Filmmakers looking to get publicity for their films have a lot of festivals to consider. Understanding the full range of the top film festivals is critical to finding the best fit for your film. Each fest comes with its own vibe, history, and entry fee. But where do you start? With so many choices, finding the best film festivals for your film is like finding a needle in a haystack.

Don’t worry, we’re here to be your metal detector. We’ve done the research, we’ve curated our findings, and today we’ll break down the 21 top film festivals in the world. Consider this your super-organized list of the best film festivals. Read on, and by the end you’ll find the best fit (or fits) for your film.

1

The Top 11 US Film Festivals

STARTING AT THE TOP

1.1 best film festivals • park city picture show

Sundance Film Festival

The Sundance Film Festival is arguably the most well-known American film festival. Every year, more than 10,000 short and feature-length documentaries and narrative films submit for consideration.

Now the fest has even added television pilots and VR/AR projects to the lineup.

Of these 10,000, less than 200 films are selected for their debut.  

That’s less than 2 percent!

So should you submit to the Sundance Film Festival when there is such a small chance your film will ever be seen?

Sundance 2019

A few things to consider …

First, Sundance is known as one of the top documentary festivals. It also touts narrative dramas with a bit of star power. This festival is for directors who have honed their filmmaking techniques.

This film festival also favors films that have been fostered in Sundance labs and fellowships. Another major consideration: Sundance tends to favor American films. You must get as specific as possible when choosing a film festival. Especially if you are a filmmaker with limited budget.

In other words, do your homework.  

Does it sound like the Sundance Film Festival is right for you?

The big question you should be asking yourself is, “What has the Sundance line-up and winners list looked like in the past?”

If your film has a different theme or experimental element perhaps another festival is a better fit. If your film is selected, your path for distribution becomes much clearer.

THE FIVE TYPES OF FILM FESTIVAL PREMIERES

PREMIERES at top film festivals

Film premieres usually unfold in one of five different ways:

World Premiere: First time film is shown for the general public.

International Premiere:  The first time your film is shown outside your home country.

Continental Premiere: First time film is shown on a continent.

National Premiere: First time your film is shown in a country.

Domestic Premiere: First time film is shown in your own country

City or Regional Premiere: First time your film is shown in a city.

It’s great to know that at least one of the programmers at the Sundance Film Festival watches every single film. But they won’t ever tell you why your film didn’t make the cut.

Is their entry fee worth it?

Absolutely. Without any shred of doubt, this is one of the best film festivals, period.

But make sure you feel like your movie has what they’re looking for.

  • Entry Fee: $40-$110
  • Noteworthy Winners: Whiplash, Fruitvale Station, Blood Simple
  • Apply here →

1.2 best film festivals • indie ny

Tribeca Film Festival

At just 16 years old, the Tribeca Film Festival has quickly become one of the largest and most revered festivals in the world.

Like the Sundance Film Festival, the Tribeca Film Festival brings together film executives, filmmakers and movie enthusiasts from across the globe.

To date, more than 3 million visitors have attended the festival, which generates more than $600 million annually.

The mission of the Tribeca Film Festival is to bring independent films to the widest audience possible.

Last year, out of the 8400 submissions, 1400 were accepted.

Long odds? Of course.

But that also means the odds of getting into the Tribeca Film Festival are significantly better than getting into Sundance.

And are they worth the admission fee? You better believe it.

  • Entry Fee: $60-$500
  • Noteworthy Winners: Roger Dodger, Let the Right One In, Green Hat
  • Apply here →

1.3 top film festivals • bat city

Austin Film Festival

The coolest city in Texas also hosts the coolest film festival in the US.  The Austin Film Festival is a filmmaker-favorite as it’s more writer-focused than many others.  

In fact, the Austin Film Festivals was initially called the Heart of Film Screenwriters Conference. So, if you’re submitting your project make sure your treatment and script are ready for showtime.

Today, the Austin Film Festival still receives more script submissions than any other screenplay competition in the world.

A Conversation with Jason Reitman at the Austin Film Festival

Of course, with major hype comes major talent. Both Ivan Reitman and  Cary Joji Fukunaga have won prizes for their films at the Austin Film Festival.  

In fact, Jason Reitman, son of Ivan Reitman, is well-beloved by the festival. His films Juno and Up in the Air both premiered at the Austin Film Festival. They would go on to garner several Academy Award nominations and wins.

