Sundance 2023: The best and buzziest movies coming soon to a theater or streamer near you
Here are Yahoo Entertainment's picks for this year's top Sundance movies
The curtain has come down on the first in-person Sundance Film Festival since 2020. But the movies that broke out at the world's premiere showcase for emerging filmmakers and creatively bold veterans are just starting their journey towards a screen near you, be it a movie screen or the one in your living room.
While there weren't many eye-popping paydays this year — although Netflix and Apple each shelled out a reported $20 million for two of the buzziest star-powered movies in the lineup (more on those below) — there are still plenty of titles for movie lovers to get excited about, from timely awards-winners to future midnight movie favorites. Here's Yahoo Entertainment's guide to the standout movies from Sundance's 2023 edition that you can expect to see this year.
A Thousand and One
For the second year in a row, Sundance's coveted Grand Jury Prize — the top award for narrative and documentary features — went to a Black female filmmaker making their feature debut, with A.V. Rockwell's drama A Thousand and One following Nikyatu Jusu's chilling horror story Nanny. That's a track record that's all the more notable in light of Oscar voters snubbing Woman King helmer Gina Prince-Bythewood (and female directors in general) in this year's Best Director category. Singer-turned-actress Teyana Taylor plays a struggling single mother trying to keep her young son out of foster care and off of the mean streets of New York City circa the mid-1990s. But she's also harboring a secret that has serious implications for their future. It's a vividly dramatized story of the families you make set against an immersive evocation of '90s era New York.
How you can see it: Focus Features is releasing A Thousand and One in theaters on March 31.
Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie
Here's a two-track documentary where both parts are equally great. One track provides a retrospective of Michael J. Fox's career as an '80s icon, pieced together with reenactments, behind-the-scenes footage and archival clips of his various screen performances edited together seamlessly. The other incorporates contemporary interviews that depict how he's living with the debilitating effects of Parkinson's disease. Fox voices his frustrations about his inability to deliver quick zingers and the intensive physical therapy required to keep him walking — a difficult process that causes him to accrue various injuries over the course of the filming due to falls. But you can't keep a good time traveler own. Fox consistently shakes off his tumbles and powers through, proving that Marty McFly is still as tough as he is talented.
How you can see it: Apple will release the film in theaters and on Apple TV+ later this year.
It’s been called "the sexy stockbroker movie," or "Wall Street meets War of the Roses." Both are accurate. Solo's Alden Ehrenreich and Bridgerton's Phoebe Dynevor shine as a happily engaged finance couple hiding their relationship status from their cutthroat hedge fund firm co-workers until she lands a big promotion... and all hell breaks loose. Making her feature filmmaking debut, Chloe Dumot’s razor-sharp "erotic" thriller is particularly notable for giving Ehrenreich — perfectly cast as the affable stockbroker with a touch smarm before devolving into pathetic cesspool of male fragility — a nice bounce-back vehicle after his Star Wars story didn't set the box office on fire. Next month, he’ll also turn up in the super-buzzy Cocaine Bear.
How you can see it: Netflix gobbled up Fair Play for $20 million and a likely 2023 release, TBD.
You Hurt My Feelings
Writer-director Nicole Holofcener and Julia Louis-Dreyfus previously collaborated on Enough Said — featuring the late, great James Gandolfini's final big-screen performance — which was a festival favorite at Sundance's 2013 edition. Nearly a decade later, Louis-Dreyfus delivers another command performance in Holofcener's latest movie, playing a successful memoir writer who experiences a major crisis of confidence after overhearing her husband (Tobias Menzies) providing too-honest feedback about her first attempt at a novel. At times uncomfortable, but never unpleasant, You Hurt My Feelings features crisp dialogue and no true villain: just adults trying to work through adult things. There's also some delightful supporting work by Michaela Watkins, Arian Moayed and real-life husband and wife David Cross and Amber Tamblyn as a married couple in serious need of counseling.
How you can see it: A24 will release the movie in theaters later this year.
The Jonathan Majors bandwagon is real. With two high-profile threequels on the way in the next two months — he's emerging Avengers baddie Kang in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania and Michael B. Jordan's latest opponent in Creed III — consider the odds very, very high that the Lovecraft Country actor will also be an Oscar nominee (and maybe even an eventual winner) within the year. Majors delivers an absolute knockout of a performance as a painfully awkward bodybuilding obsessive in Elijah Bynum's dark and grating drama. It's an intense watch from start to finish (it scores a solid 10.0 on the Uncut Gems scale of movies that give you anxiety), even if it could stand to lose 10 or 20 minutes from its overwrought third act. But it's further proof that Majors will indeed be on plenty of magazine covers in years to come... assuming there are still magazines being published.
How you can see it: The film is still awaiting acquisition/distribution, but we're guessing a brawny deal is in the works.
Paging Corky St. Clair! Christopher Guest's Waiting for Guffman alter ego could easily be lurking in the wings of Theater Camp, a riotously funny and delightfully loving recreation of those bucolic summer camps that literally run on drama with a capital D. Real-life friends and theater world veterans Ben Platt and Molly Gordon play unhealthily co-dependent counselors at AdirondACTS, a summer destination for aspiring Broadway babies that has fallen on hard economic times. Enter Troy, a would-be internet influencer (played to comic perfection by Jimmy Tatro) who hopes to make like Ernest P. Worrell and save the camp from closure. The hijinks end with the greatest musical-within-a-movie production since Guffman's immortal Red, White & Blaine.
How you can see it: Searchlight Pictures acquired Theater Camp for a cool $8 million and almost certainly have a theatrical release planned just in time for summer camp season.
