Updated: 5/2/2016

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Telluride Film Festival: Sept. 2–5, 2016
In the depths of the San Juan Mountains and snuggled between two impressive peaks, the Telluride Film Festival is a destination event with an arresting backdrop. A Labor Day weekend ritual, the festival has inspired guest directors like Peter Sellers ("The Pink Panther") and Peter Bogdanovich ("The Sopranos") to make the trek to this southwestern gem. Telluride is known for its exciting and laid-back ambiance, the audience’s good humor, appreciative guests, mouthwatering food and scintillating film discussion. For movie history buffs, It is also the first place that "My Dinner With Andre," "The Civil War," "Twin Peaks" and "The Crying Game" were ever viewed.

Breckenridge Festival of Film: Sept. 15–18, 2016
Running strong for 35 years, Breck's fest is one of the country's oldest. Hosted of late by film critic Jeffrey Lyons, the more than 51 films screened focus on shorts, independent dramas, comedies and documentaries. The fest's association with the Film Studies Program at the University of Colorado - Boulder ensures there are always fresh voices involved; and for the past eight years, the festival has hosted a overcoming adversity/spiritual-themed film series within the main program, which showcases works intended to spark meaningful discussion.

The Telluride Film Festival gets underway in the town's beautiful box canyon setting
The Telluride Film Festival gets underway in the town's beautiful box canyon setting

Aspen Filmfest: Sept. 21–25, 2016
This is the film fest of royalty. Keeping in sync with Aspen’s tradition of big names and big fur, this festival includes major productions, Oscar hopefuls and lavish benefit dinners. But perhaps the most impressive piece to this festival is the variety of genius that can be seen at any of the participating theaters. The festival’s premise of “taking a chance to be taken somewhere new and unexpected,” speaks to the in-depth documentary films and shorts — but also to the town itself. Aspen is like no place you’ve ever been, where Prada opens its doors next to REI, designer dogs run in fields of rugby players and world-renowned art galleries are visited by fully garbed skiers.

Denver Film Festival: Nov. TBA, 2016
Another film mainstay, Denver's largest film festival (previously called the Starz Denver Film Festival) is in its 38th year and has grown to 10 days in duration. With a little more glitz than some of the mountain events, Denver hosts red-carpet premieres and films from dozens of countries and more than 250 filmmakers. Attracting nearly 55,000 film aficionados annually, SDFF is lauded for presenting Academy Award- and Independent Spirit Award-winning films, including “Black Swan,” Brokeback Mountain” and “Silver Linings Playbook.” 

Boulder International Film Festival: March TBA, 2017
In the historic, beloved Boulder Theater — where dancing, drinking, eating and watching movies are all acceptable behaviors — the Boulder International Film Festival has earned the reputation as one of the most influential young film festivals in the country. The event invites international filmmakers to show their work for an audience full of aspiring filmmakers. While the event hosts academics, directors, writers, actors, producers and the like, a large part of the festival's goal is to inspire film hopefuls, so that one day they can see their creative dreams projected onto the big screen. If you're a fan of boldly independent cinema, make sure to catch one of the well-hyped Boulder screenings.

Durango Independent Film Festival: March TBA, 2017
The southwest Colorado town of Durango has also gotten some indie cred lately with its festival, which has been held since 2001. Held during the spring, when some of the sunniest and warmest skiing can be had at Purgatory (formerly Durango Mountain Resort), this film festival lures lovers of both pastimes each year. Many of the festival's events are held at the Durango Arts Center and galleries, where bands (indie ones, of course!) play live music, parties are held and other artsy events happen.

Indie Spirit Film Festival: April TBD, 2017
Though only in its sixth year, this Colorado Springs has doubled in scope at each subsequent event, which is likely due to the organizers' focus on the entire film festival experience. It's not just about the films — it's the Q&As with filmmakers, receptions, cocktail events, poster-design contests and other festivities that keep the indie spirit flowing throughout the weekend. Also keeping up the indie spirit? It's one of the state's most affordable events — VIP tickets come in around $100.

5Point Film Festival: April TBD, 2017
With a subtitle of "Inspiring Adventure," you know this Carbondale fest's films will leave you with a dropped jaw at least once. But don't expect run-of-the-mill ski shots. Organizers sum it up with this statement: "We avoid films solely about hucking yourself off a cliff and love films with a story and a human element." So there you have it: adventure films that might make your wipe a tear or expel a bit of laughter.

Stanley Film Festival: April TBD, 2017
The  Stanley Film Festival showcases classic and contemporary horror cinema at the haunted and historic Stanley Hotel in Estes Park (most famously known as the hotel that inspired Stephen King to write The Shining). The short and feature films from prestigious festivals around the world will explore the vast spectrum of what defines horror in the world of modern film storytellers.

Other Colorado Film Festivals

Mountain Film Festival in Telluride, May 27–30, 2016

Intendence Film Festival in Denver, June 24–25, 2016

Pueblo 24 Hour Film Festival, Sept. 26, 2016

Crested Butte Film Festival, Sept. 29–Oct. 2, 2016

Mile High Horror Film Festival in Denver, Oct. TBA, 2016

Telluride Horror Show: Oct. 14–16, 2016

Rocky Mountain Women's Film Festival in Colorado Springs, Nov. 11–13, 2016

Denver Jewish Film Festival, Feb. TBA, 2017

Colorado Environmental Film Festival in Golden, Feb. TBA, 2017

Vail Film Festival, April TBD, 2017

ACT Human Rights Film Festival in Fort Collins, April 15–22, 2017

Front Range Film Festival in Longmont, April–May TBD, 2017

Paonia Film Festival, April TBD, 2017

Photo courtesy of the Telluride Film Festival.