Top 22 Films I Want to See at Sundance

There are so many more films that need to be seen in Park City than the 22 listed here. For starters the quality work of first and second time directors is hard to divine out of the sheer mass of movies unspooling over the 10-ish days at Sundance. So my list will start with these 20 and Sundance, as always, will surprise me with the rest. - Keith Simanton
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1.
Mudbound (2017)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  
Two men return home from World War II to work on a farm in rural Mississippi, where they struggle to deal with racism and adjusting to life after war. (134 mins.)
Director: Dee Rees
“ It's an immensely talented cast (Mulligan, Hedlund, Banks, Clark) but it's writer/director Dee Rees that peaks my interest here. She directed the criminally under-rated, under-viewed Pariah, which opened Sundance in 2011 to acclaim (also ending up as my #7 film for that year) but never, sadly, went anywhere after that. But that film was five years ahead of the culture. Here's hoping Mudbound's timing is impeccable. ” - keithsim
 
2.
Walking Out (2017)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.0/10 X  
An urban teenager journeys to Montana to hunt big game with his estranged father. Father and son struggle to connect, until a brutal encounter in the heart of the wilderness changes everything. (95 mins.)
“ One of my cherished memories of Sundance was watching Andrew and Alex Smith's 2002 film The Slaughter Rule. The screening was in a freezing cold body shop/garage (now a yoga studio named, appropriately, The Shop). I was one of six people in the screening including jury member Patricia Arquette who at the time, as I recall, smoked these terrible smelling cigarillos. Regardless the movie was a haunting evocation of a small town's desperation of the kind that I had not seen since The Last Picture Show. It also starred this kid named Ryan Gosling. Glad to see these brothers are back. ” - keithsim
 
3.
The Discovery (2017)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.3/10 X  
Two years after the afterlife is scientifically proven, a man attempts to help a young woman break away from her dark past. (102 mins.)
“ Charlie McDowell directed the great The One I Love, which had its debut in Sundance in 2014 and ended up on my Top 20 list for that year. He's working again with his One I Love screenwriter, Jon Lader, and having the guy who started the festival as one of your co-stars can't hurt either. PS: And yes, Charlie is the son of Malcolm McDowell. If this hits, however, future generations might refer to Malcolm as Charlie's father. ” - keithsim
 
4.
Buena Vista Social Club: Adios (2017 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.6/10 X  
Revisit with the remaining original members of the Buena Vista Social Club and explore their contribution to the unknown history of Cuba. (110 mins.)
Director: Lucy Walker
“ If you had the good fortune or sense to catch Wim Wenders's 1999 film, the Oscar-nominated The Buena Vista Social Club, then you have to be as excited as I am that the brilliant, Oscar-nominated director Lucy Walker has shot this follow-up. Last year Walker created a VR short called A History of Cuban Dance that I had a chance to experience. If Adios is even a fraction as good as that short then this will be a memorable experience. ” - keithsim
 
5.
Wind River (2017)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  
A veteran tracker with the Fish and Wildlife Service helps to investigate the murder of a young Native American woman, and uses the case as a means of seeking redemption for an earlier act of irresponsibility which ended in tragedy. (107 mins.)
Director: Taylor Sheridan
“ Does the plot sound a bit wheezy? Try this tired concept: Two brothers turn bank robbers are tracked by an ornery Texas Ranger. Yep, that's Sheridan-penned Hell or High Water. How about this: An FBI agent faces the shades of gray of the drug wars with amoral DEA agents? Yep, that's Sheridan-penned Sicario. Now, it's true that Sheridan didn't direct those films, that was David Mackenzie and Denis Villeneuve, respectively, but Sheridan has earned a sight-unseen must-spot on my list, and probably will for some years to come. ” - keithsim
 
6.
Nobody Speak: Trials of the Free Press (2017 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  
The trial between Hulk Hogan and Gawker Media pitted privacy rights against freedom of the press, and... (95 mins.)
“ There may be no more important doc. at the fest this year than this investigation into the fall of the oft-reviled Gawker at the hands of a lawsuit backed by a billionaire. Knappenberger also directed The Internet's Own Boy and We Are Legion. ” - keithsim
 
