Top 100 Horror & Fantasy Film Festivals + Submission Tips [2020 Update]

Check out also the newly updated Top 100 International Film Festivals

Adrian Țofei, January 2015

Latest Update: February 2020

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 got thousands of shares and ended up helping thousands of filmmakers around the world, so I decided to continue the work by constantly researching festivals and updating the list (usually twice a year), taking into consideration over 20 other lists (see below), the opportunities the festivals offer to indie films/filmmakers/actors (distribution offers, publicity, networking, awards, attracting reviews in relevant publications and selections/invitations to new festivals, discovering new talents, boosting the chances for getting new projects), the number of years running, their status 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 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 my own experiences with my movie Be My Cat: A Film for Anne and other various recommendations.

Colored in green are the newly-added festivals, the re-added festivals and those that climbed in the top at the latest update. I only included international genre film festivals with live screenings: horror, fantasy, sci-fi, found footage and underground focused on genre films. For all the festivals, regardless of type, check out my Top 100 International Film Festivals (some have popular sections for genre films). The number of years listed for each festival are counted till the year before the latest update of this top. Only the years when the festival was held are considered, therefore they reflect the number of editions. If you spot any errors, please let me know.

Submission Tips for Indie Filmmakers:

  • Keep your genre feature film below 90 minutes if possible and never above 100 minutes. Most genre 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. Most 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 cast & crew, 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, 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.
  • 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.

Before starting the top 100, here are the lists that helped me make mine, with codes to identify in which lists each festival is mentioned. A festival must be listed in at least 2 other lists in order to be included in my top 10, and in at least 1 other for my top 25.

Both “Top 100 International Film Festivals” and “Top 100 Horror & Fantasy Film Festivals” require constant updates and a continuous extensive research. It’s a huge amount of work, I’m doing it all alone and nobody pays me, therefore I need your support to continue:


Top 10 Genre Film Festivals:

  1. Sitges Film Festival / Festival Internacional de Cinema Fantastic de Catalunya – Sitges, Catalonia, Spain, 52 years – RHoFa7, AfEFFFF, R100, FIAPF, MMGe5, MMHoFa, MM25, HR3, MMGe30, AASh, G50, GGe3, AASh, OsS
  2. Fantasia International Film Festival – Montreal, Canada, 23 years – RHoFa20, SuEFFFF, R100, IW100, MMGe5, MMHoFa, MM50-2019-2018-2017, MM25, noMMHoSF5, HR3, MMGe30, GGe10
  3. Fantastic Fest – Austin, Texas, US, 15 years – RHoFa20, SuEFFFF, R100, IW100, MMGe5, MMHoFa, MMHoSF5, MM25-2017, HR20, MMGe30, GGe3, OsP
  4. FrightFest – London, UK, 20 years – RHoFa7, exEFFFF, MMGe5, MMHoFa, HR10, MMGe30, FD, GGe10
  5. Brussels International Fantastic Film Festival: BIFFF – Brussels, Belgium, 37 years – RHoFa7, AfEFFFF, MMHoFa, HR10, MMGe30, GGe3
  6. Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival: BiFan (formerly Puchon/PiFan) (focused on Asian horror & fantasy films) – Bucheon, South Korea, 23 years – RHoFa7, SuEFFFF, R100, MMGe5, MMHoFa, GGe10
  7. Screamfest Horror Film Festival – Los Angeles, California, US, 19 years – RHoFa7, SuEFFFF, MMHo13, HR20, MMGe30, FD, G50, GGe3
  8. The Overlook Film Festival (formerly Stanley Film Festival) – New Orleans, Louisiana, US, 6 years – IW100, MMGe10, MMGe30, noMMHoSF5, GGe50
  9. Beyond Fest (accepts submissions for short films only, features are invitation based) – Los Angeles, California, US, 7 years – MMGe10, MMGe30
  10. Neuchatel International Fantastic Film Festival – Neuchatel, Switzerland, 19 years – RHoFa20, AfEFFFF, MMGe15, MMHoFa, HR20, GGe10

Top 25 Genre Film Festivals:

(in alphabetical order from 11th to 25th)

Top 50 Genre Film Festivals:

(in alphabetical order from 26th to 50th)

Top 100 Genre Film Festivals:

(in alphabetical order from 51st to 100th)

Beyond Top 100:

(festivals that barely missed the top, in alphabetical order)

(incomplete list, more festivals to be added soon)