The Sundance Movies You Have to See - OZY | A Modern Media Company


Because these are the four best films to watch out for.

By Libby Coleman

Last year, Manchester by the Sea and The Birth of a Nation premiered at Sundance to thunderous applause. There weren’t as many fireworks this year, but buzz was still plentiful, and we’ll likely be hearing about the following movies for months, or years, to come.

All in all, the independent film scene continues to reign supreme and Sundance wears the crown. We at OZY screened more than a dozen films. Here are our favorites from the fest that you’ll want to watch for. Seriously, don’t miss them. 


The Skinny

This World War II and postwar epic stars Carey Mulligan, Jason Mitchell, Garrett Hedlund and, yes, Mary J. Blige. Adapted from the book of the same title, the film is narrated from multiple perspectives. It depicts farm life in the South and an unusual friendship between two veterans who change their opinions on race following the war. Beautifully shot, written and acted, this one could pick up Oscar noms. 

What to Say at a Party to Sound Smart

  1. Mudbound sold for the most money at Sundance this year, a reported $12.5 million, to Netflix. It sold at the tail end of the festival — hardly the bidding war splash that The Birth of a Nation made last year. 
  2. Clocking in at two-plus hours, the film is long, especially by Sundance standards. But there may be another trip to the editing room in the future. The pacing is slow, with lots of buildup and character development. The final 15 minutes, though, smack you in the face.
  3. Director Dee Rees (BessiePariah) is primed for a best director Oscar nomination — something Ava DuVernay was snubbed for when it came to Selma. 
  4. This isn’t your quirky Sundance fare, like Little Miss Sunshine. With heavyweight performances and stunning cinematography, it was built for the Oscars.

Beach Rats

The Skinny

This indie film takes place in New York and follows Frankie, a kid struggling with his sexuality. His friends are macho; he’s macho. So why is he trawling Chatroulette-like sites to meet guys? Beach Rats was acquired by Neon, an “upstart” distributor that also picked up Roxanne Roxanne and Ingrid Goes West at this year’s fest.

What to Say at a Party to Sound Smart

  1. Harris Dickinson, the breakout Brit who plays Frankie, is on a path to stardom. He’s only 20, so go ahead, feel bad about yourself. 
  2. The quote of the movie is Frankie’s refrain “I don’t know what I like” as he tries to figure himself out.
  3. The director, Eliza Hittman, has been to the Sundance rodeo before, but never in the coveted competition section. She won one of the rare Sundance awards for directing.
  4. Honestly, this is a great companion to Moonlight. A boy growing up, not truly accepting his sexuality because of the culture around him … and tons of beach scenes. 

The Big Sick

The Skinny 

Produced by Judd Apatow, directed by cult hero Michael Showalter (Wet Hot American Summer) and starring Kumail Nanjiani (Silicon Valley), the film brings together comedians to produce a hit. Based on the real-life love story of Nanjiani and his wife, Emily Gordon, the story is about their falling in love, pressures to get an arranged marriage and an unexpected sickness that pulls him back to her. It sold for $12 million to Amazon, just short of Mudbound’s deal — a whole lot for a comedy. 

What to Say at a Party to Sound Smart

  1. This may be the biggest comedy to come out of Sundance since 500 Days of Summer in 2009.
  2. This comedy with a hint of sadness might just start a new genre: “the coma comedy.”
  3. Some themes are very reminiscent of another festival circuit favorite: Meet the Patels. Though it took a documentary approach, the issues of family acceptance and choosing romantic marriage were played out for comedy’s sake to huge success.
  4. Nanjiani has been on the rise for a while. Silicon Valley has been a great platform, but even better? He had his own LA stand-up show with Jonah Ray, “The Meltdown,” which aired on Comedy Central and put him on the same level as comedy greats. 

Crown Heights

The Skinny

Based on a true story, this drama revolves around racial injustice in the justice system. Collin Warner is an 18-year-old who gets dragged into a murder charge and locked up for two decades, even though he’s innocent. The film follows Warner and those in his life fighting to free him. It was bought by Amazon and took home the audience award at Sundance for U.S. drama.

What to Say at a Party to Sound Smart

  1. Lakeith Stanfield (Atlanta, Straight Outta Compton) slays as Collin Warner.
  2. Nnamdi Asomugha not only stars in the film but also produced it. The former NFL star is married to Kerry Washington (Scandal).
  3. In no unsubtle terms, the film criticizes Reagan, Clinton and Bush Senior for their tough-on-crime mentality.
  4. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house when Collin was set free. Sorry for the spoiler, but you know it’s going to happen.
  5. Like so many films in Hollywood, this one’s adapted. But the source is an unusual one: a This American Life episode. 

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