After 10 glorious days, the 2016 Sundance Film Festival came to a close last night, with awards handed out Saturday night. And now that the festival is officially over and done with, we at /Film have tallied the movies we saw this year, to present to you a list of our favorites.
Three writers from /Film attended the festival this year: Peter Sciretta, Angie Han, and Ethan Anderton. Just three movies were viewed by all three members of the /Film team: Other People, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, and Manchester by the Sea. Another 12 were seen by two members of the /Film staff, and 26 were seen by just one person. In all, the three of us caught 41 different movies. So how did the films we watched stack up? Run down the best of Sundance 2016 with us after the jump.
We won’t bore you with all the details of how we calculated our rankings, but in simple terms, each person submitted a weighted top 10. Where there was a tie, we tended to give preference to the films that were seen by more people (in an effort to ensure these rankings reflected all of our tastes), and to the films that ranked higher on individual lists. The resulting top 14 best of Sundance 2016 doesn’t represent any one /Film staffer’s tastes, but rather our collective experience of the movies that moved us, delighted us, intrigued us, and stayed with us this year.
If you’re curious about our individual rankings, click ahead to the final page, where each member of the /Film team has listed every movie they saw at the festival this year in order of preference. There, you can also find a comprehensive, alphabetically ordered list of every review we filed from Sundance 2016.
And now, without further ado…
14. Swiss Army Man
All of the gross gags and twisted humor are just a way into the film’s true theme of loneliness — and not just the kind experienced by people who are truly, literally alone. Hank (Paul Dano) is physically separated from society by circumstance, but it becomes increasingly clear that he wasn’t much less isolated in the real world. And that, perhaps, there was a good reason for that. As Hank and his dead friend Manny (Daniel Radcliffe) get closer to the real world, our perception of Hank begins to shift from the way he sees himself (and by extension, the way Manny sees him) and toward the way the rest of the world sees him, and it complicates our understanding of the character as we knew him before. (Read Angie’s full review here.)
13. Green Room (tie with #12)
(Note: Green Room had its world premiere at Cannes last year.)
Blue Ruin director Jeremy Saulnier comes back with a vengeance in this thriller about an indie hardcore rock band who ends up getting caught at the venue owned, operated and attended by Neo Nazis. Full of suspense and tension, this is one hell of a thriller that will have you squirming in your seat. Patrick Stewart steals the show as the calm, methodical leader of this terrifying party, but Anton Yelchin and Imogen Poots both make for worthy but terrified adversaries that is full of surprises and plenty of brutal kills. It’s great knowing that there’s a filmmaker like Saulnier out there crafting outstanding, original thrillers like this. (Ethan)
12. The Hollars (tie with #13)
Yes, it’s another story of a man grappling with his creative dreams who must return home from New York City because of a terminally ill mother, and in the process must come to terms with the family he left behind. It probably doesn’t help that The Hollars lacks the sexual diversity found in Other People, and as a result sounds even more generic on paper.
Sundance veteran James Strouse (Lonesome Jim, Grace is Gone, The Winning Season, People Places Things) has filled the screenplay subtle and clever moments that elevate it from the broad strokes of a typical Sundance dramedy. And it will make you cry. I know I did — a couple of times. (Read Peter’s full review here.)
11. Morris From America
Morris From America is a wonderful and heartfelt cross-cultural coming-of-age tale about an African-American boy trying to adapt in Germany. This hip-hop-infused rite of passage story would work well in a triple feature alongside other Sundance films like Dope and The Wackness. (Read Peter’s full review here.)