Skip to main content

The 25 best Sundance Film Festival movies everyone should watch

15. When We Were Kings (1996)

The movie: An enthralling documentary examining Muhammad Ali's famous title fight with George Foreman in 1974, occasionally better known as The Rumble in the Jungle. Featuring a well-judged balance of talking heads and in-ring action, it's one of the finest sporting documentaries ever made.

After Sundance: The film was rightly acclaimed as a triumph, and would go on to win the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature, where both Ali and Foreman joined the filmmakers on stage.

14. Super Size Me (2004)

The movie: The film that shook the Golden Arches, Morgan Spurlock's self-sacrificing documentary charted the results of eating an exclusively McDonalds diet. Unsurprisingly, they weren't pretty.

After Sundance: The film made $11 million domestically, garnered an Oscar nomination and stirred up plenty of headlines. Perhaps more importantly, McDonalds discontinued the Super Size option just six weeks after the film's premiere.

13. Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011)

The movie: A woozily unsettling thriller based around a sinister cult, and the attempts of a former member (Elizabeth Olsen) to escape the influence of John Hawkes's controlling leader. Creepy and beguiling in equal measure.

After Sundance: The film was met with widespread praise, particularly for the performances of Olsen and Hawkes, who somehow continues to fly under the radar despite an increasingly impressive body of work.

12. Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994)

The movie: The film that introduced Richard Curtis's brand of frothy romantic comedy to America, as Hugh Grant splutters his way through an unlikely relationship with glamorous American Andie McDowell.

After Sundance: The film would go on to become the highest-grossing British film of all time (for a while, anyway), and was nominated for Best Picture at 1994's Oscars. It also made Hugh Grant a massive star.

11. El Mariachi (1992)

The movie: The forerunner to Desperado, Robert Rodriguez's bullet-riddled taco Western was made on the shoestring budget to end all shoestring budgets, costing just $7,000. Needless to say, it was money well spent.

After Sundance: Originally intended for the Mexican home video market, the film was snapped up by Columbia and made around $2 million at the box office. A Hollywood career was made.

10. Winter's Bone (2010)

The movie: A hard-boiled Southern thriller boasting a pair of stunning performances from Jennifer Lawrence and John Hawkes, Debra Granik’s powerful film rightfully tasted glory at the festival, winning the Grand Jury Prize.

After Sundance: Lawrence and Hawkes were both Oscar-nominated for their performances, while the film was also up for Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay. It didn’t win any of them, but the film proved a star-making vehicle for bona fide A-lister Lawrence.

9. Moon (2009)

The movie: Duncan Jones ploughs the same furrow of thoughtful science fiction as the likes of Solaris and 2001 with this debut feature about a lonely moon-miner steadily losing his mind.

After Sundance: The film won a pair of BAFTAs and Jones consolidated his status as a director of note with a more mainstream but equally enjoyable film in the form of Source Code.

8. The Blair Witch Project (1999)

The movie: By the time it arrived at Sundance, The Blair Witch Project was already something of a sensation after an expertly conducted viral campaign which presented the film as a real documentary. The rest is history.

After Sundance: The film became the success story of 1999, making $248 million worldwide. Not a bad return on a budget of around $25,000!

7. Blood Simple (1984)

The movie: The debut offering from the Coen brothers, Blood Simple is a typically black thriller in which the hasty appointment of a hitman to take out a cheating wife and her beau takes an unforeseen turn.

After Sundance: Released to much critical acclaim, the film not only launched the career of the Coens, but also of cinematographer Barry Sonnenfeld and star, Frances McDormand.

6. Little Miss Sunshine (2006)

The movie: An offbeat family drama in which a collection of oddball relatives are brought together by the youngest member's desire to compete in a beauty contest on the other side of the country.

After Sundance: Fox purchased the rights to the film in one of the biggest deals made in the history of the festival. It was a gamble that paid off, as the film went on to gross more than $100 million worldwide, bagging a pair of Oscars for Michael Arndt and Alan Arkin in the process.

Continue to Page 3 for more of the best Sundance Film Festival movies 

George was once GamesRadar's resident movie news person, based out of London. He understands that all men must die, but he'd rather not think about it. But now he's working at Stylist Magazine.