Best Film Festivals in 2024: The Top 10 Best Film Festivals in the World

Anas Mushtaque
Anas Mushtaque

20 Feb 2024

5 min read

Best Film Festivals in 2024: The Top 10 Best Film Festivals in the World

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Welcome to the vibrant cinematic world where the art of storytelling goes beyond boundaries and captivates the hearts and minds of the audiences from all around the globe. For aspiring and on-the-rise filmmakers, the chance to showcase their artistic films in front of a global audience is no less than a dream-come-true. Film festivals offer the perfect stage for such dreams to turn into reality.

Film festivals not only serve as cultural celebrations which bring filmmakers, industry professionals, as well as film enthusiasts or cinephiles from all around the world together, but also provide recognition to outstanding cinematic achievements. Moreover, such festivals also help create fostering environments which are conducive to networking, collaborating, and exchanging ideas. For growing filmmakers, going to film festivals and participating in them can be game-changing, since it can propel their careers to massive heights.

In our comprehensive guide, we dive deep into the realm of the best film festivals. We offer you a curated list which embraces diversity as well as excellence. Our list lays emphasis on a wide range of film festivals, each of which has its unique charm & significance. Right from the glitz and glamor of the renowned Cannes festival, to the independent spirit that the Raindance festival promotes, we aim to cater to a wide array of filmmakers and cinephiles. So without any further ado, let us dive right into what film festivals actually are, and list down 10 of the best film festivals around the globe!

What are Film Festivals?

Film festivals are annually-held global events which showcase a specifically-curated selection of movies to audiences, cinema professionals, and film critics. Majority of film festivals showcase films from different countries as well as cultures.

Some of the most renowned names in the realm of film festivals include Cannes, Sundance, Toronto, etc. Different film festivals are held throughout the year. For instance, the famous Venice Film Festival takes place in lateAugust or early September. On the other hand, the Cannes Film Festival is held for two weeks in the month of May every year.

In film festivals, multiple film screenings take place, usually in theaters, over the course of two to three days. These gatherings of cinephiles and filmmakers celebrate the art that filmmaking is, and offer a platform to aspiring creators for showcasing their work.

List of the 10 Best Film Festivals in the World

Here is a detailed look at 10 of the best film festivals in the world:

Cannes Film Festival

Cannes
Cannes Film Festival | Credit: Deadline

The Cannes Film Festival was founded in 1946. Up until 2002, it was called the International Film Festival or the Festival International du film. The festival is popular for featuring previews of all genres of cinema, including documentary films from all around the globe. It is an invitation-only festival that is usually held every year in the month of May at the popular Palais des Festivals et des Congres.

Considered an epitome and symbol of cinematic excellence, the renowned film festival is famous for its prestigious Palme d’Or award. In 2019, the film “Parasite” directed by Bong Joon-Ho created history by clinching the prestigious award. Moreover, it later went on to win multiple accolades at the Oscars, including the Best Picture award. 

Another popular film which received the Palme d’Or and gained widespread acclaim is “Blue in the Warmest Color” which was directed by Abdellatif Kechiche in 2013. Another prominent feature of the Cannes Film Festival is its red carpet extravaganza, bringing together the most prominent personalities from different film industries globally.

Sundance Film Festival

Sundance
Sundance Film Festival | Credit: Wikipedia

Founded in 1978, the Sundance Film Festival is a renowned American film festival that is held every year in Utah. The festival takes place in January every year in different locations, including the likes of Park City, Salt Lake City, Ogden, as well as the Sundance Resort. The Sundance Festival showcases new work from both American as well as international indie film directors. 

Over the years, many top-notch films have been featured at Sundance. For starters, “Whiplash” (2014) by Damien Chazelle premiered at the festival and received immense critical acclaim. Similarly, Jordan Peele’s “Get Out” had its global premiere at the Sundance Film Festival. It later went on to gain recognition as a cultural phenomenon. 

The festival is known for its focus on emerging & unconventional storytelling. It features competitive sections for both American and international drama films and documentaries (feature-length as well as short-length films), and a collection of out-of-competition sections, which includes major names like NEXT, New Frontier, Park City at Midnight, etc. Over the years, the film festival has transitioned from a low-profile affair to a full-fledged media extravaganza for actors, especially Hollywood actors.

