8 Out of 10 Oscar-Nominated Actors Waded in Sundance Waters

Older man in a dark bowler hat, pin-striped suit, and carrying a walking stick, checks his watch while standing in front of what appears to be a giant, white bureaucratic building. Pedestrians walk behind him.

Bill Nighy’s performance in “Living” received accolades at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival.

By Vanessa Zimmer

If the Sundance Film Festival were a river, an incredible number of thespians would have waded in its waters.

Take a look at this year’s Academy Awards, for example. Eight of the 10 nominees for best lead performance Oscars this year have Festival pedigrees. That means all eight have appeared in at least one Festival film over the years. (Andrea Riseborough has been in eight and Michelle Williams in nine!)

Check out the following details uncovered by our intrepid archives team, and discover the independent films where these acclaimed actors got their feet wet!



The man who would be Elvis plays a young hunk in Kevin Smith’s goofy pulp horror tale.

Yoga Hosers (2016 Sundance Film Festival), about a couple of Canadian teen girls who use yoga against the evil they encounter at the convenience store where they work. Available on Crackle, Freevee, Plex, Pluto, and Tubi.

COLIN FARRELL, The Banshees of Inisherin
The versatile Irish actor who thrives in both comedies and dramas has three Festival credits.

In Bruges (2008 Sundance Film Festival), a black comedy, also with Inisherin’s Brendan Gleeson, about two hit men hiding out after a botched job. Writer-director Martin McDonagh was Oscar-nominated for his screenplay. (Starz) 

Two men, one a larger man with brown hair, the other with darker hair, sit on a bench, smiling and laughing. The setting appears to be a European village
Brendan Gleeson (left) and Colin Farrell play two hit men awaiting their next orders after botching a job, in "In Bruges," which screened at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival.

The Lobster (2016 Sundance Film Festival), in which singles are sent to a hotel where they must find a mate within 45 days lest they be transformed into beasts and consigned to the woods. The screenplay for this absurdist satire was also nominated for an Oscar. (HBO Max)

After Yang (2022 Sundance Film Festival), a gentle sci-fi story, which won the Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize for its depiction of science and technology, about a family’s determination to repair a family member ― their young daughter’s broken AI robot companion. (For rent on Amazon Prime Video)


Fraser acted in a diverse trio of Festival films in the ’90s, the same decade during which he began his run in The Mummy franchise.

Twenty Bucks (1993 Sundance Film Festival), following a $20 bill through disparate hands and lives. (Tubi)

The Twilight of the Golds (1997 Sundance Film Festival), the story of a family’s emotional upheaval when genetic testing discloses their grandbaby likely will be gay, like their son (Fraser). (Freevee, Pluto)

Gods and Monsters (1998 Sundance Film Festival), a partly fictionalized story about the declining days of director James Whale (Frankenstein, The Invisible Man, Bride of Frankenstein) and his relationship with the gardener (Fraser), a former Marine living in a trailer park. The film won an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay. (Freevee, Tribeca Shortlist, Tubi)

A younger man carries an older man in striped pajamas down a stone stairway
Brendan Fraser and Ian McKellen star in "Gods and Monsters," which played the 1998 Sundance Film Festival.

We can’t claim any direct attachment to Mescal, but writer-director Charlotte Wells developed Aftersun while she attended Sundance Institute Screenwriters and Directors Labs in 2020.


Living screened at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival, where Nighy captured attention with his portrayal of a British bureaucrat who finds new life after a fatal diagnosis. The film is still showing in theaters. The veteran actor has appeared in two additional Festival films.

Lucky Break (2002 Sundance Film Festival), a comedy about a bunch of British prisoners staging a musical as part of an escape plan. (For rent on Amazon Prime Video)

Woman with dark hair, holding a pencil and some stapled pages, stands beside an older, gray-haired man in a suit. Both are looking at something in front of them
Gemma Arterton and Bill Nighy are featured in the World War II period piece, "Their Finest."

Their Finest (2017 Sundance Film Festival), in which Nighy plays an arrogant actor past his prime in a World War II–era romantic comedy about a young woman (gasp!) contributing to an inspirational film about the war. (For rent on Amazon Prime Video)



Blanchett has two Festival performances, both about artists, much like her nominated role as a noted classical composer and conductor.

Manifesto (2017 Sundance Film Festival), in which Blanchett plays 13 different roles, spouting inspiring manifestos from artists throughout history. (AMC+, Pluto, Sundance Now, Tubi)

Blond woman in stocking cap examines a puppet that looks like her and is dressed like her. Puppets line the shelves behind her.
Cate Blanchett plays 13 roles in "Manifesto," which played the 2017 Sundance Film Festival.

Documentary Now! Waiting for the Artist (2019 Sundance Film Festival), about an acclaimed performance artist (Blanchett) preparing for a major retrospective. (AMC+, Netflix)


De Armas’ Festival credits include two very different films — a psychological horror movie and a biographical drama, the latter developed by director Greg Barker from a short documentary he brought to the Festival 11 years earlier.  

Knock Knock (2015 Sundance Film Festival), a Midnight selection in which two young women (including de Armas’ character) corrupt the life and accomplishments of a devoted family man. (Cinemax)

A bearded, dark-haired man sits looking at a magazine on a couch, seated between two women in white bathrobes.
Lorenza Izzo, Keanu Reeves, and Ana de Armas appear in "Knock Knock," a Midnight selection at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival.

