The Film Festival was established in 1970 as a two-day viewing of students’ short films of Kyiv State Institute of Theatrical Arts. Some of the greatest Ukrainian movies were also shown (in 1979 “Babylon XX” by Ivan Mykolaychuk won the main festival prize). Since the 1980s, Ukrainians have seen the debuts of directors from Bulgaria, Georgia, Armenia and Russia; the times of ‘Perestroika’ had been the era of filmmakers from the Baltic States, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, and Germany. Since 1993 Molodist is the only film festival in Ukraine accredited by FIAPF.

Among the well-known filmmakers who took part in Molodist were Tom Tykwer, Xavier Dolan, François Ozon, Danny Boyle, Stephen Daldry, and Fred Kelemen. Molodist participants won the Golden Palm at Cannes Film Festival (Bruno Dumont) and the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film (Alain Berliner).

Geography of competition entries includes countries from almost all the continents.

The festival used to take place in the last week of October. In 2017 Molodist Kyiv International Film Festival announced new annual festival dates – end of May - beginning of June. This decision was agreed by the festival management and the International Federation of Film Producers' Associations FIAPF. 

Due to the spread of COVID-19 and respective quarantine measures the 49th Molodist will take place on 22-30 August, 2020.