SXSW 2024: Here's Everything We Experienced at This Year’s Festival

From Ryan Gosling and Emily Blunt making a grand entrance on the back of a pickup truck to Magic City getting the documentary treatment, we take a look at highlights from this year's SXSW.

Marquee of the Paramount Theatre lit up at night for the SXSW Film & TV Festival
Image via Getty/Amy E. Price/SXSW Conference & Festivals
Marquee of the Paramount Theatre lit up at night for the SXSW Film & TV Festival

Fred Durst has a question.

It’s nearly midnight at the historic Paramount Theatre in Downtown Austin and the Limp Bizkit frontman, eyes hidden behind reflective sunglasses, has something to ask us. Something important. 

“We’re all survivors, right?” Durst says into the mic. He’s still in character as a version of himself from Kyle Mooney’s Y2K, meaning he’s convinced that we’ve all gathered here to celebrate 24 years since surviving the events of Dec. 31, 1999.

The bit quickly proves poignant as the Q&A for Mooney’s disaster comedy continues, and by the time star Rachel Zegler brings up what she considers the somewhat similar “mass hysteria” of 2012, I have my takeaway: The world has been ending since it began. For more than 100 years, filmmakers have been making movies about it. And while only one of them (Y2K) boasts Durst, a man who long ago laid out his own apocalyptic game plan in Bizkit’s “9 Teen 90 Nine,” two of them (Y2K and Arcadian) count It alum Jaeden Martell in their ranks. 

Of course, despite Durst-in-character-as-Durst’s belief that thousands have descended upon Austin to celebrate nearly a quarter century of post-Y2K surviving and thriving, the actual reason for my return to Texas is the 2024 edition of South by Southwest, where both Y2K and Arcadian (my favorites of the films I saw this year) are beginning their theatrical journeys.

Prior to the trip, the caffeine gods smiled down upon me once again, thus inspiring the folks at C4 Energy to invite me back as their guest for this year’s proceedings. Because if the world were to end while I happen to be in Texas, I would prefer to be adequately caffeinated for whatever comes next.

Below, get a closer look at what I saw at SXSW this year, in no particular order.

Road House

Man in patterned shirt walking confidently on a busy street at night

Directed by: Doug Liman

Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Daniela Melchior, Billy Magnussen, Jessica Williams, Joaquim de Almeida, Conor McGregor, Lukas Gage, Arturo Castro, B.K. Cannon, Beau Knapp, Darren Barnet, Dominique Columbus, Bob Menery, Catfish Jean, Kevin Carroll, Travis Van Winkle, Hannah Love Lanier

Director Doug Liman was in the house for the SXSW opening night premiere of the Jake Gyllenhaal-led remake of the 1989 cult classic, despite all signs pointing to the opposite mere days earlier. When introducing the film, Gyllenhaal praised Liman, who had been critical of the film going straight to streaming, as a "brilliant" director with whom he's been wanting to work for over 15 years.

The theatrical experience for Liman's film was more of a party than a traditional screening, as several actors were seen passing around a bottle of something seemingly expensive as audience members searched frantically for seats near the commotion.


Two characters from a film standing in an elevator, one in a leopard print coat and the other in a blazer

Directed by: Lucia Aniello

Starring: Jean Smart, Hannah Einbinder, Paul W. Downs, Megan Stalter, Carl Clemons-Hopkins, Kaitlin Olson, Christopher McDonald, Mark Indelicato, Rose Abdoo, Lorenza Izzo

Given that we're still a couple months out from the Season 3 premiere of this excellent HBO comedy, I won't say much about the two episodes that premiered at SXSW. What I will say is that fellow fans of the series, which boasts endless chemistry between leads Jean Smart and Hannah Einbinder, will be mightily pleased with what's to come. At the premiere, it was especially moving to see the entire audience at the Paramount jump to their feet upon Smart's arrival. An absolute legend of the screen.


Two women stand outside a diner, engaged in conversation for a scene in a TV show

Directed by: Pamela Adlon

Starring: Ilana Glazer, Michelle Buteau, John Carroll Lynch, Hasan Minhaj

Fellow Better Things megafans, take note: Babes sees Pamela Adlon making her feature directorial debut, and an especially strong one at that. Ilana Glazer, who also co-wrote the script, plays a woman, Eden, whose one-night stand with a man who later dies results in her being pregnant. What follows is a journey of self-discovery, complete with moments of pure hilarity and authentic sweetness in equal measure. 


