The 16 Must See Films of SXSW 2012

South by Southwest is our favorite film festival not just because it’s in our own backyard (relatively speaking) or because it affords us a chance to eat BBQ on daily basis or even because it means we can sit in the Drafthouse all day but because – wait, no, it’s our favorite film festival for precisely those reasons. What else could you possibly want from a film festival? Good films? Fair enough.

Luckily, finding good films at SXSW isn’t hard, not even remotely, which explains why our list of Our 16 Most Anticipated Films came together with no overlap – there’s truly something for everyone. For Rob Hunter, that means a lot of guns and violence, for Dear Leader Neil Miller, he just wants to stop being the last person in America who hasn’t seen The Raid. We even let Jack pick some films too.

Sixteen in total, these films encapsulate the variety that makes SXSW so great – stick with this list and you probably can’t go (too)  wrong. Why sixteen films? Because we’re sweet. Or just suffering from anticipatory exhaustion from our favorite film festival.

Check out all the movies we’re aching to see after the jump.

The Aggression Scale

A quartet of cold-blooded and heavily armed killers come rolling into town looking for stolen loot, but when they set their sights on a rather innocuous-looking home they meet a bit more resistance than they expected. It’s hard to tell exactly where this one will land, but it certainly looks like an extremely violent riff on the Home Alone formula. Which is awesome. And if nothing else it features a Twin Peaks reunion with Ray Wise and Dana Ashbrook! – Rob Hunter


A young man survives the loss of his wife but is left to face off against the twisted feral children who killed her. Once more, twisted feral children. He’s also apparently “torn between the help of an understanding nurse and a vigilante priest” which is equally intriguing. “Understanding” is code for sexy right? So a sexy nurse and a vigilante priest and twisted feral children? I’m sold. – Rob Hunter

Girls Against Boys

Two female bartenders reach their breaking point and set out for revenge against the less attractive sex. That one line synopsis is enough to get me to watch any movie, but my interest piques even more when the girls are attractive (Danielle Panabaker, Nicole LaLiberte) and the film falls into the blackly comic yet violent subgenre. Words like gruesome, darkly meditative, and coming of age don’t hurt either. In fact, my only reservation about seeing this one is the writer/director’s name…Austin Chick. Ugh. – Rob Hunter

The Raid

Let’s be completely honest here: not since just before I was about to lose my virginity have I been so excited about any single life event as seeing The Raid for the first time. Director Gareth Evans wowed us with his amazing martial arts tale Merantau, a film that ended up sneaking its way into a number of “best of” lists in 2009.

Now he’s taking the best of what he did in that film — mostly the ass-kickery — and applying it to the story of a team of police officers who must travel floor by floor up a slum, through dangerous levels filled with armed thugs, to get to a psychotic crime lord. Its all action all the time approach is something that will make The Raid fun for the whole family. I mean, have you seen that trailer?  -Neil Miller

The Hunter

Willem Dafoe as “a skilled and ruthless mercenary sent into the Tasmanian wilderness on a hunt for a tiger believed to be extinct” certainly falls well within my own personal guideline of “Willem Dafoe as anything is worth watching.” The fact that he’s a dangerous man hunting elusive prey and becoming prey to any number of dangers — as story for which I’m quite fond — is only a bonus. Character piece that explores the mind of a hunter and its prey? Yeah, we’ll line up down the street for that. – Neil Miller

Under African Skies

As any longtime FSR reader will note, we usually end our reviews with an Upside (what works) and a Downside (what doesn’t work) as a sort of cheat sheet for those of you who like things summed up in nice, tight packages. So when I saw our usually stern critic Robert Levin completely unable to come up with a Downside for Under African Skies in his Sundance review and I combined that with the fact that I do, indeed, enjoy the music of Paul Simon, I was locking this one into my SXSW schedule. It looks delightful. – Neil Miller

Wonder Women: The Untold Story of American Superheroines<

I was instantly attracted to Wonder Women by its title alone, but once I read up on the history behind the documentary and the filmmaker’s dedication to exposing not just the superheroines on the page but also the women behind them I was sold. As a teen I spent hours reading Gen 13, Wonder Woman, Sailor Moon, and X-Men comics with my best friend Jen and debating the reasons we loved seeing these tough women kick ass and look hot, and a documentary that allows me to relive those moments seems too good to miss. – Gwen Reyes

Electrick Children

Speaking of the silly things kids do, the SXSW debut of Electrick Children sounds like a good time in a tiny Mormon package. Following a young FLDS girl who believes her recent pregnancy is the work of God and not some dirty church leader as she ventures from her small Utah town to the bright lights of Las Vegas to share her story with those along the way, the film’s eerie unravel promises to leave us more uncomfortable the it found us.

What seems so compelling is this girl believes so completely in the falsity that her unborn child was conceived without sex, allowing for those around her to take advantage of her naivety. Electrick Children might be perfect for anyone looking for a new Mysterious Skin. – Gwen Reyes

Click here to see the eight remaining must sees of SXSW 2012…


Re:Generation Music Project

Many people may flock to SXSW for the indie feature goodness, but I always tend to find myself camping out at the Drafthouse engrossed in the eclectic documentaries. That is why my most anticipated list features two noteworthy documentaries. RE:Generation may not be groundbreaking, but it’s the subjects within the story that capture my fancy.