Worth mentioning that the Austin Film Fest shares a city with the powerhouse SXSW Film Festival. Austin takes place in fall, however, while SXSW occurs in late winter.

So get your EPK ready and head to Texas. The Austin Festival is certainly worth the submission fee. And the music, food, and hospitality don’t hurt either.

1.4 film festivals 2019 • rocky mountain high

Telluride Film Festival

The Telluride Film Festival is held every year over Labor Day Weekend. It combines all the glamour of Tribeca, the western sentiment of Sundance and the prestige of Toronto.

A former mining community, the Telluride Film Festival continues the town’s historic search for gold by only allowing films that make their world premiere at the festival.

This means there’s a great selection of films accepted from both well-known filmmakers and independent artists.

Michael Moore’s Roger and Me made its world premiere at the Colorado Mountains hideaway.

Robert Rodriguez’s El Mariachi and Greta Gerwig’s Ladybird also made their debut at the Telluride Film Festival.

Is it worth the submission fee? Absolutely!

The Telluride Film Festival is a great opportunity for independent filmmakers to stand shoulder to shoulder and compete with Hollywood’s elite.

Again, Telluride and many of the top fests, only want premieres so make sure to keep track of the submission dates and deadlines with a production calendar from StudioBinder. No white board, no problem. You can create the calendar with StudioBinder software in a few minutes.  Then, drag and drop interface is one of the features, you just click and drag to create events.

Film Festival submissions made simple

Using a production calendar that automatically creates a timeline or gantt chart is the best way to keep track of all your submissions.

So make your calendar and put Telluride at the top of the list.

  • Entry Fee: $45-$95
  • Noteworthy Winners: Brokeback Mountain, Moonlight, Lady Bird 
  • Apply here →

1.5 best film festivals • empire state

New York Film Festival

The New York Film Festival was started by the Film Society of Lincoln Center in 1963 and has become a sought-after event for filmmakers around the world.

New York Film Festival - Film Society Of Lincoln Center - StudioBinder

Roma was a recent offering of the film festival

Though studio films are chosen for opening night, closing night and centerpiece presentations, let there be no mistake: This is not a festival for studio-sponsored fare.  

The New York Film Festival is focused on independent filmmakers.

An advert for the 56th annual film festival

The main competition for feature-length narratives offers about 25 to 35 films every year. There are additional opportunities for experimental and documentary films.

  • Entry Fee: $25-$85
  • Noteworthy Films: The Big Chill, Chariots of Fire, The Social Network
  • Apply here →

1.6 film festivals 2019 • chi-town

Chicago International Film Festival

It’s appropriate that the Chicago International Film Festival is one of the most esteemed festivals in the US. Filmmakers flocked there following the World’s Fair in 1893, seeing something special in the Second City that still holds to this day.

It’s not afraid to take chances, has no restrictions on premieres, and carries a great energy that reverberates throughout the event.

Amores Perros and Hunger are two of the former winners of the festival if that tells you anything about the festivals selections.
Best Film Festivals - Chicago Film Festivals

Edison premiered his kinetoscope at Chicago’s first film festival

The festival has several categories for submission including an International Competition, New Directors Competition, Docufest, Black Perspectives, Cinema of the Americas, and Reel Women.

If you’re looking for a well-known competition that demands nothing but great cinema, the Chicago International Film Festival is definitely worth the submission fee.

  • Entry Fee: $20-$200
  • Noteworthy Films: Delicatessen, Amores Perros, Hunger
  • Apply here →

1.7 top film festivals • desert style

Palm Springs International Film Festival

For more than 30 years the Palm Springs International Film Festival has taken place in the Coachella Valley where the sun is always shining. But it’s not just the weather that brings attendees from far and wide.

The Palm Springs International Film Festival is a major launching point for new filmmakers.

Take a look at the selections of The Palm Springs film Festival

Hordes of industry bigwigs descend on the desert-set film festival to view nearly 200 film screenings, tributes and special presentations.

Not from the US? No problem! Palm Springs welcomes projects from all over the world.

In fact, more than 70 countries were represented in 2018!

It’s important to note that no short films are screened at the Palm Springs International Film Festival. There are plenty of shorts-only festivals and big name festivals that accept short films, but the Palm Springs International Film Festival is for features only.

