Throughout most of Britain the big corporations now own and run some of the biggest and most extravagant cinemas, but on this list we will include some independently owned ones as well. Movie fans know the hype and excitement when a new movie is about to released, and there’s no better place to experience this than at the cinema. The best London cinemas range in price, location, atmosphere and overall offerings. Whether you prefer big budget Hollywood movies, or small independent films, documentaries, the cinemas in London hold projections of all of them. 3D movies have become all the rage, so have no worries because most of the cinemas in the city do in fact have this technology. Make sure to thoroughly do your research on cinemas, because some tend to be pricey, and they can vary greatly. Some of more relaxed and they really break all of the rules that are usually associated with cinemas, while the majority of them keep in line with the traditional values of watching movies. So if a movie you’re looking forward to is coming out soon, we hope that our list of the top cinemas in London will be of help to you.
The biggest cinema screen in the UK is located right here at the BFI Imax. This cinema proudly own one of the biggest screens in Europe, and if you’re curious, it’s a whopping 540 square meters. You’ll have to see it for yourself, but trust us when we say that it’s absolutely massive. The sound system is also on par with the quality of the screen, so no worries there either. When taking all of this into consideration, it’s no wonder that tickets at BFI Imax tend to be more expensive than the competition.
Visiting address: 1 Charlie Chaplin Walk, London, SE1 8XR
Whether it’s documentaries you like, or newer blockbusters, the Prince Charles cinema attracts all sorts of audiences. This is probably the only cinema in the city where a person won’t be hushed into silence for talking during the movie. If anything, the cinema encourages audience participation, which is very unique you have to admit. While the Prince Charles cinema isn’t luxurious, it most certainly is fun and unique. And it’s worth noting that ticket prices are a real bargain.
Visiting address: 7 Leicester Square, London, WC2H 7PB
The ArtHouse cinema is an independent small venue with a total of two screens. As the name already suggests, it’s artsy, chic, and trendy. It serves a purpose that’s much greater than just being a cinema, it’s a place where artists do their performances at, comedians tell their new jokes, and where young musicians try and get their big break. It’s pretty much always lively, and people will most probably have a nice time here, watching a movie or some other performance.
Visiting address: 159a Tottenham Lane, London, N8 9BT
Lexi cinema is another smaller venue on our list, and what it lacks in comparison to the big boys, it makes up in charm, dedication, and sheer fun. The cinema is managed by a driven group of local volunteers, and all of the profit that is made goes to a charity in South Africa. They show different genres of the most popular movies, and we thought it would only be fair to point out to our readers that the seats are more than comfortable.
Visiting address: Pinkham Lighthouse, Chamberlayne Road 194, NW10 3JU
The Ritzy isn’t just the average cinema down the street, it’s a true and significant Brixton institution. It has a history that goes all the way back to 1911, which makes the Ritzy the oldest cinema south of the Thames. If you dislike the multiplex venues, then you will probably love the Ritzy. Hollywood movies are regularly shown, but so are smaller and independent productions as well. The pub meals that are served here are more than decent, so are the drinks, and the place isn’t expensive at all.
Visiting address: Brixton Oval, Coldharbour Lane, London, SW2 1JG
Lacking the historical importance of the earlier cinema on the list, the BFI Southbank is still one of the most popular cinemas in the city. It opened in 2007, but in a matter of years, it’s become one of the more popular cinemas. Most people would argue that it’s the British Film Institute’s flagship cinema. Big name directors, actors, producers often hold Q&A sessions at Southbank, which is probably another factor why it’s so popular.
Visiting address: Belvedere Road, London, SE1 8XT
The Phoenix is another addition to the list that is the exact opposite of the big budget and corporate owned cinemas. It is managed completely by a local charity foundation, and we have to say they seem like a very enthusiastic bunch. It’s only a one-screen cinema, which is to be expected of a venue this size. They usually show artsy films, which are everything except your average Hollywood movie, but they don’t shy away from those either.
