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The 30 Greatest Movies That Came Out Of The Sundance Film Festival

27 January 2014 | Features, Film Lists | by David Zou

best sundance movies

Sundance Film Festival is known for premiering indie, underdog movies. Many of these films go unrecognized to the majority of the public; however, some make it to the big screen and actually become quite popular. Here is a list of some of the best movies that ever premiered at The Sundance Film Festival. Maybe you’ve seen them, maybe not.


30. Tyrannosaur (2011)


The Movie: Paddy Considine’s directorial debut is a troubling affair, but a worthwhile one, as Olivia Coleman’s battered wife finds dubious refuge with Peter Mullan’s violent outsider.

Stunning performances all round in this bleak but powerful drama.

After Sundance: Considine was honoured with the BAFTA for Outstanding debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer, but Williams was snubbed by the judges, causing much consternation on various social media platforms.

In fairness, it really is an extraordinary performance.


29. Buffalo ’66 (1998)

Buffalo 66

The Movie: Hollywood bad boy Vincent Gallo established his credentials with this messed-up love story between a misfit drifter and a girl he kidnaps in order to impress his parents.

Off the wall and oddly sweet, despite what that synopsis might suggest.

After Sundance: Ricci vowed never to work with Gallo again, but taking the combustible filmmaker’s track record out of the equation, the film still stands up as a beacon of indie filmmaking.

More so than The Brown Bunny anyway…


28. Once (2007)


The Movie: A musical romance set on the streets of Dublin, Once stars a pair of real-life musicians as, er, a pair of musicians. And surprise surprise, it works!

If it sounds too cutesy on paper, it’s a far more affecting proposition in practice.

After Sundance: Co-leads Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová won an Oscar for their song Falling Slowly, and even reprised their roles in an episode of The Simpsons.

That’s when you know you’ve crossed over!


27. Primer (2004)


The Movie: Shane Carruth’s ultra-low-budget sci-fi thriller, filmed for just $7,000.

Low production values didn’t damage its performance at Sundance however, with the film winning the Grand Jury Prize.

After Sundance: Praised for its relentless originality, the film has since become something of a cult classic.

If you think you’ve got it fully worked out, by all means write to us and explain!


26. Before Sunrise (1995)


The Movie: Richard Linklater’s cross-cultural love story pairs Ethan Hawke with Julie Delpy for a 24-hour jaunt around Vienna.

Heartfelt, moving and cool, it’s a cut above most of the sickly pap that passes for romance in Hollywood.

After Sundance: Often mentioned in all-time lists of movie romances, Before Sunrise spawned a well-received sequel in 2004, Linklater finished the last chapter of the trilogy aka Before Midnight last year.


25. Saw (2004)


The Movie: Despite the reputation associated with the ensuing franchise, James Wan’s first Saw movie is a relentlessly inventive and pleasingly mean-spirited thriller with a killer twist at the end.

No wonder Lionsgate snapped it up at Sundance before the film had even premiered.

After Sundance: The film made over $100 million worldwide and spawned six sequels (and counting) of steadily decreasing quality.

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