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The 14 Best Film Festivals Around the World—And When to Go

These events should go on every movie buff's bucket list.

If you love movies, you owe it to yourself to attend a film festival—a celebration of cinema where, over the course of a few days, you can see dozens of films, plus attend panels and other events. Film festivals often provide the opportunity to see movies that you're not likely to see on the marquee of your local megaplex, such as international films, arthouse pictures, or up-and-coming indie productions. But, major movies—both blockbusters and awards contenders—frequently have their premieres at events like these. In any case, a film festival offers the opportunity to see the movies of tomorrow today.

There are thousands of film festivals around the world—far too many to list them all. Some are internationally known and extremely prestigious, such as the Cannes Film Festival with its lauded top prize, the Palme d'Or. Others are much, much smaller local operations, sometimes focused on a specific genre. And overlap isn't uncommon; A movie might premiere at one festival and then go on to compete or screen in several others.

While it's worth doing the research to see what film festivals are nearest to you and what's playing this year, here's an overview of 14 of the best film festivals from around the world. Read on to learn what they are, as well as when they typically take place and which notable movies they've hosted.

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The Venice Film Festival

Gemma Chan and Chris Pine at the Venice Film Festival

The Venice Film Festival holds the distinction of being the world's oldest film festival, having been founded way back in 1932. In addition to getting to explore the singular beauty of Venice's canals, attendees can also enjoy a wide range of films, including artsy efforts from around the globe and highly anticipated Hollywood blockbusters.

When to go: The Venice Film Festival tends to be held in late August or early September every year.

What movies have screened there: Major Academy Awards contenders Roma, Gravity, Joker, and Dune all premiered at Venice in recent years. Last year's festival saw the premieres of Poor Things, Maestro, and The Killer.

The Cannes Film Festival

Jane Fonda and Justine Triet at the Cannes Film Festival
Andreas Rentz/Getty Images

Arguably the most prestigious film festival, Cannes has been a dream premiere destination for filmmakers since 1946. Held in the south of France (making it a great vacation destination even without the movies), Cannes is famous for the Palme d'Or, its top prize and one of the highest honors in all of film.

When to go: The Cannes Film Festival is held in May.

What movies have screened there: Some past winners of the Palme d'Or include Barton Fink, Taxi Driver, Pulp Fiction, and Anatomy of a Fall. In addition to several films from great European filmmakers, the 2024 festival will see the premieres of Francis Ford Coppola's Megalopolis and George Miller's Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga, though the latter will be screened out of competition.

The Berlin International Film Festival

Lupita Nyong'o at Berlinale in 2024
Soeren Stache/picture alliance via Getty Images

More commonly known as the Berlinale, Berlin's major film festival was founded in 1951 and is considered to be one of the "Big Three" along with Venice and Cannes. It is among the highest-attended film festivals, as typically more than 300,000 members of the public buy tickets to see the hundreds of films the Berlinale has to offer.

When to go: The Berlinale happens every February.

What movies have screened there: Winners of the Golden Bear, the top prize at the Berlin Film Festival, include Sidney Lumet's 12 Angry Men, Paul Thomas Anderson's Magnolia, and Hayao Miyazaki's Spirited Away. The 2024 festival included Love Lies Bleeding, Cuckoo, and the Golden Bear winner, Dahomey, a documentary co-production from France, Senegal, and Benin.

The Toronto International Film Festival

Matt Damon at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2019
Eric Charbonneau/Getty Images for Twentieth Century Fox

The Toronto International Film Festival, also known as TIFF, turned Canada's most populous city into a haven for film fans when it was founded in 1976. A wide range of films from around the world play at TIFF, but it has increasingly been a major predictor of Oscars success. The festival's top prize, the People's Choice Award, often goes to a movie that will eventually win (or at least be nominated) for Best Picture.

When to go: TIFF is held every September (right when big Oscar hopefuls tend to start coming out; another reason why TIFF is big for prognosticators).

What movies have screened there: Some notable movies that have played at TIFF include Chariots of FireCrouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; 12 Years a Slave; La La LandGreen Book, and last year's People's Choice Award winner, American Fiction.

Sundance Film Festival

Robert Redford at Sundance 2016
George Pimentel/[Getty Images for Sundance Film Festival]

America's most prestigious film festival began in 1978 as the Utah/US Film Festival. Originally held in Salt Lake City, it moved to Park City, Utah, shortly after it was founded and was renamed the Sundance Film Festival in 1991, a nod to the Robert Redford film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, as the actor had an instrumental role in making the festival what it is. Along with the first four on this list, Sundance is one of the "Big Five" film festivals—the five most important for many moviemakers and movie fans. (Though, that's not to say there aren't lots of other great and important festivals out there.)

When to go: Sundance is the earliest major festival, as it takes place each January.

What movies have screened there: Compared to the other festivals in the "Big Five," Sundance tends to be a place where rising filmmakers are likely to find breakout success. Some career-makers that have played at Sundance include Clerks, The Blair Witch Project, Little Miss Sunshine, Whiplash, Get Out, and Past Lives.

RELATED: Why Are the Academy Awards Called "Oscars"? The Nickname Has a Complicated History.

Edinburgh International Film Festival

Paul Mescal and Frankie Corio at the Edinburgh Film Festival in 2022
Euan Cherry/Getty Images

Scotland's big event claims the honor of being the longest continually running film festival in the world. Though Venice and Cannes are older, both of those festivals took breaks for various reasons (World War II, political unrest, etc.), while the Edinburgh Film Festival never missed a step from 1947 until 2020, when COVID finally forced a cancelation. It started back up again last year.

