10 Best Sundance Movies of All Time, Ranked by Critics and Viewers  

10 Best Sundance Movies of All Time, Ranked by Critics and Viewers  
Image credit: Searchlight Pictures, Universal Pictures, Sony Pictures Classics

Sick of mainstream cinema? The most important independent film festival offers ten of the best auteur films in its history.

The Sundance Film Festival was created as a counterweight to Hollywood cinema, featuring only low-budget independent films produced outside the studios.

In honor of the 40th edition of the Sundance Film Festival, directors, professional critics and ordinary viewers selected the most outstanding films in the festival's history.

10. Blood Simple, 1984

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: Critics – 94%, Viewers – 88%

Rude and cruel bar owner Marty suspects his wife Abby of cheating on him with one of his subordinates. He hires a private detective to gather evidence, then asks him to kill the couple. The detective acts otherwise, setting off a chain of crazy events.

The Coen brothers' directorial debut remains one of their finest achievements. The movie uses classic visual and plot elements of noir. It's a fascinating fusion of cinema past and present that would define many of the topics in the Coens' future works.

9. And Your Mother Too, 2001

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: Critics – 91%, Viewers – 88%

High school students Tenoch and Julio say goodbye to their girlfriends who are flying to Italy for the summer. The inseparable friends want to make new friends and soon meet Luisa. She is much older than the boys, but agrees to go with them to a secluded beach.

The story is not only about a sex triangle between two teenagers and an adult woman, but also about two Mexicos separated by a social divide. Beneath the light-hearted road movie lies a multi-layered drama.

8. Boyhood, 2014

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: Critics – 97%, Viewers – 80%

Richard Linklater took twelve years to make the movie in order to capture the process of growing up as accurately as possible. The director began working on the film when actor Ellar Coltrane, who plays the title role, was only six years old.

Main character's story is told in several stages and includes every significant step in the boy’s life: the divorce of his parents, first feelings, passions, and the bitterness of disappointment.

7. Before Sunrise, 1995

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: Critics – 100%, Viewers – 93%

Another movie by Richard Linklater. Two people meet in a train – the American Jesse and the Frenchwoman Celine. After a few phrases, the passengers feel as if they have known each other all their lives. The man persuades the woman to get off at the Vienna station and spend their only evening together.

Before Sunrise is the perfect date, full of conversations, and awkward touches. The surrounding landscape with passers-by and the noise of the streets only emphasize the special day that became the beginning of a touching story.

6. Sex, Lies, and Videotape, 1989

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: Critics – 96%, Viewers – 79%

Few films in the history of cinema have been as important as Steven Soderbergh's debut, which unexpectedly won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival and many other awards.

It was the melodramatic story of the relationship between a modest provincial woman whose husband cheats on her with her sister and a man who comes to town to film sexual confessions that gave a new meaning to the term "indie film" – previously used to describe anything non-Hollywood, it has come to mean primarily low-budget auteur cinema.

5. Memento, 2000

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: Critics – 94%, Viewers – 94%

Leonard is looking for the murderers of his wife. But he has short-term memory syndrome and can only remember the last few minutes of his life. In order not to forget anything and to take revenge, he leaves clues: takes photos, gets tattoos and leaves notes on the table.

Memento is the second movie of Christopher Nolan, but the director had already demonstrated an extraordinary approach to scripts in it. All of the director's other films borrow techniques from Memento in one way or another.

4. Little Miss Sunshine, 2006

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: Critics – 91%, Viewers – 91%

Young Olive dreams of winning the Little Miss Sunshine pageant. Her father, mother and other relatives seem to want to help the girl, but each is too wrapped up in their own worries. Nevertheless, they embark on a cross-country journey for the sake of a girl.

The movie, which managed to unite not the most friendly family, became a real hit in the year of its release. It received a standing ovation from the audience at its Sundance premiere, grossed a huge amount of money at the box office, and went on to receive four Oscar nominations and two statuettes.

3. Get Out, 2017

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: Critics – 98%, Viewers – 86%

Jordan Peele's debut movie, which tells the story of Chris and his girlfriend Rose. They are visiting her parents for the weekend, and Chris is a little worried about how they will treat him, since they are white and he is black. But all goes well until Chris begins to notice strange behavior from the black people he meets.

Get Out is an action-packed thriller that became a sensation and made Jordan Peele one of the most notable independent directors.

2. Reservoir Dogs, 1992

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: Critics – 90%, Viewers – 94%

With Reservoir Dogs, Quentin Tarantino immediately established himself as an outstanding screenwriter and master of dialogue. The film is a starting point for Tarantino's filmography – it was in this movie that he developed his signature style.

The plot is based on a team of robbers who have planned their next raid in detail, only to find that the police are already waiting for them. After hiding in a pre-arranged place, the robbers begin to sort things out among themselves.

1. Whiplash, 2014

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: Critics – 94%, Viewers – 94%

The film that launched the world fame of the future director of La La Land, Damien Chazelle. Talented drummer Andrew is ready to do anything for success. It seems that on the way to his goal he meets the perfect guide – the brilliant leader and director of the orchestra, Terence Fletcher. But victory will cost such humiliation, bullying and suffering that the most important question remains – is it worth it?

The film became a sensation at the 2014 Sundance Festival, where it won the top prize. Whiplash also won three Oscar statuettes for Best Editing, Best Sound and Best Supporting Actor.