20 Movies and TV Shows We Can’t Wait to See at SXSW 2023
There are few moviegoing experiences quite as blissful as seeing a raucous movie, with a raucous crowd, in the raucous city of Austin, Texas, during the multi-headed multimedia hydra we know as SXSW.
As locals, longtime attendees, and anyone who’s been lucky enough to secure lodging during the crowded, convention-style event can tell you, this annual gathering is actually a series of fests devoted to music, technology, comedy, art and V.R. exhibitions, TED talk–style keynote addresses, and a lot you can simply file under “dedicated to still keeping Austin weird.” But it’s the film portion, now rebranded as the SXSW Film and TV Festival, that has traditionally kicked off the whole interconnected spring shindig. So when the 2023 edition begins its weeks-long takeover of the city on March 10, the big attractions will once again be raunchy big-name comedies and balls-to-the-wall horror. (This is where A Quiet Place, Booksmart, Us and Everything Everywhere All at Once have premiered in recent years.) All movies are designed to be seen with an audience. Some more than others, of course, and these examples of cinema du lose your collective shit go over like gangbusters here. Does this often cause “festival fever?” Yes. Is it a fun experience? Also yes.
Several of those type of big-tent titles are slated to screen at SXSW this year, along with the fest’s usual assortment of microindies, music documentaries, intriguing debuts from up-and-coming filmmakers, and a lot of offbeat fare. The addition of “TV” to the name isn’t just a concession to popular tastes; they’ve really beefed up their television lineup in a big way, and are showcasing a number of new series that feel completely in sync with the sense and sensibility they’ve established over the past few decades. And though this will be the first fest without longtime figurehead Janet Pierson at the helm, the programming seems as wide-ranging and adventurous as ever. Here are 20 titles we can’t wait to catch.
He’s a construction worker who’s got a seriously short fuse. She’s the owner of a boutique plant store who’s about to sell her business and is on the verge of a nervous breakdown. An incident of road rage puts these two volatile characters on a collision course that seems destined to not only wreck their lives, but the lives of every single person around them. Created by showrunner Lee Sung Jin, this Netflix black comedy about the two angriest Angelenos you’ve ever met looks like the perfect vehicle for Steven Yeun and Ali Wong, as well as a great way to crack open preconceived ideas about Asian-American identity, the American dream, labor, class, the free-floating sense of constant outrage that now permeates modern society, and that delicious dish best served cold. [Editor’s note: Said dish does not contain literal beef, just the metaphorical kind.]
Mike Lazaridis and Douglas Fregin were two Canadians with a dream: to create an unprecedented mobile device that would allow you to send and receive emails, text your friends, and make phone calls. Thanks to some help from a businessman named Jim Basillie, their company Research in Motion created the Blackberry, and lo! A revolution was born. Writer-director-star Matt Johnson (he plays Doug) gives us the origin story of the first smartphone, and how this tiny device caused a huge tech-innovation ripple, made people a shit-ton of money, and destroyed several livelihoods and life-long friendships. Think The Social Network, but smaller and with the equivalent of a minuscule keyboard attached. Also starring Jay Baruchel as Lazaridis and a damn near unrecognizable Glenn Howerton as a cutthroat, take-no-prisoners version of Basillie.
We’ve been breathlessly waiting to see what writer-director Emma Seligman would do as a follow-up to her incredible, hilarious, anxiety-inducing debut Shiva Baby. The answer: a high school comedy about two seniors (cowriter Rachel Sennott and The Bear’s Ayo Edebiri) who start an on-campus fight club in order to seduce cheerleaders. Take that, sophomore slump! This could very well be the big film of this year’s festival.
‘Confessions of a Good Samaritan’
She’s done documentaries on satanists, a cure for impotence involving goat testicles, and Kenny G. Now filmmaker Penny Lane turns the camera on herself, as she dives deep on her decision to become an altruistic kidney donor. That’s only the starting point, however, for what promises to be a windy exploration of the history of organ transplants, how the concept of charity plays into notions of a communal civilization, and what it means to be a “good” person in a world where such things have been devalued. No word on whether Kenny G or goat testicles play any part in this whatsoever.
