Top 250 International Film Festivals in 2022/2023 + Submission Tips

Major update! The entire top 50 is now ranked, plus numerous new festivals added in top 100/250, all colored dark red. The list has become the most comprehensive and trusted resource of this kind on the internet, always coming at the top of Google search results for “top film festivals“, and being used regularly by thousands of filmmakers worldwide. It has greatly surpassed my initial genre list.

If you have anything to say (feedback, requests etc.), let me know via this contact form! I can offer quick advice if you need help submitting your film, but please understand that I can’t watch your movie or make a customized festival list for it. This top 250 takes a lot of time and effort and I’m not paid, I do it voluntarily to support fellow filmmakers and festivals.

Adrian Țofei, October 5, 2022

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Seeing the success of my Top 150 Genre Film Festivals in helping thousands of filmmakers around the world, I decided to make a general list as well, with the most important international film festivals, regardless of genre (which will also help me select the best festivals for my upcoming movie We Put the World to Sleep). This list got shared by top festivals like Raindance and gradually became known and used in the industry as much as my initial genre list. I’m constantly researching festivals and updating it usually once a year.

I take into consideration in my research over 50 other lists (see below), the opportunities the festivals offer to filmmakers and actors (distribution, publicity, networking, representation, awards and Academy Awards, reviews, invitations to other festivals, talent discovery, new projects), the number of world premieres (can be an indicator for discovery festivals), the number of years running (as of 2022), their status/prestige in the film industry, the location, communication, hospitality, atmosphere and safety, how they make the selected/attending filmmakers feel, the size (the number of films screened and the audience), the quality of the films, the press and film industry attending, the festivals’ websites and social media, the entry fee, submission process and selection process, plus my own experiences when invited/selected/attended and the feedback I get from other filmmakers I trust.

Before starting the top, here are the lists that helped me make mine, with codes to identify on which lists each festival is mentioned (newly-added and updated lists are colored red):

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Important Notes:

Top 50 Film Festivals:

[ranked]

Colored red are the newly-added festivals & those that went up in the top at the latest updates. Colored green are the festivals with direct FilmFreeway submission links. Festivals must be at least 10 years old to be included in top 50.

