Chicago has a long and illustrious cinematic history, from Charlie Chaplin at the Essanay Studios in 1915 to the 2017 critically acclaimed indie classic, The Big Sick. It's therefore little surprise that notable and groundbreaking film festivals happen throughout the year.

Here's just a sampling.

HEADLINE EVENT: Chicago International Film Festival

October 10-21, 2018
AMC River East 21
322 E Illinois St

Chicago International Film FestivalChicago International Film Festival

Now in its 52nd year, this is North America’s longest running competitive film festival. In addition to showcasing 150 films from over 50 countries, filmmaker Q&As, red carpet galas, tributes and panels, the Festival also presents “Industry Days,” a 4-day conference for industry professionals. 


Midwest Independent Film Festival

First Tuesday of the Month
Landmark's Century Centre Cinema
2828 N Clark St

This is the nation's only film festival solely dedicated to the Midwest filmmaker, presenting audiences with regionally produced independent cinema. This year-round film festival sits proudly at the center of the independent film scene in Chicago and the Midwest.

Pride Film Fest

Second Tuesday November - June
Broadway Theater
Pride Arts Center
4139 N Broadway

A monthly festival of LGBTQ independent films, screening at the Pride Arts Center. Check out more events.

Asian Pop-Up Cinema

Season VI - through May 16, 2018
Season VII - September 12 - November 14, 2018
AMC River East 21 & other venues

Asian Pop-Up Cinema (亞洲躍動電影展) is a semi-annual film festival — every spring and fall — presenting a series of specially curated films in their original languages with English subtitles.

Chicago Critics Film Festival

May 4-10, 2018
Music Box Theatre
3733 N Southport Ave

Music Box Theatre in ChicagoMusic Box

The Chicago Critics Film Festival comprises recent festival favorites and as-yet-undistributed works from a wide variety of filmmakers, ranging from award winners to talented newcomers. 

Chicagoland Shorts

May 15 – December 31, 2018
Various venues

Chicagoland Shorts is Full Spectrum Features' annual touring short film series that celebrates the vastness of the Chicagoland experience and provides an outlet for those cinematic voices that often go unheard within the independent film community. 

International Screenings Program: REEL MUSIC

Wednesdays May 30 - October 3, 2018
Chicago Cultural Center
Claudia Cassidy Theater
78 E Washington St

From toe-tapping musicals to rocking documentaries, REEL MUSIC is a free weekly film series that celebrates music in movies from around the world. All screenings take place on Wednesdays at 6:30pm from May 30 – October 3, 2018 in the Claudia Cassidy Theater. Films are unrated. Viewer discretion is advised. 

Juggernaut Film Festival

June 2-3, 2018
Music Box Theatre
3733 N Southport Ave

This one-day event 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.

Millennium Park Summer Film Series

Tuesdays, June 5 - August 21, 2018
Jay Pritzker Pavilion
Millennium Park

201 E Randolph St

Millennium ParkJay Pritzker Pavilion

The 2018 Millennium Park Summer Film Series will highlight one Chicago film festival each film date, providing a season-long sampling of themes, ethnicities, and genres to reflect the city’s rich passion for cinema in all its variety. Featured film festivals include the Chicago Comedy Film Festival, Chicago International Film Festival, and Chicago Underground Film Festival.

Chicago Underground Film Festival

June 6-10, 2018
The Logan Theatre
2646 N Milwaukee Ave

The Chicago Underground Film Festival, the longest-running "underground" film festival in the world, exists to showcase the defiantly independent filmmaker. This year, the festival celebrates its 25thanniversary with the opening night screening of INDUSTRIAL ACCIDENT: The Story of Wax Trax! Records on June 6.

Black Harvest Film Festival

AUGUST 4 – 30, 2018
Gene Siskel Film Center
164 N State St

Black Harvest Film Festival HogtownBlack Harvest Film Festival, Hogtown

This is a vibrant annual showcase of new work from the African diaspora, telling stories, raising questions and touching on issues that relate to the African American, Black African and African disaporic experience. 

Blue Whiskey Independent Film Festival

August 2018
Music Box Theatre
3733 N Southport Ave

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 is fueled by the filmmaker's passion for the art without large studio support.

CSAFF: Chicago South Asian Film Festival

September 20-23, 2018
Various venues

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

Reeling: The Chicago LGBTQ+ International Film Festival

September 20-27, 2018
Various venues

Reeling: The Chicago LGBTQ+ International Film FestivalFirst Girl I Loved, Dylan Gelula and Brianna Hildebrand (2016 Reeling Festival)

Reeling’s mission is to counteract the misrepresentation and stereotyping of LGBTQ people in mainstream media, and is the second longest running film festival of its kind in the world. 

Chicago International Social Change Film Festival

September 27-29, 2018
Various venues

Chicago International Social Change Film Festival showcases films that document injustices to inspire people to create change.

The Chicago Onscreen Local Film Showcase

September 2018
Various venues

The Chicago Onscreen Local Film Showcase gives local filmmakers the opportunity 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.

(In)Justice For All Film Festival

October 4-13, 2018
Various venues

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 around the issues of mental health, drug addiction and abuse, harsh juvenile sentencing, the drug war, and more.

