The Best Films Of The 2017 Sundance Film Festival

The reviews have been filed, the awards have been handed out, and the stars and cinephiles have left Park City: it's time to close the book on the Sundance Film Festival for another year. Last week we brought you our quick impressions of every single film we saw at Sundance 2017. Today we're rounding out our coverage with a ranked list of our very favorite movies from the fest. Click through to find out what we loved.

We won't bother going into the nitty-gritty details of our methodology, but we should talk a bit about the goals of this list. Between the three of us, Peter Sciretta, Ethan Anderton, and I saw 37 films (plus three TV pilots). There are still dozens and dozens more that we missed. We tried to make our rankings reflect our collective feelings about the festival as a whole, but even then there was no perfect way to do that, especially since The Big Sick is the only movie that all three of us saw. So with that in mind, here are our 12 favorite movies from the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. To find out how each individual /Film writer voted, click on through to the last page.

Jessica Williams in The Incredible Jessica James

12. The Incredible Jessica James

The very best thing The Incredible Jessica James has going for it is its heroine. Blessed with a quick wit and an acid tongue, Jessica makes a big impression from her first moments. (Said first moments involve her scoffing that she's "rather be on my period for 1,000 years" than listen to her boring Tinder date attempt small talk, so that's the kind of straight shooter we're dealing with here.) Jessica Williams slips easily into the role. She delivers Jessica's snarky one-liners with relish, as you'd expect from an actress who cut her teeth on The Daily Show, but proves almost as compelling when she reins it in to expose Jessica's uncertainty and vulnerability. She's well matched by Chris O'Dowd, who's doing a more charming and more self-assured version of his nice-guy cop from Bridesmaids. He and Williams share an easygoing chemistry that makes them easy to root for. (Read Angie's full review.)

Nobody Speak Hulk Hogan, Gawker and the Trials of a Free Press

11. Nobody Speak: Hulk Hogan, Gawker and the Trials of a Free Press

The documentary is so relevant to the here and now that it features footage from Trump's inauguration and the march that occurred just days ago. That must be a record first for a documentary premiere, right? (Read Peter's full review.)

The Discovery

10. The Discovery

The Discovery has shades of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, both in its economical, practical production design, but also in its surprisingly simplistic approach to a high concept that is driven by carefully crafted characters. In addition, the path to the shocking, moving climax has plenty of influence from Flatliners, and a bit from the indie favorite Primer. Despite all these influences, the movie never feels like it's overtly borrowing from them, but merely emulating certain thematic elements. (Read Ethan's full review.)

Tokyo Idols (2)

9. Tokyo Idols

Tokyo Idols is a fascinating must-see documentary which explores the disturbing world of super fandom in the Japanese Idol scene. The mainstream cultural phenomenon has overtaken Japan and is supposedly a one-billion-dollar industry. Imagine spunky, cheery Japanese school girls dressed in anime outfits singing and dancing to clubs filled with middle-aged men. The Idol superfans, usually aged 35 to 50, follow the young teenage female singers and girl bands, some even spending most of their earnings and quitting their jobs to devote their lives to the fandom. (Read Peter's full review.)

The Yellow Birds

8. The Yellow Birds

The Yellow Birds is guaranteed to attract a certain amount of attention simply because it's Alden Ehrenreich's last major role before Han Solo, and Star Wars fans will be gratified to see that Lucasfilm's faith in him is not misplaced. He puts in an unforgettable lead performance as Bartle, a young soldier who's deployed to war and comes back a haunted man, for reasons he's unwilling or unable to articulate.

But The Yellow Birds is far more than an acting showcase for Ehrenreich's talents, and would deserve to be seen no matter what big franchises its stars were doing next. It's a war drama that's far less interested in the heroism of battle than its cost, as told through the story of a single soldier and those in his immediate orbit. (Read Angie's full review.)

Ingrid Goes West

7. Ingrid Goes West

Ingrid Goes West is not just your average comedy film, but a smart commentary on our social media obsessed world. How many people do you follow on Instagram or Twitter that you feel like you know personally even though you don't? We follow so many people from afar through their update streams and develop a connection that doesn't really exist. Also, we fill our streams with a polished fantasy version of the life we want to have, and not the imperfect reality that we live day to day. (Read Peter's full review.)


6. Mudbound

So many films about America's past treat our sins as though they've all been washed away. Mudbound, like the best of its ilk, knows that's not the case. It lingers on small indignities and tiny moments of grace, on the millions of little ways that people lift each other up or push each other down, and those still resonate today, even as we pat ourselves on the back for being past the days of Jim Crow. I watched Mudbound just two days after Donald Trump was inaugurated as president, having run on the promise to return America to the spit-shined, sparkling good ol' days, when white men ruled and black people knew their place. Mudbound is a reminder that even in those days, the truth of daily existence was a lot, well, muddier. (Read Angie's full review.)

A Ghost Story

5. A Ghost Story

David Lowery's latest film is a challenging wonder, one that could easily be the kind of movie that people seek out because of high praise, but find themselves perplexed and disappointing by its proceedings. A Ghost Story certainly isn't for everybody, but it is audaciously about everybody. It takes a bold, intimate look at the daunting prospect of death and the inevitable fact that after a certain amount of time passes, there won't be any evidence that we existed at all. It may not inspire you, but it's an undeniably breathtaking piece of independent cinema that will make you feel something, and isn't that what we're all here for? (Read Ethan's full review.)


