Chicago has a long and illustrious cinematic history: the filming location for Charlie Chaplin at the Essanay Studios in 1915, ’80s classics like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and The Blues Brothers, and modern day hits like The Dark Knight, Public Enemies, and The Bear. So it makes sense that our city is home to notable and groundbreaking film festivals throughout the year, including the illustrious Chicago International Film Festival. Here’s just a sampling of Chicago’s top film festivals.

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Chicago International Film Festival

Chicago International Film Festival
The famed Chicago International Film Festival, now in its 60th year, is North America’s longest-running competitive film festival. The renowned fest showcases more than 100 feature films and 60 short films from over 50 countries, along with filmmaker Q&As, red carpet galas, tributes, panels, and, of course, an awards ceremony.

Annual film festivals and events

Reeling: The Chicago LGBTQ+ International Film Festival
The Reeling Film Festival’s mission is to counteract the misrepresentation and stereotyping of LGBTQ+ people in mainstream media. The event, the second longest-running film festival of its kind in the world, showcases a diverse range of genres and queer experiences.

Chicago Latino Film Festival
Now in its 40th year, the Chicago Latino Film Festival is considered the largest, most comprehensive Latino film festival in the United States, presenting over 100 films of cultural and social significance from Latin America, Spain, Portugal, and the United States.

Asian Pop-Up Cinema
Asian Pop-Up Cinema is a semi-annual film festival that features a series of specially curated films from across Asia, presented in their original languages with English subtitles. Screenings take place across the city.

Chicago Underground Film Festival
The Chicago Underground Film Festival, the longest-running “underground” film festival in the world, exists to showcase the defiantly independent filmmaker. Expect a selection of documentary, experimental, and avant-garde narrative films and videos.

Black Harvest Film Festival
The Black Harvest Film Festival is a vibrant annual showcase of new work from the African diaspora. The acclaimed film festival has been giving a voice and platform to Black filmmakers for more than 30 years.

Annual Festival of Films from Iran
For more than 30 years, this Iranian film festival has been hosting Chicago premieres of new films from Iran and the Iranian diaspora, celebration the innovation, resilience, and humanism of contemporary Iranian filmmakers.

Chicago Irish Film Festival
The Chicago Irish Film Festival is a multi-day event that presents a selection of shorts, narrative features, and documentaries by Irish filmmakers and filmmakers of Irish heritage. The event has been shining a light on the color and complexity of Irish life through film since 1999.

Doc10 Film Festival
A premier documentary film festival, Doc10 screens the best documentaries from top-tier festivals around the country, including many that go on to be Academy Award nominees.

One Earth Film Festival
One Earth Film Festival is the premier environmental film festival in the Midwest, using compelling feature and short films and engaging programming to foster awareness about climate change, sustainability, and the power of people.

Chicago European Union Film Festival
North America’s largest showcase of European Union cinema, the Chicago European Union Film Festivalpresents exciting premieres from more than two dozen European nations, and features filmmaker appearances, discussions, and special events.

Architecture & Design Film Festival
The Architecture & Design Film Festival at the Chicago Architecture Center explores the intersection of architecture and creative vision, design innovation, and human relationships through short and feature-length films.

JCC Chicago Jewish Film Festival
The JCC Chicago Jewish Film Festival presents films that depict Jewish life, culture, history, with a mission of fostering an understanding of Jewish contributions to world culture. The fest showcases films that resonate across age groups for families, young adults, and seniors.

Chicago International Film Festival; Photo by Dan Hannula

Onion City Experimental + Video Festival
Onion City is one of the few international festivals exclusively devoted to experimental film and video. The mission of Onion City is to provide local audiences with an opportunity to view a wide range of contemporary experimental works that represent differing styles, forms, and nationalities.

Chicago Comedy Film Festival
The Chicago Comedy Film Festival is committed to bringing independent comedy to the screen and supporting comedy filmmaking as a vital and influential art form.

Sound of Silent Film Festival
The Sound of Silent Film Festival is a one-of-a-kind and one-night-only event, a local favorite for almost 20 years. The audience is treated to short silent films across genres, accompanied by newly composed music scores performed live.

Chicago Comedy Film Festival
TheChicago Comedy Film Festival is committed to bringing independent comedy to the screen and supporting comedy filmmaking as a vital and influential art form.