Three young adults appear shocked in a messy party room with festive decorations

Directed by: Kyle Mooney

Starring: Rachel Zegler, Jaeden Martell, Julian Dennison, Lachlan Watson, Daniel Zolghadri, Mason Gooding, The Kid Laroi

Of course, for those of us who lived through our present timeline’s version of Dec. 31, 1999, even referring to any of what transpired as “events” would be decidedly generous. But in Mooney’s disaster comedy, which premiered during the first weekend of SXSW 2024, we get an irresistibly ramped-up look at the shitshow that could have been. As you can tell from my intro, I fucking loved this film.

As a fan of Brigsby Bear, the Dave McCary-directed film co-written by Mooney back in 2017, I had been waiting to see what he would do next as a writer. Y2K succeeds on two levels, both as a late 1990s teen coming-of-age comedy and as a gloriously campy monster film. Both elements share the same core DNA that makes Y2K tick; namely, a sense of heart that carries through even its more deftly absurd or flat-out silly (good silly!) moments.

College Athletes as Influencers: Working with NIL Talent (featuring debut of C4 apparel)

Four panelists at SXSW 2024, seated, engaged in a discussion in front of an audience

Bijan Robinson (Atlanta Falcons), Sam Hurley (Texas Track & Field), and Ayden Ames (Texas Volleyball) joined Marquel Carter at the Four Seasons for a conversation detailing the unique ins and outs of successful brand and athletes partnerships at the college level.

"You gotta be your own self's biggest supporter," Robinson, wearing a C4 Energy varsity jacket made in collaboration with Chicago Playground, said during the panel. "You can't worry about what other people think about you. You can't worry about what other people are going to judge you off of. Because that's what's gonna make you the best version of yourself. That's what's gonna make you the athlete that people wanna be like, that people wanna become. But it has to start with the foundation of you marketing yourself in the way that will make you feel comfortable."

Man posing with football, wearing black and yellow sports jacket with smiley faces, leaning on rack with similar clothing

Robinson dropped numerous bits of insight like this throughout the conversation, which marked the debut of the aforementioned C4 jacket. Deeper into SXSW, Lindsay Brewer (Indy NXT) also wore one of the not-yet-available-publicly pieces.

Notably, the jacket design sees C4 cleverly avoiding the pitfalls of other brands’ respective forays into fashion by not simply throwing a logo onto the pieces and calling it a day. Instead, the look is designed to work in “personalized elements” from athletes, not to mention subtle touches that point to C4’s Performance and Ultimate lines.

C4 Energy, now the official energy drink partner of SXSW for three years in a row, has launched a special site inviting fans to "be there when we drop the bomb." Sign up here to stay in the loop.

The Uninvited

Four actors in a dramatic scene with a person lying on a couch, others showing concern

Directed by: Nadia Conners

Starring: Elizabeth Reaser, Walton Goggins, Lois Smith, Eva De Dominici, Rufus Sewell, Pedro Pascal, Michael Panes, Kate Comer, Roland Rubio, Annie Kurzen

As Nadia Conners explained when introducing her directorial debut, The Uninvited is "truly an independent film," meaning, per Conners, it was shot "for very little money" in just 15 days. Still, these characters feel very lived in, with the play-like structure of the story (Conners originally conceived this for the stage) allowing Elizabeth Reaser and company to tap into a different energy than might be possible on a larger scale production.

The result is an intimate and largely effective story that will hopefully allow Conners to further explore the form in the future. To celebrate the screening, Conners and select cast members were on hand for Cinema Center's official premiere party. The two-day pop-up also served as the site for premiere parties for Arcadian, Immaculate, and more.

I Wish You All the Best

Three actors in a scene, lying side by side, seemingly deep in thought. They portray characters in a casual setting

Directed by: Tommy Dorfman

Starring: Corey Fogelmanis, Miles Gutierrez-Riley, Alexandra Daddario, Cole Sprouse, Lena Dunham, Amy Landecker, Lexi Underwood, Lisa Yamada, Judson Mills, Brian Michael Smith

Lena Dunham shines as a side character in this Mason Deaver adaptation from Tommy Dorfman, making her feature directorial debut. When detailing the personal importance of the source material to the Austin audience, Dorfman praised Deaver's book and called her adaptation a true "labor of love" for all involved.

"Mason Deaver’s novel changed my life when I read it in 2019. … As a trans person from the South, I had never read anything that I saw myself in that I could feel so viscerally," Dorfman said. "I knew immediately that I wanted to adapt it in some fashion."

