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Forbidden Worlds Film Festival returns 16-19 May to Bristol’s former IMAX screen

Bristol’s biggest repertory genre film festival is back to celebrate some of cinema’s most deadly women and director Peter Hyams, transporting audiences to spectacular inner worlds, stunning outer spaces, and – of course – the video shop archives.

Launched in May 2022 at the Bristol Aquarium Cinema, Forbidden Worlds Film Festival is Bristol’s leading genre film festival dedicated to screening repertory fantasy, action, science-fiction and horror films from around the world, and celebrating the people that made them.

The festival has drawn a lot of attention for utilising Bristol’s former IMAX screen to put on showings of classic genre movies complete with special video intros from Hollywood icons such as James Cameron, Jamie Lee Curtis, Guillermo del Toro, Peter Jackson and more.

This May, the Forbidden Worlds team is set to thrill audiences once again with a selection of VHS favourites, stunning new restorations and action classics – all projected onto the biggest screen in the South West. 

This year, Forbidden Worlds Film Festival will also be honouring the career of veteran genre screenwriter, cinematographer and director Peter Hyams by naming him the LEGEND of the festival and screening three of his most iconic films – Capricorn One (1977), Outland (1981) and Timecop (1994) – that demonstrate his genre-film credentials across the decades.

“Peter Hyams, along with John Badham, is one of the first filmmakers I became aware of,” says the festival’s Anthony Nield. “Discovering a love for film in the late eighties and early nineties, which was mostly focused on genre cinema, the credit ‘Directed by Peter Hyams’ cropped up regularly. And it always guaranteed a lean, efficient, no-nonsense approach to the thriller, or the action movie, or science fiction, whether that be with Running Scared, Capricorn One, Narrow Margin, 2010, The Star Chamber, Outland, and so on. With so many options to choose from, we decided to limit ourselves to one film per decade, thus showing off Hyams’ consistency over the year and demonstrating his skills as a consummate storyteller.”

With the forthcoming release of Furiosa, Forbidden Worlds is honouring the original KILLER QUEENS: the iconic actresses and their characters who have been direct inspirations for many of the new generation of female action stars that we enjoy today.

Screenings include B-movie classic Attack of the 50 Foot Woman (1958); Kathryn Bigelow’s cult thriller Blue Steel (1990), featuring festival favourite Jamie Lee Curtis as a rookie cop targeted by an obsessed witness; Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion (1972), starring Meiko Kaji in one of her most iconic roles; Geena Davis as an assassin with amnesia in The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996); blaxploitation royalty Pam Grier in Foxy Brown (1974); and a brand-new 4K restoration of Luc Besson’s genre-defining Nikita (1990).

“Powerful female characters were few and far between in films made in the twentieth century,” says the festival’s Tessa Williams, “and that is best put into words by one of our Killer Queens herself, Geena Davis. ‘Identifying with a character is one of the best parts of seeing a movie, but as women, we’ve had to train ourselves to experience the male journey.’ I’m really excited for our audience to experience the high-octane journeys of these six iconic characters kicking ass on Bristol’s giant screen.” 

Whether journeying inside the human body or visiting a telepathic planet in a faraway galaxy, audiences will also be treated to some classic and cult sci-fi adventures with INNER WORLDS & OUTER SPACES, which will honour the 40th anniversary of sci-fi classic The Last Starfighter (1984), and include a very rare big-screen outing for the cult Soviet-era black comedy Kin-dza-dza! (1986), alongside Roland Emmerich’s groundbreaking 1994 actioner Stargate, which spawned a universe of TV series and celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, and Joe Dante’s Oscar-winning visual effects extravaganza Innerspace (1987).

The programming team are also drawing inspiration from Bristol’s iconic 20th Century Flicks’ VHS collection for the FROM THE VIDEO SHOP ARCHIVES strand which will premiere a brand-new restoration of Indonesian swords and sorcery curio The Devil’s Sword (1984) which sees action star Barry Prima battle wizards that can shoot lasers out of their hands, an army of crocodile soldiers and warriors that can surf flying rocks. 

There will also be a special 30th anniversary screening of nineties action classic Speed (1994) that catapulted Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock onto the A-list!

“This Forbidden Worlds, we wanted to do something totally different from the monsters and martial arts mayhem of last year and look forward to unleashing everything from Soviet science-fiction to weird Indonesian fantasy flicks to classic crowd-pleasing blockbusters like Speed and Stargate upon our audiences,” says the festival’s Timon Singh. “Plus, hopefully, we’ll have a few surprises as well.”

This year, the festival is hosting its inaugural GENRE FILMMAKERS OF THE FUTURE SHORT FILM SHOWCASE where attendees can enjoy action, horror and sci-fi shorts from filmmakers both local and international. Not only will the shorts be judged by a panel of professional judges including We Are Lady Parts and Polite Society director Nida Manzoor and Host producer Jed Shepherd, but audience members will also be able to vote for their favourite. 

“Since we launched the festival, we’ve had hosts of requests from filmmakers, both local and further afield, asking to submit their short genre films so they could be shown on our big screen,” adds Singh. “We had loads of great submissions and it was hard whittling them down to just twelve titles, but those filmmakers will now get the opportunity to win prizes from our genre-loving judges and audience.”

The team have also spent the last six months upgrading a lot of the venue’s audio and visual equipment so the films will be even bigger and louder than before.

“We’ve spent loads of hours tinkering and calling in several favours to get the picture and sound in the best shape it can possibly be in. Amps have been replaced, speakers fine tuned and we have a new 1:1 lens that will fill the screen even more than before,” notes the festival’s Dave Taylor. “It has to be seen and heard to be believed!”

As always, New Bristol Brewery will be bringing a unique selection of beers including The Forbidden Sesh – their Forbidden Worlds Festival-branded IPA – for punters to enjoy, while Espensen Spirits will be providing a range of exciting programme-themed cocktails. 

The festival poster has once again been designed by local artist Jim’ll Paint It, who will be at the festival selling posters and t-shirts as well as other local vendors.

For more information, visit