Best Film Schools: The Top 9 Best Film Schools In The World

MattBusiness, Filmmaking22 Comments

Should you go to film school? And, if so, what are the best film schools in the world?

We’ve asked the question here on Filmmaking Lifestyle in the past. The answer, in my opinion, is that going to film school is far from a necessity. Maybe great filmmakers have succeeded without going to film school. And many top video production companies have been setup by those who are self-taught and don’t have any formal training.

There are, however, many reasons for wanting to go to film school. Some people enjoy and thrive in a structured learning environment, some people like being told exactly what to do and how to do something, and still others go to film school for the benefits you get networking and making contacts.

For those who do want to go to film school, here are a list of the 9 Best Film Schools In The World.

American Film Institute (Los Angeles)


AFI Conservatory is a five-term Master of Fine Arts program in six disciplines: Cinematography, Directing, Editing, Producing, Production Design, and Screenwriting. Traditionally, the Conservatory accepts 28 students – called Fellows – per year for most disciplines and 14 for the Design and Editing disciplines. Each discipline’s program runs two years in length.

First Year – Fellows from all disciplines work on at least three digital video or high definition short films (up to 20 minutes), referred to as ‘cycle projects’. Each of these first-year projects are accomplished by Fellows with a minimum of oversight from the senior faculty. The purported goal being to stimulate a flexible and creative approach to filmmaking within imposed budgetary constraints and without the crutch of seasoned oversight. These ‘cycle projects’ make up the core curriculum of the first year experience and amount to a ‘boot camp” of filmmaking that simultaneously challenges and invigorates the Fellows involved.

Second Year – Most Fellows work on at least one thesis short film, shot on digital video, high definition, 35mm film, or 16mm film, and develop portfolio materials (such as a reel and a feature film screenplay). Screenwriting Fellows have the option of writing two feature-length screenplays instead of participating in a thesis film. They are responsible for raising the bulk of their own financing for these projects (average budget is $30,000), and must adhere to standard industry regulations, such as SAG charter rules, during filming. The senior faculty of the conservatory oversee the development of the ‘second year’ projects and monitor their development in a manner similar to what might be expected of an Executive Producer.

Tuition Fees: US$47,030 (The AFI Conservatory Program, 1st year students); $58,216 (2nd year students)

Notable Alumni: David Lynch, John Cassavetes, Darren Aronofsky.

UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and Television (Los Angeles)


The UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television (UCLA TFT), is one of the 11 schools within the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). It is located in Los Angeles, California. Its creation was groundbreaking in that it was the first time a leading university had combined all three (theater, film and television) of these aspects into a single administration.

The graduate programs are usually ranked within the top 3 nationally, according to the U.S. News & World Report.

Among the school’s resources are the Geffen Playhouse and the UCLA Film & Television Archive, the largest university-based archive of its kind in the world, celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2015.

The Archive constitutes one of the largest collections of media materials in the United States — second only to the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. Its vaults hold more than 220,000 motion picture and television titles and 27 million feet of newsreel footage.

The School’s total enrollment, in 2014, consisted of 631 students. For Fall 2014 the School received 4,442 applications and offered admission to 346 applicants (7.8%).

With 140 faculty members teaching 335 undergrads and 296 graduate students, the teacher to student ratio is about 1:5.

Tuition Fees: B.A.: $12,842 (California resident), $35,720 (non-resident); MFA: $22,208 (California resident), $34,453 (non-resident); M.A. or Ph.D.: $13,549 (California resident), $28,651 (non-resident)

Notable Alumni: Francis Ford Coppola, Tim Robbins, Gore Verbinski.

USC School of Cinematic Arts (Los Angeles)


The USC School of Cinematic Arts is a private film school within the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, in the U.S. state of California.

The school offers multiple undergraduate and graduateprograms covering production, screenwriting, critical studies, animation and digital arts, and interactive media & games. Additional advanced programs include the Media Arts and Practice PhD Program, the Peter Stark Producing Program, and the Business of Entertainment (offered in conjunction with the USC Marshall School of Business MBA Program).

