Which film school is best for you and what are the top film schools in the united states?
Based on trustworthy rating lists, factors like successful alumni and excellent opportunities for students, and an emphasis on undergraduate programs, we have created a list of the top film schools in the United States. Also, we’ll discuss how to pick a film school that matches your interests and goals.
1. University of Southern California (School of Cinematic Arts)
Los Angeles, California
USC’s School of Cinematic Arts is a film powerhouse that has produced famous alumni like:
- Producer, director, and screenwriter George Lucas (Star Wars, Indiana Jones)
- Producer, director, and screenwriter Judd Apatow (Step Brothers, Bridesmaids, Superbad, Freaks and Geeks)
- Actor, producer, and writer Will Ferrell (Anchorman, Step Brothers, Talladega Nights)
- Actor, producer, and director Forrest Whitaker (The Last King of Scotland, Lee Daniels’ The Butler)
SCA graduates have directed projects including:
- The Office
- Forest Gump
- A Beautiful Mind
- Donnie Darko
- Finding Nemo
- Back to the Future
This is the first on our list of best film schools in the united states. And those are only a few examples! SCA, which is based in Los Angeles, gives students access to prestigious internships at organizations like Lionsgate, Pixar, and NBCUniversal. Students have various opportunities to screen their work, notably at the prestigious USC First Look Film Festival, and they frequently attend industry gatherings. Networking with professionals in the film industry is made possible through these occasions and screenings. The Hollywood Walk of Fame star in front of USC SCA is unequivocal confirmation of the university’s strong industry links.
The School of Cinematic Arts offers specialized courses in animation, critical studies, media arts, interactive media, screenwriting, and film production. Students are required to enroll in courses “without limits” that span the seven fields. With a reputation for innovation, USC offers training in new media such as web series and virtual reality to help students get ready for the ever changing profession.
It’s crucial to remember that USC SCA is extremely selective, only accepting roughly 3% of candidates.
2. New York University (Tisch School of the Arts)
New York City, New York
New York City is another great location for aspiring filmmakers, and NYU offers another excellent film school. Successful alumni include:
- Director Chris Columbus (Rent, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone)
- Cinematographer Rachel Morrison (Black Panther, Mudbound)
- Screenwriter and producer Damon Lindelöf (Lost)
- Director, screenwriter, and producer M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense, Signs, The Village)
- Actor, producer, and writer Adam Sandler (Uncut Gems, The Wedding Singer, Happy Gilmore)
- Director, producer, and writer Spike Lee (Do the Right Thing, Malcom X, She’s Gotta Have It)
- Producer Joel Coen (Fargo)
- Director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon (Me and Earl and the Dying Girl)
This is the second on our list of best film schools in the united states. Although Tisch boasts a few Hollywood celebrities, many of its former students are independent filmmakers.
Degrees in dramatic writing, cinema studies, and film & television are available through Tisch’s undergraduate curriculum. The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, A24 Pictures, Fox Searchlight, and other famous companies all offer prestigious internships at NYU, just like USC.
There are specialists from the industry on the faculty. Each year, the instructors, staff, and students at Tisch produce over 5,000 films. The school’s admissions procedure is the most stringent at NYU, and only 20% of candidates are accepted.
3. American Film Institute
Los Angeles, California
This is the third on our list of best film schools in the united states. The American Film Institute (AFI) is a film conservatory, as opposed to USC and NYU. Although it differs from the typical college experience, AFI is a must-have on any list of American film schools. Individuals with undergraduate degrees can achieve a Master of Fine Arts, while those without undergraduate degrees can get certificates (MFA).
Editing, Producing, Screenwriting, Cinematography, Directing, and Production Design are among the highly specialized schools that AFI provides. AFI is focused about providing practical experience in film production and screening, as opposed to concentrating on standard college trademarks like general education lectures and internships. Every year, students work on a variety of projects and take part in renowned screening events like the AFI Film Festival.
