HomeFilmThe must-see films at the Edinburgh International Film Festival 2021

The must-see films at the Edinburgh International Film Festival 2021

EIFF is back! This year’s historic edition is the first large in-person film festival gathering in the UK since March 2020. For obvious reasons the programme isn’t as big as in previous years, but that hasn’t stopped the festival from delivering a terrific line-up of cinema from all over the world for you to enjoy. 

Whilst the majority of films this year are being screened at Edinburgh’s legendary Filmhouse Cinema, the festival is also offering a number of screenings, Q&As, and In Person events to be viewed digitally through the dedicated streaming platform ‘Filmhouse at Home’. The popular Film Fest in the City is also back, with free screenings of cinematic favourites taking place in St Andrew Square. There are also three special event screenings, with films being shown simultaneously at partner cinemas around Scotland.

Featuring a diverse range of UK, European, and international premieres, EIFF 2021 looks set to be a fantastic showcase of new features, classic films, documentaries, shorts, animations, and so much more. As always, Entertainment Focus will be there to help you find the very best films to watch, so look out for our reviews as they drop. In the meantime, we have gone through the programme with fine-tooth comb and picked our selection for the must-see films at this year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival.


This year’s opening gala is ‘Pig’, directed by Michael Sarnoski and starring Nicolas Cage as a reclusive truffle hunter whose beloved pig is kidnapped. The marketing for this film has been somewhat misleading, making it seem like a ‘Taken’ or ‘John Wick’ style vengeance thriller. Prepare to have your expectations subverted by this emotional and meditative drama.

Credit: Altitude


Having split critical opinion at Cannes, ‘Annette’ makes its UK premiere at EIFF. Directed by enfant terrible Leos Carax (Holy Motors) and written by iconic pop duo Sparks, this extravagant and eccentric musical stars Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard as a comedian and opera singer whose new-born child Annette, turns their lives upside down.

Credit: Amazon


Making its European Premiere at EIFF, Jennifer Ngo’s politically urgent documentary takes us onto the frontline of the 2019 pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. Exploring the oppressive legislation that sparked the demonstrations, and the violent clashes with police that followed, Ngo’s film is told through the eyes of four anonymous activists. One not to miss.

Credit: Dogwoof

The Night House

EIFF usually hosts an entire strand of horror, but this year there’s only a couple in the curtailed programme. One of them is ‘The Night House’, directed by David Bruckner (who brought ‘V/H/S’ to Edinburgh in 2012, and more recently directed the terrifying ‘The Ritual’) and starring Rebecca Hall. This complex psychological thriller about a woman who is haunted by the recent death of her husband is sure to put a chill in your bones. One to watch with the lights on.

Credit: Searchlight Pictures UK


Filmmaker and musician Quentin Dupieux brings his latest film ‘Mandibles’ to EIFF. Coming hot on the heels of his most recent film ‘Deerskin’ which was only released in the UK last month, his latest absurd comedy follows two simple-minded friends who discover a giant dog-sized fly trapped in the boot of a car. They decide to take it home and domesticate it, in the hope of getting rich. As you do. If you enjoy your comedy with a side-order of unpredictable surrealism, this one’s for you.

Credit: Altitude


Rakel is a 23-year-old cartoonist who discovers she is pregnant. She doesn’t want a baby, but it is far too late for an abortion. When an animated cartoon baby suddenly materialises from her own doodles, she embarks on a humorous journey encountering new people and circumstances that might help her come to terms with her situation. Taking an irreverent look at unplanned pregnancy, this insightful Norwegian comedy, based on a graphic novel, is making its UK premiere at EIFF.

Credit: Arthaus


The plight of the modern migrant comes under the spotlight in this lean and thrilling drama from director Haider Rashid. Following a young Iraqi trying to migrate into Europe on foot, ‘Europa’ explores the brutal reality of the Balkan Route, as he tries to cross from Turkey into Bulgaria, where if it isn’t the harsh landscape trying to kill you, it is nationalist migrant hunters with guns. Definitely one not to miss.

The Gig is Up

Canadian filmmaker Shannon Walsh shines an uncomfortable light on the global gig economy upon which so much of contemporary life is reliant, in this complex and compelling documentary. Exploring the massive disconnect between technological convenience of having everything you need via an app on your phone, and the invisible millions working in wage slavery to make your same day delivery a reality. In light of the past 18 months, this is essential viewing.

Credit: Dogwoof

Martyr’s Lane

Writer-director Ruth Platt returns to Edinburgh with this spine-chilling ghost story, about a lonely child living in a large vicarage, full of darkness and empty spaces. When a visitor in the night talks the girl into taking something which doesn’t belong to her, she sets off a train of events which may make her worst nightmares come true. If you’re in the mood for some dread-filled horror, add this one to your watchlist.

Credit: BFI

The Beta Test

After ‘Thunder Road’ and ‘The Wolf of Snow Hollow’ anything directed by Jim Cummings is an immediate must-see for us. This time he is on co-writing and co-directing duty with PJ McCabe in this biting satirical thriller. Cummings stars as a Hollywood talent agent, who shortly before his wedding receives an invitation for an anonymous, no-strings-attached, sexual encounter. Unable to get the idea out of his mind, he accepts, and that’s when his perfectly ordered life begins to fall apart.

Credit: IFC Films

Tickets on sale now at https://www.edfilmfest.org.uk

John Parker
John Parker
John is a freelance writer and film reviewer for Entertainment Focus.

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