March 8, 2017
SXSW 2017

10 Most Anticipated Movies of SXSW 2017

You can't miss these films at SXSW this year.

There are 130 feature films screening at SXSW this year. We hand-picked 10 of the most intruiging, exciting, and innovative titles to watch.

Baby Driver

Director: Edgar Wright
Section: Headliners

Edgar Wright has a new movie! Edgar Wright has a new movie! It's his first since The World's End, which was preceded by 2010’s Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, 2007’s Hot Fuzz, and, of course, 2004's Shaun of the Dead. If you ask us, Wright has never made a bad movie. His films are strong because they aren't your run-of-the-mill satire; they play more like homages to the old action and horror films Wright grew up loving. His newest, Baby Driver, about a young getaway driver coerced into working for a crime boss, is sure to be as action-packed as the rest. While Wright regulars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are notably absent, Baby Driver does have a great cast in Lily James, Kevin Spacey, Jon Bernthal, Jon Hamm, and Jamie Foxx. —Jon Fusco

Most Beautiful Island

'Most Beautiful Island'Credit: Glass Eye Pix

Director: Ana Asensio
Section: Narrative Feature Competition

First-time writer-director Ana Asensio's Most Beautiful Island is a movie you won't easily forget. The psychological thriller follows a day in the life of an undocumented immigrant woman trying to make ends meet in New York. She decides to take an odd job to get herself out of financial straits, but when she shows up, she's forced into a dangerous underground world in which her life hangs by a delicate thread. Shot in gritty Super-16, the film intimately captures the desperation and ignominy facing many American immigrants. —Emily Buder

Easy Living

'Easy Living'Credit: SXSW 2017

Director: Adam Keleman
Section: Narrative Spotlight

There’s nothing as exciting as seeing debut work from a fresh new filmmaker at SXSW, and Adam Keleman’s narrative feature Easy Living could be one such discovery. Inspired by the seminal Maysles brothers’ documentary Salesman, this fiction film is set in the world of door-to-door makeup sales. Keleman first film, Going Back, played SXSW, and it also featured a layered female protagonist as well as a 1970's-era-auteur style that made it memorable. —Oakley Anderson-Moore

Song to Song

'Song to Song'Credit: Van Redin / Broad Green Pictures

Director: Terrence Malick
Section: Headliners

Terrence Malick's Song to Song is a who's who of early-aughts indie rock, making it an ideal on-brand opener for SXSW (some scenes even take place during the music portion of the festival). With appearances from Lykke Li, Black Lips, Arcade Fire, Fleet Foxes, Florence and the Machine, Iron & Wine, and more, the film follows a pair of romances in the Austin music scene as the couples experience success, seduction, and betrayal. The cast, meanwhile, is a who's who of A-list Hollywood: Ryan Gosling, Christian Bale, Rooney Mara, Cate Blanchett, Natalie Portman, Michael Fassbender, Val Kilmer, and Benicio del Toro will star. As Malick fans, we hope this film will be a return to form; the director has struggled to live up to his own name in the years since the masterful Tree of Life—Emily Buder

Small Town Crime

'Small Town Crime'Credit: SXSW 2017

Directors: Eshom and Ian Nelms
Section: Narrative Spotlight

The resurgence of the Western genre in the form of gritty, stylized neo-Westerns has been great for independent film—think Blue Ruin, Hell or High Water, and Sundance's Grand Jury Prize-winning I Don't Feel At Home in This World Anymore. Small Town Crime is about an ex-cop (played by the quietly badass John Hawkes) who discovers the body of a young woman and, in an act of self-redemption, becomes hellbent on finding the killer. Hell or High Water did an excellent job of exposing the death of the middle class while maintaining all the gripping thriller conventions of a fantastic bank heist movie. Small Town Crime looks like it'll do just as well. —Jon Fusco