AFI alumni have led initiatives like:
- Requiem for a Dream
- Black Swan
- A Star Is Born
- The Dark Knight
- Black Panther
- Shutter Island
- Django Unchained
- Schindler’s List
- Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Alumni and other masters of their craft regularly deliver guest lectures and teach seminars for AFI students.
Read Also: Best Film Schools in Texas 2023
4. Chapman University (Dodge College of Film and Media Arts)
This is the fourth on our list of best film schools in the united states. The Dodge College at Chapman University provides undergraduate degrees in film production, creative producing, television writing, screenwriting, documentaries, new/broadcast writing, and digital arts. It is located about an hour outside of Los Angeles. The university most recently added minors in augmented reality and virtual reality.
Dodge College provides less possibilities for screening and internships than the institutions previously mentioned, but Chapman has its own production company, Chapman Film Productions. This gives students a chance to gain special experience in film production, promotion, and distribution.
Moreover, Chapman’s Dodge College provides award-winning teachers, cutting-edge facilities, and 24-hour access. Its current resident filmmaker is “A Star Is Born” producer Bill Gerber.
Some notable graduates are:
- Screenwriters and producers Matt and Ross Duffer (Stranger Things, Wayward Pines)
- Screenwriter Justin Simien (Dear White People)
- Comedian and actress Leslie Jones (Saturday Night Live, Ghostbusters)
- Actor Kellan Lutz (The Twilight Saga)
5. University of California, Los Angeles (School of Theater, Film, and Television)
Los Angeles, California
UCLA, a rival of USC, has a distinguished film school that only accepts around 30 students a year. UCLA offers undergraduate degrees in Film, Television, and Digital Media despite being less specialized than some of the other institutions mentioned.
Students can choose concentrations in fields such cinema and media studies, film production, screenwriting, animation, documentaries, and digital media during their junior year. UCLA juniors and seniors are allowed to work as interns at companies including NBC Universal, Warner Brothers, Paramount, and MTV Networks throughout the year.
Notable UCLA STFT alumni include:
- Producer, director, and writer Francis Ford Coppola (The Godfather, Apocalypse Now)
- Actress, producer, and writer Carol Burnett (Annie, The Carol Burnett Show)
- Actor and writer Rob Reiner (The Wolf of Wall Street, All in the Family)
- Screenwriter, director, and producer Alexander Payne (The Descendants, Sideways)
6. Loyola Marymount University (School of Film and Television)
Los Angeles, California
Undergraduate courses in film and television production, screenwriting, recording arts, and film, television, and media studies are available at LMU’s School of Cinema and Television. A degree in recording arts, intended for aspiring sound mixers, sound designers, and sound editors, is only offered by a select few universities.
Around 400 companies offer internships to students at the Los Angeles-based school, including Sony, Paramount, Disney, and NBCUniversal. Modern amenities like a Foley stage, three greenscreen studios, and eight Avid editing suites are also located there. A theater, a workspace for motion capture, and a stage for camera instruction are all included in the new Howard B. Fitzpatrick Pavilion. Students are urged to study abroad, and close mentoring and teamwork are valued.
LMU’s film school boasts notable alumni like:
- Producer Patricia Whitcher (Thor, The Avengers, Spiderman: Homecoming)
- Writer and producer James Wong (The X-Files, American Horror Story)
- Producer Barbara Broccoli (James Bond franchise)
- Director Francis Lawrence (The Hunger Games, I Am Legend)
7. Emerson College (Department of Visual and Media Arts)
Emerson College has established a reputation as one of the top film schools in the country despite not being located in a hub of the industry like Los Angeles or New York City. The Department of Visual and Media Arts at the Boston-area college provides undergraduate degrees in comedic arts, media studies, film arts, stage and screen design/technology, and media arts production. There is just one degree of its sort in the nation, the comical arts degree, which is intended for students who want to work in comedy filmmaking.
