The 2018 Sundance Film Festival begins Thursday, and if the past couple of years are any indication, that means it’s time to take a glimpse at the movies Netflix and Amazon will be throwing lots and lots of money at to acquire.
Last year Amazon snagged “The Big Sick” for $US12 million and Netflix got “Mudbound” for $US12.5 million. Both are now in the hunt for award-season glory. Which titles from this year are going to get that kind of treatment?
Here are 21 titles playing at the fest that we think are going to grab people’s attention:
“America To Me”
Steve James (“Hoop Dreams,” “The Interrupters,” “Life Itself”) has made a career looking at the social melting pot of Chicago. For his latest, he examines racial inequality in the education system. This 10-part documentary series gives a one-year look at one of Chicago’s most progressive and diverse public schools.
From a script by Tony Gilroy (the Jason Bourne movies, “Michael Clayton”), and starring John Hamm and Rosamund Pike, director Brad Anderson (“The Machinist”) looks at a US diplomat (Hamm) who, after leaving Lebanon in the 1970s following a tragic incident, returns 10 years later on a new mission. This political thriller already has distribution (Bleecker Street), so keep an eye out for it when it hits theatres in April.
Ethan Hawke’s latest directing effort spotlights the little-known talents of country music songwriter Blaze Foley. Newcomer Benjamin Dickey takes on the role of this talent that is examined in three different story threads.
After wowing Sundance audiences with “Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter” in 2014, David and Nathan Zellner return for their latest, starring Robert Pattinson and Mia Wasikowska (and a tiny horse). Set in the old West, this love story (Zellner brothers style) is certain to be a unique experience.
Director Kimberly Reed returns to her home state of Montana to look at how corporate interests have affected politics.
“The Death of Stalin”
What has the creator of “Veep,” Armando Iannucci, been doing since leaving the show? Continuing to create politically focused comedies. Set in 1953 Russia during the hysteria following Stalin’s death, this hilarious look at the grab for ultimate power is one you need to keep an eye out for. IFC Films will release the film in October.
“A Futile and Stupid Gesture”
Netflix doesn’t just nab titles out of Sundance, it shows up to the fest with them as well. “Wet Hot American Summer” director David Wain looks at the launch of National Lampoon. From its start as a magazine and radio show that introduced the world to Bill Murray, Chevy Chase, and Gilda Radner, to being the brains behind comedy classics “Animal House” and “Caddyshack,” Wain looks back at the dysfunction behind the scenes, led by Lampoon cofounder Doug Kenney (played by Will Forte).
For over 25 years photographer/filmmaker Lauren Greenfield (“The Queen of Versailles”) has used photos and the moving image to show society’s love for excess. In this documentary, she looks back on her work to showcase the haves and have-nots.
“I Think We’re Alone Now”
In this post-apocalyptic tale, the details about why most of the human race was erased don’t really matter, it’s those who survived who fascinate its director Reed Morano (“The Handmaid’s Tale”). Peter Dinklage plays a man living in an empty town and dealing with being alone, though he didn’t really have anyone in his life pre-apocalypse. But when a woman (Elle Fanning) suddenly comes to town, he has to cope with human connection. Expect this title to be on the radar of most of the buyers coming to the fest.
“Jane Fonda in Five Acts”
Jane Fonda looks back on her legendary career in which she’s transformed constantly: leaving the shadow of her acting-legend father Henry Fonda, becoming an outspoken critic of the Vietnam war, then a 1980s fitness video icon, and three high-profile marriages – Fonda has done it all. And she addresses it all here.
Lizzie (Chloë Sevigny) lives a secluded life with her wealthy father and stepmother in Massachusetts in the late 1800s. Life is bland and stressful thanks to her overbearing father. But when live-in maid Bridget (Kirsten Stewart) comes on the scene, Lizzie suddenly has found meaning in her life. The two begin to have a romantic relationship in secret. But then things turn for the worse, giving this thriller quite an edge.
This is a Nicolas Cage movie – but also a movie directed by Panos Cosmatos, the creative mind behind “Beyond the Black Rainbow.” If you’ve ever seen that sci-fi cult hit, you know that Cosmatos’ creativity combined with Cage is quite a combo. The movie focuses on a man (Cage) driven to madness to destroy the creatures that have ruined his life.
“The Miseducation of Cameron Post”
Desiree Akhavan’s follow-up to her acclaimed debut “Appropriate Behaviour” is an adaptation of Emily Danforth’s coming-of-age novel about a girl (Chloë Grace Moretz) who is sent to a conversion therapy center. There is major heat about this one. It could sell for big bucks.
Every year there’s an “It” actor at the fest, and this year it’s Andrea Riseborough (“Battle of the Sexes”). She stars in three movies at the fest, but this may be the one she’ll get the most attention for. Here she plays a woman who becomes convinced that she was kidnapped as a child, and that she’s found her real parents.
“Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind”
Marina Zenovich used incredible archival footage to piece together Roman Polanski’s career in “Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired,” and now she’s giving the same care to Robin Williams. In this documentary, the late comic is celebrated with an incredible look back on a performer who left us way too soon.
Netflix will bring a movie to Sundance that seems to be perfect for the current #MeToo movement we’re in. This documentary spotlights Gloria Allred, the fearless women’s rights attorney. The movie looks back on her 40-year career that some see as heroic and others believe is far from that.
Laura Dern stars as Jennifer, a journalist who is at a career high when her mother shows her a story she wrote at 13 titled “The Tale,” which describes a “special” relationship she had with two adult coaches. Shaken by what she wrote, Jennifer embarks on a journey to find answers. It leads to a struggle with the past, and an exploration of memory and unchecked power. With sexual misconduct currently front-and-center in the country, this has the potential to be the breakout movie at the festival this year.
Tyler (Jason Mitchell) meets up with friends in the Catskills for a weekend birthday party, but soon realises he’s the only black person there. This leads to a lot of uncomfortable situations for Tyler – and things aren’t getting better with all the booze being consumed. Director Sebastián Silva uses his unique brand of comedy to showcase race like Jordan Peele did with “Get Out.”
Though the famous Jack London novel gets the kid-friendly animation treatment here, this adaptation doesn’t pull its punches. Following a wolf dog in the era of the Klondike Gold Rush of the 1890s, it’s filled with thrilling moments that are strong life lessons for kids, and will certainly keep the attention of adults as well. Nick Offerman, Paul Giamatti, Rashida Jones, and Eddie Spears all lend their voices.
Actor Paul Dano’s directorial debut looks at a family dealing with divorce. Joe is an only child who has to witness his housewife mother (Carey Mulligan) and golf pro dad (Jake Gyllenhaal) gradually fall out of love.
Idris Elba combines the gangster and coming-of-age genres to make his directorial debut. Denis arrives in London from Jamaica tasked with doing a job that will solidify himself in the gang he’s with, but when things go wrong he decides to track down the killer of his brother instead.
NOW WATCH: Briefing videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.