Sundance 2024: 10 Films From This Year's Fest to Put on Your Radar

This year marked the 40th edition of Sundance, a feat fittingly commemorated with another class of wholly original and uniquely inspiring films.

sundance 2024 red carpet with steven yeun and kristen stewart
Image via Getty/Dia Dipasupil
sundance 2024 red carpet with steven yeun and kristen stewart

“I know it when I see it.”

When asked to give a definition of what constitutes an “independent film” these days, that’s the answer given to the audience at Sundance 2024’s Power of Story: Four Decades of Taking Chances panel by Richard Linklater, whose own history with the festival dates back to Slacker in 1991 but also includes entries across multiple decades, Waking Life (2001) and Before Midnight (2013) among them.

And while this answer was a slightly cheeky reference to an infamous Supreme Court case, it’s one that’s hard to argue against. 

Unsurprisingly, there was a lot to know by seeing at this year’s festival. There was also a noticeable (and personally affecting) throughline connecting several of the 2024 selections, namely a generational moment in which many of us are pausing to reflect on our families and how the journeys before us have propelled the ones we find ourselves on now. Put another way, it’s all one journey. To quote one of this year’s award winners, Rich Peppiatt’s Kneecap, “No one is anyone. Until they are.”

Last year, I told you taking in Sundance on the ground in Park City was akin to caviar on pizza. This year, as I take it all in from home, I’d like to remind you that simply enjoying a pizza for pizza’s sake is also fine.

It’s all one journey, indeed.

Below, see a selection of highlights from this year's festival.

Honorable mentions: Jasmin Baumgartner’s irresistible and dripping-with-personality short Bye Bye, Bowser; newcomer Jay Will's confidently understated turn in Chiwetel Ejiofor's Rob Peace; Olga Lucovnicova's exploration of the harrowing and heartbreaking history at the heart of her Object 817 short

A Real Pain

kieran and jesse in film still

Directed by: Jesse Eisenberg
Screenplay by: Jesse Eisenberg
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Kieran Culkin, Will Sharpe, Jennifer Grey, Kurt Egyiawan

Kieran Culkin, fresh off his Golden Globe and Emmy wins for his brilliant final season as Roman Roy in HBO’s deeply missed Succession, once again commands a family-focused story in writer-director Jesse Eisenberg’s sophomore film. Culkin and Eisenberg play cousins on a trip to Poland in the wake of their grandmother’s death, which has affected them both in deeply differing but emotionally complementary ways. 

As We Speak

kemba in film still

Directed by: J.M. Harper
Starring: Kemba

As coverage of Young Thug’s YSL RICO trial continues, this is an essential documentary that takes a broader look at how the criminalization of artistic expression has its roots in prior racist practices in the American legal system. One particularly effective sequence breaks down how the creative process behind William Shakespeare’s work is strikingly similar to that at the heart of sampling in hip-hop. At the core of this stylized doc, of course, is a very simple message that’s sadly in need of repeating amid current headlines: Using someone’s art against them in a courtroom is not only wrong, it’s downright sinister. Don’t trust anyone who says otherwise.

Dìdi (弟弟)

didi film still

Directed by: Sean Wang
Screenplay by: Sean Wang
Starring: Izaac Wang, Shirley Chen, Chang Li Hua, Joan Chen

Watching Sean Wang’s feature directorial debut, which centers on a 13-year-old Taiwanese American on the precipice of high school and all the forced changes that come along with it, it becomes clear within the first few frames that you’re watching a deeply personal coming-of-age story. That descriptor, “deeply personal,” admittedly gets thrown around a lot among filmmakers, but Wang’s film more than earns it with a storytelling confidence that can only come from a place of true, unbreakable authenticity. In lesser hands, the pull toward blatant nostalgia when it comes to the 2000s would be too hard to resist. But under Wang’s vision, this film becomes a powerful period piece and a worthy entry into the coming-of-age canon.

Exhibiting Forgiveness

exhibiting forgiveness film still

Directed by: Titus Kaphar
Screenplay by: Titus Kaphar
Starring: André Holland, Andra Day, Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor, John Earl Jelks

When introducing his film for virtual audiences at Sundance 2024, Titus Kaphar made certain to preface it with a warning that what we were about to see was not an easy watch. As any artist can attest, regardless of medium, the possibility of embracing forgiveness through one’s work grows wider and harder to ignore as the years start to stack up. But it’s when the figurative and the literal combine that we often find the most potent variety of peace.

