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5 Surprising Films That Got Their Start at Sundance

The Sundance Film Festival has been the launchpad for some of the most acclaimed movies of all time, such as “The Blair Witch Project,” “Get Out,” and “Whiplash.” Every year, thousands of people flock to Park City, Utah, to enjoy the latest offerings from emerging filmmakers, and many of these films go on to become critical and commercial hits.

In this article, we will be looking at five movies that got their start at Sundance. These films flew under the radar for one reason or another but went on to become beloved classics. Without further ado, let’s dive right in!

1. Reservoir Dogs

It’s hard to believe now, but Quentin Tarantino’s “Reservoir Dogs” was initially rejected by the Cannes Film Festival. Fortunately, it got accepted by Sundance, and the rest is history. The film, which tells the story of a jewelry heist gone wrong, went on to become a cult classic and paved the way for Tarantino’s illustrious career.

2. Little Miss Sunshine

“Little Miss Sunshine” premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2006 and soon became a breakout hit. The film, which follows the Hoover family as they travel to a beauty pageant in a VW Bus, won the Best Feature award at the festival and eventually went on to win two Academy Awards. It’s one of those movies that makes you laugh and cry in equal measure, and its success is a testament to the power of indie filmmaking.

3. Napoleon Dynamite

“Napoleon Dynamite” is one of the quirkiest movies you’ll ever see, and that’s precisely why it became such a hit. The film premiered at Sundance in 2004 and follows the titular character, a high school student, as he navigates life in rural Idaho. The movie’s deadpan humor and offbeat characters were an instant hit with audiences, and it went on to gross over $40 million worldwide. Not bad for a movie made on a shoestring budget!

4. Moonlight

“Moonlight” is one of the most critically acclaimed films of the last decade, but it had humble beginnings. The movie premiered at Sundance in 2016 and immediately garnered buzz for its raw, emotional portrayal of a young African American boy’s life in Miami. The film went on to win three Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and has become a touchstone for LGBT representation in mainstream cinema.

5. Clerks

If you’re a fan of Kevin Smith’s films, you have Sundance to thank. Smith’s debut feature, “Clerks,” premiered at the festival in 1994 and became an instant classic. The movie, which takes place over a single day in the life of two convenience store clerks, was made on a shoestring budget and shot in black and white. But its clever writing, unique characters, and pop culture references struck a chord with audiences and launched Smith’s career.


The Sundance Film Festival has been the launchpad for countless iconic movies over the years, and these five films are just a small sampling of the talent on display. Indie filmmakers continue to push boundaries, tell unique stories, and captivate audiences, and we can’t wait to see what the festival produces next. Whether you’re a devoted cinephile or just looking for something new to watch, the Sundance Film Festival is a treasure trove of hidden gems. So, go ahead and dive in – you never know what you might find!