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The Best Sundance Film Festival Movies You Need to See

The weather outside in Park City, UT was frightful, but this year’s Sundance Film Festival was oh-so-delightful thanks to a truly impressive lineup of films. According to the Sundance Institute, 13,782 films were submitted to this year’s festival for consideration. Of those, 188 films were officially selected and screened for the more than 40,000 attendees at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Chances are that you’ll see many of these films when they come to other festivals like SXSW, movie theaters, and streaming platforms later this year. But with so many options to choose from, which films are actually worth watching? Well, on today’s episode of The Dan Cave, I’m going to tell you exactly which Sundance titles you won’t want to miss.

Brigsby Bear

Brigsby-Bear

What is it? 

Do you have a TV show or a movie from your childhood that you were obsessed with, and it seemed like no one else knew what it was? Well, that’s exactly what happens to James Pope (Kyle Mooney) in Brigsby Bear. For his entire life, James watched a brand new episode of Brigsby Bear every week, a weird, low-budget children’s program where an animatronic bear teaches complex life lessons and battles all manner of intergalactic baddies. But no one else in the world had seen the show because it was made specially for James by the man who had kidnapped him (Mark Hamill) and was holding him prisoner in a doomsday bunker.

After being freed by the police, James had to face this bold new world without the aid of his favorite TV show. But rather than let Brigsby‘s memory die, James decides to take matters into his own hands and finish Brigsby‘s story himself. It’s a powerfully funny, incredibly sweet film about overcoming trauma through storytelling and the support of friends and family. It’s also about being dope as shit and having the most unintentionally terrifying bear mascot this side of Five Nights at Freddy’s.

Read our review.

When can I see it?

No release date yet, but Sony Pictures Classics acquired it from Sundance for $5 million, so it’ll be making its way to theaters eventually.

The Big Sick

The Big Sick

What is it?

No, it’s not yet another nickname for Jessica Chobot. In the grand tradition of Other People and 50/50The Big Sick is a wickedly funny comedy that takes a sharp turn into heartwrenching medical drama. Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon, longtime friends of Nerdist and hosts of The Indoor Kids podcast, turned their real life love story and the ensuing health crisis that almost tore them apart into a film that is simultaneously hilarious and devastating. Produced by Barry Mendel and Judd Apatow, and directed by Michael Showalter, this is undeniably the best rom-com in recent memory and one of the best things I saw at Sundance.

Read our review.

When can I see it? 

No release date yet, but Amazon dropped a cool $12 million to snag the distribution rights for this one.

The Hero

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What is it?

As someone who would listen to Sam Elliott read the Wikipedia page for “drywall,” The Hero was extremely my shit. Elliott plays an aging western star who, faced with a life-threatening cancer diagnosis, tries to land one last big role and pick up the pieces of his broken family life. Plus it features Nick Offerman as his constantly stoned weed dealer who gets incredibly high with Elliott, watches Buster Keaton movies, and eats greasy takeout, which all sounds like a pretty ideal afternoon to me. If you have glaucoma, I mean. Or a Chinese food deficiency. You know what, just be responsible.

Read our review.

When can I see it?

No release date yet, but The Orchard acquired the film at Sundance, so it’ll make its way to theaters and possibly to year-end awards lists.

Ingrid Goes West

ElizabethOlsenAudryPlazaIngridGoesWest-1200x520

What is it?

Be careful what you post on the Internet, because if you aren’t, a desperate loner played by Aubrey Plaza might move across the country to stalk you and try to become your BFF by waging psychological warfare on you, a popular lifestyle blogger played by Elizabeth Olsen, and your friends. This movie is bonkers in the best way possible. It’s a darkly hilarious thriller that plays like a Single White Female or Swimfan for the social media set.

Read our review.

When can I see it?

Once again, no release date, but Tim League and Tom Quinn’s distribution company Neon snapped up the rights to Ingrid Goes West for approximately $3 million.

XX

xx the birthday party

What is it?

A good horror anthology movie is like a mixtape full of heebies, jeebies, and creepy-crawlies that’ll give you a taste of the twisted minds of a slew of different directors. In the case of XX, these directors all happen to be kickass women: Jovanka Vuckovic, Karyn Kusama, Roxanne Benjamin, and Annie Clark (a.k.a. St. Vincent). With four drastically different styles of horror, this frightening flick will leave you squirming in your seat for the entirety of its runtime, which if nothing else is a great workout from constantly and inadvertently clenching your core.

Read our review.

When can I see it? 

February 17, 2017.

Get Out

get-out-movie

What is it?

This year’s Sundance secret screening was a big studio horror movie film directed by Jordan Peele. Yet unlike most big studio horror movies, the latter half of Key & Peele‘s directorial debut has an awful lot to say, using modern racism as a prism through which to extract horror and humor in equal measure. You’ll laugh your ass off until things suddenly get way too real, and then you’ll be cowering underneath your sweatshirt. Not that I would know — I hid underneath my jacket. Big difference.

When can I see it?

February 24, 2017.

I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore

i-dont-feel-at-home-in-this-world-anymore-elijah-wood-melanie-lynskey

What is it?

This movie is like if the personifications of Craigslist came to life and embarked on a crime caper full of pitch black humor, accidental violence, and Elijah Wood with a rattail and nunchakus. Sure the title is waaaaaay too long, but Macon Blair’s directorial debut, which won the U.S. Grand Jury Prize for Dramatic films at Sundance, is a killer showcase for Melanie Lynskey, who plays a woman that has finally had enough of life beating her down. And, if nothing else, this film will illustrate the importance of picking up your dog’s poop. Just do it, people.

Where can I see it?

February 24, 2017.

Honorable mentions

Axolotl Overkill

In addition to the films listed above, our intrepid reporter Scott Beggs and our East Coast editor Michael Arbeiter recommend the following movies:

And those are just a few of the amazing movies from this year’s Sundance Film Festival that you need to see. Which are your most anticipated films? What would you add to this list? Let me know in the comments below.

Special thanks to John Wick: Chapter 2 for sponsoring today’s episode of The Dan Cave. Legendary hitman John Wick is forced back out of retirement to by a former associate plotting to seize control of a shadowy international assassin’s guild. Bound by a bloody oath to help him, John travels to Rome where he squares off against some of the world’s deadliest killers. You can see the badass action film when it hits theaters on February 10, 2017.

Images courtesy of Sundance Institute


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Dan Casey is the senior editor of Nerdist and the author of books about Star Wars and the Avengers. Follow him on Twitter and ask him about all things anime (@Osteoferocious).

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