Sergio (2020 Sundance Film Festival), inspired by the true story of a U.N. diplomat who gets sucked into the violence in Iraq following the U.S. invasion. De Armas plays the woman he loves. (Netflix)


The hardworking veteran actress — she had three Festival films in 2018 alone— has played characters ranging from an IRA member to a Stalin crony to a traumatized aid worker among her eight roles at the Sundance Film Festival.

Love You More (2009 Sundance Film Festival), a 15-minute short film with Riseborough as one of two teens who agree to share the only copy left in the store of their beloved Buzzcocks’ single “Love You More.” (For rent on Amazon Prime Video)

Shadow Dancer (2012 Sundance Film Festival), the story of a dedicated IRA member (Riseborough) in 1990s Belfast who reluctantly turns informant to protect her young son. (For rent on Amazon Prime Video)

Burden (2018 Sundance Film Festival), about a lifelong Ku Klux Klan member who has a change of heart when he falls in love with Judy (Riseborough), a woman who stirs his social conscience. Based on a true story and winner of the Festival’s U.S. Dramatic Audience Award. (For rent on Amazon Prime Video)

The Death of Stalin (2018 Sundance Film Festival), a black comedy about Stalin’s inner circle (including Riseborough’s character) and the absurd scramble for power when the dictator suffers a stroke. (AMC+, IFC Films Unlimited, Pluto, Tubi)

Mandy (2018 Sundance Film Festival), in which Mandy (Riseborough) is endangered, and her loving companion becomes an unhinged, maniacal hunter. (AMC+, Roku, Pluto, Tubi)

Nancy (2018 Sundance Film Festival), a thriller in which Riseborough’s lonely, unfulfilled character becomes convinced she was kidnapped as a child. The film won the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award. (Amazon Prime Video, Plex, Pluto, Roku, Tubi)

Luxor (2020 Sundance Film Festival), the story of a British aid worker (Riseborough) who, after treating victims of the war in Syria, seeks respite in Luxor, Egypt, and experiences a second chance when she runs into the man she dated in her 20s. (Plex, Pluto, Roku, Tubi)

Side-front view of a blond woman's face. The photo has a reddish all-over tinge.
Andrea Riseborough starred in the 2020 Sundance Film Festival sci-fi film "Possessor."

Possessor (2020 Sundance Film Festival), a sci-fi horror film with Riseborough’s character working for a company that uses brain-implant technology to drive people to commit assassinations. (Hulu)


Williams is not a stranger to Oscar nominations, nor is she a stranger to the Sundance Film Festival, having appeared in nine Festival films.

The Station Agent (2003 Sundance Film Festival), a story about a loner with dwarfism moving into an old train depot and learning that having friends might not be all that bad. Williams plays a love interest. The film won the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award, the U.S. Dramatic Audience Award, and a Special Jury Prize for Acting. (Paramount

The United States of Leland (2003 Sundance Film Festival), in which Williams plays the sister of an intellectually disabled boy inexplicably killed by a detached 16-year-old. (For rent on Amazon Prime Video)

The Hawk Is Dying (2006 Sundance Film Festival), following an auto upholsterer who attempts to transcend his mundane life by training a magnificent red-tailed hawk. Betty (Williams), who works in his shop, may be the only person who believes in him. (Fandor, Strand Releasing)

Incendiary (2008 Sundance Film Festival), with Williams turning in an intense, emotional performance as a woman engaging in a dalliance with the handsome man across the street when she learns through a news report of a terrorist attack at the soccer stadium where her husband and young son were attending a game. (Crackle, Freevee, Peacock, Plex, Pluto, Roku, Tubi)

Blond woman in red hoodie chases a brown-haired boy in shorts and red hoodie along a beach. Both are laughing.
Michelle Williams portrays a wife and mother whose life is forever changed in a single day, in "Incendiary."

Blue Valentine (2010 Sundance Film Festival), about a young married couple trying to save their once-fiery love. (Freevee, Pluto, Roku, Tubi)

Meek’s Cutoff (2011 Sundance Film Festival), following three pioneer families traveling the Oregon Trail in 1845 — or rather, a shortcut recommended by their scout. Loosely based on a true incident involving guide Stephen Meek. (AMC+, Fandor, Showtime, Sundance Now)

Certain Women (2016 Sundance Film Festival), in which Williams plays one of a diverse ensemble of women blazing trails in Montana. (AMC+, IFC Films Unlimited, Pluto, Tubi)

Manchester by the Sea (2016 Sundance Film Festival), featuring an Oscar-winning screenplay about Lee (Casey Affleck), a troubled man living in Boston whose brother dies suddenly, leaving Lee to raise his 16-year-old son in Manchester-by-the-Sea. The situation breaks open a previous tragedy in Lee’s life involving his ex-wife, played by Williams. Affleck won an Oscar. (Amazon Prime Video)

After the Wedding (2019 Sundance Film Festival), the story of the manager (Williams) of a struggling orphanage in Calcutta who flies to New York to meet a wealthy benefactor — and then discovers a surprising tie between their lives. (Starz)

MICHELLE YEOH, Everything Everywhere All At Once

Yeoh’s only tie to the Sundance Film Festival thus far is as a panelist at the 2006 Festival for East Meets West Meets East: The Art of Asian Cinema. The writer-directors of Everything Everywhere All At Once — Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheiner, also known as the Daniels — attended Sundance Institute Labs and received additional Institute support to develop their debut feature film, Swiss Army Man, which premiered at the 2016 Festival.

Congratulations to all the nominees! And best of luck at the Oscars on Sunday night!

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