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The Best Sundance Audience Award Winners 

Ranker Film
Updated November 11, 2019 678 votes 67 voters 4.1k views 58 items

List Rules Best documentaries and dramas from the Sundance Film Festival

This is a list of the best films to be chosen by critics and fans as the winner of the Sundance Audience Award at the annual Sundance Film Festival in Salt Lake City, Utah.  Sundance is one of the biggest American film festivals, and films presented with the Audience Award often go on to be successful in the indie market.

This list comprises all of the best Sundance Audience Award winners beginning in 1984. The films are from the dramatic competition, documentary competition, world cinema dramatic competition, world cinema documentary competition and Sundance's best of NEXT Audience Award. The films are dramas and documentaries that have captured the attention of the audience with their storytelling, directing and emotion.

The list will answer the question, "What films won the Audience Award at Sundance?" and includes films that have gone on to win an Oscar, such as American Dream, and coming of age dramas, such as The Wackness.
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list ordered by
1
The Station Agent is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Sundance Audience Award Winners
Michelle Williams, Peter Dinklage, Patricia Clarkson

Released: 2003

Directed by: Thomas McCarthy

The Station Agent is a 2003 American comedy-drama film written and directed by Thomas McCarthy. McCarthy's script about a man who seeks solitude in an abandoned train station in the Newfoundland ...more
2
Sex, Lies, and Videotape... is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Sundance Audience Award Winners
Andie MacDowell, James Spader, Laura San Giacomo

Released: 1989

Directed by: Steven Soderbergh

This film is a 1989 American independent drama film that brought director Steven Soderbergh to prominence. It tells the story of a man who films women discussing their impact on the ...more
3
The Cove is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Sundance Audience Award Winners

Released: 2009

Directed by: Louie Psihoyos

The Cove is a 2009 documentary film that analyzes and questions dolphin hunting practices in Japan. It was awarded the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in 2010. The film is a call to ...more
4
Maria Full of Grace is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Sundance Audience Award Winners
Catalina Sandino Moreno, Patricia Rae, Jaime Osorio Gómez

Released: 2004

Directed by: Joshua Marston

Maria Full of Grace is a 2004 joint film production between Colombia and the U.S. written and directed by Joshua Marston, who went on to win the Independent Spirit Award for Best First ...more
5
Hoop Dreams is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Sundance Audience Award Winners

Released: 1994

Directed by: Steve James

Hoop Dreams is a 1994 American documentary film directed by Steve James and written by James and Frederick Marx, with Kartemquin Films. It follows the story of two African-American high school ...more
6
Hustle & Flow is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Sundance Audience Award Winners
Taraji P. Henson, Ludacris, Terrence Howard

Released: 2005

Directed by: Craig Brewer

Hustle & Flow is a 2005 American independent drama film written and directed by Craig Brewer and produced by John Singleton and Stephanie Allain. It was released on July 22, 2005. Terrence ...more
7
Precious: Based on the N... is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Sundance Audience Award Winners
Mariah Carey, Lenny Kravitz, Paula Patton

Released: 2009

Directed by: Lee Daniels

Precious is a 2009 American drama film, directed and co-produced by Lee Daniels. Precious is an adaptation by Geoffrey S. Fletcher of the 1996 novel Push by Sapphire. The film stars Gabourey ...more
8
El Mariachi is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Sundance Audience Award Winners
Carlos Gallardo, Juan García, María Castillo

Released: 1992

Directed by: Robert Rodriguez

El Mariachi is a 1992 American action film and the first installment in the saga that came to be known as Robert Rodriguez's Mexico Trilogy. It marked the debut of Rodriguez as writer and ...more
9
The Sessions is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Sundance Audience Award Winners
Helen Hunt, William H. Macy, Moon Bloodgood

Released: 2012

Directed by: Ben Lewin

Starring Academy Award® Nominee John Hawkes, Academy Award® Nominee William H. Macy and Academy Award® Winner Helen Hunt, the film is based on the true story of California-based ...more
10
Longtime Companion is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Sundance Audience Award Winners
Mary-Louise Parker, Tony Shalhoub, Dermot Mulroney

Released: 1989

Directed by: Norman René

Longtime Companion is a 1990 film directed by Norman René and starring Bruce Davison, Campbell Scott, Patrick Cassidy, and Mary-Louise Parker. The first wide-release theatrical film to ...more
11
Fruitvale Station is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Sundance Audience Award Winners
Michael B. Jordan, Melonie Diaz, Octavia Spencer

Released: 2013

Directed by: Ryan Coogler

Fruitvale Station is a 2013 American biographical drama film directed by Ryan Coogler, based on true events. The story of Oscar Grant III (Michael B. Jordan), a 22-year-old Bay Area resident, ...more
12
Real Women Have Curves ... is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Sundance Audience Award Winners
America Ferrera, George Lopez, Lupe Ontiveros

