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Sundance Film Festival 2013: 15 Must-See Movies

From Dave Grohl’s Sound City doc to a Beat Generation drama, Steve Jobs biopic and more

sundance film festival preview

Perhaps lost amid the snow, the schmoozing and the star-gazing of the Sundance Film Festival is the fact that it really is about movies – movies made far from the Hollywood sausage factories, movies that no studio executive would greenlight (but which several will be clamoring to buy, now that someone else had the courage to make them). Sure, the chase for the next Little Miss Sunshine, The Kids Are All Right or Beasts of the Southern Wild may lead to a windfall for some and Oscars for others, but for you, the moviegoer, it's just about getting to see something different that, if not for the Sundance seal of approval, might never reach your art-house theater, DVD player or streaming screen.

This year's slate of movies, unspooling at the Park City, Utah gala from January 17th-27th, seems especially focused on sex, laughs and rock & roll. Many of the films are based in comedy, romance and tortured relationships; others unearth unseen, unheard moments in rock history. Here are 15 of the Sundance 2013 films we're most looking forward to. Cross your fingers that they'll soon be coming to a screen near you.

By Gary Susman

Jobs ashton kutcher

Glen Wilson


Real-life Internet venture capitalist Ashton Kutcher's last two seasons playing a shaggy web mogul on Two and a Half Men seem to have been a dry run for this biopic about Apple co-founder Steve Jobs. At the very least, it should get us to, um, think different about the Punk'd prankster. Joshua Michael Stern (Swing Vote) directs a cast that includes Dermot Mulroney, Josh Gad, Matthew Modine and James Woods.

Pussy Riot - A Punk Prayer

Roast Beef Productions

‘Pussy Riot – A Punk Prayer’

Directors Mike Lerner and Maxim Pozdorovkin trace the story of the all-female Russian rock trio put on trial on charges of religious hatred over their guerrilla performance-art stunt inside Russia's main cathedral. The film explores the background of the three women, whose penchant for media spectacle onstage, in the church and in the courtroom aimed to start a worldwide political movement.

Ass Backwards

Courtesy of Prominent Pictures

‘Ass Backwards’

Casey Wilson brings the comic fearlessness that's made her a star on ABC's Happy Endings to the big screen with this feature. Wilson and June Diane Raphael co-wrote and co-star in this farce about two women who return to their hometown in search of the beauty pageant glory that evaded them as girls. The supporting cast includes Jon Cryer, Alicia Silverstone and Vincent D'Onofrio. This one's expected to be a highlight of Sundance's Midnight Movie slate.

Before Midnight

Despina Spyrou

‘Before Midnight’

In what is becoming the 56Up of romance movies, Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) are back for another installment of their once-a-decade European hook-ups. In this newest sequel (directed, like Before Sunrise and Before Sunset, by Richard Linklater), Jesse and Celine meet again, this time in Greece. At this point, seeing them fight and make up should be something like a fond reunion with those college pals you backpacked through Europe with.

kill your darlings

Reed Morano

‘Kill Your Darlings’

Hogwarts graduate Daniel Radcliffe is going to college – Columbia University, in the 1940s. In this dawn-of-the-Beats bio-drama, he's the young poet Allen Ginsberg, soon to meet the young Jack Kerouac (Boardwalk Empire's Jack Huston) and the young William S. Burroughs (Ben Foster). Jon Krokidas' feature traces the earliest days of their fateful friendship, which involved both a murder and the birth of a literary revolution.

sound city

Sami Ansari

‘Sound City’

Dave Grohl reveals another of his many talents. The drummer and Foo Fighters frontman makes his directing debut with this documentary about the Van Nuys studio whose famous recordings include Nirvana's Nevermind. Such classic rockers as Tom Petty and Mick Fleetwood pay tribute to the old-school analog studio. In typical Grohl fashion, he's promoting the film by forming a supergroup of Sound City all-stars including Stevie Nicks, John Fogerty and Cheap Trick's Rick Nielsen. (And perhaps new Grohl pal Paul McCartney).