  1. Cannes Film Festival – Cannes, France, 75 years – IW3, IW100, R100, FIAPFc, TG11, CG10wo, G10, OB5, V5, SB10int, iFF50, Eu10, FIP
  2. Sundance Film Festival – Park City, Utah, US, 39 years – IW3, IW100, R100, TG11, CG10us, G10, CNC, OB5, V5, SB11us, iFF50, Am10
  3. Toronto International Film Festival: TIFF – Toronto, Canada, 47 years – IW3, IW100, R100, FIAPFn, TG11, Ca10, CG10wo, HR10, G10, Aw3, OB5, V5, SB10int, iFF50, FIP, Am10
  4. Berlin International Film Festival: Berlinale – Berlin, Germany, 72 years – IW10, IW100, R100, FIAPFc, TG11, CG10wo, G10, V5, OB10, SB10int, iFF50, Eu10, FIP
  5. Venice International Film Festival: Biennale Cinema – Venice, Italy, 79 years – IW10, IW100, R100, FIAPFc, TG11, G10, Aw3, OB5, V5, SB10int, iFF50, Eu10, FIP
  6. Telluride Film Festival – Telluride, Colorado, US, 49 years – IW10, IW100, R100, TG11, CG10us, Aw3, OB5, V50, SB11us, G10
  7. South by Southwest Film Festival: SXSW – Austin, Texas, US, 29 years – IW10, IW100, R100, TG11, CG10us, $ub5, V50, OB10, G10, Am10
  8. Tribeca Festival – New York City, US, 20 years – IW100, R100, TG11, CG10us, G10, CNC, V50, SB11us, iFF50, Am10
  9. AFI FEST – Los Angeles, California, US, 36 years – IW100, R100, CG10us, MM25-2018, Aw10, CNC, V50, OB10, iFF50
  10. Locarno Film Festival – Locarno, Switzerland, 75 years – IW100, R100, FIAPFc, MM50-2021-2022, iFF50, Eu10, FIP
  11. New York Film Festival: NYFF (features are invite-only) – New York City, US, 60 years – IW10, IW100, R100, Aw10, OB10, SB11us, iFF50
  12. Directors’ Fortnight Cannes (parallel section of Cannes Film Festival) – Cannes, France, 54 years – R100, OB10
  13. Critics’ Week Cannes (parallel section of Cannes Film Festival) (for 1st & 2nd features) – Cannes, France, 61 years – R100
  14. BFI London Film Festival – London, UK, 66 years – IW100, R100, TG11, CG10wo, Aw10, CNC, V50, OB10, Eu10
  15. Busan International Film Festival (formerly Pusan) – Busan, South Korea, 27 years – IW100, R100, FIAPFs, As15, V50, SB10int, As10, MM25-2022, FIP
  16. International Film Festival Rotterdam: IFFR – Rotterdam, Netherlands, 51 years – IW10, IW100, R100, CG10wo, MM25-2018, CNC, iFF50, Eu10, FIP
  17. San Sebastian International Film Festival: SSIFF – San Sebastian, Basque Country, Spain, 70 years – IW100, R100, FIAPFc, TG11, V50, iFF50, Eu10, FIP
  18. Karlovy Vary International Film Festival: KVIFF – Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic, 56 years – IW100, R100, FIAPFc, V50, Eu10, FIP
  19. Raindance Film Festival – London, UK, 29 years – R100, MM50-2018, G10, V50, SB10int, iFF50, Eu10
  20. Slamdance Film Festival – Park City, Utah, US, 27 years – IW100, R100, MM50-2018-2019-2020-2021-2022, $ub5, SB11us, iFF50, MM20
  21. Seattle International Film Festival: SIFF – Seattle, Washington State, US, 48 years – IW100, R100, MM50-2018-2019, CG10us, V50, iFF50, FIP
  22. Atlanta Film Festival – Atlanta, Georgia, US, 46 years – IW100, MM50-2018-2019-2020-2021-2022, SB11us, iFF50, G10, MM20
  23. Edinburgh International Film Festival – Edinburgh, UK, 75 years – IW100, R100, TG11, V50, G10, iFF50, Eu10
  24. Melbourne International Film Festival: MIFF – Melbourne, Australia, 70 years – IW100, R100, CG10wo, iFF50
  25. Hong Kong International Film Festival: HKIFF – Hong Kong, China, 45 years – IW100, R100, As15, G10, As10, iFF50, FIP
  26. Austin Film Festival (focused on film writing) – Austin, Texas, US, 29 years – IW100, MM50-2018-2019-2020-2021-2022, SB11us, iFF50, MM25-2022
  27. Chicago International Film Festival – Chicago, Illinois, US, 58 years – IW100, R100, MM25-2018, CNC, SB11us, iFF50
  28. San Francisco International Film Festival: SFFILM – San Francisco, California, US, 65 years – IW100, R100, MM25-2018-2019, CG10us, iFF50
  29. Santa Barbara International Film Festival: SBIFF – Santa Barbara, California, US, 37 years – IW100, MM50-2019-2022, Aw10, V50, SB11us, iFF50
  30. Vancouver International Film Festival: VIFF – Vancouver, Canada, 41 years – IW100, MM50-2021-2022, Ca10, CG10wo, CNC, iFF50, Am10
  31. Festival du nouveau cinema – Montreal, Canada, 50 years – CNC, MM25-2020-2021, iFF50, FIP
  32. Palm Springs International Film Festival – Palm Springs, California, US, 33 years – IW100, R100, V50, CNC, MM25-2019, SB11us, FIP
  33. Hamptons International Film Festival – The Hamptons, New York State, US, 30 years – IW100, R100, MM50-2018-2020-2021-2022, Aw10, iFF50
  34. Cinequest (focused on film innovations) – San Jose, California, US, 31 years – MM50-2020-2022, CG10us, $ub5, iFF50, MM25-2021, MM20
  35. Sydney Film Festival (focused on new directions in film) – Sydney, Australia, 69 years – IW100, R100, FIAPFs
  36. Tokyo International Film Festival – Tokyo, Japan, 35 years – IW100, R100, FIAPFc, CG10wo
  37. Goteborg Film Festival – Gothenburg, Sweden, 45 years – IW100, R100, CNC, FIP
  38. Zurich Film Festival – Zurich, Switzerland, 18 years – R100, MM25-2018-2022
  39. Stockholm International Film Festival – Stockholm, Sweden, 33 years – IW100, R100, iFF50, FIP
  40. Warsaw Film Festival – Warsaw, Poland, 37 years – FIAPFc, MM50-2019-2020-2021-2022, V50, iFF50, FIP
  41. Sitges Film Festival (for genre films) – Sitges, Catalonia, Spain, 55 years – R100, FIAPFs, ATGe4, RGe7, MIFF, MMGe5, HR3, V50
  42. Fantasia International Film Festival (for genre films) – Montreal, Canada, 26 years – IW100, R100, MM50-2018-2019-2020-2021-2022, ATGe4, Ca10, MIFF, MMGe5, HR3, FF100, MM20, Am10
  43. Fantastic Fest (for genre films) – Austin, Texas, US, 18 years – IW100, R100, ATGe4, MIFF, MMGe5, MM50-2022, Am10
  44. Sarajevo Film Festival – Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, 28 years – IW100, R100, V50, CNC
  45. Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival: POFF – Tallinn, Estonia, 26 years – MM50-2019-2020, FIAPFc, FIP
  46. ACID Cannes (parallel section of Cannes Film Festival) – Cannes, France, 30 years – R100
  47. New Orleans Film Festival (for films reflecting diversity on and off screen) – New Orleans, Louisiana, US, 33 years – MM50-2018-2019-2020-2021-2022, MM25-2019-2021-2022, iFF50, FF100
  48. Cleveland International Film Festival – Cleveland, Ohio, US, 46 years – IW100, MM50-2019-2020-2022, iFF50, FF100
  49. Brooklyn Film Festival – New York City, US, 25 years – MM50-2018-2019-2021-2022, $ub5, iFF50, FF100
  50. Beyond Fest (for genre films) – Los Angeles, California, US, 9 years – ATGe4, MMGe10

