The 6 Best Films I Ever Saw At Sundance

Known as one of the biggest events in the calendar of Independent Cinema, the Sundance Film Festival kicked off once again this week in Park City, Utah.

Often seen as launchpad, great filmmakers such as Quentin Tarantino, Paul Thomas Anderson, Wes Anderson, Darren Aronosky and Richard Linklater were all given their first platform at the plucky festival. Meanwhile audiences at the Sundance Film Festival can claim to have seen numerous films first that went on to be nominated, or even win Best Picture, at the Academy Awards.

Often attracting more than 40,000 people to the small mountain town, for three years in 2014, 2015 and 2017, I was lucky enough to be one of those people. This is by no means a list of the best films to ever play at Sundance. For example, films like Call Me By Your Name, Manchester by the Sea and Their Finest all share Sundance credentials – I just didn’t manage to see them there. This is a list of my personal favourites and some experiences that went along with it.

So grab a cup of hot cocoa, wrap up with as many layers as you have (Park City can get as low as -23C), get in line for the Eccles theatre and enjoy this trip down memory lane, also known as Main Street past the Egyptian.

6. Wind River (2017)

After a slightly underwhelming few screenings to start the 2017 festival, expectation was high with Wind River and boy did it deliver. Taylor Sheridan (Sicario) certainly didn’t hold back with an explosive and plot twisting Directorial debut. Superbly anchored by performances from Elisabeth Olsen (Avengers: Infinity War) and Jeremy Renner (Tag), who even cried in the Q&A when asked how he prepared for the character that he played. A thrill ride from start to finish.

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5. A Walk in the Woods (2015)

What’s better than watching a film at Sundance with the leading man being Mr Sundance himself, Robert Redford (The Old Man & The Gun). This may not have featured on many must-watch lists that year but this sweet and charming tale is sometimes just exactly what you need when you go in from the cold to watch a movie on the big screen.

4. Obvious Child (2014)

One thing that goes without saying is that Sundance films are not always easy to get into. After a few tense moments I just managed to get a ticket for Obvious Child and what a wonderful film I was rewarded with. For me, it embodies what great independent cinema can be. Truthful, funny and heartwarming. It also opened by eyes to just how wonderful Jenny Slate (The Secret Life of Pets) is.

3. End of the Tour (2015)

You’d think peeing next to James Franco (The Disaster Artist) would be enough of a highlight right? Well, what followed was watching End of the Tour where Sundance began, at the resort screening room itself. Powered by two great performances from Jason Segel and Jesse Eisenberg (Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice) this captivating insight into the mind of David Foster Wallace is a joy to behold. I, like many, rushed out to buy a copy of Infinite Jest. Realising its 1000+ pages, it’s still on my shelf yet to read (Oops).

2. Whiplash (2014)

After creating a huge buzz on opening night, Whiplash was the must-see film at the festival in 2014. There was one showing left. 11:45pm at the Prospector Theatre. With my friend, we got in line and waited for 3+ hours to grab the last two tickets. Any fears of falling asleep with the late showing were quickly dispelled. Sat behind William H. Macy (Room), we were treated to an explosive, entertaining thrill ride that announced Damien Chazelle (La La Land) as one for Hollywood to watch out for.

1. Boyhood (2014)

I’ll be honest, this is and probably will always be my favourite movie experience of all time. In a jam-packed Eccles, I cried and sniffled non-stop through the 164-minute run time. Romana, if you’re reading, I still apologise. Filmed over 12 years, Boyhood is an outstanding achievement in cinema and storytelling. Thank you Richard Linklater, Ethan Hawke (The Magnificent Seven) and everyone involved with this film. My heart will never be the same.

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Do you agree with any of those choices? Or even disagree? What experiences did you have while attending the Sundance Film Festival and what were your favourite films? We’d love to know. I’m off to now dream of the best Mexican food in Park City – El Chubasco. A must for any Sundance revelers.

By Jordan Barrett

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