  • Entry Fee: $75-$95
  • Noteworthy Films: Dallas Buyers Club, Manchester by the Sea
  • Apply here →

1.8 top film festivals • deep south

Atlanta Film Festival

Currently in  its 43rd year, the Atlanta Film Festival is one of the largest and longest continuously running festivals in the United States.  

The Atlanta Film Festival is also one of the 20 Academy-qualifying festivals for narrative, animated and documentary shorts.

It’s also a tough one to get into.

Out of more than 7600 submissions this year, only 300 films from 50 countries were screened.

Of course, if you have a great film, those numbers are no reason not to submit!

In fact, the Atlanta Film Festival is well-known for showcasing filmmakers of color, LGBTQ+ community members, female-centered movies and experimental films.

They also feature amazing prizes in every category.

Is it worth the submission fee? Definitely. MovieMaker Magazine called the Atlanta Film Festival one of the 25 coolest festivals in the world and we agree.
  • Entry Fee: $15-$90
  • Noteworthy Films: El Mariachi, The Cabin in the Woods, Winter’s Bone
  • Apply here →

1.9 film festivals • california

Santa Barbara International Film Festival

The Santa Barbara International Film Festival is a 34-year-old institution along California’s sun-drenched coast. It screens a diverse lineup of more than 200 films with nearly 10,000 people attending from all over the world.

The movie festival caters to its international fans with sections devoted to Nordic regions, Israeli offerings, and both Latin American and Asian filmmakers.

Of course, there is no shortage of celebrity sightings.  But there are also many seminars with industry executives and film professionals.

Is it good for independent filmmakers?

Simply put, yes.

The Santa Barbara International Film Festival is another Academy-Award qualifying opportunity that extends an open hand to indie filmmakers.

It also hosts some of the industry’s biggest independent distributors.

1.10 top film festivals • island vibes

Nantucket Film Festival

The Nantucket Film Festival is only 23 years old and has already become a major event on the United States festival circuit.  

Started as a festival to showcase screenwriting and storytelling, it is still committed to shepherding writers with its Showtime Tony Cox Screenplay Competition. The annual contest provides winners with an all-expenses-paid writer’s retreat and private consultations with Showtime executives.

Nantucket Film Festival - Screenplay Competition - StudioBinder

The Nantucket Film Festival

The films that screen at the Nantucket Film Festival lean towards strong narrative storytelling. Previously accepted submissions include Captain Fantastic, Brave, and Beasts of the Southern Wild.

Still, with only 800 to 1000 submissions, the odds your film will be seen are pretty good.

A writer-focused film festival

Among the awards at the Nantucket Film Festival is the Adrienne Shelly Foundations Excellence in Filmmaking Award. Each year it’s granted to a female filmmaker for an outstanding narrative or feature film.

Just one of the many reasons the Nantucket Film Festival makes our list of film festivals worth the entry fee.

  • Entry Fee: $25-$75
  • Noteworthy Films: Searching for Sugar Man, Captain Fantastic, Margin Call
  • Apply here →

1.11 enter film festivals

Slamdance

Founded in 1995, Slamdance prides itself on being by filmmakers, for filmmakers. It has a raw, low-budget emphasis and its films aren’t afraid to push limits.

Paranormal Activity premiered at the festival, as did the Seth Gordon video game documentary The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters.
  • Entry Fee: $40-$110
  • Noteworthy Films: Paranormal Activity, The King of Kong
  • Apply here →

2

The Top 10 International Festivals

IT’S A BIG WORLD FOR FILMMAKERS

2.1 top film festivals in the world • french riviera

Cannes Film Festival

The Cannes International Film Festival is the most glamorous event after the Academy Awards for filmmakers and studio executives alike. It is also the biggest and most well-known film festivals in the world.

Every year thousands of international films are submitted, but only 50 features and 30 short films are screened in the competition. Safe to call this one of the best film festivals, and one of the best short film festivals, in the world.

There is usually an out-of-competition opening and closing film as well. Along with two very influential out-of-competition screening series.

Director’s Fortnight showcases about 20 films that come from all over the globe.

International Critics Week screens  first or second feature films and prides itself on introducing new, international talent to the world.

It’s not easy to get into the Cannes International Film Festival. The long-running festival accepts even fewer films than Sundance.

