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The Best Sundance Films to Look Out for in 2024

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Exhibiting Forgiveness

holland and andra day appear in exhibiting forgiveness by titus kaphar, an official selection of the us dramatic competition at the 2024 sundance film festival courtesy of sundance institute

Courtesy of the Sundance Institute

André Holland absolutely shines in his best role yet as a shattered artist trying to break through the cycles of generational trauma while unlearning about toxic fatherhood. The stunning directorial debut by Titus Kaphar depicts more than just healing from family wounds and comments on how religion can be used to undermine responsibility and accountability in some Black households. Exhibiting Forgiveness is a complex but heart-wrenching lesson that learning to forgive is almost as hard as learning how to forget. —Christine Jean-Baptiste, contributor

Daughters

a still from daughters by angela patton and natalie rae, an official selection of the us documentary competition at the 2024 sundance film festival courtesy of sundance institute

Courtesy of Sundance Institute

Daughters follows a group of girls as they prepare for a father-daughter dance with their incarcerated dads. Directed by Angela Patton, who runs this program, and filmmaker Natalie Rae, the documentary takes a look at these families: the kids at home with their mothers, trying to carry on with their lives, and the dads themselves, embarking on a 10-week fatherhood program ahead of the big dance. It’s precious and heartbreaking in how it portrays the pure girlhood and coming-of-age stories among the kids; the perseverance and camaraderie between the fathers; and the undying love both have for each other, no matter where their relationships stand. You’re left wholeheartedly rooting for these girls and the men they’re waiting for. What this film is able to accomplish is so special. —Erica Gonzales, senior culture editor

A Real Pain

kieran culkin and jesse eisenberg appear in a real pain by jesse eisenberg, an official selection of the us dramatic competition at the 2024 sundance film festival courtesy of sundance institute

Courtesy of Sundance Institute

Jesse Eisenberg returns to Sundance with his intimate second feature, A Real Pain. The film follows two cousins, played by Eisenberg and Kieran Culkin, who couldn’t be more opposite, as they take a trip to Poland on a Holocaust tour and unravel their family’s history. Confronted by their generational traumas, the sun-soaked landscape and the quirky characters they meet along the way force them to heal beyond their childhood bond. Eisenberg shows growth as a filmmaker with a sharp script that boasts Culkin’s talent through a terrific vulnerability we haven’t seen from him yet. A Real Pain has been acquired by Fox Searchlight and has won the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award: U.S. Dramatic. —CJB

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Love Lies Bleeding

sundance movies 2024

Courtesy of Sundance Institute

Kristen Stewart and Katy O’Brian are electric in this sexy, bloody thriller from Saint Maud director Rose Glass. Stewart is Lou, a mullet-wearing gym manager who falls for Jackie (O’Brien), an aspiring body builder with plans to compete in Vegas. As the two fall madly in love, Lou promises to help Jackie chase her dreams, but an act of violence gets them entangled with Lou’s sketchy family and begins to unveil her mysterious past. It’s edgy and engrossing; and the ’80s setting, synth-y score, and surreal elements give the film some added texture and flair. —EG

Dìdi (弟弟)

a person with the mouth open

Courtesy of Sundance Institute

What’s not to love about Oscar-nominee Sean Wang’s personal directorial debut, Dìdi (弟弟)? Cringy crushes. Myspace stalking. YouTube prank videos. Paramore. Skate culture. Wang walks us through an anecdotal story of a 13-year-old Taiwanese American who lives through the growing pains of boyhood where everything is embarrassing. The principal cast, led by Izaac Wang, is unmatched—a natural on-screen. Dìdi (弟弟) is a love letter to first-generation teenagers and the mothers who tolerated our chaos. It’s also a reminder to be a little kinder to our younger selves. Sean Wang’s Dìdi (弟弟) won the festival’s Audience Award for U.S. Dramatic Competition. —CJB

My Old Ass

maisy stella and aubrey plaza appear in my old ass by megan park, an official selection of the premieres program at the 2024 sundance film festival courtesy of sundance institute  photo by shane mahood

