The BFI National Archive holds a vast collection of British fiction films, from R.W. Paul’s 1896 tale of a drunken husband’s return home to The Iron Lady. We also collect short films and artists’ moving image work and hold the largest collection of American silent films outside the US.
Our archives include original negatives of some of Britain’s best loved films, including Robert Hamer’s Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949) and Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s The Red Shoes (1948) as well as the more wayward Witchfinder General (1968).
Rare and neglected films
Part of our role is to bring both classic and undervalued pictures to new audiences.
We aim to have a copy of every British film released in UK cinemas, because all films – even the obscure and neglected – are an important part of our heritage. There is demand for them too – our Flipside programme at BFI Southbank celebrates weird, wonderful and outrageous filmmaking, and many of the British films have been released on DVD and Blu-ray.
Our restoration of Cecil Hepworth’s Alice in Wonderland (1903) notched up a million views on YouTube, and our three-year, £1m restoration of David Lean’s first ten features brought these films back to the big screen. This year, as part of the BFI project ‘The Genius of Hitchcock’, we are completing the restoration of Alfred Hitchcock’s nine surviving silent features.
We’ve always relied on our donors’ generosity to develop the collection, and we’re indebted to private collectors, filmmakers, film distributors, producers, broadcasters, fellow archives and laboratories for their help.