foreign language films; documentaries; and live arts broadcasts. On the ground floor you’ll find a relaxed, all-day restaurant and bar, ideal for freelancers, or bite to eat – burgers, pizza, sandwiches, and salads – pre- or-post film, while new residents Dabbers run raucous bingo nights, quizzes and more.
TT Cinema | Shoreditch
Best for: surprising a date
Aside from housing a cellar bar, a bottle shop, a cocktail workshop, a Greek-Australian fusion restaurant and a rooftop terrace, TT Liquor somehow found space to squeeze in an intimate 52-seater screening room, too. They show classic flicks Tuesday – Friday, and apart from being one of the most unusual cinemas in London, they’re also one of the cheapest: your £15 ticket will net you a bespoke cocktail (designed to match with the film in some way) to boot.
Address: TT Liquor, 17B Kingsland Road, London E2 8AA | Adult ticket price: £15 | Ticket promos: None | Membership? No | For screenings and tickets, head here.
Close-Up Cinema | Shoreditch
Best for: true cinephiles
Close-Up Cinema is a film-lover’s paradise. The intimate 40 seater screening room shows experimental, arthouse and pioneering films only, and is connected to a mediatheque with over 20,000 titles to explore, including some indie films that aren’t available anywhere else. They often host events with filmmakers and directors here, and the library lounge up front is a lovely place to pass the time, whether you’re planning on watching something or not.
Genesis | Stepney
Best for: group al fresco drinks post-film
As the name suggests, Genesis was set up with the hope of revitalising Tower Hamlets’ then non-existent cinema scene. It’s not that cinemas never existed there – in fact, at one point there were 33. However, as the industry struggled, more and more doors closed until there was nothing left. In 1999 however, Genesis was born, offering up five beautifully designed screens (the guy who designed them works most of his time designing film-sets), a café, and bar with live events from poetry slams to swing dancing (and a sprawling, up-cycled outdoor space for big groups). Plus two of the screens have sofas and bars, meaning minimum effort, and maximum drunk, comfortable, enjoyment.
Rich Mix | Bethnal Green
Best for: diverse programming
It’s an independent cross-arts centre and cinema, housed in an old leather factory in Shoreditch. There are three screens, showcasing everything from mainstream blockbusters to international film festivals. Beyond the cinema there’s live music, theatre, dance, and more. They’re particularly great at giving under-represented minority groups a platform; plus, they’re a charity, whose profits all go to supporting arts and education in the local community, so 100% worth parting with your money for.
The Castle Cinema | Hackney
Best for: day-to-night mode
A 1913 picture palace that was recently lovingly restored by a couple of locals. Now it’s a beautiful, welcoming and unpretentious spot to catch the latest releases, as well as a home for the deeply special 16mm film night, Ciné Real. Beyond the screening room there’s a glitzy cocktail bar with Chesterfield sofas – open all day if you want to get some work done before kicking back.
CENTRAL LONDON CINEMAS
Picturehouse Central | Soho
Best for: beautiful design and exceptional pick’n’mix
Tickets here don’t come cheap, although the Central London location, beautiful design, all-day cafe, first floor bar, and pick’n’mix served by the cup (meaning you can really squash things in to get the most for your money) almost make up for it. Plus, members can access (and bring 3 friends to) the stylish rooftop bar. This cinema also has a dedicated documentary screen which means – beyond big blockbusters, indie, arthouse, and foreign language films – they screen daily documentaries from around the world.
BFI Southbank | Waterloo
Best for: film festivals and celebrity spotting
It’s kind of the epicentre of film in London – a melting-pot of actors, producers, directors, and film-buffs, working, hanging-out, or there to catch a film. It’s well-known for big film previews and star-filled Q&As, plus it’s the flagship venue for the BFI London Film Festival, as well as BFI Flare (the LGBTQ+ equivalent). It’s also home to the world’s largest film archive with 50,000 fiction films, over 100,000 non-fiction films, and around 625,000 TV programmes available to screen for free. Plus they have a library stacked with film and television-related books, and a film store selling movies and TV boxsets from around the world. In case you get hungry, they have two all-day restaurant-bars, one with a terrace over-looking the river, ideal for a romantic post film night-cap.
Address: Belvedere Road, Lambeth, SE1 8XT| Adult ticket price: varies | Ticket promos: £3 tickets on the day, every day for 16-25 year olds, and £5 for film festivals | Membership? Yes | For screenings and tickets, head here.
The Garden Cinema | Covent Garden
Best for: arthouse gems in a date-worthy setting
Covent Garden’s got a new indie cinema. It’s a subterranean art deco jewel-box, with two screens (and another to join soon). As an arthouse cinema, they incorporate new releases alongside foreign language films and cult seasons, like the films of Marlon Brando; women recording the mafia; and a dive into the golden age of French cinema.
