The Best Films of the 2016 Sundance Film Festival


5. Indignation

Indignation is a masterful piece of work from James Schamus, a film that would have been worthy of being release under his Focus Features banner had it been released years before. Every piece of production is remarkable, from the supporting cast, to the production design and more. Schamus has crafted an extraordinary adaptation of Philip Roth’s book, a timeless tale of lost love and innocence that deserves to be seen. (Read Ethan’s full review here.)


4. Sleight

J.D. Dillard is a refreshing new filmmaker who is certainly one to watch. This may be his first feature film, but Dillard has directed some music videos and is also developing a film project for Bad Robot and Paramount Pictures (the details on this project are unknown). When I saw Safety Not Guaranteed at Sundance a few years back, I knew that Colin Trevorrow was about to be tapped for much bigger films (but even I wouldn’t have predicted Star Wars and Jurassic Park sequels). I think it’s easy to see Dillard will probably also capture the attention of Hollywood genre films — I could definitely see him at the helm of a future Marvel movie. (Read Peter’s full review here.)

Sing Street

3. Sing Street

Sing Street is undoubtedly a crowd-pleaser, and another fine example in cinema of music saving someone’s life. John Carney has delivered something more conventional than his previous efforts, but he’s poured so much genuine care into the proceedings that you can’t help but fall in love. This film is truly a triumph, and I can’t wait to play the soundtrack on repeat whenever it becomes available. (Read Ethan’s full review here.)

Manchester by the Sea

2. Manchester by the Sea

It’s easy to imagine a version of this story that smooths over ugly, raw emotions in service of a happy ending, or, alternately, a version of this story that devolves into simple misery porn. Manchester by the Sea takes a more humane approach, guided by director Kenneth Lonergan’s deep empathy for his characters. The world around Lee (Casey Affleck) may judge the way he reacts to the blows life has dealt him, or may not even realize what he’s dealing with in the first place. But Lonergan presents a portrait of grief that feels almost honest in its ugliness, because it feels truthful. Redemption and hope are hard to come by for these characters, but they’re apparently nearly as impossible to extinguish completely. (Read Angie’s full review here.)

Hunt for the Wilderpeople

1. Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Hunt for the Wilderpeople feels like a throwback to ’80s adventure films in some ways, but it mostly just feels like a new childhood classic. It has all the makings of one: it’s got wonder and adventure and loads of humor, and ultimately winds up on the side of optimism — but it also has moments of genuine tragedy and danger. It’s not tough to imagine kids falling this movie today and feeling nostalgic about it 10 or 20 years down the line, the way Millennials and Gen Xers today wax rhapsodic about The Goonies. Unlike a lot of those movies, though, it’s one the parents won’t mind either. (Read Angie’s full review here.)

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