The Sundance Film Festival is upon us again, shining a light on the best of the best in independent cinema.
Sundance (running now through Jan. 30) has been the launching pad for iconic filmmakers (Quentin Tarantino, Paul Thomas Anderson, David O. Russell and Wes Anderson, among many others) as well as a ton of great indie movies over the years. Out of Utah has come Oscar-ready films like “In the Bedroom” and “Precious,” weird cult oddities such as “Napoleon Dynamite,” plus a lot of horror fare from “Hereditary” to the original “Saw.”
“CODA,” a coming-of-age film picking up steam this awards season with Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild nominations, bowed at Sundance 2021 and swept its top prizes. This year’s event features another crop of premieres trying to make their mark, including the socially conscious college comedy “Emergency,” religious satire “Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul” (with Regina Hall and Sterling K. Brown), Lena Dunham’s directorial effort “Sharp Stick” and high-profile documentaries including “Lucy and Desi,” “The Princess” and “We Need to Talk About Cosby.”
For the second year in a row, Sundance is going virtual because of COVID-19, and we’ll be covering it from the couch. For those who want to play along at home, here are the fest’s 10 best all-time films to stream for your own greatest-hits Sundance:
'Sex, Lies and Videotape' (1989)
Before winning the Palme d'Or at Cannes, Steven Soderbergh's directorial debut sizzled at Sundance with James Spader as a guy who videotapes women discussing their sexual fantasies and gets old college pals involved. The film helped kick-start an indie movie revolution that included another Sundance debut, Tarantino's "Reservoir Dogs," two years later.
That year's festival slate included heavyweights like "Hoop Dreams" and "Four Weddings and a Funeral," though Kevin Smith's first low-budget comedy stands out as a black-and-white story of two convenience store clerks (Brian O'Halloran and Jeff Anderson) that's timeless in its relatability for working stiffs everywhere.
'The Blair Witch Project' (1999)
Remember that whole found-footage phenomenon in the 2000s? Blame it all on the original. The creep-fest about filmmakers venturing into a Maryland forest to document a local legend freaked out a generation of horror fans with its shaky-cam antics and constant sense of dread.
'American Psycho' (2000)
Sorry, Batman, Christian Bale's best role is Huey Lewis-loving yuppie serial killer Patrick Bateman in director Mary Harron's darkly comic, blood-drenched thriller. Not only is the cast outstanding (with Willem Dafoe, Justin Theroux, Jared Leto and Reese Witherspoon) but the 1980s satire is as sharp as Bateman's ax.
Best known in the mainstream for "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" and "Knives Out," writer/director Rian Johnson first made a splash in the indie scene with his masterful teen-movie spin on film noir. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is the hardboiled high school detective navigating cliques and kid crime rings to find out who murdered his ex.
'Little Miss Sunshine' (2006)
Hilarious and heartfelt misadventure is afoot when a dysfunctional family piles into VW bus for a cross-country trip to get their youngest member (Abigail Breslin) into a beauty pageant. Greg Kinnear and Toni Collette plays the bickering mom and dad, Steve Carell is the suicidal gay uncle, and Alan Arkin steals the movie as the coolest grandpa ever.
'500 Days of Summer' (2009)
Director Marc Webb cleverly blew up the romantic-comedy model with this gem, which takes a nonlinear tack to track the relationship of a young couple (Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel) from their first meeting to the implosion of their relationship. You get a modern look at love, plus a great Hall & Oates-fueled dance number to boot.
'Fruitvale Station' (2013)
Before their sensational collaborations "Creed" and "Black Panther," debut director Ryan Coogler teamed with Michael B. Jordan for this biopic showing the final day of Oscar Grant (Jordan), a young Oakland man killed by police officers in 2009. It's a powerful and affecting work that's only grown more relevant over the years.
Music is turned into a beautifully brutal art form in director Damien Chazelle's pre-"La La Land" drama. Miles Teller is a freshman drummer at a major conservatory who wants to be the next Buddy Rich, and J.K. Simmons won an Oscar playing the kid's abusive, perfectionist jazz band director from hell.
'Get Out' (2017)
While scary movies have long had a socially conscious side, Peele brought it back to the fore in a big way with his first directorial outing, one of the best horror movies in recent memory. Daniel Kaluuya stars as a Black photographer visiting his white girlfriend's parents, who's terrified to discover the truly insidious reason for his invitation.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Sundance Film Festival's best movies ever, from 'Clerks' to 'Get Out'