It is the oldest and largest such school in the United States, established in 1929 as a joint venture with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and has been ranked as one of the best film programs in the world on several occasions.

Tuition Fees: US$48,347 (undergraduate level); US$34,079-49,601 (graduate level). Additional fees for equipment may also apply.

Notable Alumni: George Lucas, Ron Howard, Jon Landau.

NYU Film School (New York)


The New York University Tisch School of the Arts (known more commonly as Tisch or TSOA) is a center of study in the performing and media arts. Founded on August 17, 1965, Tisch is a training ground for artists, scholars of the arts, filmmakers, and creative entrepreneurs. The school merges the technical training of a professional school with the academic resources of a major research university to immerse students in their intended artistic disciplines. It is located at 721 Broadway in Manhattan, New York City.

Tisch School of the Arts was founded in order to provide conservatory training in theatre and film, in the context of a research university. The school created additional departments such as dance, theatre design, and cinema studies within a few years.

Following the creation of the undergraduate Department of Drama in 1974, the school expanded into other artistic forms, including the Interactive Telecommunications Program, Department of Dramatic Writing, Department of Performance Studies, Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program, Department of Photography and Imaging, and The Department of Art and Public Policy.

In 1985, the school’s first dean, David Oppenheim solicited a donation from Laurence A. and Preston Robert Tisch that made possible the acquisition and renovation of 721 Broadway, where most of the school’s programs are housed. In recognition of the generosity of the Tisch family, the school was renamed Tisch School of the Arts.

Tuition Fees: US$25,093 (all students). Students should also expect to pay an additional US$1,212 for registration per term, US$1,570 per additional unit and between US$2,000-15,000 per year for equipment and insurance.

Notable Alumni: Martin Scorsese, Spike Lee, Oliver Stone.

National Film & Television School (London)


The National Film and Television School (NFTS) is a film school established in 1971 and based at Beaconsfield Studios in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire. It was at number 1 in the 2014 Hollywood Reporter top 15 International film schools.

Its community of students makes around a hundred films a year on courses that are over 90% practical and unlike courses offered at other UK film schools. As of 2013 it had around 220 full-time students, with a further two dozen part-timers on the Script Development course and about a thousand a year on its short courses.

Beaconsfield Studios comprises film and television stages, animation and production design studios, edit suites, sound post-production facilities, a music recording studio and a dubbing theatre, all furnished with current digital equipment comparable to that used in the film and television industry. It is the only film school in the UK with its own film and television studios.

The BBC stated that the NFTS was the “leading centre of excellence for education in film and television programme making”, and noted that it was “relevant to the industry’s present and future needs.” British Film Magazine once described the NFTS as being one of the few schools to come “very, very close” to guaranteeing a job in the film industry, and named its leader (Powell) a “maverick”; named it one of two films schools outside the US which had such a high international reputation.

In 2013 the National Film and Television School became the first film school in history to win all three of CILECT’s (the main international film and TV school association that includes 160 schools from 60 countries) competition categories (the winners were “Head Over Heels” in Animation, “After” in Documentary, and “The Mass of Men” in Fiction).

Tuition Fees: US$17,800 per year (MA programs, domestic students); US$37,700 per year (MA programs, international students)

Notable Alumni: Nick Park, Lynne Ramsey, Roger Deakins.

La Fémis (Paris)


La Fémis (École Nationale Supérieure des Métiers de l’Image et du Son), is the French state film school. It is part of PSL Research University, a Paris area-based world-class federal research university formed from highly selective art-, science- and humanities-focused higher education institutions among the most prominent in France. FEMIS is an acronym for Fondation Européenne pour les Métiers de l’Image et du Son. Based in Paris, it offers courses balanced between artistic research, professional development and technical training.

