14 Movies That Should Be On Your Radar After The Sundance Film Festival

14 Sundance Movies That Should Be On Your Radar

The Sundance Film Festival has come and gone, which leaves us scouring the lineup for this year's "Whiplash" or "Boyhood." Several titles could fill that role. Whether they'll drum on to a Best Picture nomination in 2016 is for the next 11 months to determine, but, for now, we've compiled the 14 movies you should put on your post-Sundance radar. Plenty of excellent films emerged from the festival, but these are the buzziest breakouts that could find substantial niche audiences or become players in next year's Oscar race. Most don't have release dates yet, so put them on your cinematic back burner as their success continues:

"The Witch"
Written and directed by Robert Eggers
Starring Anya Taylor Joy, Ralph Ineson, Kate Dickie, Harvey Scrimshaw, Ellie Grainger, Lucas Dawson

This eerie supernatural film, which chronicles a paranoid Puritan family in 1630s New England, gives the horror genre more hope than any film released in the past decade. First-time filmmaker Robert Eggers won the festival's directing prize for the bone-chilling take on terrors both real and imagined. A24 and DirecTV acquired the breakout movie in a seven-figure deal. (Read our review.)
Directed by John Crowley
Written by Nick Hornby
Starring Saoirse Ronan, Domhnall Gleeson, Emory Cohen, Jim Broadbent and Julie Walters

After reports of "Me and Earl and the Dying Girl" selling for a record-breaking $12 million proved to be overblown, it looks like "Brooklyn" is the most lucrative distribution deal of this year's festival. Fox Searchlight snatched up the movie for about $9 million, and Saoirse Ronan became one of several names bandied about as contenders for the 2016 Oscar race. Based on Colm Toibin's novel of the same name, Ronan plays an Irish immigrant who must choose between her homeland and the romance she's found in the United States. (Read our interview with Ronan.)
Written and directed by Rick Famuyiwa
Starring Shameik Moore, Tony Revolori, Kiersey Clemons, Blake Anderson, Zoë Kravitz, A$AP Rocky, Kimberly Elise, Chanel Iman and Keith Stanfield

Thought by some to be the definitive breakout movie of Sundance, "Dope" is a clever look at three high school nerds who get caught up in a drug dealer's vicious ring. Come for the infectious central trio (Shameik Moore, Tony Revolori, Kiersey Clemons) and "Yo! MTV Raps" nostalgia, stay for the Bitcoin high jinks and Macklemore jab. "Dope" snagged an impressive $7 million deal with Open Road Films and Sony Pictures, which outbid The Weinstein Co. and Fox Searchlight. (Read our review.)
"The Hunting Ground"
Directed by Kirby Dick

In spite of all the attention being paid to universities' systemic cover-ups of sexual assault, the most shocking thing about "The Hunting Ground" is just how shocking it is. Specifically, it's a rage-inducing sobfest that raises too many troubling questions about the priorities of those steering the schools that purportedly nurture students' interests. Radius-TWC will release the film on March 20.
"The Stanford Prison Experiment"
Directed by Kyle Patrick Alvarez
Written by Tim Talbott
Starring Billy Crudup, Ezra Miller, Michael Angarano, Tye Sheridan, Johnny Simmons, Olivia Thirlby, James Wolk and Nelsan Ellis

The slow-burn chiller about the infamous 1971 social experiment in which Dr. Philip Zimbardo (Billy Crudup) split male undergraduate volunteers into prisoner and guard roles morphs into one of the festival's most intense films. Despite an excellent supporting cast and the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award, "The Stanford Prison Experiment" is still awaiting a distribution deal. (Read our interview with Crudup.)
"The End of the Tour"
Directed by James Ponsoldt
Written by Donald Margulies
Starring Jesse Eisenberg, Jason Segel, Anna Chlumsky, Joan Cusack, Mamie Gummer and Mickey Sumner

Add Jason Segel to next year's Oscar odds, too. As David Foster Wallace, his quiet mannerisms speak volumes about the author's simultaneous resistance to fame and longing to be liked. By chronicling Foster's intimate road trip with a Rolling Stone journalist, James Ponsoldt ("The Spectacular Now") teaches us more about the Gen X sensation than any cradle-to-grave biopic could hope to. A24 secured rights to the film before its premiere. (Read our review.)
"The Diary of a Teenage Girl"
Written and directed by Marielle Heller
Starring Bel Powley, Alexander Skarsgård, Kristen Wiig and Christopher Meloni