In the Summers

in the summer still

Directed by: Alessandra Lacorazza
Screenplay by: Alessandra Lacorazza
Starring: René Pérez, Sasha Calle, Lío Mehiel, Leslie Grace, Emma Ramos, Sharlene Cruz

Forgiveness. There's that word again. Not unlike the devastating Aftersun before it, Alessandra Lacorazza’s breathtaking directorial debut takes the snapshot approach when diving into the relationship between a troubled father and his two daughters. Across a series of summers, we see how that relationship evolves—and in some ways, deteriorates—over time. Every performance in this is beautiful and lived-in, but René Pérez Joglar, also known as Calle 13's Residente, is especially inspired as the father.


kneecap film still

Directed by: Rich Peppiatt
Screenplay by: Rich Peppiatt
Starring: Mo Chara, Móglaí Bap, DJ Próvaí, Josie Walker, Simone Kirby, Michael Fassbender

If my direct quoting of this film in this article’s intro didn’t make it clear, allow me to say it plain: This is quite possibly my favorite film out of this year’s Sundance lineup. Detailing the formation and impact of Belfast hip-hop trio Kneecap, this 8 Mile-esque entry is one you’re likely to hear a great deal about in the months ahead, and for good reason. At once joyous in its abandon and deft in its approach of educating viewers on the very real issues at play here, writer-director Rich Peppiatt has given us a wildly rewatchable dramedy that’s certain to win over audiences across continents and generations.

Little Death

little death film still

Directed by: Jack Begert 
Screenplay by:
Dani Goffstein and Jack Begert
Starring: David Schwimmer, Gaby Hoffmann, Dominic Fike, Talia Ryder, Jena Malone, Sante Bentivoglio

There’s a lot to unpack here; from the colliding stories themselves to how they’ve been brought to the big screen. The less you know the better going into this one, but it won’t hurt you to hear that Schwimmer shines as a frustrated TV writer struggling to get his opus off the ground. Begert’s name will likely seem familiar to those who check music video credits, as he’s previously helmed clips for Doja Cat and SZA.

Love Me

kristen stewart and steven yeun in film still

Directed by: Sam Zuchero and Andy Zuchero
Screenplay by: Sam Zuchero and Andy Zuchero
Starring: Kristen Stewart and Steven Yeun

It’s hard to imagine anyone else but Kristen Stewart and Steven Yeun in these roles, which both demand an all-encompassing performance for which most material simply does not have the room or the vision. There’s nothing else like Love Me among the Sundance lineup this year, and it’s unlikely there will be for quite some time. The very idea of consciousness—what it means, what it doesn’t—takes center stage here. Prepare to ask yourself a litany of existential questions to which you may never find the answer. Not in this life, anyway.


thelma film still

Directed by: Josh Margolin
Screenplay by: Josh Margolin
Starring: June Squibb, Fred Hechinger, Richard Roundtree, Parker Posey, Clark Gregg, Malcolm McDowell

Tom Cruise should fucking love this one. It’s no secret for those following the reviews coming out of Sundance this year that Mr. Cruise proves to be the impetus for the journey June Squibb’s title character takes us on, scooter chases and all. Thankfully, writer-director Josh Margolin never goes for the cheap approach here, instead treating every character in this action-inspired family dramedy with the respect of a storyteller who truly loves the world he’s created for them. To get old is a gift, and to be old is to be gifted. Tell your grandmother you love her the next time you talk.

Veni Vidi Vici

film still for veni vidi vici

Directed by: Daniel Hoesl and Julia Niemann
Screenplay by: Daniel Hoesl
Starring: Laurence Rupp, Ursina Lardi, Olivia Goschler, Kyra Kraus, Tamaki Uchida, Dominik Warta

Plenty has been said about a certain sequence in this dark satire, but I’ll refrain from spoiling it here. Is it shocking? Sure. But it’s also strikingly believable given what we see day-in and day-out when it comes to the differing societal rules between the uber-rich and everyday folks. For those who might need a nudge to check this one out, imagine Succession, albeit with a serial killer thrown into the mix. 

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