Top 100 Horror & Fantasy Film Festivals + Submission Tips [2019 Update]

Check out also the newly updated Top 100 International Film Festivals + Submission Tips

Adrian Țofei, January 2015

Latest Update: April 2019

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While researching film festivals to submit my movie Be My Cat: A  Film for Anne, I decided to make a public list to be useful to fellow filmmakers as well. It’s now reaching almost 5,000 Facebook shares and 1,000 monthly visitors on average. I am constantly researching festivals and updating the list, taking into consideration over 20 other lists (see below), the opportunities the festivals offer to indie productions/filmmakers/actors (discovering new talents, distribution, publicity, networking, awards, boosting the chances for new festival selections), the number of years running (till 2018), their status in the film industry, the location, communication, hospitality and safety, the size (the number of films selected and the number of audience, press and film industry members attending), the quality of the selected films, the quality of the information on their websites and social media, the number of Facebook likes and Twitter followers, the entry fee, submission process and selection process, plus other various recommendations.

I only included international genre film festivals with live screenings: horror, fantasy, sci-fi, found footage, underground. For all the festivals, regardless of type, check out my Top 100 International Film Festivals (some have popular sections for genre films).

Submission Tips for Indie Filmmakers:

  • Keep your genre feature film below 90 minutes if possible and never above 100 minutes. Festivals are commercially oriented and don’t wanna risk boring their audiences and fade away in popularity.
  • Keep your genre 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.
  • 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 film’s synopsis – try to synthesise it in one catchy phrase if possible.
  • Include in the short cover letter the best things about your movie and yourself, to catch the programmers’ interest, like known actors, past known films of yours, awards and top festivals, anything else unique or sensational about your film.
  • Ask for fee waivers before submitting. Unfortunately, some festivals view paid submissions mainly as a source of revenue and select/invite most of their films from other sources like contacts, recommendations, other festivals, sales agents etc. Write to festivals, mention the top attributes of your film and yourself (exemplified above), send them the trailer/teaser and ask if they could offer you a fee waiver. If they refuse, they might be either not interested in your film, or interested but principled. Try to find out which case applies and act accordingly, also considering your submission budget and how much you want that festival.
  • 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.
  • Don’t waste your money on submitting to award events listed on submission platforms. They won’t help you get (more) recognition in the film industry.
  • But do your online research and 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).
  • 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 similar festivals, never in bigger festivals. Plan carefully your world premiere, don’t settle for a little-known festival if you think your movie can do more than that.
  • The best festivals to premiere your genre feature film are actually not the ones in this list, but the top 10 general festivals in my Top 100 International Film Festivals list. A lot of them have very powerful and popular sections for genre films.
  • For short films, the size/importance of the world premiere festival has little importance, it’s good to accept all the selections/invitations, because shorts can build up momentum by going to a lot of smaller festivals before finally being accepted to a big one.
  • 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, don’t accept offers without an advance payment or minimum guarantee (MG). Chances are you will see little to no money later. Always negotiate an advance. Go without an advance only if no other distributor wants your film and that’s your only chance.


Before starting the top 100, here are the lists that helped me make mine, with codes to identify on which lists each festival is mentioned:

Both “Top 100 Horror & Fantasy Film Festivals” and “Top 100 International Film Festivals” require constant updates and continuous extensive researches. It’s already a huge amount of work and I also want to add submission links and create new festival lists, therefore I need your support:

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Top 10 Horror & Fantasy Film Festivals:

  1. Sitges Film Festival – Sitges, Catalonia, Spain, 51 years – RHoFa7, AfEFFFF, R100, FIAPF, MMGe5, MMHoFa, MM25, HR3, MMGe30, AASh, G50, GGe5
  2. Fantasia International Film Festival – Montreal, Canada, 22 years – RHoFa20, SuEFFFF, R100, IW100, MMGe5, MMHoFa, MM50, MM25, noMMHoSF5, HR3, MMGe30, GGe5
  3. Fantastic Fest – Austin, Texas, US, 14 years – RHoFa20, SuEFFFF, R100, IW100, MMGe5, MMHoFa, MMHoSF5, MM25, HR20, MMGe30
  4. FrightFest – London, UK, 19 years – RHoFa7, exEFFFF, MMGe5, MMHoFa, HR10, MMGe30, FD
  5. Brussels International Fantastic Film Festival: BIFFF – Brussels, Belgium, 36 years – RHoFa7, AfEFFFF, MMHoFa, HR10, MMGe30
  6. Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival: BiFan (formerly Puchon/PiFan) (focused on Asian horror & fantasy films) – Bucheon, South Korea, 22 years – RHoFa7, SuEFFFF, R100, MMGe5, MMHoFa
  7. Screamfest Horror Film Festival – Los Angeles, California, US, 18 years – RHoFa7, SuEFFFF, MMHo13, HR20, MMGe30, FD
  8. Toronto After Dark Film Festival – Toronto, Canada, 13 years – RHoFa7, MMHo13, HR20, MMGe30
  9. MOTELx – Lisbon International Horror Film Festival – Lisbon, Portugal, 12 years – AfEFFFF, RHoFa40, MMGe15, HR20, FIAPF
  10. Neuchatel International Fantastic Film Festival – Neuchatel, Switzerland, 18 years – RHoFa20, AfEFFFF, MMGe15, MMHoFa, HR20

Top 25 Horror & Fantasy Film Festivals:

(in alphabetical order from 11th to 25th)

Top 50 Horror & Fantasy Film Festivals:

(in alphabetical order from 26th to 50th)

Top 100 Horror & Fantasy Film Festivals:

(in alphabetical order from 51st to 100th)

Both “Top 100 Horror & Fantasy Film Festivals” and “Top 100 International Film Festivals” require constant updates and continuous extensive researches. It’s already a huge amount of work and I also want to add submission links and create new festival lists, therefore I need your support:

Donate Button with Credit Cards