Before Sunrise
Before Sunrise
1995 Sundance Film Festival
Directed By: Richard Linklater
Budget: $2.5 million
Box Office: $5.5 million
Rotten Tomatoes: 100%

Other films at Sundance that year: Bryan Singer’s The Usual Suspects, Terry Zwigoff’s Crumb, Edward Burnes’ The Brothers McMullen

Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise told the simple story of a young American man (Ethan Hawke) and a young French woman (Julie Delpy) who meet on a train and spend the night walking around Vienna getting to know each other. The film made had its world premiere at the 1995 Sundance Film Festival where it was met with high critical praise (the film still holds a perfect 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes). The film spawned two sequels, one of which you will see in part 2 of this feature tomorrow.

The Usual Suspects, which launched Bryan Singer’s career, also premiered at the 1995 festival. I almost chose that film for this year as its more acclaimed by the mainstream, and well, you’ll find that Linklater wins too many of the Sundance years coming up — but as much as I like The Usual Suspects, I really believe Before Sunrise is the better movie. I, at least, have watched it many more times.

Welcome to the Dollhouse

Welcome to the Dollhouse
1996 Sundance Film Festival
Directed By: Todd Solondz
Won: Grand Jury Prize Dramatic
Budget: $800,000
Box Office: $4.56 million
Rotten Tomatoes: 90%

Other films at Sundance that year: Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills, Alexander Payne’s feature debut Citizen RuthShineBig Night

This independent coming of age comedy film launched the careers of Todd Solondz and Heather Matarazzo. The story followed Matarazzo as a “7th grader as she struggles to cope with un-attentive parents, snobbish classmates, a smart older brother, an attractive younger sister, and her own insecurities.” Dollhouse was the big hit of 1996 Sundance, winning the grand jury prize in the dramatic competition. The film was critically acclaimed, landing on the top ten lists of many critics, including Roger Ebert.

Chasing Amy

Chasing Amy
1997 Sundance Film Festival
Directed By: Kevin Smith
Budget: $250,000
Box Office: $12 million
Rotten Tomatoes: 88%

Other films at Sundance that year: Neil LaBute’s In the Company of MenThe Full Monty

While it has become a cult classic, many critics believed filmmaker Kevin Smith “bellyflopped” with his sophomore feature Mallrats. Kevin Smith returned to Sundance in 1997, three years after he brought Clerks to Park City, to prove he wasn’t a one hit wonder. And boy did he — Many believe that Chasing Amy is Smith’s best film.  Filmed on a modest budget of $250,000, the movie grossed a total of $12,021,272 in theaters, later going on to be a huge hit on home video. Chasing Amy won two awards at the 1998 Independent Spirit Awards (Best Screenplay for Smith and Best Supporting Actor for Jason Lee).


1998 Sundance Film Festival
Directed By: Darren Aronofsky
Won: Directing Award Dramatic
Budget: 60,000
Box Office: $ 3.2 million
Rotten Tomatoes: 87%

Other films at Sundance that year: Gods and MonstersCube, Buffalo 66

Pi was the debut of auteur filmmaker Darren Aronofsky. The surrealist psychological thriller follows a “paranoid mathematician searches for a key number that will unlock the universal patterns found in nature.” The film was shot for only $60,000. The movie premiered at the 1998 Sundance Film Festival where it won the directing award in the dramatic competition. Pi is also notable for launching the film scoring career of Clint Mansell. (Whose score to Requiem for a Dream has yet to be beat, if you ask me.)


1999 Sundance Film Festival
Directed By: Doug Liman
Budget: $6.5 million
Box Office: $28.4 million
Rotten Tomatoes: 92%

Other films at Sundance that year: American MovieRun Lola RunThe Blair Witch ProjectThree SeasonsLock, Stock and Two Smoking BarrelsSLC Punk!

This was a tough one because so many great movies premiered in Park City this year, including some of my personal favorites. (If you’ve never seen American Movie or Run Lola Run, correct that as quickly as possible.) But the big challenger to Go is that The Blair Witch Project also premiered at the 1999 fest. Blair Witch, while not the first found footage movie ever, popularized the genre in the mainstream and also is thought to have spawned the internet viral marketing movement within Hollywood. And Doug Liman’s Go is often forgotten by many, remembered as one of the many fragmented timeline films that came after Tarantino. So why did I choose Go over Blair Witch? It is a vastly better movie. It’s actually in my top ten favorite movies of all time.

While Blair Witch is an important film in cinema history, Go is a better movie in every other respect.  The film’s two letter title doesn’t help its legacy (for instance, try searching for a movie called “Go” on a website like Rotten Tomatoes). Despite being over 15 years old, the movie still feels fresh, which is something that can’t be said for Blair Witch. It also spawned the screenwriting career of super duper screenwriter John August. (Who later made his directorial debut at Sundance with The Nines — I wish he would step behind the camera again.)

Part 2 Coming Tomorrow

Come back tomorrow as we return with the Best Movies of Sundance Film Festival History chronicling the years 2000-2017.

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