Filmmakers attend the premiere of Nossa Chape. Photo by Travis P Ball/Getty Images for SXSW)

 

Celebrating 25 Years of SXSW Film Festival

Retrace some of the memorable milestones and highlights from over two decades of premieres, panels and special appearances.

The film festival is known for a high caliber and diverse film lineup with programming ranging from world premieres, independent films by new filmmakers, including top documentaries, narratives, Hollywood comedies and genre standouts. The festival is uniquely able to help both established and emerging storytellers achieve their goals. Whether by launching a film or episodic on the global stage in front of press, industry and smart, enthusiastic audiences, or by providing unparalleled opportunities for creative and business connections and learning at our concurrent SXSW Conference. There is simply nowhere else in the world where the film, music, and tech industries cross – pollinate like at SXSW.

Dive deeper with the 25 Years Blog Series, special posts which take a look back at the past 25 years of the SXSW Film Festival, and feature numerous milestones to commemorate this important moment in our history. Scroll through the curated SXSWorld Timeline below for a snapshot of all the SXSW Film Festival highlights from the past 25 years.

25 Years of Film

25 Years of Film

1994
Mar 11

And so it begins

Modeled after SXSW Music, Louis Black, Nick Barbaro and Nancy Shafer constructed the first film event in under 3 months. The inaugural offering features eight panel sessions with 36 total speakers and two world premieres and is called the SXSW Film and Media Conference (SFMC)

Mar 19

Richard Linklater at SXSW

Richard Linklater at SXSW in 1994.

photo by Michael Crawford

1995
Mar 10

They can’t contain us

The SXSW Film and Media Conference splits into two separate events, “SXSW Film” and “SXSW Multimedia.” SXSW Multimedia will become SXSW Interactive in 1997. World premiere films included The Return Of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, A More Perfect Union, The Man With The Perfect Swing and The Underneath, while conference programming was highlighted by speakers Robert Rodriguez and Richard Linklater.

1996
Mar 09

Sterling’s gold

In Dante Harper’s Delicate Art of the Rifle, Bruce Sterling plays a “Non-Linear Weatherman” who tries to impart the complex, unpredictable and chaotic nature of weather, while John Sayles treats SXSW Film to a sneak preview/world premiere of Lone Star.

1997
Mar 14

Build it and they will come

The original Alamo Drafthouse on Colorado Street opens just in time for the screening of Neil LaBute’s In the Company of Men.

Mar 15

Kevin Smith, Mike Judge & Steven Soderbergh

Kevin Smith, Mike Judge & Steven Soderbergh at SXSW Film 1997
Mar 15

Robert Rodriguez, Quentin Tarantino & Richard Linklater

Robert Rodriguez, Quentin Tarantino & Richard Linklater at SXSW Film 1997

George Huang, Mike Judge, Richard Linklater, Robert Rodriguez, Kevin Smith, Steven Soderbergh, Quentin Tarantino – all on the same panel!

1998
Mar 13

Double trouble

Total film submissions grow from 638 to 1015. Notable Talent: Sandra Bullock, Mike Judge, Matthew McConaughey, Michael Moore

Mar 14

The Newton Boys

The Newton Boys

Richard Linklater, Julianna Margulies, Matthew McConaughey, Ethan Hawke, and Dwight Yoakam

1999
Mar 12

The stars at night are big and bright

The day after its L.A. premiere, Ron Howard, Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson attend SXSW with EDtv.

2000
Mar 10

Shifting perceptions

The New York Times notes, “SXSW crowd filling theaters this year rather than going to the panels is of course, a very good sign for the filmmakers with movies playing here.”

2001
Mar 11

It’s good to be high

Highly anticipated U.S. premiere of Ron Mann’s Grass.

2002
Mar 10

Logorrhea!

Documentary premiere Spellbound (Jeff Blitz) is the first breakout film for SXSW.

2003
Mar 15

Viva la Revolución

Controversial documentary on Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, sells out the Paramount Theatre on Closing Night.

2004
Mar 13

And they say nothing good happens after Midnight

Guillermo Del Toro brings down the house with a rambunctious screening of Hellboy.

Mar 14

Paramount Theatre

Paramount Theatre marquee at SXSW Film 2004
2005
Mar 11

And then there was Mumblecore

The Duplass Brothers (The Puffy Chair), Joe Swanberg (Kissing on the Mouth) and Andrew Bujalski (Mutual Appreciation) come together for the first time.