The Annual Asian American Showcase
The annual Asian American Showcase is a unique festival that features the diverse voices of Asian American filmmakers through narrative features, documentaries, and shorts.

CineYouth Festival
The Chicago International Film Festival’s annual CineYouth Festival showcases short films made by filmmakers 22 years old and younger from around the world. CineYouth strives to encourage the talent of young artists and to provide them with a platform to tell their stories.

Chicago Palestine Film Festival
The Chicago Palestine Film Festival is an annual festival that has screened more than 250 independent films that depict Palestinian life and society. A staple for over two decades, this is the longest-running Palestinian film festival of its kind in the world.

Chicago Critics Film Festival
The Chicago Critics Film Festival lets moviegoers see some of the year’s most talked-about films — before they make their commercial debut. The schedule comprises recent festival favorites and as-yet-undistributed works curated by film critics, ranging from award winners to talented newcomers.

Chicagoland Shorts
Chicagoland Shorts celebrates the vastness and artistic innovation of Chicagoland’s filmmaking community and provides an opportunity for fresh storytelling through the power of short cinema.

Millennium Park Summer Film Series
The Millennium Park Summer Film Series is a local favorite, with outdoor screenings of Chicago classics and new hits. Bring a blanket and a picnic basket and enjoy a movie under the stars.

Blue Whiskey Independent Film Festival
The Blue Whiskey Independent Film Festival seeks out bold and innovative filmmakers who utilize story elements in a new and exciting way, presenting character-driven independent cinema that’s fueled by the filmmaker’s passion for the art without large studio support.

ReelAbilities Disability Film Festival – Chicago
ReelAbilities Film Festival is the largest film festival in the country dedicated to sharing the lives, stories, and art of people with disabilities.

The Chicago Onscreen Local Film Showcase
The Chicago Onscreen Local Film Showcase allows local filmmakers to share their work with a citywide audience through free outdoor public screenings in local parks. Previous showcase films have included Chicago premieres and world premieres, as well as festival-circuit favorites.

Juggernaut Film Festival
The Juggernaut Film Festival celebrates science fiction and fantasy short films from around the world. The festival is presented by Chicago’s Otherworld Theatre Company, whose mission is to further explore and promote the sci-fi/fantasy genre.

Chicago South Asian Film Festival
The Chicago South Asian Film Festival is one of the largest multicultural events in the Midwest, showcasing films from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Iran, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Tibet.

(In)Justice for All Film Festival
The (In)Justice for All Film Festival seeks to use the power of film to help end the epidemic of mass incarceration. In addition to screening films, the festival hosts events to increase understanding of the issues of mental health, drug addiction and abuse, harsh juvenile sentencing, the drug war, and more.

Chicago Festival of Israeli Cinema
The mission of the Chicago Festival of Israeli Cinema is to share an appreciation of globally recognized Israeli cinematic achievements and diverse culture with the community at large, and serve as a catalyst for multicultural dialogue.

Chi-Town Multicultural Film Festival
The Chi-Town Multicultural Film Festival provides nationwide exposure for thought-provoking, envelope-pushing films. It focuses on stories, people, and passions that are too often unexplored in mainstream filmmaking.

Mostra: Brazilian Film Series Chicago
MOSTRA (meaning “exhibit” in Portuguese) is the largest Brazilian film festival in the Midwest. The event’s goal is to foster conversations about social issues between academia, filmmakers, and students through Brazilian films with a social conscience.

Chicago Polish Film Festival
After more than 35 years, the Chicago Polish Film Festival has grown into the world’s most extensive showcase of Polish film and the largest annual Polish cultural event outside of Poland.

Chicago International Reel Shorts Festival
Chicago International Reel Shorts Festival was created and designed to celebrate the art of the short film, featuring various themed categories.

Ongoing film festivals and events

Midwest Independent Film Festival
This is the nation’s only film festival solely dedicated to Midwest filmmakers, presenting audiences with regionally produced independent cinema. The Midwest Independent Film Festival hosts monthly screenings at The Gene Siskel Film Center.

Pride Film Fest
Pride Film Festival
is an ongoing festival of LGBTQ+ independent films, first established in 2012, that celebrates the breadth and depth of queer filmmaking. Programming includes films previously lauded in global film festivals alongside a curated selection of new films.