Do you know what Martin Scorsese, George Lucas, Stephen Spielberg, David Lynch, and Spike Lee all have in common?
You might be thinking Oscars, accolades, box office blockbusters…
Sure, all of that is true.
But the other common thread among these absolute titans of modern cinema?
They all went to top film schools.
For his graduating thesis, George Lucas submitted a 2-minute movie all about a yellow car going fast. Spike Lee’s NYU thesis took place entirely inside a barbershop in Brooklyn.
Sure, these early films were perhaps not on the level of their later works, such as Lucas’ Star Wars or Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing.
But nevertheless, these movie masters started their creative careers inside the classroom, as do many of today’s greatest directors.
Are you looking into film schools, or at least interested in finding out which ones are the very best for producing top student talent?
Today, we reveal the top 10 Bachelor’s degree granting schools in the entire country for filmmaking and television, as well as three honorable mention schools that are worth of consideration among the best in the world.
How did we make this ranking? We create an “averaged” ranking – we looked at 7 “top 10 film school” rankings lists from leading publications, then made a new list based on where each school ranked in the other lists.
This list is essentially an aggregate of the seven other lists we researched. The sources, as well as the methodology, are available at the end of the article.
These are the schools producing alumni who are working on films that win Oscars, awards at Cannes, the biggest box office hits and the most memorable cinema we know.
10. Boston University (Boston, MA)
Boston University’s Film & Television studies program, located in their College of Journalism, is characterized by small classroom sizes with numerous 1-on-1 opportunities for interacting with professors.
At BU, students can concentrate in one of four concentrations in film: Production, Screenwriting, Film & Television, or Management/Producing. This allows students to pursue a specialized interest based on their future goals.
One of the awesome hands-on experiences available at Boston University is being able to participate inside BUTV10, a tv production studio where students can create television programming as well as content.
Additionally, the school offers internship opportunities in Los Angeles, London, and even Sydney, Australia.
Faculty at the school are incredibly accomplished filmmakers; Professor Joel San Juan’s work has been showcased on network television and HBO, while professor Scott J. Thompson is an internationally recognized screenwriter.
9. Wesleyan University College of Film and Moving Image (Middletown, CT)
A gem of a facility stands in the midst of the Wesleyan University campus; The Center for Film Studies, completed 11 years ago, houses two professional-quality cinemas, a gallery, cinema archives, and more. This facility is used as the focal point for the film studies major at Wesleyan.
One of two liberal arts colleges to make this list, Wesleyan’s approach to film includes study, according to the website, in “genre, authorship, industry, and technology.”
Widely regarded among the best schools for film in the country, Wesleyan is a liberal arts campus noted for its diversity and creativity; many alumni from Wesleyan have pursued successful careers in the arts.
In film, many alumni are among the most famous filmmakers today. They include Michael Bay (Transformers) as well as Oscar-winning screenwriter Akiva Goldsman.
Film Studies is among the most desirable majors at Wesleyan; as such, admission to the program is not easy. Only students already at Wesleyan achieving good grades and having taken the proper prerequisite classes can gain admission.
HONORABLE MENTION: University of Arizona Hanson Film Institute (Tucson, AZ)
One of the top film schools in the country, the University of Arizona’s Hanson Film Institute is an impressive facility for aspiring filmmakers.
Complete with film creations labs, studios for recording video and sound, and even a set design construction area, the resources are seemingly limitless for students interested in this path.
A hallmark of this school is its integration with the professional world of film.
The University of Arizona regularly brings in professionals who are producers of majors films.
In recent years, producers and actors from major films such as Pan’s Labyrinth, The Usual Suspects, and even James Cameron’s Avatar have made appearances at the school, teaching the next generation of film students the art of filmmaking.
The Hanson Film Institute is not just active inside the classroom; in addition to standard curricular activities, the school hosts screenwriting seminars, “creative development” workshops, and even has its own film financing panel, a group students can receive funding from to create their own original films.
The Hanson Film Institute is directed by Vicky Westover, an active member in the professional field of cinema who has served on committees for the American Film Institute as well as NALIP in Los Angeles. She founded the program in 2004.
8. Columbia University School of the Arts (New York, NY)
The one Ivy League program to enter this list, Columbia’s film program is for graduate students only.
Alumni of the program have won top awards in filmmaking; they include Academy Awards as well as accolades at Cannes & Sundance Film Festivals.
