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21 Movies We Can’t Wait to See at This Year’s Sundance Film Festival
21 Movies We Can’t Wait to See at This Year’s Sundance Film Festival,From Jane Schoenbrun’s follow-up to ‘We’re All Going to the World’s Fair,’ a Kristen Stewart double feature, and a Steven Soderbergh–directed Lucy Liu and Julia Fox team-up, here’s what we’re watching this year at Sundance.

21 Movies We Can’t Wait to See at This Year’s Sundance Film Festival

Festival season has officially begun, because festival season is all year long and one of the world’s leading independent film festivals takes place in January for some reason. Last night marked the start of the 40th annual Sundance Film Festival, and it is putting on all kinds of programming to commemorate the fest’s history, like a 4K restoration of Napoleon Dynamite, which premiered in Park City 20 years ago.

That means we are currently as far in the future from Napoleon Dynamite as Napoleon Dynamite was from the first time Robert Redford helmed Sundance in 1984. Napoleon Dynamite is the fulcrum on which the modern history of independent cinema hinges.

Twenty years from now, what film from the 2024 lineup will we look back on as a fulcrum? Here are the 21 movies we’re most excited to see.

As We Speak

This year’s Sundance has a number of films that look at the nexus between music and politics, and this is one of the more intriguing titles among them. Director J.M. Harper’s film follows Bronx hip-hop artist Kemba as he explores how rap lyrics are used as evidence in criminal cases, a subject with a long but little-known history.

Between the Temples

The prolific independent director Nathan Silver’s work has received more and more attention in recent years, and now he makes his Sundance debut with this comedy starring Jason Schwartzman as a depressed cantor and the great Carol Kane as an older woman who wants to finally have her bat mitzvah. That sounds pretty high concept, but Silver’s loose, artfully improvisatory style — he’s more Fassbinder than Apatow — will certainly result in something more unpredictable. Plus this director should work wonders with two actors as delightfully weird as Schwartzman and Kane.


Rock docs have proliferated to an almost uncontrollable degree over the past decade or so, and one approaches each new film about some classic band with a certain degree of trepidation: Will this be just another promo feature or will I actually learn something? However, the New Wave band Devo was always something of an enigma, and many of us Generation-X kids had a million questions about who they were and why they were … like that. Turns out their roots lay in the Kent State massacre of 1970. So that’s interesting! Meanwhile, director Chris Smith, who’s also made films about Wham! and the Fyre Festival (and who had one of the all-time great Sundance breakouts with American Movie way back in 1999) is a sure hand at these things.


There have been many films featuring Frida Kahlo over the years — documentaries, narratives, total fictions, and assorted hybrids — but here’s one that presents her life and career solely on her terms. Carla Gutierrez’s film uses Kahlo’s own paintings, visual diaries, letters, and interviews to re-create Kahlo as an artist and a person. It sounds as much like an animated film as a documentary, and given the artist’s magnificently unorthodox work and tumultuous life, it promises to be quite distinctive.

In a Violent Nature

“Horror movies” aren’t what first come to mind when thinking of Sundance, but the festival has a long and rich tradition of horror breakouts, often from its Midnight section. (Think It Follows, Hereditary, The Babadook, The Pact, and others.) Could this Shudder production, described as an “ambient” slasher movie about a monster stalking the woods, be the one that gets noticed this year? The idea of a schlockfest crossed with arty, immersive stylization sounds a bit too intriguing to resist.


Admittedly, not everybody’s ears will immediately perk up at hearing the words “a contemplative documentary about people who spend their nights studying moths in the Eastern Himalayas.” But for some of us, this sort of thing is our love language. A couple of years ago, Shaunak Sen’s All That Breathes, a gorgeous and mesmerizing look at two brothers working to save Delhi’s black-kite bird population, premiered at Sundance to great acclaim. Could Anirban Dutta and Anupama Srinivasan’s film achieve something similar?

The Outrun

Saoirse Ronan had Foe in 2023, and she’s continued to work steadily, but it does seem like we’ve seen less of her in recent years. In Nora Fingscheidt’s latest, adapted from Amy Liptrot’s memoir, Ronan plays a woman who returns to Scotland’s Orkney Islands to recover from her past and a turbulent life. The peculiar combination of Saoirse Ronan and striking landscapes has never really failed us before, which makes this one of the more exciting titles at this year’s festival.


Lucy Liu and Julia Fox star in a David Koepp–scripted Steven Soderbergh film about “a suburban house inhabited by a mysterious entity.” That’s an exciting proposition even in a perfect vacuum, but there’s also this: The incredibly prolific Soderbergh is a filmmaker who often does his best work when he’s riffing on genre, trying out original ideas within familiar parameters. So is this a thriller? A horror movie? A domestic drama? Or something we’ve never seen before?

Soundtrack to a Coup d’État

The Belgian filmmaker Johan Grimonprez is a brilliant manipulator of archival footage to both narrative and critical ends; he can take existing images and reedit them to tell new stories while interrogating the power of doing so. The results are usually both incisive and hugely entertaining. (Double Take, his 2009 psychological thriller, “starring” Alfred Hitchcock, must be seen to be believed.) His latest documentary threads the rise and fall of Patrice Lumumba — Congo’s first democratically elected prime minister, who was ousted with the help of western nations — with the U.S. government’s attempts to use Black jazz musicians as goodwill ambassadors. It’s a rich, complicated, and intensely troubling history, seemingly tailor-made for Grimonprez’s dense, textured filmmaking style.