We'll admit something here: Heading into Cassandro — Roger Ross Williams's gloriously fun yet sneakily powerful story of a gay lucha libre wrestler played by Gael García Bernal (perhaps a first-time Oscar nominee a year from now) — we didn't realize the movie was a biopic. Credit our ignorance of Mexican wrestling, or a preference to sometimes enter screenings blindly. But finding out that Cassandro, the El Paso exotico created by Saúl Armendáriz, exists in real life is a sweet cherry on top of one of Sundance's biggest crowd-pleasers.
How you can see it: The film was already in the distribution pipeline for Amazon Prime Video prior to Sundance, though a release date is TBD.
Flora and Son
If you've seen Once or Sing Street, you'll have an idea of what you're getting from director John Carney's latest crowd pleasing — and very Irish — celebration of performance. Eve Hewson shows she inherited plenty of musical talent from her rocker dad Bono, and also shows off serious acting chops as a mess of a mom using songwriting to connect with her juvenile delinquent son (Orén Kinlan). At the same time, she’s both falling for and helping to inspire her online guitar instructor, played with maximum charm by Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Expect audiences to fall slowly for this one just like they once did with Once.
How you can see it: Apple acquired the film for $20 million, and will release it in theaters and on Apple TV+ later this year.
In the words of a certain MTV reality series, it's time to stop being polite and start getting real. To create her debut feature, We Are Lady Parts creator Nida Manzoor fills a blender with a variety of influences — everything from Scott Pilgrim and My Best Friend's Wedding to Get Out and The Great Muppet Caper — and produces a genre mash-up that goes down smoothly. Rising star Priya Kansara plays an aspiring stuntwoman who can't accept that her older sister is willingly succumbing to British-Pakistani custom and getting married instead of pursuing an art career. Convinced that something sinister must be afoot, she enlists her friends to execute the ultimate wedding crashing plan. Beneath the spirited frivolity is some seriously smart commentary about the perils of toxic motherhood and breaking the cycle of outdated traditions.
How you can see it: Focus Features will release Polite Society in theaters on April 28.
Unless you've logged some serious YouTube research time, you probably don't know what life actually looks like for the citizens of North Korea. Enter Beyond Utopia, Madeleine Gavin's stunning and gutting documentary about the world's most oppressive nation. While Gavin’s bold doc gives viewers rare glimpses of the country's impoverished people and the regime's brutal rule, she mostly focuses on those attempting to flee. Using hidden-camera footage, the film follows two stories — one featuring a terrified family of five making the harrowing journey across three countries and the other focusing on a mother desperately attempting to reconnect with her son. It also introduces Seungeun Kim, a pastor who has dedicated his life to helping defectors safely escape and start new lives. Doubtful we'll meet a greater hero in any other film this year.
How you can see it: Beyond Utopia does not currently have a U.S. distributor, but between outstanding buzz, one-hundred percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes and Sundance’s audience award for best documentary, an acquisition deal is imminent.
A Little Prayer
Gently paced and family-focused, A Little Prayer sneaks up on you with great performances and a top-notch ending. Written and directed by Junebug auteur Angus MacLachlan, the film stars former Oscar nominee David Strathairn as a father who discovers his son is having an affair, leading him to try and help his daughter-in-law, played by Jane Levy. Unfortunately, his brand of "help" actually takes the form of well-intentioned meddling. Strathairn is wonderful as he questions his own parenting but the real standout is Levy, who has a pair of scenes that will absolutely level you.
How you can see it: Sony Pictures Classics acquired the film and will release it in theaters later this year.
Talk to Me
Today is a good day to die. The ghost of Joel Schumacher's oh-so-'90s horror favorite Flatliners is alive and well in Talk to Me, the wildly entertaining first feature from Aussie YouTube pranksters, Danny and Michael Philippou. In the movie's warped reality, bored Down Under teens are going wild for an all-new party game where you can literally reach out and touch the dead courtesy of an embalmed hand of unknown origin. It goes without saying that the spirit world doesn't respond well to being treated as a plaything, and before you know it things are getting... bloody. Despite a few third act hiccups, Talk to Me has the bones to support an all-new horror franchise, one that could go global in a big way.
How you can see it: A24 took Talk to Me by the hand with a seven-figure paycheck, so you can expect to see it at a theater near you as scary movie season approaches.
It may only be January, Celine Song's directorial debut is an early contender for Best Picture honors. The film follows the relationship between Nora (Greta Lee in a next-level performance) and Hae Sung (Yoo Teo, also excellent), two childhood sweethearts in Seoul who are separated when Nora’s family immigrates to the United States. They reconnect 12 years later over a series of Skype sessions and then meet IRL in New York after another dozen years pass. A gorgeous, conversation-heavy look at the lives we've led and the reality of fate and destiny we're living in now, Past Lives is a real knockout.
How you can see it: A24 will release Past Lives in theaters later this year.
In My Mother's Skin
If you love vintage Guillermo Del Toro chillers like The Devil's Backbone and Pan's Labyrinth, Kenneth Dagatan's sophomore feature is the best kind of mid-aughts throwback. Set in a remote mansion in the Philippines at the height of World War II, the movie depicts the implosion of a God-fearing nuclear family brought about by a particularly malevolent forest fairy. Dagatan's graceful camerawork ups the fright factor as things go bump in the night and once friendly faces turn sinister. Be warned: the ending to this fairy tale puts the grim in Grimm.
How you can see it: Prime Video — which also snapped up Nanny last year — added the movie to its horror library with an anticipated 2023 release date.