In 2012, The Hollywood Reporter rated La fémis no.6 in its best international film school rankings (it included U.S.-based film schools) and no.3 in its 2014 best international film school rankings (it excluded U.S.-based film schools).

Its alumni have won three of the world’s most prestigious film prizes – Cannes Film Festival’s Golden Palm, Venice Film Festival’s Golden Lion and Berlin International Film Festival’s Golden Bear – ten times, making it the most rewarded film school in the world, preceding the Beijing Film Academy and the Tisch School of the Arts of New York, in winning those three prizes.

Tuition Fees: US$517 (domestic students); US$15,334 (international students)

Notable Alumni: Francois Ozon, Noemie Lvovsky, Celine Sciamma.

Academy of Performing Arts’ Film and TV School (Prague)


The Film and TV School of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague or FAMU is one of the oldest film schools in the world. Located in Prague, Czech Republic, FAMU was founded in 1946 as one of three branches of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague.

The teaching language at most of programs at FAMU is Czech, but FAMU offers also programs in English: summer workshops, one-year Academy Program, Special Productions – or MFA program Cinema in Digital Media. According to The Hollywood Reporter weekly, FAMU is the best film school in Europe and No. 11 in the world.

FAMU’s main building is situated in an attractive location in the historic centre of Prague. The school includes Studio FAMU, a production and postproduction facility with fully equipped sound stages and TV studios and continuously innovated technology for realising student works. Each autumn, FAMU organises the Famufest festival, a showcase of its students’ current work as well as an accompanying cultural programme and visits by prominent figures in filmmaking.

In the 1960s and 1970s, several young directors from Yugoslavia were FAMU students (Rajko Grlić, Srđan Karanović, Emir Kusturica, Goran Marković, Goran Paskaljević and Lordan Zafranović). All of these directors would become very successful in the following decades, prompting the coinage of the term Praška filmska škola (“Prague film school”), or Praški talas (“Prague wave”), which is sometimes considered a prominent subgenre of the Yugoslav cinema.

Tuition Fees: Free for Czech students and Czech speakers; US$45,674 (international students)

Notable Alumni: Milos Forman, Emir Kusturica, Agnieszka Holland.

Beijing Film Academy (Beijing)


Beijing Film Academy (abbreviated BFA) is a coeducational state-run higher education institution in Beijing, China. The film school is the largest institution specialising in the tertiary education for film and television production in Asia. The academy has earned international recognition for its achievements in film production.

Established in May 1950, the Beijing Film Academy was first named Performance Art Institution of the Film Bureau of the Ministry of Culture. During its first year, 38 students enrolled. For the next five years, the school was renamed thrice – Film School of the Film Bureau of the Ministry of Culture in July 1951, Beijing Film School in March 1953 and finally, Beijing Film Academy on June 1, 1956.

Upon its first establishment, the academy contained 2 schools – the School of Photography and the Animation School with the associated departments and their subsequent specialties. The Screenwriting Department was one of the earliest departments to be established at the academy in 1951.

Gradually, the academy expanded its number of schools and departments. On September 14, 1950, BFA offered its first undergraduate course in performing arts. The course attracted a class of 30 students, many of which were notable figures in film and television. Due to its success, BFA established the Performance Institute in June 1956.

In 1952, BFA offered its first programs in sound recording. The Department of Sound Recording was officially founded in 1959. The Department of Sound Recording continued to grow throughout the years. In 1960, BFA’s Department of Sound Recording and the School of Engineering were joined together.

BFA began offering a two-year course in film and television production management in September 1955. Although the first class only graduated 28 students, the popularity of the course grew, and a Department of Management was formally established in 1987.

In 1966, the Cultural Revolution brought hardships for schools throughout the People’s Republic of China. BFA was equally affected; many of its professors left the academy. However, in the beginning of 1976, after the end of the Cultural Revolution, many faculty members returned to BFA. By 1977, the academy had recovered from the Cultural Revolution. Finally, in 1978, the academy allowed new students to apply.