‘A Disturbance in the Force’
November 17, 1978, is a day that lives in infamy for many young TV viewers — it was on that Friday evening that CBS pre-empted its previously scheduled programming and broadcast the Star Wars Holiday Special, a variety show featuring most of the cast of the popular blockbuster, along with [checks notes] Art Carney, Bea Arthur, Harvey Korman, and Jefferson Starship. It’s safe to say that the Force was not with any of them that night; it was such an embarrassment to George Lucas that he even disavowed the special’s very existence for years. Still, though it was broadcast only once, bootlegs have kept this Death Star of ’70s cheese alive, and fans like Seth Green, Taran Killam, and Paul Scheer now view it with a sense of affectionate nostalgia. Jeremy Koon and Steve Kozak’s documentary aims to give you the 411 on how — a long time ago, in a pop-culture galaxy far, far away — some bad decisions turned a franchise extension into a kitschy punch line.
‘Evil Dead Rise’
Start your engines, Deadite-heads: The belated sequel to the 2013 reboot of the classic Evil Dead franchise will be scurrying into SXSW for its world premiere. A young woman goes to visit her sister and nieces and nephews in Los Angeles. It just so happens that her sibling is living in the same building where a certain book — you know the one — has been languishing in the basement, patiently waiting for someone to turn its pages and speak the words that will make those demonic forces rise once more. Both Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell are on board as producers, and if this red-band trailer is any indication, you should expect to hear a lot of screaming inside the Paramount Theatre.
‘If You Were the Last’
It can get mighty lonely when you’re stranded in the far reaches of space without any working communication system, ability to pilot your shuttle or chance of rescue. Luckily, Jane (Zoë Chao) and Adam (Anthony Mackie) are not just crew members but best buds, and have figured out a way to pass their remaining months with plenty of distractions, food grown on board, and good conversation. Both are married to folks back home, which means there’s little to no chance of them hooking up even if they’re essentially goners. Things would get really messy, right? You see where this is going, and let’s just say that if you’ve been dying for a cosmic romcom, your prayers may be on the verge of getting answered.
‘I’m a Virgo’
Sorry to Bother You writer-director and Bay Area hip-hop legend Boots Riley drops the first look at his new TV series, centered around a 13-foot-tall guy from Oakland named Cootie. His parents have kept him safe inside their home for years, never allowing him to go outside. So when the young man finally gets the chance to experience the world firsthand, he gets a full dose of the good, the bad, and the ugly that society has to offer. Jharrel Jerome, Mike Epps and Carmen Ejogo costar. This sounds both incredibly moving and totally fucking bonkers.
Adele Lim — the cowriter of Crazy Rich Asians and Raya and the Last Dragon — makes her directorial debut with this comedy about four friends (Emily in Paris’ Ashley Park, Everything Everywhere All at Once’s Stephanie Hsu, Sherry Cola, and Sabrina Wu) who turn a business trip gone wrong into an bonding excursion through Asia. Lim has said that she wanted to make a movie “about women who are messy and thirsty, but have so much heart,” and there’s already a heavy buzz around this late addition to the festival.
‘Louder Than You Think’
By the late 1980s, 40-year-old musician Gary Young had already played in a handful of rock & roll bands, taken all the drugs an ex-hippie could possibly ingest, and settled down in Stockton, California. Then two 19-year-old kids, Stephen Malkmus and Scott “Spiral Stairs” Kannberg, showed up at a home-recording studio to flesh out a few songs they had written for kicks. Young offered to play drums on the tracks, the demo tapes got around, and the rest is indie-rock history. Filmmaker Jed I. Rosenberg looks at how Young ended up being both the secret sauce and the destroyer of shows during Pavement’s early years, and how his Keith Moon-like chops on the skins were matched only by his Keith Moon-levels of lunacy and self-destruction.
‘Love to Love You, Donna Summer’
Finally, a Donna Summer doc! Roger Ross Williams (The Apollo) and Brooklyn Sudano’s look at the first lady of disco definitely delves into her mirror-ball heyday, but it also gives you a 360-degree portrait of an artist who was more than just the sum of her 12-inch singles. Long before she met Giorgio Moroder and helped soundtrack an era, Summer was a precocious young kid who loved to goof around with her sister, a hippie who performed in Hair in Germany and a singer whose voice could give you full-body goosebumps. And long after disco was prematurely declared dead, Summer continued to churn out hits and top charts. It’s as much a corrective to the idea that the woman behind “Last Dance” was a one-genre wonder as it is an appreciation.