Visiting address: 52 High Road, East Finchley, London, N2 9PJ
- The Odeon
The Odeon has gained quite a reputation mostly thanks to all the red carpet premiers that is has hosted since it was opened. The size and immense capacity the Oden has is also worth nothing, as it can seat 1683 people at once, which is quite remarkable. If you think the Oden is too fancy for you, perhaps you should give the Oden Mini Studios a visit, which is located right next to its big brother. The Mini isn’t as exciting, but it offers a more intimate and laid back experience, and has the ability to seat a total of 60 people.
Visiting address: 24-26 Leicester Square, London, WC2H 7LQ
Do you want to take out your special lady to a romantic cinema venue? Then the Electric cinema is probably the best choice for you. At the same time, it’s one of the oldest cinemas that the city has. A few years ago it underwent a complete renovation, and today it has some of the nicest chairs. Movie goers even have access to cashmere blankets, to make the whole experience more complete. There are also waters on hand if you wish to order a drink. If that isn’t posh enough, wait until you see the front row, which is made out of double beds. We wonder how many couples got carried away?
Visiting address: 191 Portobello Road, London, W11 2ED
The people who live in this area can be truly proud to call the Genesis their local cinema. Compared to the competition, the prices of tickets and beverages are a steal! In 2012 the cinema underwent a renovation project that was lead by a team that specializes in creating cinema auditoriums. The cinema also boasts a bar which is located upstairs. The armchairs are some of the most comfortable ones we ever tried!
Visiting address: 93-95 Mile End Road, London, E1 4UJ
The O2 Arena is packed with entertaining venues and activities, and the Cineworld at the O2 Arena is nothing of not special and massive. It boasts the widest screen in Europe, and they proudly call it the Sky Superscreen. Overall it has a total of eleven screens. Cineworld is important because it hosts live music events, and it’s where the London Sundance festival takes place every year. Make sure to check out the Sundance Festival’s website as well!
Visiting address: Peninsula Square, London, SE10 0DX
The Empire was originally a theatre that opened its doors in 1884, hence making it one of the oldest cinemas in the city today. It was after World War 2 when the Empire was turned into a cinema. Up until a few years ago, the Empire has the largest non IMAX screen in London. In total, the Empire cinema has a total on nine screens which are tucked away in different parts of the marvelous building. The main screen’s auditorium has state of the art impact seats, and most of the program is focused around Hollywood big name productions, so it’s not a good place if you want to see an independent Bosnian movie.
Visiting address: Leicester Square, London, WC2H 7NA
Unlike some of the older additions to the list, the Hackney Picturehouse is practically an infant. It opened in 2011, but it has already made such an impact on Hackney that it would be unrecognizable without the Picturehouse. The cinema has four screens and a neat little bar where you can have some of the nicest tasting burgers in the area. They screen mainstream movies, but they also don’t forget about the fans of independent flicks either. The Hackney Attic, which is located on the highest floor, is where people can enjoy regular music events too.
Visiting address: 270 Mare Street, London, London, E8 1HE
If it’s arthouse productions you prefer, then the Curzon in Soho is your kind if cinema. It only features the best independent movies and documentaries. It’s not rare that filmmakers themselves present their latest works at the Curzon. This Soho cinema isn’t pretentious, it’s laid back, and it’s a move lover’s paradise. The bar is a huge plus too, we have to admit.
Visiting address: 93-107 Shaftesbury Avenue, London, Soho, W1D 5DY
The Barbican center in London is one of the most unique ones around, and it’s all thanks to its multi-purpose nature. Here we’ll be focusing on its cinemas of course. It boasts a total of three auditoriums, and its 280-seater hall screens arthouse flicks, as well as mainstream bluckbusters. The seats are decently comfortable, their bar serves everything you could wish for, and the food isn’t half-bad either.
Visiting address: Silk Street, City of London, EC2Y 8DS
The Westfield shopping center is a popular shopping venue in its own right, but today we’re taking a look at its 17-screen cinema. The Vue mostly screen mainstream flicks, and 7 out of the 17 screens use 3D technology. Three auditoriums are fairly posh and definitely above average in most respects, but be prepared to pay extra for the additional comfort. That’s partly why this cinema deserves a spot on the list, due to its three extravagant auditoriums.
