The 10 best movies of the 2020 Sundance Film Festival

The 10 best movies of the 2020 Sundance Film Festival

05 Feb 2020 (PT)

Last month at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, EW caught dozens of films in Park City — some we loved, many we liked, a few that disappointed us. Below, EW's attendees list their personal top 10.

Black Bear

A scathingly good comedy of manners that evolves into something much deeper — and weirder — Black Bear is experimental filmmaking that edges toward trickery without ever feeling manipulative. It's the kind of discovery you hope for at Sundance, carving its own blazingly original path, raising intriguing questions along the way, and fully immersing you in its emotional intensity. It's a sharp, deceptively controlled effort from Lawrence Michael Levine, but the trio of amazing performances at its center from Christopher Abbott, Sarah Gadon, and a never-better Aubrey Plaza is what makes this a true standout. Read our review. —David Canfield

I Carry You With Me

I wondered through the bulk of I Carry You With Me why it'd landed in Sundance's avant-garde NEXT section, since much of the film plays — in the best way — like a conventionally told romance. Safe to say, without spoiling anything, the film approaches galvanizingly risky formal territory by its final act. But throughout her narrative debut, director Heidi Ewing Jesus Camp maintains dazzling authenticity. This astonishing story of two young Mexican men whose love for one another crosses class divides, the U.S.-Mexico border, and decades of struggle is told with heartbreaking intimacy and political urgency. The fundamentals of a true-love story get scaled up to an epic, developing into the unsung star of the festival: It swept the NEXT Awards and was acquired by Sony Pictures Classics swiftly after its premiere. Read our review. —DC

Minari

Minari came into Sundance with A24's enthusiastic backing, so expectations were already set for Lee Isaac Chung's memoiristic family drama. Yet it still exceeded them, emerging as the precise, seriocomic, fully realized dramatic revelation of the festival. It won both the Jury and Audience prizes in the U.S. Dramatic competition. Subtle and sweeping in equal measure, the film paints a portrait of a Korean-American family's move from California to rural Arkansas, and the challenges — marital, economic, physiological — they face. Chung's elegantly personal touch is matched by two explosively vibrant performances, from child breakout Alan Kim and veteran icon Yuh-Jung Youn. Read our review. —DC

The 10 best movies of the 2020 Sundance Film Festival
ID PR/Sundance Institute

Miss Juneteenth

Channing Godfrey Peoples' directorial debut follows a former beauty queen, Turquoise a breathtaking Nicole Beharie, trying to push her reluctant daughter Kai Alexis Chikaeze down the same path in hopes that she can follow it beyond winning the title of Miss Juneteenth — unlike Turquoise herself. A slow-burning Southern drama of mothers and daughters, hopes and regrets, Miss Juneteenth stays with you long after this year's Texas teenager is crowned. —Mary Sollosi

Never Rarely Sometimes Always

Rarely do films capture a moment with such authenticity as Eliza Hittman did in this tale of a teenager's journey to get an abortion the filmmaker was awarded a Special Jury Prize for Neorealism at the fest-end awards. Only sometimes does new talent pierce you so thoroughly as Sidney Flanigan and Talia Ryder do here, as cousins deeply bonded in their mission. Always, festivalgoers hope to find something as vital and true as Hittman's third feature — almost never, though, does it actually happen. Read our review. —MS

The 10 best movies of the 2020 Sundance Film Festival
Courtesy of Focus Features

Nine Days

In a festival brimming with big-swing debuts, the Japanese-Brazilian filmmaker Edson Oda might have taken on the wildest pitch of all: a movie that maps the human soul. Or more accurately, tracks the half dozen souls Zazie Beetz, Bill Skarsgard, and Tony Hale among them auditioning to become human over the course of, well, you can guess how long. It's all supremely existentially weird and wonderful, and Us star Winston Duke — he's the administrator, as it were — deserves some kind of special prize for his last ten minutes of screen time alone. —Leah Greenblatt

Promising Young Woman

From the trailer, it could have been another glib, stylized piece of cinematic candy: a female revenge fantasy with a blood-red cherry on top. And for some of its runtime, Killing Eve showrunner Emerald Fennell's feature debut does lean toward broad strokes and surface pleasures, not least in the killer central performance of Carey Mulligan. But there are much darker and more nuanced questions lurking underneath — and if Fennell doesn't exactly answer them all, the conversation she elicits is more than a promising place to start. Read our review. —LG

On the Record

Lauded documentarians Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering have made it their unenviable business to track a culture of sexual assault through various settings onscreen: College campuses 2015's The Hunting Ground, the military 2012's The Invisible War and now the music industry. Specifically, Record is about serious serial allegations against hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons, though the film's lens widens to include the place women of color hold or more pointedly, don't in the #MeToo movement, in first-person testimonies both poignant and infuriating. Executive producer Oprah Winfrey famously pulled her support before the festival, and thus that of the Apple TV+ platform, but HBO Max just picked up the rights. Read our review. —LG

The 10 best movies of the 2020 Sundance Film Festival
Thatcher Keats/Sundance Institute

Shirley

If you're going to make a Shirley Jackson biopic, why not try and do the singular horror author proud? Josephine Decker certainly wasn't going to take a traditional approach to the character, but by reeling in her fragmentary tendencies ever so slightly, settles on a mood and story that combine for a mesmerizingly bizarre spin on Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Elisabeth Moss does career-best work as the film's eponymous heroine, whether she's unfurling a withering insult at the dinner table, or lying still in one of Decker's many arrestingly composed shots, while an ambiguous set of final scenes imbues the film with thrilling complexity. Read our review. —DC

Zola

Four and a half years after the tale of a Florida-stripping-weekend-gone-awry went viral on Twitter, Janicza Bravo's movie adaptation of it proved to be an even better retelling of A'Ziah King's shocking story than the original thread. Buoyed by great performances from leading lady Taylour Paige an intelligent, grounding presence and Riley Keough absolutely horrifying and with a style brilliantly inspired by the story's social-media origin, Zola is one trip well worth taking — but buckle up. Read our review. —MS

Source: EW.COM

NEVER RARELY SOMETIMES ALWAYSPROMISING YOUNG WOMANTHE CONVERSATIONRUSSELL SIMMONSMISS JUNETEENTHVIRGINIA WOOLFELISABETH MOSSMETOO MOVEMENTCAREY MULLIGANTHE CHALLENGEOPRAH WINFREYSONY PICTURESON THE RECORDRILEY KEOUGHAUBREY PLAZABREATHTAKINGTHE ORIGINALZAZIE BEETZKILLING EVEJESUS CAMPTHE KILLERLOVE STORYBLACK BEARREVELATIONTHRILLINGTHE TRAIL
Weekend of February 14 - 16, 2020 (IMDb)
1.
Sonic the Hedgehog
Net: $58.0M Grs: $58.0M
Weeks: 1
3.
Fantasy Island
Net: $12.3M Grs: $12.3M
Weeks: 1
4.
The Photograph
Net: $12.2M Grs: $12.2M
Weeks: 1
5.
Bad Boys for Life
Net: $11.5M Grs: $181.6M
Weeks: 5
6.
1917
Net: $8.1M Grs: $144.4M
Weeks: 8
7.
Gisaengchung
Net: $5.7M Grs: $43.4M
Weeks: 19
8.
Jumanji: The Next Level
Net: $5.5M Grs: $305.6M
Weeks: 10
9.
Dolittle
Net: $4.9M Grs: $70.3M
Weeks: 5
10.
Downhill
Net: $4.6M Grs: $4.6M
Weeks: 1
The 10 best movies of the 2020 Sundance Film Festival
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