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The Best Sundance Grand Jury Prize Winners

Updated February 3, 2021 1.2k votes 116 voters 6.5k views42 items

List RulesComplete list of movies that won the Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize for Dramatic Film.

List of the best Sundance Grand Jury Prize winners, as ranked by movie critics and film lovers everywhere. Once every January, the best filmmakers in the United States put on their warm clothing and head towards Salt Lake City, Utah, where one of the biggest American film festivals is held annually. There they show the films they’ve put their blood, sweat, and tears into making the finest films in the country. The best of the best films will even earn the Sundance Grand Prize, the highest honor a film can receive in the festival circuit. The movies that have premiered at Sundance have gone on to be the most successful indie movies in the business.

This list answers the question, “What are the best Sundance Grand Prize winning films?” The movies featured on this list are emotional, brilliantly written, filled with talented actors, and directed beautifully, which is why they are often considered the film world’s finest.

Whether you enjoy quirky coming of age films like Welcome to the Dollhouse and Beasts of the Southern Wild or gritty tales of people often forgotten like Winter’s Bone or Precious, this list has the best Sundance films that anybody will be sure to enjoy. 

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    Primer

    2004

    ActorsShane Carruth, David Sullivan, Keith Bradshaw, Kevin Lucero Less, Casey Gooden

    Directed byShane Carruth

    Primer is a 2004 American science fiction drama film about the accidental discovery of a means of time travel. The film was written, directed, produced, edited and scored by Shane Carruth, who also...  more
  • 2
    34
    11

    ActorsMiles Teller, Melissa Benoist, J.K. Simmons

    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
  • 3

    ActorsThomas Mann, RJ Cyler, Olivia Cooke, Nick Offerman

    Directed byAlfonso Gomez-Rejon

    Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is a 2015 American comedy-drama film directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, based on the 2012 novel by Jesse Andrews. High schooler Greg (Thomas Mann), who spends most of his...  more
  • 4

    ActorsHolly Hunter, Frances McDormand, M. Emmet Walsh, Dan Hedaya, John Getz

    Directed byEthan Coen, Joel Coen

    Blood Simple is a 1984 neo-noir film written, produced and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen. It was the directorial debut of the Coens and the first major film of cinematographer Barry Sonnenfeld, who...  more
  • 5
    21
    10

    ActorsJennifer Lawrence, Keeley Hazell, Felicity Jones, Anton Yelchin, Alex Kingston

    Directed byDrake Doremus

    "Like Crazy is a film from and about the heart. Jacob, an American, and Anna, who is British, meet at college in Los Angeles and fall madly in love. It’s the purest kind of romance—they’re each...  more
  • 6

    ActorsMichael B. Jordan, Melonie Diaz, Octavia Spencer, Kevin Durand

    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
  • 7

    ActorsMelissa Leo, Mark Boone Junior, Michael O'Keefe, Charlie McDermott, Nancy Wu

    Directed byCourtney Hunt

    Frozen River is a 2008 American crime drama film written and directed by Courtney Hunt. The screenplay focuses on two working-class women who smuggle illegal immigrants from Canada to the United...  more
  • 8

    ActorsEmily Rios, Alicia Sixtos, Jesse Garcia, Jason L. Wood, David W. Ross

    Directed byRichard Glatzer, Wash Westmoreland

    Quinceañera is a 2006 American independent drama film written and directed by Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland. Set in Echo Park, Los Angeles, the film follows the lives of two young Mexican...  more
  • 9

    ActorsPaul Giamatti, Josh Hutchersonm, Molly Shannon, Donal Logue, Hope Davis

    Directed byRobert Pulcini, Shari Springer Berman

    American Splendor is a 2003 American biographical comedy-drama film about Harvey Pekar, the author of the American Splendor comic book series. The film is also in part an adaptation of the comics,...  more
  • 10

    ActorsAshley Judd, Todd Field, Dorothy Lyman, Andy Anderson, Allison Dean

    Directed byVictor Nuñez

    Ruby in Paradise is a 1993 film written, directed, and edited by Victor Nuñez, and starring Ashley Judd, Todd Field, Bentley Mitchum, Allison Dean, and Dorothy Lyman. It is a homage to Northanger...  more
  • 11

    ActorsMark Ruffalo, Matthew Broderick, Laura Linney, Josh Lucas, Gaby Hoffmann

    Directed byKenneth Lonergan

    You Can Count on Me is a 2000 American drama film starring Laura Linney, Mark Ruffalo, Rory Culkin, and Matthew Broderick. Written and directed by Kenneth Lonergan, it tells the story of Sammy, a...  more
  • 12

