The best movies on Sundance Now
Whether you’re constantly mining for hidden gems or just looking for a change of pace, Sundance Now is an excellent option for when you want a great movie you haven’t seen before.
The streaming service boasts a collection of artful titles in a wide array of genres. There are as many intimate family dramas as there are thrilling true-crime documentaries and deeply quirky comedies. So where should you start?
Listed in no particular order, here are 15 of the best films to stream on Sundance Now.
1. The Vicious Kind (2009)
Credit: 72nd Street Productions
If you preferred Adam Scott in Party Down over Parks and Recreation, then you simply must watch The Vicious Kind. Written and directed by Lee Toland Krieger, this cruelly undersung drama centers on a dysfunctional family of three on a tumultuous Thanksgiving holiday. When an idealistic college boy (Alex Frost) brings home a new girlfriend (Brittany Snow), his misanthropic older brother (Scott) and tone-deaf father (J.K. Simmons) scramble and scrap to make an impression…but not necessarily a good one. The whole ensemble is excellent, but Adams is the standout, providing a performance that’s sharply funny, unapologetically dark, and unnervingly sexy. — Kristy Puchko, Deputy Entertainment Editor
2. Short Term 12 (2013)
Before Kaitlyn Dever got Booksmart and Brie Larson became Captain Marvel, they co-starred in writer-director Destin Daniel Cretton’s Short Term 12. Set in a group home for troubled teens, this indie drama chronicles the bond between supervisor Grace (Larson) and resident Jayden (Dever). As the young women open up to one another, audiences experience a sobering revelation about life’s fragility. Rami Malek, LaKeith Stanfield, John Gallagher Jr., and more star in this beautiful portrait of compassion and community. Bring tissues; this one is a tearjerker. —Alison Foreman, Entertainment Reporter
3. Archipelago (2010)
Credit: Artificial Eye via Sundance Now
Treat yourself to some exquisite tension with Archipelago. Written and directed by Joanna Hogg, this holiday from hell follows the ambivalent Edward (Tom Hiddleston) on an island vacation with his well-to-do mother Patricia (Kate Fahy) and sister Cynthia (Lydia Leonard). Ostensibly, the trip should serve as Edward’s send-off before a lengthy volunteer trip to Africa. But as the scenes churn and the characters’ blood boils, the family’s deep-seated conflicts chart a new course. —A.F.
4. Chicago 10 (2007)
Whether or not you were a fan of Aaron Sorkin’s The Trial of the Chicago 7, this account of the same true story is well worth your time. Mashable’s Adam Rosenberg writes: “Brett Morgen’s 2007 documentary is a movie for people who don’t like documentaries. It sews together archival footage with animated courtroom scenes based on the trial transcript and is voiced by a star-studded cast, with all of it driven forward by the beat of a soundtrack brimming with hard-charging protest music. There’s an energy here that you don’t often find in other docs.”
5. Boy (2010)
Credit: Transmission Films/Madman Entertainment/Kino Lorber
Before he had us cackling over What We Do In The Shadows or cheering for Thor: Ragnarok, writer-director-actor Taika Waitti awed critics with this quirky coming-of-age comedy. James Rolleston stars as Boy, an imaginative 11-year-old Maori kid in 1984 New Zealand. Though a bit of a misfit, Boy finds confidence in impersonating his idol, Michael Jackson. But when his estranged and eccentric father (Waititi) returns home, Boy hopes he’ll finally have a cool guy to lead him into manhood. If you know Waititi’s work, you know nothing will be that simple. Instead, it’ll get weird, hilarious, and defiantly sweet. —K.P.
6. God’s Own Country (2017)
Ammonite writer-director Francis Lee made his feature debut with another tale of queer romance. Set in rural West Yorkshire, England, God’s Own Country centers on the love that blossoms between a young but hardened farmer (Josh O’Connor) and a handsome Romanian migrant worker (Alec Secareanu). Forget the showy Hollywood theatrics. Lee and his incredible leading men create a slow-burn drama about tough guys with tender hearts. The result is a critically heralded film that is breath-taking and pulse-racing. —K.P.
7 . Bad Lucky Goat (2017)
Credit: Sundance Now
Bad Lucky Goat is something truly special. Colombian director Samir Oliveros makes his debut in this pseudo-heist film about two siblings living on the island of Port Paradise. When Corn (Honlenny Huffington) and his sister Rita (Kiara Howard) run over a goat in their father’s truck, the teens must race to have the truck repaired — and to get rid of the dead goat’s body. At just 75 minutes, this sweet and short saga is a steal. —A.F.
8. Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer (2003)
With seven confirmed victims, Aileen Wuornos remains among the most notorious female serial killers in American history. Documentarian Nick Broomfield interviewed Wuornos first for his 1992 film Aileen Wuornos: The Selling of a Serial Killer. But it’s his revisitation of the subject in Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer, that deserves your attention. Here Broomfield takes a close look at Wuornos in the months leading up to her death and asks whether she was of sound mind at the time Florida officials carried out her execution. — A.F.
9. Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story (2017)
Credit: Zeitgeist Films
The late Hedy Lamarr was an actor, inventor, and rule-breaker. In Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story, writer-director-documentarian Alexandra Dean examines Lamarr’s life from her childhood in Austria through her time as a Hollywood icon and groundbreaking technology developer. It caps off with a fascinating look at her reclusive final years. Lamarr makes for an enchanting subject, and Dean’s attention to detail makes this film an especially well-crafted portrait. —A.F.
10. Seahorse: The Dad Who Gave Birth (2019)
Documentarian Jeanie Finlay offers her sensitive lens to a beautiful story in Seahorse: The Dad Who Gave Birth. Freddy McConnell, who is a transgender man, gave birth to his son in January 2018. Together, McConnell and Finlay chronicle the pregnancy and the world’s reaction to McConnell’s unconventional experience of fatherhood. It’s essential queer viewing that fundamentally challenges what it means to fill familial roles as an LGBTQ person. —A.F.
11. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009)
Credit: Nordisk Film
The late author Stieg Larsson’s beloved crime thriller The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was adapted twice after his death in 2005. Danish director Neils Arden Oplev tackled it first in 2009, with Noomi Rapace appearing as iconic vigilante Lisbeth Salander. Then American filmmaker David Fincher got in on the fun with actor Rooney Mara as Lisbeth in 2011. Both films have merit. But if you’ve only seen the latter, double-back for Oplev’s take. It’s just as magnetic, if not in all the same ways, and you’ll come to appreciate the source material even more. — A.F.
12. James White (2015)
Girls actor Christopher Abbott stars in this moody film as the titular James White. James is a tortured screw-up living with his terminally ill mother Gail (Cynthia Nixon) in New York City. As Gail’s death nears, James is forced to face the limitations of his self-destructive “coping” and manifest a new way of living for after she’s gone. It’s an uneven movie with some less than stellar pacing, but Abbott is so good in this especially meaty role, you won’t struggle to stay engaged. Scott Mescudi (aka Kid Cudi) also appears as James’ friend Nick. —A.F.
13. Who We Are Now (2017)
Credit: FilmRise via TIFF
Writer-director Matthew Newton dissects the impossibility of redemption in this drama, anchored by a heart-breaking performance from Julianne Nicholson. When Beth (Nicholson) is released from prison, she sets out to regain custody of her son. But her sister Gabby (Jess Weixler) isn’t inclined to relinquish her rights as his guardian. Emma Roberts appears as Jess, a young public defender. Zachary Quinto, Jimmy Smits, Jason Biggs, Lea Thompson, and more complete a stellar ensemble cast. —A.F.
14. Loving Vincent (2017)
Self-described as cinema’s “first feature-length painted animation,” Loving Vincent recounts the life and death of Vincent van Gogh. Written and directed by Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman, the experimental film uses the Dutch painter’s own works to trace his artistic rise and psychological decline across a stunning narrative journey. It was nominated for Best Animated Feature at the 90th Academy Awards; you’ll see why. —A.F.
15. Heathers (1988)
Credit: New World Pictures/Getty Images
The ’80s teen comedy gets a pitch-perfect pitch-black twist in Heathers. Winona Ryder stars as the popular but disaffected Veronica, whose life takes a turn when she falls for bad boy J.D. (Christian Slater). And when we say bad, we mean bad: He’s literally a murderer, getting Veronica involved in a killing spree against classmates who’ve tried to humiliate her. Heathers‘ portrayal of the high school experience is so bitingly funny, so sharply observed that it’s never lost its power to draw blood, and probably never will. * — Angie Han, Former Deputy Entertainment Editor
Asterisks (*) indicate the entry comes from a previous Mashable list.