Shane Mahood

On her 18th birthday, Elliott (Maisy Stella) and her friends trip on mushrooms and she meets her older self (the incredible Aubrey Plaza). The mind-boggling connection, however, follows sober Elliott post-trip and bestows her with lessons about first love and family, all while she’s itching to leave for college. Director Megan Park imbues this relatable coming-of-age story with heart, tenderness, and a few subtle jokes about climate anxiety. She also expertly captures a moment just as it’s ending—childhood fading as the college years begin, summer making way for fall, parents becoming less needed as their kids grow up—even if you don’t realize it. My Old Ass is sweet but profound, hilarious, and (at times) heartbreaking. It’s also produced by Margot Robbie’s Lucky Chap. —EG

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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

Courtesy of Sundance Institute

What a nightmare. Jane Schoenbrun demands full body chills with their latest genre-bending horror/coming-of-age, produced by A24, I Saw the TV Glow. Two lonely teenagers, played by Justice Smith and Brigette Lundy-Paine, attempt to decipher between fiction and reality through ’90s television. It’s a confident portrayal of queer identity in the suburbs and successfully articulates how “media” can isolate and launch one’s experience into doubt and fear. The film is a visceral experience from its score to its nightmarish imagery that must be seen on the big screen. Watch this space—Schoenbrun is one exciting filmmaker to look for. I Saw the TV Glow will leave you shook. —CJB

Thelma

sundance movies 2024

Courtesy of Sundance Institute

All hail June Squibb. The delightful 94-year-old actress stars as a grandmother swindled by telemarketers who embarks on a hot pursuit to get her money back. The comedy from director Josh Margolin puts a geriatric spin on action tropes, but with unbeatable charm. It’s hilarious but doesn’t caricature the elderly; in fact, it makes some much-needed points about how they’re often overlooked, babied, or denied their agency. If Tom Cruise is still out here being a badass and doing his own stunts, why can’t Thelma? The late Richard Roundtree (Shaft himself!) is stellar as her right-hand guy. —EG

In the Summers

a still from in the summers by alessandra lacorazza, an official selection of the us dramatic competition at the 2024 sundance film festival courtesy of sundance institute

Courtesy of the Sundance Institute

First-time filmmaker Alessandra Lacorazza brings a thoughtfully quiet film about two sisters navigating their inconsistent and sometimes volatile father through a series of summer visits in Las Cruces, New Mexico. While their relationship is never linear, their bond is tender and palpable, as acted by a talented ensemble cast— Residente, Lío Mehiel, and Sasha Calle, who gives some of the most honest performances from the festival. In In the Summers, no one is left behind; it just takes a little time to find their way back to each other on their terms. The film won the Grand Jury prize at the festival. —CJB

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Seeking Mavis Beacon

jazmin jones and olivia mckayla ross appear in seeking mavis beacon, an official selection of the next program at the 2024 sundance film festival courtesy of sundance institute photo by yeelen cohen

Yeleen Cohen

Director Jazmin Renée Jones and collaborator Olivia Ross are on a mission to find the woman behind Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing, the educational computer program that became popular in the ’80s and ’90s, and give her long-overdue recognition. In their winding quest to find the software’s real-life cover model, Renee L’Esperance, their years-long investigation sparks thoughtful conversations about owning one’s image in today’s very online culture, how Black women are (or aren’t) represented in AI, and which stories get to be told. How do you give someone their flowers if they don’t want to be found? —EG

Girls Will Be Girls

a still from girls will be girls by shuchi talati, an official selection of the world dramatic competition at the 2024 sundance film festival courtesy of sundance institute

Courtesy of Sundance Institute

Set in the Himalayas, a mother and daughter come of age simultaneously. What can go wrong? Shuchi Talati’s striking debut shows the intensity of your firsts—first kiss, first dance, and first time breaking the rules. Girls Will Be Girls is a balancing act between social conditioning and sexual awakening. The moving performances by Preeti Panigrahi, Kesav Binoy Kiron, and Kani Kusruti accurately embody the meaning of unrequited love. Messy stories about girls of color matter! The film won the Audience Award: World Cinema Dramatic. —CJB