Address: 39-41 Parker Street, London WC2B 5PQ | Adult ticket price: £12 | Ticket promos: Annual membership (£20) gives you £10 tickets and free member screenings | Membership? Yes | For screenings and tickets, head here.
The Prince Charles Cinema | Soho
Best for: interactive screenings and all-night marathons
It’s the only independent cinema in London’s West End, which is both sad and exciting, as it speaks to the quality of its programming. The only criteria they have is that a film is good, which means you’ll find a mix of both blockbusters and more arthouse stuff. They also programme a whole load of great, older classics screened over fun events – everything from Jurassic Park all-nighters to evenings dedicated entirely to 35mm film.
Curzon Soho | Soho
Best for: a laid-back, Central London escape
If you fancy something a little more low-key than Picturehouse Central, then Curzon Soho might be your bag. It’s still got the same winning Central London location, but it’s more cosy and intimate. You enter to a ground floor cafe-bar where you can get yourself some cinema snacks, and a soft drink, beer, or glass of wine, before heading to one of three screens. Here you’ll find a mixed bag of flicks, with highlights including previews of smaller art films; festival screenings; and a regular Docdays documentary strand.
BFI Imax | Waterloo
Best for: big blockbusters
It’s the biggest cinema screen in the UK, nearly as tall as five double-decker buses stacked which – alongside a 12,000 Watt, state-of-the-art surround sound system, and a wapping 500-seat capacity – makes it the ideal place to lose yourself in big blockbuster films.
The Cinema at Selfridges | Oxford Street
Best for: ice cream.
It might seem odd, but cinemas used to be a pretty common fixture at department stores in the 20s and 30s. Reviving this grand tradition are the people behind Olympic Studios in Barnes (see below), who now operate three plush screening rooms in the basement of Selfridges. They’re boutique in scale, serve the finest ice creams known to humanity, and are kitted out with reclining Norwegian seats. Whatever they are.
Curzon Bloomsbury | Bloomsbury
Best for: documentaries, baby
It’s a six screen cinema, with reclining seats and cocktails brought directly to you. It’s also home to Bertha Dochouse – the UK’s first dedicated documentary screen, meaning docs, docs, docs – all week long.
Address: The Brunswick Centre, WC1N 1AW | Adult ticket price: £18.50/£9 for docs | Ticket promos: U25s get £6/9 tickets with a free membership | Membership? Yes | For screenings and tickets, head here.
The ICA | St James’s
Best for: feeling like a radical
Founded in 1946, the ICA was set up with the hope of leading discussions around contemporary art of all forms. The directors see it as ‘a free space, in which the deepest questions that concern us as individuals and society can be explored’. Luckily, that space takes the shape of a gallery, and a cinema. It’s a place that prides itself in pushing boundaries, and being first: the birthplace of pop art; the first place to stage major institutional exhibitions by Pablo Picasso, Damien Hirst, and Steve McQueen; and concerts by The Clash, The Smiths, and David Bowie. And the cinema’s equally well-known for its ongoing support of independent film, with arthouse, foreign language, retrospectives, documentaries, festivals and 35mm screenings all taking place in the ICA’s two simple, stripped-back screening rooms.
Regent Street Cinema | Oxford Circus
Best for: a touch of history
Built in 1848, this historic venue is considered the birthplace of British cinema, as it was here that they screened the first ever moving picture. It closed down in 1980 to be used as a university lecture hall, however, come 2015 it had reopened its doors as a unique cinema in central London, offering a mixture of all of the latest movies as well as anime, theatre & gig streams, documentaries and experimental cinema. There’s also an interesting events programme of panel discussions, Q&As, and even silent scary movies accompanied by a pipe organ around Halloween.
Address: 307 Regent St, Marylebone, W1B 2HW | Adult ticket price: £12.50-20 | Ticket promos: Choose £6, £8 or £10 tickets on Tuesdays | Membership? No | For screenings and tickets, head here.
SOUTH LONDON CINEMAS
Everyman Borough Yards | London Bridge
Best for: nearby restaurants
The newest member of the Everyman clan sits in the all-new Borough Yards development. Presumably knowing that they have to compete with the dozens of world-class bars & restaurants surrounding the venue itself, they’ve wisely elected to create a stellar menu all delivered to your seat – you’ll find tempura prawns, buffalo mozzarella & salami, a list of brioche-burned ‘Spielburgers’, a build-your-own sundae menu, batches of freshly baked cookie dough, and a full cocktail bar too.
PeckhamPlex | Peckham
Best for: £5.99 screenings
PeckhamPlex is not fancy, but it’s cheap: £5.99 cheap, all day, every day.
Address: 95A Rye Lane, SE15 4ST | Adult ticket price: £5.99 | Ticket promos: Er, yeah: their standard tickets. | Membership? No | For exact screenings and/or to book tickets visit their website here.
