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22 Movies We Can’t Wait to See at Sundance 2022

From docs on Princess Di, Kanye and TikTok to Tinder horror and dramas in which A-list stars behave badly — our picks for the best bets at this year’s all-virtual Sundance

photographs in illustration courtesy of The Sundance Institute

It was on again, then maybe possibly not, then most definitely “yes” if you were booster-shot and vaccinated — 2022 was set to be the year that Sundance would return to doing an in-person film festival, after 2021’s all-virtual edition. Attendees would once again be packed onto shuttles, comparing notes on which social-issue documentary to catch and crowing about seeing Ariana Grande at the checkout stand of the grocery store on Park Ave. A viral variant had other plans, alas, and we’re back to communing over cinematic discoveries and must-sees while hunched over our respective laptops. The 2022 in-person edition was canceled, and while the fest would still run from January 20th through the 30th, it would be online only. It was the right choice, the safe choice, and one met with both sighs of frustration and, frankly, relief. Ah, Sundance! Ah, humanity!

The benefit of virtual film festivals is that what you lose in the you-are-there experience of schlepping from screening to screening, bonding with folks in lines and being in the room when the lights go back up and careers are born, you gain in geography becoming an afterthought. You do not have to be in Park City to Sundance it up, in other words, and we look forward to sharing the highs and lows of what this year’s fest brings. Here are 22 movies we’re looking forward to seeing — and discussing and arguing over and unpacking with other virtual viewers — once the festival kicks off this Thursday. See you at the movies and in our DMs.

From Rolling Stone US


On a plantation in Georgia, Alice (Keke Palmer) is forced to toil away, suffering alongside fellow slaves. When she manages to run away, our hero emerges from the woods to find…cars whizzing by her on a bustling highway. It is 1973, over a century after the abolishment of slavery, and Alice, naturally, would like some answers. If you’re like us and still feel burned after last year’s horror movie Antebellum, you may be wary of returning to this type of material. But we’re curious as to what writer-director Krystin Ver Linden has up her sleeve with her debut feature.

‘Am I Ok’

Codirectors/spouses/very funny people Tig Notaro and Stephanie Allynne take on what they call a “coming-of-age story of someone in their thirties,” revolving around the close friendship of lifelong pals Lucy (Dakota Johnson) and Jane (Devs‘ Sonoya Mizuno). They have a long history together and know all of each secrets, except for one crucial one: The former is about to come out of the closet. And given that the latter is about to move to London for a job, this sudden wave of change throws both of these young women — not to mention their relationship to each other — into quite a tizzy. Sean Hayes, Kiersey Clemons, Jermaine Fowler and Notaro herself costar.


We’ve been waiting to see what Bradley Rust Gray has been dreaming up to since he dropped Jack and Diane in 2012, and this new film sounds like it falls right in the indie producer-writer-director’s sweet spot: A recently widowed woman (Carla Juri) travels to Japan to see an old friend (Takashi Ueno). While there, she experiences both a sense of dislocation and the possibility of a fresh start, aided by the fact that there seems to be a tentative intimacy growing between her and her companion. This sounds very old-school Sundance, in the best possible way.

‘Brainwashed: Sex-Camera-Power’

Taking its cues from critic Laura Mulvey’s theory about cinema and the male gaze, filmmaker Nina Menkes’ doc expands on her own 2019 lecture The Visual Language of Oppression and explores how Hollywood has utilized camera angles, composition, lighting and editing to establish and maintain a patriarchal power system. It’s one thing to read treatises about the inherent sexism of the Dream Factory and American moviemaking over the past 100 years; it’s a whole other thing to watch Menkes actually walk you through the subtle (and not-so-subtle) methods of objectifying women via tons of clips and shot-by-by breakdowns, however, while also digging into the personal ways that the consumption of these images have affected her. Eye-opening, to say the least.


Based on a true story, director Abi Damaris Corbin’s debut feature follows a homeless veteran named Brian Brown-Easley (John Boyega) into a Wells Fargo in Atlanta. He announces that he has a bomb in his backpack, takes two employees hostage and says he wants to speak to the media. As response teams, hostage negotiators and reporters begin to assess the situation, it soon becomes clear that Brian isn’t trying to rob the bank. He merely wants people to know that he’s fallen through the cracks of a society that doesn’t know how to treat its returning heroes. Costarring Connie Britton, Nicole Beharie, Orange Is the New Black‘s Selenis Leyva, Jeffrey Donovan and, in his final screen role, Michael K. Williams.

‘Emily the Criminal’

Emily (Aubrey Plaza) is having a rough time navigating the modern gig economy, and her student debt has become a bit of an albatross around her neck. So when she hears about an off-the-books job that involves purchasing goods with stolen credit cards and reselling them on the black market via a “manager” (Sons of Anarchy‘s Theo Rossi). It’s just a temporary thing until she can find a real job, she tells herself. Guess who finds herself getting seduced by this less-than-legal career detour? The buzz is strong on this one.


