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10 Sundance Film Festival Movies We Can’t Wait For

Get the scoop on 10 fantastic docs and dramas our critic loved

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All eyes were on Michael J. Fox, 61, on opening night of the 2023 Sundance Film Festival (Jan. 19-29), the mecca of indie movies soon to hit your home screen or art-house cinema. The Parkinson’s patient/activist and Back to the Future star walked on the stage to a standing ovation, fielding questions about the achingly funny and tender documentary Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie, directed by Davis Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth), a star auteur in his own right. Besides being an iconic actor, Fox is an important force for bettering America’s health (and his own): His foundation has raised $1.5 billion for Parkinson’s research. 

Fox’s sure-to-be-a-hit documentary is one of a bumper crop of 2023 Sundance documentaries featuring star turns by beloved celebs over 50: Brooke Shields, Willie Nelson, poet Nikki Giovanni, young-adult-lit groundbreaker Judy Blume and modeling maverick Bethann Hardison. Once-famous feminist sexologist Shere Hite, who died in 2020 at 77, gets her belated due in the doc The Disappearance of Shere Hite, and I Am Everything shows how pioneering rocker Little Richard influenced just about everyone before his death in 2020 at age 87. 

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​Documentaries are often the standouts at film fests, but Sundance offered strong narrative features too: Julia Louis-Dreyfus does witty wonders as a devastated wife and writer in the comedy You Hurt My Feelings, and in Bad Behaviour, Jennifer Connelly gives a hell of a performance as a former child star who attends a not-so-silent retreat to better understand her place as mother and daughter.

​Sundance is the marketplace where studios and streamers buy many of the prestige pictures you’ll see on-screen this year and in next year’s awards races. Four out of five 2023 Oscar-nominated feature documentaries came from Sundance, and the 2024 nominees may include this year’s Sundance U.S. Grand Jury Prize-winning entry Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project and World Grand Jury Prize-winning doc The Eternal Memory, by Maite Alberdi, whose film The Mole Agent, about an elder-abuse investigation, was a 2021 Oscar nominee.

The Eternal Memory is about a famous TV journalist with Alzheimer’s who created an “archive of memory” to document Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet’s crimes, then strove to build his own personal memory archive to preserve his inspiring bond with his wife of 25 years and leave his children with an enduring record of their lives. MTV Documentary Films snapped it up, with high hopes for the 2024 Oscars.

Here are 10 new Sundance Film Festival standouts with grownup star power to keep an eye out for as they head to theaters and streaming platforms near you. 

spinner image Michael J. Fox in the documentary Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie
Courtesy of Sundance Institute

Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie

Brilliantly edited, the documentary mixes footage of Fox’s movie and TV hits with audio excerpts from his best-selling memoirs. It cuts from the actor working with his physical therapist to him sitting down in a nicely lit room full of Emmys, cracking wise and smirking like Family Ties’ Alex P. Keaton. But it’s not all smiles: He describes his long struggle with alcohol and pills after his Parkinson’s diagnosis at age 29, and his 30 years without taking a drink. This may be his most important film, premiering this year on Apple TV+.

spinner image Julia Louis-Dreyfus in the film You Hurt My Feelings
Jeong Park/Courtesy of Sundance Institute

You Hurt My Feelings

Veep and Seinfeld star Julia Louis-Dreyfus, 62, was already on a roll in Netflix’s 2022 race-teasing comedy You People. She reunited with Nicole Holofcener (her Enough Said writer-director) for a comedy that is spot-on about the untrustworthiness of the most doting of family members. After writing a successful memoir, Beth (Louis-Dreyfus) is having trouble finding a home for her first novel. When she overhears her husband saying he doesn’t like the book, having praised it repeatedly, she’s devastated — and unforgiving. The director and her star capture the truth of relationships, the lies told by well-intentioned loved ones and the absurd ways we can double down on bruised feelings. It will be released this year by A24, the studio that leads this year’s Oscar contest with 18 nominations, including best picture contender Everything Everywhere All at Once.

spinner image Willie Nelson in the documentary Wille Nelson and Family
Timothy D. Easley/Courtesy of Sundance Institute

Willie Nelson & Family

A living legend nearly as beloved as Dolly Parton, Nelson, 89, gave the OK for this authorized, five-part documentary by the supremely able Emmy winner Thom Zimny (Springsteen on Broadway) and Oscar nominee Oren Moverman (The Messenger). They’re on the road — and in the archives — again and again with Nelson, but like the perdurable singer-songwriter himself, the journey never gets tired.



