Our Festival Has Contributed Best Picture Oscar Nominees Since 1986

Carey Mulligan starred in the Oscar-nominated Promising Young Woman.

By Vanessa Zimmer

As the 94th annual Academy Awards approach, independent film fans are cheering for the representatives of the Sundance Film Festival — including Best Picture nominee CODA.

The celebrated Sian Heder film, from the 2021 Festival, is among 10 vying for the top prize at the March 27 ceremonies. But it is not the first Sundance-supported film to be in this vaunted position. In the 2021 ceremonies, in fact, an amazing four titles (The FatherJudas and the Black MessiahMinari, and Promising Young Woman) were among the nominees.

Accompany us down memory lane as we review the Sundance films that earned Best Picture nominations from the humble beginnings of the Sundance Film Festival and the Sundance Institute.

Mia Farrow, Barbara Hershey, and Dianne Wiest portrayed sisters in Hannah and Her Sisters.

59th Annual Academy Awards

HANNAH AND HER SISTERS (1986 Sundance Film Festival) — Mia Farrow, Dianne Wiest, and Barbara Hershey play sisters with separate and related emotional and romantic baggage. The screenplay won an Oscar. Available on Starz.

60th Annual Academy Awards 

MOONSTRUCK (1988 Sundance Film Festival) — A widow (Cher), a member of an eccentric Italian-American family in Brooklyn, falls in love with her fiance’s brother (Nicolas Cage). Cher and Olympia Dukakis won Oscars for their performances. Available on HBO Max.

67th Annual Academy Awards 

FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL (1994 Sundance Film Festival) — Charles (Hugh Grant) and Carrie (Andie MacDowell) meet at a wedding and then dance around their mutual attraction and interest through four more social occasions. Available on Pluto and Tubi.

74th Annual Academy Awards

IN THE BEDROOM (2001 Sundance Film Festival) — An upper-middle-class family (Sissy Spacek, Tom Wilkinson) in New England deal with the roller coaster of life and tragedy in their small town. Available on Showtime.

A group of four adults, a teenager, and a child walk away from a VW van.

Alan Arkin (far left) earned an Oscar for his part in Little Miss Sunshine.

79th Annual Academy Awards 

LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE (2006 Sundance Film Festival) — A dysfunctional extended family crams into a VW bus to take quirky 7-year-old Olive on a madcap cross-country trip to a beauty pageant. Alan Arkin won an Oscar for his supporting role as the eccentric grandfather, and Michael Arndt won for the screenplay. Available on Amazon Prime, Hulu, and Tubi.

Gabourey Sidibe starred in Precious.

82nd Annual Academy Awards

AN EDUCATION (2009 Sundance Film Festival) — Carey Mulligan plays a teenager in 1960s London whose academic life has been built on getting into Oxford. Will her new relationship with a much older man jeopardize that future? Available for rent on Amazon Prime.

PRECIOUS: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire (2009 Sundance Film Festival) — Teenage Precious (Gabourey Sidibe) is illiterate, abused, and pregnant with her father’s child (her second). But she is determined to turn her life around. Mo’Nique won an Oscar for her role as Precious’ mother, as did Geoffrey Fletcher for the adapted screenplay. Available to rent on Amazon Prime. 

Jennifer Lawrence made her breakout performance in Winter’s Bone.

83rd Annual Academy Awards

THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT (2010 Sundance Film Festival) — The teen children of a lesbian couple (Annette Bening and Julianne Moore) track down their biological father (Mark Ruffalo), setting up a family reunion. Available on Starz.

WINTER’S BONE (2010 Sundance Film Festival) — Jennifer Lawrence emerged to the public eye when she played the role of Ree, a teen who tracks her meth-dealing, bail-jumping father in an attempt to save the family home in the Ozark Mountains. Available to rent on Amazon Prime.

A still from "Beasts of the Southern Wild."

Quvenzhané Wallis played Hushpuppy in Beasts of the Southern Wild.

85th Annual Academy Awards

BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD (2012 Sundance Film Festival) — Deep in the Delta, tough and precocious 6-year-old Hushpuppy (Quvenzhané Wallis) lives with her father, whose health is fading. Available on IMDb and Hulu.

J.K. Simmons turned in an Oscar-winning performance in Whiplash.

87th Annual Academy Awards 

BOYHOOD (2014 Sundance Film Festival) — Director Richard Linklater filmed this movie over a 12-year-span with the same cast, including a child actor who grows up on screen. Patricia Arquette won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar. Available on AMC+ and IFC Films Unlimited.

WHIPLASH (2014 Sundance Film Festival) — Andrew (Miles Teller) wants to be a great drummer and enrolls in a Manhattan conservatory, where a demanding teacher (J.K. Simmons) pushes him to succeed at any cost. Simmons won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. The film was developed from a short shown the previous year at the Festival. Available on Hulu.

Saoirse Ronan was nominated for an Oscar for her role in Brooklyn.

88th Annual Academy Awards

BROOKLYN (2015 Sundance Film Festival) — A young Irish immigrant (Saoirse Ronan) lands in 1950s Brooklyn, falls in love, and becomes a woman caught between two countries in this story based on the acclaimed Colm Toibin novel. Available to rent at Amazon Prime.

89th Annual Academy Awards

MANCHESTER BY THE SEA (2016 Sundance Film Festival) — A struggling laborer (Casey Affleck) assumes the care of his newly deceased brother’s 16-year-old son. Affleck won the Best Actor Oscar, and writer-director Kenneth Lonergan took the prize for original screenplay. Available on Amazon Prime.

90th Annual Academy Awards

CALL ME BY YOUR NAME (2017 Sundance Film Festival) — In 1980s Italy, 17-year-old Elio  (Timothée Chalamet) is attracted to the man his father hires as a summer intern (Armie Hammer). James Ivory won an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay. Available on Starz.

GET OUT (2017 Sundance Film Festival) — Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) goes home with his girlfriend to meet her parents. As the male half of the interracial couple, he faces the weekend with anxiety. That may be the least of his worries in this horror story. Writer-director Jordan Peele won the Best Original Screenplay Oscar. Available to rent on Amazon Prime.

Judas and the Black Messiah starred Daniel Kaluuya and LaKeith Stanfield (foreground).

93rd Annual Academy Awards 

THE FATHER (2020 Sundance Film Festival) — Celebrated actors Anthony Hopkins and Olivia Colman play father and daughter in this film about aging, Alzheimer’s disease, and family responsibility. Christopher Hampton and Florian Zeller won an Oscar for their adapted screenplay. Available on Starz.

JUDAS AND THE BLACK MESSIAH (2021 Sundance Film Festival) — Daniel Kaluuya portrays Black Panther leader Fred Hampton, whose fiery style prompted the FBI to plant an informant, William O’Neal (LaKeith Stanfield), a petty criminal offered the job as part of a deal to avoid jail. But O’Neal finds himself with conflicting loyalties. Kaluuya earned an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. Available on HBO Max.

MINARI (2020 Sundance Film Festival) — Jacob (Steven Yeun) moves his Korean family from the West Coast to a mobile home in rural 1980s Arkansas to establish a farm and realize the American Dream. Yuh-jung Youn won an Oscar for best supporting actress in her role as the grandmother. Available on Showtime.

PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN  (2020 Sundance Film Festival) — A promising young woman (Carey Mulligan) drops out of med school and seeks revenge on predatory men after a trauma involving her best friend. Writer-director Emerald Fennell won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. Available on HBO Max.

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