Top Film Schools in the U.S.

There’s no one single path that you must follow to become a successful filmmaker or screenwriter – but many of our filmmaking heroes attended one of the country’s top film schools. Although tuition is not cheap, these hubs of creativity can teach you the craft, give you access to equipment and connect you with lifelong collaborators. Below are our picks for the top ten film schools in the U.S.


If you want to study film, where better to do it than Los Angeles? At the School of Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California, you can study screenwriting, producing, animation, interactive media, video games and more. Taught by real Hollywood professionals, coursework in both undergraduate and graduate programs are available. Outside of school, you can also work as an intern or production assistant on professional shows and movies. (If you’re not too busy shooting your first film!) Notable alumni include Ron Howard, Shonda Rhimes and Ryan Coogler.

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Another one of the top film schools in Los Angeles is the School of Theater, Film and Television at the University of Southern California. Instead of separating its students into strict categories, the school embraces an interdisciplinary approach and offers both undergraduate and graduate programs. Given its location in Los Angeles, internships are also available. Notable alumni include Francis Ford Coppola and Dustin Lance Black.

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American Film Institute (AFI)

One of the top film schools that isn’t part of a larger university is the Los Angeles-based American Film Institute. At its conservatory, you can study cinematography, directing, editing, producing, production design, and screenwriting. It also offers year-round opportunities to work with industry professionals. Notable alumni include Darren Aronofsky and Patty Jenkins.

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Located in New York City, New York University is famous for its Tisch School of the Arts. Undergraduate students can study dance, drama, collaborative arts, dramatic writing, cinema studies, recorded music, interactive media, photography and more. In the graduate program, courses of study include acting, musical theatre writing, performance studies, art and public policy, dance, design, dramatic writing, games and more. Notable alumni include Martin Scorsese, Spike Lee, Gina Rodriguez and Bo Burnham.

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Ithaca College

Although it’s located in a small city in upstate New York, mid-size liberal arts school Ithaca College gives its students industry exposure with its Los Angeles center, where students can spend an entire semester immersed in classes and internships. IC’s Park School of Communications emphasizes hands-on training and offers BA and BS undergraduate programs, in film, television, photography, audio production, sports media, screenwriting and emerging media (VR, games, etc). Notable alumni include Bob Iger, David Muir, Liz Tigelaar and Mike Royce.

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Emerson College

Located in Boston, Massachusetts, Emerson College is another of the top film schools with a well-known Los Angeles program. When you’re not at your film or TV industry internship, you can earn a BA or BFA in various media arts such as sound design, games design, screenwriting, film and more – Emerson even offers a specific major in Comedy! Notable alumni include Henry Winkler, Jay Leno and Laura Kightlinger.

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University of Texas at Austin

If you want to go to one of the top film schools within a large, traditional state university, the Moody School of Communication at the University of Texas at Austin might be right for you. Programs include undergraduate BS degrees in Radio-Television-Film in addition to MA, MFA and PHD programs in areas such as screenwriting and media studies. The school also has a Latino Media Arts and Studies initiative and programs in Los Angeles and New York City. Notable alumni include Matthew McConaughey, Jon Hamm and Renee Zellweger.

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Chapman University

The Dodge College of Film and Media Arts at Chapman University is located just south of Los Angeles in Orange County, California. Undergraduate programs are available in everything from screenwriting and broadcast journalism to creative producing, documentary, animation and visual effects. With a wealth of majors and minors, Champan lets you craft a program that’s perfect for you. The school also offers MFA graduate programs and a unique joint MFA/MBA in Film & Television Producing and Business Administration. Notable alumni include Matt Duffer and Justin Simien.

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Columbia University

Columbia University’s School of the Arts offers both undergraduate and graduate students the chance to study film, theatre, visual arts, sound art, writing, screenwriting, producing. BAs, MAs and MFAs are all available at the school, which is located in New York City and prides itself on its global perspective. Notable alumni include Kathyrn Bigelow, Lisa Cholodenko and Simon Kinberg.

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