The Fall Guy

Two actors on set, man in denim jacket and woman in straw hat, in a beach scene, having a conversation

Directed by: David Leitch

Starring: Ryan Gosling, Emily Blunt, Winston Duke, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Hannah Waddingham, Stephanie Hsu

If you were wondering, yes, there were stunt cyclists engaged in engine-revving and wheelie-popping outside the Paramount before The Fall Guy was launched into the world. Through a subsequently amassed cloud of smoke, stars Ryan Gosling and Emily Blunt were ushered into the theater, fittingly arriving on the back of a truck.

As you've likely heard since the premiere, everything about this film works, resulting in a thrilling and charming blockbuster that beautifully champions the oft-overlooked art of film stunts. This also marked another screening from SXSW 2024 during which seemingly everyone in the audience was on exactly the same page, as evidenced by the repeated chorus of boos hurled at the screen whenever an A.I.-focused bumper was shown.

Doin' It

A woman stands in front of a chalkboard with the word "Sex" written on it, looking surprised

Directed by: Sara Zandieh

Starring: Lilly Singh, Ana Gasteyer, Sabrina Jalees, Stephanie Beatriz, Mary Holland, Utkarsh Ambudkar, Trevor Salter, Sonia Dhillon Tully

Lilly Singh is a natural fit in her first-ever lead film role, which sees the YouTube star channeling 2000s raunch comedies as a virgin sex education teacher. The gags here call to mind American Pie-adjacent comedies from that era, albeit with a more sex-positive, 2020s-aligned point of view.


Actors riding in an open vehicle with intense looks

Directed by: Ben Brewer

Starring: Nicolas Cage, Jaeden Martell, Maxwell Jenkins, Sadie Soverall

There’s one simple rule to getting the most out of one’s life, and it’s this: Never skip a Nicolas Cage performance. He’s as superb as ever in this often harrowing, consistently compelling father-and-sons sci-fi drama. I won’t spoil it here, but there’s an element to the creatures seen in this film that’s on par with a certain sound from Hereditary in terms of its ability to lodge itself into your head and haunt you with undeniable precision.

Jerrod Carmichael Reality Show

Silhouetted person sitting and holding head in hands at a balcony, with a view of a calm outdoor scene

Directed by: Ari Katcher

Starring: Jerrod Carmichael

I’ve been asked to not say too much (at least not just yet) about the episodes dispersed to press amid SXSW, but just know that Carmichael, fresh off his turn in the Oscar-winning Poor Things, is continuing down the inspiringly vulnerable and self-confrontational path he carved out with his 2022 special Rothaniel. Simply put, this is an essential series. Look for it via HBO starting March 29. In the meantime, revisit the trailer featuring Tyler, the Creator right here.

Magic City: An American Fantasy

Two models in sportswear posing confidently against a pink backdrop

Directed by: Charles Todd

Starring: Michael "Mr. Magic" Barney Sr., Killer Mike, Gail Barney, Aubrey "Drake" Graham, Julian "Juju" Barney, Keisha Lance Bottoms, Michael "Lil Mag" Barney Jr., Nelly, Jermaine Dupri, Quavo

Almost certainly the most famous and immediately recognizable name in the global strip club industry, Magic City is finally getting the documentary treatment with this three-part series from director Charles Todd and showrunner Bayan Joonam. First, travel back to 1985 and see Michael Barney, a.k.a. Mr. Magic himself, open up the small joint that would eventually, and actually quite quickly, become the Magic City known around the world today.

Along the way, we get insight from famous appreciators of the must-visit Atlanta hotspot including Drake, Killer Mike, and more. To celebrate the premiere, a pop-up version of Magic City touched down at Austin’s Mayfair nightclub courtesy of Jermaine Dupri and DreamCrew Entertainment.

Monkey Man: A Conversation with Director and Star Dev Patel

Man with intense gaze looking through vertical blinds with a pinkish hue in the background

Speaking with Jacqueline Coley at the Austin Convention Center, notably with very little sleep after the premiere of his directorial debut Monkey Man, Dev Patel detailed the “schizophrenic process” behind his Jordan Peele-produced barnburner. The Oscar-nominated actor is not only the director and star, but also co-wrote the script from his own story.

It was hard to not be moved, not to mention deeply inspired, after hearing Patel walk attendees through the arduous process of taking Monkey Man from mere idea to a much-anticipated action title. Aside from the usual suspects, including financing issues and the pandemic, Patel was quick to note the series of obstacles that he and his crew faced while in production. 

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