4. Columbus

Columbus takes a while to get going. Halfway through the movie, I still wasn't quite sure what to make of it. [...] The film is played at such a low key that it can be easy to tune out completely at times. But eventually, what emerges is a portrait of a rare and beautiful connection. Columbus crept up on me so gradually and quietly that I don't even know when I started to love it. When it was over, though, I was left with a sweet aftertaste that stayed with me for hours. Just like Casey promised. (Read Angie's full review.)

Brigsby Bear Review

3. Brigsby Bear

Dave McCary in his feature directorial debut does an incredible job balancing comedy with some real drama, and an even better job making something so outlandish feel so grounded and sincere. The result is a film with a truly original story, a passion for filmmaking, an abundance of hysterical comedy, and one big heart. Brigsby Bear is a love letter to storytelling, filmmaking and following your dreams, and in a world as troubled as ours is today, we could all learn a thing or two from this space-trekking bear. (Read Ethan's full review.)

Call Me By Your Name

2. Call Me By Your Name

First love has rarely been depicted as beautifully or as movingly as it is in Luca Guadagnino's Call Me By Your Name, an adaptation of the novel by André Aciman. Timothée Chalamet (probably best known as bratty Finn Walden from season one of Homeland) has a star-making turn as a teenager exploring his sexual identity. Meanwhile, Armie Hammer, a very good actor who's been stuck in some not-very-successful movies, is downright mesmerizing as the young man who changes his life forever. (Read Angie's full review.)

The Big Sick

1. The Big Sick

What unfolds is a sincere romantic comedy that will give you hearty laughs over and over again and then squeezes tears from your eyes moments later. Director Michael Showalter has played with the romantic comedy formula before as the director of The Baxter and the co-writer of They Came Together, but this film is on another level. He balances side-splitting comedy and moving drama so effortlessly, with neither ever feeling phony, and that's not easy. Sure, the incredible cast and masterful script help, but channeling that into every single scene requires a skillful director who knows their way around honest storytelling. (Read Ethan's full review.)

band aid

Peter Sciretta's Best of Sundance 2017 List

  • The Big Sick
  • Ingrid Goes West
  • Brigsby Bear
  • Band Aid
  • Tokyo Idols
  • Wind River
  • An Inconvenient Sequel
  • I Don't Feel at Home in This World Anymore
  • Get Out
  • Nobody Speak: Hulk Hogan, Gawker and the Trials of a Free Press
  • Before I Fall
  • L.A. Times
  • Wilson
  • Person to Person
  • Bitch
  • XX
  • Lemon

Berlin Syndrome

Angie Han's Best of Sundance 2017 List

  • Call Me By Your Name
  • Columbus
  • The Big Sick
  • Mudbound
  • The Yellow Birds
  • The Incredible Jessica James
  • Berlin Syndrome
  • Gook
  • Before I Fall
  • Marjorie Prime
  • Beatriz at Dinner
  • Landline
  • Bitch
  • Novitiate
  • Crown Heights
  • The Little Hours


Ethan Anderton's Best of Sundance 2017 List

  • The Big Sick
  • Call Me By Your Name
  • A Ghost Story
  • Brigsby Bear
  • Mudbound
  • The Discovery
  • Nobody Speak: Hulk Hogan, Gawker and the Trials of a Free Press
  • The Incredible Jessica James
  • An Inconvenient Sequel
  • Ingrid Goes West
  • Band Aid
  • Colossal
  • Newness
  • 78/52
  • I Don't Feel at Home in This World Anymore
  • Wind River
  • Landline
  • Marjorie Prime
  • The Polka King
  • Their Finest

Wind River Review

Best of Sundance 2017: All Reviews & Reports

'Berlin Syndrome': Find Out What Happened When a World Premiere Broke Down Minutes Before Its Ending

'The Big Sick' Review: The Most Authentic, Unique Romantic Comedy in Years

'Brigsby Bear' Review: A Wonderful, Offbeat Comedy About the Power of Storytelling

'Call Me By Your Name' Review: A Story of First Love Worth Falling Head Over Heels For

'Columbus' Review: A Sweet and Subtle Drama With Shades of 'Once' and 'Before Sunrise'

'The Discovery' Review: 'Eternal Sunshine' Meets 'Flatliners' in An Engrossing Indie Sci-Fi Package

'Get Out' Review: Jordan Peele's Directorial Debut is a Clever and Funny Thriller

'A Ghost Story' Review: David Lowery's Astounding Supernatural Rumination on Time & Mortality

'I Don't Feel at Home in This World Anymore' Review: Melanie Lynskey Gets a Bloody, Quirky Crusade

'An Inconvenient Sequel' Review: Al Gore Is Pissed, And You Should Be Too

'The Incredible Jessica James' Review: Jessica Williams Sparkles in Romcom Charmer

'Ingrid Goes West' Review: Aubrey Plaza's Hilarious Stalker Dark Comedy Set in the Instagram Era

'Mudbound' Review: Garett Hedlund & Jason Mitchell Sparkle in Dee Rees' Southern Family Epic

'Newness' Review: Drake Doremus' Sexy, Raw Portrait of Love in the Age of Tinder

'Nobody Speak' Review: Did "Hulkamania" Kill the Free Press?

'Tokyo Idols' Review: A Must-See Documentary About Obsessed Middle-Aged J-Pop Fans

'When the Street Lights Go On': One of the Best Things I Saw at Sundance 2017 Was a TV Pilot

'Wind River' Review: Jeremy Renner Has Never Been Better in This Snowy, Shocking Thriller

'The Yellow Birds' Review: Alden Ehrenreich Devastates in Thoughtful Iraq War Drama