The 2014 Sundance Film Festival kicks off this week in the snowy mountains of Park City, Utah, and you should care because many of the year’s most talked-about independent movies will make their debut in theaters across the city over the next several days. But which ones are people looking forward to the most? Why, that’s what we’re here for.
Open up that “Reminders” app and start jotting down titles, because these are our 14 most anticipated movies of the 2014 Sundance Film Festival.
Billed as the Iranian Lena Dunham, Desiree Akhavan wrote, directed and stars in this comedy about a girl navigating the complexities of being a bisexual in a demanding Persian family. Advanced buzz says Akhavan is poised to become one of the fest’s breakout stars, and we’re excited for a refreshing and unique comedy set in a world we don’t see much of on the big screen.
Definitely the fest’s most unusual and perhaps ambitious film, director Richard Linklater (Before Midnight, Dazed and Confused) spent 11 years shooting this experimental feature that tracks the ups and downs of a family, choosing to space out the production to allow his cast to age naturally. Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette star— and with 11 years of hype building up to it, this may be the hardest ticket to snag at the festival.
In a role that marks a complete departure for Twilight star Kristen Stewart, Camp X-Ray finds her playing a military woman tasked with working as a guard at Guantanamo Bay, where the line between black and white is consistently blurred. This is a juicy part for Stewart, who’s had trouble finding indie success after the four-part Twilight storm invaded her career, and it’s sure to be one of the more talked-about at the fest.
Born from what we imagine were the nightmares of every school teacher, this hilarious-sounding midnight movie stars Elijah Wood, Rainn Wilson, Alison Pill and others as a group of teachers forced to team up when a vicious virus transforms students into cannibal mutants. Sounds like great fun to us, and maybe even a little therapeutic for you teachers out there.
Fishing Without Nets
Fresh on the heels of the captivating Captain Phillips comes this unique drama about Somali pirates that’s told from the perspective of the pirates, including one man who reluctantly takes part in high-seas cargo hijacking in order to support his struggling family. We dig the bravery in delivering a different, more relatable take on the monsters we’ve come to known through the media.
In director Mike Cahill’s follow-up to one of our favorite recent Sundance movies, Another Earth, Michael Pitt and Brit Marling star as scientists who make a potential life-changing discovery, and with that knowledge set off on a journey to learn the truth behind what they’ve found. Cahill and Marling are great at telling intimate and personal stories that have giant ideas behind them, and it’s impossible not to anticipate the mystery behind it all.
Life After Beth
What happens when one man’s girlfriend dies and then mysteriously shows up alive again? Dane Dehaan and a very zombie-fied Aubrey Plaza star in this darkly comedic movie about a guy whose relationship is about to get just a bit freaky. We were sold at Aubrey Plaza as a zombie.
Steve James (Hoop Dreams) directs this documentary, executive produced by Martin Scorsese, that tracks the career of film critic Roger Ebert. From his long-running TV show to his much-publicized battle with a cancer he refused to let beat him, Life Itself celebrates the incredible life of a man who forever changed the course of film criticism.
Ping Pong Summer
Set in 1985, Ping Pong Summer tracks one 13-year-old’s obsession with Ping-Pong and hip-hop, and the coming-of-age hilarity that ensues following a family vacation to Ocean City, Maryland. Oh, and did we mention the kid’s name is Rad Miracle? Any film with a character named Rad Miracle is one that immediately earns our ticket.
The Raid 2
This sequel to the ferociously action-packed Indonesian movie picks up where the first left off, with our fearless hero Rama infiltrating a ruthless crime syndicate in order to expose corruption and protect his family. The Raid redefined the “fight scene” for the modern action movie, and we can only imagine the kind of crazy that will go down when its sequel attempts to up the ante.
The Skeleton Twins
Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig as a brother and sister who hate each other? Yes, please. Very much yes, please. In The Skeleton Twins, the two star as estranged siblings reunited by a crisis who decide to spend more time together in the hopes of figuring out how they got so far apart to begin with.
They Came Together
Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler are among the stars in this David Wain-directed comedy that deconstructs the romantic comedy genre with a You’ve Got Mail-type story about a corporate candy man who falls for the owner of the mom-and-pop candy shop he’s tasked with shutting down. We absolutely love Wain's Wet Hot American Summer and are desperate for a spoof movie that actually works, so no pressure, Mr. Wain. No pressure.
Based on the award-winning short film of the same name, Whiplash stars Miles Teller as a teen drummer who pushes himself far past the point of normal in his quest for perfection. Teller already made his big Sundance mark with last year’s The Spectacular Now, and looks to cement his status as one of today’s most promising up-and-comers with this drama about the lengths we go to achieve greatness.
Wish I Was Here
Remember all the fuss over the film Zach Braff movie funded primarily through Kickstarter donations? Well this is it! In his first directorial feature since Garden State, Braff stars as a thirty-something family man confronting an existential crisis. Cue moody soundtrack and lots of jokes about how responsibility sucks.
There’s no way we’re turning down this meaty futuristic Western starring the always-brilliant Michael Shannon as a father tasked with defending his farm and family at all costs from the danger of a world that’s about to run out of water. The film also features a trio of today’s most promising young stars: Elle Fanning, Nicholas Hoult and Kodi Smit-Mcphee.
We’ll be back at the end of the festival to let you know which movies you need to look out for. In the meantime, stay tuned to Fandango and our sister site Movies.com for additional coverage of the 2014 Sundance Film Festival.
Which of our most anticipated movies are you looking forward to seeing the most?