The Top 25 American Film Schools, Ranked

August 15, 2019

Collage of film production drawings
Illustration by Nathan Hackett


Reposted from THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER.  Read the entire story here.

The Hollywood Reporter hands out the annual grades to the colleges and universities — from USC to NYU — that are molding the entertainment industry's next generation of geniuses.

In the years The Hollywood Reporter has been ranking film schools — this is the eighth list, determined by extensive interviewing and research — the magazine has never received a straight answer to one very straightforward question: What is the purpose of film school?

Pretty much every institution on this list sees it differently. For some, like No. 6 Wesleyan (up from No. 9 last year), where modern film studies was all but invented in the 1960s (by cinema scholar Jeanine Basinger, who's getting her own building on the campus next year), it's all about history, subtext and auteur theory. For others, the focus is hands-on experience, providing students with access to everything from old-fashioned 16mm cameras to state-of-the-art 3D VR labs to the jumbo-size greenscreens at University of Texas (down one place to No. 12 this year). Still, there is one purpose that academics at just about every type of school — from tiny rural colleges to lofty big-city conservatories — agree on. "We can be the sandbox that everybody experiments in," says Susan Ruskin, new dean of No. 4, AFI (down from No. 3 last year). "We can say [to the studios], 'Come play with us, because this is the generation that is going to be creating content.'"

#25 Cal State Northridge

It costs a fraction of the others on the list, but this state school is still top-notch. "It has a blue-collar mentality," says alum John Hampian ('05), who set up an internship for CSUN students when he was running the production department for Mad Men (he's now vp production at Lucasfilm). "It's roll up your sleeves, we're going to learn by doing." Recently, the school added AR and VR courses and rebooted its Entertainment Industry Institute Symposium (this year's speakers included Marvel exec producer Michael Grillo, class of '71). "When I think of CSUN, I think of sitting in a soundstage, getting work done and joking around," reminisces Hampian. "It was where all the fun was."

TUITION $6,972 (undergrad); $8,406 (graduate)

ALUMNI Tiffany Brown, manager of television at Kevin Hart's HartBeat Productions; Brian Miller, senior vp/GM, Cartoon Network Studios