The buzziest movies from Sundance 2024 prove original stories are still hitting the big screen

Headshot of Wenlei Ma
Wenlei Ma
The Nightly
Saoirse Ronan in The Outrun.
Saoirse Ronan in The Outrun. Credit: Supplied

For almost four decades, the Sundance Film Festival has become a tastemaker of what’s to come for the year when it comes to interesting filmmaking. It’s true, Hollywood does still make movies that aren’t sequels or franchise entries.

As the first significant film festival of the year, and one which features predominantly indie movies, the Robert Redford-founded event has debuted a raft of now iconic cultural onscreen moments.

In its early years, the festival was the first stop for the likes of Reservoir Dogs, Sex, Lies and Videotape and Clerks and has gone on to be the debuts for films including Call Me By Your Name, Boyhood, Blue Valentine, Manchester by the Sea, Promising Young Woman and Get Out.

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In 2023, Sundance was where Past Lives, Theatre Camp and Fair Play premiered.

The festival just wrapped up in Park City, Utah, and these are the movies that already has everyone buzzing - and could very well be the ones you’ll be rushing to see later this year.


Directed by brothers Nathan and David Zellner (Damsel, Kumiko the Treasure Hunter), Sasquatch stars Riley Keough and Jesse Eisenberg but you’d never even know it because they’re in full creature-feature costume and make-up, and they have no lines of dialogue. In fact, no one does.

The film follows a family of sasquatches – as in the legendary monsters sometimes “spotted” as Big Foot – as they go about their lives in the forests of America’s Pacific Northwest. It follows them across a dramatic year and despite the lack of dialogue, all other forms of communication are on. Apparently, there’s a lot of grunting, groaning and bodily excretions. Wild.


Will Ferrell and Harper Steele traverse America on a two-week road trip.
Will Ferrell and Harper Steele traverse America on a two-week road trip. Credit: Supplied

This documentary follows Will Ferrell and his long-time friend and collaborator Harper Steele as they journey through America on a two-week roadtrip. Steele was a head writer at Saturday Night Live and has written Ferrell projects including Eurovision Song Contest and Casa de mi Padre.

The emotions are set on high in what has been described as a tender story about friendship and the divisions within America as the two stop at parts of a country that is openly hostile to Harper’s story – that of a person transitioning into a woman.


Kristen Stewart is a textbook case of how to expand your creative horizons after what could’ve been a career-limiting teen idol role. Since she wrapped up her Twilight commitments, Stewart has thrown herself into many challenging and intriguing works. Now a firmly established indie darling, she was even awarded Sundance’s visionary award this year.

Love Lies Bleeding is one of two movies she premiered at the 2024 festival (the other is tech romance Love Me with Steven Yeun) and it’s the follow-up feature from Saint Maud director Rose Glass. It’s a love story between Stewart’s Lou and Katy O’Brien’s Jackie, and a fight against evil men (Ed Harris and Dave Franco) in the vein of Thelma & Louise but with magical realism.

Saoirse Ronan in The Outrun.
Kristen Stewart had two movies at Sundance this year, including Love Lies Bleeding. Credit: Supplied


The Guardian called A Different Man an “ingenious satire”, which certainly sets up expectations of this film starring Sebastian Stan. The Marvel star plays a New Yorker who was living with facial neurofibromatosis until he is “cured” by a miracle treatment and now has the face of a movie star.

But changing his physicality doesn’t change his feelings as an outsider, and his life takes a bizarre turn when a former neighbour (played by The Worst Person in the World’s Renate Reinsve) decides to cast him as himself in a play about him. A Different Man has been compared to Charlie Kauffman’s Synecdoche, New York, so expect weird things.


The Social Network’s Jesse Eisenberg is a triple threat in A Real Pain, serving as writer and director as well as starring in it alongside newly minted Emmy winner and all-round interesting person Kieran Culkin. Culkin said he read the script three times looking for a reason to turn it down – but ultimately it was perfect, and he was compelled to do it.

The pair play two cousins on a Holocaust tour in Poland, visiting concentration camps, war memorials and cemeteries. If that sounds grim, it’s been described as a gentle comedy, specifically designed that way to contrast the extreme horrors of inhumanity with how the sometimes petty day-to-day must endure.

Saoirse Ronan in The Outrun.
Kieran Culkin and Jesse Eisenberg play cousins in A Real Pain. Credit: Supplied


Director Sean Wang is on a roll. He is this year nominated for an Oscar in the documentary short category for Nai Nai and Wai Po (it translates as grandma and grandma, one signifies paternal, the other maternal) and now he has premiered his first narrative feature, Didi (which translates as little brother).

The winner of the Audience Award at Sundance, Didi drew from Wang’s own life to tell the coming-of-story of a 13-year-old Taiwanese-American kid over one summer (set in 2008 so think of all the cultural callbacks) before the start of high school. He desperately wants to fit in, wants his crush to notice him and maybe fight a little less with his mother (Joan Chen).


Anytime Saoirse Ronan is in a film, you pay attention. It’s not a guarantee it’ll be great but at least you know you’re going to see a great performance from the four-time Oscar-nominated Irish actor.

The Outrun is not as inventive as some of the formalist experiments at Sundance but by all accounts, the film is a dramatic tour de force. Based on Amy Liptrot’s 2016 memoirs, The Outrun follows a young woman’s struggles as the narrative oscillates between addiction and recovery. It charts her return to her childhood home in the Orkney Islands while flashing back to her alcohol-fuelled days in London.


Saoirse Ronan in The Outrun.
Jason Schwartzman and Carol Kane connect through their grief in Between the Temples. Credit: Supplied

Jason Schwartzman (Rushmore, Bored to Death) and Carol Kane (Scrooged, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt) are unlikely friends in this quiet, talky, comedic meditation on grief, faith and connection.

Directed by Nathan Silver, Schwartzman plays a cantor who loses his voice after the death of his wife, and then has an unexpected encounter with his childhood music teacher. She is also going through something, including her desire for a bat mitzvah in her 70s.


Horror movie It’s What’s Inside was one of the big stories at Sundance because it scored one of the highest acquisition deals when Netflix bought the rights to it for $US17 million. But the agreement was no cinema release, it will only be out on streaming, which is a shame because horror movies really should be watched with a collectively gasping crowd.

A directorial debut from filmmaker Greg Jardin, the movie has been called a “genre-bending mindf**k” and “destined to become a classic” by Indiewire and “gimmicky, ugly-looking and unscary” by The New York Times while The Guardian said PRs were anxious to keep under wraps even the premise (someone brings a mysterious suitcase to a pre-wedding party). Only time will tell.

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