Berlin Film Festival

Berlin
Berlin Film Festival | Credit: Wikipedia

The Berlin Film Festival, also referred to as the Berlinale, was founded in the year 1951. The renowned festival for films is held every year in Berlin, Germany. It is famous around the world for its unabashed commitment to diversity amongst different cultures and artistic merit. There are many prizes that are conferred upon various film personalities and films, but The Golden Bear stands out as the top award. The award recognizes films that excel in different categories. The list includes three primary accolades – the Best Film, the Best Director, and lastly, Outstanding Artistic Contribution.

Wes Anderson’s visually-stunning comedy “The Grand Budapest Hotel” (2014) premiered at the Berlin Film Festival and went on to become a massive critical as well as commercial success. “A Separation,” an Iranian drama directed by Asghar Farhidi won Berlinale’s popular Golden Bear accolade and created history. Followed by this, it also went on to clinch the Academy Award for the “Best Foreign Language Film” category.  

The film festival takes place in February every year and showcases specific films which carry strong social and political messages. Hence, the Berlinale is deemed unique as well as influential in the circuit of film festivals. The film festival embraces the avant-garde form of cinematic storytelling. Moreover, it often celebrates movies which seriously address pressing global concerns and issues. This reinforces the fact that the film festival is known for its emphasis on diversity & inclusivity.

Venice Film Festival

Venice
Venice Film Festival | Credit: Screen Daily

Founded in 1932, the Venice Film Festival is the oldest film festival in the world. The annual film festival at Venice’s historic Lido Island during the month of September. The festival marks the end of the summer season and the onset of the awards season. The most important prize at the film festival, namely The Golden Lion is highly coveted, and has been conferred upon some of the biggest and most iconic films in the history of cinema.

“The Shape of Water,” a fantasy romance film directed by the renowned director Guillermo del Toro got honored with the Golden Lion accolade. Moreover, it also went on to garner several awards at the Oscars, including the most prestigious “Best Picture” award. Another great film which featured at the Venice Film Festival was “Joker” (2019) directed by Todd Phillips. After its premiere at the film festival, it received widespread acclaim from audiences. The lead actor Joaquin Phoenix also clinched the Academy Award in the “Best Actor” category.  

Besides its age and noteworthy prizes, the Venice Film Festival is also known for its appealing and picturesque setting as well as the glamorous red carpet film events. The prime focus of the film festival remains on the auteur cinema. It celebrates the directors who through their work, push the boundaries of artistic expression.

Toronto International Film Festival

Toronto
Toronto International Film Festival | Credit: Short Movie Club

Also referred to as TIFF, the Toronto International Film Festival was founded in 1976. Over the years, the film festival has significantly evolved and become one of the most iconic and influential film festivals around the globe. The popular annual film festival takes place in the month of September in Toronto, Canada, and acts as a launching pad for movies targeting Academy Awards contention. The film festival’s diverse program includes an extensive variety of films, including blockbusters from Hollywood, international gems, and independent films.

The popular Indian drama “Slumdog Millionaire” (2008) directed by Danny Boyle premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival. The picture went on to win as many as eight Academy Awards, including an award in the “Best Picture” category. Another prominent film which had its world premiere at this international film festival was “La La Land” (2016), a musical romantic drama directed by Damine Chazelle. 

Moreover, TIFF is positioned in such a strategic way that it often showcases films which become prominent nominees in different categories during the awards season. The film festival’s commitment to inclusivity is very apparent in its selection process of movies from different genres & cultural backgrounds. The “People’s Choice Award” of the film festival is mostly given to films that have managed to resonate with the audiences globally.

BFI London Film Festival

London
BFI London Film Festival | Credit: BBC

The BFI or British Film Institute London Film Festival is a popular film festival that was founded in 1953. This film festival is known for celebrating both British as well as International cinema. It recognizes cinematic excellence in various categories and aspects. Two of the most popular accolades include Best Film and Best Director.

Over the years, many critically-acclaimed films have had their premieres at the BFI London Film Festival. A fine example of this is “12 Years a Slave” (2013), a historical drama directed by Steve McQueen. The film had its European premiere at the film festival, followed by which it won the Academy Award for being the “Best Picture”. Similarly, “Moonlight” (2016), a coming-of-age drama directed by Barry Jenkins had its UK premiere at the BFI film festival. Similar to the historical drama, this film also clinched the Academy Award in the “Best Picture” category.  

