Top 15 Sundance 2024 Films: The films starring Kieran Culkin and Aubrey Plaza, Steven Soderbergh’s haunted house film, and documentaries about Argentinean cowboys, Amazon employees, and Christopher Reeve are some of the THR critics’ favorites from the festival.
Top 15 Sundance 2024 Films
1. A Different Man
A Different Man is a charmingly twisted look at actors, playwrights, egos, and the condition of the disfigured by writer-director Aaron Schimberg. In this provocative and dark comedy on A24, Sebastian Stan plays a tongue-in-cheek serious thespian with neurofibromatosis who, after finding a cure, yearns to return to his life before his facial deformity. In important supporting parts, Renate Reinsve and Adam Pearson—who has neurofibromatosis himself—shine. — JORDAN MINTZER
2. Exhibiting Forgiveness
André Holland, a gifted actor, takes on the role of a painter attempting to reconcile with his father (the esteemed John Earl Jelks) at the urging of his mother (the consistently indispensable Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor) in Titus Kaphar’s touching directorial debut. Kaphar, not only showcasing an impressive grasp of composition, proves to be a perceptive and insightful chronicler of Black life, delving into themes of love and connection. – LOVIA GYARKYE
3. Freaky Tales
Should Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, the creative duo behind Captain Marvel, choose to embrace the invigorating artistic journey encapsulated by Freaky Tales, even if it involves delving into the realm of MCU films, then let the superhero narratives unfold. Their past works, which include distinctive indies like Half Nelson and Mississippi Grind, may not fully prepare you for the explosive fusion of kinetic energy, imaginative storytelling, and gripping rap and blade duels that define this sincere homage to the Bay Area. Presented through four intertwined underdog tales featuring Pedro Pascal, Jay Ellis, and Ben Mendelsohn, this movie guarantees a cinematic experience like no other. — DAVID ROONEY
Taking on the role of a director for the first time, Carla Gutiérrez, renowned for her contributions to RBG, goes beyond the conventional depiction of Frida Kahlo as an “icon.” Instead, she opts to portray the Mexican artist on her own terms. Gutiérrez taps into Kahlo’s illustrated diaries and letters, utilizing these personal artifacts to craft a compelling narrative. The documentary is enriched with a treasure trove of archival materials, including a remarkable array of photographs and footage. Striking a balance between paying homage to Kahlo without succumbing to sensationalism, the film allows the artist to speak for herself, creating a captivating portrayal that captures the enchantment of spending time with such an extraordinary individual. — SHERI LINDEN
5. Gaucho Gaucho
Documentary filmmakers Michael Dweck and Gregory Kershaw, recognized for their previous work “The Truffle Hunters,” venture into the mountainous Salta region in northwest Argentina for their latest cinematic endeavor. This new film explores the passion, spirituality, and profound connection with nature within a community of cowboys and cowgirls. Introducing captivating characters who visibly embrace their freedom from modern societal constraints, the true brilliance of the production lies in the stunning black-and-white visuals that eloquently capture the essence of the narrative. — D.R.
6. Good One
In India Donaldson’s inaugural feature, a subtle modesty pervades, enhancing the gradual unraveling of the protagonist’s emotional complexities. Set against the expansive beauty of a woodland backdrop, the film follows a camping expedition led by a college-bound 17-year-old (Lily Collias), her father (James Le Gros), and his closest friend (Danny McCarthy). This drama serves as a noteworthy debut for both the writer-director and the young lead, seamlessly merging intimacy in its portrayal with the enchanting allure of the natural surroundings. — D.R.
7. In the Summers
Alessandra Lacorazza’s understated feature debut is akin to a visual poem, an all-encompassing tribute to the experiences that a father and his daughters share. Similar to last year’s Sundance sensation All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt, the drama follows the complex relationship between a New Mexico man and his two children over the course of four summer vacations, swaying to its own beat. It’s a delicate and nuanced examination of healing and forgiveness. — L.G.
8. I Saw the TV Glow
Justice Smith delivers a phenomenal performance as an alienated teenager who discovers solace in his bond with a charismatic older girl (Brigette Lundy-Paine) and their shared love for a young adult sci-fi television series. Jane Schoenbrun’s compelling drama, reminiscent of vintage Gregg Araki and infused with echoes of Donnie Darko and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, explores the realm of adolescent angst. The film delves into the places we seek refuge when the real world feels unwelcoming, highlighting the harsh reality that even within the realm of fantasy, there are limitations. — JOURDAIN SEARLES
9. Luther: Never Too Much
Dawn Porter fills a notable void in the documentary landscape by addressing the surprising absence of a film on Luther Vandross, considering his substantial influence in the music industry. She presents an animated portrait, deftly weaving together rehearsal footage, concert videos, archival interviews featuring Vandross, and recent discussions with his friends and family. Porter takes the media’s emphasis on the R&B balladeer’s physical appearance, notably his well-documented weight struggles, as a launching pad to delve into Vandross’ deep yearning for love. — L.G.
10. My Old Ass
Experiencing a sense of assurance early on in a movie is invigorating, and Steven Soderbergh effortlessly imparts that confidence in his tense, single-setting ghost story. Lucy Liu, Chris Sullivan, Eddy Maday, and newcomer Callina Liang take on roles in a family teetering on the edge of disintegration as they move into a new home. It becomes evident from the beginning that the house itself will play a pivotal role, but even more noteworthy—and chilling—is the perspective conveyed through the subjective camera