Back in 1990 the idea for the festival was born by Ignas Scheynius, Kim Klein and current festival director Git Scheynius - three film enthusiasts who felt that Stockholm should have a film festival of international rank.
During Cannes Film Festival a fax went out to Swedish media announcing the first edition of Stockholm International Film Festival would take place the same fall.

A small group of professionals within the film industry along with the assistance of some 200 festival volunteers helped make this first edition of Stockholm International Film Festival become a reality. David Lynchs Wild at Heart opened the Festival at Astoria that also served as the main theatre for the festival where the ceremonies were held. During 4 days in November a total of 45 films were screened.

Each year the festival's organization has expanded until it reached its current state of an all year around festival with outdoor screenings during summertime, imports, distribution venues and monthly membership screenings. In only a few years the program had grown to 100 films and in 2006 the number had reached beyond 170.

In the past 24 years close to some 3000 films from all over the world has been screened at the Festival and celebrated guests like Dennis Hopper, Lauren Bacall, Gena Rowlands, Ang Lee, David Cronenberg, Roman Polanski, Terry Gilliam and Elia Kazan have all attended the Festival.

The Festival is also recognized for its ability to promote and offer a venue for young and unestablished filmmakers. As many as a third of the films selected are made by a debuting director and only directors who have made less than 3 films are selected for the competition.

The aim for Stockholm International Film Festival is to broaden the selection of films in Sweden with creative new films of high quality and offer the visitor an orientation within modern film to stimulate a continuing debate. With seminars, opportunities to meet actors and filmmakers during the face2face along with the extensive catalogue, all means are given to make the film experience come full circle.