October 24, 2017 Andrew Walker

The top film schools in the world

After a long trawl through the web, we’ve pulled together a list of all the top film schools worldwide. There’s a lot of discussion and focus on US film schools in the online world, which you should expect, after all, the US represents a huge slice of commercially successful, globally distributed TV and film production. But for all the justifiable focus on US film schools, there’s a growing acknowledgement of the quality of education world-wide. Here’s a few of the most notable institutions around the world…


Brightest light of American filmmaking is probably the American Film Institute 
(Los Angeles). It’s pumping out graduates who are described as “Worthy to watch” at a rate of about 260 per year. 37 alumni have received Oscar nominations in the past decade alone. An additional 118 have participated in award-winning TV and cinema projects ranging from Boyhood to Mad Men. Also worthy of note are the more specialised courses, like the Art Center College of Design (Pasadena, CA) a private college with a focus on conceptual design. Its list of celebrated alumni includes director Zack Snyder, and designers Ralph McQuarrie (“Star Wars”) and Syd Mead (“Blade Runner”).

On the other side of the country, Sarah Lawrence College (Yonkers, N.Y.) boasts a stellar reputation in recent years, with notable graduates including J.J. Abrams, Peter Gould (Better Call Saul), Joan Micklin Silver and producer Amy Robinson. It’s possibly even challenging the former biggest East Coast hit factory the New York University Tisch School of the Arts with a prestigious roster of alumni such as Martin Scorsese, Spike Lee, Joel Coen and Ang Lee.

But of course, it’s not all about cinema these days. In the multimedia, multichannel world it’s important to note the likes of more TV and CGI focused courses too. Northwestern University’s multidisciplinary arts education has produced major figures in nearly every aspect of film and television production, from three-time Oscar-nominated writer John Logan and Emmy-winning actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus to DC Comics TV hits producer Greg Berlanti and such acclaimed producers as Sherry Lansing, Jason Winer and Ken Kamins. Also highly rated is Ringling College of Art and Design (Fla) which has become a talent pool for studios seeking up-and-coming computer animators and designers. Ringling alumni captured Oscars for both animated feature Big Hero 6 and short Feast at the 2015 ceremony, and students have won 11 of the past 13 student Academy Awards.

The Rest of the World

Of course anyone who’s been to the cinema in the last century will know the world is full of filmmakers, not just the USA. In fact, arguably, world cinema has never been more accessible or visible in the cinematic universe than it is today. Here’s a whirlwind tour of the rest of the filmmaking world…

  1. National Film & Television School (U.K.)
Founded in 1971 and considered one of the most prestigious film, television and new media schools in the world. The school also boasts an abundance of award-winning alumni, including the Oscar-nominated cinematographer Roger Deakins and screenwriter Terence Davies.
  2. Sheridan College Institute of Technology and Learning (Canada). Possibly the top global institution for aspiring animators. Animation course offerings began in 1971, launching graduates to work for companies including Pixar, DreamWorks, Cookie Jar, Cuppa Coffee, DHX, Nelvana, Corus and Electronic Arts.
  3. Ecole de la Cite Cinema et Television (France). Founded by Luc Besson (yes, Luc Besson) the mission of this free school is to encourage gifted young artists who might not otherwise have the opportunity to attend a formal film school program. Even if it doesn’t produce Oscar winners, who cares?
  4. Swedish Film Institute (Sweden). Stockholm’s film school is considered to be one of the most prolific and influential film schools in Scandinavia, producing much of the talent associated with Trollywood (the moviemaking scene in Trondheim, and the force behind many of Sweden’s internationally acclaimed TV series.
  5. Super16 (Denmark) 
With no senior management, this independent institute was founded as an alternative to Denmark’s more established film school, and to this day receives no state subsidies. It’s the disruptive element in Scandi TV and film.
  6. Tel Aviv U. (Israel) 
Tel Aviv U. alumni include Gideon Raff, the creator of Emmy award-winning Showtime TV series Homeland, Hagai Levi, co-creator of HBO TV series In Treatment and Ari Folman, writer and director of the Oscar-nominated 2008 film, Waltz With Bashir.
  7. Red Sea Institute of Cinematic Arts (Jordan). 
Launched in 2008 the Red Sea Institute is the Middle East and North Africa’s go-to film school for international students.
  8. Whistling Woods Intl. (India)
 Founded in 2006, Whistling Woods offers India’s first MBA in media and entertainment. Filmmaker Subhash Ghai founded the school with a truly international intent, with exchange deals lined up in the U.K. and Nigeria.
  9. Korean Academy of Film Arts (Seoul). 
Joon-ho Bong is one notable alumnus of the prestigious Korean school. The school’s advanced program, started in 2007, requires students to finish a full-length feature film in order to graduate. This is where low/no budget filmmaking really shines out in the world of film schools.
  10. Australian Film, Television and Radio School (NSW). Academy Award-winning alumna Jane Campion says it all, but don’t forget the slew of great films that were spawned from here like Chopper.

Of course, what’s missing from all of the above are the courses built around filmmaking for viral smash hits on YouTube, Vimeo and Vine. So where are the smartphone film courses? Smartphone filmmaking itself appears to be off the curriculum as a course in its own right at most film schools. For most students, smartphone courses are supplementary, taking the form of webinars or YouTube tutorials rather than university modules. They’re sometimes sponsored by the phone manufacturers themselves too… but it begs the question, how long before one of the institutions above launches its first smartphone specific film course?