Every year, we here at IndieWire take on the daunting and potentially insane task of plowing through seemingly endless lists of potential Sundance entrants to pick out the films that not only could make their way onto the annual festival’s slate, but the ones we’d most like to actually land in Park City in January. As ever, there’s no shortage of possibilities for the upcoming festival, including a wide variety of films shot under various COVID protocols, a slew of holdovers from the before times, and some long-gestating films we’ve been expecting and hoping to see for entire years.

And while we don’t yet know how the twin strikes will have impacted the overall lineup — as this article is published, the SAG-AFTRA strike has been over for barely 12 hours — and who will be on hand to attend this year to tout their work, we do know that, in the process of researching our annual Sundance wish list, IndieWire had no trouble finding nearly 50 movies that we hope make the cut in this year’s lineup. This list includes returning favorites, fresh new talents, and even a few seemingly secretive options we were thrilled to dig up.

Filmmakers are starting to hear back from the festival, and the full selection is expected to go public next month, but in the meantime, here’s a look at strong contenders for a most unusual edition of America’s most prominent festival.

The 2023 edition of the Sundance Film Festival runs January 18 through 28, both in-person and with a somewhat reduced virtual component.

Mark Peikert, Brian Welk, Christian Blauvelt, Chris O’Falt, and Jim Hemphill also contributed to this article and its research.

Yorgos Lanthimos 
Cast: Emma Stone, Willem Dafoe, Jesse Plemons, Margaret Qualley, Joe Alwyn, Keke Palmer, Hong Chau 

Whatever strange alchemy Yorgos Lanthimos and Emma Stone are vibing on between their short film “Bleat,” Oscar winner “The Favourite,” and this year’s Terry Gilliam-inspired sex odyssey “Poor Things,” let’s hope it never fizzles out. Their mysterious next feature “AND,” the plot of which remains clouded in the level of secrecy they’ve more than earned as an auteur-actor duo by now, finished filming a year ago in New Orleans with a cast including Willem Dafoe, Jesse Plemons, Margaret Qualley and Joe Alwyn (sparking a “Stars at Noon” reunion for fans of that steamy and wrongly pilloried Claire Denis film), Hong Chau, and Keke Palmer. We were already pumped for this one back in March when Dafoe said he let Emma Stone slap him 20 times for a scene he doesn’t even appear in. 

“AND” marks another collaboration between Lanthimos and Searchlight Pictures, currently pushing “Poor Things” out into Oscar season as one of the most revered (and scandalous) contenders. Onboard as well are his trusty DP Robbie Ryan as well as composer Thomas Newman, new to the singular lands of the Greek filmmaker. Lanthimos hasn’t popped up at Sundance since screening “The Lobster” post-Cannes — it wouldn’t hurt his “Poor Things” awards profile to press flesh at Park City with a new project also starring Stone and Dafoe. —RL 

ATHENS, GREECE - MAY 05: Actress Emma Stone and Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos (L) arrive for the screening of "Bleat" at the Greek National Opera in Athenson May 5, 2022 in Athens, Greece. (Photo by Milos Bicanski/Getty Images)
Yorgos Lanthimos and Emma Stone (Photo by Milos Bicanski/Getty Images)Getty Images

Director: Ben Brewer
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Jaeden Martell, Maxwell Jenkins, Sadie Soverall 

Nicolas Cage stars as the father of twins in a post-apocalyptic world that requires them to enact a plan to survive when faced with a fresh threat. Michael Nilon wrote the script; the action-horror film is produced by Cage’s Saturn Films and Michael Nilon, David Wulf of Redline Entertainment, and Highland Film Group’s Arianne Fraser and Delphine Perrier, with Braxton Pope. Cage was last seen at Sundance with 2021’s “Prisoners of the Ghostland,” and previously worked with director Ben Brewer on 2016’s “The Trust.” Brewer worked on the VFX of “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” so expect plenty of visual stunners in the movie. —MP

Director: Pamela Adlon
Cast: Ilana Glazer, Michelle Buteau, John Carroll Lynch, Hasan Minhaj

The film screened for buyers during the Toronto International Film Festival in September, where Neon won the bidding for the right to distribute Pamela Adlon’s (“Better Things”) feature directorial debut. Ilana Glazer (“Broad City”) co-wrote the script with Josh Rabinowitz (“Ramy”), and stars as Eden, an aggressively single woman who becomes pregnant during a one-night stand, and leans on her married, mother of two, best friend Dawn (Michelle Buteau) to help her through pregnancy and beyond.

Over the course of five seasons as the creative force behind FX’s “Better Things,” Adlon developed into one of the most nuanced and exciting directors working in comedy, and her collaboration with Glazer will put this at the top of many Sundancers’ watch lists. —CO

“Back to Black”
Sam Taylor-Johnson
Cast: Marisa Abela, Jack O’Connell, Eddie Marsan, Juliet Cowan, Lesley Manville

Since her tragic passing in 2011, plenty of filmmakers have been eager to bring Amy Winehouse’s life to the big screen, an option made possible in 2018, when her estate officially signed a deal involving her life and career rights (documentarian Asif Kapadia previously made a doc about the singer in 2015, and his “Amy” stands as the best film yet about the ill-fated Brit). Ultimately, “Nowhere Boy” and “Fifty Shades of Grey” filmmaker Sam Taylor-Johnson snagged the gig, along with a screenplay from Matt Greenhalgh, and the film shot this spring.

