Entertainment TV & Film Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF): History and Winners North America's Premiere Film Festival Share PINTEREST Email Print TORONTO, ONTARIO - SEPTEMBER 08: A view of the marquee at the "Jojo Rabbit" premiere during the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival at Princess of Wales Theatre on September 08, 2019 in Toronto, Canada. George Pimentel / Getty Images TV & Film Movies Movie Awards Best Movie Lists Comedies Science Fiction Movies War Movies Classic Movies International Movies Movies For Kids Horror Movies Animated Films TV Shows By Christopher McKittrick Christopher McKittrick is a film writer whose work has been featured in anthologies such as 100 Entertainers Who Changed America. our editorial process Christopher McKittrick Updated November 30, 2019 The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) is an annual festival held every September in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Since its inception in 1976, it has become one of the most prestigious film festivals in North America and one of the most-attended film festivals in the world. Since the mid-1990s, TIFF's major award, the People's Choice Award, has bestowed films with significant awards season buzz at the beginning of the annual awards season. Fun Fact Chariots of Fire (1981) was the first film to win the Toronto International Film Festival's People's Choice Award to later also win the Academy Award for Best Picture. History The inaugural Toronto International Film Festival was held in October 1976 under the name of Toronto Festival of Festivals. The original intention of the festival was to serve as a program containing the "best of" films that debuted at other festivals around the globe. That concept was so successful that the Toronto Festival of Festivals gradually added film premieres and other special programs to its schedule, and was renamed the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) starting from the 1994 edition. Since the rebranding of the festival, the impact of the festival's program on the annual awards season has been significant. TIFF has been utilized by film studios and distributors to launch awards campaigns for many films with their major releases premiering both in competition and as special programs. The number of celebrity attendees and amount of media coverage has also significantly increased, and by the end of the 1990s, TIFF was firmly established as the most popular film festival in North America. People's Choice Award The festival's top award, the People's Choice Award, was first presented in 1978. Unlike the top prizes for the major European film festivals, the People's Choice Award is voted on by festival attendees instead of a jury. Beginning in 2000, TIFF started announcing the runners-up for the award as well. In 2009, People's Choice Awards were added for documentaries and for "Midnight Madness," which are for genre films. Past People's Choice Award for Midnight Madness include 2011's The Raid, 2012's Seven Psychopaths, 2014's What We Do in the Shadows, and 2015's Hardcore Henry. A Canadian jury presents honors like Best Canadian Film, which has been awarded to many films that have gone on to be major winners at the Genie Awards and, later, the Canadian Screen Awards (the top filmmaking awards for Canadian productions). Another jury, made up of international members, presents other festival awards like the Platform Prize. In addition, TIFF operates a year-round schedule at its headquarters, the TIFF Bell Lightbox, which includes a five-screen cinema. TIFF also supports other smaller Canadian film festivals, film education initiatives, and film preservation. Notable Winners British athlete Eric Liddell (Ian Charleson, 1949 - 1990, centre) and his team mates celebrate Liddell's Olympic 400 Metres victory in a scene from 'Chariots Of Fire', directed by Hugh Hudson, 1981. Left to right: Lord Andrew Lindsay (Nigel Havers), Aubrey Montague (Nicholas Farrell), Liddell, Henry Stallard (Daniel Gerroll) and Harold Abrahams (Ben Cross). Photo by Warner Bros./Archive Photos/Getty Images A number of major films that have won the Toronto International Film Festival People's Choice Award have been nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture, and six of those have gone on to win the Oscar: Chariots of Fire (1981) American Beauty (1999) Slumdog Millionaire (2008) The King's Speech (2010) 12 Years a Slave (2013) Green Book (2018) Films that won the People's Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival that later were nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture: The Big Chill (1983) Places in the Heart (1984) Shine (1996) Life Is Beautiful (1998) Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire (2009) Silver Linings Playbook (2012) The Imitation Game (2014) Room (2015) La La Land (2016) Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017) In addition, over its more than 40 years of history, the TIFF has featured a number of other films that won the People's Choice Award and later went on to gain more recognition and success. This is a partial list of some of the festival's other notable winners: Robin Williams shouting in the street as Jeff Bridges watches in a scene from the film 'The Fisher King', 1991. Photo by Columbia Pictures/Getty Images 1979: Best Boy In just the second year of the People's Choice Award, the documentary Best Boy, directed by Ira Wohl, won the honors. The documentary, which follows the education of Wohl's middle-aged mentally challenged cousin, later won the Academy Award for Best Documentary. Beginning in 2009, TIFF has presented a People's Choice Award for Documentary. 1985: The Official Story (La historia oficial) The Argentine drama The Official Story, directed by Luis Puenzo, later won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. 1987: The Princess Bride Director Rob Reiner's 1987 fantasy film The Princess Bride has become one of the most beloved cult classic films released in the 1980s. 1991: The Fisher King Terry Gilliam's 1991 fantasy drama The Fisher King, starring Jeff Bridges and Robin Williams, became a minor box office hit and proved to be a classic. In addition, actress Mercedes Ruehl won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance. 1995: Antonia's Line The Dutch film Antonia's Line, directed by Marleen Gorris, later won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and was nominated for the BAFTA Award for Best Foreign Film. 2005: Tsotsi The South African crime drama Tsotsi, directed by Gavin Hood, later won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. 2016 People's Choice Award for Documentaries: I Am Not Your Negro Director Raoul Peck's I Am Not Your Negro, a documentary about writer James Baldwin and his history in the Civil Rights Movement, won the People's Choice Award for Documentaries. It was later nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature and won the BAFTA Award for Best Documentary. 2018 People's Choice Award for Documentaries: Free Solo Directors Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin's documentary Free Solo, about renowned free solo climber Alex Honnold, would go on to win the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature and the BAFTA Award for Best Documentary.