Have you ever gone on one of those dating apps and, in the midst of scrolling left, happened upon someone you just instantly felt a connection with? And then, after you’ve matched and gone out on a date or three, become convinced that you’d found Mr. or Mrs. Right? And when this person — for the sake of argument, we’ll say he is a cosmetic surgeon — invites you to a weekend getaway, you suddenly find out that they have special…”quirks” you didn’t know about? Director Mimi Cave’s debut sets up this scenario, starring Daisy Edgar-Jones as the young woman who believes she’s stumbled across her soulmate and Sebastian Stan as the guy who seems to be a little too good to be true, and, well…let’s just say when you’re working with this premise and the movie is called Fresh, we’ve got a bad feeling that we know exactly where this horror flick is going.

‘Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul.’

Two of our favorite working actors — Regina Hall and Sterling K. Brown — star in this satire on organized religion, in which the wife of a megachurch’s pastor must attempt to build their flock back up after a scandal scatters the congregation to the four winds. Honestly, you had us at “satire on organized religion,” but if this comic takedown of Faith Inc. from the filmmaking twins Adamma and Adanne Ebo gives Hall and Brown the chance to chew a lot of scenery, then praise the lord indeed.

‘The Janes’

You would see it on bulletin boards and tear-away sheets all over Chicago in the late 1960s: “Pregnant? Need help? Call Jane.” The hotline took you to a message machine, where someone desperate for an abortion could leave their information. Then a group of women who went by the collective codename “Jane” would arrange for you to have the procedure done — which put these volunteers at odds with the church, the Mob and the law. Tia Lessin and Emma Pildes’ documentary looks back at how these activists on the frontlines of Women’s Rights organized this underground network and, until the group’s bust in 1972, became a lifeline for those in need of terminating a pregnancy in the safest, most secure manner possible. (And, in one of those coincidences that pop up in the festival every so often, the group is also the subject of one of Sundance’s star-studded narrative features, Call Jane.)

‘Jeen-Yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy’

Clarence “Coodie” Simmons happened to be at Jermaine Dupri’s birthday party in 1998 when he came across this aspiring young producer. He interviewed the 21-year-old for his public access cable show and was impressed by the gentleman’s ambition, hopes and dreams. When this resident of Chicago happened to get a record deal, Simmons followed him to New York to chronicle the experience. The musician’s name was Kanye West. Wisely, Simmons and his comrade-in-arms Chike Ozah kept filming him over the years — they’re the ones who directed West’s allow-me-to-introduce-myself clip “Through the Wire” — and got a ringside seat to the rise of a hip-hop genius. Sundance is showing the first chapter of the duo’s three-part look at the man we call Ye (the complete docuseries will stream on Netflix in February).

‘Lucy and Desi’

Amy Poehler — yes, that Amy Poehler — directs this documentary on the first couple of early sitcoms, tracing how a Cuban refugee and a failed B-movie actress met, fell in love and permanently changed the history of television. Filled with archival interviews, rare home movies, clips from Lucile Ball and Desi Arnaz’s landmark show and testimonials from friends, family and famous fans, it’s a tribute to a great romance between two great entertainers. He loved Lucy. She loved him back. Along the way, they revolutionized how TV was made and had children and fought and split up. But they never forgot that it was the two of them that made it all happen.

‘Meet Me in the Bathroom’

Portrait of a Scene on Fire: The seminal oral history of the New York music scene circa the early 2000s gets the documentary treatment, with filmmakers Will Lovelace and Dylan Southern (Shut Up and Play the Hits) rewinding back to the moment when cheap Brooklyn rents, post-9/11 trauma, tons of dive bars and a flurry of freak-flag flying gave birth to a slew of great bands. You get both an overall look at how the city turned hipsters with guitars and laptops into rock stars along with commentary from the Strokes’ Albert Hammond, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs Karen O and LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy. Play this movie loud, and then spill beer on the floor, fall over, get back up and play it even louder.

‘Nothing Compares’

Frankly, we’ve been waiting for years for someone to do a doc on Sinéad O’Connor — so thank you, Kathryn Ferguson, for finally giving us what we wanted but did not have. This look back at the Irish singer starts with her tempestuous, traumatic younger years and moves through her early days crooning with club bands, her incendiary debut album The Lion and the Cobra, superstardom, speaking out against injustice and, yes, the SNL appearance that caused a bit of a firestorm. With O’Connor providing a running commentary, this portrait of an artist as an outspoken shit-stirrer who wouldn’t be silenced establishes not just how she got a bum rap back in the day, but the necessity for reassessing why she was treated with such hostility.

