Before we head to Park City, here are a few movies we can’t wait to watch.

The annual tradition of traveling to Park City, Utah in mid-January to screen a number of films that will become relevant as the year goes on is upon us. Yes, it’s time for another Sundance. Perhaps even more importantly, it’s time for our team to list the films we can’t wait to see once we pack our bags full of winter clothes and pile into condos full of other film-loving nerds. If we look back to the films that ended up on our 2017 list, you’ll see a few that stuck in the mainstream consciousness, including A Ghost StoryThe Big SickCall Me By Your NameI Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore and Mudbound, plus a few others that were released into theaters.

The point is that Sundance is the starting line for the year in film. This includes films that may compete for Oscar gold in 2019, breakout performances from fresh faces, and a bunch of other movies that are likely to be bought by Netflix and Amazon. We’re headed into the mountains to find the best of them, dear readers. But first, here are the ones we’re most looking forward to at this year’s festival.

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An Evening With Beverly Luff Linn

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The NEXT category of Sundance is often filled with experimental, unusual, and odd little films. It’s where Sundance keeps it weird. But every once in a while, they debut something unexpectedly brilliant. That’s not to say that An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn is going to be that for 2018, but it is a movie starring Aubrey Plaza, Craig Robinson, Emile Hirsch, and Jemaine Clement. Directed by the same guy (Jim Hosking) who gave the world The Greasy Strangler in 2016. So that has to be worth something, especially if you’re a fan of the absurd. – Neil Miller

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Assassination Nation

Assassination Nation

I love all kinds of films, but as my heart belongs to all things dark and twisted Sundance’s Midnight section is my sweet spot each year. This is writer/director Sam Levinson‘s second feature to play the fest (after 2011’s Another Happy Day), and it sounds terrifically bonkers. It explores what happens when the anonymity of our online lives is stripped away revealing vicious truths and dirty secrets, and what happens is bloody chaos. Call it a satire or call it a mild exaggeration of real life, but either way I’m excited to watch the madness unfold. – Rob Hunter

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Beirut

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It wouldn’t be Sundance without an appearance from Jon Hamm. The former Don Draper stars as U.S. diplomat in this political thriller scripted by the great Tony Gilroy (Michael Clayton, Rogue One). Being released in April, Beirut has the edge of already having a wickedly cut trailer online. Watching Hamm butt heads with Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl) while navigating deadly terrain sounds unmissable. – Matt Hoffman

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The Catcher Was a Spy

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Spy films come in all shapes and sizes, and while the bigger ones like Steven Spielberg’s terrific Bridge of Spies grab all the attention there’s plenty of room for smaller tales to succeed. This true story sees Paul Rudd playing against type as a professional baseball player pulled into a new world of deception, and what it lacks in grand scale it makes up for with its supporting cast including Jeff Daniels, Guy Pearce, and Paul Giamatti. Here’s hoping it delivers the goods as both a spy story and a biopic of a hero previously lost to history. – Rob Hunter

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The Death of Stalin

Death Of Stalin

We’ve already reviewed this film at Fantastic Fest last year, but I was not the person who reviewed it. I didn’t see it. So yes, this is me selfishly wanting to see a film I missed at another festival. Which usually isn’t the case at Sundance. Sundance is where you go to discover films out of nowhere. But for Armando Iannucci, who previously gave us In the Loop and Veep, we’re more than willing to make an exception. – Neil Miller

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Eighth Grade

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What Sundance is complete without a coming-of-age film? Eighth Grade, from debuting director Bo Burnham, sounds like this year’s (much younger and less dark) Ingrid Goes West in following a 13-year-old challenged to forge real-life connections in the digital age and own up to her true ‘offline’ identity. This looks like a big deal for young actress Elsie Fisher (Despicable Me, McFarland, USA) and hot indie distributor A24 has already scooped it up. It’s destined to generate some talk out of Park City. Tomris Laffly