Luther: Never Too Much

sundance movies 2024

Courtesy of Sundance Institute

Luther Vandross’s sheer talent is on full display in this documentary directed by Dawn Porter, which clearly comes from a place of love. Along with highlighting his career—from his early days on Sesame Street, to singing backup for David Bowie, to his chart-topping success—the film also sheds light on the vicious media scrutiny he battled throughout his life. There were brutal comments and questions about his fluctuating weight and intrusive speculation about his sexuality. In interviews, Vandross’s closest collaborators, friends, and fellow music legends, including Dionne Warwick and Mariah Carey, reflect on the icon’s intimate struggles, artistic vision, and lasting legacy. —EG

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Black Box Diaries

shiori ito appears in black box diaries by shiori ito, an official selection of the world documentary competition at the 2024 sundance film festival courtesy of sundance institute photo by tsutomu harigaya

Tsutomo Harigaya

Although it was snubbed at the festival, Black Box Diaries is a gripping, required watch. The documentary follows Japanese journalist Shiori Itō’s quest for justice against her rapist while investigating her own sexual assault case. Told through journal entries, court hearings, audio and video footage, nothing can prepare you for Itō’s courage to tell her story when many fought hard to suppress it. Her journey is one of resilience. We can all learn a thing or two (or three) from the remarkable Shiori Itō. —CJB

Freaky Tales

sundance movies 2024

Courtesy of Sundance Institute

Fans of Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill, and even Blade can see the obvious homages to these films, and many others, in this punchy, stylistic collection of underdog tales set in the ’80s Bay Area from directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck. (But if you revere those titles deeply, it’s possible this might come off as a knock-off.) There are punk kids trying to defend their underground rock club from Nazis; a rap duo (Dominique Thorne and Normani) battling misogyny on the mic; an aged fixer (Pedro Pascal) standing up to his bosses after a tragedy; and basketball star Sleepy Floyd (Jay Ellis in arguably his hottest role?) taking care of business on the court and off. Plus, Euphoria’s Angus Cloud makes an appearance in one of his final performances. It goes a lot places—including beyond this earthly realm—and it’s so much fun to watch. —EG

Good One

a person with a hat

Courtesy of Sundance Institute

Who to trust when you’re feeling unsafe? Seventeen-year-old Sam spends a weekend backpacking with her father and his oldest friend. In India Donaldson’s intimate directorial debut, girlhood is both sacred and overlooked, revealed through father-daughter dynamics. The striking soundscapes of the Catskills are a balm for the harrowing drama that unfolds. Good One is 90 minutes you’ll never want to take back. Can someone please buy this already?!! —CJB

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Ponyboi

a man and woman

Courtesy of Sundance Institute

A fitting film for the Mob Wife era, Ponyboi stars screenwriter and actor River Gallo as the titular intersex sex worker on the run from the mob in New Jersey after a drug deal goes awry. But amid the accents, French tips, and gold chains, the film (directed by Esteban Arango) opens up poignant conversations about intersex identity, which is rarely represented onscreen. Pulling from personal experiences, Gallo sheds light on the pressures to conform to the gender binary, the assumptions strangers and loved ones put upon them, the power dynamics and stigmas within the larger queer community, and defining one’s identity beyond the physical body. The story is rocky at times, but the film as a whole is exciting, heartwarming, and bold. Dylan O’Brien and Victoria Pedretti are hilarious yet committed, Indya Moore is a scene-stealer, and Gallo is a surefire breakout. —EG

Headshot of Christine Jean-Baptiste

Christine Jean-Baptiste

Christine Jean-Baptiste is a Haitian-Canadian culture writer living in Montréal, Quebec. Her work has appeared on Elle, Vogue, Teen Vogue, Insider, and Nylon, among others. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter (@itsmcjb).

Headshot of Erica Gonzales

Erica Gonzales is the Senior Culture Editor at ELLE.com, where she oversees coverage on TV, movies, music, books, and more. She was previously an editor at HarpersBAZAAR.com. There is a 75 percent chance she’s listening to Lorde right now. 

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