The 2017 Sundance Film Festival has come to an official close (check out all of the major award winners here), and now it’s time to unpack our bags, shake the snow off our boots and tell you about the best films we watched while in the mountains of Park City, Utah so that way you know what to look out for later this year.
Here are our favorite films from this year’s Sundance fest, along with release date info where available. (And here’s a list of which films were picked up so you know what’s heading to theaters or a streaming platform real soon.)
An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power
When you can see it: July 28, 2017
A bit more: Considering the constraints the current administration is putting on the climate crisis in terms of the distribution of information, films like this are incredibly essential for the conversation to continue moving forward. As dark and dismal as certain aspects of the Inconvenient Truth sequel are, there is a tremendous amount of hope coursing through its cinematic veins. Hope that what appeared to be an impossible-to-beat inevitability 10 years ago is now entirely possible assuming the world continues to come together. As Al Gore said following the film’s premiere, this issue is now much bigger than any one person.
The Big Sick
When you can see it: TBD, Amazon picked up the film at the festival and will announce their plans for it soon
A bit more: Easily one of the festival’s biggest crowd pleasers this year, what’s great about The Big Sick is how it finally puts Kumail Nanjiani center stage, highlighting just how funny and talented he is. And while Nanjiani (and cowriter Emily V. Gordon, who is played by Zoe Kazan in the film) are clearly the film’s greatest champions, it’s actually Ray Romano and Holly Hunter (playing Emily’s parents) who truly steal the movie.
When you can see it: TBD, the Weinstein Co. will likely handle distribution for this film.
A bit more: Taylor Sheridan is easily one of the most exciting storytellers right now, and Wind River also proves his filmmaking chops are spot-on, too. There are a few scenes in Wind River — like the tense search of a crack house and a confrontation between police and oil workers — that are so well shot and scripted, one can’t help but become a huge Sheridan fan. This is a guy who is telling stories no one else is telling in places no other films are going. We’re lucky to have received three films written by him in the span of like 18 months, and hopefully many more are yet to come.
I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore (**Grand Jury winner**)
When you can see it: February 24, 2017, on Netflix
A bit more: Our review (above, which also combines our thoughts on another Netflix film, The Discovery) touts Macon Blair’s directorial debut, but those familiar with Blair and his work with writer-director Jeremy Saulnier (Blue Ruin, Green Room) will definitely see how Saulnier’s ability to flip from mundane to insane in the span of a few scenes is rubbing off on Blair. I Don’t Feel at Home… is a much funnier film than anything Saulnier has done, though — especially in the ways it honestly and hilariously depicts just how awful people are in everyday situations (and yes, even the jerk who cuts in front of you at the supermarket gets a mention).
Also, Elijah Wood is so great in this film as the weird neighbor who thinks he’s tougher and way more skilled than he really is, we almost want to see an entire movie dedicated solely to his ninja star-throwing character. Who can make that happen? Netflix?
When you can see it: TBD, summer 2017 via Sony Pictures Classics
A bit more: The film also stars Mark Hamill and Greg Kinnear, and thrives on its inventiveness, even if that inventiveness is borderline creepy at times (to be vague without spoiling big reveals). Good to see the Lonely Island dudes shifting gears, and for talented background SNL players to get more exposure.
When you can see it: TBD 2017 via Fox Searchlight
A bit more: What makes the movie is its music and its tone. Patti Cake$ is respectful of its characters and their world. Because writer-director Geremy Jasper grew up in New Jersey, he has a certain familiarity with the vibe there — one that’s both playful and kind of heartbreaking, too.
Our Favorite Breakout Roles
In addition to Danielle Macdonald above in Patti Cake$, we were pretty floored with both Chanté Adams in Roxanne Roxanne and Laia Costa in Newness (read our interview with her here).
When you can watch it: TDB 2017
When you can see it: TBD
Despite a brilliant performance from Chanté Adams as iconic rap-battle artist Roxanne Shanté, the film chose to focus more on the hardships of the artist’s life — from her toxic relationship with her mother to an abusive older boyfriend — rather than give audiences more of what they really wanted to see: rap battling! Still, the film is a sobering look at the lengths many legendary hip-hop artists went to on their way to superstardom, and how their difficult upbringings helped fuel their music and their dreams.
A bit more: Check out these words from hip-hop artist Roxanne Shanté, whose life is the inspiration for the film and who Chanté Adams plays, from immediately following the film’s Sundance premiere.
— Fandango (@Fandango) January 23, 2017
Wait! Two More Movies to Look Out For
When you can see it: TBD 2017, Netflix picked it up
Director Dee Rees (Pariah) proves she is a new force behind the camera with Mudbound, a haunting and often heartbreaking portrait of family and friendships in the deep South during and immediately after World War II. The film revolves around two families, one white and one black, who both work on a shared piece of land, navigating the complexities of segregation and straddling that line between needing each other and loving each other. Mudbound was one of the more talked-about films at the fest — featuring outstanding performances from Garrett Hedlund and Jason Mitchell — and you bet it’ll be in the awards conversation come later this year.
City of Ghosts
When you can see it: TBD 2017, Amazon has scooped this one up
One of the more eye-opening and topical documentaries screening at this year’s Sundance Film Festival was also one of three docs covering the crisis in Syria. City of Ghosts tracks a group of citizen journalists from the city of Raqqa who take it upon themselves to risk their lives to report on the atrocities committed by ISIS from inside their hometown. These former party boys, many of whom had no formal training as journalists, go to great lengths to cover the story and spread it worldwide, even it as it costs them the lives of their loved ones and, in some cases, their own.
And Here’s What Alicia Thought:
Fandango’s Alicia Malone was also running around the festival and seeing as many movies as she could for a special Sundance version of her Indie Movie Guide. Watch that below.