When it’s cold and miserable outside, there’s no better place to be than inside a cinema. The program for this year’s MIFF has just dropped, and Australian films are making a strong showing. Local films will bookend the festival at opening and closing nights, and the mid-festival gala celebrates work from Australian filmmakers.

The Spierig brothers’ time-travelling thriller, Predestination, starring Ethan Hawke and Noah Taylor will open the festival. The closer will be the Australian premiere of Matthew Seville’s crime drama FELONY, starring Joel Edgerton and Melissa George.

This year’s Centrepiece Gala – a showcase event introduced last year with The Turning – will be the world premiere of Melbourne producer/director Tony Ayres’ sexy crime film Cut Snake starring Sullivan Stapleton.

Along with the Australian showcase, which will boast three more Australian films – Electric Boogaloo: The Wild Untold Story of Cannon Films, My Mistress and The Legendary Maker, this year there is also a new stream called Melbourne Stories which will feature local docos including Curtain Call, the story of the couple behind the Tivoli, Terry and Carol Ann Gill and Don’t Throw Stones, the documentary based on Stephen Cummings (of band The Sports) rock‘n’roll memoir.

In total, the 63rd annual MIFF will span 341 films – including 28 world premieres and 168 Australian premieres, 19 talking events, 24 international guests and 71 local guests.

MIFF’s director Michelle Carey and her team have cherry-picked some of the most critically acclaimed and exciting cinema from the festival circuits of Cannes, Sundance and Berlin, and from around the globe.

For true film buffs, the gems of the festival will be found at the fringes and in the diversity of the programming. Across 17 individual sub-programs, there is India in Flux: Living Resistance shining a spotlight on contemporary Indian cinema; Commedia all’italiana paying homage to Italian comedy; A Perfect Midnight: Haunted Hong Kong, a series devoted to Hong Kong horror movies; and a new program, I Dream of Genius, which will showcase films devoted to science and technology.

Despite the closure of Greater Union on Russell Street, MIFF’s reach has become considerably broader. Along with Hamer Hall playing host to the opening night, and ACMI acting as a festival hub, screenings will also be held at Kino, the Forum, Shebeen, Hoyts Melbourne Central and more. For the true diehards planning back-to-back screenings, it is worth double-checking in case you need to leg it to get to your next session.

Here are our picks for the must-see films of the festival:

Boyhood
Richard Linklater’s Boyhood has been widely lauded as an unlikely Oscar contender. In 2002, Linklater cast an unknown six-year-old boy in the lead role of Mason. Over the following 12 years he filmed a unique experiment in coming-of-age stories. The film – which also stars Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette as Mason’s parents – will no doubt get a cinema release, but it is one of the most eagerly anticipated films of the year.

The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Him and Her
Ned Benson’s ambitious two-parter, Him and Her starring Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy was the crowd hit of last year’s Toronto Film Festival. The three-hour relationship drama tells the story of a New York couple whose marriage falls apart after the death of their child. Done in two parts, Him and Her tells the story from the perspectives of the husband and wife separately.

Appropriate Behaviour
Indie darling Desiree Akhavana directs and stars in this lighthearted comedy about a bisexual Iranian-American trying to navigate life in Brooklyn. This will be 2014’s Frances Ha.

Advanced Style
This fashion documentary brings to life Ari Seth Cohen’s much loved blog of the same name de-voted to the street style of New York’s senior citizens.

At Berkley
Frederick Wiseman’s documentary is a harsh look at the American college system.

What We Do In The Shadows
New Zealand titan Taika Waititi (of Boy fame) and Flight of The Conchords' Jemaine Clement have collaborated for this intriguing Kiwi vampire mockumentary.

We Are The Best!
Adapting his wife Coco’s graphic novel, Swedish filmmaker Lukas Moodyson’s seventh film is a marked return to form. This is the riotous story of a trio of teenage outcasts living in 1980s Stockholm who decide to create their own punk band.

Night Moves
Jesse Eisenberg, Dakota Fanning and Peter Sarsgaard star in Kelly Reichardt’s film about eco terrorists.

Jimi: All is By My Side
From John Ridley, the recent Oscar-winning writer of 12 Years A Slave comes this British biopic of Jimi Hendrix starring Andre 3000 of Outkast as Hendrix.

Two Days, One Night
French filmmakers Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne helm this story of a woman – played by the omniscient Marion Cotillard – desperately trying to save her job. Cotillard also appears in James Gray’s period drama The Immigrant, about a Polish woman who arrives in New York and is forced into prostitution. Also starring Joaquin Phoenix.

The Case Against 8
Ryan White’s fascinating documentary explores the legal battle to bring down California’s controversial same-sex marriage ban, Proposition 8.

20,000 Days on Earth
Jane Pollard and Iain Forsyth have made this documentary biopic of Melbourne’s own Nick Cave. For music lovers, there is also Pulp, Florian Habicht’s love letter to Sheffield’s most famous ’90s band.

Black Coal, Thin Ice
This Chinese thriller is the third feature from Diao Yinan, and represents his breakthrough film having won the Golden Bear at this year's Berlinale. The film follows two former police officers in northern China who are drawn to investigating a series of recent murders, after similar cases years earlier cost them their jobs.

Stray Dogs
Taiwanese filmmaker Tsai Mingliang will have two films screening as a perfect accompaniment to each other as part of the Accent on Asia program. Stray Dogs explores the lives of those who fall off the wagon, and won the Venice Grand Jury Prize.

Welcome to New York
French national treasure Gerard Depardieu stars in Abel Ferrara’s fictionalised spin on the arrest of Dominque Strauss-Kahn for the alleged sexual assault of a hotel maid.

Whitey: United States of America v James J Bulger
Metallica: Some Kind Of Monster’s Oscar-nominated documentarian Joe Berlinger tackles the trial of Boston underworld figure James J Bulger.

The Melbourne International Film Festival runs from July 31 to August 17 across Melbourne.

Tickets are on sale from this Friday July 11. For full program details and to book tickets, visit www.miff.com.au.