When to go: The Edinburgh International Film Festival takes place in August.

What movies have screened there: Ira Sachs' Passages and Kelly Reichardt's Showing Up were both part of the festival last year.

Locarno Film Festival

Crowd at Locarno Film Festival
Rosdiana Ciaravolo/Getty Images

Founded in 1946, Locarno, Switzerland's film festival is notable for the open-air venue where it shows "The Piazza Grande" selection—a prestigious, high-profile slot for a film screening. The outdoor theater seats 8,000 people.

When to go: Locarno takes place annually in August.

What movies have screened there: Locarno puts a lot of emphasis on the history of cinema with a fantastic repertory lineup each year. But of course there are tons of new movies, too. Some of the film's screened last year include the buzzy Romanian film Do Not Expect Too Much From the End of the World and the Iranian production Critical Zone, which won the festival's top prize, the Golden Leopard. The 2022 festival opened with a screening of Bullet Train, so there's really a lot to see at Locarno.

RELATED: 18 Movies Like Bullet Train That'll Get Your Heart Pumping.

Telluride Film Festival

Peter Sarsgaard and Kirsten Dunst at the Telluride Film Festival in 2021
Vivien Killilea/Getty Images

The small, gorgeous mountain town of Telluride, Colorado, becomes a moviegoer's dream once a year, giving attendees the opporunity to see great films, experience nature, and rub elbows with the many stars who also head to the intimate setting for the weekend. Many talented filmmakers have gotten their big breaks at Telluride, and the festival has a tradition of not revealing its film slate until the night before the festival begins.

When to go: Telluride takes place in late August.

What movies have screened there: Recent films that have premiered at Telluride include All of Us Strangers, Uncut Gems, Women Talking, and Belfast, though attendees should rest assured that the festival also frequently screens highly anticipated films that already premiered at Venice, which kicks off earlier.

South By Southwest

Steven Yeun at SXSW in 2023
Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for SXSW

SXSW is more than just a film festival, as the annual Austin, Texas, event also features lots of music and tech events. The movies are typically worth checking out though, and the lineup tends to include innovative movies that are, for lack of a better word, more "hip" than the fare at the most prestigious European festivals.

When to go: SXSW happens in March.

What movies have screened there: Some movies that have premiered at SXSW are 21 Jump Street, The Cabin in the Woods, Bridesmaids, and this year's Monkey Man.

New York Film Festival

Steven Spielberg at NYFF in 2015
Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images

The Big Apple is not lacking in film festivals (there's also the Tribeca Film Festival, Brooklyn Film Festival, and tons of small indie and genre events), but the New York Film Festival (or NYFF) is the biggest deal. It regularly attracts high-profile premieres, was founded in 1963, and is currently run by Lincoln Center, which is located on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.

When to go: NYFF is held in early fall, typically.

What movies have screened there: NYFF selections have included The Tragedy of Macbeth, The Irishman, The Social Network, and Ava Duvernay's documentary 13th.

Chicago International Film Festival

Music Box Theater at Chicago International Film Festival
Barry Brecheisen/Getty Images

The Windy City hosts North America's longest-running competitive film festival, offering a diverse slate of films, ranging from international indies to hotly anticipated mainstream studio releases.

When to go: The Chicago International Film Festival typically takes place in October.

What movies have screened there: Past winners of the Gold Hugo, the Chicago International Film Festival's top prize, include Portrait of a Lady on Fire and Godland. It's typical for future Oscar nominees that premiered at earlier festivals to play in Chicago, too. Last year's festival screened 14 movies that would go on to get nominations.

RELATED: 12 Oscar-Winning Movies That Are Offensive by Today's Standards.

Melbourne International Film Festival

Quentin Tarantino at MIFF in 2009
PAUL CROCK/AFP via Getty Images

Head Down Under for this Australian film festival, the largest in the Southern Hemisphere. Founded in 1952, MIFF obviously showcases a lot of Australian films, but it also screens tons of international films, both indies and high-profile releases.

When to go: MIFF is another August film festival.

What movies have screened there: Some of the films that screened at MIFF last year are The Sweet East, Anatomy of a Fall, Theater Camp, and Perfect Days.

Animation Is Film Festival

Angelina Jolie at the Animation Is Film Festival
Neilson Barnard/Getty Images

There are lots of film festivals that focus on a specific genre or type of film, be it documentaries, shorts, horror, or others. The Animation Is Film Festival, which is held in Los Angeles, showcases animated movies from around the world.

When to go: The festival takes place in October each year.

What movies have screened there: Eventual Oscar nominees The Boy and the Heron and Robot Dreams played last year, as did A Chicken for Linda, which swept the festival's awards.

Fantastic Fest

M Night Shyamalan and James McAvoy at Fantastic Fest 2016
Rick Kern/WireImage

Another genre-specific festival, Fantastic Fest focuses on horror, sci-fi, fantasy, and action films that don't typically get their laurels at more mainstream film festivals. Many movies that will go on to become cult classics—if not outright mainstream hits—premiere at the Austin event.

When to go: Head to Austin, Texas, each September for Fantastic Fest.

What movies have screened there: A few of the movies that have had their world premieres at Fantastic Fest over the last several years are Last Night in Soho, Split, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe short Werewolf by Night.

James Grebey
James has been an entertainment journalist for more than a decade, writing and editing for outlets like Vulture, Inverse, Polygon, TIME, The Daily Beast, SPIN Magazine, Fatherly, and more. Read more
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