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The Best Sundance Audience Award Winners

Updated February 3, 2021 1.4k votes 68 voters 4.3k views56 items

List RulesBest 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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  • 1
    49
    12

    The Station Agent

    Michelle Williams, Peter Dinklage

    Released2003

    Directed byThomas 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
    44
    14

    Sex, Lies, and Videotape

    Andie MacDowell, James Spader

    Released1989

    Directed bySteven 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 relationships of...  more
  • 3
    35
    12

    Maria Full of Grace

    Catalina Sandino Moreno, Patricia Rae

    Released2004

    Directed byJoshua 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
  • 4
    35
    16

    The Cove

    Richard O'Barry, Louie Psihoyos

    Released2009

    Directed byLouie 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 action...  more
  • 5
    37
    20

    Hoop Dreams

    William Gates, Arthur Agee

    Released1994

    Directed bySteve 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
    35
    20

    Hustle & Flow

    Taraji P. Henson, Ludacris

    Released2005

    Directed byCraig 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 Howard...  more
  • 7
    32
    19

    Released2009

    Directed byLee 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 Sidibe,...  more
  • 8
    17
    8

    The Sessions

    Helen Hunt, William H. Macy

    Released2012

    Directed byBen 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 journalist and poet...  more
  • 9
    13
    5

    Longtime Companion

    Mary-Louise Parker, Tony Shalhoub

    Released1989

    Directed byNorman 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 deal with the...  more
  • 10
    14
    6

    Fruitvale Station

    Michael B. Jordan, Melonie Diaz

    Released2013

    Directed byRyan 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, who...  more
  • 11
    26
    22

    El Mariachi

    Carlos Gallardo, Juan García

    Released1992

    Directed byRobert 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 director....  more
  • 12
    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 following...  more
  • 13
    16
    15

    The Waterdance

    Helen Hunt, Wesley Snipes

    Released1992

    Directed byNeal 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 is a...  more
  • 14
    16
    15

    Sleepwalk with Me

    Amy Schumer, Lauren Ambrose

    Released2012

    Directed byMike 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 of...  more
  • 15
    18
    18

    Real Women Have Curves

    America Ferrera, George Lopez

    Released2002

    Directed byPatricia 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 the...  more
  • 16
    22
    24

    Spanking the Monkey

    Carla Gallo, Jeremy Davies

    Released1994

    Directed byDavid 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
  • 17
    12
    10

    Smoke Signals

    Perrey Reeves, Cynthia Geary

    Released1998

    Directed byChris 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, Arizona" from his...  more
  • 18
    10
    9

    Picture Bride

    Toshiro Mifune, Tamlyn Tomita

    Released1994

    Directed byKayo 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 and...  more
  • 19
    8
    5

    Whiplash

    J.K. Simmons, Melissa Benoist

    Released2014

    Directed byDamien 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 by...  more
  • 20
    10
    9

    Fuel

    Bernard Shakey, Sheryl Crow

    Released2008

    Directed byJosh 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 the...  more
  • 21
    18
    22

    Murderball

    Joe Soares, Keith Cavill

    Released2005

    Directed byHenry 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
  • 22
    14
    16

    American Dream

    Jesse Jackson, Juan Muñoz

    Released1990

    Directed byThomas 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 generation.About...  more
  • 23
    12
    14

    Love Jones

    Nia Long, Isaiah Washington

    Released1997

    Directed byTheodore 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 Nicole...  more
  • 24
    14
    17

    Hurricane Streets

    Edie Falco, Adrian Grenier

    Released1997

    Directed byMorgan J. Freeman

    Hurricane Streets is a 1997 American coming-of-age drama which was the debut feature film from writer-director Morgan J. Freeman. The film won the Audience, Best Director, and Best Cinematography...  more
  • 25
    14
    17

    Happythankyoumoreplease

    Kate Mara, Malin Åkerman

    Released2010

    Directed byJosh Radnor

    happythankyoumoreplease is a 2010 comedy-drama film written and directed by Josh Radnor in his directorial debut. The film stars Radnor, Malin Åkerman, Kate Mara, Zoe Kazan, Michael Algieri, Pablo...  more