But if your film is selected, it joins the ranks of revered movies such as David Lynch’s Wild At Heart, Lars Von Trier’s Dancer In the Dark, Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing and Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction.

The last American film to win the Palme d’Or was Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life.

Maybe your movie will be next.

  • Entry Fee: $50-$400
  • Noteworthy Films: Dirty Dancing, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Wild at Heart
  • Apply here →

2.2 top film festivals • normandy

Deauville American Film Festival

France hosts more than 500 film festivals each year. But, the Deauville Film Festival is one of the most sought-after and filmmaker-focused among them.

While several big names and big budget movies are present at the Deauville Film Festival, the event graciously accepts smaller independent films, as well. Even though it’s in France, the focus here is on American films.

And when it comes to the submission fee — there isn’t one!

That’s right, the Deauville Film Festival will accept your submission free of charge. But only 14 films are selected each year, so make sure yours stands out.

  • Entry Fee: $0
  • Noteworthy Films: Being John Malkovich, Hedwig and the Angry Inch
  • Apply here →

2.3 best film festivals in the world • germany

Berlin International Film Festival

This German festival is officially known as the Berlin International Film Festival brings filmmakers from all over the world to the city of Berlin to celebrate films and filmmakers.

Those in-the-know simply refer to the festival as Berlinale.

Four of the ten films to win the coveted Golden Bear prize in the 90s were American: Grand Canyon, Sense and Sensibility, The People Vs Larry Flynt and The Thin Red Line.

In the last 18 years, Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia is the only American film to have won the top award.

A Golden Bear winner at the Berlinale

Of course, it’s not just the awards at the festival that matter. The Berlin International Film Festival has always been a strong contributor to the Best Foreign Language Film award at the Oscars too. This includes the 2017 winner, Sony’s A Fantastic Woman.

Definitely worth the entry fee.

  • Entry Fee: $85-$100
  • Noteworthy Films: The Grand Budapest Hotel, Adaptation
  • Apply here →

2.4 top film festivals internationally • city of canals

Venice Film Festival

The first festival of its kind, the Venice Film Festival made its debut in 1932 as part of the Biennale di Venezia with all the trappings of a major international festival.

Today, stars and media from around the world flock to the island of Lido in the Venice lagoon to attend the respected event.  

Venice International Film Festival - StudioBinder

The Venice Film Festival is world-class

Out of the thousands of films submitted, less than 100 films are chosen to make their debut at the Venice International Film Festival. .  

Still, it’s definitely worth considering as acceptance to the renowned festival is considered a predictor for success in the United States.

Stroll the Lido with international stars

Some of the films that have been recognized include Guillermo Del Toro’s The Shape of Water,  Sofia Coppola’s Somewhere and Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain.
  • Entry Fee: $70-$140
  • Noteworthy Films: Roma, The Wrestler, Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead
  • Apply here →

2.5 international festivals • hollywood north

Toronto International Film Festival

It doesn’t get much bigger than the Toronto International Film Festival for debuting your movie  to the world. The number of films that have premiered in Toronto and gone on to win Oscars is staggering.

American Beauty, Ray, Black Swan and Slumdog Millionaire to name just a few.

In 2017, 255 films screened at TIFF across 14 categories. 

And while plenty of competition from Hollywood’s elite makes the Toronto International Film Festival a tough one to get into, its status among buyers and producers definitely make it worth a shot.

  • Entry Fee: $45-$85
  • Noteworthy Films: American Beauty, Slumdog Millionaire, The King’s Speech
  • Apply here →

2.6 best film festivals in the world • mountain movies

Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival

The Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival is in the heart of the Canadian Rockies and a unique festival. There is an emphasis on adventure and sporting that would leave many filmmakers out in the cold.  

Of course, But once you understand the location of the festival you’ll understand why the focus is on films with adventure themes.

What really makes this festival stand out is its World Tours Program, a traveling caravan of films that reaches 300 international cities and more than half a million people annually.

What really makes this festival stand out is its World Tours Program, which is a travelling caravan of a film festival. The tour travels around the globe visiting 300 cities and reaches an audience of half a million people annually.

The Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival is in the heart of the Canadian Rockies

The festival organizers say that there is no film too short for inclusion.

If you’re an adventurer-in-the-making, there is also an Adventure Filmmakers Workshop which is a chance for where filmmakers can to practice their craft with top adventure filmmakers.

