Each year Metaflix does exhaustive research pouring through data to rank America’s best film schools. This includes consulting with a variety of educators, industry professionals, and experts to formalize what insiders are saying. The data is then categorized and run through a proprietary algorithm to determine the rankings.
The final result? Metaflix’s Best 25 Film Schools of 2021.
This 92-year old Los Angeles institution resides as the perennial No. 1 film school in America. Its major claim to fame is that it is one of just a handful of media schools in the world to teach all the major disciplines of the cinematic arts. New, innovative programs are constantly being baked into the curriculum, including a podcasting seminar taught by Todd Garner and a mandatory class in diversity. Furthermore, Dean Elizabeth Daley continues to keep the school flourishing financially, securing yet another massive donation of $20 million from a trust in honor of late Columbia Pictures TV president John H. Mitchell, on top of the $10 million check George Lucas wrote in 2017.
Tuition: $59,260 (undergrad); $39,900 (graduate)
Notable Alumni: Robert Zemeckis, Doug Liman, Tim Story, John Singleton, Shonda Rhimes
NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts is the bedrock among New York City’s long-storied film scene. Furthermore, some may be pleasantly surprised to learn that the illustrious school is going Hollywood with a new permanent campus in L.A., ramping up the battle for film school supremacy with USC. Additionally, this 55-year-old auteur factory is investing in its facilities even further with a performance center at its 181 Mercer St. building—projected to be completed in 2021—that will be the largest and most state-of-the-art structure on NYU’s campus.
Tuition: $60,282 (undergrad); $65,926 (graduate)
Notable Alumni: Martin Scorsese, Elizabeth Olsen, Dee Rees, Rachel Bloom
The UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television serves as a premiere interdisciplinary global professional institution developing first-rate filmmakers, industry leaders, and scholars. They’ve benefited from a recent $20 million donation from the Mitchell trusts (the same fund that gave $20 million to USC) in which half the money will go toward scholarships and the other half will go towards the UCLA Film & Television Archive. The Archive is the largest university-based media library in the world. The school offers a cutting-edge curriculum integrating the study and creation of film, performance, television, and the digital arts. Programs cover everything from acting, directing, writing, producing, animation, cinematography, lighting, costume, set, and sound design.
Tuition: $27,712 (undergrad, in-state); $57,466 (undergrad, out-of-state); $17,486 (graduate, in-state); $32,588 (graduate out-of-state)
Notable Alumni: Alex Gibney, Ava DuVernay, Frank Marshall, Marielle Heller
#4. Columbia University
Columbia University’s film program is unparalleled in focusing on the most important aspect of filmmaking: story. In addition to its curriculum emphasizing the craft of storytelling, the uptown Ivy League institution has been augmenting its capabilities on the production side of filmmaking by adding new cameras and lenses to its sprawling two year old production center north of campus. The university’s old-world prestige mixed with modern educational flourishes makes Columbia University School of the Arts a top national choice, featuring a faculty of working professionals from both Hollywood and the independent filmmaking scene.
Tuition: $55,056 (undergrad); $62,912 (graduate)
Notable Alumni: Kathryn Bigelow, Jennifer Lee, James Mangold
#5. American Film Institute
Despite a turnover in leadership the past couple of years, AFI has maintained a stellar faculty that focuses on a pragmatic, hands-on approach to learning filmmaking. The prestigious AFI Conservatory maintains six different MFA programs: cinematography, directing, editing, production design, screenwriting, and producing. AFI also features two intensive tuition-free programs: a directing workshop for women and cinematography. Their recent emphasis on diversity and inclusion is paying off. Next year’s graduating class will be 55 percent female, adding vital voices to the movie making process.
Tuition: $63,575 to $65,800
Notable Alumni: Patty Jenkins, Ed Zwick, David Lynch, Mimi Leder
#6. Loyola Marymount University
LMU’s Film, Television and Media Studies department recently opened the majestic Playa Vista campus, which includes three greenscreen studios, a Foley stage, and eight Avid editing rooms. And they’re still not done! School dean Peggy Rajski broke ground on the Howard B. Fitzpatrick Pavilion, a 25,000-square-foot structure equipped with a camera-teaching stage, a screening theater, and a motion-capture workspace. FTMS majors focus on the historical and theoretical foundations needed to understand filmmaking and are encouraged to study abroad, providing a well-rounded worldview that is essential for success in today’s media landscape.