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spinner image Amy Ray and Emily Saliers of The Indigo Girls in the documentary It's Only Life After All
Jeremy Cowart/Courtesy of Sundance Institute

It’s Only Life After All

Alexandria Bombach directs an insightful documentary about Amy Ray and Emily Saliers, a.k.a. folk duo Indigo Girls, whose avid fans took them to album chart heights when music industry sorts were initially skeptical, to say the least. Hits including “Closer to Fine” proved the skeptics wrong. Few music docs are closer to fine.  

spinner image A group of women surround Bethann Hardison in the documentary Invisible Beauty
Oliviero Toscani/Courtesy of Sundance Institute

Invisible Beauty

Bethann Hardison, 80, might not be a household name, but she is a fashion world icon. (Yes, she’s also the mother of groundbreaking sitcom star Kadeem Hardison of A Different World.) A model who walked the runway in the famous 1973 couture gathering the Battle of Versailles fashion show, she opened her own modeling agency in 1984. She challenged how the fashion industry — designers and stylists, magazine editors and photographers — looked at Black women and employed models of color. Hardison codirected this memoir-pic with Frédéric Tcheng, but it never smacks of self-aggrandizing. Like Hardison’s storied career, the documentary celebrates and raises others for the sake of the culture.

spinner image Dustin Nguyen and Hiep Tran Nghia in the film The Accidental Getaway Driver
Ron Batzdorff/Courtesy of Sundance Institute

The Accidental Getaway Driver

What a face actor Hiệp Trần Nghĩa has! Peering out from behind big-frame eyeglasses, he registers confusion and fear but also hints at quiet calculation after being abducted by a trio of escaped convicts. The 81-year-old actor joins the ranks of unexpected stars for whom Sundance is a launching pad for improbable fame — such as 2021’s Oscar-winning Minari grandmother, Youn Yuh-jung.

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spinner image A scene from the documentary Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project
Courtesy of Sundance Institute

Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project

Directors Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson have made a documentary fit for a poet, one who yearns to travel in space but spent a career digging at the roots of the Black American experience. The movie follows Giovanni, 79, as she goes from event to event and putters around the Virginia home she shares with longtime partner Virginia Fowler. Clips of her conversations with James Baldwin are more than worth the price of the ticket, and the film’s producer Taraji P. Henson (Empire) voices her verse. The movie’s title is a wink to Giovanni’s poem “Quilting the Black-Eyed Pea (We’re Going to Mars),” which NASA used as a theme song at the celebration naming its headquarters after its first Black female engineer, Mary W. Jackson (immortalized in the hit biopic Hidden Figures, which costarred Henson).

spinner image Little Richard in the documentary Little Richard: I Am Everything
Courtesy of Sundance Institute

Little Richard: I Am Everything

Filmmaker Lisa Cortés explores what Little Richard meant to rock ’n’ roll and beyond in a documentary that teases the cosmic and earthly meaning of the singer-songwriter from Macon, Georgia. I Am Everything foregrounds Richard’s queer identity even as it ponders his upbringing in the church. His “Good Golly, Miss Molly” and “Tutti Frutti” influenced Prince, Davie Bowie, Paul McCartney and Mick Jagger, to name but a few. The clips of Pat Boone singing Richard’s sexy songs are funny — and appalling. It’s in theaters in April and on CNN later this year.

spinner image Judy Blume in the documentary Judy Blume Forever
Courtesy of Sundance Institute

Judy Blume Forever

Masturbation. Menstruation. First times. Author Judy Blume, 84, boldly breached boundaries in the 1970s with her books that spoke to a generation of tween and teen readers. The film adaptation of her best-known work, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, arrives in theaters in late April, but before you go, watch this instructive and charming portrait of the artist as a young feminist. She’s utterly personable in this engaging film, which features interviews with a fine array of fans, from letter writers to grateful fellow creatives Lena Dunham, Jacqueline Woodson and Samantha Bee. You can see it April 21 on Amazon’s Prime Video.

spinner image Brooke Shields in the documentary Pretty Baby: Brooke Shields
Getty Images/Courtesy of Sundance Institute

Pretty Baby: Brooke Shields

Starting when she was a child model, Shields, 57, has lived much of her professional life in the glare of celebrity. Lana Wilson’s two-part documentary, with an assist from Shields, delves into a career that was sexualized early (she was 12 when she played a child prostitute in Louis Malle’s Pretty Baby) and often — and without any true notion of agency or informed consent. It will be released this year on Hulu.

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