Sundance 2015: Our 10 Most Anticipated Films We Can't Wait to See

January 21, 2015

Sundance 2015

Nothing like seeing movies in the mountains. Kicking off this week in snowy Park City, Utah is the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, where both Ethan and I are headed for 10 days to see fresh new indie films non-stop. To help get everyone up to speed on some of the films we're interested in, here are 10 Sundance 2015 films that we're excited for, a small look at some of the films we're keeping an eye on and will be seeing at any earliest opportunity. Alex has chosen five he's interested in, and Ethan has also chosen another five he's ready to enjoy from the diverse and hopefully impressive 123-film line-up this year. Whether it's horror or drama or comedy or a documentary or something else entirely, we seek great movies to fall in love with.

This is my (Alex's) ninth year returning to Sundance, and Ethan's fifth year back. We're both very happy to be attending Sundance as press again, and can't wait to dive into the films more than anything, as there's so many on both of our lists to see. For now, here's our final list of our Top 10 most anticipated pre-Sundance.

Alex's Top 5 Sundance 2015 Pre-Fest Picks:

The Stanford Prison Experiment
The Stanford Prison Experiment
Directed by Kyle Patrick Alvarez

I'm already a big fan of this director because of his other film, C.O.G., which premiered at Sundance a few years back (my review) and I'm excited to see how his next film turns out. But this also just sounds like it could be crazy good, since it deals with the infamous "Stanford Prison Experiment". A "classic study on the psychology of imprisonment", the experiment involves dividing a group of people into prisoners and guards, and letting their emotions play out once they're in their respective positions. In the original experiment at Stanford in 1971 (which this movie will hopefully be about), two of the prisoners quit early, and the entire experiment was abruptly stopped after only six days. Ohhh I can't wait to see this turned into a movie.

Dope starring Shameik Moore
Directed by Rick Famuyiwa

This is going to be dope. The festival description for this film says it involves a Los Angeles high schooler who gets a "chance invitation to an underground party [that] leads him into an adventure that could allow him to go from being a geek, to being dope, to ultimately being himself." I was sold on that line alone, and I'm admittedly a sucker for coming-of-age films at Sundance (so many of my favorites have been coming-of-age flicks, even 500 Days of Summer). This is a film I'm counting on being one of the best discoveries of the festival, and it's already on my radar. Here's to hoping it turns out as memorable as it sounds on paper.

People, Places, Things starring Jemaine Clement
People, Places, Things
Directed by James C. Strouse

The quintessential Sundance film: the new work from a Sundance veteran, director Jim Strouse who made Grace Is Gone a few years ago; the plot involves a "newly single graphic novelist balancing parenting his young twin daughters" with modern love; the cast is lead by Jemaine Clement; and above all else it's a comedy. So as cliche as the description sounds as a modern drama, the good news is that this may be as funny as it is heartfelt. Something about this film just feels right, from the title to the casting to the photos revealed so far, and I'm looking forward to finding out if it's a step forward (or backwards) for Strouse.

Ponsoldt returns with The End of the Tour
The End of the Tour
Directed by James Ponsoldt

He's back! James Ponsoldt has recently become one of my favorite Sundance directors; between Smashed and The Spectacular Now, he has won me over completely. Even though he's attached to the Hilary Rodham Clinton project, Ponsoldt went off and made this in the meantime and it sounds quite interesting. End of the Tour stars Jason Segel as author David Foster Wallace and tells the story of his "tenuous yet significant relationship" with a reporter, played by Jesse Eisenberg, during the final leg of a promotional tour for his book Infinite Jest. Something must've happened at the end of the tour, and I'm curious to find out what.

Midnight documentary The Nightmare
The Nightmare
Directed by Rodney Ascher

This is the next feature from the director of Sundance cult hit Room 237, the doc about the conspiracies in Stanley Kubrick's The Shining, though this time he explores an entirely different topic - the phenomenon of sleep paralysis. The film, called The Nightmare, is described as a "documentary-horror" and while not that much is known about it yet, the creepy photos released so far (like the one seen above) have been more than enough to convince me this is going to be scary as f**k. I don't know what we're getting into, but I have a good feeling this is going to be a film as unique and odd and twisted as Room 237. I already have a ticket for the midnight premiere, and I'm already full well expecting to not get any sleep the rest of that night.

More (hopefully) good picks: Advantageous, Diary of a Teenage Girl, Z for Zachariah, Experimenter, Ten Thousand Saints, True Story, The Hunting Ground, Cop Car, Knock Knock, Results, James White.

For all of Alex's Sundance 2015 updates:

Ethan's Top 5 Sundance 2015 Pre-Fest Picks:

Misery Loves Comedy Documentary
Misery Loves Comedy
Directed by Kevin Pollak

I have an obsession with comedy. It's as simple as that. From stand-up comedy to big screen laughs to hilarity on the flickering box. Therefore, I am stoked to see this documentary Misery Loves Comedy from stand-up comic and acclaimed character actor Kevin Pollak, who dives into comedy, and the misery that usually comes with it. If you talk to comedians, you often find that it's tragedy, adversity and pain that inspires their comedy, and with a bunch of talents like Tom Hanks, Judd Apatow, Jimmy Fallon, Jim Gaffigan and more, this documentary is right up my alley.

