Our Most Anticipated SXSW 2017 Movies: Old Gods, Muppet Docs, And Crimes Of All Sizes

The 2017 SXSW Film Festival kicks off today and /Film will be there for the duration, bringing you reviews of major premieres and new discoveries alike. While we're bound to uncover a gem (or three) that come out of nowhere, a few movies are already on our radar as must-sees. Let's run down the films we're prioritizing this year.

We decided to make this preview all about the movies no one on the /Film crew has seen yet, so you won't see us mention Free Fire, The Big Sick, and Colossal. However, we recommend all three of them and you can read our reviews by clicking on those links.

american gods

American Gods (TV Pilot)

The Official Description: Adapted from Neil Gaiman's award-winning novel, American Gods follows Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle) and Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane) in a hidden world where a battle is brewing between Old Gods and New.

Why It Has Our Attention: Bryan Fuller, the genius behind Hannibal, and Michael Green, one of the writers on the excellent Logan, are spearheading Starz's TV adaptation of Neil Gaiman's popular (for a good reason) fantasy novel. Television may be the right location for this tale, which explores the brewing conflict between the gods of ancient religions and the gods of modern concepts. The book was just a window into a massive world that demands further exploration.

atomic blonde

Atomic Blonde

The Official Description: Oscar winner Charlize Theron explodes into summer in Atomic Blonde, a breakneck action-thriller that follows MI6's most lethal assassin through a ticking time bomb of a city simmering with revolution and double-crossing hives of traitors.

Why It Has Our Attention: One of the directors of John Wick went of and made John Wick: Chapter 2. The other, David Leitch, adapted the graphic novel The Coldest City and cast Charlize Theron as a badass British spy who treks to Berlin in 1989 to complete an impossible mission. If the thought of Furiosa herself breaking necks and taking names in a Cold War action movie doesn't entice you, let's not be friends.

baby driver

Baby Driver

The Official Description: A talented, young getaway driver relies on the beat of his personal soundtrack to be the best in the game. But after being coerced into working for a crime boss, he must face the music when a doomed heist threatens his life, love and freedom.

Why It Has Our Attention: This is the next Edgar Wright movie. That's all you need to know. But if you do need to know more, this is an action/heist movie about a young getaway driver who lives his life (and does his job) to an eclectic and curated soundtrack. Yes, the director of Shaun of the Dead and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World has made car chase movie powered entirely by music.

barbecue

Barbecue

The Official Description: Barbecue is about more than grilling a piece of meat. It's a ritual performed religiously across the world. For some it's a path to salvation. It is the pride of nations. And the stories told around the fires become a way to bring the world together.

Why It Has Our Attention: Australian director Matthew Salleh had SXSW at hello with this documentary, which explores how people prepare barbecue in nations all over the world. As an Austinite who has firsthand experience with establishments that worship at the altar of smoked meats, they couldn't have picked a better movie to get the locals (and hopefully, plenty of visitors) salivating.

the disaster artist

The Disaster Artist

The Official Description: This is a true story about the making of The Room; the cult classic described as the Citizen Kane of bad movies.

Why It Has Our Attention: I have no idea what to make of James Franco playing Tommy Wiseau, the gloriously incompetent filmmaker whose The Room has become an all-time bad movie sensation. But he also directed it, which means he is definitely seems to be going in...and when Franco commits, he really commits. This has the potential be Ed Wood for the 21st century, if everything clicks.

life

Life

The Official Description: Life is a terrifying sci-fi thriller about a team of scientists aboard the International Space Station whose mission of discovery turns to one of primal fear when they find a rapidly evolving life form that caused extinction on Mars, and now threatens the crew and all life on Earth.

Why It Has Our Attention: What has impressed me most about the trailers for Life is that this is unabashedly, unashamedly a horror movie, albeit one set on a space station that seems to have borrowed a thing or two from Gravity. It certainly doesn't hurt that the astronauts staring alien doom in the face are played by Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, and Ryan Reynolds.

most hated woman in america

Most Hated Woman in America

The Official Description: Darkly funny, true story of the rise and untimely demise of Madeline Murray O'Hair—crank, swindler, iconoclast, and America's most outspoken atheist.