Mar 12

Film Festival Highlights

Film Festival Highlights

Wold Premiere of The Comedians of Comedy (Michael Blieden)

2006
Mar 10

News from Lake Wobegon

News from Lake Wobegon

The North American premiere of A Prairie Home Companion, the final film from legendary director Robert Altman, opens the festival.

Mar 12

Doyle Bramhall II & Erykah Badu

Doyle Bramhall II & Erykah Badu

World Premiere Film Festival Highlight: Before the Music Dies (Andrew Shapter)

Mar 13

Ray Romano, Tom Caltabiano & Brad Garrett

Ray Romano, Tom Caltabiano & Brad Garrett

World Premiere Film Festival Highlight: 95 Miles to Go (Tom Caltabiano)

2007
Mar 09

Birth of a blockbuster

The audience could barely hear the dialog through the laughter at the work-in-progress screening of Judd Apatow’s Knocked Up.

Mar 09

Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Joseph Gordon-Levitt

World Premiere Film Festival Highlight: The Lookout (Scott Frank)

Mar 11

Itty Bitty Titty Comittee Creators

Itty Bitty Titty Comittee Creators

World Premiere Film Festival Highlight: Itty Bitty Titty Committee (Jamie Babbit)

2008
Mar 07

Doug Benson

Doug Benson

Doug Benson premieres his pot doc Super High Me at 4:20pm.

Mar 07

Keepin’ Austin Weird

Doug Benson premieres his pot doc Super High Me. Meanwhile, Barry Jenkins’ first feature Medicine For Melancholy has a great world premiere.

Mar 13

Barry Jenkins

Barry Jenkins

World Premiere Film Festival Highlight: Medicine For Melancholy (Barry Jenkins)

2009
Mar 13

A Girl is born

Joe Swanberg’s Alexander the Last has first ever day-and-date release at festival & on VOD. Lena Dunham debuts with Creative Nonfiction and meets future collaborators for 2010’s Award Winning Tiny Furniture.

Mar 13

Paul Rudd & Jason Segel

Paul Rudd & Jason Segel

World Premiere Film Festival Highlight: I Love You, Man (John Hamburg)

Mar 14

Alexander the Last Cast

Alexander the Last Cast
2010
Mar 12

M is for Movies

Monsters, Marwencol and Lena Dunham’s Tiny Furniture, three very different world premieres, wow SXSW audiences and then the world.

Mar 13

Scoot McNair & Whitney Able

Scoot McNair & Whitney Able

World Premiere Film Festival Highlight: Monsters (Gareth Edwards)

Mar 15

Jemima Kirke, David Call, Lena Dunham & Alex Karpovsky

Jemima Kirke, David Call, Lena Dunham & Alex Karpovsky

World Premiere Film Festival Highlight: Tiny Furniture (Lena Dunham)

2011
Mar 13

Bet on the little guy

Bet on the little guy

2011 world premiere Undefeated goes on to win the Oscar for Best Documentary at the Academy Awards.

Mar 13

Paul Feig, Barry Mendel & Kristen Wiig

Paul Feig, Barry Mendel & Kristen Wiig

World Premiere Film Festival Highlight: Bridesmaids (work-in-progress) (Paul Feig)

2012
Mar 09

Raise the roof

The Paramount Theatre goes wild for the world premiere of HBO’s series’ Girls, followed by the world premiere of 21 Jump Street and a raucous Q&A with Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum.

Mar 11

Mark Wahlberg & Seth Macfarlane

Mark Wahlberg & Seth Macfarlane

Featured Conversation session where the debut clips of Ted

Mar 12

Channing Tatum & Jonah Hill

Channing Tatum & Jonah Hill

World Premiere Film Festival Highlight: 21 Jump Street

2013
Mar 08

High-brow hedonism

Spring Breakers, Cheap Thrills, Drinking Buddies and Good Ol’ Freda running the gamut from the sublime to the ridiculous and back again.