Top 100 Film Festivals:

[alphabetically from 51st to 100th]

Colored red are the newly-added festivals & those that went up in the top at the latest updates. Colored green are the festivals with direct FilmFreeway submission links. Festivals must be at least 7 years old to be included in top 100.

Top 250 Film Festivals:

[alphabetically from 101st to 250th]

Colored red are the newly-added festivals at the latest updates. Colored green are the festivals with direct FilmFreeway submission links. Festivals must be at least 5 years old to be included in top 250.

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Submission Tips:

(the newly-added submission tips are colored red)

  • First of all, if you’ve never made a film before, but you’re thinking of making one, don’t listen to advices about what’s required, if that puts you down. You don’t necessarily need a script or a professional camera or a team or a lot of money. Escape the mental entrapment about what filmmaking is. The best is to find your own ways.
  • In case you have no idea whatsoever about how festivals work, here are the basics: the film is not considered a professional artistic film until vetted by at least one festival which has a certain degree of recognition in the industry. The festivals are the gatekeepers. Thousands of them are listed on submission platforms where you put your film out (via private link with password), and then you choose which festivals to submit to (some also accept submissions via email or directly on their websites). Most festivals hire programmers to watch all the films and select a few. In continental Europe, Asia and South America, a lot of fests get funded from the state budget, but in North America, UK and Australia, almost all of them take submission fees, which can still be waived in some cases. For feature films, make sure to have the world premiere in a top festival. Your success will depend on that.
  • Promote your film (project) like crazy. Use social media, send press releases, anything you can to ignite people’s interest and ultimately the interest of the film industry. A good percentage of your film’s success will be about the expectation and buzz surrounding it. 

  • Keep your feature film below 100 minutes if possible and never above 120 minutes. And if you have a genre feature film, keep it below 90 min if possible and never above 100 min. Most festivals are commercially oriented and don’t wanna risk boring their audiences and fade away in popularity.
  • Keep your short film below 10 minutes if possible and never above 15 minutes. Festivals prefer to screen a bigger number of shorter short films instead of a single longer short film. Cannes doesn’t even accept short films above 15 min in the main competition.
  • Some festival programmers won’t watch your feature film entirely and might reject it based on the first 10-20 minutes. Try to have a powerful beginning or one that shows potential for a powerful development and entices the viewer to watch more.
  • Get feedback about your final cut from people with experience in the film industry that you trust before submitting to festivals.  
  • For feature films, it’s very important to have the world premiere in a big festival. All the selections after the world premiere will be in smaller or at best similar festivals, never in bigger festivals. Plan carefully your world premiere (and also the premieres at continental and country/state/big city level), don’t settle for a little-known festival if you think your movie can do more than that.
  • For short films you don’t necessarily need to have the word premiere in a big festival. A short film can travel the festival circuit in smaller festivals, gathering publicity, before being selected to a bigger one. Although premiering in a big one is still an advantage. 
  • Don’t waste your money and/or chances submitting to world premiere your feature film in festivals which don’t screen world premieres, but select most of their films from other festivals. Focus initially on discovery festivals known for screening world premieres and leave the rest for your regional premieres.
  • Check out the genres & types of films the festival usually screens. If you’ve made a low budged mockumentary, but the festival never screened low budget mockumentaries in the past, you might want to keep the money to submit to festivals which are more relevant for your film. Check out also the geographical region the festival focuses on (if 9 out of 10 world premieres were American films last year and you plan paying to submit a German film for the world premiere, better keep the money for another festival).
  • Keep the cover letter very short – about three phrases of essential info if possible. Programmers are very busy and might not read long letters. Same for the synopsis, try to keep it short and catchy, similar to an IMDb plotline.
  • Include in the short cover letter the best things about your movie and yourself, to catch the programmers’ interest, like known cast & crew, past known films of yours, awards and top festivals, diversity or nice focus, anything else unique or sensational about your film. When submitting for any type of premiere (world, regional, local), mention that in your cover letter.
  • A lot of important European, Asian, South-American & African film festivals have no submission fees, because they get state support. Find them and definitely submit your film (also keep in mind that some festivals with fees for features have no fees for shorts).
  • Don’t fall for partial discount offers received via email, thinking they are personalised and the festival is interested in your film. Most of the times they are not, those are discount codes listed publicly on the submission platform or mass-sent to filmmakers. When a festival is interested in your film, they offer you a 100% discount code or fee waiver. With a few exceptions, the partial discount is just a marketing strategy.
  • Ask for fee waivers before submitting if you have good reasons to do so which are relevant for the festival, like important awards & festivals for your current or previous film, known actors, being an alumni or anything else sensational, unique or valuable that would make the festival staff think “we might need this film“.
  • Knowing someone in the festival or with more power in the industry can help with at least getting a fair consideration. I used to advise against this practice, but since the established names have so many advantages, it is only fair that indie filmmakers try to use whatever they got to increase their chances of selection.
  • Do your online research and also submit to major competitions like the Academy Awards, the Golden Globes, the European Film Awards and other regional or national major film awards not listed here. For a chance at the Oscars, don’t miss the Academy Awards Qualifying Festivals for documentary features, documentary shorts, and short films (including animated shorts), and the 5 festivals known to be top Oscar boosters for feature films (Toronto, Venice, Telluride, Sundance, Cannes).
  • Some of the top 10 festivals have very powerful and popular sections for genre films (TIFF, Sundance, SXSW, Tribeca & Cannes’ side sections). But if you don’t get accepted, try my Top 100 Genre Film Festivals.
  • When you get accepted and/or win an award in an important festival, email the other festivals you are waiting a decision from and inform them about your success (but try not to bother them with too many emails).
  • And finally, if you get into festivals and distributors express interest in your film, always negotiate an advance payment (minimum guarantee – MG) or at least a gross corridor. Otherwise chances are you will see little to no money later. Go without an advance or gross corridor only if the backend split is great and you trust the distributor, or if no other distributor wants your film and that’s your only chance of distribution.