The film festival takes place in the month of October in London every year, thereby contributing to the vivid cultural scenes of the popular city. The BFI London Film Festival’s diverse set of programs include screenings, world premieres, and thought-provoking conversations and discussions. It offers a platform to both established as well as emerging international filmmakers to present their works.

Edinburgh International Film Festival

Edinburgh
Edinburgh International Film Festival | Credit: Edinburgh International Festival

The Edinburgh International Film Festival is a prominent name in the film festival circuit. Founded in 1947, the film festival is held every year in Scotland’s capital city. This makes it the country’s premier cinema event. Since it is Scotland’s flagship cinema festival, it exhibits a mixture of local as well as international cinema and celebrates top-tier innovation and storytelling.

Danny Boyle’s iconic British film “Trainspotting” (1996) had its world premiere at the Edinburgh Film Festival. Another film which had its UK premiere at the renowned film festival was “Billy Elliot” (2000), a heartwarming drama directed by Stephen Daldry. 

The Edinburgh Film Festival takes place in June every year, thereby adding cultural vibrancy during the months of summer. The film festival’s unique approach is that it embraces emerging talent along with innovative storytelling and offers aspiring and established filmmakers a platform through which they are able to connect with professionals from the cinema industry as well as the audience.

SXSW Film Festival

SXSW
SXSW Film Festival | Credit: SXSW

The SXSW Film Festival is an integral part of the major SXSW event that takes place in Austin, Texas (North America), every year. Founded in the year 1994, the film festival celebrates the confluence of film, music, as well as interactive media. SXSW’s eclectic range of programs exhibit movies which experiment with narrative structures and implement the use of new technologies.

“The Cabin in the Woods” (2011) is one of the most popular films that premiered at the SXSW Film Festival. The horror-comedy directed by Drew Goodard went on to become an absolute favorite amongst fans of the genre. The John Krasinski directorial “A Quiet Place” (2018) became another critically-acclaimed horror film that had its premiere at the film festival. 

Usually held in the month of March, SXSW is renowned for its dynamic as well as unconventional approach in the realm of storytelling. The film festival encourages filmmakers to openly explore the conglomeration of distinctive media forms. It is deemed a hub for creativity as well as innovation, primarily because it attracts artists who go beyond the traditional style of filmmaking.

Telluride Film Festival

Telluride
Telluride Film Festival | Credit: Meyer Sound

The Telluride Film Festival, ever since it was founded in 1974, is a one of the major festivals and has been a force to reckon with in the realm of film festivals. Held every year in the beautiful town of Telluride, Colorado, it is renowned for its exclusive & intimate setting. The film festival focuses on films which are innovative and artistic. It also presents works which challenge the traditional form of storytelling.

Ang Lee’s “Brokeback Mountain” (2005) had its world premiere at the Telluride Film Festival. Although the groundbreaking romantic drama did not win any Academy Awards, it was nominated in numerous categories, which in itself is a major feat. “Moonlight” (2016), in addition to being premiered at the BFI London Film Festival, had its US premiere at TFF.

The festival is an annual event, i.e., it is held annually in the month of September. Its timing makes it overlap with other festivals, thereby making it a top destination for industry professionals. The Telluride Film Festival is known for maintaining an air of secrecy since it reveals its lineup only at the very last minute. This factor significantly adds to the allure of the film festival and attracts an audience of cinema enthusiasts.

Raindance Film Festival

Raindance
Raindance Film Festival | Credit: Vimooz

Founded in 1992, Raindance Film Festival is a highly renowned film festival around the globe. It is held in London every year and is deemed a champion of independent & alternative cinema. The globally popular film festival offers a platform for emerging talent and celebrates films that challenge the status quo.

The film festival takes place in the month of September. It is a crucial event for indie filmmakers whose main target is to exhibit their work in front of a global audience. Radiance Film Festival’s emphasis on modern and unconventional storytelling is what sets it apart from others in the film festival circuit. It embraces cultural diversity, and offers a variety of educational programs which facilitate filmmakers in navigating the industry.

Gareth Edwards’ “Monsters” (2010) had its global premiere at the Raindance Film Festival. The sci-fi film’s premiere at such a renowned film festival facilitated in showcasing Edwards’ talent as a director before he created blockbusters like “Godzilla”. Another renowned film which premiered at Raindance and received major critical acclaim for having a unique storyline and storytelling technique was Terry Zwigoff’s dark comedy “Ghost World” (2001).