Mar 09

Ti West, Anna Kendrick, Joe Swanberg, Olivia Wilde, Jake Johnson & Ron Livingston

Ti West, Anna Kendrick, Joe Swanberg, Olivia Wilde, Jake Johnson & Ron Livingston

World Premiere Film Festival Highlight: Drinking Buddies (Joe Swanberg)

Mar 10

Selena Gomez, Rachel Korine, Ashley Benson & James Franco

Selena Gomez, Rachel Korine, Ashley Benson & James Franco

U.S. Premiere Film Festival Highlight: Spring Breakers

2014
Mar 07

Fingers on the pulse

Episodics launch to recognize innovative films/stories told episodically. Plus, SXSports® goes live to address convergence between the entertainment, creative and sporting worlds.

Mar 08

Seth Rogen & Zac Efron

Seth Rogen & Zac Efron

World Premiere Film Festival Highlights: Neighbors (Nicholas Stoller)

Mar 10

Cast and Creators of Silicon Valley

Cast and Creators of Silicon Valley

World Premiere Film Festival Highlight: Silicon Valley HBO series (Mike Judge & Alec Berg)

Mar 10

Richard Linklater, Wes Anderson & Jason Schwartzman

Richard Linklater, Wes Anderson & Jason Schwartzman

Memorable Film Festival Screening: Grand Budapest Hotel (Wes Anderson)

2015
Mar 13

Rising up

Amy Schumer’s Trainwreck and Trey Edward Shults’ KRISHA represent two fresh talents on the ascent, along with the world premiere of Hello My Name is Doris, the North American Premiere of Ex Machina, and the 30th Anniversary Screening of The Breakfast Club. Episodics continue to reign supreme with the world premiere of Mr. Robot and Unreal. SXSW also presented a last minute surprise World Premiere of Furious 7.

Mar 14

Ava DuVernay

Ava DuVernay

Keynotes: Mark Duplass, Ava DuVernay, RZA, Christine Vachon

Mar 14

Max Greenfield & Sally Fields

Max Greenfield & Sally Fields

World Premiere Film Festival Highlights: Hello, My Name is Doris (Michael Showalter)

Mar 14

Domhnall Gleeson & Oscar Isaac

Domhnall Gleeson & Oscar Isaac

North American Premiere of Ex Machina

2016
Mar 11

Funny people rule

SXSW cements its reputation as a launching pad for comedic content in film, TV, and beyond, while an innovative documentary on the 1966 UT Tower shootings (TOWER) captivates audiences to win both the Jury and Audience Awards. Work-in-progress screenings of Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele’s Keanu and Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s R rated animated Sausage Party.

Mar 12

Keegan-Michael Key & Jordan Peele

Keegan-Michael Key & Jordan Peele

Work-in-progress screening of Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele’s Keanu

Mar 13

Keith Maitland

Keith Maitland

World Premiere Film Festival Highlight: TOWER (Keith Maitland)

Mar 14

J.J. Abrams

J.J. Abrams

Notable Speaker: J.J. Abrams

2017
Mar 10

The Stars at Night are Big and Bright!

SXSW 2017 launched a number of this year’s soon-to-be-most loved films. Audiences got a first look at Edgar Wright’s electric, Baby Driver, James Franco’s comedy masterclass, The Disaster Artist, and the Charlize Theron stunner, Atomic Blonde. SXSW Feature Film Jury Award Winners, Most Beautiful Island and The Work continue to wow audiences around the world and can both be found in theaters this Fall. Also launched this year was the Festival’s Virtual Cinema, which presented 38 VR/AR projects to more than 10,000 participants.

Mar 12

James Franco & Seth Rogen

James Franco & Seth Rogen

Notable 2017 work-in-progress screening: The Disaster Artist

Mar 12

Charlize Theron

Charlize Theron

Notable 2017 World Premiere: Atomic Blonde

Mar 16

Emily V. Gordon, Kumail Nanjiani & Judd Apatow

Emily V. Gordon, Kumail Nanjiani & Judd Apatow

Judd and Kumail met in 2012 post Girls screening where they decided to work together, resulting in this notable 2017 screening: The Big Sick.

Mar 17

Unified Conference

For the first time the SXSW Conference was a unified event with 24 tracks, open to all badgeholders in primary or secondary lines. The Film Tracks included Entertainment Influencers, Film & TV Industry and Making Film & Episodics, plus Convergence Tracks including Experiential Storytelling, VR/AR, News & Journalism, Social Impact, and more.

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