Why It Has Our Attention: Madalyn Murray O'Hair, the atheist activist whose work led to the Supreme Court banning the reading of the Bible in public schools, is a fascinating figure whose actions inspire heated debate more than ever. Cast Melissa Leo in the part and surround her with Adam Scott, Juno Temple, Vincent Kartheiser, Josh Lucas, and Peter Fonda and you have a very promising movie.

muppet guys talking

Muppet Guys Talking

The Official Description: Five of the original Muppet performers come together for the first time ever to share behind-the-scenes secrets of the Muppets. Includes rare performance footage, surprising stories and insights into how Jim led his team to produce legendary work.

Why It Has Our Attention: Frank Oz, the original voice and puppeteer behind Miss Piggy and Yoda, directed this documentary, which puts a handful of unseen geniuses on camera to talk about their craft. We've seen the Muppets and we've loved the Muppets and we've wondered how silly creatures made of felt can be made to express to much character...and now we'll get to see how the magic happens.

small crimes

Small Crimes

The Official Description: Small Crimes is a delightfully suspenseful, blackly comic tale that follows a disgraced former cop, fresh off a six-year prison sentence for attempted murder, who returns home looking for redemption but winds up trapped in the mess he left behind.

Why It Has Our Attention: The last time director E.L. Katz came to SXSW, he brought the twisted and unforgettable dark comedy Cheap Thrills. Now, he's back with another story of desperate people getting in way over their heads. I'm not sure exactly how he plans to punish Game of Thrones star Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, but I can't wait to find out. Katz co-wrote the film with Macon Blair, the Blue Ruin and Green Room actor who directed the Sundance hit I Don't Feel at Home in This World Anymore.

small town crime

Small Town Crime

The Official Description: Ex-cop, Mike Kendall, finds the body of a young woman and, in an act of self-redemption, becomes hellbent on finding the killer. While his uncouth, quirky detective style helps break the case, his dogged determination puts his family in danger.

Why It Has Our Attention: I'm not familiar with the work of directors Ian Nelms and Eshom Nelms, but anyone who has the good taste to cast the great character actor John Hawkes as troubled investigator who finds himself embroiled in a noir-tinged mystery deserves a look. Heck, anyone who rounds out the cast with Octavia Spencer and Robert Forster deserves your undivided attention.

song to song

Song to Song

The Official Description: In this modern love story set against the Austin, Texas music scene, two entangled couples — struggling songwriters Faye and BV, and music mogul Cook and the waitress whom he ensnares — chase success through a rock 'n' roll landscape of seduction and betrayal.

Why It Has Our Attention: Terrence Malick has grown increasingly divisive in the years since Tree of Life, increasing has output while tearing movie fans apart. His latest movie, Song to Song, features one of his best casts (Rooney Mara, Ryan Gosling, Michael Fassbender, Natalie Portman, Cate Blanchett) and a plot that sounds like a step away from his usual territory.

spettacolo

Spettacolo

The Official Description: Once upon a time there was a tiny hill town in Tuscany that found a remarkable way to confront their issues – they turned their lives into a play.

Why It Has Our Attention: Directors Jeff Malmberg and Chris Shellen previously made the tremendous documentary Marwencol, a movie about a man who recovers from a vicious assault by building a 1/6 scale replica of a World War II-era Belgian village in his backyard. Their new movie, Spettacolo, finds an equally eclectic tale to tell, following an Italian community that regularly stages plays to work through the town's personal issues, with the citizenry playing themselves on stage. That sounds too weird to be true, but hey, that's sometimes the case with non-fiction filmmaking.

win it all

Win It All

The Official Description: Small time Chicago gambler, Eddie Garrett, agrees to watch a duffel bag for an acquaintance who is heading to prison. When he discovers cash in the bag, he hatches a plan to win big, against the advice of his gambling sponsor and his brother.

Why It Has Our Attention: I don't always love Joe Swanberg movies, but I always love that he's working and seems to walk into just about every film festival season with a new movie to share. His latest project features a promising cast (Jake Johnson, Aislinn Derbez, Joe Lo Truglio, Keegan-Michael Key) in a well-honed indie movie template: the "small-time loser makes a bad decision" film. This sounds like a lot of fun.

the work

The Work

The Official Description: Set entirely inside Folsom Prison, The Work follows three men during four days of intensive group therapy with convicts, revealing an intimate and powerful portrait of authentic human transformation that transcends what we think of as rehabilitation.

Why It Has Our Attention: The best documentaries put us in the position to see the world from a POV we never would have considered. Jairus McLeary and Gethin Aldous' new film, which explores group therapy amongst prisoners, sounds like it could be a harrowing and enlightening experience.

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You can find a complete list of the movies play this year's SXSW over here.