While the material is understandably fraught and very personal for many — and some of Taylor-Johnson’s casting choices, including “Industry” star Marisa Abela as Winehouse, have already been panned, sparked by endless pap pix — Winehouse’s story is a compelling, heartbreaking tale that could make for a stirring film that reminds everyone of her raw power and talent. Is that worth it? We don’t know yet, but we’d love to be able to draw our own conclusions. —KE

“The Bitter Tears of Zahra Zand”
Director: Vahid Hakimzadeh
Cast: Boshra Dastournezhad, Pari Armian, Melina Farahani, Goli Samii, Avin Manshadi, Soussan Farrokhnia

Vahid Hakimzadeh’s reimagining of Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s classic “The Bitter Tears of Petra van Kant” sets the story in 1980s London, where Iranian fashion designer Zahra lives (and plays mind games) in the wake of fleeing the 1979 revolution. Reza Sixo Safai produces for his Boos Boos Bang Bang productions, along with Danny de Warren for Wellspring Studios and Sameer Patel for Mandala Media. Hakimzadeh co-wrote the script with Boshra Dastournezhad, who stars as Zahra. —MP

Jimmy Warden
Cast: Samara Weaving, Ray Nicholson, Eric Dane, Jimmie Fails, Alba Baptista

“Cocaine Bear” screenwriter Jimmy Warden makes his directing debut with this period thriller that stars his real-life wife, Samara Weaving, as a pop star whose life is upended by a crazed fan. As Warden told IndieWire earlier this year, the film is “a home invasion thriller that takes place in Los Angeles in the ’90s.” He added, “A pop star’s home gets invaded, and the man, played by Ray Nicholson, is an obsessed fan and he thinks that he’s going into his wedding. So he manipulates all these things to make it feel like it’s his wedding. We’re calling it a violently romantic comedy at this point.”

Warden has a cracking sense of humor and Weaver is one of our best scream queens, which already makes for an entertaining duo, and that’s even before you consider the rich material they’re mining for this joint effort. Also intriguing? The casting of Nicholson (yes, Jack’s son) as said crazed fan. We’re already wild for this one. —KE

VENICE, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 04: Brady Corbet and Mona Fastvold attend Miu Miu Women's Tales Dinner during 78 Venice Film Festival on September 04, 2021 in Venice, Italy. (Photo by Marc Piasecki/Getty Images for Miu Miu)
Brady Corbet and Mona Fastvold (Getty Images)Getty Images for Miu Miu

“The Brutalist”
Brady Corbet
Cast: Adrien Brody, Felicity Jones, Guy Pearce, Joe Alwyn

“The Childhood of a Leader” and “Vox Lux” quickly established Brady Corbet as one of the most uncompromising and idiosyncratic of young American filmmakers, and while the European-coded formalism of his work tends to suggest that his third feature is more likely to pop up at Cannes or Venice, we’re hoping that Sundance’s new leadership seizes the opportunity to redefine a festival aesthetic that’s often been limited to scrappy handheld slices of life.

Co-written with Corbet’s partner and frequent collaborator Mona Fastvold (whose excellent “The World to Come” cemented her as a major filmmaker in her own right), “The Brutalist” spans three decades in the life of a Hungarian-born Jewish architect played by Adrien Brody, who struggles to find his footing in America after World War II… until a mysterious client permanently redesigns his fortunes. Filming only wrapped in May of this year, and there’s no telling whether Corbet will be sufficiently motivated to finish post-production in time for a Sundance premiere, but “The Brutalist” would surely look and feel like nothing else at the festival, and that alone is reason enough to hope it debuts there. —DE

Director: Luca Guadagnino
Cast: Zendaya, Josh O’Connor, Mike Faist

Given that “Challengers” was originally set for theatrical release on September 15, 2023 after a Venice Film Festival launch, then pushed back due to the writers and actors strikes to April 26, 2024, the tennis world romantic triangle, starring Zendaya (“Euphoria”), Josh O’Connor (“The Crown”), and Mike Faist, (“West Side Story”) is clearly finished in time for Sundance, and will hit theaters well ahead of Cannes. So Sundance could be a welcoming festival launch for writer-director Luca Guadagnino (who debuted eventual Oscar-winner “Call Me by Your Name” there back in 2018) and his attractive cast.

In the film, two male tennis players ardently pursue a female court colleague over the years. One marries her, but that doesn’t seem to keep the trio from co-mingling at will. All three actors have plenty to discuss now that their strike muzzle is off and Sundance would provide the perfect platform: Zendaya has the postponed “Dune” sequel coming up, while O’Connor stars in festival fave “La Chimera” and Faist plays opposite Jodie Comer in another strike-delayed film, “The Bikeriders.” —AT

Director: Tilman Singer
Cast: Jan Bluthardt, Hunter Schafer, Dan Stevens, Jessica Henwick, Marton Csókás, Greta Fernández

A new horror movie from “Luz” director Tilman Singer, the plot is under wraps but the movie shot for just over a month in Germany. Produced for Neon by Tom Quinn, Jeff Deutchman, Emily Thomas, and Ryan Friscia. It is produced by Ken Kao and Josh Rosenbaum of Waypoint Entertainment, Markus Halberschmidt and Maria Tsigka of Fiction Park, Thor Bradwell, and Ben Rimmer. German Regional Fund Film and Medienstiftung NRW provided additional support. —MP

“Empire Waist”
Director: Claire Ayoub
Cast: Rainn Wilson, Mia Kaplan, Jolene Purdy, Missi Pyle, Tabyana Ali

Claire Ayoub came up through the New York City comedy world with the Upright Citizens Brigade and writing essays and social posts Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls. Ayoub’s comedy is, in large part, rooted in being the daughter of two small-town gynecologists (her “cringe-tastic” stage show “The GynoKid” won the Best Solo Comedy at the 2023 Frigid Fringe, and is being adapted into a TV Pilot “Open Wide”) and a focus on body-positivity.

