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Best European Film Festivals

Here is our ranking of the best European film festivals that are absolutely not to miss in our lifetime!

European film festivals have much to offer, from Cannes Festival to Berlinale, but they are by the thousands with so much to discover and experience…
  1. Annecy International Animated Film Festival

The Annecy International Animation Film Festival (Festival international du film d’animation d’Annecy), abbreviated as AIAFF, was founded in 1960 and takes place at the beginning of June in the town of Annecy, France. Initially a biyearly event, the festival became an annual event in 1998.

It is one of the four international animated film festivals sponsored by the International Animated Film Association.

Throughout the festival, in addition to the competing films projected in various cinemas of the city, an open-air night projection is organized on Pâquier, in the centre of town, amongst the lake and with the mountains.

The festival is a competition between cartoon films of various techniques classified in various categories such as feature films, short films, films produced for television and advertising, student films and films made for the internet

According to the topic of the festival, classic or recent films are projected upon the giant screen. On Saturday evening, all the award winners are presented.

photo: Film Servis Festival Karlovy Vary

Karlovy Vary International Film Festival

The Karlovy Vary International Film Festival is the largest film festival in the Czech Republic and the most prestigious such festival in Central and Eastern Europe.

It is one of the oldest A-list film festivals (i.e., non-specialized festivals with a competition for feature-length fiction films), a category it shares with the festivals in Cannes, Berlin, Venice, San Sebastian, Moscow, Montreal, Shanghai, and Tokyo.

Among filmmakers, buyers, distributors, sales agents, and journalists, KVIFF is considered the most important event in all of Central and Eastern Europe.

Every year, the festival presents some 200 films from around the world, and regularly hosts famous and important filmmakers.

The Karlovy Vary festival is intended for both film professionals and the general public, and offers visitors a carefully designed programme, excellent facilities and a broad range of other services.

Photo: Felix Kalkman

International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam

The International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam offers an independent and inspiring meeting place for audiences and professionals to see a diverse and high-quality program. The diverse nature of the event applies to the form and content of the films as well as to the cultural backgrounds of the filmmakers.

IDFA offers an alternative to mass entertainment and uniformity, confirming that there is an increasing need in audiences for high-quality films that delve deep and urge us to reflect. Since 2007, the festival’s New Media program IDFA DocLab showcases the best interactive non-fiction storytelling and explores how the digital revolution is reshaping documentary art.

In addition to the festival, IDFA has developed several professional activities, contributing to the development of filmmakers and their films at all stages. At co-financing and co-production market IDFA Forum filmmakers and producers pitch their plans to financiers; at Docs for Sale new documentaries are on offer to programmers and distributors; the IDFA Bertha fund supports filmmakers and documentary projects in developing countries; and the IDFAcademy offers a international training programs for up-and-coming doc talents.

Photo by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images

Zurich International Film Festival

The Zurich Film Festival began in October 2005 and became firmly established upon the national and international festival landscape within a very short period of time. The festival has continued to grow rapidly since that inaugural edition: in 2018, the ZFF attracted approximately 104’000 cinemagoers and more than 600 accredited journalists and 600 media professionals from around the world.

The festival provides a platform for the most promising filmmakers from around the globe. It aims to promote exchange between emerging directors, successful film workers, the film industry and the general public. Every autumn, the ZFF presents the year’s greatest discoveries and most anticipated films.

The International Competition sees emerging filmmakers compete in three categories with their first, second or third directorial works for the coveted Golden Eye – the festival’s highest accolade. The ZFF’s “Focus” competition section concentrates on the film-producing countries Switzerland, Germany and Austria. Out-of-competition, the fest also presents the year’s greatest discoveries (Gala Premieres) and most anticipated movies (Special Screenings). Furthermore, the “New World View” section focuses on the current cinematic oeuvre of a particular film-producing region.

Venice Film Festival

The Venice International Film Festival (Mostra Internazionale d’Arte Cinematografica della Biennale di Venezia) is the oldest film festival in the world and one of the “Big Three” film festivals, alongside the Cannes Film Festival and Berlin International Film Festival. 

