With the advent of 2018 comes the arrival of yet another edition of the Sundance Film Festival. Founded by Robert Redford in 1985, the celebration of all things cinema takes over Park City, UT once more from January 18-28 where more than 100 films from around the world will screen for thousands and thousands of celluloid-obsessed film fans. As this year’s awards season is demonstrating, films that make their debut at Sundance—e.g. Get Out, Call Me By Your Name, The Big Sick—are the ones that will have critics and audiences buzzing months later. So in order to help you get a jump on what to look out for at the year’s first major film festival, here are our most anticipated films of Sundance 2018.
The place: Lexington, Kentucky. The year: 2004. The plan: to steal an incredibly valuable collection of rare books from the local university. Such is the situation in which Spencer, Warren, and their unwitting friends find themselves in when they decide to pull off the heist of the century without really knowing what the hell they’re doing or why they’re doing it. Come for Evan Peters, Barry Keoghan, Blake Jenner, and Jared Abrahamson trying to get away with the perfect crime, but stay for the thoughtful exploration of young men coming to grips with adulthood in a comedic, meaningful, and profound way.
Lu Over the Wall
Was your biggest issue with Ponyo that it wasn’t psychedelic enough and didn’t place a big enough emphasis on teenagers pursuing music careers? Then enter the weird, wild world of Masaaki Yuasa’s Lu Over the Wall. The Ghibli-esque anime film, which took home top honors at the prestigious Annecy International Animated Film Festival, tells the story of a quiet boy named Kai who escapes the stresses of his fractured home life by composing music. One day, while practicing with his band in an abandoned amusement park by the sea, Kai encounters a mysterious new fan: a mermaid named Lu, who was lured by the band’s music. While they try to keep Lu’s existence a secret from the town, old prejudices begin to surface and put Kai and Lu’s newfound friendship to the test.
Idris Elba isn’t just an in-demand DJ, engrossing actor, and smolderingly handsome haunter of your dreams; he’s now also a director. The mulitalented Elba makes his directorial debut with Yardie, a coming-of-age crime drama based on Victor Headley’s cult novel about Denis Dread, a young Jamaican man who gets caught up in a life of gang violence and winds up hunting down his brother’s assassin in the streets of London.
Perhaps Zoe Kazan took a note from her The Big Sick co-star Kumail Nanjiani because the talented multihyphenate co-wrote Wildlife with her partner Paul Dano, for whom the film marks a directorial debut. Set in small-town Montana in the 1960s, Wildlife tells the story of Joe (Ed Oxenbould), an only child who witnesses his family life dissolve before his very eyes when his father (Jake Gyllenhaal) loses his job and leaves to fight wildfires along the Canadian border, and his mother (Carey Mulligan) begins an affair with an older man. Forced into sudden and unexpected adulthood, Joe, a sensitive 14-year-old, must come to grips with the fact that the nuclear family you see on TV isn’t always the one you’re born into.
I Think We’re Alone Now
If the world came to a sudden and abrupt end, who would you want to spend the rest of your days with? Well if you’re a surly recluse played by Peter Dinklage, then the answer is absolutely no one because silence is golden and you value your personal space. But the apocalypse is full of surprises, and this particular end-of-days scenario finds a second survivor (Elle Fanning) arriving on the scene as a harbinger of the greatest threat of all: unwanted companionship.
What would you do if someone started posting every detail of your personal life online, sharing your most intimate posts, text messages, and secrets with everyone in your small town? You’d probably get mad, right? Well, that’s exactly what happens in the small town of Salem, but then things go from zero to 100 real quick and people start straight-up murdering one another. Imagine The Purge meets The Warriors with a slick veneer of the social media-obsessed culture in which we live, and you have a small taste of the unbridled insanity of Assassination Nation. As one of Sundance’s “Midnight” selections, you can guarantee that it’s going to be one of the wildest cinematic experiences of the year.
Growing up in Massachusetts, it was difficult to escape the long, bloody shadow cast by Lizzie Borden, the Fall River native who allegedly brutally murdered her parents with an axe. Although Borden was ultimately acquitted, her legend grew and the facts of the case twisted into myth and hearsay over time. Now director Craig William Macneill seeks to cast Borden in a new light in Lizzie. The film stars Chloë Sevigny as Lizzie Borden and Kristen Stewart as the family’s live-in maid, Bridget, and looks to examine Bordern’s interiority in a way we’ve never seen before. What starts as a furtive friendship between the two soon evolves into an intimate relationship, an emotional oasis in the brewing storm of abuse and oppression within the Borden household.
