Want to add a major cool factor to your next big trip? Plan it to coincide with a film festival. Not only is the destination going to hum with added activity and all sorts of extra exciting things to do, but there’s a heightened possibility of spotting celebrities “in the wind” and, of course, the chance to watch great films and learn more about the art and business of cinema. With premiere screenings, Q&A sessions with filmmakers, actors and industry insiders you’ll have plenty to keep you busy and lots to talk about when you head back home. Plus, cities often go all out for visitors when a festival comes to town. So you might find historic cinemas as well as other unique venues and screening rooms open for the festival when normally they might not be and a range of related events to showcase local talent.

For movie buffs who love to travel, here’s a look at seven of the world’s best film festivals showing the biggest hits, newest releases, and best indie flicks.

Berlinale

Berlin, Germany

The last ten days or so of February see Berlin become even more lively than usually with its annual Berlinale international film festival. The festival was started in 1951 at the onset of the Cold War as a “showcase of the free world.” From big-budget international films to small arthouse gems, the festival screens hundreds of films each year. Dubbed the world’s largest public festival, visiting venues that host Berlinale screenings and events are a fun way to see some of the German capital’s most vibrant neighborhoods and fascinating architectural marvels. Much of the program for the festive is kept under wraps until just before the Berlinale launch. The same can be said of available tickets for screenings.

Festival de Cannes

Cannes, France

The grand dame of the film festival circuit and the ultimate see-and-be-seen celebrity elbow-rubbing event of the year, Festival de Cannes is without a doubt the biggest and most revered of the many cinema-centered events filling the calendar. For a taste of the hottest trends in cinema and fashion, the latest rising stars, and the best new must-see films, paying attention to Cannes is essential for any movie buff.

For more than 70 years, Festival de Cannes has been a prime showcase of the art of cinema. Officially running for about a week a half, the festival generally takes place in the middle of May each year.  For an actual, in-person piece of that action, you’d best book flights and rooms ASAP – and sharpen your blagging skills for jumping VIP lines and inserting your name onto exclusive guest lists! It wouldn’t be a bad idea to brush on your French either. The vast majority of festival events are for film professionals only. But there’s always loads of ancillary and otherwise related happenings in town around the time of the festival.

Sundance Film Festival

Salt Lake City, Utah

Kicking off the year in film with a breath of fresh Rocky Mountain air, the Sundance Film Festival brings Hollywood glamour to small-town Utah every year at the end of January. The event is a must for fans of independent film and offers a unique cultural curve when added onto the itinerary of a ski vacation. Check out the website for a look at this past year’s winners and to start dreaming about your upcoming trip to the next festival. The Sundance site where to go to book passes, ticket packages or individual tickets. Sign up for the festival’s e-Waitlist to be notified about last-minute screenings.

Toronto International Film Festival

Toronto, Canada

 

Another bright star of the film festival circuit is TIFF – the Toronto International Film Festival – held every September in (yep, you guessed it) Toronto, Canada. Since its start 1976, TIFF has grown to be recognized as one of the world’s most highly regarded launching pads for the best of international, Hollywood, and Canadian cinema, with many in the film industry ranking it as second only to Cannes in importance. The festival is also one that’s especially public-friendly, with plenty of screenings and related events happening across town.TIFF starts the Thursday night after Labor Day (the first Monday in September in Canada) and runs for 11 days. Compared to some other film festivals, prices for most TIFF screenings are close to what you’d pay for regular movie tickets with a number of bundles and special offers available as well.

SXSW Film Festival

Austin, Texas

Of all the places to go throughout the year, with specific times of year to visit in order to have a good time, flights to Austin will land you on a vacation that’s going to be great, any time of the year. Come March though, and the fun-loving city goes from awesome to epically awesome with the South by Southwest mega fest. The music, films, and emerging technologies event of the year, SXSW is a must-attend festival no matter what your interests are. The film festival portion of the larger SXSW festival is growing strength to strength with a new theme every year promising an exciting lineup of screenings and events. You’ll need to check the SXSW website for details about purchasing a badge to access festival events.

Tribeca Film Festival

New York, New York

This Lower Manhattan film festival founded by Robert De Niro to regenerate New York’s Tribeca neighborhood after the 911 attacks celebrates the best of international film and the best of New York. The festival presents the opportunity to check out premiere screenings of independent shorts and blockbusters such as <em>Avengers Assemble</em>. Local film heroes, such as De Niro and other NYC stars, are known to make more of an effort to attend this festival compared to others. The festival runs during the second half of April. Individual tickets, ticket packages, and festival passes can be purchased online at the Tribeca Film Festival site.

Venice Film Festival

Venice, Italy

One of the oldest and most highly esteemed film festivals is the Venice Film Festival. Part of the larger Biennale di Venezia, this film festival’s aim is to “raise awareness and promote the various aspects of international cinema in all its forms” and to honor “major figures” in the industry by organizing retrospectives and tributes. Careers have been launched here as well, including that of Jennifer Lawrence who won the coveted Marcello Mastroianni Award for new actors in 2008. The festival adds a touch of glamour and an air of La Dolce Vita to the already atmospheric allure of this elegant and historic Italian city of islands and canals. Running during the first two weeks of September, tickets, and passes go on sale near to the opening of the festival and can also be purchased on the day of events and screenings (expect long lines though).

Which of these awesome film festivals would you most like to attend? Let us know in the comments section.

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About The Author

Chris Osburn

Chris Osburn is a freelance writer, photographer, consultant, curator, and the driving force behind the long running and award winning blog, tikichris.com. Originally from the American Deep South, Chris has lived and worked all over the world. He's called London home since 2001.