BFI National Archive FAQ

Frequently asked questions about the BFI National Archive and access to our collections.

I’m looking for a particular film or television programme. How can I find out if the BFI National Archive holds a copy?

You can search our collections online to find out if we hold a copy.

How can I see a particular film or television programme, or obtain a copy on DVD?

The BFI offers a number of digital services providing access to films and television programmes in the collection. These include:

  • BFI Player – The greatest global cinema on demand: rent the latest releases, subscribe to classics and explore the best from the BFI, national and regional archives.
  • BFI Mediatheques – thousands of complete films and TV programmes are available to view free of charge at the BFI Mediatheques at BFI Southbank, Library of Birmingham, Central Library Manchester, National Science and Media Museum in Bradford.
  • YouTube – The BFI’s own channel, making the archive’s collections available worldwide.

Additionally, a wide selection of films preserved in the archive is available to buy on BFI DVD and Blu-ray.

I’d like to see a film which is not available on BFI DVD or on any BFI digital platform.

If you’re a non-commercial researcher or student, you may be able to view the film on BFI premises, but this depends on the type of material we hold. Please contact our Research Viewing Services for advice. Please note that the BFI National Archive is not able to provide or make available for purchase personal copies of ANY films, videos, TV programmes or digital works held in the archive, including those in which the requester or a relative featured.

What does the BFI National Archive collect?

The BFI collects British and British-related films and TV programmes. We aim to acquire all British feature films that have been released into cinemas, as well as significant artists’ moving image work, short films, trailers and home movies by British film personalities.

Our collection also includes major British documentaries but also covers newsreel, industrial, educational and scientific filmmaking, political and campaigning films, advertising and amateur filmmaking.

We collect television programmes from all sources, but have a statutory responsibility to collect ITV, Channel 4 and 5 programming, and have a close archival collaboration with the BBC.

We also collect papers of individuals and organisations, photographs, posters, costume and production designs, animation cels and promotional material, and other unpublished items including scripts, storyboards and autographed letters. We collect both paper-based and born-digital materials.

You can read the BFI National Archive collections policy and learn more about our collections online.

I’d like to donate material to the BFI National Archive. Who should I contact?

If your material appears to meet our collecting policy (see above, What does the BFI National Archive collect?), please visit the Offers to the Archive page for information on how to proceed.

I am a filmmaker or producer. How do I license extracts of BFI material for my new production?

I am a rights holder. How do I gain access to material preserved in the BFI National Archive?

As a rightsholder or copyright owner of material preserved in the BFI National Archive you can find out more about access to materials online.

I represent a FIAF member archive. Who should I contact for information and access?

I am a festival or cinema programmer. Who should I contact for information and access?

Please contact our bookings team for advice.

I have some new information to add to your database or think the data you have is incorrect.

We welcome feedback to help us improve our database and enrich our knowledge. Please contact our information team to notify us of errors or omissions in our data. We aim to verify any information provided, but please note that data will only be added if it falls within the remit of the BFI Collection Policy (see Section 5: Documentation), which prioritises material held in the collections. While we cannot guarantee to respond or to update information immediately, we do take incorrect or incomplete data seriously.