The Catcher Was a Spy
Many people know that Julia Child served as an operative for the OSS (Office of Security Services) during World War II, but she was far from their only famous employee. Major League baseball player Moe Berg is one of the great unknown heroes of American espionage. Berg wasn’t just a dynamo on the field; he spoke nine languages, regularly appeared on a popular TV quiz show, and held an Ivy League college degree. He was also a closeted gay man, which was a much more dangerous secret to keep back in those days. But perhaps most importantly, Berg was drafted by the U.S. intelligence apparatus to stop a German scientist from building an atomic bomb for the Nazis. Now his story will be brought to life on the big screen, with Paul Rudd playing Moe Berg and a supporting cast including Guy Pearce, Paul Giamatti, and Jeff Daniels.
No, it’s not a dramatization of New England college students playing beer pong; Beirut tells the story of a U.S. diplomat (Jon Hamm) who is forced to flee Lebanon in 1972 after experiencing an unexpected tragedy. A decade later, the diplomat finds himself traveling to Beirut, a country wracked by violence, in order to help the CIA (Rosamund Pike) on a very important mission: to negotiate for the life of a friend whom he left behind all those years ago. Could this be Jon Hamm’s Argo? Only time will tell, but the political thriller already has us on the edge of our seats.
The year is 1983 and Red Miller (Nicolas Cage) and Mandy Bloom (Andrea Riseborough) live a nice, quiet existence in the Pacific Northwest. Their world is suddenly and violently upended when a sadistic cult, led by the nefarious Jeremiah Sand, destroys their home, slaughtering Mandy in the process. In the aftermath, Red embarks on a single-minded mission to seek retribution for those who have wronged him and will not rest until those who murdered the love of his life have shuffled off this mortal coil in the most gruesome way possible.
Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind
When Robin Williams passed away in 2014, it felt as though the laughter had died. However, the dynamic comedian’s legacy lives on, inspiring generations of children, performers, and artists to create works of their own. In this new documentary, filmmaker Marina Zenovich unearths a treasure trove of rare footage, archival material, and never-before-seen interviews with the people who knew Williams best. The result is a portrait of a man who effortlessly touched the world while battling inner demons of his own, and a celebration of a life that always deserves to be celebrated.
In a time when America—and especially those in power—seem to be actively rejecting science, getting people engaged in scientific discourse and STEM careers is more important than ever. In filmmaker Laura Nix’s documentary Inventing Tomorrow, she follows six remarkably high school students as they prepare for the largest high school science competition in the world: the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF). Rather than watch the world around them crumble, these teenagers saw what was happening in their own communities and the world at large and took action in order to make the earth a better place. And honestly, that kind of optimism and civic engagement is just what the doctor ordered for 2018.
Sorry to Bother You
If you went to go see any movie last year—including the phenomenal Get Out—there’s a 90 percent chance it starred Lakeith Stanfield. At least that’s how it felt, which is a good thing considering that Stanfield is one of the most dynamic and talented young actors working today. Stanfield’s ubiquity continues with Sorry to Bother You in which he plays a 30-something telemarketer named Cassius Green. Suffering from self-esteem issues, Cassius manages to ascend the corporate ladder with alarming alacrity while selling truly vile products to unwitting customers. It’s a macabre workplace comedy about why you should never underestimate your own powers, and features an all-star cast including Tessa Thompson and Armie Hammer to boot. So mark my words—this is absolutely going to be one to watch.
And those are the films we’re most excited to see at this year’s Sundance Film Festival! But they are just a fraction of the amazing movies that will be on display at this year’s festival. Which films are you most intrigued by? Let us know in the comments below, then keep your eyes on Nerdist for our in-depth coverage during the 2018 Sundance Film Festival!
Images: Courtesy of Sundance Institute
The biggest film stories happening right now
- The Last Jedi is remarkably similar to The Empire Strikes Back
- Hear Kendrick Lamar’s new song for Black Panther
- The insane VFX magic behind Blade Runner 2049‘s surprise cameo