Top 150 Genre Film Festivals in 2022/2023 + Submission Tips

Major update! The entire top 50 is now ranked, plus multiple other changes and additions, all colored dark red. The list has become the no.1 most comprehensive and trusted resource of this kind on the internet, always coming at the top of Google search results for “top genre festivals“, and being used regularly by thousands of filmmakers worldwide.

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 150 takes a lot of time and effort and I’m not paid, I do it voluntarily to support fellow filmmakers and festivals.

My main list of Top 250 International Film Festivals went through an even bigger update! Check it out!

Adrian Țofei, September 20, 2022

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While working on a private list of the most important genre film festivals to submit my first movie Be My Cat: A  Film for Anne, I decided to make it public to be useful to fellow filmmakers as well. It instantly got over 5,000 shares (including by top festivals like Sitges and Fantasia), helping thousands of filmmakers around the world, both new and established (based on the feedback I received, calling it “the holy grail“, “gospels” or “the ultimate list“), so I decided to continue the work, researching festivals and updating the list usually once a year.

I take into consideration in my research over 30 other lists (see below), the opportunities the festivals offer to filmmakers and actors (distribution, publicity, networking, representation, 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.

I only included international genre festivals: horror, fantasy, sci-fi, found footage and underground. For all the festivals, regardless of genre, check out my Top 250 International Film Festivals (TIFF, Sundance, Tribeca and SXSW have very popular and powerful sections for genre films, those are the best places for the world premiere of your genre feature film).

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

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Top 50 Genre 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 5 years old to be included in top 50.