‘Phoenix Rising’

Evan Rachel Wood has been fearless in going public with her experiences with domestic violence and assault, and has used her platform to speak out and spearhead the non-profit organization the Phoenix Act. Amy Berg’s two part doc — the festival will be screening the first chapter; it will air in full on HBO later this year — allows the Westworld actor to tell her story in full, and give viewers a 360-degree sense of what’s she’s endured and how she emerged from the ashes, stronger than ever. The Marilyn Manson details alone should make this a tough but necessary watch.

‘The Princess’

To say that there’s been a renewed fascination with Diana Spencer over the last few years would be putting it mildly — the one-two punch of The Crown and Pablo Larrain/Kristen Stewart’s Spencer has forced folks to reckon with the building up/tearing down of the People’s Princess and how the British monarchy treats “outsiders” within the family circle. Now comes Ed Perkins’ documentary, which compiles archival footage (and nothing but) to paint a picture of Spencer’s experience in what could be a blinding, glaring spotlight. Expect this one to generate a lot of chatter at the festival.


When guitarists Shery Bechara and Lilas Mayassi formed Slaves to Sirens, they became Lebanon’s first all-female metal band and a regional-scene favorite that was attracting attention outside of Beirut. It’s hard enough to keep a group together in the best of circumstances, however, much less when you’re living in a country that’s suffering from internal strife, cracking down on freedom of expression, and still adhering to a sexist and homophobic value system. Throw in creative differences and one member coming to terms with her sexuality, and headbanging their way to rock & roll glory seems damned near impossible. Documentarian Rita Baghdadi turns her lens on the groundbreaking Middle Eastern metalheads right at their make-or-break point, all the better to capture female artists (and a culture) in a key transitional moment.

‘TikTok, Boom’

How did TikTok — an amalgamation of lip-syncing and video apps, courtesy of the Chinese company ByteDance — become the social media service du jour? How have Gen-Z influencers like Feroza Aziz and superstars like Spencer X become so rich and mega-famous on it? And what exactly is it doing with all that data they collect from users? Director Shalini Kantayya (Coded Bias) lays out the history of TikTok’s rise to prominence, while also casting a wary eye on the way that the service has “shadowbanned” certain demographics and taken a very selective approach to free speech on the platform. Now if you’ll excuse us, we’re going to record a one-minute clip in which we appear to jump through a waterfall while dancing to “Savage.”

‘We Need to Talk About Cosby’

Stand-up comic W. Kamau Bell dives headfirst into the good, the bad, the ugly and the extremely ugly of Bill Cosby’s legacy — from groundbreaking comedian to TV royalty to accused serial rapist. Structured as a four-part docuseries, this examination tries to reconcile the public persona of “America’s dad” versus the monster described by dozens of women he drugged/assaulted over decades (and whose convictions were recently overturned). How can the same guy who made Fat Albert and gave the world Cliff Huxtable have harmed so many people over decades, it asks? And: Why did it take a viral clip of another comic mentioning stories that had been out there for years for so many of us to take these allegations seriously?

‘When You Finish Saving the World’

Jesse Eisenberg makes his directorial debut with this story of a young singer-songwriter (Finn Wolfhard) who becomes a bit of an internet sensation. His mother (Julianne Moore) runs a program for domestic abuse survivors. Neither of them understand why the other does what they do — a familial situation that becomes even more complicated when Mom also decides to care for the son (Billy Bryk) of someone staying at the shelter.

‘Sharp Stick’ (2022)

It’s been almost a dozen years since Lena Dunham first made a name for herself with 2011’s Tiny Furniture (to be fair, she’s kept herself pretty busy since then). Her new feature film revolves around a young woman (Kristine Froseth) who, after losing her virginity and getting her heart broken, decides to take a scientific, sex-positive approach to exploring every aspect of the pleasure principle. Dunham costars, as does Jennifer Jason Leigh, Zola‘s Taylour Paige, Jon Bernthal and Scott Speedman.


The Spectacular Now‘s James Ponsoldt returns to the scene with…a kid’s movie? Granted, this tale of four tweens who stumble across a mystery right before summer ends and middle school begins has a strong Stand By Me vibe about it, along with a soupçon of those Spielberg-produced movies in the 1980s involving ordinary youngsters in extraordinary circumstances. Combine that with the fact that the writer-director has a knack for getting great performances out of actors and a hell of eye for talent (see: his work with Miles Teller, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Shailene Woodley, Jason Segel), and we’re all in.

‘You Won’t Be Alone’

A warning: If your mother takes you to a shape-shifting spirit who happens to be swinging by your 19th century village, there’s a strong likelihood that you will be turned into a witch. Sorry, them’s the breaks! When this happens to a young Macedonian girl, she begins to take over the bodies of other residents (including Lamb‘s Noomi Rapace) and experience what it’s like to be human over several decades. We get the sense that we’re not alone in thinking that this sounds like exactly what we need to scratch our existential-horror itch.