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The Guilty

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Truth be told, “World Cinema” generally flies under-the-radar in Sundance. But here is a Danish thriller from a first-time filmmaker that’s worth keeping top of mind. The Guilty sounds like a true nail biter with a kidnapping story unfolding within the confines of a creatively used single location. If our instincts are correct, this can easily become a surprise sleeper hit. We can’t wait to find out. – Tomris Laffly

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Hearts Beat Loud

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The closing night film of Sundance ’18 comes from Brett Haley, who gave us 2017’s The Hero, an excellent dramedy featuring a stellar performance from Sam Elliott. This time around, Haley has Nick Offerman and Kiersey Clemons in front of his camera as a single father and his soon to be pre-med daughter, respectively. What we can expect from these three collaborators, based on their previous work, is warmth, sincerity, and good humor. Which sounds like a great way to end a long, cold week in the mountains. – Neil Miller

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I Think We’re Alone Now

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Elle Fanning and Peter Dinklage join forces to face the end of the world in the latest film from Reed Morano. The film will explicitly avoid explaining the cause of the apocalypse, which sort of leaves me expecting something like ‘The Leftovers’ meets The Road. This is Morano’s first feature since her award winning work directing for The Handmaid’s Tale, which is keeping this film a staple on ‘must see’ lists. Morano is also lensing the film, so even if it absolutely bombs we can count on it looking nice. – Matt Hoffman

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Juliet, Naked

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Nick Hornby‘s words have reached the screen with results both fantastic (High Fidelity, About a Boy) and less so (A Long Way Down), but the highs far outnumber the lows. That means we’re excited to check out his latest, and the cast — Rose Byrne, Ethan Hawke, Chris O’Dowd — certainly doesn’t hurt either. Director Jesse Peretz showed himself capable of mixing humor and heart with 2011’s Our Idiot Brother, and I’m betting he’s even more successful this time around. – Rob Hunter

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Leave No Trace

My Abandonment

Director Debra Granik is a reliable name to bet on in Sundance. With her 2004 debut, Down to the Bone, she won the US Dramatic Competition’s directing prize. With Winter’s Bone (2010), also a Sundance premiere, she went on to the Oscars with 4 nominations (including Best Picture), and by the way, kicked off the career of the then unknown Jennifer Lawrence. Will Leave No Trace, a quiet tale of an Oregon father-daughter living off the grid, be a similar launch pad for the young Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie? I can’t wait to find out. Tomris Laffly

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Lizzie

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Now more than ever, true crime is certainly in style. Craig William Macneill explores the life of Lizzie Borden (Chloë Sevigny) who was charged with the brutal axe-murders of her mother and father. The media frenzy explored in recent true crime exports I, Tonya and ‘The People vs. OJ Simpson’ will not be found in this film, set in 1892. Instead, Macneill seems to be taking an approach that in interested in exploring Borden’s interiority, which leaves a great opportunity for an excellent performance from Sevigny. Did I mention Kristen Stewart also stars as Borden’s lover? – Matt Hoffman

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Mandy

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Nicolas Cage going full-on nutty can’t make a bad movie good (sorry Mom and Dad), but at the very least it guarantees a movie won’t be boring. His latest sees him focusing that crazy rage in a dark direction as a man seeking revenge for the murder of the woman he loves. The perpetrators are described as “a vile band of ravaging idolaters and supernatural creatures,” and if that doesn’t have you salivating I’m not sure you’re even alive. Director Panos Cosmatos has taken his time since 2010’s Beyond the Black Rainbow, but if he can pair that film’s visual style with Cage’s intensity this might just be the year’s craziest film. – Rob Hunter

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The Miseducation of Cameron Post

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Good news, fans of Appropriate Behavior (hopefully this includes everyone who’s seen writer/director/actress Desiree Akhavan’s 2014 feature debut). She is back with a new film: an adaptation of Emily Danforth’s coming-of-age novel about a gay high school teen (Chloë Grace Moretz), sent to a conversion therapy center by her conservative elders. The Miseducation of Cameron Post promises to be an empathetic portrayal of identity and a young woman owning it with confidence against the odds. Tomris Laffly