Tuition Fees: US$12,900 per year (English MFA, international students)

Notable Alumni: Zhang Yimou, Chen Kaige, Tian Zhuangzhuang.

London Film School (London)


The London Film School (LFS) is a not-for-profit film school in London and is situated in a converted brewery in Covent Garden, London, close to a hub of the UK film industry based in Soho. The LFS was founded in 1956 by Gilmore Roberts as the London School of Film Technique in Brixton and later moved to Charlotte Street, becoming The London Film School under Principal Bob Dunbar.

From 1971 to 2000 it was known as The London International Film School, and reverted to the name London Film School in 2001. It offers MA degrees in Filmmaking, Screenwriting and, in partnership with the University of Exeter, a unique MA in International Film Business and a PhD in Film by Practice, recruiting from all over the world. It also offers an expanding range of short and part-time professional development courses under the LFS Workshops banner.

LFS is the only graduate-only film conservatoire specifically constituted as an international community; around 75% of its students are from outside the UK. The LFS is one of three UK Creative Skillset “Film Academy” Centres of Excellence.

The school’s current director is Jane Roscoe and its current chairman is Oscar-nominated Mike Leigh O.B.E.

Tuition Fees: US$78,043 (in total, for all students on the two-year program)

Notable Alumni: Mike Leigh, Duncan Jones, Danny Huston.

You Should Try:

22 Comments on “Best Film Schools: The Top 9 Best Film Schools In The World”

  1. Great breakdown. I’m an AFI grad. Gained a lot from the school, but mainly from the connections made rather than outright what I learned.

    I’d say that network is easily 75% of what you get from attending film school!

    1. Hi Swifty,

      I think your % is pretty accurate. Networking is a huge part of why people continue to attend film school when there are so many other options out there now.

      Thanks for the comment!


  2. I wanted to thank you for this excellent read!! I appreciating every thing you do here
    and I have you bookmarked to check out new stuff you post.

  3. Hello , I do consider this is a great site. I stumbled upon it on a Google search , I
    am going to come back once again.

  4. Was looking so long for a list like this. Seems pretty comprehensive.

    I’m still considering whether to go to film school or not.

    What do you think? Any advice on whether to go to film school?

  5. Hey! I’m currently applying to film school and just got work that I got into FSU (which is ranked #25) and just got word that I have an interview with London Film School. If I do get the LFS slot, do you have any advice on choosing between them? I am an American citizen and any help would be appreciated!

    1. Hey Emily,

      Thanks for the comment.

      A lot of it is personal experience when choosing between those two. LFS is no doubt the more prestigious school.

      One thing that comes to mind is the importance of cost and also moving abroad and being away from friends and family if you went with LFS.

      If that’s something you’re cool with, then go for it!

  6. Hi Matt,

    Thanks for the amazing review. I have a question that has been on my mind. How can students afford living costs only while attending as a full-time film grad student? Do some film directing gradt MFA students work part-time?


    1. Hi Tasnim,

      Thanks for the comment.

      Yeah, it’s not cheap. Especially for overseas students who want to go to college in the USA.

      Yes, working part-time is certainly an option. There are also scholarship opportunities for very good students. It’s a big ask when you consider a lot of these places are minimum $80,000…and that’s before filmmaking costs!



  7. This was very useful but most of these schools only offer Masters degrees – could you help identify good undergraduate colleges for filmmaking. I also had doubt regarding the difference between an art school film course vs. a conventional university film course – would you be able to help as to which would be better ?

    1. Hi Mrinal,

      A lot of the schools above offer undergrad courses as well as Masters. Notably UCLA and USC, etc.

      With art film course, you’re probably referring more to a film studies course. That is more theory based, looking at the study of film and it’s effect on society, etc. Whereas, the courses described in this article centre on the best film production courses, for learning filmmaking.

      Hope that helps.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *