BBC Culture

Eight films to watch at the Venice Film Festival

  • Gravity

    The opening night film for this year's festival is Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón's 'techno-thriller' Gravity. George Clooney and Sandra Bullock play two astronauts stranded in space without radio contact or hope of rescue. Drifting in weightless in the galaxy's terrifying expanse, the two must work together to survive. Expect long shots and tense scenes - in 3D.

  • The Armstrong Lie

    Alex Gibney has form on chronicling public figures laid low by lies and deception: his film Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Elliot Spitzer was shortlisted for the Academy Award for best documentary in 2011. Gibney's latest project began as the story of a comeback - but became something much darker as Armstrong was exposed for doping and stripped of his titles. Expect an unflinching investigation into the ethic of winning at all costs.

  • Kill Your Darlings

    In 1944 while students at Columbia University, the leading Beat writers - Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs - are brought together by a murder. The film follows the investigation into the crime, which had a lasting impact on each of their lives. Starring Daniel Radcliffe as Ginsberg, it also features Elisabeth Olsen, Michael C Hall and Jennifer Jason Leigh - and has already won some favourable critical responses. Expect a period thriller with poetic overtones.

  • The Unknown Known

    Venice will host the world premiere of The Unknown Known, a 105-minute documentary about former US Defense Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld. Rumsfeld discusses his career from his days as a congressman in the' 60s to planning the 2003 Iraq invasion. The film is directed by legendary documentary-maker, Errol Morris, responsible for the classic, The Thin Blue Line as well as The Fog of War and Tabloid. Expect frank revelations in the hands of a documentary master.

  • Zero Theorem

    Terry Gilliam directs a stellar cast in this sci-fi picture featuring Matt Damon, Christoph Waltz, Tilda Swinton and Ben Whishaw. Waltz plays Qohen Leth, a computer genius who employed by a mysterious figure known only as 'the Management'. While he attempts to work out whether life has any meaning, he is distracted by an attractive woman (Mélanie Thierry) and the Management's teenage son. Expect quirky existentialism and top-notch performances.

  • Möbius

    Directed by Eric Rochant and produced by Luc Besson, the film is set in Monaco, in the world of high finance and the super-rich. It stars Jean Dujardin (The Artist), Cécile de France, Tim Roth and Emilie Dequenne. Dujardin plays an experienced spy who is tracking a Russian oligarch (Roth) suspected of money laundering, while Cecile de France plays a trader working in a Russian bank. Expect multiple plot twists and high-octane suspense.

  • Tom at the Farm

    The films of 24-year-old Canadian Xavier Dolan divide opinion. Some find them sumptuous and beautifully stylised; others, pretentious and lightweight. His latest, Tom at the Farm, is a psychological thriller that follows a grief-stricken young man (played by Dolan himself) to the countryside to meet his dead lover's parents - only to be drawn into a savage game rooted in the rural family's shady past. Expect an exploration of the darker reaches of desire.

  • Under the Skin

    Written and directed by Jonathan Glazer (Sexy Beast, Birth), Under the Skin is based on the first novel by Michael Faber. The action is set in northern Scotland - and the central character is Isserley, an alien sent to earth to pick up unsuspecting hitchhikers and turn them into meat for her cohorts. Scarlett Johansson (sporting a black wig) stars as the pin-up extraterrestrial who uses her sexuality to ensnare her male prey. Expect dark satirical humour.