7.
Newness (2017)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.1/10 X  
In contemporary Los Angeles, two millennials navigating a social media-driven hookup culture begin a relationship that pushes both emotional and physical boundaries. (112 mins.)
Director: Drake Doremus
“ Sure the plot sounds very Drake Doremus-y (Like Crazy) and he is working with his frequent collaborator, screenwriter Ben York Jones. But that's all for the good. This director has been building, film by film, an approach to storytelling that is more and more assured using the simplest and most human of scenarios. Breathe In (a Sundance premier in 2013) was a lovely exploration of temptation and morals and should have been seen by a wider audience. Also, Hoult's co-star, Courtney Eaton has so far been used as background hotness, for a good-bad movie, Gods of Egypt and a great movie, Fury Road. Will be interesting to see how she does with something quieter. ” - keithsim
 
8.
Brigsby Bear (2017)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  
Brigsby Bear Adventures is a children's TV show produced for an audience of one: James. When the show abruptly ends... (97 mins.)
Director: Dave McCary
“ Some of my favorite Rap Battles of History were done by director Dave McCary and he's collected a great cast as well. Sound a lot like Death to Smoochy? Maybe that's what he's going for. ” - keithsim
 
9.
Call Me by Your Name (2017)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.4/10 X  
In Northern Italy in 1983, seventeen year-old Elio begins a relationship with visiting Oliver, his father's research assistant, with whom he bonds over his emerging sexuality, their Jewish heritage, and the beguiling Italian landscape. (132 mins.)
Director: Luca Guadagnino
“ Guadagnino directed the critically-adored I Am Love and A Bigger Splash, even if those films themselves barely made a box-office ripple. Guadagnino is now working on Suspiria, a re-imagining of Dario Argento's classic gothic flick. ” - keithsim
 
10.
I Don't Feel at Home in This World Anymore. (2017)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.0/10 X  
When a depressed woman is burglarized, she finds a new sense of purpose by tracking down the thieves alongside her obnoxious neighbor. But they soon find themselves dangerously out of their depth against a pack of degenerate criminals. (93 mins.)
Director: Macon Blair
“ If you've seen director Jeremy Saulnier's pretty marvelous films, Green Room, or Blue Ruin, or Murder Party, then you've definitely see the director of this film, Macon Blair. He's the heartbreaking lead in Blue Ruin, gets a werewolf mask melted onto his face in Murder Party and plays an unctuous lackey in Green Room. All the evidence points to a pretty steadfast collaboration between Saulnier and Blair, so it's safe to assume that some of the goodness from those films came from Blair. We'll find out in this his directorial debut. ” - keithsim
 
11.
A Ghost Story (2017)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  
In this singular exploration of legacy, love, loss, and the enormity of existence, a recently deceased, white-sheeted ghost returns to his suburban home to try to reconnect with his bereft wife. (92 mins.)
Director: David Lowery
“ Writer/director Lowery takes his Ain't Them Bodies Saints leads, Affleck and Mara, and unveils this surprise entry to Sundance (did they film it at night while Lowery was waiting for the CGI on Pete's Dragon to get baked in?). ” - keithsim
 
12.
The Hero (2017)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.6/10 X  
An ailing movie star comes to terms with his past and mortality. (93 mins.)
Director: Brett Haley
“ Co-writer/director Brett Haley also directed 2015's I'll See You in My Dreams which stirred up a lot of Oscar talk for Blythe Danner. That nomination ultimately never came to pass but is there anyone I'd like to see get some recognition than the great Sam Elliott? Never mind The Big Lebowski he deserved recognition for his supporting role in another Sundance premiere, 2015's Grandma. ” - keithsim
 
13.
Ingrid Goes West (2017)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.7/10 X  
An unhinged social media stalker moves to LA and insinuates herself into the life of an Instagram star. (98 mins.)
Director: Matt Spicer
“ Not familiar with director Matt Spicer's previous work but I am a big fan of both Aubrey Plaza (for both Parks and Recreation and Safety Not Guaranteed) and Elizabeth Olsen (who was a standout in the otherwise lugubrious Marcy Martha May Marlene). There's been buzz around this one as well. ” - keithsim
 