One, perhaps obvious, benefit to the program is the location in NYC. With access to premiere talent in and out of Columbia, film students are constantly able to network and gain contacts in both academia and the broader entertainment industry.
Alumni of Columbia’s program include stars James Franco, Kathryn Bigelow (director of Oscar-winning film The Hurt Locker), and actress Lin Shaye.
7. Ithaca College Park School of Communications (Ithaca, NY)
Recently named by Hollywood Reporter in the Top 25 Film Schools, Ithaca College is among the most impressive undergraduate film programs in the country.
One of the highlights of the Ithaca College program is hands-on experiential filmmaking. As part of Ithaca College’s Los Angeles program, students gain valuable internships with film studios, post-production companies, and other film organizations.
The Park School actually has three film degrees. One called “Cinema and Photography”, another called “Film, Photography, and Visual Arts,” and another called “Writing for Film, TV, and Emerging Media.”
Ithaca College is a liberal arts college; as such, it is characterized by a mostly undergraduate program, small class sizes, and excellent 1-on-1 opportunity with faculty.
6. Chapman University Dodge College of Film and Media Arts (Orange, CA)
Home to nearly 1,500 of the brightest filmmaking students in the country, Chapman’s Dodge College of Film and Media Arts is known for having state-of-the-art facilities as well as creative partnerships with some of the greatest people and institutions for film in the world.
Students at Chapman pursue their creative projects for Animation and Visual Effects in the 18,000 square foot Digital Media Arts Center, known as a facility rivaling in quality to studios at Facebook, Google, Pixar, and more.
If that were not impressive enough, the school also offers an unbelievable 76,000 square foot building designed to simulate the experience of working in a professional film or television production studio.
This significant creative center includes thousands of square feet of sound stages as well as audition rooms, mixing studios, editing suites, and more.
With just 1 in 5 students getting accepted into Dodge, the school is widely considered one of the most competitive in the world for students seeking a Bachelor’s degree in this field. For students seeking the major of Film Production exclusively, the acceptance rate drops to just 8%!
The close proximity to Los Angeles provides this elite program with faculty, as well as guest speakers, who are among the most prominent in the field. Many students in this program find work within just months of graduating from Dodge in Los Angeles.
Unlike most film schools, Dodge provides its students with international partnerships and connections, including student exchange programs in South Korea’s Seoul Institute of the Arts as well as the Taipei National University of the Arts.
Alumni of the program include Michael Bernstein, director of Saturday Night Live, Darren Bunkley, Emmy-award winning producer of The Amazing Race, and Justin Simien, creator of the critically acclaimed Dear White People.
HONORABLE MENTION: DePaul University School of Cinematic Arts (Chicago, IL)
Consistently ranked among the top film schools by Hollywood Reporter, what makes the DePaul School of Cinematic Arts so special is the quality of people at the school.
The faculty at DePaul are some of the most important names in independent film and cinema today.
Pete Biagi, an internationally renowned cinematographer and faculty at DePaul University’s School of Cinematic Arts, was featured on HBO’s Project Greenlight as the cinematographer for 2002 film Stolen Summer.
Another faculty member, John Psathas, is an expert in commercial and corporate television, having shot commercial work for Sprite, Aussie Shampoo, and even DePaul University itself.
Alumni of the school are active in the world of cinema. Take Michael Pennick, who graduated from DePaul with a BA in 2012.
Since graduating with his BA, he has worked on Amazon Prime’s Patriot, NBC’s Chicago Fire, and other major television shows.
The location of the school is attractive; although you may think of Los Angeles as the destination for film, Chicago happens to have one of the most burgeoning scenes in the country.
Strongly consider this school if you are looking into college for film and television.
5. California Institute of the Arts (Valencia, CA)
Formerly staffed by the legendary Walt Disney himself, the California Institute of the Arts feels like a microcosm of the entertainment industry, complete with talent in film, music, sound, production, and more.
In fact, the school was founded upon the principle of the German word Gesamtkunstwerk, which essentially means an incorporation of multiple art forms to create one greater goal.
Situated just 30 minutes from Los Angeles, many alumni of the school are luminaries in the field of filmmaking.
In particular, the school is noted for its animation program; dozens of alumni of the school have eventually found work at Pixar and other top studios throughout the world.
In 2017, Rich Moore became the 10th alum of CalArts to be awarded an Oscar for Best Animated Feature.
