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Photo by Jemal Countess. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

The 2019 Sundance Film Festival, held annually in Salt Lake City, Utah, came to an end on February 3rd. Film festivals allow independent filmmakers to not only show their work to a paying audience, but also give the opportunity for a major studio to buy the distribution rights to the film as well so that it can be seen in theaters or on streaming platforms across the world. Once negotiations officially come to a close, you may see these motion pictures become available for viewing. With that, I want to share with you some of my favorite movies that premiered at Sundance within the last few years. With all of those superhero films and other blockbusters out there, here is a list of some more underrated films you may have missed…

Whiplash

One of my favorite films from the past decade, Whiplash features Miles Teller in his breakout role as an aspiring jazz drummer who enters under the tutelage of a respected, intense teacher played by J.K. Simmons. Although Whiplash was nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards in 2015, it was the lowest grossing film to ever be nominated in the category.

The Spectacular Now


Famous film critic Roger Ebert describes this movie as “a lovely film about two high school seniors who look, speak and feel like real 18-year-old middle-American human beings.” Shailene Woodley and Miles Teller star as opposites-attract couple that get together during their senior year of high school. There’s something that just feels really honest about this film that I think resonates with the people who have seen The Spectacular Now.

Mud

If you’re looking for a movie that includes a top-tier Matthew McConaughey performance, then this is your movie. Set along the Mississippi River in the deep south, two boys befriend a fugitive name Mud (McConaughey). He tells them he’s waiting for his long lost love, and if they help him, he’ll give them the boat he’s been squatting in. It’s a unique take on the coming-of-age story, but Mud is a gripping film worth seeing.

Searching

I wrote about Searching back when it made it’s wide release last August. It grossed a modest $26 million at the box office, but I still don’t feel like enough people have seen this phenomenal thriller. Searching is a story of a father trying to uncover the mystery of his missing daughter. What makes Searching so unique is that the entire plot is told through computer screens. It’s a well executed film with a superb cast. You won’t regret watching this Sundance standout.

The Way Way Back

This familiar but heartwarming coming-of-age tale follows Duncan as he navigates a summer at his mother’s boyfriend’s beach house. As he struggles to fit in, Duncan starts working at the local water park, a place filled with interesting characters that make him feel like he belongs. The movie is uplifted by a supremely talented cast, featuring the likes of Steve Carell, Allison Janney, and Sam Rockwell. Trust me when I say that you’ll enjoy this movie.

The Kings of Summer

Growing up, did you ever get so annoyed with your parents that you went out and built your own house out in the middle of the woods? No? Well, best friends Joe and Patrick and quirky Biaggio, do just that. They spend the summer living in their own house by their own rules. The Kings of Summer explores adolescence in the absence of parental supervision. It’s a solid coming-of-age movie that is worth checking out now that it’s available to stream on Amazon Prime.

Sorry to Bother You

Another movie from the 2018 festival lineup, Sorry to Bother You is the debut film from Boots Riley. The plot revolves around telemarketer Cassius Green’s rise as a “Power Caller” for the company RegalView. Sorry To Bother You is sort of a spiritual sibling to 2017’s social-thriller Get Out. The movie hits on many social issues and has an ending worth talking about.


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