Comprising a considerable amount of our top 50 films of last year, Sundance Film Festival has proven to yield the first genuine look at what the year in cinema will bring. Now in its 38th iteration, we’ll be heading back to Park City this week, but before we do, it’s time to highlight the films we’re most looking forward to, including documentaries and narrative features from all around the world.
While much of the joy found in the festival comes from surprises throughout the event, below one will find our 25 most-anticipated titles off the bat, which doesn’t include some of the ones we’ve already seen and admired, notably Cemetery of Splendour, The Lobster and Rams. Check out everything below and for updates straight from the festival, make sure to follow us on Twitter (@TheFilmStage, @jpraup, @djmecca and @DanSchindel), and stay tuned to all of our coverage here.
25. Sing Street (John Carney)
After breaking out with the lovely, Oscar-winning Once, director John Carney found his Hollywood feature with Begin Again. Hopefully returning to his roots at this year’s Sundance he’ll be premiering his new musical Sing Street. Following a group of kids in 1980s Dublin that attempt to be part of the music scene, a new trailer hints at a more tender drama from Carney, and one that The Weinstein Company will release hopefully soon after the festival.
24. The Fundamentals of Caring (Rob Burnett)
Closing out the Sundance Film Festival this year is The Fundamentals of Caring, a new drama which teams Paul Rudd, Craig Roberts, and Selena Gomez. Following the road trip between a caregiver and a teenager with muscular dystrophy, we’re looking forward to see the comedic chemistry between Rudd and Roberts, two actors who have impressed at the festival before. Direction comes from Rob Burnett, a longtime producer of the Late Show with David Letterman.
23. Frank & Lola (Matthew M. Ross)
While we’ll cover another Michael Shannon film later on in this feature, he’ll also be stopping by Sundance with Frank & Lola, a new drama which pairs him with Imogen Poots. The noir love story follows Shannon as Frank, a chef in Las Vegas who begins a volatile relationship with Lola (Poots) and questions of trust soon arise. Coming from journalist-turned-director Matthew Ross, hopefully it’s one of the many impressive debuts at the festival.
22. Swiss Army Man (Daniel Kwan, Daniel Scheinert)
Considering genre-tinged films don’t often show up in the U.S. Dramatic competition slate at Sundance, it always piques our interest when one makes it through. Such is the case with Swiss Army Man, coming from music video directors Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan. Starring Paul Dano, Daniel Radcliffe, and Mary Elizabeth Winstead, the film follows a man on a deserted island who takes a newly discovered dead body on an adventure. Based on the curious premise alone, we’re mightily intrigued.
21. The Free World (Jason Lew)
Considering her recent track record, Elisabeth Moss‘ credit in a film is reason enough to seek it out. She’ll return to Sundance this year with the drama The Free World opposite Boyd Holbrook. Directed by Jason Lew and described as a neo-Southern Gothic tale, it follows a man recently released from prison attempting to return to a normal life. He soon meets a woman that might make this change difficult. The directorial debut from Lew, who wrote Gus Van Sant’s Restless, hopefully it’ll be a stand-out in the U.S. Dramatic competition slate.
20. Ali & Nino (Asif Kapadia)
Coming off one of the most successful documentaries of all-time, Amy, director Asif Kapadia returns to the narrative side this year with Ali & Nino. Premiering at Sundance next week, it follows the relationship between a Muslim man and Christian woman on the cusp of World War I. Considering how effective his documentary work is, we hope Kapadia’s latest packs the same emotional wallop with this sweeping love story.
19. Dark Night (Tim Sutton)
After helming one of our favorite films of Sundance a few years back with Memphis, director Tim Sutton returns with Dark Night, depicting the moments before a mass shooting in a suburban theater. While not much more is known about the feature, with Sutton’s touch, we are hoping it’s something as artistically impressive and emotionally devastating as Elephant.
18. Becoming Mike Nichols (Douglas McGrath)
Leaving behind a wealth of iconic work and a brand of filmmaking that is already missed, Mike Nichols was simply one of Hollywood’s finest storytellers. It’s only right that we get a hopefully definitive documentary on The Graduate director, who passed away in 2014. Set to air on HBO on February 22nd, one won’t have to wait long to see Becoming Mike Nichols following its Sundance premiere.
17. Operation Avalanche (Matt Johnson)
After premiering The Dirties at Slamdance a few years ago, director Matt Johnson is back in Park City, but this time he’ll be headed to Sundance. His new film Operation Avalanche depicts an undercover mission during the Cold War in which young CIA agents pose as documentary filmmakers to uncover a potential Russian mole inside NASA. Already picked up by Lionsgate, hopefully audiences not at the festival will be able to see it soon after.
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