Professionals from the film industry are hired to teach the classes at CalArts, distinguishing the school amongst the competition as a school that is not just “by the books,” but rather, taught by experienced filmmakers themselves.
4. Loyola Marymount University School of Film and Television (Los Angeles, CA)
With less than 20% of all applicants admitted into Loyola Marymount’s School of Film and Television, alumni of Loyola are consistently in high-demand in the professional world of film and television.
Such alumni include Barbara Broccoli, a producer for the critically acclaimed James Bond film series, John Cosgrove of Unsolved Mysteries, and several other critically acclaimed personas of the film industry.
At the heart of Loyola Marymount’s program is opportunity and partnership; the school offers students an incredible opportunity to take an internship with one of the 400 partnering companies of Loyola Marymount.
These companies are all established businesses within the entertainment industry.
Beyond the undergraduate program, the school also offers a unique incubator lab; this incubator lab takes on a select number of film school graduates, helping them further their film careers outside of the undergraduate classroom experience.
3. UCLA School of Theatre, Film, and Television (Los Angeles, CA)
Perhaps the most exclusive film program in the country, UCLA’s School of Theater, Film, and Television had just 7.8% of its applicant pool accepted in 2014. This represents the lowest acceptance rate of any film school in the country.
With 140 faculty members serving approximately 630 students, the student:faculty ratio is an astonishing 5 to 1.
This provides every student with significant 1-on-1 time and opportunity with the school’s noted faculty, many of whom are active filmmakers themselves.
Providing students with significant resources for researching films, UCLA’s Archive Research and Study Center (ARSC) has well over 450,000 films and news programs for students to consume.
UCLA’s entire archive has more movies in storage than any other university in the world.
Partnership with the professional industry is at the heart of UCLA. One requirement of graduation is that all students must complete an internship in their junior or senior year.
Based in Los Angeles, the creative epicenter of the country’s filmmaking industry, students accepted to this program are provided unparalleled opportunity to study in of the world’s great film schools.
HONORABLE MENTION: Emerson College (Boston, MA)
It is not much surprise that one of the top journalism and communications schools in the country happens to be among the elite schools for filmmaking as well.
Based in Boston, an entertainment hub in its own right, Emerson College has produced a number of notable names in the world of cinema, including Pamela Abdy, a noted filmmaker who produced the acclaimed film Garden State.
Emerson has recently expanded into Los Angeles, where they house the architecturally masterful Emerson in Los Angeles building, know to the students as ELA.
As noted by The Wrap, Emerson College is known as a school powerfully connected with the industry. Expect a top-notch education if accepted into this top-tier institution.
2. New York University Kanbar Institute of Film & Television (New York, NY)
Incepted in 1965, NYU’s faculty and student body creates a seemingly unbelievable 5,000 films every calendar year.
Perhaps you have heard the names Martin Scorsese, Vince Gilligan of Breaking Bad fame, Joel Coen. These are just some of the accomplished figures who have graduated from the halls of this revered institution.
The curriculum at NYU’s Kanbar Institute, housed in Tisch, is perhaps the most comprehensive of its type in the world.
All freshmen experience classes taught by world-class faculty studying the elements of cinema, including sound, animation, storytelling, and understanding the camera. More advanced courses include documentary production, among other courses.
NYU Tisch is also home to one of the greatest acting and drama programs in the country; in fact, NYU has more drama student alumni than any other school ultimately land in Broadway.
For filmmaking students desiring the top caliber acting talent to star in their student projects, this can be of enormous benefit.
1. University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts (Los Angeles, CA)
No list of the top film schools in the country can be considered complete without the University of Southern California at the top of it.
The oldest degree-granting film school in the United States, USC’s legendary program dates back to 1929. Today, some programs at USC’s film school at the school accept just 3% of applicants, according to PrepScholar.
The approach to cinema at USC can be best described as interdisciplinary; indeed, all students take classes across 7 distinct fields preparing them to become versatile artists succeeding in the professional film industry.
Having had over 10,000 students graduate its revered institution, USC has had students in its school nominated for some of the most prestigious awards in filmmaking today. In 2009, one student named Gregg Helvey was actually nominated for the “Best Live Action Short Film” Oscar for his USC MFA thesis Kavi.
Another alumnus, Ari Sandel, won a 2006 Academy Award for his USC graduate school project West Bank Story.
The following sources were used to create this “meta-analysis” style of ranking. You can read about this methodology here.
These articles were sourced in late July 2019.