    ActorsChloë Grace Moretz, Sasha Lane, John Gallagher, Jr., Forrest Goodluck

    Directed byDesiree Akhavan

    The Miseducation of Cameron Post is a 2018 American-British drama film directed by Desiree Akhavan, based on the 2012 novel by Emily M. Danforth. In 1993, a teenage girl (Chloe Grace Moretz) is...  more
  • 13
    9
    10

    Forty Shades of Blue

    2005

    ActorsRip Torn, D'Army Bailey, Darren E. Burrows, Joanne Pankow, Stuart Greer

    Directed byIra Sachs

    Forty Shades of Blue is a 2005 independent film directed by Ira Sachs. It tells the story of Alan James, an aging music producer who lives in Memphis, Tennessee with his much younger Russian...  more
  • 14

    ActorsMariah Carey, Lenny Kravitz, Paula Patton, Mo'Nique Imes-Jackson, Sherri Shepherd

    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
  • 15
    8
    13

    I Don't Feel at Home in This World Anymore

    2017

    ActorsMelanie Lynskey, Elijah Wood, David Yow, Jane Levy, Devon Graye

    Directed byMacon Blair

    I Don't Feel at Home in This World Anymore (often stylized i don't feel at home in this world anymore.) is a 2017 comedy crime thriller film written and directed by Macon Blair. A nurse, Ruth...  more
  • 16

    ActorsLaura Dern, Levon Helm, Mary Kay Place, Treat Williams, Elizabeth Berridge

    Directed byJoyce Chopra

    Smooth Talk is a 1985 drama film, loosely based on Joyce Carol Oates' 1966 short story Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?, which was in turn inspired by the Tucson murders committed by Charles...  more
  • 17

    ActorsJennifer Lawrence, John Hawkes, Garret Dillahunt, Dale Dickey, Sheryl Lee

    Directed byDebra Granik

    "Deep in the Ozark Mountains, clans live by a code of conduct that no one dares defy—until an intrepid teenage girl has no other choice. When Ree Dolly's father skips bail and goes missing, her...  more
  • 18

    ActorsRoger Lloyd-Pack, Antony Sher, Ruth Sheen, Hugh O'Conor, Charlotte Coleman

    Directed byBenjamin Ross

    The Young Poisoner's Handbook is a 1995 British-German-French-produced black comedy film based on the life of Graham Young, more commonly known as "The Teacup Murderer". It was directed by Benjamin...  more
  • 19

    ActorsHeather Matarazzo, Eric Mabius, Ken Leung, Christina Vidal, Brendan Sexton III

    Directed byTodd Solondz

    Welcome to the Dollhouse is a 1995 American independent coming of age comedy film. An independent film, it launched the careers of Todd Solondz and Heather Matarazzo....  more
  • 20

    ActorsSteve Buscemi, Jennifer Beals, Sam Rockwell, Stanley Tucci, Carol Kane

    Directed byAlexandre Rockwell

    In the Soup is a 1992 independent film comedy directed by Alexandre Rockwell. It stars Steve Buscemi as a self-conscious screenwriter who has written an unfilmable 500-page screenplay and is looking...  more
  • 21
    2
    0

    Minari

    2020

    ActorsSteven Yeun, Yeri Han, Yuh-Jung Youn

    Directed byLee Isaac Chung

    Minari is a 2020 American drama film directed by Lee Isaac Chung. A Korean-American family that moves to an Arkansas farm in the 1980s has their life completely changed when their foul-mouthed, sly,...  more
  • 22

    ActorsQuvenzhané Wallis, Jay Oliver, Henry D. Coleman, Philip Lawrence, Dwight Henry

    Directed byBenh Zeitlin

    Beasts of the Southern Wild is a 2012 American fantasy drama film directed by Benh Zeitlin and adapted by Zeitlin and Lucy Alibar from Alibar's one-act play Juicy and Delicious. After playing at film...  more
  • 23

    ActorsRyan Gosling, Billy Zane, Natasha Leggero, Garret Dillahunt, Elizabeth Reaser

    Directed byHenry Bean

    The Believer is a 2002 American drama film co-written and directed by Henry Bean. The film stars Ryan Gosling as Daniel Balint, a Jew who becomes a Neo-Nazi. It won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2001...  more
  • 24
    11
    29

    ActorsMichelle Rodriguez, John Sayles, Alicia Ashley, Paul Calderón, Michael Bentt

    Directed byKaryn Kusama

    Girlfight is a 2000 American sports drama film written and directed by Karyn Kusama and starring Michelle Rodriguez in both of their film debuts. It follows Diana Guzman, a troubled teenager from...  more
  • 25
    1
    0

    CODA

    2021

    ActorsEmilia Jones, Marlee Matlin, Troy Kotsur

    Directed bySian Heder

    CODA is a 2021 American drama film directed by Sian Heder, and a remake of the 2014 French film La Famille Bélier. A CODA (Child of Deaf Adults) and the only hearing person in her deaf family, a...  more