First held in Venice, Italy in August 1932, the Venice Film Festival is part of the Venice Biennale, an exhibition of Italian art. The range of work at the Venice Biennale now covers Italian and international art, architecture, dance, music, theatre, and cinema.

The festival is held in late August or early September on the island of the Lido in the Venice Lagoon, and  screenings take place in the historic Palazzo del Cinema on the Lungomare Marconi. The festival continues to be one of the world’s most popular and fastest-growing.

The 76th Venice International Film Festival is scheduled for 28 August-7 September 2019.

Edinburgh International Film Festival

Inaugurated in 1947, the same year as the Edinburgh International Festival, Edinburgh International Film Festival is the world’s longest continually-running film festival.

Over the years, EIFF has welcomed a huge number of guests, including John Huston, Gene Kelly, Jacques Tati, Jennifer Lawrence, Tilda Swinton, Ewan McGregor, Robert Carlyle, David Cronenberg, Cate Blanchett, Clint Eastwood and Sir Sean Connery.

The Festival has hosted UK premieres of Blade Runner, Alien, Back to the Future, Taxi Driver, Annie Hall, Withnail & I, The Usual Suspects, Amelie, The Hurt Locker and many, many more.

With an emphasis upon new talent, discovery and innovation, EIFF’s vibrant programme of films and events combines a commitment to audiences with a strong ongoing stake in the development of the UK and Scottish film industries.

The Berlin International Film Festival

The Berlin International Film Festival usually called the Berlinale, is held annually in Berlin, Germany. It was first created in West Berlin in 1951, and has been held every year in February since 1978. Alongside the Venice Film Festival and Cannes Film Festival, it’s one of the “Big Three”.

Each year, around 300,000 tickets are sold and 500,000 attend, making the festival one with the largest public attendance count of any annual film festival. More or less 20 films competing for the top awards which are the Golden Bear and the Silver Bears.

The 69th Berlin International Film Festival took place from 7 to 17 February in 2019.

Midnight Sun Film Festival

The Midnight Sun Film Festival was founded in 1986 by Finnish filmmakers, e.g. the Kaurismäki brothers, and the Municipality of Sodankylä.

The village of Sodankylä is located in the heart of Finnish Lapland, some 120 kilometers above the Arctic Circle, where the sun doesn’t set at all in the summertime.

The nature of Lapland and the nightless night provide the Midnight Sun Film Festival a setting no other festival can compete.

Fabrizio Maltese for THR

San Sebastián International Film Festival

The San Sebastián International Film Festival, also known as SSIF, is an annual FIAPF A category film festival held in the Spanish city of Donostia-San Sebastián in September, in the Basque Country.

Since its creation in 1953 it has established itself as one of the most important cinema festivals in the world, being one of the 14 “A” category competitive festivals accredited by the FIAPF. It has hosted several important events of the history of cinema, such as the international premieres of Vertigo, by Alfred Hitchcock (who attended the Festival) and Melinda and Melinda by Woody Allen and the European premier of Star Wars.

Actors and directors such as Bette Davis, Gloria Swanson, Gregory Peck, Glenn Ford, Elizabeth Taylor and many more have attended the festival since its inception. It was the first festival attended by Roman Polanski and has helped advance the professional careers of Francis Ford Coppola or Pedro Almodóvar, for instance.

In the current competitive context of international festivals, San Sebastián, which has one of the lowest budgets, has established itself as the most important in Spain and the Spanish-speaking countries.

The Cannes Film Festival is a film festival that takes place annually, in May, for two weeks, at the Palais des Festivals et des Congrès of the city of Cannes.

In the 1930s the Nazi and Fascist regime was in full swing and in Italy the wonderful “Mostra del Cinema” took place, of course, in the tension of the thirties, there was a preference for films of evident totalitarian inspiration. So the French wanted to create their own festival in which the idea of peace and freedom was clear, so the Cannes festival was born.

The festival over the years has now become so famous as to celebrate the birth of many important stars of international director.


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