Brittany Snow (Pitch Perfect, X, Hooking Up) joins the ranks of actor-directors with her first feature, focusing on a young woman named Riley (Yellowjackets’ Courtney Eaton) who’s just got out of rehab for an eating disorder. She has a new friend (Thomas Mann) with romantic potential, a new job, a patient therapist (Gina Rodriguez), and a determination to change her ways. Which, it goes without saying, is easier said than done when you’ve suffered through something extremely traumatic.
We’re still mourning the cancellation of Los Espookys, easily one of the funniest deadpan comedies to come out of premium cable in years — so we’re especially thankful that SXSW is rolling out the proverbial red carpet for Julio Torres’ feature-film debut, about a toy designer from El Salvador trying to avoid work-visa issues. Luckily, he’s nabbed a job assisting an eccentric art-world bigwig (Tilda Swinton!), although “luckily” may not turn out to be the right word….
It’s a genius premise: An everyschlub (Jake Johnson, also making his debut as a writer-director) opts to take part in a reality-TV show where hunters are trying to stalk and kill him. He thinks he’s found a way in which he can outsmart the show and win a million dollars. There’s just one issue: No one believes the show is real. In fact, it might all be in his head. If this is even one-fifth as funny as his New Girl character being cradled like a baby in a swimming pool, we’re 100 percent on board.
Zoe Lister-Jones — the writer-director-star behind the underrated apocalyptic dramedy How It Ends — previews her new series, in which a museum curator finds herself stuck in an unfulfilling relationship with her husband. An impulsive decision regarding a one-night stand finds her waking up the next morning in a parallel universe, where she and her spouse have never met… and the more she tries to get back to her own reality, the more she keeps flipping through alternate personal histories. Our head is already spinning.
The program note for the new Amazon series from Janine Nabers (the producer of Watchmen) and Donald Glover (you know who he is) reads: “Murder. Sex. Music.” That’s the whole synopsis. But considering this horrorcentric show centers around a mega-popular singer who, not uncoincidentally, bares a strong resemblance to a real-life superstar and a fan (Dominique Fishback) who takes her love to an extreme level, maybe that three-word teaser is more than enough of a hint as to what this dynamic showrunning duo has in store. Add The Deuce MVP and Judas and the Black Messiah actor into the mix, and you’ve got one of the most anxiously awaited selections of SXSW’s TV-programming lineup.
Coming off a premiere at Cannes last year and a long tour on the international film festival circuit, this story of young Oglala Lakota men trying to navigate their way into adulthood and a sense of of self — co-directed by Gina Gammell and Daisy Jones & the Six star Riley Keough — finally touches down on our shores. Word on the street is that Keough and her collaborator have fashioned a sensitive yet strictly non-judgmental look at life for these kids on the Pine Ridge Reservation, and that it suggests she’s got serious chops behind the camera.
Oscar-winning filmmakers Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi (Free Solo) return with a two-for-one project: A look back at the life and work of the late Douglas Tompkins, the outdoorsman-turned-fashion-mogul-turned-conservationist; and a chronicle of how Kristine McDivitt Tompkins, his equally eco-concerned widow, spearheaded an effort to turn their dream of establishing national parks in the South American region of Patagonia into a reality. Expect this doc to touch on everything from activewear to activism, sustainable farming to ’60s surf culture, the agony and ecstasy of mountain climbing to climate change.
‘You Can Call Me Bill’
Actor, author, all-around sci-fi icon, director, recording artist, space traveler (both fictional and real!), Canadian — William Shatner is a man of many accomplishments and distinctions. What final frontier, if you will, was left for this legend to conquer other than being the subject of a candid, confessional documentary? Alexandre O. Philippe, a filmmaker who’s distinguished himself with deep-dive docs on classic movies and moviemakers (Lynch/Oz, 78/52: Hitchock’s Shower Scene, Leap of Faith: William Friedkin on The Exorcist) turns his camera on the original Starfleet commander who prefers to simply be known as “Bill.”
‘The Young Wife’
Tayarisha Poe follows up her extraordinary debut Selah and the Spades with the story of a bride-to-be (Kiersey Clemons) juggling responsibilities, anxieties, crazed family members, and beaucoup self-doubt on the big day. Considering the way the writer-director left her stamp on the high-school-clique flick with Selah, we can’t wait to see what the writer-director does with the subgenre known as the “wedding comedy.” Also, you gotta dig the to-die-for supporting cast: Judith Light, singer Leon Bridges, Michaela Watkins, Abbott Elementary’s Sheryl Lee Ralph, Kelly Marie Tran, Aya Cash, Jon Rudnitsky.