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Over the course of its 27-year history, Park City’s Sundance Film Festival has catapulted unknown films and filmmakers to international prominence.

Had Robert Redford not given birth to the Sundance Film Festival more than two decades ago, year-end critics’ lists would teem with vacancies, an awful lot of Oscar gold would go unmined, and some of our best-loved filmmakers might never have gotten their big break.

“Sundance is the festival of all festivals,” says Dan Myrick, who enjoyed phenomenal Sundance success with his 1999 smash, The Blair Witch Project. “If you love movies — as an audience member or a moviemaker — Sundance is, really, the best place to be, year in and year out.”

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“Hopefully, all criticism is quelled when you get into the theater, the lights go down, the film starts to play and you go, ‘Oh, yeah, that’s why I’m here in all of this snow. It’s all worth it.’ ”

— Sundance Film Festival director John Cooper, on criticisms of the festival’s heightened profile
The 2011 Sundance Film Festival called it a wrap in January, and only time will tell whether the winners will enjoy the kind of blockbuster success that past Sundance grads have. Here’s a list of some of the most notable films from the festival’s history.
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Blood Simple
With this 1985 Grand Jury Prize winner, the Coen brothers announced their proclivity for taking familiar tropes — in this case, the private-eye genre — and spinning them like tops. The result is a dark noir with an oddball sense of humor.
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Sex, Lies, and Videotape
A powerful, emotionally resonant exercise in voyeurism, metafiction and erotic obsession, this 1989 Sundance Audience Award winner brought Steven Soderbergh to the fore of American filmmakers.
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Reservoir Dogs
This cult favorite, which screened at Sundance in 1992, is all about the ear — not just the one that gets brutally severed in a heart-stopping sequence but also Quentin Tarantino’s ear for pitch-perfect, sailor-shaming dialogue.
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If you thought Christopher Nolan’s Inception was confusing, give this flick — which won Sundance’s Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award in 2001 — a try. Our favorite poststructuralist prestidigitator takes a tale of lost identity and tells it backward.
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Little Miss Sunshine
This 2006 quirky family dramedy, centered around a beauty pageant for young girls, scored one of the biggest distribution deals in the history of Sundance when Fox Searchlight Pictures picked it up for $10.5 million within 24 hours of its screening.

Sundance at a Glance
  • Park City’s estimated population is 7,900.
  • During the Sundance Film Festival, it soars to around 45,000.
  • The festival screens, on average, more than 100 features and 80 shorts from more than 30 countries.
  • The Blair Witch Project, a 1999 Sundance favorite, grossed more than $240 million worldwide, some 320 times what it cost to make the theatrical version.