How Can Independent Filmmakers Apply to Film Festivals?

For independent or indie filmmakers, one of the most crucial steps in the journey to exhibit their creative product and connect with a larger audience is gaining entry into a film festival, i.e., getting to showcase their film in the festival in front of all the attendees. Smartly navigating through the application process requires top-notch attention to detail along with careful planning. Here is a detailed guide on how filmmakers can apply to film festivals:

  • Researching & Selecting Suitable Festivals

The first step involved in applying to film festivals is identifying the film festivals which align with your film’s genre, style, and theme. While opting for the right festival, you should consider factors like the reputation of the festival, its reach in terms of audience, and most importantly, the types of film they usually showcase or exhibit.

  • Preparing Compelling Pitching Materials

After you have locked in on the film festival you wish to showcase your work at, ensure crafting a beautiful and captivating trailer, an intriguing synopsis, and most importantly, promotional materials which effortlessly communicate your film’s essence. Make sure that you highlight your project’s unique aspects so that it stands out.

  • Utilizing Online Submission Platforms

There are numerous film festivals which calls for entries or accept submissions via online portals and platforms. An example of such a portal is FilmFreeway. Some festivals also have their own portals through which they accept submissions. To put in your submission, create a new account on the concerned portal and follow the provided instructions to officially turn in your film.

  • Reviewing Submission Guidelines

When submitting your film, make sure that you go through the festival’s submission guidelines. Pay close attention to the main requirements, including the accepted format and resolution, and any other specific materials required by the festival.

  • Preparing a Festival Game Plan or Strategy

After reviewing submission guidelines, devise a strategy which involves submitting your films to numerous film festivals. When doing so, consider when each festival is taking place, potential competition, and especially how every festival aligns with the all-round marketing strategy and distribution plan.

  • Paying the Application Charges

After the preparation of the strategy and its implementation comes paying the application fees. You must be ready to pay the application fee for every festival you submit your film to. These fees add to festivals’ operational costs and other expenses. Include these entry fees as a portion of the overall film production’s expenses.

  • Crafting a Compelling Cover Letter

In some cases, festivals accepting submissions require participants to add a cover letter along with their submissions. You can leverage this opportunity to offer additional details related to your film, share your reasons or motivational factors for making it, and express your happiness or enthusiasm for being a part of the festival.

By following the aforementioned steps, indie filmmakers can apply to film festivals without hassle. Every submission presents a chance to share your unique vision with a global audience and take a major step forward in your career in the film industry.

Conclusion

Each of the aforementioned festivals have their own distinct identity, and they collectively sculpt global cinema’s landscape. Filmmakers, both aspiring and experienced, who navigate through the diverse range of festivals, can easily find platforms which align perfectly with their unique artistic vision as well as storytelling goals. Whether it is the glitz and glamor of Cannes, the indie vibe of the Sundance festival, or the Venice Film Festival’s theme of artistic exploration, the unique approach of every festival contributes to the richness as well as diversity of film industry. 

FAQs About Film Festivals

Q) Which film festival is the most prestigious?

A) The Cannes Film Festival is deemed the most prestigious one in the film festival circuit globally. With its illustrious history over the years, the top-tier Palme d’Or award, and most importantly, its star-studded red carpet extravaganzas, the Cannes Film Festival is considered the true epitome of cinematic excellence.

Q) What are the biggest film festivals?

A) In terms of worldwide influence and recognition in the cinematic industry, the three biggest film festivals are the Cannes Film Festival, the Sundance Film Festival, and the Berlin Film Festival or Berlinale. These festivals are known for attracting top-notch talent and showcasing a widely diverse set of movies that sculpt the film industry’s trajectory.

Q) What is the longest continually running film festival?

A) The Venice Film Festival is the longest continually running film festival. Ever since its inception in the year 1932, the Venice Film Festival has remained an avid supporter of artistry in the cinematic world. Moreover, it has also played a significant part in sculpting the landscape of global films.

Q) Is TIFF the biggest film festival?

A) Although the Toronto International Film Festival or TIFF is deemed one of the most significant as well as influential festivals in the film festival circuit globally, it is not the biggest film festival in the aspect of sheer scale. However, the film festival’s reputation as a vital launching pad for Academy Awards contenders along with its diverse programs make TIFF a major player in the world of international films’  festivals.

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