What Are the World’s Most Prestigious Film Festivals?

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There are 3,000 film festivals every year, but these are at the top of the class. Whether you're looking to attend yourself (or plan a trip as a gift for movie lovers in your life), here are the biggest ones to keep on your radar.


One of the largest independent film festivals in the U.S., Sundance arguably spotlights more up-and-coming directors than any other film fest. At the 2010 Oscars, four of the five films nominated for “Best Documentary” were Sundance films.

Cannes Film Festival

Founded in 1946, few film festivals are more prestigious—or selective. Attendance is by invitation only. What will a ticket get you? A seat with your favorite star, maybe. The rich and famous flood this festival unlike any other.

Toronto International Film Festival

Toronto is another Oscar factory. Around 400,000 people attend the festival each year and it’s second only to Cannes in terms of star-power.


The Berlin International Film Festival is the largest festival in the world, drawing over half a million people each year, including film professionals from 130-plus countries. The six-day event features panels, discussions, and workshops from the best cinematographers in the biz.

Hong Kong International Film Festival

As Hong Kong’s largest cultural event, the festival shows over 330 titles from more than 50 countries. It showcases the best Chinese cinema around, drawing over 5000 film professionals each year.

Panafrican Film and TV Festival of Ouagadougou

Held every two years in Burkina Faso, this is the largest film fest in Africa. (In fact, it’s the biggest regularly scheduled cultural event on the entire continent.) Aimed to promote African filmmakers and their work, the festival includes non-profit screenings in rural areas.

Rotterdam Film Festival

There may be celebrities at Rotterdam, but you won’t find a red carpet. It’s common to see stars mingling with fans. The festival focuses on world and international premiers and also funds grants to important unfinished feature films from developing countries.

This article was originally published in 2013 and has been updated.