“Empire Waist” is about what happens to an overweight, deeply insecure teen when her innate talent for fashion design is discovered by a “fat and fabulous classmate,” and the resulting choice to step out of her comfort zone and let her work be put on display, or follow her instinct to stay invisible and “return to a life of sewing in the shadows.” Back in 2019, Ayoub did a national live reading tour of the script, which also helped make her a Black List Feature Lab participant and Sundance Independent Screenwriting Fellowship recipient in 2020. Appearing on our 2022 Sundance Wish List, the film was shopped at the Cannes international marketplace last spring, and should be ready to unveil in Park City. —CO

“The Front Room”
The Eggers Brothers
Cast: Brandy Norwood, Kathryn Hunter, Andrew Burnap, Neal Huff

The bad news is that (Sundance alum) Robert Eggers can only make one movie every couple of years. The good news is that he has a seemingly infinite supply of siblings who share his taste and have filmmaking ambitions of their own. First came the discovery that Robert had co-written “The Lighthouse” with his brother Max, and now Max has splintered off to form a duo with their other brother Sam, whose co-directorial debut — adapted from a 2016 short story of the same name by Susan Hill — will at least keep things in the A24 family.

In post-production since February and ready to premiere at Sundance should the parties involved agree that it should, “The Front Room” is poised to be a bit more grounded (and a lot more modern) than Robert’s work, but it’s sure to be steeped in atmospheric horror all the same. Finally uniting pop icon Brandy with “The Tragedy of Macbeth” star Kathryn Hunter, the film will likely begin with a young Christian family welcoming the poor into their home, only for the mother to grow convinced that they’ve opened the door to an evil spirit. Fingers crossed it will leave us with a whole new subdivision of Eggers movies to look forward to. —DE

“Challengers” screenshot/Prime Video

“Good Grief”
Director: Dan Levy
Cast: Dan Levy, Ruth Negga, Himesh Patel, Luke Evans

“Schitt’s Creek” co-creator/star Dan Levy is making his big screenwriting and directing debut with a film about a grieving widower (Levy) on a “soul-searching” trip to Paris with his best friends (Ruth Negga and Himesh Patel) after his husband (Luke Evans) dies. Levy is positioning the film as a personal piece of filmmaking, writing for the press release announcing production, “It’s funny, it’s bittersweet, it’s a project that’s helped me work through my own grief.” The Netflix-backed film shot last fall and should be more than ready for Utah in January, and a streaming bow in early 2024. —CO

“Hot Milk”
Rebecca Lenkiewicz 
Cast: Emma Mackey, Fiona Shaw, Vickey Krieps

Royal National Theatre-trained Shakespeare actor turned writer Rebecca Lenkiewicz directs Emma Mackey, Fiona Shaw, and Vicky Krieps in her feature debut “Hot Milk.” Lenkiewicz already has an enviable pedigree of writing credits behind her, from Harvey Weinstein drama “She Said” to beloved Polish postwar nun coming-of-ager “Ida” (co-written with director Pawel Pawlikowski) and clandestine queer Jewish romance “Disobedience” (co-written with director Sebastian Lelio).

Here, she adapts South African writer Deborah Levy’s 2016 novel about a mother (Shaw) and daughter (Mackey) who venture to a clinic in Spain searching for a cure for the mother’s unexplained illness. Their sojourn introduces them to a charming and elusive traveler, played by Krieps. “Hot Milk” shot in Almería and Andalusia, Spain, over the summer and already has U.S. distribution from IFC Films. —RL 

Director: Caitlin Cronenberg
Cast: Jay Baruchel, Emily Hampshire, Peter Gallagher, Sebastian Chacon, Alanna Bale, Sirena Gulamgaus

A family drama wrapped in a dystopian thriller, “Humane” is set against the backdrop of an “environmental collapse” that killed off 20 percent of the world’s population, and has forced political leaders to take the unprecedented step of implementing a euthanasia program to further reduce the population. Based on a script written by Michael Sparaga, the film centers on a family dinner — in which a father announces to his four adult children his plans to volunteer for the euthanasia program — that goes horribly awry and erupts into chaos.

Other than a one-minute short (“The Death of David Cronenberg”), Caitlin Cronenberg’s career has been predominantly with the still camera (both as a set photographer and artist), but her transition into the family business (brother Brandon and father David are both celebrated horror directors) is definitely noteworthy. Production wrapped in Ontario a year ago, making Sundance a logical platform. —CO

“Hunters on a White Field”
Director: Sarah Gyllenstierna
Cast: Magnus Krepper, Ardalan Esmaili, Jens Hultén

Writer/director Sarah Gyllenstierna makes her feature film debut with this Swedish-language thriller. Maria L. Guerpillon and Charlotte Most produce for MostAlice Film AB in co-production with Film i Väst, SVT, and with support from the Swedish Film Institute’s Moving Sweden initiative. In Gyllenstierna’s film, three friends find success hunting in the Swedish woods until one day, all the animals have disappeared — but they intend to continue hunting. —MP

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 28: (L-R) Anna Cobb and Jane Schoenbrun attend the 2022 Gotham Awards at Cipriani Wall Street on November 28, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Dia Dipasupil/WireImage)
Anna Cobb and Jane Schoenbrun (Getty Images)WireImage

“I Saw the TV Glow”
Director: Jane Schoenbrun
Cast: Justice Smith, Brigette Lundy-Paine, Danielle Deadwyler, Phoebe Bridgers, Helena Howard, Fred Durst, Amber Benson, Conner O’Malley

Jane Schoenbrun’s lauded sophomore film “We’re All Going to the World’s Fair,” a moody and unsettling look at how the internet can literally follow us out into the wider world, was one of the gems at the 2021 festival, and the filmmaker looks to be building on those same tensions, ideas, and tones with “I Saw the TV Glow.” The A24-backed film follows “two teenagers [who] bond over their love of a television series; After it is mysteriously canceled, their reality begins to blur,” which sounds like a fitting follow-up to “World’s Fair.”