Students can choose to enroll in Emerson’s Global Pathways Program or its Los Angeles campus for a semester, and they can take part in the fantastic Los Angeles Emerson Film Festival. The home campus of Emerson houses recently refurbished media facilities, such as television studios, labs for audio and digital production, and cutting-edge studio space for virtual reality, augmented reality, and 3D modeling.
Notable alumni include:
- Screenwriter Alex Tse (Watchmen)
- Producer Pamela Abdy (current president of MGM)
- Screenwriter Stefani Robinson (Atlanta, Fargo)
- Doug Herzog (former Viacom president)
- Producer Holly Bario (The Girl on the Train, 40-Year-Old Virgin)
- Comedian and actress Iliza Shlesinger (Last Comic Standing, Good on Paper)
8. University of North Carolina School of the Arts (School of Filmmaking)
Winston-Salem, North Carolina
UNCSA’s School of Filmmaking, another conservatory like AFI, encourages first- and second-year students to direct and shoot a lot of digital content. Following that, students decide whether they want to focus on animation, cinematography, directing, editing & sound design, producing, production design, or screenwriting. UNCSA does grant bachelor’s degrees, in contrast to AFI.
Students interact with professionals in the business, network, and hone their skills in cutting-edge soundstages and studios with top-of-the-line tools. They work together to produce creative short films that are entered in international film festivals. Senior year, students take a trip to Los Angeles with faculty mentors to screen their films for accomplished UNCSA alums and business leaders.
UNCSA’s most influential alumni include:
- Actor, producer, and director Danny McBride (The Righteous Gemstones, Pineapple Express)
- Director, producer, and writer David Gordon Green (Halloween, The Righteous Gemstones)
- Screenwriter Travis Beacham (Dog Days of Summer, Pacific Rim)
- Cinematographer Zoe White (Westworld, The Handmaid’s Tale)
9. Boston University (Film and Television Department)
Students can select from a wide range of courses in scripting, directing, editing, sound design, producing, short film production, and more, even though BU’s Film and Television Department offers more generic degrees in Film and TV or Cinema and Media Studies.
Professors who have written, directed, and produced major motion pictures and television shows teach their classes. BU offers students the chance to create and disseminate video content through its own student-run station, butv10, and an internal, student-run company named Hothouse Productions. Moreover, BU provides a summer internship program in Los Angeles as well as its Cinematheque series of film screenings and talks with business leaders.
Famous alumni include:
- Directors and actors Josh and Benny Safdie (Uncut Gems, Good Times)
- Nina Tassler (current chairman of CBS Entertainment)
- Jim Gianopulos (former head of 20th Century Fox and CEO of Paramount Pictures)
- Script supervisor and director Jennifer Getzinger (Mad Men, Outlander, Westworld)
10. California Institute of the Arts
The Walt Disney co-founded institution, better known as CalArts, focuses in animation. A well-known bachelor’s degree program in film and video is also available. Students at CalArts have the chance to network in the business and take part in esteemed internships because Los Angeles is so near by.
All students go through intensive technical training in film and video production, editing workflows, and sound production and design in order to guarantee a well-rounded education in the craft of filmmaking. Students must either complete a senior project during their final two years of study or assist with other students’ projects in the areas of cinematography, sound design, production, or editing. Significant practical experience and teacher supervision are advantageous to students.
Famous CalArts alumni include:
- Producer and director Tim Burton (Edward Scissorhands, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Batman Returns)
- Screenwriter, producer, and director John Lasseter (Frozen, Zootopia, Toy Story, A Bug’s Life, Cars, former chief creative officer of Pixar)
- Director, actress, and screenwriter Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation, Marie Antoinette, The Godfather: Part III)
- Actor and producer Dustin Hoffman (The Graduate, Rain Man, Midnight Cowboy)
- Actor and producer Don Cheadle (Crash, Hotel Rwanda, House of Lies)
- Actress Allison Brie (Glow, Community)
11. Ringling College of Art and Design
There are two options available to students at Ringling College who want to major in film: narrative or branded entertainment. Students who choose the narrative track will gain knowledge in filmmaking, production design, editing, and cinematography. In order to generate dynamic film and video content for consumer companies, students who study branded entertainment.