Showcasing the talents of dubstep heavy hitter Skrillex, among other big electronics names, means no one in the theater will be able to keep from jamming out during some portion of the film. I can’t wait to look like a crazy person when I dance my way to the film I hit up after it. – Gwen Reyes

21 Jump Street

You know what? I’m cheating on this one. I’ve already seen Chris Miller and Phil Lord‘s take on the classic (sure?) television series back in January at a limited press screening that was met with resounding praise, applause, and hysterical laughter. I’ve been singing the praises of their funny, irreverent, clever, wholly unexpected film since then, and I’ll keep doing it until every last audience member at the Paramount laughs so hard that they wet themselves.

It’s the best comedy of the year (read: the past two and a half months) and I remain unconvinced that its title will be usurped throughout the rest of the calendar year. – Kate Erbland

The Do-Deca-Pentathalon

Wait, Mark and Jay Duplass wrote and directed a film about brothers that Mark is not starring in? What in the what is this? Next you’re going to tell me that they did this again. What?! Another one? (I kid – Jeff, Who Lives At Home is a goddamn gem and I’ve already seen it). Here’s the deal, if the brothers Duplass do something, I’m in.

And considering how much I loved Jeff back in November, I’m pretty psyched for The Do-Deca-Pentathalon, which they boys have been talking about for quite awhile now. Besides, the logline of “two brothers compete in their own private 25-event Olympics” seems primed for hilarity no matter who directs it (but it’s better with the Duplai). – Kate Erbland

Sun Don’t Shine

Amy Seimetz is, without question, an indie darling. Let’s review her acting resume for fun: Alexander the Last, Gabi on the Roof in July, Tiny Furniture, The Myth of the American Sleepover, The Dish & The Spoon, Silver Bullets, and You’re Next. But what has me most excited for her feature directorial debut is her haunting performance in The Off Hours (which I saw at last year’s Sundance, and which has unexpectedly stuck with me for those many months) and the fact that the plot to her Sun Don’t Shine is consider “top secret.”

Seimetz herself posted on the film’s IMDb page that “in a nutshell, it’s about two people on the road in Florida doing very bad things. Shot on Super 16mm, the film is inspired by Two-Lane Blacktop, Deliverance, Woman Under the Influence and reoccurring nightmares.” Um, that sounds fantastic. – Kate Erbland

God Bless America

Bobcat Goldthwait‘s  Sleeping Dogs Lie was an enjoyable debut feature, but it’s his hilarious dark comedy World’s Greatest Dad that showed he’s a true talent behind the camera. God Bless America doesn’t look to have some of the subtlety of his previous film, but it does come off as a fun and wicked wish-fulfillment road/killing spree movie, and how often do we get those? – Jack Giroux

Killer Joe

Another collaboration between Tracy Letts and William Friedkin, the two minds behind the horrific and lovely Bug? Count me in. The buzz was mixed for Friedkin’s stage adaptation out of the Toronto International Film Festival, but all the criticisms I heard only make me more excited to see the film. Featuring desperate morons making horrible decisions? That’s my kind of film. – Jack Giroux


With Killer Joe, Bernie, Jeff Nichols’s Mud, and Steven Soderbergh’s Magic Mike, this is the year when Matthew McConaughey shows us once again that he’s a great actor, not just a romantic comedy star. He reminded us last year with The Lincoln Lawyer that he’s got real chops, but now he’s got four potential quality films this year, all made by respectable auteur filmmakers.

My excitement for McConaughey aside, I’ll be first in line for any Richard Linklater film, and the Bernie trailer showed dark comedic promise. – Jack Giroux


Editor’s note: Salisbury is anticipating his pick so intensely that we just let him riff on it for a few full paragraphs instead of making him pen three mini-paragraphs about three different films. He simply couldn’t be stopped.

The horror anthology used to be a thriving beast, no longer. Now a sad little runt stumbles out every few years, paling in comparison to its progenitors in both the quality of the framing device and the impact of the individual stories. Most recently, we were burned by the slop-over-substance Chillerama which ultimately amounted to one repetitive joke at which few of us felt compelled to laugh.

What we have no shortage of, however, is the recently resurrected gimmick of the found footage horror flick. While the latter may be rapidly running its course and knocking on the door of forgettable white noise, an unholy marriage between found footage and the horror anthology may be just what each subgenre needs. That’s one reason I’m stoked to see V/H/S at SXSW. Each vignette within V/H/S is itself a short found footage film arranged around the story of a group of burglars tasked with recovering an ominous VHS tape from an even ominous-er house.

The other reason I’m so excited to feast my eyeballs on this V/H/S has to do with the talent pool collected to collaborate on this monster. Namely, I’m intrigued to see directors Glenn McQuaid (I Sell The Dead), Adam Wingard (You’re Next, A Horrible Way to Die), Ti West (House of the Devil, The Innkeepers), and David Bruckner (one of the vignettes of The Signal).

Most of these guys are also responsible for writing their segments, but I’m also thrilled to see Simon Barrett‘s (You’re Next, A Horrible Way to Die) name amongst the writer credits. With the preponderance of brilliant up-and-comers involved, the merger of two subsets of horror, and the fact that audiences at Sundance were so smitten, I forsee V/H/S being one of my favorites of the fest. –Brian Salisbury

Are you coming to SXSW? If so, what are you looking forward to seeing?

Wipe the BBQ sauce off your mitts and read the rest of our SXSW coverage

The FSR Staff is an author similar to Hydra. Its articles have many authors. It has many heads. Please don't cut off any of its heads, we're trying to work here.

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