The involvement of Schoenbrun alone would be enough to get us excited few filmmakers working today so keenly understand the ways in which screen life permeates our real life but a closer look at the incredible team around the filmmaker has us even more thrilled, including producers Emma Stone and Dave McCary, plus supporting turns from Phoebe Bridgers, Fred Durst, and Conner O’Malley. —KE

“Last Breath”
Director: Alex Parkinson
Cast: Woody Harrelson, Simu Liu, Djimon Hounsou, Finn Cole

100 meters underwater, a deep sea diver becomes untethered from his safety cord and is stranded on the bottom of the North Sea. He has just five minutes of oxygen left, and the crew is 30 minutes away. The story of the diver and the miraculous rescue attempt was captured in the 2019 documentary “Last Breath,” but now Alex Parkinson, who co-directed that doc, has also written and directed a narrative feature adaptation. He secured an impressive cast that includes Woody Harrelson, Simu Liu, and Djimon Hounsou, and the film was first presented to buyers as a package back at the Cannes market in 2022. —BW

“Little Death”
Director: Jack Begert
Cast: David Schwimmer, Talia Ryder, Dominic Fike

You haven’t heard Jack Begert’s name, but you’ve likely seen his work. He filmed the music video for Olivia Rodrigo’s “get him back!” and did so entirely on an iPhone 15 Pro, which Apple touted in a recent commercial. His debut feature “Little Death” is about two young drug addicts who break into the home of a depressed screenwriter — with inadvertent consequences. It boasts Darren Aronofsky as a producer, and star Talia Ryder, who plays one of the addicts in the film, recently teased it as “another strange, sweet indie film I’m excited about.” —BW

“Love Lies Bleeding”
Rose Glass
Cast: Kristen Stewart, Ed Harris, Jena Malone, Anna Baryshnikov

Shot all the way back in August of 2022, Rose Glass’ much-anticipated follow-up to “Saint Maud” seems to be a relatively safe bet for a Sundance premiere, even if A24 saves the bulk of its new movies for later in the year. An original romantic thriller set in the world of extreme bodybuilding and described as “a romance fueled by ego, desire, and the American Dream,” the brilliantly titled “Love Lies Bleeding” stars a bisexual bodybuilder played by Katy O’Brian whose heart endures a punishing workout after she falls for a gym employee played by a mulleted Kristen Stewart.

Plot details are still under wraps, but O’Brian has promised that “chaos and calamity” will ensue. If Glass’ previous work is anything to go by, such “chaos and calamity” will likely find the film’s characters pushed to the brink of insanity as their rippling bodies give way to their fraying minds. We can’t wait. —DE 

“Love Me”
Directors: Sam & Andy
Cast: Kristen Stewart, Steven Yeun

Since the last time we included “Love Me” on one of our festival wish lists, the sci-fi romance film released a first look image of stars Kristen Stewart and Steven Yeun lounging longingly in bed, but don’t think that means we know anything more about the mysterious project. The logline, should you visit the film’s website, tells us nothing more than it’s about a “buoy [who] falls in love with a satellite.” But wait, Stewart and Yeun’s characters are literally a satellite in space and a buoy in the ocean that communicate and eventually form flesh and blood manifestations. If A.I. can make itself look like Stewart and Yeun, no wonder SAG-AFTRA members are very worried. —BW

“Monkey Man”
Director: Dev Patel
Cast: Dev Patel, Sharlto Copley, Sobhita Dhulipala, Sikandar Kher

A recently released felon (Dev Patel) living in India, unhappy with the world of corporate greed and declining spiritual values, seeks revenge on everyone who took his life away from him. The action thriller marks the directing debut of the commercially viable global star (“Slumdog Millionaire,” “Lion,” “Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”). After filming wrapped on March 12, 2021, Netflix acquired most worldwide rights for some $30 million to “Monkey Man,” which was described as “John Wick in Mumbai.”

Patel wrote the script, which is partly inspired by the Hindu myths of his childhood, with Paul Angunawela and his “Hotel Mumbai” collaborator John Collee. The film features fight choreography by Brahim Chab (Jackie Chan’s “Dragonblade,” Donnie Yen’s “Big Brother,” and Jean-Claude Van Damme’s “The Eagle Path” and “Pound of Flesh”). —AT

“Mothers’ Instinct”
Benoît Delhomme 
Cast: Jessica Chastain, Anne Hathaway, Josh Charles, Anders Danielsen Lie 

Any savvy queer cinephile should get excited about the prospect of a lurid domestic thriller starring Jessica Chastain and Anne Hathaway as 1960s New England housewives whose friendship is tested by jealousy and tragedy. “Mothers’ Instinct,” which Neon CEO Tom Quinn recently told IndieWire should expect to open in Q1 of 2024, is also the directorial debut of French cinematographer Benoît Delhomme, here adapting a juicy 2018 French thriller from Olivier Masset-Depasse. In the original film, one of the housewives’ sons dies a violent death, and the other, a witness, is unable to save him, setting off a catastrophic chain of humiliations and emotional violence. A leaked trailer for the Delhomme-directed version already promised plenty of wicked messiness and madness from Chastain and Hathaway.  