One of Sundance's surprises, this adaptation of Phoebe Gloeckner's inventive novel, which features hand-drawn illustrations that factor prominently into the film, is like a mea culpa for all the coming-of-age tales that fail to capture the messiness of adolescence. Bel Powley, playing a 15-year-old who begins an affair with her mother's boyfriend (Alexander Skarsgård), is one of our next great young stars, imbuing a fussy energy into her emotionally immature character in a way that reminds anyone of their own teen years, regardless of gender or generation. "Diary" also gives us one of two excellent Kristen Wiig performances (the other being "Nasty Baby"). Sony Pictures fetched the film for $2 million. (Read our review.)
"Me and Earl and the Dying Girl"
Directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon
Written by Jesse Andrews
Starring Thomas Mann, RJ Cyler, Olivia Cooke, Connie Britton, Molly Shannon and Nick Offerman

The runaway hit of the festival, "Me and Earl and the Dying Girl" garnered the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award for U.S. dramatic film. A high school wallflower (Thomas Mann) befriends a classmate diagnosed with leukemia (Olivia Cooke) in the quirky, "Fault in Our Stars"-esque weeper. Initial reports put "Me and Earl" on track to yield a record-setting $12 million distribution deal, but Fox Searchlight teamed up with Indian Paintbrush for what resulted in a still-impressive mid-seven figures.
"James White"
Written and directed by Josh Mond
Starring Christopher Abbott, Cynthia Nixon, Scott Mescudi, Makenzie Leigh and Ron Livingston

Josh Mond, who produced "Martha Marcy May Marlene," crafts a surreal portrait of a restless New Yorker (Christopher Abbott) whose aimlessness is compounded by his cancer-stricken mother's (Cynthia Nixon) final days. Winner of Sundance’s NEXT Audience Award, the movie is still seeking distribution. When it does, it'll spotlight career-best work from its two stars. (Read our interview with Nixon and Abbott.)
Directed by Sean Baker
Written by Sean Baker and Chris Bergoch
Starring Kitana Kiki Rodriguez, Mya Taylor, Karren Karagulian, Mickey O’Hagan, Alla Tumanian and James Ransone

Shot primarily on an iPhone 5s, "Tangerine" is the energetic story of a transgender sex worker who treks around Los Angeles with a friend in search of her unfaithful pimp boyfriend. Hailed for its uproarious but grounded take on an under-represented group, "Tangerine" went to Magnolia Pictures for a deal in the upper six figures. (Read our review.)
"The Overnight"
Written and directed by Patrick Brice
Starring Adam Scott, Taylor Schilling, Jason Schwartzman and Judith Godrèche

Anyone who's moved to a new city knows what it's like to make friends. In "The Overnight," Adam Scott and Taylor Schilling learn it the interesting way when they're invited to have dinner at another couple's (Jason Schwartzman and Judith Godrèche) Los Angeles home. It's billed as a playdate for their children, but we soon learn there is much more on the itinerary once the kids' bedtime has arrived. The explosive comedy, which involves Scott and Schwartzman prancing around wearing prosthetic penises, was one of Sundance's funniest, earning a reported $4 million bid. (Read our review.)
"Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief"
Directed by Alex Gibney

If your Scientology obsession is on point, you've already marked your calendar for March 16. That's when HBO will broadcast Alex Gibney's juicy exposé based on Lawrence Wright's buzzy book of the same name. There isn't a ton in the film that can't be found in print, but hearing former high-ranking members of the church discuss the abuse and manipulation that goes on inside was worth the wait to get into one of Sundance's hottest titles. (Read our review.)
"Z for Zachariah"
Directed by Craig Zobel
Written by Nissar Modi
Starring Margot Robbie, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Chris Pine

Based on Robert C. O'Brien's 1974 post-apocalyptic novel, "Z for Zachariah" could be one of 2015's blockbusters. Not everyone at Sundance adored it, but those who did agree Craig Zobel's sleek direction makes Margot Robbie a movie star and reminds us why Chiwetel Ejiofor is becoming one of Hollywood's best leading men. Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions bought the film before the festival, with no release date established. (Read our review.)
"I Smile Back"
Directed by Adam Salky
Written by Amy Koppelman and Paige Dylan
Starring Sarah Silverman, Josh Charles, Thomas Sadoski, Mia Barron, Terry Kinney and Chris Sarandon

We see a new side of Sarah Silverman in "I Smile Back," which finds the comedian going dark with the tale of a suburban mother battling a depression that threatens to send her down a spiraling recklessness. The movie hasn't found a distribution deal yet, but pay attention when it does. (Read our review.)

Before You Go

2015 Sundance Film Festival - "Me and Earl and the Dying Girl" Premiere

Sundance 2015

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