Fantastic Fest 2023 is coming — a weeklong celebration of film through carefully curated genre screenings and out-of-this-world events.
I know there are many extraordinary film fests available to passionate cinephiles and rabid film fans. There are even a handful of standout festivals dedicated to the love of genre cinema. I have a few that hold a very special place in my heart, and you’ve seen ample coverage of those fests if you follow this site regularly.
But one festival reigns supreme. Not only is Austin, Texas’ Fantastic Fest the absolute best genre festival in the world, but it’s widely considered one of the most important top-tier film festivals, period.
Fantastic Fest is the largest genre film festival in the US, championing challenging and thought-provoking cinema while celebrating new voices and new stories from filmmakers around the world. The fest collaborates with other festivals, archives, cinematheques, and individuals to spotlight lesser-known film regions and luminaries in an ongoing effort to expand the general knowledge and appreciation of cinema.
Offering attendees a whopping eight days of jam-packed, wall-to-wall content — that includes jaw-dropping genre programming from morning to the wee hours of the night, plus a dizzying array of parties and special events — it’s my favorite week of the entire year.
It’s almost too much killer content, and it will test the stamina of even the most committed film fans full of youth, vigor, and endless energy. But that’s a heavy compliment. There’s so much to see on any given day, at any given hour, that it’s an almost insurmountable Herculean feat to do it all.
But even if you take in a fraction of what Fantastic Fest has to offer, you’ll still have a rich, highly eventful, unforgettable experience.
It’s truly filmmaking at its finest on display, and the festival team is so damn good at curating content that continually surprises, shocks, stimulates, and sticks with you.
What kind of films can you expect to find at the country’s largest genre film festival? Horror, sci-fi, fantasy, action, and anything else that amuses the dark masters of Fantastic Fest.
On par with Austin’s other world-famous festival, SXSW, the festival is packed with hotly anticipated world premieres and a bevy of filmmaking and onscreen talent in attendance.
Each year, I challenge myself to see as many movies as I can. That means I park my butt in a theater seat for hours at a time. I’ve been known to spend 10-12 hours staring at a screen. Despite seeing an average of 20-30 films in a week, rarely have I seen a Fantastic Film that didn’t feel more than worthy of my time. Many of the films I see are far and away among the very best of the year — the kind of films that exemplify what makes genre films so special and beloved.
The only pseudo-critique I have for this fest is that every film block contains so many movies I’m dying to see that making my selections feels damn near impossible. Fortunately, the films repeat, and the most popular and buzzed-about films will receive special screenings.
Still, even packing my schedule for eight days straight and willingly sacrificing sleep and sanity, I don’t see everything I want to see and everything that gets praise heaped upon it. But I will never really complain about a festival giving me TOO much phenomenal programming.
And don’t think you have to be like me and worship morning to night at the altar of the big screen. There is so much more to do than just watch movies.
In fact, if you attended the festival and never watched a single movie, you’d still get your money’s worth if you took advantage of all the special events. Much more than a film festival, Fantastic Fest features wild parties, live podcast recordings, world-famous boxing debates, and even Austrian cocktail robots.
The dark master of genre madness, Fantastic Fest, rapidly approaches.
Now is the time to get your badges. They are still available but selling out wicked fast. Don’t miss out on eight unforgettable days of world premiere films, outlandish parties, spectacular events, and some of the coolest people you’ll ever meet.
There are multiple badge options depending on how much of your mind you’re willing to sacrifice at the altar of cinema. True acolytes can join the CULT for access to ancient secrets and hidden knowledge, otherwise known as first access to film tickets, exclusive merch, special events, and more. It’s pricey but well worth it for those who get FOMO and can’t bare the thought of missing a minute of genre goodness.
If you want the ultimate festival experience but aren’t quite ready to commit to CULT status, I highly recommend picking up a SUPERFAN badge. It’s not much more than the FAN badge, and it guarantees you a seat to your 1st choice of film in every round of the fest, along with priority seating. You’ll also get access to Fantastic Fest parties and Highball events, including the can’t-miss opening and closing night festivities.
For those with less time or money to invest, you can even pick up a very inexpensive second-half badge that covers the last four days of the fest. Don’t worry; that’s still an epic amount of content. SECOND-HALF badges give you access to a film every round of the second half of the festival and include access to Fantastic Fest parties and Highball events the last four days of the fest, including the fan-favorite closing night festivities.
You won’t get to hobnob with as many celebrities in the second half, but you’ll have a chance to see all the best films, armed with insight into what festival attendees genuinely love and recommend most. It’s also a little less chaotic in the second half if you’re someone who might get a bit overwhelmed by the first half sensory overload.
It all goes down in Austin, TX, from Sept. 21st – 28th, so light the candles and summon your badge ASAP.