The cast includes Josh Charles, recently seen opposite Chastain in Michel Franco’s Venice winner “Memory,” and “The Worst Person in the World” heartthrob Anders Danielsen Lie. Chastain has been a vocal advocate for the SAG-AFTRA strike, was seen onstage earlier this year in the Tony-nominated “A Doll’s House,” and has made press rounds for “Memory” thanks to a SAG waiver. She’d be a welcome and talkative presence in Park City. —RL 

“The Fallout”

“My Old Ass”
Megan Park
Cast: Maisy Stella, Aubrey Plaza, Maddie Ziegler, Percy Hynes White

Canadian actress and singer Megan Park hasn’t quite gotten the attention she deserves as a filmmaker, even though her outstanding feature directorial debut, the Jenna Ortega-starring school shooting drama “The Fallout,” won both the Grand Jury and Audience Awards at the 2021 SXSW Film Festival, but we’re guessing (hoping?) her sophomore film will ratchet up the accolades.

Margot Robbie’s LuckyChap Entertainment and Indian Paintbrush produce the film, billed as a “modern coming-of-age comedy” that stars Maisy Stella (also a Canadian actress and singer!) as a young woman who is warned by her future self (please, God, let it be co-star Aubrey Plaza) not to fall in love. Easy, right? That’s what Stella’s character thinks, too — until she meets the very dude she warned herself about. It sounds like the precise kind of charming, quirky, and insightful comedy Sundance — and its audiences — adore. —KE

“A Nice Indian Boy”
Director: Roshan Sethi
Cast: Karan Soni, Jonathan Groff, Peter S. Kim

Think “The Wedding Banquet” meets “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” with a Desi twist. Director Roshan Sethi is no stranger to Sundance — he co-wrote “Call Jane,” which premiered at Sundance 2022 — and he could be making another trip up the mountain this January. “A Nice Indian Boy” stars his real-life partner Karan Soni as Naveen, who brings his fiancé Jay (Jonathan Groff) home to meet his sprawling Indian family and ultimately stage a massive wedding.

Sethi brings a personal touch to his work — one of his previous films, the COVID rom-com “7 Days” he co-wrote with Soni — and “A Nice Indian Boy” feels like the kind of character-driven, feel-good movie Sundance often loves. Not to mention audiences. —CB 

“The Nickel Boys”
Director: RaMell Ross
Cast: Aunjanue Ellis, Ethan Herisse, Brandon Wilson

Oscar-nominated documentarian RaMell Ross (“Hale County This Morning, This Evening”), collaborating again with his producer Joslyn Barnes, adapts the follow-up novel to Colson Whitehead’s Pulitzer-Prize winning “Underground Railroad.” Whitehead’s story is about two boys unjustly incarcerated in a notoriously harsh reform school (The Nickel Academy) in ’60s Florida, who try to do the right thing but are often forced to do the opposite in order to survive. Also backing the film are Orion Pictures, Anonymous Content, and Plan B’s “Underground Railroad” producers Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner, who know a potential Best Picture contender when they see it (“12 Years a Slave,” “Moonlight,” “Selma,” “The Big Short,” “Women Talking”). —AT

Marielle Heller
Cast: Amy Adams, Zoe Chao, Kerry O’Malley, Scoot McNairy, Mary Holland

A Sundance regular from way back — not just a filmmaker who has premiered her work at the festival, but an alum of both its directing and writing fellowships — Marielle Heller’s latest, “Nightbitch,” has been in the can and ready to go for a while. The Amy Adams-starring adaptation was initially set for a TIFF berth, before studio Searchlight Pictures opted to skip the festival in the midst of the strikes (and a rumored honor for Adams, which she would have been unable to accept), and is presumably still seeking a festival premiere home. Enter: Sundance!

Heller is aces at mining uncomfortable female experiences for levity and insight see: “The Diary of a Teenage Girl,” “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” and “Nightbitch,” based on Rachel Yoder’s novel of the same name, fits that concept to inventive new ends. It follows Adams as a stay-at-home mother who starts to, on occasion, transform into a dog. We’ll sit for that one. —KE

Director: Stephen Chbosky
Cast: Vince Vaughn, Susan Sarandon, Brenda Vacarro, Lorraine Bracco, Joe Manganello, Linda Cardellini, Drea de Matteo, Talia Shire, Campbell Scott

From the auteur behind such heart-tuggers as “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” “Rent,” and “The Wonder,” this comedy is written by Stephen Chbosky’s wife Liz Maccie (“TV series “Siren”), and follows the true story of Staten Island resident Joe Scaravella (Vince Vaughn), who dumps his dead-end job in order to launch a restaurant (Enoteca Maria). His chefs are all grandmothers. The movie was shot in the spring of 2023 on location in New Jersey. —AT

“One of Us”
Director: Stefan van de Graaff
Cast: Kit Connor, Sienna Guillory

“One of Us” is an allegorical horror film about a family who mysteriously begin dying one by one while at a funeral, leading one of the family members to try and discover the stranger among them who might be causing the carnage. Kit Connor, best known for the buzzy teen Netflix series “Heartstopper,” leads the cast. Stefan van de Graaff, known for his 2020 feature “Simmer” and as a commercial director, both wrote and directed the feature. The movie shot in Belfast back in the spring and is a sales title. —BW