Tuition: $52,553 (undergrad); $33,240 (graduate)
Notable Alumni: Barbara Broccoli, Emily Spivey, Patricia Whitcher
#7. Wesleyan University
Jeanine Basinger, the renowned cinema scholar who started Wesleyan’s film program in the 1960s and doggedly built it into a top ten program, will still be on faculty for the opening of The Basinger Center for Film Studies. This newly renamed and renovated space is getting an additional 16,000 square feet of workspace, including a state-of-the-art cinema and soundstage. Wesleyan has long been a leader in undergraduate film studies, with all majors studying the motion picture in a unified manner. The curriculum combines historical, formal, and cultural analysis with filmmaking from beginner to advanced levels in 16 millimeter, digital, and virtual formats.
Tuition: $69,704 to $71,764 (undergrad)
Notable Alumni: D.B. Weiss, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Joss Whedon, Michael Bay
#8. Chapman University
Chapman University’s Anaheim-adjacent Dodge College of Film and Media Arts recently added VR and AR minors to its curriculum and is hosting producer Bill Gerber (‘A Star Is Born’) as its filmmaker-in-residence this year. The school offers a wide array of undergraduate and graduate degrees that address the rapidly changing entertainment business, teaching students not only how to tell a story, but what it takes to pitch, produce, finance, market and distribute those stories as well. Their state-of-the-art facilities are open to aspiring filmmakers 24/7, coupled with an award-winning faculty, many of whom still work in the industry.
Tuition: $56,830 (undergrad); $56,830 (graduate)
Notable Alumni: Matt and Ross Duffer, Justin Simien, Travis Knox
#9. UNC School of the Arts
University of North Carolina School of the Arts boasts top-notch CGI facilities within its 30,000-square-foot New Media Building. The on-campus facility houses the school’s departments of animation, production, motion capture, gaming, digital design and visual effects. Meanwhile, two new MFA programs were recently added—producing and screenwriting—while undergraduates are mandated to direct and shoot numerous digital projects as part of a hands-on learning experience addressing every facet of modern film production. The goal of UNCSA’s conservatory is for students to become experienced storytellers and well-rounded filmmakers who are skilled in all facets of the moving image arts.
Tuition: $23,040 (undergrad, out-of-state); $23,203 (graduate, out-of-state)
Notable Alumni: Zoe White, David Gordon Green, Danny McBride, Travis Beacham
#10. Emerson College
Despite Emerson having the reputation as a small Boston-area liberal arts college, the school has a sprawling international network of film school partnerships. There’s also a semester-long L.A. program focusing on networking opportunities and internships that are designed to help students launch careers in the visual and media arts. Meanwhile, Emerson’s home campus features newly renovated media facilities, including advanced studio space for AR, VR and 3D modeling.
Tuition: $50,240 (undergrad); $1,296 per credit (graduate)
Notable Alumni: Norman Lear, Henry Winkler, Iliza Shlesinger
#11. Syracuse University
Syracuse students can tailor their film education at this sprawling upstate New York university, choosing either the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications or the College of Visual and Performing Arts. The former offers a bachelors and masters in television, radio, and film. It includes access to a student-produced 24/7 television network and a work-study program in Los Angeles at Dick Clark Studios, a high-tech production space. The latter offers the choice of four bachelors and masters programs: film, art photography, art video and computer art and animation.
Tuition: $24,270 (undergrad); $30,294 (graduate)
Notable Alumni: Bob Costas, Steve Kroft, Danny Zuker
It should come as no surprise that the school co-founded by Walt Disney himself specializes and excels at animation. Sure, students also study dance, theater, film, and video, but CalArts is where John Lasseter studied before becoming the creative head of Pixar (and where Pete Docter honed his craft before taking over). More generally, CalArts offers comprehensive degree programs across the full range of the visual, performing, media and literary arts through its six schools with hands-on experience and individualized faculty mentoring at every level.
