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John Oliver

John worked in the BFI National Archive for more than 20 years, first as a cataloguer from 1996, before moving to the curatorial team in 2008 as a fiction film curator and then a curatorial archivist in 2016. He left the BFI in 2017. His areas of interest include British cinema from the 1930s to the 1960s (with particular interests in the 1930s, wartime cinema and comedy); the multi-lingual mode of production in 1930s international cinema; the development of widescreen systems in the 1950s; Italian cinema; and the science fiction, Western and musical genres.

He has worked on science fiction festivals in Trieste and Genoa, and his published work includes an essay on the Aldwych farces for the book The Cinema of Britain and Ireland (Columbia, 2005) and numerous contributions to the reference works The Encyclopedia of British Film (BFI, 2003-) and Dizionario dei registi (Einaudi, 2005).

Articles by John Oliver

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  • 15 great British film scores

    No question, The Third Man is one of the greatest British thrillers, but a lot of the magic comes from its distinctive zither score. What are the other great British film scores?

    Friday, June 26, 2015


  • 10 great British musicals

    While Hollywood may have dominated film musicals, a newly restored version of Powell & Pressburger’s The Tales of Hoffmann proves that the UK has made plenty of bold and imaginative contributions to the genre. Here are 10 worth singing about.

    Thursday, February 26, 2015


  • Why I love ... Close Encounters of the Third Kind

    A first encounter with Steven Spielberg’s wondrous alien-contact epic in a local cinema in 1978 led BFI National Archive curator John Oliver to return four more times in the following weeks – and the thrill of this most moving of sci-fi films remains today.

    Tuesday, December 16, 2014


  • 10 great British sci-fi films

    On the 50th anniversary of 2001: A Space Odyssey, we fly the flag for homegrown science fiction with a list of 10 of the best British sci-fi movies.

    Thursday, November 27, 2014


  • Rarely seen sci-fi films released on BFI Player – 10 to try

    We’ve released dozens of hard-to-see sci-fi films on BFI Player. Here’s a sampler.

    Tuesday, November 4, 2014


  • Why I love... Zulu

    It’s 50 years since the premiere of the classic historical adventure that launched the career of Michael Caine.

    Monday, January 20, 2014


  • Why I love... Bela Lugosi’s Dracula

    Bela Lugosi was cinema’s first official Count Dracula. Curator John Oliver remembers seeing this cobweb-strewn 1931 classic at an impressionable age…

    Friday, October 25, 2013


  • 10 great films on the underground

    As the London underground celebrates its 150th anniversary, we pick 10 memorable onscreen appearances.

    Wednesday, January 9, 2013


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