“The Order” 
Director: Justin Kurzel
Cast: Jude Law, Nicholas Hoult, Alison Oliver, Jurnee Smollett, Marc Maron, Odessa Young

AGC Studios financed and produced “The Order,” an adaptation of Kevin Flynn and Gary Gerhardt’s 1989 book “The Silent Brotherhood,” about the radical right group The Order. Jude Law stars as an FBI agent who begins to realize that a string of violent robberies may be linked to the sinister group led by Hoult. Filmmaker Justin Kurzel dazzled audiences with his previous “Nitram,” so obviously he knows his way around a violent true story. —MP

“The Outrun”
Director: Nora Fingscheidt
Cast: Saoirse Ronan 

Brock Media’s Sarah Brocklehurst optioned and developed Amy Liptrop’s memoir, producing alongside Ronan, Jack Lowden, and Dominic Norris under new banner Arcade Pictures. Joining them are co-producers Jonas and Jakob D. Weydemann (Weydemann Bros) and Shirin Hartmann. Executive producers include Protagonist Pictures with Luane Gauer, George Hamilton, James Pugh and Janina Vilsmaier alongside Claudia Yusef for BBC Film, Kieran Hannigan for Screen Scotland, and Maria Logan and Anne Sheehan for MBK.

Ronan stars in the film as a recently recovering alcoholic who returns to Scotland’s Orkney Islands, where she must finally confront her troubled past. Filmmaker Nora Fingscheidt made a splash with the 2021 Netflix hit “The Unforgivable,” starring Sandra Bullock, and this follow-up seems highly promising. —MP

Director: Nelicia Low
Cast: Ding Ning, Tsao Yu-Ning, Liu Hsiu-Fu

Nelicia Low is a former national fencer turned filmmaker whose short film “Freeze” premiered at the Clermont-Ferrand Film Festival. Her debut feature, “Pierce,” also follows a high school fencer whose relationship with his dangerous older brother is tested after the brother has been released from prison. Low has been kicking around the project since 2015, and it’s said to be inspired by growing up with an autistic older brother. She says the film’s thorny, backstabbing family dynamics “mirrors the intensity” of a fencing match. —BW

Zoe Kravitz
Zoe KravitzGetty Images for Tiffany & Co.

“Pussy Island”
Zoë Kravitz 
Cast: Naomie Ackie, Channing Tatum, Simon Rex, Alia Shawkat 

Rumors swirling around Zoë Kravitz and Channing Tatum’s alleged engagement would bring plenty of press attention — wanted or not — to Sundance should it premiere Kravitz’s directorial debut, “Pussy Island.” Kravitz co-wrote the genre thriller with E.T. Feigenbaum and has been tinkering away at it since as early as 2017, revealing exhaustive rewrites amid the public outing of Harvey Weinstein’s sex crimes. That’s because the film itself, along with its stars including Tatum, has ripped-from-the-headlines appeal: Naomi Ackie plays a Los Angeles cocktail server who maneuvers her way into the inner circle of tech mogul and quote-unquote philanthropist Slater King (Tatum), only to uncover a disturbing reality on his private island, host to late-night dance parties, freely flowing champagne, and something awful.  

Actors making indie directing debuts tend to score at Sundance, from Jordan Peele with “Get Out” to Rebecca Hall with “Passing.” Kravitz sets out to shatter Tatum’s pretty-boy-next-door typecasting in writing him as a villain in “Pussy Island,” which also features Simon Rex, Alia Shawkat, Christian Slater, Geena Davis, and Kyle MacLachlan. It’s backed by Amazon MGM Studios, who could also bring the star-packed “Challengers” to Park City. —RL 

“Rebel Ridge”
Jeremy Saulnier
Cast: Aaron Pierre, Don Johnson, James Badge Dale

Jeremy Saulnier has been pretty quiet since “Hold the Dark” slipped onto Netflix in 2018 (his only recent credits are two episodes of “True Detective”), but the “Blue Ruin” director is about to come back with his biggest film so far: a high-velocity thriller about an ex-marine played by “Foe” star Aaron Pierre who seeks revenge on a bunch of crooked cops. At this point, more is known — or at least discussed — about the film’s COVID-related delays and controversial recasting of John Boyega than about “Rebel Ridge” itself, but Saulnier is a singularly muscular filmmaker who wields brute-force tension like nobody else in the business, and that’s reason enough to be excited for his return.

Saulnier wrapped the project in July 2022, so completing it in time for January 2024 won’t be an issue, but a $41 million Netflix action film might make a lot more sense at SXSW than it would at Sundance (this is a wish list, after all). Then again, with Sundance under new leadership this year, there’s no telling whether the fest might want to throw a few massive curveballs at an industry that thinks it knows exactly what to expect. —DE

Director: Michael Angarano
Cast: Michael Angarano, Michael Cera, Maya Erskine, Kristen Stewart, AJ Mendez, Iman Karram, Rosalind Chao

Actor Michael Angarano, known for everything from his Emmy-nominated guest starring role on “This Is Us” to his turn in beloved kids actioner “Sky High,” is making his directorial debut with “Sacramento,” based on a script he co-wrote with Chris Smith. Angarano stars in the film as the free-spirited Rickey, who convinces his far more domesticated best friend (Michael Cera) to go on an impromptu road trip from Los Angeles to Sacramento, a journey that sparks questions about their past and future.

