An event at the San Francisco Film Festival
Courtesy of San Francisco Film Society

APRIL/MAY

San Francisco International Film Festival

With a history ranging from Alfred Hitchcock classics to the latest Planet of the Apes blockbusters, San Francisco boasts its own impressive film-making and cinematic tradition. Burnishing the city’s film bona fides further is the fact that it’s also the home of the San Francisco International Film Festival, the longest-running event of its kind in the Americas. Held every April in multiple cinemas (the opening gala is at the Castro Theatre), it’s a great way to experience one of the more glamorous sides of the City by the Bay. Attend one or several of the offerings during the 15 days of screenings and special events, and you’ll be hanging out with some of the more than 300 film industry notables that will be there from 20-plus countries.

In addition to watching films, there are live musical performances, plus a chance to hear film notables engage with audiences and one another in candid discussions about both the artistic and technical aspects of their work and current cinema trends. And yes, you’ll almost certainly spot stars, too: recent attendees have included Harrison Ford, Jeremy Irons, Charlize Theron, Gus Van Sant and Ryan Gosling. 

The festival offers ticket parcels, which is the best way to attend normally priced screenings at a discount. An early-bird six-ticket parcel is available, and if you really have a thirst for film (and the time), opt for a 10-ticket parcel. Otherwise, individual tickets to individual screenings are your best bet.

Insider tip: if a film you want to see is listed as being 'AT RUSH', that means it’s sold out. You may still be able to get a ticket just before show-time, or as part of the daily Noon Ticket Release. A queue will form 30–60 minutes before the start of the screening.