This sounds extremely Sundance-y: a coming-of-age comedy-drama set in and around a Florida hospice, starring Laura Linney, Nico Parker, Matt Walsh, and Woody Harrelson. Parker plays a high-schooler whose brother is in end-of-life care at the same facility where the notorious real-life Terry Schiavo right-to-life case is unfolding. Harrelson plays a Christian activist protesting the Schiavo situation who bonds with our young heroine and dispenses wisdom. That sounds like an easy cryfest, but this is high-level-of-difficulty stuff. On the one hand, you could really drown in sentiment; on the other, you could be too frivolous or whimsical with a tragic subject. If director Laura Chinn (who based the film partly on her own experiences) can pull it off, Suncoast could really be something.

War Game

After the events of January 6, 2021, a bipartisan group of veterans, national-security officials, and former lawmakers came together for a role-playing exercise in which an organized group of right-wing militants attempted to undo an election and overthrow the government. Tony Gerber and Jesse Moss’s film follows this coup exercise from all sides, charting how the crisis unfolds and the “government” response. So it’s a documentary crossed with a political thriller, which sounds quite nerve-racking. But will it have anything new to teach us after we all experienced the real January 6 on our TVs? This could prove to be one of the more politically pertinent films coming out of this year’s festival.

Seeking Mavis Beacon

Chances are if you learned how to type in the late ’80s through the early 2000s, you learned it from Mavis Beacon. But the chic, modern woman who lent her image to millions of copies of educational software was never real; she was a mascot created by by software developers and modeled by Haitian-born Renee L’Esperance, who was paid a flat fee for a one-day photo shoot in the late 1980s and hasn’t been heard from since 1995. Filmmaker Jazmin Jones seeks to find L’Esperance in her “hybrid documentary” Seeking Mavis Beacon, exploring themes of “the consumption of marginalized bodies in the tech industry” in the process. The story feels especially interesting at a time when we’re all under threat of our likenesses being co-opted for digital corporate use (SAG-strike throwback). Plus: This doc definitely has the coolest website of any movie playing at the festival.


Director Susanna Fogel returns to Sundance for a second year in a row to wipe the taste of her Nicholas Braun–starring Cat Person adaptation out of our mouths. In a hard swerve from that and Booksmart (which she co-wrote), Fogel’s new film, Winner, stars Emilia Jones as Reality Winner, the young NSA translator who was arrested by the Trump administration at age 26 under the Espionage Act for leaking documents regarding Russian interference in the 2016 election. Winner’s a fascinating subject, not just because of the famous leak but because she’s a character, a multilingual Texan vegan millennial CrossFit-instructing Air Force vet. The cast is rounded out by Danny Ramirez, Zach Galifianakis, Connie Britton, and Kathryn Newton, so the film’s government espionage will be cut through with a good deal of humanity and quirk.

Your Monster

In this house, we support Melissa Barrera, so we’ll be showing up for Your Monster, a dark rom-com about an actress (Barrera) who falls in love with a charming, roguish monster (Tommy Dewey) living in her closet. Your Monster comes from first-time writer-director Caroline Lindy, adapting a short film that made the festival circuit in 2020. This midnight flick will also have “a dash of musical whimsy,” so now we’re picturing an indie Beauty and the Beast, if Belle and the Beast lived in Hoboken.

I Saw the TV Glow 

If the common lament about Black Mirror is that it’s basically just “What if phones but too much,” Jane Schoenbrun’s horror output is like something out of a fucked-up, scary parallel universe to our own: “What if Black Mirror but good.” Another midnight selection, I Saw the TV Glow, is Schoenbrun’s highly anticipated follow-up to their 2021 Sundance breakout, We’re All Going to the World’s Fair. The lasting power of World’s Fair hinged on Schoenbrun’s fluency in its online setting of vloggers and livestreamers, depicting a creepypasta-based AR game that felt too close to something really happening in some corner of the internet you’d rather not click on. In their follow-up, I Saw the TV Glow, Schoenbrun continues to scratch at the co-dependent, dysphoric, transhuman relationships between our bodies (and our identities therein) and our screens (and the spooky shit going on therein).

How to Have Sex

Following The Lost Daughter and Aftersun in the burgeoning indie subgenre known as “There’s Something Inherently Dark About Brits on Holiday,” How to Have Sex follows a trio of teenage girls on a clubbing- and drinking-fueled trip to the Mediterranean resort town of Malia. From there, it becomes a story about, among other things, consent and sexual assault. First-time director Molly Manning Walker debuted the film at Cannes, where it won in En Certain Regard.

Handling the Undead

Oh my God, it’s Renate Reinsve and king of 2022 Anders Danielsen Lie back together again! In The Worst Person in the World, Oslo in summertime was a scary place because you had to be in your 30s. In Handling the Undead, Oslo is a scary place because “the newly dead awaken” and “three families faced with loss try to figure out what this resurrection means,” so … basically a sequel.

The Greatest Night in Pop 

This is a fun one: an entire documentary about the making of “We Are the World.” How did it take so long for a movie about this to be made? It seems like this will be less Behind the Music scandal and more fond reminiscing by a twinkly eyed Lionel Richie (who co-wrote the song with Michael Jackson), but it should be thoroughly entertaining to watch old footage of a bunch of coked-up pop stars harmonizing. Praying for an end-credits scene teasing a “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” holiday special. This comes out on Netflix shortly after Sundance, so even if you’re not festing, stay tuned.