Tuition: $52,850 (undergrad); $52,850 (graduate)
Notable Alumni: Tim Burton, Brad Bird, Brenda Chapman, John Lasseter
#13. University of Texas
The Moody College of Communication at the University of Texas at Austin features the department of Radio-Television-Film, where students learn about multiple media platforms and the art of creating cross-disciplinary content. The R-T-F department offers both a B.S. and MFAs in screenwriting, film and media production. It utilizes top notch high-tech production studios along with a massive greenscreen facility. And let’s not forget there’s also a good chance you’ll run into Matthew McConaughey, who often returns to teach classes. Alright, alright, alright!
Tuition: $10,946 (undergrad, in-state); $38,748 (undergrad, out-of-state); $10,882 (graduate, in-state); $20,310 (graduate, out-of-state)
Notable Alumni: Marcia Gay Harden, Matthew McConaughey, Wes Anderson
#14. ArtCenter College of Design
This creative arts institution located along the western edge of Pasadena places an emphasis on commercial filmmaking. This should come as no surprise considering they have such notable alums as Zack Snyder and Michael Bay. The campus is renowned for its state-of-the-art equipment and facilities, equipping students with the latest tools to begin shooting immediately. After receiving a proper foundational education in media, students are then tasked with choosing a specific track: cinematography, editing or directing. Upon completing the program, graduates are then given the opportunity to write and direct a film or reel of individual work.
Tuition: $45,776 (undergrad); $48,380 (graduate)
Notable Alumni: Zack Snyder, Michael Bay, Shelly Johnson
#15. Florida State University
At FSU’s College of Motion Picture Arts, each student is guaranteed funding for their film projects along with 24/7 access to gold-standard production equipment and facilities. The college balances teaching the fundamental skills of filmmaking with the latest approaches and techniques in storytelling. Furthermore, the school prides itself on more than 30 years of industry success, with 97% of graduates finding industry work within one year of graduation.
Tuition: $24,517 (undergrad, out-of-state); $51,032 (grad, out-of-state)
Notable Alumni: Barry Jenkins, Stephen Broussard, Kelsey Scott
#16. Stanford University
Film study majors at Stanford enjoy a curriculum that covers a wide range of cinema, including a new dedicated screenwriting track. Students are steeped in the wonderful history of world cinema with the added option to learn about the complex evolution of animation. Quite unique to Stanford is the fact that film and media studies are under the umbrella of the department of art and art history. This gives students a more enclosed, resource-rich experience learning about the art of storytelling while getting hands-on experience making movies with everything from 16 millimeter film to digital video.
Tuition: $55,473 (undergrad); $54,315 (graduate)
Notable Alumni: Lisa Joy, Jon Alston, Sarah Naftalis
#17. Rhode Island School of Design
This private college in Providence focuses on an immersive model of art and design education. The curriculum emphasizes robust liberal arts studies combined with experiential hands-on learning. RISD has consistently been ranked among the best educational institutions in the world and serves as a perfect fit for those who want the prototypical New England art school experience. Film, Animation, and Video majors are provided with a holistic approach to creativity while being encouraged to explore beyond their core curriculum.
Tuition: $53,820 (undergrad)
Notable Alumni: Seth MacFarlane, Robert Richardson, Gus Van Sant
#18. Ringling College of Art and Design
Ringling College in Sarasota, Florida, is actively making the case for having the best film school facilities in America. The school recently held a ribbon cutting ceremony on its third and final building as part of their incredible Studio Labs complex. It features a post-production facility that includes more than 5,000 square feet of editing suites, a complete Foley sound effects stage, a final color room, and multiple dubbing bays. For those students who prefer a more hands-on approach to learning, there are few other institutions that can offer such bountiful perks.
Notable Alumni: Patrick Osborne, Andrew Halley, Mike Zeck
#19. Columbia College
The Cinema and Television Arts department at Columbia College in Chicago offers students a richly well-rounded film school experience. CTA combines classwork and lectures on the history of motion pictures alongside actual filmmaking projects. The curriculum, both undergraduate and graduate, focuses on film production, cinematography, writing, and directing. In addition to potent lectures from industry professionals, the department also boasts a 35,000 square foot media center with two sound stages, a motion capture studio, and a cutting edge post-production center with audio suite.