  • Entry Fee: $60
  • Noteworthy Films: The Weight of Water, Finding Farley
  • Apply here →

2.7 top film festivals • go to goa

International Film Festival of India

India boasts many amazing film festivals and the International Film Festival of India, which takes place in Goa, is one of the most highly publicized and well-attended in Asia.

The opening ceremony at the Indian International Film Festival at GOA

Playing host to Indian movie stars with international reputations, international filmmakers and film enthusiasts from all over the world, the film festival doesn’t play favorites in their international selections.

The history of the festival shows that films from Iran, China and Russia have made the cut more than once, but the festival likes to switch up the slate as well as the country of origin for the winners.

While no American film has ever won the Golden Peacock top prize, Canadian Atom Egoyan was recently honored with the Indian International Film Festivals’ Lifetime Achievement Award.

There are many categories in this festival with the full length features vying for the top prize, The Golden Peacock.

Extra incentive — with no submission fee, it’s one of the few free festivals worth entering.

2.8 best film festicals • swanky south korea

Busan International Film Festival

The Busan International Film Festival was the first of its kind in Korea and is now the largest and most celebrated film festival in Asia.

There are many film festivals in Asia where filmmakers and film lovers alike can celebrate the best and the brightest.  

But that the Busan Film Festival has really become the go-to festival in Asia is saying plenty.

This festival was the first international festival in Korea.

This year alone, the Busan International Film Festival screened 329 films from 79 countries. It’s also one of the world’s best short film festivals.

While very few English-language films have won prizes at the event, it continues to be a great market for anyone seeking distribution in Asian territories.

However, very few English language films have won prizes at the festival which favors Asian fare.  

But, that doesn’t mean Euro-centric language films should not be discounted as The Busan International Festival is a buyer’s market for anyone wanting distribution in Asian territories.

Beautiful Days is a beautiful winner of this years Busan International Film Festival

More than 85 world premieres take place every year at the Busan International Film Festival, making it well-worth the submission fee for any independent filmmaker.

The Busan International Film Festival screens more than 300 Films from 79 countries. Close to 100 world premieres take place on average every year.

2.9 best in the world • london calling

Raindance Film Festival

The Raindance Film Festival in London is a large international festival that is particularly good for first time and unknown directors of documentaries and short films. It’s one of the top documentary film festivals in Europe, or the world for that matter.

The Raindance Film Festival accepts features, short films, music videos, VR and AR experiences, and web series.

In short, they welcome all projects to submit and participate.

The Raindance Film Festival is great for new filmmakers

In fact, the Raindance Film Festival is known for showcasing bold and provocative work that challenges the rules of filmmaking.

What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? had its world debut at this festival.
Raindance Film Festival - StudioBinder

The Raindance Film Festival ate this movie up

Pulp Fiction also had its UK premiere at the Raindance Film Festival. Not too shabby. It’s additionally regarded as one of the world’s best short film festivals.

As with all festivals, it’s advisable to submit to Raindance as early as possible. It programs fast.

  • Entry Fee: $30-$115
  • Noteworthy Films: Down Terrace, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape
  • Apply here →

2.10 artsy alberta

Calgary International Film Festival

The Calgary International Film Festival is not the biggest festival in Canada, but what it lacks in size it makes up for with heart.

They screen 200 shorts and features over twelve days. Though the programmers favor native offerings, the a large share of the films shown here are international. Last year nearly 50 countries were represented.

The Calgary International Film Festival will not be known as CIFF

Just a few short years ago, The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences made this film festival Oscar-qualifying, which says a lot about the films screened here.

This year the gala screening included The Sisters Brothers starring Joaquin Phoenix and John C. Reilly.
  • Entry Fee: $35-$80
  • Noteworthy Films: Burn Your Maps, Science Fair
  • Apply here →

up next

Master the Pre Production Process

There is only one way to get to the film festivals, and that is by producing a movie. But the finer points of filmmaking are often a mystery to even seasoned pros.

Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about the pre production process, from A to Z. Make sure you’re taking the right steps to get your next film done right in time for festival season.

Up Next: The Complete pre-production process →
Solution Icon - Collaboration and Production Calendar

Project management for video creatives. Tasks, file sharing, calendars and more.

Manage video production timelines, tasks, storyboards, shot lists, breakdowns, call sheets. Made for video creatives, new media and film.

Learn More ➜