West Norwood Picturehouse | West Norwood
Best for: modernist architecture with a cinematic claim
Library? Cinema? Come on Norwood, pick a side…. Instead, this midcentury Lambeth picturehouse plays both, operating as a library and a movie theatre with soft grey and orange shaded recliner seats and four screens. The orange seats? More than just a bold choice of colour: they’re a nod to the building’s place in cinematic history, as it was used to shoot a scene in Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange. What’s on is mainly what’s new in Hollywood with a few indies thrown in to keep the balance, and there’s an airy all-day restaurant onsite as well for sustenance.
Address: 1 – 7 Norwood High Street London SE27 9JU | Adult ticket price: £11.90-14.90 | Ticket Promos: Mondays all day (not bank hols) £8.20 | Membership? Yes | For screenings and tickets, head here.
The Cinema in the Arches | Battersea
Best for: quality screenings in an intimate space
Another hit from the Olympic Studios team, The Cinema in the Arches is set under the railway tracks by Battersea Power Station. The three pocket-sized screening rooms are kitted out with state of the art tech, including Dolby 3D surround sound, laser projections, and all kinds of other wizardry you didn’t know you needed, but will definitely appreciate. Fancy bottled cocktails, drinks and gourmet snacks are all available to take in with you, or to enjoy on the terrace seating outside. Speaking of which, in the warmer months they tend to host pop-up screenings outside, right by the river – and if you prefer to stay inside, but want a bit more space, you can also check out their cinema within the power station itself.
Address: The Cinema in the Arches, 22 Arches Lane, London, SW11 8AB | Adult ticket price: £17.50 | Ticket promos: £12 tickets on Mondays, and Tues-Thurs before 5pm | Membership? Yes | For screenings and tickets, head here.
East Dulwich Picturehouse | East Dulwich
Best for: an all-day hangout
It’s a higher-end affair, located on East Dulwich’s family-friendly Lordship Lane, with fancy snacks, crafts beers, nice wines, semi-reclining seats, and a little courtyard out back, ideal for sun.
Greenwich Picturehouse | Greenwich
Best for: live performance to boot
It’s a nice finishing point after a long stroll around Greenwich, either to curl up in one of their five cinema screens and watch a film; or to grab a drink and some food in either of their two restaurants. Some days, mostly later in the week or weekends, you might be lucky enough to stumble across some live music, or comedy, hosted for the most part in their basement lounge bar.
The Ritzy | Brixton
Best for: location
This five-screen cinema is something of a Brixton institution, fitted with two bars – one of which spills out onto Windrush Square. As well as cinema, they offer a variety of other cultural goings-on, including live music, open mic nights, board game nights, and more.
Address: Brixton Oval, Coldharbour Lane, Brixton, SW2 1JG | Adult ticket price: £12.30-15.30 | Ticket promos: £8.20 on Mondays (not bank hols) | Membership? Yes | For screenings and tickets, head here.
WEST LONDON CINEMAS
Electric Cinema | Notting Hill
Best for: the wow factor
Over 100 years old, The Electric Cinema on Portobello Road has survived not one but two world wars. More recently it’s been taken over by the team behind members club Soho House, who – at the same time as preserving many of its rather beautiful original features – have fitted it out with a cocktail bar; big comfy chairs, sofas, and beds; and individual side tables for snacks, making it undeniably one of London’s most luxurious cinemas.
Address: 191 Portobello Road, W11 2ED | Adult ticket price: £20-25 | Ticket promos: Electric Sundays £15, 50% off your meal at Electric Diner on Mon-Thurs 4-9pm | Membership? Soho House members get discounts | For screenings and tickets, head here.
The Gate Picturehouse | Notting Hill
Best for: vintage flicks in a vintage setting
One year younger than The Electric, The Gate is a relative whippersnapper when it comes to beautiful old Edwardian cinemas. With just one screen, it’s a proper boutique cinema experience, with fancy popcorn and Jude’s ice cream available to take in with you. The programme’s as eclectic as the interior – new releases are screened all week, with Vintage Sundays putting classic films back on the big screen. It’s also a romantic spot to catch an NT Live or ballet production in high def.
Olympic Studios | Barnes
Best for: luxury inside and out
The Olympic’s a beautifully designed two-screen cinema in Barnes, boasting big, comfortable seats and sofas, all with individual bespoke brass tables seemingly the perfect size for a glass of wine and a bag of popcorn. Alongside the cinema there’s also a really lovely all-day cafe-restaurant serving seasonal dishes and freshly-baked cakes. They also have a terrace, where guests are able to dine al fresco under huge pink blossom trees.
Ciné Lumière | South Kensington
Best for: programming you can’t get anywhere else
Ciné Lumière is refined, stylish, and effortlessly cool – then again, we’d expect nothing less from the French Institute, where it’s housed. As a result, it’s the home of French cinema in London: catch classic flicks by the likes of Truffaut and Deray, or brand new releases from across the channel. Programmes are often arranged by theme, and there’s frequent special screenings too, with Q&As or post-screening discussions.
Looking for some non-moving pictures? Check out what’s on at London’s art galleries.