Visiting address: Westfield Shopping Center, London, W12 7GF
Picturehouse cinemas have become fairly popular, and for good reasons as well. The Clapham auditorium is most likely their most successful one. It first opened its doors to the public back in 1992, and today it shows a healthy mix between mainstream Hollywood movies and independent productions. The bar within the cinema is a favorite for many locals, but it’s the cinema that has a strong following in the area. Guests can also take with them a glass of wine to the screenings, so that’s a major plus.
Visiting address: 76 Ven Street, London, SW4 0AT
The Screen on the Green is one of England’s oldest cinemas that’s still operating, and with that comes a history that’s quite remarkable. Little about it has changed since it first welcomed guests in 1913. It is now owned by the Everyman company, but the changes made haven’t impacted the cinema negatively. Guests have the choice of buying tickets for regular seats and luxury seats. The latter ones are actually super comfortable sofas with footrests. Moviemakers, producers, and directors regularly make public appearances here.
Visiting address: 83 Upper Street, London, N1 0NU
We’ve mentioned Everyman on the previous cinema on the list, but it’s the Hampstead cinema that gave Everyman the reputation it has today. It’s a highly luxurious cinema venue, and it most definitely looks and feels the part. The armchairs aren’t just sophisticated, but they are comfortable enough to sleep in. There are waiters in the auditoriums ready to serve guests beverages. International independent movies often screen here, but they often show mainstream movies as well.
Visiting address: 5 Holly Bush Vale, London, NW3 6TX
On Greenwich High Road this cinema sticks out merely by its exterior look. The brick and glass front really makes it stand out, and it looks inviting if you ask us. In south-east London there’s probably not a better cinema than the Picturehouse. The seats are above average size, there are tons of snacks and beverages available, and the program they usually go for is world class. Downstairs is where the bar is located and it’s where people can come to enjoy lice music gigs on occasion.
Visiting address: 180 Greenwich High Road, London, SE10 8NN
Do you like the modern multiplex experience? If the answer is yes, then you should avoid the Peckham Plex by all means possible. It’s the complete opposite! Locals, however, love the Peckham Plex. When discussing the interior, we’d be hard pressed to give it any compliments, but that’s not what is important. In this area it’s a real institution, and the locals wouldn’t change it for the world. It has been open for 21 years now, and we hope it never closes!
Visiting address: 95 Rye Lane, London, SE15 4ST
The Kingsland Empire originally opened its doors to the public in 1915. During its existence it underwent some changes, but it was only in 1976 when it became the legendary Rio. It is one of the truly rare independent cinemas in the city. It’s a one-screen cinema, and it mostly shows artsy and small productions films.
Visiting address: 107 Kingsland High St, London, E8 2PY
The Electric in Shoreditch was formerly known as the Aubin. The company that own is today has tried their best to make it into a highly luxurious cinema venue, and if you ask us, they succeeded. The armchairs are completely made out of leather, there are blankets for every seat, and moviegoers have tables where they can set down their snacks and drinks. The company that owns this cinema also manage the Electric Portobello, so if you’ve visited that one, you know what you’re in for.
Visiting address: 64-66 Redchurch St, London, E2 7DP
Most likely the classiest and fanciest on our list is the Curzon Mayfair cinema. It’s posh, sophisticated, pricey, and something every moviegoer has to experience at least once in their lifetime. The bigger auditorium has a capacity to hold 311 people, while the more intimate room has a total of 83 seats. Just likes other cinemas in the Curzon chain, they show a wide variety of flicks, including documentaries.
Visiting address: 38 Curzon Street, London, W1J 7TY
This London cinema belongs to the French Cultural Institute, and it’s their flagship cinema for English speakers. Unsurprisingly they mostly show French movies, but they are no strangers to putting other international works onto their big screen. Up and coming and well established French filmmakers often make public appearances here.
Visiting address: 17 Queensberry Place, London, SW7 2DT