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 39th 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 20 most-anticipated titles. Check out everything below and for updates straight from the festival, make sure to follow us on Twitter (@TheFilmStage, @jpraup, @djmecca and @FinkJohnJ), and stay tuned to all of our coverage here.
20. Come Swim (Kristen Stewart)
With her pair of career-best performances under the direction of Olivier Assayas, as well as working with Kelly Reichardt, Woody Allen, Ang Lee, David Fincher, David Gordon Green, Walter Salles, and more, Kristen Stewart has had no shortage of considerable filmmaking talent to learn from. She’s now helmed her first short, Come Swim, which utilizes a both impressionistic and realistic style to capture a man’s day. Set to premiere in the shorts program at this year’s festival, followed by a release by Refinery29, we can’t wait to see the results.
19. Kuso (Steven Ellison)
You may not have heard the name Steven Ellison, but we’re betting you’re familiar with Flying Lotus. In the past few years, Ellison’s music persona has been one of the most influential in the world of hip-hop, electronica, and whatever other genre he’s interested in at the moment. Following his short film Royal, he’s now made his feature directorial debut with Kuso, which follows the survivors after Los Angeles’ worst earthquake. Promising to be psychedelic fever dream, this will certainly be the trippiest film at the festival.
18. Sidney Hall (Shawn Christensen)
After his Oscar win for the short film Curfew, director Shawn Christensen adapted it into the feature-length drama Before I Disappear. For his follow-up, he’s amassed quite an ensemble. Sidney Hall, which stars Logan Lerman (who gave one of last year’s best performances at the festival with Indignation), Elle Fanning, Kyle Chandler, Michelle Monaghan, Blake Jenner, and Nathan Lane, follows the life of a writer as we flashback to his dark past. That logline may not be anything new, but with the talent of this cast, we can bet it’s something special.
17. Columbus (kogonada)
Whether online (potentially at this very site) or on a Criterion collection disc, you’ve likely seen the video essay work of the artist known as kogonada. He’s now segued to feature filmmaking with his debut Columbus. Starring John Cho, the film follows his character in the wake of his father’s coma as he strikes up a conversation with a local woman as they venture around their midwestern town. With the director’s clear knowledge of film history, it has the makings of the kind of well-composed, relaxed feature that could delight.
16. Ingrid Goes West (Matt Spicer)
Staples at Sundance Film Festival the last few years, Aubrey Plaza and Elizabeth Olsen have now teamed for their own comedy Ingrid Goes West. While the former star has proved her comedic talents numerous times, we’re looking forward to seeing what Olsen has in store in the film that follows an mentally unstable woman who ventures to Los Angeles to connect with a social media influencer. Featuring a score from Islands frontman Nick Thorburn, this is one comedy that could get dark and for that we look forward to it.
15. I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore (Macon Blair)
One of the most exciting careers to witness on the rise the last few years has been that of Macon Blair. After breaking out under the direction of Jeremy Saulnier in Blue Ruin, he’s now made his directorial debut with I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore. Starring Melanie Lynskey as a woman who teams with her neighbor, played by Elijah Wood, to track down a burglar, Blair certainly seems in his wheelhouse to deliver a revenge tale in his unique language.
14. The Yellow Birds (Alexandre Moors)
After bringing his harrowing drama Blue Caprice to Sundance a few years back, director Alexandre Moors is back with a film of a bigger scale. The Yellow Birds, starring Tye Sheridan, Jack Huston, Alden Ehrenreich, Jason Patric, Toni Collette, and Jennifer Aniston, follows the disappearance of a solider in Iraq and the aftermath when the survivors return home. Co-scripted by David Lowery (whose next film also appears on this list), it has the makings of another intense drama set in a post-9/11 world.