What makes something or someone cool is nearly impossible to articulate. It’s like what Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart said about obscenity: “I know it when I see it.”

We can all agree that 2020 is not cool. In fact, it’s obscene. COVID-19-induced cancellations, postponements, and pivots have made this annual list much less fun to compile than it usually is. But we look forward to the festivals still scheduled for later this year — in some form or another — and for other festivals’ triumphant returns later — whenever it’s safe.

To compile this list of the 25 Coolest Film Festivals in the World, our panelists scanned the globe for the fests with the most forward-thinking programming, unique locations, and well-executed events. Some have obviously made huge changes recently for the greater good. That’s one of the coolest things we can imagine.

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