  1. Sitges Film Festival – Sitges, Catalonia, Spain, 55 years – RGe7, MIFF, R100, FIAPFs, MMGe5, MMGe11, MM25-2016, HR3, MMGe30, AASh, V50, MMGe25, DC55, MMGe50, DC45
  2. Fantasia International Film Festival – Montreal, Canada, 26 years – RGe20, MIFF, R100, IW100, MMGe5, MMGe11, HR3, MM50-2015-2016-2017-2018-2019-2020-2021-2022, noMMHoSF5, MMGe30, MMGe25, DC55, MMGe50, DC45, FFGe50, MM20
  3. Fantastic Fest – Austin, Texas, US, 18 years – RGe20, MIFF, R100, IW100, MMGe5, MMGe11, MMHoSF5, MM25-2015-2016-2017, HR20, MMGe30, MMGe25, DC55, MMGe50, DC45, MM50-2022
  4. Beyond Fest – Los Angeles, California, US, 9 years – MMGe10, MMGe30, MMGe25, DC55, MMGe50, DC45
  5. Brussels International Fantastic Film Festival: BIFFF – Brussels, Belgium, 40 years – RGe7, MIFF, MMGe11, HR10, MMGe30, MMGe25, DC55, MMGe50, DC45
  6. Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival: BiFan (formerly Puchon/PiFan) – Bucheon, South Korea, 26 years – RGe7, MIFF, R100, MMGe5, MMGe11, V50, DC55, MMGe50, DC45
  7. FrightFest (for fantastic films as well, not just horror as the name suggests) – London & Glasgow, UK, 23 years – RGe7, exMIFF, MMGe5, MMGe11, HR10, MMGe30, FDHo, MMGe25, DC55, MMGe50, DC45, FFGe50
  8. Toronto After Dark Film Festival: TADFF – Toronto, Canada, 16 years – RGe7, MMHo13, HR20, MMGe30, MMGe25, DC55, MMGe50
  9. The Overlook Film Festival (formerly Stanley Film Festival, focused on horror films) – New Orleans, Louisiana, US, 8 years – IW100, MM25-2015, MMGe10, MMGe30, noMMHoSF5, MMGe25, DC55, MMGe50, DC45
  10. Fantasporto International Film Festival – Porto, Portugal, 42 years – RGe7, exMIFF, HR20, DC55, DC45
  11. MOTELx: Lisbon International Horror Film Festival – Lisbon, Portugal, 15 years – MIFF, RGe40, MMGe15, HR20, FIAPFs, MMGe25, DC55, MMGe50, DC45
  12. Telluride Horror Show – Telluride, Colorado, US, 13 years – RGe20, MMHo13, noMMHoSF5, MMGe50, DC45
  13. Brooklyn Horror Film Festival – New York City, NY, US, 7 years – MMGe30, DC55, MMGe50, DC45, FFGe50
  14. Screamfest (focused on horror films) – Los Angeles, California, US, 22 years – RGe7, MIFF, MMHo13, HR20, MMGe30, FDHo, MMGe50, FFGe50
  15. FilmQuest (for sci-fi, horror & fantasy films) – Provo, Utah, US, 9 years – MM50-2015-2017-2021-2022, MMGe30, DC55, MMGe50, FFGe50, DC45
  16. Neuchatel International Fantastic Film Festival: NIFFF – Neuchatel, Switzerland, 22 years – RGe20, MIFF, MMGe15, MMGe11, HR20, DC55
  17. Imagine Film Festival – Amsterdam, Netherlands, 33 years – RGe20, MIFF, HR10, DC55, MMGe50, DC45
  18. Fantaspoa – Porto Alegre, Brazil, 17 years – RGe20, MIFF, MMGe11, MMGe30, DC55, MMGe50, DC45
  19. A Night of Horror International Film Festival: ANOH – Sydney, Australia, 14 years – RGe20, DC55, DC45
  20. Nightmares Film Festival – Columbus, Ohio, US, 7 years – MMGe30, DC55, MMGe50, FFGe50
  21. L’Etrange Festival – Paris, France, 28 years – MMGe10, HR20, MMGe25, DC55, MMGe50, DC45
  22. Strasbourg European Fantastic Film Festival: FEFFS – Strasbourg, France, 15 years – MIFF, MMGe25, DC55
  23. Morbido Fest – Mexico City, Mexico, 15 years – MIFF, MMGe10, HR20, MMGe30, MMGe25, DC55, MMGe50, DC45
  24. Macabro: Mexico City International Horror Film Festival – Mexico City, Mexico, 21 years – MMGe15, MMGe30, FDHo, DC55, MMGe50, DC45
  25. Other Worlds + Under Worlds Film Festival (for sci-fi & horror films) – Austin, Texas, 9 years – MMGe50, FFGe50
  26. Chattanooga Film Festival – Chattanooga, Tennessee, US, 9 years – MMGe30, MMGe25, DC55, MMGe50, DC45, MM25-2022, FFGe50
  27. Popcorn Frights – Miami, Florida, US, 8 years – DC55, MMGe50, FFGe50
  28. Night Visions – Helsinki, Finland, 25 years – HR10, MMGe30, MMGe25, DC55, MMGe50
  29. Fantasy FilmFest – Berlin / Nuremberg / Munich / Frankfurt / Cologne / Stuttgart / Hamburg, Germany, 36 years – HR3, MMGe30, MMGe25
  30. Lund Fantastic Film Festival – Malmo/Lund, Sweden, 28 years – RGe20, MIFF, HR10, MMGe25
  31. Buenos Aires Rojo Sangre – Buenos Aires, Argentina, 22 years – RGe20, DC55, DC45, FFGe50
  32. New York City Horror Film Festival – New York City, NY, US, 19 years – RGe40, MMGe15, MMGe50
  33. Shriekfest (focused on sci-fi & horror films) – Los Angeles, California / Orlando, Florida, US, 22 years – MMHo13, MMHoSF5, RGe40, DC55, MMGe50, FFGe50
  34. Horrible Imaginings – San Diego, California, US, 12 years – RGe40, MM50-2018, MMGe30, DC55, MMGe50, FFGe50
  35. Boston Underground Film Festival – Boston, Massachusetts, US, 21 years – MMUn5, MMGe30, DC55, MMGe50, FFGe50
  36. Dead by Dawn – Edinburgh, UK, 26 years – RGe40, exMIFF, HR20, DC55
  37. Abertoir Horror Festival – Aberystwyth, UK, 16 years – MIFF, RGe40, DC55, DC45
  38. GrimmFest – Manchester, UK, 13 years – RGe40, MMGe30, MMGe50, DC45, FFGe50
  39. Panic Fest – North Kansas City, Missouri, US, 9 years – MMGe30, MMGe25, DC55, MMGe50, DC45, FFGe50
  40. Monster Fest – Melbourne, Australia, 11 years – DC55, MMGe50, FFGe50
  41. San Sebastian Horror & Fantasy Film Festival – San Sebastian, Basque Country, Spain, 33 years – RGe20, MIFF, DC55
  42. SLASH Filmfestival – Vienna, Austria, 12 years – MMGe25, DC55, MIFF
  43. Grossmann Fantastic Film & Wine Festival – Ljutomer, Slovenia, 15 years – MIFF, MMHoSF5, MMGe30, MMGe50
  44. Splat!FilmFest – Lublin & Warsaw, Poland, 8 years – MIFF, MMGe25, DC45
  45. Feratum – Tlalpujahua, Mexico – 10 years – MMGe25, DC45
  46. Gerardmer International Fantastic Film Festival – Gerardmer, France, 29 years – HR10, MMGe50
  47. On Vous Ment! Mockumentary Film Festival (for mockumentary & found footage films) – Lyon, France, 6 years
  48. Unnamed Footage Festival (for found footage & mockumentary films) – San Francisco, California, US, 5 years – DC45
  49. Fantafestival – Rome, Italy, 42 years – DC55, exMIFF
  50. Trieste Science+Fiction Festival (for sci-fi films) – Trieste, Italy, 22 years – MIFF

Top 100 Genre 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 4 years old to be included in top 100.

Top 150 Genre Film Festivals:

[alphabetically from 101st to 150th]

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 3 years old to be included in top 150.

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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 genre feature film below 90 minutes if possible and never above 100 minutes. Most festivals are commercially oriented and don’t wanna risk boring their audiences and fade away in popularity. Even the artsy ones!
  • 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.
  • 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 found footage film, but the festival never screened low budget found footage films 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.
  • 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 niche 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 want your 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).
  • The biggest and best festivals for the world premiere of your genre feature film are actually not the ones in this list, but in the top 10 of my Top 250 International Film Festivals list. TIFF, Sundance, SXSW & Tribeca have very popular & powerful sections for genre films, those and Cannes’ side sections should be your priority.
  • 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. 
  • If your film is found footage, before paying to submit to any festival, make sure they’re not found footage haters. Check if they ever selected indie found footage films in previous years. I wasted lots of money submitting my first movie Be My Cat: A Film for Anne to festivals which never selected a single found footage movie in their entire history (except for big found footage studio hits which are obviously invited for their notoriety and don’t count). Such fests probably have programmers/directors who either hate the genre or think it will put their fest in a bad light, and chances are they won’t even consider your film regardless of how good it is. I won’t name any because things can change, what was valid for my film 5 years ago might not be the case anymore, so check out if the festivals you’re interested in selected any indie found footage film in the last years.

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