BFI Player – Price, content, features and more

BFI Player

The British Film Institute joined the many streaming service options available in the UK back in 2014, but isn’t as well known to the general population even to this day. The BFI Player launched to support British film and offers a slightly different way to watch films on your favourite devices.

We’re going to run through what it is, how you can watch and what you can watch from the BFI National archive.

What’s in this Guide?

What’s the BFI?

The BFI stands for the British Film Institute, and it is a registered charity in the UK which promotes and preserves film-making and television in the United Kingdom. It gains a large part of its money from the National Lottery funding pot which encourages film production, distribution and education.

Established way back in the year 1933, the BFI helped encourage the distributing and development of all kinds of film, and worked hard to incorporate moving films as a part of contemporary life.

Now, in 2022, British Film Institute has become the single public-funded body for British film, beating off competition from the UKFC (United Kingdom Film Council) – although it was the UKFC who lobbied the government in the first place!

BFI matters include the preserving of over 100,000 television programmes by digitisation, before the video tapes become unusable – and continue to deliver education about cinema in Britain throughout history to the modern day.

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BFI Southbank and BFI Film Academy

BFI Southbank shows exclusive work in film not shown in standard cinemas

The BFI also runs its own cinema theatres in London, BFI Southbank, (formerly the National Film Theatre) as well as the London IMAX cinema, located on the South bank of the river Thames in London. The IMAX has the largest cinema screen in the UK and the Southbank cinema shows films from all over the world – in particular acclaimed historical and specialised films that may not otherwise be shown in cinemas.

The BFI Film Academy was created in 2012 with funding money from the Department for Education, and is for people between the ages of 16 and 25. The academy gives young people opportunities to get into film, including mentorships, workshops, and more.

What’s the BFI Player?

Receive a free trial for a short time when you sign up with the streaming platform

The BFI Player is the streaming service launched by the BFI in 2014, where a huge collection of free and paid-for films can be accessed by the general public.

Films are available to rent, purchase or watch completely free of charge, and include recent titles (some still in the cinema), subscription-based classic and cult films, and free to view short films.

How do I watch on the BFI Player?

The streaming service from the BFI can be accessed online, on smart TVs and supported mobile and tablet devices via the BFI Player app. It is available to download on the Android and Apple store, too – all you need to do is create an account to sign in and you can start watching your chosen content in minutes.

How much does it cost?

BFI celebrate the life and career of many acclaimed filmmakers

The BFI national archive has multiple options for viewing films on its service, ranging from free to one-off purchases and rentals to a monthly subscription service.

The BFI streaming service does offer a free trial to first time customers for its subscription service, which then costs £4.99 per month. If you don’t wish to subscribe to the monthly plan, you can pay to rent films individually, and the prices differ depending on the release and rights agreements with licensors. Existing BFI members qualify for a 15% discount on rental prices on the streaming service, offering great value within the app to watch your favourite cinema releases.

Licensing in England

There are a couple of drawbacks to be aware of, though, as there is currently no option to download content direct to your devices to be able to watch offline, and – similar to the BBC iPlayer app – the films can only be accessed in the UK due to licencing restrictions.

What can I watch on the BFI streaming platform?

The BFI media collection offers access to a huge number of films on the Player for you to choose from, whether you want to rent or pay to view film after film.

You can search for films online by using the search function available, as well as checking out movies by genre, popularity and what has been recently added.

How are films curated?

The platform share work from around the world as well as new releases, dependent on film rights

The BFI have curators with vast experience in the film industry that carefully categorise the films into various unique collections. Each collection highlights the significance of the films within it, such as its cultural impact, critical acclaim or a renown director.

Some collections fit in around various BFI events or each individual programme, and themes are recreated among the rental, free and subscription services providing films on the Player.

The aim of the BFI is to show film and art to people who might not ordinarily find or view them. They offer the very best of British and European independent film, as well as film art and media from around the world.

Film rentals

The rentals available on the BFI streaming platform primarily focus on recent releases, with a focus on films coming out of Britain – especially the likes of the BFI London Film Festival and BFI Flare, which represents diverse audiences.

Films available to rent can be for the whole family or focused on individual themes, such as the Woman with a Movie Camera topic, and are usually priced between £3.50-£10.00 for newer releases.

Subscription service

Rent or subscribe to films such as Brighton Rock

In the subscription service, the Institute aim to show the best films throughout history when it comes to arthouse cinema and contemporary classics.

Bringing these shows to an online audience is one of the unique service points for taking advantage of the streaming platform from the registered charity.

Free archive films

The free films on offer once you sign up to the Player highlight the best of the National Archive as well as national, regional and partner archives. This includes features and short films from both professional and amateur filmmakers, as well as movies from around the world.

Films for children

The BFI Player also has films available to watch for children of different ages, with categories for under 5s and more – while recommended that the child watches with parents, the films can be used in school or other education settings to show how lives can be influenced and represented in film.

Categories and genres

The platform offers a great selection of categories and genres in various collections, showing classic thrillers such as Brighton Rock, classic biopics of interesting lives such as Dread Beat and Blood about anti-racist spoken word artist Linton Kwesi Johnson, among Horrors, Dramas, Comedies and more.

Other streaming services to sign up to

BFI Player is just one of the options you can try with dozens of other streaming services in the country. Below are some of the popular ones:

To explore more streaming options, you can compare and contrast each streaming service on offer.

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