The road trip film is rich with supporting roles, with Kristen Stewart (who starred with Angarano in the 2004 film “Speak”) and Maya Erskine (“PEN15”) playing the two friends’ wives, and AJ Mendez and Iman Karram as best friends and ex-professional fighters who help teach the two about their own relationship. Originally slated to start shooting in early 2021, production didn’t wrap until this June, and it could theoretically be ready to premiere in January. —CO

“Sleeping Dogs”
Director: Adam Cooper
Cast: Russell Crowe, Marton Csokas, Karen Gillan, Tommy Flanagan

“Assassin’s Creed” screenwriter Adam Cooper’s directorial debut (about a former cop battling Alzheimer’s who reopens a cold case when new information comes to light) is produced by Nickel City Pictures, alongside Cooper, Collage and New Leaf Literary’s Pouya Shabazian. Matthew Goldberg, Cliff Roberts, Highland Film Group CEO Arianne Fraser and COO Delphine Perrier, and Ford Corbett executive produce. The film is an adaptation by Cooper and Bill Collage (“Emancipation”) of E.O. Chirovici’s critically acclaimed novel “The Book of Mirrors” and filmed in Australia. Russell Crowe stars as the cop, with Karen  Gillan the woman who sheds new light on the old case. —MP

“On Swift Horses” 
Director: Daniel Minahan
Cast: Daisy Edgar-Jones, Jacob Elordi, Will Poulter, Diego Calva, Sasha Calle

Ley Line Entertainment and FirstGen Content co-produce Bryce Kass’ adaptation of Shannon Pufahl’s novel about ’50s newlyweds whose happily-ever-after gets interrupted by secrets and racehorses. Peter Spears and FirstGen’s Mollye Asher (“Nomadland”) produce, alongside Ley Line’s Tim Headington and Theresa Steele Page and FirstGen Conent’s Michael D’Alto. Filmmaker Daniel Minahan was at Sundance with “Series 7: The Contenders.” With Jacob Elordi’s turns in “Priscilla” and “Saltburn” burning up the screen, his next project looks equally promising; Diego Calva has promised the two share some hot scenes together. —MP

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 26: Diego Calva attends the 29th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at Fairmont Century Plaza on February 26, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Emma McIntyre/FilmMagic)
Diego Calva (Photo by Emma McIntyre/FilmMagic)FilmMagic

Director: Josh Margolin
Cast: June Squibb, Fred Hechinger, Richard Roundtree, Parker Posey, Clark Gregg, Malcolm McDowell

The first movie produced by Zoë Worth and producing partner Chris Kaye, the two began developing it after writer-director Josh Margolin included an early draft in their writer’s group Rock & Roll Universe. Invention Studios’ Nicholas Weinstock and Benjamin Simpson produce alongside Worth and Kaye, as well as Viviana Vezzani and Karl Spoerri of Zurich Avenue (which provided full financing.) Zurich Avenue’s Tobias Gutzwiller executive produces with June Squibb and Fred Hechinger, Kat Barnette (“The Listener”) co-produces. CAA Media Finance handled the film’s financing and reps distribution rights. Part of the film’s budget went to the Motion Picture & Television Fund after several scenes were shot at the residential living campus. In the film, Squibb (in her first lead role) plays an elderly woman who embarks on a dangerous quest to reclaim what a phone scammer took from her. —MP

Director: Alice Lowe
Cast: Jacob Anderson, Aneurin Barnard, Tanya Reynolds, Nick Frost, Alice Lowe

Alice Lowe’s second feature is being billed as a “karmic journey” sci-fi rom-com, promising laughs and violence, and comes with a fantastic premise: a hapless heroine Agnes (Lowe) is reincarnated every time she falls in love with the wrong man. The real reason, however, for our excitement was Lowe’s pitch-black horror satire “Prevenge,” in which the director also starred, this time as a pregnant woman on a killing spree.

Back in 2017, IndieWire’s David Ehrlich celebrated Lowe’s forthright comic wit, raving in his review that “‘Prevenge’ feels like a hilarious distillation of every conflicted, politically incorrect thought that many pregnant women are too polite to share in public.” —CO

“Turn Me On”
Director: Michael Tyburski 
Cast: Bel Powley, Nick Robinson, Justin H. Min, D’Arcy Carden, Nesta Cooper, Griffin Newman

If Michael Tyburski’s “Turn Me On” is accepted into Sundance, it will mark the director’s return to the festival after his debut “The Sound of Silence” premiered in the U.S. Dramatic competition in 2019. Bel Powley and Nick Robinson star in what’s described as a dystopian romance. Human emotions have been erased thanks to a vitamin mandated by the government, but when a couple skip their daily dose, they discover the joys of love and sex, but also emotional baggage. UTA and CAA Media Finance co-rep North America for distribution rights, while Film Constellation is handling international sales; the film wrapped production back in May. —BW

“Unfrosted: The Pop Tart Story”
Director: Jerry Seinfeld
Cast: Jerry Seinfeld, Melissa McCarthy, Jim Gaffigan, Hugh Grant, Christian Slater, Peter Dinklage, Jon Hamm, John Slattery, James Marsden

Thanks to his 2017 deal on “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee,” Seinfeld has enjoyed a long and lucrative relationship with Netflix, which is backing his first movie as a director (he co-produced, co-wrote and voiced “Bee Movie”). Based on a joke from his stand-up act and co-written with Spike Feresten, Barry Marder, and Andy Robin, “Unfrosted” falls in the recent popular origin brand myth genre of “Blackberry,” “Air,” and “Tetris,” as the story of how in 1963 Post and Kelloggs raced to be the first to invent the breakfast pastry. The film has been finished for a while and has no Netflix release date, so it would have to be critic-proof to risk negative reaction at a tony festival like Sundance. —AT

