2005 Sundance Film Festival
Directed By: Rian Johnson
Won: Special Jury Prize for Originality of Vision
Budget: $475,000
Box Office: $3.9 million
Rotten Tomatoes: 80%

Other films at Sundance that year: The Squid and the WhaleMe and You and Everyone We KnowOldboyKung Fu HustleMarch of the Penguins

Brick launched the filmmaking career of Rian Johnson who is now directing the 8th installment of the Star Wars franchise. The neo-noir thriller was a throwback to the hardboiled detective story, but set in a high school in a modern suburb.

An Inconvenient Truth

An Inconvenient Truth

2006 Sundance Film Festival
Directed By: Davis Guggenheim
Budget: $1 million
Box Office: $49.7 million
Rotten Tomatoes: 93%

Other films at Sundance that year: Half NelsonQuinceañeraLittle Miss SunshineThank You for SmokingThis Film Is Not Yet RatedWho Killed the Electric CarThe Foot Fist Way

This was again one of the harder years to pick a best of the fest. First up you have the audience favorite Little Miss Sunshine went on to become a mega indie hit. Secondly you have Thank You For Smoking, the incredible feature debut of director Jason Reitman. But in the end, I had to go with Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, the documentary that made a major impact on our cultural and political landscape for the years that have followed.  The Academy Award-winning doc was based on former United States Vice President Al Gore’s slideshow presentation about the looming danger of global warming.

Rocket Science

Rocket Science
2007 Sundance Film Festival
Directed By: Jeffrey Blitz
Won: Dramatic Grand Jury Prize
Budget: $ 4.5 million
Box Office: $755,774
Rotten Tomatoes: 84%

Other films at Sundance that year: Son of RambowMy Kid Could Paint ThatOnceThe Signal

Rocket Science wasn’t a huge hit like 2007 Sundance favorite Once, but I feel like its the best film of that year’s festival. The indie dramedy told the story of Reece Thompson as a stuttering boy who joins his high school debate team while “looking for answers to life’s big questions.” The biggest thing to come out of Rocket Science is without question Anna Kendrick. Sure, Kendrick had previously been in other films (Camp played Sundance a few years prior) but this is the film that got Kendrick noticed. Director Jason Reitman have credited Rocket Science for their discovery of the actress before casting her in Up in the Air, for which she scored an Academy Award nomination.

Man On Wire

Man On Wire
2008 Sundance Film Festival
Directed By: James Marsh
Won: World Cinema Audience Award Documentary and the World Cinema Jury Prize Documentary
Budget: $1.9 million
Box Office: $5.2 million
Rotten Tomatoes: 100%

Other films at Sundance that year: Time CrimesAmerican TeenThe Wackness, The EscapistBe Kind Rewind

While my favorite film of the 2008 Sundance Film Festival has to be Jonathan Levine’s audience award-winning film The Wackness, I think I have to give best film of the fest to Man On Wire. James Marsh’s documentary film chronicled Philippe Petit’s 1974 high-wire walk between the Twin Towers in New York City. Not only did the film get two awards at the festival, but it went on to win won the BAFTA for Outstanding British Film, the Independent Spirit Awards, and the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. The documentary is currently being adapted into a narrative feature by director Robert Zemeckis. On top of all that acclaim, I think Man on Wire is important because it kickstarted a new wave of documentary features that interweave highly cinematic narrative re-enactments in with the tradition documentary interviews and slips.

(500) Days of Summer

(500) Days of Summer
2009 Sundance Film Festival
Directed By: Marc Webb
Budget: $7.5 million
Box Office: $60.7 million
Rotten Tomatoes: 86%

Other films at Sundance that year: MoonMary and MaxThe CoveAn EducationWorld’s Greatest Dad, Mystery TeamPrecious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire

This was another great year for the Sundance Film Festival. I wish I could have chosen Mary and Max, as its a great film that I feel so many people have not yet seen. But (500) Days of Summer not only launched the movie directing career of Marc Webb (who went on to direct the second round of Spider-Man movies for Sony) but also the film that revitalized the career of childhood star Joseph Gordon Levitt and cemented Zooey Deschanel as a quirky romantic lead.

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