The post-production facilities at the Ringling College Studio Laboratories include over 5,000 square feet and include editing suites, a Foley sound effects stage, dubbing bays, and a final color room. The soundstage space at the studio labs is about 25,000 square feet. Students have hands-on, industry-ready access to cutting-edge tools and resources and have the chance to work with experts in the field.
With people like Matt Dillon, Anna Paquin, Forest Whitaker, Marisa Tomei, Luke Wilson, and Richard Dreyfuss, students have attended workshops and worked on projects. Alumni from the emerging film program have produced independent films and collaborated with Netflix, ABC, NBC, and Comedy Central. Alum Big Hero 6, Wreck-It Ralph, and Tangled all benefited from the contributions of animator, writer, and producer Patrick Osborne.
12. University of Texas at Austin (Moody College of Communication)
Students can pursue a generalist degree in Radio-Television-Film at UT Austin where they will learn how to use many media platforms and produce material that is cross-disciplinary in nature. Students participate in internships with film production firms, film festivals, and television stations as well as submit their work to international film festivals.
Students have access to numerous cutting-edge production studios and a sizable greenscreen facility. And former student Matthew McConaughey, who starred in the movies Dallas Buyers Club, The Wolf of Wall Street, and True Detective, frequently visits to give guest lectures and instruct students!
Some notable graduates include Marcia Gay Harden and director, writer, and producer Wes Anderson (The Royal Tenenbaums, Moonrise Kingdom, and The Grand Budapest Hotel) (Mystic River, The Mist, Into the Wild).
Which Film School Is Right for You?
So, how do you now which film school is right for you? Consider what you want to specialize in and what opportunities you’re interested in outside of the classroom. Then, think about factors like location, school culture, and size.
Area of Specialty
Most importantly, you should attend a film school that will help you get ready for a profession in your chosen field of study (e.g., cinematography, screenwriting, or directing).
It may be advantageous for you to enroll in a more generalized program at a university like UT Austin, UCLA, or Boston University if you aren’t yet sure what area of cinema you want to specialize in. When you have a thorough understanding of film, you can specialize in filmmaking courses or emphases that interest you.
On the other hand, do you have something extremely particular in mind? Loyola Marymount University might be the right choice for you if you wish to pursue a career in sound design or editing. If you’re serious about comedy filmmaking, consider Emerson College’s program in humorous arts. CalArts is a fantastic option for aspiring animators.
Also, you ought to research student-specific options like networking, film festivals, and internships. Will you get first-hand experience with the kinds of tools and facilities you want to use in the future? Make sure you do your homework to make sure you can develop knowledge that fits with your long-term objectives.
Next, take into account traditional college requirements like school size, geography, and culture. Consider your preferences to choose the right film school for you.
The programs on this list range in size from tiny (like CalArts and Ringling) to being a part of large universities (like USC and NYU). While some of the programs are headquartered in Florida, Texas, or Massachusetts, others are in Los Angeles or New York.
It’s also critical to think about whether you would rather attend a conservatory or a typical institution. AFI is known for its rigor, whereas colleges like USC offer a lively, enjoyable culture.
Choose the film schools from your shortlist that offer the chances and degree programs you are interested in, and then investigate those schools to learn more about their overall cultures and student life. Apply to a few safer schools as well, keeping in mind that some universities, like USC and NYU, have incredibly selective film programs.
Final Thoughts: Best Film Schools in the United State
These American film schools provide the training, information, practical experience, and contacts to the industry that prospective filmmakers need to launch their careers.
The best film school for you will depend on your area of interest, as well as the opportunities and other elements that are most significant to you. You’ll work on projects and cooperate with fellow film enthusiasts at any of these institutions. Also, you never know who might make a cameo!