Untitled Zellner Brothers Sasquatch Movie
David Zellner, Nathan Zellner
Cast: Jesse Eisenberg

This Sundance will be six years since the Zellner brothers last brought a movie to Park City; that was their Western black comedy “Damsel.” But if they return this January, it will likely be with a film with origins far deeper back in their history with the festival: in 2010, they were nominated for the Sundance Short Filmmaking Award for their four-minute “Sasquatch Birth Journal 2.” The brothers then described themselves as “Sasquatch fanatics since they were children,” referring to the furry, vaguely human-like beast sometimes also known as Bigfoot.

For this long-gestating and still-mysterious feature-length exploration of the same obsession, the brothers cast Jesse Eisenberg as…a Sasquatch. At least that’s what Eisenberg indicated in 2022 when he said of the brothers, “They’re just these brilliant directors that I’ve wanted to work with for a long time, and I’m playing a Sasquatch.” He added, “In full makeup. In full body hair. No lines — I grunt, but no lines — and I’m so looking forward to this.” Us, too. —CB 

Susanna Fogel
Cast: Emilia Jones, Kathryn Newton, Connie Britton, Zach Galifianakis, Danny Ramirez

“The Spy Who Dumped Me” and “Life Partners” director Susanna Fogel was just at Sundance this year with her “Cat Person,” but word is, she’s already got another film in the can: “Winner,” a new take on the already oft-dramatized tale of whistleblower Reality Winner. The film reunites Fogel with her “Cat Person” star (and “CODA” breakout) Emilia Jones, who stars as the Air Force veteran and one-time NSA contractor whose decision to leak a U.S. intelligence report to online outlet The Intercept forever changed her life and landed her a staggering prison sentence.

Winner’s life and deeds have already been the stuff of many screen adaptations, including Tina Satter’s recent Sydney Sweeney-starring “Reality,” which means Fogel will have to put a different kind of spin on the story. Fogel is adept at finding comedy in the silly and the mundane, and Winner’s story, while harsh in places, reeks of absurdity. Here’s hoping Fogel pulls on that thread. —KE

David Michôd 
Cast: Pete Davidson, Franz Rogowski, Naomi Scott, Sean Harris, Orlando Bloom 

Australian filmmaker David Michôd made a splash with the 2010 true-crime family drama “Animal Kingdom” but has since struggled to connect with audiences and critics on Netflix releases like “War Machine” and “The King.” His long-gestating “Wizards!,” which has the gold-lacquered backing of the likes of A24 and Plan B, has been chilling in the post-production freezer since late 2022.

This crime comedy stars the unlikely but intriguing duo of Pete Davidson and Franz Rogowski (who won the year of chaotic onscreen bisexuals thanks to his tormented romantic turn in Ira Sachs’ “Passages”) as stoner beach-bar operators who happen upon a bag of stolen money that opens a Pandora’s Box of craziness. Test screenings for the low-budget caper co-starring Naomi Scott, Orlando Bloom, and Sean Harris have reportedly been positive, and it sounds like the kind of A24 joint that could benefit from a plum Park City launch ahead of a spring theatrical premiere. —RL 

“Brigsby Bear”

Kyle Mooney
Cast: Jaeden Martell, Julian Dennison, Rachel Zegler  

We all remember what we thought was to happen when 1999 turned to the year 2000 — like, you know, the shutdown of the world computer and the collapse of civilization — and now we get the chance to relive it with an A24-backed indie film and a newbie director. The latest “Saturday Night Live” alum to leave behind Studio 8H for the big screen is Kyle Mooney, who said goodbye to “SNL” in 2022 along with legacy favorites like Kate McKinnon and Pete Davidson (in 2017, Mooney co-wrote and starred in the Sundance charmer “Brigsby Bear”).

This year, Mooney shot the throwback turn-of-the-millennium comedy “Y2K” for A24, an Evan Winter-penned movie that sounds tailor-made for a Park City premiere: Two high-school outcasts (played by “It” breakout Jaeden Martell and “Hunt for the Wilderpeople” star Julian Dennison) decide to crash the year’s biggest New Year’s party, where insanity erupts when the clock strikes midnight. The stacked cast also includes Rachel Zegler, Alicia Silverstone, Tim Heidecker, Mason Gooding, Fred Hechinger, and Daniel Zolghadri, breakout of the underrated A24 comedy “Funny Pages” from last year. —RL 

“Year One”
Lauren Loesberg
Cast: Elizabeth Yu, Emma Raimi

Lauren Loesberg is just a little more than three years out of graduating from Northwestern University, where she was a major in the Evanston, Illinois school’s prestigious Radio/TV/Film department, but she’s already got a finished feature film in the works that’s ready for Sundance. That’s a uniquely accelerated timeline — especially for a university program better known for producing writers than directors — but makes sense given her talent, work ethic, and also her savvy when it comes to awards and festivals.

One of her short films as a student filmmaker was a semi-finalist for the Student Academy Awards in 2020. The writer-director’s debut feature, “Year One,” has roots in her background: Filmed at Northwestern, the drama stars Elizabeth Yu and Emma Raimi and is about a young woman experiencing a downward spiral during her freshman year at college, sparked by the arrival of a glamorous alter ego. —CB 

Leave a comment