ReelAbilities Disability Film Festival – Chicago

October 2018
Various venues

ReelAbilities Film Festival is the largest film festival in the United States dedicated to sharing the lives, stories and art of people with disabilities. 

Chicago Festival of Israeli Cinema

October/November 2018
Various venues

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

Chicago International Children's Film Festival

November 1-9, 2018
Various locations

Each year, the Chicago International Children's Film Festival presents the best 250+ short and feature films for children and youth from 45+ countries. Experience the joy and power of film through premiere screenings, hands-on workshops, and discussions with filmmakers.

Chicago Comedy Film Festival

November 9-11, 2018
The New 400 Theater
6746 N Sheridan Rd

The Chicago Comedy Film Festival is committed to bringing independent comedy to the screen. The festival’s mission is to support comedy filmmaking as a vital and influential art form. 

Chi-Town Multicultural Film Festival

November 2018
Various venues

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 or honored in mainstream filmmaking. 

MOSTRA VIII: Brazilian Film Series Chicago

November 2018
Various venues

MOSTRA (meaning “exhibit” in Portuguese) is the largest Brazilian film festival in the Midwest. The event’s motto is “Brazilian Films with Social Conscience,” with the goal of fostering conversations about social issues between academia, filmmakers, and students.

30th Chicago Polish Film Festival

November 2018
Various venues

This is the world’s most extensive showcase of Polish film and the largest annual Polish cultural event outside of Poland.

Chicago International REEL Shorts Festival

November 2018
Chicago Filmmakers Theater
5243 N Clark St

A festival created and designed to celebrate the art of the short film, featuring various themed categories.

Stranger Than Fiction Documentary Premieres

JANUARY 5 – February 1, 2019
Gene Siskel Film Center
164 N State St

This annual showcase celebrates the art of the documentary, presenting the Chicago debuts of eight new documentary releases. Twelve different producing nations are represented in films, offering perspectives from Israel to Japan and Mexico to Qatar.

Festival of Films from Iran

March 2019
Gene Siskel Film Center
164 N State St

This festival showcases Chicago premieres of new films from Iran and the Iranian diaspora, as directors continue to overcome challenges and circumvent taboos to bring their work to the world. 

Chicago Irish Film Festival

March 1-4, 2018
Various venues

The Chicago Irish Film Festival is a four-day event that presents a selection of shorts, narrative features, and documentaries by Irish filmmakers and filmmakers of Irish heritage.

JCC Chicago Jewish Film Festival

March 2019
Various venues

The JCC Chicago Jewish Film Festival showcases films that reach across age groups for families, young adults and seniors. This festival is a no-holds barred approach to diversity and the strong Jewish contributions to world culture. 

One Earth Film Festival

March 2-11, 2018
Various venues

One Earth Film Festival utilizes compelling environmental films and engaging programming to bring about an understanding of climate change, sustainability and the power of people. 

Hollywood on State

March 2019
Gene Siskel Film Center
164 N State St

This is Chicago’s longest-running Oscar® viewing party. Watch the Academy Awards on the big screen, enjoy hors d’oeuvres and cocktails, and rub shoulders with Chicago filmmakers and movie buffs.

Chicago Feminist Film Festival

March 2019
Film Row Cinema
8th floor, 1104 S Wabash

The Chicago Feminist Film Festival showcases independent film — predominantly shorts — spanning documentary, fiction and experimental genres, and aims to address issues of gender, sexuality, race, and other forms of inequality. 

The Onion City Experimental Film + Video Festival

March 2019
The Hungry Brain
2319 W Belmont Ave

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. 

Peace On Earth Film Festival

March 2019
Davis Theater
4614 N Lincoln Ave

The Peace On Earth Film Festival presents films, discussion panels and outreach programming to foster change and demonstrate progressive steps toward social justice and an eco-balanced world.

Chicago European Union Film Festival

March 2019
Gene Siskel Film Center
164 N State St

North America’s largest showcase of European Union cinema presents over 60 premieres from 28 EU nations, and features filmmaker appearances, discussions and special events. 

In/Motion International Dance Film Festival

March 2019
Various venues

The In/Motion International Dance Film Festival connects Chicago's vibrant dance and film communities with national and international artists through short and feature dance film screenings, Q&As, workshops, live performances, dance classes, panel discussions and networking events. 

Chicago Latino Film Festival

April 2019
AMC River East 21 Theaters
322 E Illinois St

The Chicago Latino Film Festival is considered the largest, most comprehensive and best 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.  

Sound of Silent Film Festival

April 2019
Davis Theater
4614 N Lincoln Ave

Sound of Silent Film Festival - Image

Featuring newly composed scores performed live to modern silent films from around the world, this one night only event is a don’t miss.

The Chicago Asian American Showcase

April 2019
Gene Siskel Film Center
164 N State St

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

CineYouth Festival

April 2019
Music Box Theatre
3733 N Southport Ave

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 the opportunity to tell their stories, network with their peers and be recognized for their creativity. 


APRIL 2019
Gene Siskel Film Center
164 N State St

This annual festival represents the spirit and mood of contemporary Palestinian life. Now in its 17th year, this is the longest-running Palestinian film festival of its kind in the world.

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