The year in movies starts every January in Park City, Utah, with the Sundance Film Festival. Come January 23, we can expect many of the year’s best films to feature at the festival. It’s certainly happened every year prior.
Of course, Gizmodo has a distinct angle and so we don’t cover movies like The Farewell, The Report, Blinded by the Light, Honey Boy, or any number of last year’s films that went on to become critical darlings. We’re here for the weird stuff. The horror, the sci-fi, every genre oddity in between—and 2020 has plenty of that in store. Here are 21 movies playing at Sundance that we may be talking about later this year, grouped by their festival classification.
U.S. Dramatic Competition
Us’s Winston Duke, Joker’s Zazie Beetz, Doctor Strange’s Benedict Wong, It’s Bill Skarsgård, and Toy Story 4's Tony Hale star in a film about a man who interviews five beings trying to decide which of them should be born. These characters aren’t people, they are the personifications of a soul, and only one can be brought into the world.
A tech-dependent Brooklyn couple decides to ditch their phones for the weekend and head into the country. You know, disconnect for a few days. Which, of course, is precisely when aliens invade the planet and the couple have no idea what the hell is happening.
World Cinema Dramatic Competition
Noémie Merlant, star of Portrait of a Lady on Fire, plays a shy amusement park worker who one day decides she’s in love with a Tilt-A-Whirl. Like, actual, passionate love. With a ride. She names it Jumbo.
The sophomore film from Brandon Cronenberg, son of David Cronenberg, Possessor is about a woman who is able to take over people’s minds and make them do things for her. Like political assassinations, for example. But she soon begins to question what is going on with her mind too.
A homeless man ends up being taken in by a nice young woman who cares for her sick grandmother. Things are going fine until the man realises the grandmother isn’t just sick. She may, in fact, be possessing her granddaughter to do as she wishes.
Bad Hair is Dear White People creator Justin Simien’s second feature. From the description, it sounds like—read it for yourself—it’s about a woman who is forced to get a weave that she doesn’t want and maybe that weave ends up...being a monster? It’s probably less horrific and more subversive than that, especially considering Simien has that talent down, but it sounds great either way.
Genre is at its best when it uses its conventions as a commentary on modern issues, and that sounds like what His House does. It’s the story of a house where many refugees end up, but the house itself has sinister plans for them.
An Indonesian film about a woman who goes back to the village where she grew up—only to realise there aren’t any other children in the village anymore, and something is very, very wrong.
Emily Mortimer and Bella Heathcote co-star in a film about a woman who disappears, so her family tries to find her. She then reappears, seemingly out of nowhere, but maybe not as the same as the person she once was.
Described as a “metafictional horror comedy,” this one features a man who goes to a secluded cabin to write his first novel. While there, he meets another writer, a woman (You’re the Worst’s Aya Cash), from a nearby cabin who is there to do the same thing. The two begin to swap scary stories until the man realises the woman is better than him.
The Night House
Iron Man 3's Rebecca Hall plays a woman who recently lost her husband, so she goes to spend time in the vacation home he built for her. While she’s there, she begins to hear voices and have visions that nudge her into looking deeper into her late husband’s mysterious past.
Alison Brie stars as a woman who has trouble distinguishing her vivid dreams from reality. It’s produced by Jay and Mark Duplass and co-written by Brie herself, and Netflix will release the film in the weeks after Sundance.
Ethan Hawke plays Nikola Tesla in this biopic diving into the legendary inventor’s mind, as well as his rivalry with Thomas Edison (Kyle MacLachlan) when it came to the invention of electricity.
Beasts of the Southern Wild director Benh Zeitlin finally returns with his sophomore feature, an adaptation of Peter Pan told through the eyes of Wendy Darling. It looks to have that vibrant, pulsating energy and style that made his first film so special and memorable.
Stranger Things star Joe Keery plays a ride-share driver who wants to become a social media superstar. His car is decked out with all kinds of cameras to broadcast live but when a comedian with her own social media aspirations gets into the car, all hell breaks loose.
This new spin on the “La Llorona” folktale is set in the midst of a Guatemalan political uprising, as an upper-class home struggles with housing a criminal who may have supernatural beings following him.
Former Disney and Pixar filmmaker Brenda Chapman moves over to live-action to tell the origin story of how Peter became Peter Pan and how Alice became Alice in Wonderland. Angelina Jolie, David Oyelowo, and Michael Caine co-star.
Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made
Before it premieres on Disney+, this Tom McCarthy-directed adaptation of the children’s book about a kid detective and his pet polar bear will have its debut at Sundance.
Happy Happy, Joy Joy - The Ren and Stimpy Story
Despite what the title suggests, this documentary about the cult Nickelodeon show isn’t all positive. It goes through the history of the show but will focus heavily on recent accusations of underage sexual abuse by its creator John Kricfalusi.
U.S. Documentary Competition
A look at the early life of martial arts legend Bruce Lee, using rare archival footage and interviews with his family and friends.
Feels Good Man
The story of Matt Furie, the creator of Pepe the Frog, something that was meant to be a fun comic book character but instead became a symbol for so much more.
The 2020 Sundance Film Festival takes place in Park City, Utah, January 23-February 2. Get more information here.