Tuition: $27,142 (undergrad); $37,588 (graduate, producing); $38,841 (graduate, directing)
Notable Alumni: Lena Waithe, Christian Sprenger, Bryan Smiley
#20. Savannah College of Art and Design
SCAD offers BFA, M.A. and MFA degrees in film and television at two different idyllic campus locations: Atlanta and the school’s namesake city, Savannah. Students have insider access to the brand new and very cutting edge Savannah Film Studios along with the 60,000 square foot digital media center in Atlanta. The school’s annual Savannah Film Festival (attended by the likes of Emily Blunt, Armie Hammer, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and John Krasinski, to name a few) has been a runaway success. In turn, SCAD has been launching spin-off festivals, including AnimationFest, GamingFest and a TVfest.
Tuition: $37,575 (undergrad), $38,475 (graduate)
Notable Alumni: Clayton Haskell, Ken Rosen
#21. Pratt Institute
Students at Pratt’s bustling Brooklyn campus are encouraged to take on a broad approach to filmmaking by learning a variety of media formats. They range from features to documentaries to experimental works, with new courses focusing on virtual reality and serialized storytelling. The point is to put artistic creation at the forefront of the curriculum, providing students with the necessary tools to become fluent in critical film analysis as well as myriad aesthetic and media production methods.
Tuition: $51,870 (undergrad); $33,984 (graduate)
Notable Alumni: Liz Hannah, Aubrey Smyth
#22. Northwestern University
Northwestern’s School of Communications offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in radio, TV and film. Students enjoy a curriculum that is infused with the history of film and critical analysis combined with specialty tracks pertaining to writing, acting, directing, and even comedy. Given Northwestern’s impressive alumni network, including Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Stephen Colbert, Kathryn Hahn, and Meghan Markle, it’s no surprise that this illustrious institution is known for its solid pipeline into Hollywood via groups like Open Television, the school’s very own development and distribution platform.
Tuition: $56,232 (undergrad); $74,756 (graduate)
Notable Alumni: Warren Beatty, Zach Braff, Julia Louis-Dreyfus
#23. Boston University
The film and television department at the BU College of Communication prides itself on teaching students how to become intrepid storytellers over multiple platforms such as film, television and digital media. Students write, direct, and produce “micro series” rather than fully-fledged traditional film school shorts. The program utilizes a cross-disciplinary approach to learning multimedia, with a curriculum that reaches across various communications departments and even other schools and colleges.
Tuition: $56,854 (undergrad); $57,686 (graduate)
Notable Alumni: Josh and Benny Safdie, Jennifer Getzinger, Jim Gianopulos
#24. San Francisco State University
The School of Cinema prides itself on the inherent value of a liberal arts education while offering three forms of specialized filmmaking in fiction, experimental, and documentary. Students can also minor in animation. SFSU’s state-of-the-art facilities include a digital cinema lab, animation labs, a sound stage, sound mixing stages, edit bays, and a post-production lab. Not stopping there, a $25 million gift from alumni George and Judy Marcus has allowed the school to revitalize its equipment. They’ve since invested in new cameras and lenses as well as high tech virtual reality gear.
Tuition: $7,440 (undergrad); $8,704 (graduate)
Notable Alumni: Steven Zaillian, Annette Bening, Lisa Cholodenko
#25. California State University Northridge
The Department of Cinema and Television Arts costs just a fraction of most others on this list, yet it remains one of most sought-after programs in the country. The school recently added AR and VR courses to its curriculum while offering seven programs of study. Not to be outshone by other well-equipped institutions, CSUN features industry leading amenities. This includes film and TV sound stages, a new media lab, suites for post-production and sound-mixing, suites for animation and digital/visual effects artists, and a 130-seat screening room.
Tuition: $7,012 (undergrad); $8,446 (graduate)
Notable Alumni: John Hampian, Brian Miller, Michael Grillo