Released: 2002

Directed by: Patricia Cardoso

Real Women Have Curves is a 2002 American movie starring America Ferrera. Directed by Patricia Cardoso and produced by George LaVoo from a screenplay by LaVoo and Josefina Lopez, it debuted at ...more
13
Spanking the Monkey is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Sundance Audience Award Winners
Spanking the Monkey Carla Gallo, Jeremy Davies, Alberta Watson

Released: 1994

Directed by: David O. Russell

Spanking the Monkey is a 1994 American black comedy film written and directed by David O. Russell. The title is a slang phrase for masturbation and is used in the film by one of the teenage ...more
14
The Waterdance is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Sundance Audience Award Winners
Helen Hunt, Wesley Snipes, Eric Stoltz

Released: 1992

Directed by: Neal Jimenez, Michael Steinberg

The Waterdance is a 1992 American drama film written by Neal Jimenez and directed by Jimenez and Michael Steinberg. It stars Eric Stoltz, Wesley Snipes, William Forsythe and Helen Hunt. The film ...more
15
Waiting for "Superm... is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Sundance Audience Award Winners

Released: 2010

Directed by: Davis Guggenheim

Waiting for "Superman" is a 2010 documentary film from director Davis Guggenheim and producer Lesley Chilcott. The film analyzes the failures of the American public education system by ...more
16
Sleepwalk with Me is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Sundance Audience Award Winners
Amy Schumer, Lauren Ambrose, Carol Kane

Released: 2012

Directed by: Mike Birbiglia

Sleepwalk with Me is a 2012 American independent comedy film written by, directed by, and starring comedian Mike Birbiglia. The film premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival and won the Best ...more
17
Picture Bride is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Sundance Audience Award Winners
Toshiro Mifune, Tamlyn Tomita, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa

Released: 1994

Directed by: Kayo Hatta

Picture Bride is an American Japanese language 1995 feature-length independent film directed by Kayo Hatta from a screenplay she co-wrote with Mari Hatta, and co-produced by Diane Mei Lin Mark ...more
18
Fuel is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Sundance Audience Award Winners
Bernard Shakey, Sheryl Crow, Richard Branson

Released: 2008

Directed by: Josh Tickell

Fuel is a 2008 documentary film directed by Josh Tickell and produced by Greg Reitman, Dale Rosenbloom, Daniel Assael, Darius Fisher, and Rebecca Harrell Tickell. It won the audience award at ...more
19
Smoke Signals is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Sundance Audience Award Winners
Perrey Reeves, Cynthia Geary, Adam Beach

Released: 1998

Directed by: Chris Eyre

Smoke Signals is an independent film directed and co-produced by Chris Eyre and with a screenplay by Sherman Alexie, based on the short story "This Is What It Means to Say Phoenix, ...more
20
American Dream is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Sundance Audience Award Winners
Jesse Jackson, Juan Muñoz

Released: 1990

Directed by: Thomas Haneke, Barbara Kopple, Cathy Caplan

Through the lenses of cameras, an exploration into the minds - the hopes, dreams, expectations - of their bearers reminds us of the value that has been so deeply ingrained into the ...more
21
Born into Brothels: Calc... is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Sundance Audience Award Winners

Released: 2004

Directed by: Zana Briski, Ross Kauffman

Born into Brothels: Calcutta's Red Light Kids is a 2004 Indian-American documentary film about the children of prostitutes in Sonagachi, Kolkata's red light district. The widely acclaimed film, ...more
22
Murderball is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Sundance Audience Award Winners

Released: 2005

Directed by: Henry Alex Rubin, Dana Adam Shapiro

Murderball is a 2005 American documentary film about physically disabled athletes who play wheelchair rugby. It centers on the rivalry between the Canadian and U.S. teams leading up to the 2004 ...more
23
Love Jones is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Sundance Audience Award Winners
Nia Long, Isaiah Washington, Lisa Nicole Carson

Released: 1997

Directed by: Theodore Witcher

Love Jones is a 1997 American romantic drama film written and directed by Theodore Witcher, in his feature film debut. It stars Larenz Tate, Nia Long, Isaiah Washington, Bill Bellamy, and Lisa ...more
24
Whiplash is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Sundance Audience Award Winners
J.K. Simmons, Melissa Benoist, Miles Teller

Released: 2014

Directed by: Damien Chazelle

Whiplash is a 2014 American drama film directed by Damien Chazelle. A promising young drummer (Miles Teller) enrolls at a cut-throat music conservatory where his dreams of greatness are mentored ...more
25
Berkeley in the Sixties ... is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Sundance Audience Award Winners
Berkeley in the Sixties Bobby Seale, Barry Melton, Michael Miller

Released: 1990

Directed by: Mark Kitchell

Berkeley in the Sixties is a 1990 documentary film by Mark Kitchell. The film highlights the origins of the Free Speech Movement beginning with the May 1960 House Un-American Activities ...more