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Best Movies from the 2024 Sundance Film Festival

The 2024 Sundance Film Festival recently took place in Park City, Utah, and online and I had the honor of attending the festival in person this year. I have been attending the Sundance Film Festival since 2011 and it is my favorite film festival in the world, as it gives voice to a new generation of filmmakers and artists and focuses on the spirit of independent filmmaking.

This year’s festival saw Alessandra Lacorazza Samudio’s In the Summers take home the Grand Jury Prize for best U.S. Dramatic Film, following in the footsteps of A.V. Rockwell’s A Thousand and One, Nikyatu Jusu’s Nanny, and 2022’s Best Picture Oscar winner CODA. Other Grand Jury Prize winners went to The Porcelain War (U.S. Documentary), Sujo (World Dramatic), and A New Kind of Wilderness (World Documentary). The festival also featured films from Steven Soderbergh, Richard Linklater, Jessie Eisenberg, and the duo of Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden as well as a slew of directorial debuts from new and exciting voices.

I saw 36 feature films at this year’s festival and it was a very good festival overall. Though there wasn’t a Whiplash, Hereditary, or indie masterpiece we’ve seen at the festival from time to time, there was a slew of really great movies, particularly from directors making their second film. We also got a lot of films from exciting directors making their feature debuts. Here are the best movies (in alphabetical order) I saw during my time at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival.

Daughters

A still from Daughters by Angela Patton and Natalie Rae, an official selection of the U.S. Documentary Competition at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.
A still from Daughters by Angela Patton and Natalie Rae, an official selection of the U.S. Documentary Competition at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

The most emotional movie I have ever seen at the Sundance Film Festival was Angela Patton and Natalie Rae’s beautiful film about a Daddy Daughter Dance for incarcerated fathers in Washington D.C. This is a powerful film about the importance of fatherhood in a child’s life, empathy, and gives a new look at visitation rights in prisons. Bring a tissue box whenever you’re able to see this one.

Exhibiting Forgiveness

André Holland and Andra Day appear in Exhibiting Forgiveness by Titus Kaphar, an official selection of the U.S. Dramatic Competition at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.
André Holland and Andra Day appear in Exhibiting Forgiveness by Titus Kaphar, an official selection of the U.S. Dramatic Competition at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

The last film I saw in person at the festival just happened to be one of the best. Internationally recognized artist Titus Kaphar’s feature film debut is a semi-autobiographical look at a Black artist (André Holland) who gets an unexpected visit from his estranged father (John Earle Jelks), a former addict looking for reconciliation. Filled with stunning art and remarkable performances from Holland and Jelks, Exhibiting Forgiveness is a tough and moving film about the sins of our past, forgiveness, and the bond of family.

Ghostlight

A still from Ghostlight by Alex Thompson and Kelly O’Sullivan, an official selection of the Premieres program at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Fusion Entertainment.
A still from Ghostlight by Alex Thompson and Kelly O’Sullivan, an official selection of the Premieres program at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Fusion Entertainment.

Keith Kupferer gave the best performance I saw at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival as a blue-collar construction worker who unexpectedly joins a local theater’s production of Romeo & Juliet, which unexpectedly helps him learn to express his emotions following a recent family tragedy. Directors Alex Thompson and Kelly O’Sullivan’s Chicago-set film is a detailed and heartfelt look at a family learning how to move on from a tragedy and showing the power and importance of theater. This is a wonderful film filled with humor, drama, and raw human emotion.

I Saw the TV Glow

Justice Smith and Brigette Lundy-Paine appear in I Saw the TV Glow by Jane Schoenbrun, an official selection of the World Dramatic Competition at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.
Justice Smith and Brigette Lundy-Paine appear in I Saw the TV Glow by Jane Schoenbrun, an official selection of the World Dramatic Competition at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

The most buzzed-about film coming out of the 2024 Sundance Film Festival was Jane Schoenbrun’s I Saw the TV Glow. Following their lo-fi debut, We’re All Going to the World’s Fair, which played at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival, I Saw the TV Glow looks at two teenagers (Justice Smith and Bridgette Lundy-Paine) who become obsessed with a supernatural TV show, only for it to be mysteriously canceled and their lives thrown in a tizzy. Schoenbrun proves that they are the real deal as a director with this mesmerizing, eerie film about identity and anxiety wrapped in a dreamlike suburban hellscape.

It’s What’s Inside

Alycia Debnam-Carey appears in It’s What’s Inside by Greg Jardin, an official selection of the Midnight program at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.
Alycia Debnam-Carey appears in It’s What’s Inside by Greg Jardin, an official selection of the Midnight program at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

It’s What’s Inside is a devilishly fun thriller that finds a group of friends gathered at a remote mansion the weekend of one of their weddings where an estranged member of their group shows up with a mysterious suitcase. Thanks to some crafty filmmaking and a talented young ensemble, director Greg Jardin’s directorial debut is an unpredictable thrill ride that will have you on the edge of your seat until the final shot.

Love Lies Bleeding

Kristen Stewart and Katy O'Brian appear in Love Lies Bleeding by Rose Glass, an official selection of the Midnight program at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.
Kristen Stewart and Katy O’Brian appear in Love Lies Bleeding by Rose Glass, an official selection of the Midnight program at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

Set in the middle of New Mexico in the 1980s, Love Lies Bleeding finds Lou (Kristen Stewart) living a reclusive life as a gym manager. She starts a relationship with Jackie (Katy O’Brian), an aspiring bodybuilder passing through town on her way to a bodybuilding competition in Las Vegas. They fall hard for each other and when a tragedy hits Lou’s family, violence starts happening around them and past secrets begin to reveal themselves, pushing Lou and Jackie’s relationship to the limit.

Led by Kristen Stewart in one of the best performances of her career, Katy O’Brian giving a breakout turn, and the legendary Ed Harris giving his best performance in years as Lou’s menacing father, Director Rose Glass’s latest film is a pulpy, violent romance reminiscent of Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive.

Presence

A still from Presence by Steven Soderbergh, an official selection of the Premieres Program at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.
A still from Presence by Steven Soderbergh, an official selection of the Premieres Program at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

Presence is a chilling and quietly intense film that looks at a family who moves into a suburban home that is inhabited by a mysterious entity. Directed, shot, and edited by Steven Soderbergh, this is an unconventional, minimalistic horror movie shot through the perspective of the entity in long, single-take shots. It’s a haunting film with an incredibly intense ending and another showcase of tactile filmmaking from Soderbergh.

Skywalkers: A Love Story

A still from Skywalkers: A Love Story by Jeff Zimbalist, an official selection of the U.S. Documentary Competition at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.
A still from Skywalkers: A Love Story by Jeff Zimbalist, an official selection of the U.S. Documentary Competition at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

A breathtaking documentary in every sense, Skywalkers: A Love Story is about a daredevil couple who illegally climb buildings with no safety equipment and take pictures and videos for social media. The film looks at how the couple met, their growing relationship, and their financial and personal struggles following the global pandemic, which brings them to Malaysia for their biggest climb yet.

Thanks to Go-Pro cameras and drone footage, we are with the daredevils on their climbs, seeing how high up in the air and how dangerous this activity is. We also see them getting chased by security and going to prison for breaking into these places and climbing illegally. Skywalkers: A Love plays like a love story, a crime film, an underdog sports film, and if you’re afraid of heights, a horror film.

Additional films that I enjoyed were A Different Man, A Real Pain, Sujo, Tendaberry, Thelma, and Your Monster.

Make sure to keep an eye out for these films and more from the 2024 Sundance Film Festival.

Written by Kevin Wozniak

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