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The Top Five Indie Film Festivals

The Sundance Film Festival was founded by Robert Redford over 50 years ago in response to his 1970 indie film Downhill Racer and the numerous obstacles that his independent film had to overcome in order to make it to the theaters. By the early 1990’s, Sundance had earned the reputation as the champion in independent filmmaking as it became responsible for launching the careers of Richard Linklater, Steven Soderbergh, Ed Burns, the Coen brothers and Quentin Tarantino. However over the years, major studio movies began to dominate the festival and huge stars and the Hollywood studios began to push out the upcoming independent filmmakers once again. 


Film festivals have taken a dramatic turn since the 1990’s to bring in as many celebrities as possible to help with publicity and recognition - even reverting to reality stars and YouTube and internet stars. Few have found up and coming filmmakers around the globe and packed their festival with must-see arthouse films like Sundance in the ’90’s. However, as the world has changed in these last couple years, so has our perception and outlook and a few rising festivals based on their filmmakers and films. Our list does not include festivals which continue to exclude the independent filmmaker for star-studded studio premieres.



1. Dances With Films

Dances With Films started in 1998 as a film festival to champion indie filmmakers and almost 25 years later they have not strayed from their intention. 


It is known that Dances With Films will not show a movie that has any connection whatsoever with a known director, producer or writer. Located in Hollywood, Dances With Films gives the independent filmmaker the greatest chance to showcase their film at a festival that is highly revered in the Hollywood industry. 

Dances With Films most recent festival winners include the Grand Jury Winner: Michael Walker’s Paint, Hisonni Mustafa’s Take Out Girl. Short Film Winners: The Foreigner, Chris Hartwell’s The Way That I Take.


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Dances with Films upcoming festival will be their 25th on June 9-19, 2022.

Tickets available starting May 12th.


2.  Seattle Film Festival

The Seattle Film Festival has been known to be independent since it’s beginning. Set in Seattle with humble begininngs as just a short film festival, the Seattle Film Festival has grown each year but has still kept its unpretentious style. 

While at this festival you may find yourself enjoying an independent film whose budget consisted of a couple million dollars and find the next film to be a wonderful quirky indie with a budget that totalled all of $50. The festival also prides itself in finding documentaries with unique stories which resonate with audiences globally. 

The Seattle Film Festival most recent festival winners include Grand Jury Winner: Will Jewell’s Concrete Plans, Raffaël Enault’s A Glimpse of Happiness, Dem Geger’s Playdurizm. Short Film Winner: Keyvan Sheikhalishahi’s Divertimento.

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3. Indie Filmmaker Awards 

Known for solely celebrating the best indie films is the Indie Filmmaker Awards. This awards show makes our list as the leading awards show in true independent film. Studio movies need not submit here. This festival also continues to find the best of the international independent films and continues to grow in number of submissions and awards each year. TV and web series and documentaries are also highly championed at this festival.

When Indie Filmmakers submit their films at this event they need not worry about competing against studio movie directors who may masquerade their latest film as an “indie”.  This gives indie filmmakers a real chance at accolades. Films here are truly independent of distribution companies and have gone on to make distribution deals.


Recent Winners include: Gerda Leopold’s A Matter of Perspective, comedian Amy Gordon in Big Time, the riveting documentary Street Bullets and the hilarious #Richieneedsawife.

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4. Method Fest Independent Film Festival

While the Method Fest focuses on acting performances, the festival undoubtedly has indiefilmmakers at their heart. This festival is coming up to their 15th Method Fest. Each one was helmed by director of the festival, Don Franken. Up and coming Actors in indie films shown at this festival have included future Academy Award Winners. Definitely an indie feel and a great time. Recent Winners include: Zachary Cotler’s The Wall of Mexico which won Jackson Rathbone a Best Actor; Scott Dow’s breaking them up, Kate Hacker’s Oleander and Robin August’s Party With Me

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5. Lonely Wolf

This indie film festival is ideal for the filmmaker who is looking for feedback. Not only do they write reviews if requested, they also are quick in responding back to inquiries. Although Lonely Wolf has not been around long, founder Adrian Perez has made a good name this festival by doing what other indie festivals have not yet accomplished, contacting distributors directly to watch their films. We would not be surprised to see this festival thrive in the next few years and be at a place where known filmmakers will compete. Until then, enjoy this indie festival where beginning, intermediate and advanced filmmakers have a good chance to win.


Recent Winners include: Michael Marantz’s We do this once, Leandro Cardova’s Club Internacional Aguerridos, Andreas Feix’s Citipati and Frank Bey’s All My Dues Are Paid.

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