13 Sundance films that might be big in next year’s awards season

Last year, after the not-so-secret midnight Sundance screening of Jordan Peele’s “Get Out,” the film’s team took an Uber back to Peele’s Park City, Utah, hotel room, where they ordered room service and stayed up until dawn reading the over-the-top reactions to the movie on social media.

“The energy in that theater was so incredible,” producer Sean McKittrick remembers. “Everybody was just giddy to be there, and you could feel the audience engaging in the material, exploding at all the right moments. I’ll never forget it.”

McKittrick will also never shake the 2001 Sundance premiere of another one of his films, “Donnie Darko.” This one didn’t go quite as well. The film was a hot acquisition title — until Harvey Weinstein pulled up in a motorcade of Range Rovers wearing a “Donnie Darko” crew hat.

“Everybody left, assuming he had bought the movie,” McKittrick remembers. Weinstein hadn’t. And the response to the movie’s intriguing blend of sci-fi, horror and dark comedy was decidedly mixed.

“People didn’t know what to make of it,” McKittrick says. “You remember that Entertainment Weekly buzzmeter? It was an arrow straight down.”

With its mix of mostly unproven filmmakers and daring material, the Sundance Film Festival, which continues through Jan. 28, is a crapshoot. No one on the “Get Out” team figured the movie would go on to become an Oscar contender for best picture. And the same could be said for past Sundance movies — “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” “Precious,” “Little Miss Sunshine” among them — that went on to earn nominations.

So look at this list of 2018 Sundance titles knowing that we might be talking about a couple of them a year from now. And a couple of them might disappear the weekend after they arrive in theaters.

‘The Catcher Was a Spy’

Director: Ben Lewin

Cast: Paul Rudd, Sienna Miller, Guy Pearce, Jeff Daniels, Paul Giamatti

True story espionage thriller about a baseball player who becomes a spy during World War II. “Saving Private Ryan” writer Robert Rodat adapted the best-selling book.

‘Come Sunday’

Director: Joshua Marston

Cast: Chiwetel Ejiofor

Long-gestating project (Jonathan Demme was once attached to direct) about a Pentecostal preacher who comes to believe there’s no hell. Martin Sheen’s on board as Oral Roberts.

‘Eighth Grade’

Director: Bo Burnham

Cast: Elsie Fisher

A 13-year-old navigates through the last week of middle school in the first film that acclaimed producer Scott Rudin has ever brought to Sundance. Comedian Burnham was part of “The Big Sick” ensemble.

‘Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot’

Director: Gus Van Sant

Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Rooney Mara, Jonah Hill, Jack Black

Phoenix plays cartoonist John Callahan, who turned to drawing as therapy after an auto accident left him paralyzed.

‘Juliet, Naked’

Director: Jesse Peretz

Cast: Rose Byrne, Ethan Hawke, Chris O’Dowd

Obsessed music fan finds long-lost demo of his hero, much to the dismay of his long-suffering girlfriend. From a great set of producers: Judd Apatow, Barry Mendel, Albert Berger, Ron Yerxa.


Director: Claire McCarthy

Cast: Daisy Ridley, Naomi Watts, Clive Owen

Described as a “mythic spin on Hamlet through a lens of female empowerment,” with Ridley playing a lady-in-waiting to the queen who captures the eye of a certain Danish prince.


Director: Carlos Lopez Estrada

Cast: Daveed Diggs (also co-wrote)

Diggs, a Tony winner for originating the role of Thomas Jefferson and Marquis de Lafayette in “Hamilton,” stars in this buddy film that focuses on gentrification in Oakland. With police brutality part of the story, expect serious scrutiny.

‘I Think We’re Alone Now’

Director: Reed Morano

Cast: Peter Dinklage, Elle Fanning

The apocalypse isn’t so bad for a recluse until he finds he wasn’t the only survivor. Morano won an Emmy in September for directing the pilot episode of “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

‘Private Life’

Director: Tamara Jenkins

Cast: Kathryn Hahn, Paul Giamatti

Infertile couple considers third-party reproduction. It’s complicated.


Director: Idris Elba

Cast: Ami Ameen, Shantol Jackson

Elba’s directorial debut centers on a young Jamaican man caught up in a life of gang violence, eventually hunting down his brother’s assassin in London.


Director: Craig William Macneill

Cast: Chloë Sevigny, Kristen Stewart

The story of Lizzie, as in the ax-wielding Borden, is told through her intimate relationship with the family’s live-in maid.

‘The Kindergarten Teacher’

Director: Sara Colangelo

Cast: Maggie Gyllenhaal

Staten Island teacher becomes fixated on a 5-year-old prodigy.


Director: Paul Dano

Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Carey Mulligan, Ed Oxenbould

Boy watches his parents’ marriage disintegrate after Mom begins an affair with an older man in this adaptation of the Richard Ford novel, which Dano co-wrote with real-life partner Zoe Kazan (“The Big Sick”).

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Movies & TV

Herb by herb
Herb by herb

If a pinch of fresh mint or basil makes any dish more fragrant, imagine what a whole bunch can do. Chop, muddle and toss the season’s best into our recipes for bold, aromatic flavor, then use our smart techniques for enjoying every last sprig. What do you get when you blister tomatillos, onion and jalapeños in a cast-iron skillet, then...
This barbecued chicken salad makes a tasty Memorial Day treat
This barbecued chicken salad makes a tasty Memorial Day treat

Here’s a quick barbecued chicken salad for Memorial Day weekend or anytime during the summer. Whether your plans include boating, swimming or just plain relaxing, it will give you time to enjoy the festivities. The chicken, potatoes, lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers combine to make this a one-dish, quick meal. The potatoes are cooked in the microwave...
Fresh mango and tomatillos make this zesty salsa stand out from the rest
Fresh mango and tomatillos make this zesty salsa stand out from the rest

This chunky, fruity salsa makes an excellent dip for tortilla or plantain chips. It's also good on hot dogs, tacos, eggs and grilled fish. The depth of flavor found in Ataulfo mangoes (also commonly called Champagne, yellow or honey mangoes) is preferred, but you can substitute with a larger variety, such as Tommy Atkins, as long as it's very ripe...
High school competition teaches important Texas life skill — barbecue
High school competition teaches important Texas life skill — barbecue

Forget Friday night lights. How about Saturday morning smoke? Earlier this month, high school teams from across the state competed for the crown of best pitmaster in Texas at the third annual State of Texas High School Barbecue Cook-off in Burnet, Texas. In all, 42 teams competed in 12 categories from brisket and ribs to potato salad and sauce. &ldquo...
Not just for crunch. It’s time to give celery a second look

I never paid much attention to celery — appearing in lunch box snacks of celery stuffed with pimento cheese, on a crudité platter, or as a garnish for a bloody mary. And yet, I always have a wilting bunch of celery in my refrigerator crisper in order to make tuna salad, or to dice into a mirepoix (along with carrots and onion) for soup...
More Stories