Festivals to Avoid:

  • Award events, online festivals, monthly festivals and seasonal festivals (that happen multiple times a year) listed on submission platforms. Most are scams and won’t help your career or film in any way, no matter how well rated and reviewed they are (unless they are big festivals that went online temporarily during the pandemic, established award events like the European Film Awards, or monthly festivals with credible recognition like NFMLA). Most award events and monthly festivals have many positive ratings usually because they award/select tons of movies regardless of quality, and are not worthy of submitting.
  • Festivals that appear valuable, but are just cash-cows for the owners. Some are outright fake (the event doesn’t happen), while most are pseudo-festivals or half-scams organised to get as much money as possible from filmmakers while offering them as little value as possible (most of the times zero value). I’d go as far as to say that most festivals listed on submission platforms are pseudo-festivals. Do your research before submitting. 
  • Festivals that send invitations to submit via email (sometimes even personalized with your name and/or your film’s title), but offer only a discount code and not a full fee waiver. They are not interested in your film, the email is part of a marketing campaign and most probably numerous other filmmakers received it. When a festival is interested in your film, they always offer a full waiver. 
  • Warning signs: multiple different festivals in various locations around the world or the US run by the same company or person(s), huge number of submission categories with high fees, huge number of awards given (in order to satisfy filmmakers’ ego and buy their silence), the festival happens multiple times a year (monthly or every season), big sounding titles that have no recognition in the industry and just sound similar to established festivals, the event happens far away (different country or city) from the administrative headquarters, the festival mass-sends discount codes to filmmakers to attract more submissions, they take advantage of selected filmmakers by making them pay for promo materials, trophy, the award gala or party, the festival happens in a hotel, in the city outskirts or other improper venue/location, there’s no industry or press or even audience present besides the attending filmmakers, the films selected in previous editions have little to no online presence, the event generally looks more like a business than a film event. 
  • Established festivals that don’t offer you a fee waiver and you have info that they view paid submissions mainly as a source of revenue and select/invite most of their films directly from premium sources like sales agents, distributors, contacts or other festivals. These festivals can offer you a lot of value if selected, but you can pay big money submitting thinking you have a chance, when you actually don’t. Here’s what a former TIFF programmer had to say: “The top of the festival food chain feasts on submission fees. These festivals have deep industry networks, do extensive tracking of productions, and actively solicit works for their events. At the major festivals and most credible film festivals, submission fees remain a tax on the outsiders and unsolicited entries are merely revenue-generating fodder.” Therefore, unless you’re sure you’ve made a masterpiece (I’m not ironic, if you feel that, go for it), don’t waste your money openly submitting your indie film to top tier festivals.