14.
Landline (2017)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.4/10 X  
In 1995, a teenager living with her sister and parents in Manhattan discovers that her father is having an affair. (97 mins.)
“ Director Gillan Robespierre co-wrote Obvious Child with
Jenny Slate and Elisabeth Holm (et. al) so it will be interesting to see them reteam. PS: Finn Wittrock deserves a great role and I'm hoping it's this. ” - keithsim
 
15.
The Polka King (2017)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.2/10 X  
Local Pennsylvania polka legend Jan Lewan develops a plan to get rich that shocks his fans and lands him in jail. (95 mins.)
“ Director Maya Forbes did the uneven but often affecting Infinitely Polar Bear (her first feature). Her co-director is Wallace Wolodarsky (Seeing Other People). While not unheard of having co-directors is a bit unusual for independent films so we'll see how this collaboration plays out. ” - keithsim
 
16.
Rebel in the Rye (2017)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.4/10 X  
The life of celebrated but reclusive author, J.D. Salinger, who gained worldwide fame with the publication of his novel, "The Catcher in the Rye". (106 mins.)
Director: Danny Strong
“ Danny Strong must have taken that hired-gun Mockingjay 1 & 2 adaptation money to make this movie about the famed press-shunning author of "Catcher in the Rye." Hoult is always good but it's Boynton (Sing Street) and Deutch (Why Him? and lots of other, random stuff) that I'm curious to see. ” - keithsim
 
17.
Red Dog: True Blue (2016)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  
An iconic Australian story of family, friendship and adventure, between a young boy and a scrappy one-of-a-kind dog that would grow up to become an Australian legend. (88 mins.)
Director: Kriv Stenders
“ Hmmm...sounds super family-friendly. What's the catch? Does the dog attack a small child? Does the family get lost in the Outback and have to resort to cannibalism? I know, I know! The dog gets divorced and discovers a community in the quirky characters of his New York brownstone. No??? How did this film get programmed in Sundance? ” - keithsim
 
18.
78/52 (2017 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  
An unprecedented look at the iconic shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho, the "man behind the curtain", and the screen murder that profoundly changed the course of world cinema. (91 mins.)
“ A doc by the guy that directed The People vs. George Lucas on the obsessive Alfred Hitchcock and the iconic shower scene in Psycho? Yes please. ” - keithsim
 
19.
Thoroughbreds (2017)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  
Two upper-class teenage girls in suburban Connecticut rekindle their unlikely friendship after years of growing apart. Together, they hatch a plan to solve both of their problems-no matter what the cost. (90 mins.)
Director: Cory Finley
“ An eclectic cast that includes Anya Taylor Joy (The Witch, Morgan) and the late Anton Yelchin, led by first-time director Cory Finley. And Olivia Cooke. Love Olivia Cooke and she'll come back to Park City a wiser actress after the roller-coaster ride of Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. ” - keithsim
 
20.
To the Bone (2017)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  
A young woman is dealing with anorexia. She meets an unconventional doctor who challenges her to face her condition and embrace life. (107 mins.)
Director: Marti Noxon
“ Producer Marti Noxon fills the roles of writer and director. It's an unconventional plot and I have a very soft spot for both Lily Collins and Keanu Reeves. ” - keithsim
 
21.
Wilson (2017)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.8/10 X  
A lonely, neurotic and hilariously honest middle-aged man reunites with his estranged wife and meets his teenage daughter for the first time. (94 mins.)
Director: Craig Johnson
“ Woody Harrelson gets a default "I'll go see it" by his mere presence. Director Johnson (who wrote/directed The Skeleton Twins) is working off of the graphic novel by Daniel Clowes. ” - keithsim
 
22.
The Yellow Birds (2017)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.0/10 X  
Two young soldiers, Bartle (21) and Murph (18) navigate the terrors of the Iraq war under the command of the older, troubled Sergeant Sterling. All the while, Bartle is tortured by a promise he made to Murph's mother before their deployment. (110 mins.)
Director: Alexandre Moors
“ Moors directed Blue Caprice and the cast!:
*Alden Ehrenreich, your next Han Solo.
*Tye Sheridan, from Mud and The Tree of Life.
*Jennifer Aniston (did you just snort? Then you haven't seen Cake. Go watch Cake you numbskull.)
*Jack Huston, the debonair star in-waiting. ” - keithsim