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Night Comes On

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This is a film that I’m pumped to see based on the lead actress alone. Dominique Fishback was incredible in the recent first season of HBO’s ‘The Deuce’. In the David Simon penned epic, Fishback stars as prostitute Darlene. In this film, Fishback plays an 18-year-old who crafts a complicated plan to start anew after being released from prison. It wouldn’t be Sundance without a great coming of age story and I’m hoping this is it. – Matt Hoffman

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Ophelia

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William Shakespeare’s Hamlet gets a retelling here with its focus on the lady-in-waiting whose growing love for the young prince leads to devastating consequences. Or does it? The film is described as offering “a fresh and empowering female perspective” so I’m hoping it pulls an Inglourious Basterds and refuses to be beholden to its source. We’ll find out if that’s the case soon enough, but even if it ends as its author originally intended a cast that includes Daisy Ridley, Naomi Watts, and Clive Owen means it’ll still be worth watching. – Rob Hunter

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Puzzle

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Kelly Macdonald goes from devoted housewife to competitive puzzler. Did you know that there are competitive puzzle competitions? Well, now there’s a movie about them. It’s about a woman breaking free from a sheltered life in a boring marriage to become a rogue puzzler. That woman is played by Kelly Macdonald. That’s enough for me to fit this one into my schedule. I have questions about the puzzle competitions. – Neil Miller

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Sorry to Bother You

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Lakeith Stanfield and Tessa Thompson lead the way in this witty-sounding dramedy (that looks like a total blast on paper) about a telemarketer on the rise and his skeptical gallery artist girlfriend. If this isn’t enough to get you excited, and it should be, take note that according to the film’s synopsis, Armie Hammer plays a cocaine-snorting, orgy-hosting, obnoxious, and relentlessly optimistic CEO” in Boots Riley’s debut. Done deal. Sign us up, please! Tomris Laffly

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Summer of ’84

Summer Of

Turbo Kid was one of 2015’s most creative surprises with its retro sci-fi/action and playful spirit, and the film-making trio behind it are now back with something a bit darker. Its setup looks to exist in a similar vein to Among the Living as a group of young friends are forced to grow up fast when faced with a serial killer in their midst. Add in a stylized 80s setting and an awesome synth score, and these Canadian film lovers may have another cult hit on their hands. (Although I’m sure they’d prefer an actual hit.) – Rob Hunter

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The Tale

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Perhaps one of the timeliest films of the festival, The Tale stars Laura Dern as a woman who must reevaluate her life after realizing that she may have been sexually assaulted as a child. Dern has been doing some of her best work yet over the past four years, so it’s really exciting to see her continuing to take challenging material, and in a lead role no less. The film also features an impressive supporting cast rounded out by Oscar winners Ellen Burstyn and Common. – Matt Hoffman

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Three Identical Strangers

Three Identical Strangers

It’s a completely crazy, only-in-the-movies story. Except, it is 100% true. Tim Wardle’s documentary follows the extraordinary lives of Bobby Shafran, Eddy Galland, and David Kellman, the identical triplets who’ve been adopted by three different NY families in the 1960s and found each other completely by chance at the age of 19. The brothers’ journey might sound like a nostalgic fairy tale at first—the triplets did become the toast of New York for some time, during their good years—but their story takes a dark, well-documented turn fast. This investigative film will surely open up some old wounds and maybe even ruffle certain feathers. Not to be missed. Tomris Laffly

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Tyrel

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This one sounds a bit like Get Out 2.0, but in the hands of Sebastian Silva, I’m sure it will be one of the festival’s best. Jason Mitchell (Mudbound) stars as Tyler (not Tyrel), a black man who goes to a weekend getaway for a friend’s birthday Upon his arrival, Tyler realizes that everyone else at the party is white. Silva is a master of switching tone, so expect Tyrel to start out as a comedy and then suddenly accelerate into madness. The film is also one of FIVE films at this year’s festival to feature the great character actress Ann Dowd. – Matt Hoffman

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All images courtesy of Sundance Institute.

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