Five SXSW Films You Absolutely Must See (and When They're Coming to a Theater Near You)

The film portion of this year’s South By Southwest has drawn to a close, capping 132 screenings spread over nine bustling days that took over downtown Austin, Texas.

Attempting to choose our favorites would be a fool’s errand. This year, there simply were too many top-notch features that played as part of SXSW, and we hope that you comb over the programming notes and check out as many of the titles as you can. 

But in an effort to help, we’ve gone ahead and singled out the five absolute, can’t-miss, no-holds-barred movies that emerged from SXSW with the most buzz. The majority are heading to theaters soon. Some still are seeking distribution. But all of them should be seen as soon as they reach your market. 
 
And they are:
 
 
 
Without question, the best theatrical experience at this year’s SXSW film festival. Director Drew Goddard and co-screenwriter Joss Whedon flip the horror genre on its head by sending five friends (including Chris Hemsworth and Anna Hutchison) to the cabin of the title and watching the events play out in unpredictable fashion. If you are friends with film geeks, chances are you have heard them raving about Cabin for weeks now. Do yourself a favor: Avoid everything pertaining to Cabin, from trailers and clips to articles and review. The less you know about where this genre-changing movie is going, the more you will enjoy every minute of the ride. 
Opens: April 13
 
 
 
A time travel relationship comedy that’s not really about time travel at all, Safety Not Guaranteed casts Parks and Rec co-star Aubrey Plaza as a wandering magazine journalist tracking down an eccentric dweller (Mark Duplass) who places a classified ad seeking a partner for a unique space-time journey. Is he for real? Does it matter? Though it dabbles in sci-fi, Colin Trevorrow’s sweet and honest feature digs right to the heart of why anyone would want to revisit the past in the first place. It also features winning performances from the entire cast, including a breakout turn from New Girl co-star Jake Johnson. 
Opens: June 8
 
 
 
I checked out Fat Kid to see what Scooby-Doo veteran Matthew Lillard could do behind the camera. (This coming-of-age comedy marks his directorial debut.) I left with a smile on my face and a newfound appreciation for Jacob Wysocki, the overweight star of Lillard’s affectionate, witty and wildly charming film. It starts slow, with Lillard walking the straight and narrow path of most teen discovery dramas. But once Wysocki’s lonely character takes up the drums to join rebel mentor Matt O’Leary in a punk rock band, the film gains a needed edge, and the SXSW crowd jumped willingly on the bandwagon. Look for The Rocketeer himself, Billy Campbell, in a memorable turn as Wysocki’s tough but caring father. 
Opens: TBD  
 
Brooklyn Castle
 
 
Katie Dellamaggiore’s documentary was the one film you overheard strangers talking about while standing in the lines that congest the venues around the SXSW film festival. Positive word-of-mouth was so strong that producer Scott Rudin snatched up the rights to the Castle story – about skilled chess players in a New York public school – and plans to remake it as a narrative feature film. Now the bad news: You might see Rudin’s film before the doc makes it to theaters, as the film doesn’t yet have a release date, and documentary films – even one as widely praised as Brooklyn Castle – have a difficult time securing theatrical distribution. Our fingers are crossed. 
Opens: TBD
 
 
 
Just as Goddard and Whedon’s Cabin in the Woods reinvents the horror genre, Gareth Evans’ The Raid: Redemption dropkicks the traditional action-movie formula and dares every other filmmaker to rise to his bone-crunching level. Good luck with that. Iko Uwais plays Rama, a rookie police officer assigned with his SWAT unit to invade a kingpin’s criminal lair. But when the crooks flip the scenario, Rama has to battle hundreds of armed foes (literally) just to get out of the building alive. The Raid mixes Die Hard with Enter the Dragon and a dash of the hallway scene in Oldboy. It’s physically spectacular, if a little one note, but it will satisfy action junkies seeking an unprecedented adrenaline rush. If that’s you, put it on your radar.
Opens: March 23
 
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