What Are The Biggest Film Festivals?

Lady Gaga attends 'A Star Is Born' photocall during the 75th Venice Film Festival at Sala Casino on August 31, 2018 in Venice, Italy.

Here are the world’s biggest film festivals.

Film Festivals are known for bringing success, cult classics, and indie projects to the forefront. But it begs the question, what is a film festival and what is the biggest film festival?

What is a film festival?

  • A film festival is an organized presentation of films in one or multiple cinemas, theaters or screening venues. Organizers set up film festivals in one city.
  • Film festivals can be new movies, old movies, or of a particular genre of film. It would depend on the film festival’s focus and can include international and domestic productions. Some film festivals can focus on a specific filmmaker, genre, narrative, or type.
  • For example, there is a growing number of horror film festivals for horror enthusiasts. Typically, film festivals are held once per year.

What is the biggest film festival?

  • Arguably there is not a single major film festival but, the most prestigious film festivals include Cannes, Berlin and Venice film festival. These festivals are sometimes called “The Big Three.”
  • Meanwhile, the Toronto International Film Festival is North America’s most attended film festival. Time Magzine wrote the Toronto International Film Festival “had grown from its place as the most influential fall film festival to the most influential film festival, period.” The Venice Film Festival is the oldest film festival in the world.

Here are the world’s biggest film festivals

  • Venice Film Festival

Lady Gaga Star is Born Venice Film Festival
Lady Gaga attends ‘A Star Is Born’ photocall during the 75th Venice Film Festival at Sala Casino on August 31, 2018 in Venice, Italy.

The Venice Film Festival is the oldest film festival in the world and one of the “Big Three” film festivals next to the Cannes Film Festival and the Berlin International Film Festival. These three film festivals are known around the world and give aspiring filmmakers a chance to showcase their work.

Founded in 1932, the Venice Film Festival coverages a wide range of arts including art, architecture, dance, music, and theater. Today, organizes split the film festival into different events including the International Art Exhibition; the International Festival of Contemporary Music; the International Theatre Festival; the International Architecture Exhibition; the International Festival of Contemporary Dance; the International Kids’ Carnival; and the annual Venice Film Festival, which is arguably the best-known of all the events.
The film festival is held every year in late August or early Septemeber. Screenings take place in the historic Palazzo del Cinema on the Lungomare Marconi.

Most recently, Roma by Alfonso Cuarón won the Golden Lion and became the first ever movie produced by Netflix to be awarded in a major film festival.

  • Sundance Film Festival

Jaden Smith
PARK CITY, UT – JAN 21: Actor Jaden Smith attends the premiere of “Skate Kitchen” during the 2018 Sundance Film Festival at Eccles Theater on January 21, 2018 in Park City, Utah. (Debby Wong / Shutterstock.com)

The Sundance Film Festival is part of the Sundance Institute and takes place in Park City, Utah. The film festival has over 40,000 attendees every year and is the largest indie film festival int he United States. The festival is a showcase for new work from US and international indie filmmakers. The film festival also has a competitive section for dramas, documentaries, feature films, short films, and out-of-competition screenings including, NEXT, New Frontier, Spotlight, Midnight, Premieres, and Documentary Premieres. Sundance film festival takes place in January.

  • Cannes Film Festival

Kendall Jenner Cannes Film Festival
CANNES, FRANCE – MAY 20: Kendall Jenner attends the ‘120 Beats Per Minute’ premiere during the 70th Cannes Film Festival on May 20, 2017 in Cannes, France. (Andrea Raffin / Shutterstock.com)

Cannes Film Festival is an annual film festival held in Cannes, France. The film festival premieres all different genres including, documentaries, and dramas from around the world. The invitation-only film festival is held annually at the Palais des Festivals et des Congrès.

  • Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF)

Kirsten Stewart Toronto International Film Festival
Actress Kristen Stewart attends the ‘Equals’ premiere during the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival at the Princess of Wales Theatre on September 13, 2015 in Toronto, Canada. (BAKOUNINE / Shutterstock.com)

The Toronto International Film Festival is one of the largest publicly attended film festivals in the world with over 400,000 people attending every year. Since 1976, TIFF has grown to become a significant destination for aspiring filmmakers, content creators, distributors, and production companies. In 2016, nearly 400 films from 73 different countries were screened at TIFF, and 5,00 industry professionals attended the film festival.

The festival’s People’s Choice Award is one of the most coveted awards for filmmakers. It has become an early indicated of a movie’s success during awards season, especially the Academy Awards. For example, past winners of this award include Oscar-winning films such as Life Is Beautiful, American Beauty, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Slumdog Millionaire, The King’s Speech, 12 Years a Slave, The Imitation Game, Room, La La Land, and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

  • Berlinale (Berlin International Film Festival)

Idris Elba Berlin Film Festival
Idris Elba poses at the ‘Yardie’ photo call during the 68th Berlinale International Film Festival Berlin at Grand Hyatt Hotel on February 22, 2018 in Berlin, Germany. (Denis Makarenko / Shutterstock.com)

The Berlinale, also known as the Berlin International Film Festival, is a film festival held every year in Berlin, Germany. The Berlin Film Festival was founded in 1951; the celebration has been held every year since 1978.

With over 300,000 tickets sold every year, it has the most significant public attendance of an annual film festival. Up to 400 films are shown across multiple genres. Around 20 films compete for the Berlinale’s top award, the Golden Bear.

One of the biggest attractions during the Berlin International Film Festival is the European Film Market. The European Film Market is an event that is held at the same time as the Berlinale and is known for being a significant industry meeting for international films. The event serves as a place for distributors, film buyers, producers, financiers an co-production companies to find the next movie, star, or filmmaker. The Berlinale Talents also includes a series of lectures and workshops.

More than 4,200 journalists attend the event, and some high-profile productions, A-list movie stars, and celebrities attend the event.

  • Hong Kong International Film Festival


Hong Kong International Film Festival is one of Asia’s oldest international film festivals. The Hong Kong Film Festival was started in 1976 and includes screenings of different movie genres from a wide array of filmmakers from different countries in Hong Kong. The Hong Kong International Film Festival screens around 230 movies. New films are featured as premieres with directors and the cast in attendance on the red carpet along with personal meetings in theaters. Since 2017, the Hong Kong International Film Festival collaborates with Heyi Pictures to produce two films a year by aspiring Chinese filmmakers who will hold their premiere at the event.

  • Panafrican Film and TV Festival of Ouagadougou

The Panafrican Film and TV Festival of Ouagadougou is a film festival in Burkina, Faso. Held every two years, the film festival only accepts films by African filmmakers that were mostly produced in Africa. The film festival gives filmmakers the chance to network, exchange ideas and promote their work. The film festival’s stated mission is to “contribute to the expansion and development of African cinema as a means of expression, education, and awareness-raising.”

  • Rotterdam Film Festival

The Rotterdam Film Festival is an annual film festival held in various theaters in Rotterdam, the Netherlands towards the end of January. Since 1972, it has become one of the biggest film festivals in the world by focusing on indie and experimental filmmaking by aspiring talents and filmmakers. The festival also has a focus on presenting new-age media and art. The Rotterdam Film Festival also hosts CineMart, which is for film producers looking for funding for their next production.

The festival is described as having “a serious commitment to film lovers and filmmaking – screenings are shown without ‘popcorn breaks,’ trailers or other commercials. This sense of purpose plays a crucial role in attracting the best directors to the event, allowing it to forge a reputation for diversity, discovery, and innovation.”