Starting today, film journalists who are not me will be freezing their tuchuses off at the Sundance Film Festival, running from January 22-February 1st. The rest of us will spend the next two weeks being told the movies we must—absolutely just have to—keep an eye out for over the coming year.
Keep a safe distance from the circlejerkery of it all by bringing up Netflix and watching these Sundance hits from years past. This list is dedicated to the two “James Spader, you freaky, sexy beast” Sundance hits that aren’t on Netflix Instant: sex, lies and videotape and The Secretary. I don’t know what it is you do, Spader, but you do it so well.
Hoop Dreams (1994)
Throw a little love director Steve James’ way, because he could use it—despite Hoop Dreams, The Interrupters, and Life Itself being a classic, critically acclaimed, and about Roger Ebert, respectively, not a’one of them even got nominated for the Oscar for Best Documentary. Your move, Leonardo DiCaprio.
The Blair Witch Project (1999)
The found footage horror genre has been played to death since The Blair Witch Project sent a trio of film students into the woods to investigate an urban legend and get murderized, but that in no way detracts from the quality of the original. The Blair Witch 2: The Search for Curly’s Gold kind of undermined its legacy, though.
Kinky Boots (2005)
Don’t watch Kinky Boots for the bland rom-com plot or the blander rom-com lead romance (between the timid shoe factory owner and the fiesty employee who lights a fire under his—yawn. I can’t even finish that sentence.) Watch it for drag queen Chiwetel Ejiofor crooning out standards and dancing in thigh-high, stiletto-heeled boots. You will thank me.
Man on Wire (2008)
Watch this Oscar-winning documentary about the man who tightrope walked between the two World Trade Center towers before Robert Zemeckis’ Joseph Gordon-Levitt-starring narrative version, called The Walk, comes out this October. Be the movie hipster you always knew you could be.
Very possibly the most quotable high school comedy of all time, though I’m not sure anything can beat Mean Girls in that particular regard. Which is the Regina George and which is the Gretchen Wieners? Who the Heather Chandler and who the Heather McNamara? Let’s all agree that Aaron whatzisface can’t hold a candle (or a high-powered explosive) to J.D.. ’80s Christian Slater, man. That’s one for the ages.
At the risk of inflating Kevin Smith’s head even more—not like he really needs it—Clerks is a damn good movie. Fine. Moving on.
The One I Love (2014)
You’ve probably already watched this one, but fuck it, watch it again. It benefits from repeat viewings. Never before has a more shocking line about bacon ever been put to film.
Emotionally fragile creative types with inferiority complexes, maybe skip this one for the sake of your mental health.
Blue Ruin (2013)
This revisionist revenge thriller about a guy who has no business being the main character of a revenge thriller (turns out single-handedly wiping out a crime family is pretty fucking difficult) was one of our favorite underseen films of 2014, and if that’s not enough to convince you to see it, I won’t invite you to my next birthday party.