Sleeping with Other People starring Alison Brie & Jason Sudeikis
Sleeping with Other People
Directed by Leslye Headland

Though it became an indie comedy hit, I wasn't the biggest fan of Bachelorette (also directed by Headland, played Sundance 2012). But that doesn't get me any less interested in filmmaker Leslye Headland's latest relationship comedy. It's the cast that is mostly drawing me in with Jason Sudeikis, Alison Brie, Adam Scott, Amanda Peet, Jason Mantzoukas and more starring in the film about infidelity and love. These kind of comedies are usually hit or miss on the festival circuit, and I'm hoping for the former.

Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon
Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon
Directed by Douglas Tirola

Though there are plenty of great documentaries (lots of them playing at Sundance), it takes a lot for me to get super excited about them, especially with so many films available at Sundance. But much like Misery Loves Comedy, this one hits a sweet spot for my interest in comedy. This documentary from Douglas Tirola looks at the founding of National Lampoon, the first national adult comedy magazine where huge talents like John Belushi, Bill Murray and more got their start. This sounds like a fascinating look back at comedy history. You can read every copy of National Lampoon on here.

The D-Train starring Jack Black
The D-Train
Directed by Andrew Mogel & Jarrad Paul

Though the big screen work of Jack Black has been lackluster over the past decade, whenever he partakes in lower profile movies (like Richard Linklater's Bernie), it's usually worth checking out. That's why I'm hoping for some greatness from this flick, which marks the directorial debut of Yes Man screenwriters Jarrad Paul & Andrew Mogel, about a wild high school reunion. Plus, this movie also features a comedic performance from James Marsden, which is always a treat. Throw in character actors Kathryn Hahn and Jeffrey Tambor and this might be one reunion to remember.

Don Verdean from Jared Hess
Don Verdean
Directed by Jared Hess

Director Jared Hess and his wife Jerusha Hess have made a splash at this festival before with Napoleon Dynamite (played Sundance 2004), and now they're coming back with yet another comedy, this time with Sam Rockwell and their Gentlemen Broncos star Jemaine Clement (also in People, Places, Things) for the story of Biblical archaeologist Don Verdean, who is hired by a local church pastor to find faith-promoting relics in the Holy Land, but ends up having to fake it all. Comedian cohorts Danny McBride and Will Forte are in this one too, and I hope these two filmmakers still have some fun comedy to deliver.

For all of Ethan's Sundance 2015 updates:

For more Sundance 2015 previews around the web, highlighting more early picks and potential breakouts, check out: The Film Stage's 25 Most-Anticipated Films, Uproxx's 7 Sundance Movies To Be Excited About, and The 13 Films Indiewire Can't Wait to See (plus the full guide on You never know what might be good, or bad, and it's important to have a pulse on the buzz – even before the fest starts. There's plenty of interesting and potentially outstanding films on the 2015 line-up, so let's get this thing underway.

You can follow our Sundance 2015 coverage and updates in this category. The festival kicks off January 22nd and runs until Feb 1st, with films premiering for 10 days. We're ready to be back for yet another year!

Find more posts: Editorial, Indies, Lists, Sundance 15



I suffer from sleep paralysis and while I dont necessarily see things as terrifying as that picture I do experience seemingly paranormal shit. So you can count me right the fuck out on that one.

Jon Odishaw on Jan 21, 2015


I have sleep paralysis every now and again. Sometimes I've had horrifying visions, other times I just pull myself out of it by mustering a "ha!" type of laugh. I think the doc looks interesting, wouldn't mind checking it out. Hopefully it brings light to the subject for me, as everything about it online seems to point to either science or paranormal mumbo jumbo. Personally, I believe it's just when your mind is awake, but body is asleep... I've been able to have really fun lucid dreams if I push that feeling of dread/fear away and just enjoy the journey. Also, the visions, while horrifying, have been very eye opening for me and my subconscious, and in the end, have helped me become a stronger character.

tree on Jan 21, 2015


Well it most certainly is due to the transition between wakefulness and sleep but I must say I applaud your ability to just go with it, even though I know what it is I ALWAYS try to fight it.

Jon Odishaw on Jan 21, 2015


Yea that sounds like it could be sleep paralysis. The good thing about it is youre fine after you wake up. it feels like it was a dream once youre awake just like other dreams. But its worse than any nightmare ive ever had.

Jon Odishaw on Jan 22, 2015


This documentary sounds extremely interesting, and it sounds like it's more common than I've thought. There's been times where it's been a frightening experience for me when I don't realize what's going on. There's been a few times when I'm screaming as loud as I can to wake up and I know my wife is laying next to me, but can't hear me. That trapped, fading feeling of almost seeing yourself lie there and struggle is the closest thing I can imagine dying being like.

emceegreg on Jan 23, 2015


I only experience it when I'm sleeping on my back (so I don't anymore) and I have never heard or seen anything while paralyzed. It helps to calm yourself down and just wait for your body to wake up.

C.A. Hall on Jan 21, 2015


Hey, Alex, I don't want to "Well, actually..." you but Alvarez's first film was a little indie drama called Easier with Practice that seems like proto-Her. Here's a link in case you're interested

Hudsucker on Jan 21, 2015


No no, but all rights correct me on this one! I didn't know, definitely curious to check this film out. Thanks for the note (and will make a correction).

Alex Billington on Jan 22, 2015

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