Hot Summer Nights

'Hot Summer Nights'Credit: SXSW 2017

Director: Elijah Bynum
Section: Narrative Feature

Elijah Bynum was the only writer to have two screenplays on the 2013 Black List: Hot Summer Nights and Mississippi Mud. At SXSW this year, he makes his directorial debut with the former, a coming-of-age story set during an eventful summer in 1991 Cape Cod. When a teenager befriends the local rebel, he winds up on the wrong side of the tracks selling drugs. But his lawlessness lands him the prettiest girl in town—all as the deadliest hurricane in New England history threatens to destroy everything. —Emily Buder

American Gods

'American Gods'Credit: SXSW 2017

Director: David Slade
Section: Episodic

Television and episodics are serious platforms for filmmakers and cinematically-minded creators; it's something we've written about and discussed at length. American Gods looks to be a very promising way to stave off our Game of Thrones lust until the summer because of its similarly fantastic tone, but it also has a very film-friendly team behind it. Set to premiere on Starz next month, the show is based on cult figure Neal Gaiman's popular novel about a cast of old-world gods disguised in modern-day America to battle the new-world gods of technology and celebrity. Gaiman himself thinks like a screenwriter—two of his books have already been successfully adapted to the big screen (Stardust and Coraline), and he has co-written scripts such as Robert Zemeckis's Beowulf. Further, the pilot episode that will play at SXSW is directed by David Slade, whose film Hard Candy (2005) was one of the most talked-about indies of the aughts (and introduced the world to Ellen Page). —Liz Nord

Spettacolo

'Spettacolo'Credit: SXSW 2017

Director: Jeff Malmberg and Chris Shellen
Section: Documentary Spotlight

Jeff Malmberg's Marwencol, about a veteran who copes with a debilitating brain injury by building an intricate model of a town in his backyard in which he reenacts elements from his traumatic past, is one of the most fascinating, stranger-than-fiction documentaries ever made. Malmberg enlisted his spouse and Marwencol producer, Chris Shellen, to co-direct Spettacolo, which also deals with the catharsis of creating fictional narratives. This time, we're transported to a small town in Tuscany, where villagers have a 50-year-old tradition of turning their societal issues into a play. Every citizen—children and the elderly included—plays themselves in productions that dramatize a wide range of topics, from the town's near annihilation in World War II, the disappearance of their farming heritage, and the commercialization of their land. With Marwencol, Malmberg proved he could render an inspiring story with fierce, yet tender empathy; we think he'll do the same with Spettacolo. —Emily Buder

I Am Another You

'I Am Another You'Credit: SXSW 2017

Director: Nanfu Wang
Section: Documentary Feature Competition

Everyone who saw Nanfu Wang’s breakout documentary Hooligan Sparrow was deeply affected, including the Academy of Motion Pictures, which shortlisted the film for this year’s Oscars. I Am Another You sounds like a wholly different film; Hooligan Sparrow is about an activist fighting on behalf of sexually abused girls in China, and the new film is an American road trip movie featuring the filmmaker and a young, southern, homeless-by-choice man. If Wang is able to bring the same balance of intimacy and urgency to this film, it should prove to be a new take on a well-travelled road. Further, Wang is Chinese, and it may be a most important time to understand how foreigners are perceiving and interacting with the US, particularly those from countries with whom our relations are "complicated." —Liz Nord

The Work

'The Work'Credit: Blanketfort Media

Director: Jairus McLeary
Section: Documentary Competition

If documentarians are the intrepid explorers of the filmmaking world—they spend years in unpredictable situations to capture their stories—Jairus McLeary is one of the most persistent. A first-time filmmaker, McLeary spent years as a court videographer gaining the trust of convicts in his SXSW premiere The Work. Set entirely within a four-wall cement room in the fabled Folsom Prison, the film follows inmates in group therapy. It's already getting nods for its raw, transformative filmmaking, and it could be a very timely addition to the discourse on incarceration and redemption. —Oakley Anderson-Moore      

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