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The 50 Indie Films Indiewire Wants to See in 2014

Indiewire By Paula Bernstein, Peter Knegt, Eric Kohn, Nigel M. Smith and Alison Willmore | Indiewire January 9, 2014 at 12:44PM

With the avalanche of 2013 Top Ten lists petering out and the Sundance Film Festival a mere week away from introducing what could be this year's "Beasts of the Southern Wild" or "Fruitvale Sation," it's time to stop reflecting on the past year's cinema and start getting excited about this one's. Because if the 50 films most anticipated by Indiewire's editors listed below are any indication, it looks like a very promising year ahead.
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Some films we want to see in 2014

With the avalanche of 2013 Top Ten lists petering out and the Sundance Film Festival a mere week away from introducing what could be this year's "Beasts of the Southern Wild" or "Fruitvale Sation," it's time to stop reflecting on the past year's cinema and start getting excited about this one's. Because if the 50 films most anticipated by Indiewire's editors listed below are any indication, it looks like a very promising year ahead.

Here are 50 indies, in alphabetical order, likely to be released in 2014 that Indiewire's staff are most excited to see:

"Animal Rescue"
Director: Michael R. Roskam
Cast: Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace, James Gandolfini, Matthias Schoenaerts
Distributor: Fox Searchlight
Release Date: TBD

Why It Might Be a Must-See: Oscar-nominated "Bullhead" director Michael R. Roskam makes his English-language debut with "Animal Rescue," a crime drama that features James Gandolfini in his final on-screen performance. Based on a short story by Dennis Lehane ("Gone Baby Gone"), the film follows a New York bartender (Tom Hardy), caught in the middle of a bloody heist, who rescues a puppy only to become the target of the pooch's crazy owner. Noomi Rapace co-stars.

"Big Bad Wolves"
Director: Navot Papushado, Aharon Kettles
Cast: Lior Ashkenazi, Rotem Keinan, Tzahi Grad
Distributor: Magnet Releasing
Release Date: January 17

Why It Might Be a Must-See: Quentin Tarantino has already dubbed this Israeli revenge thriller "the best film of the year," so, of course, we're intrigued. Writers-directors Papushado and Keshales previously teamed up on the Israeli horror film, "Rabies" and in "Big Bad Wolves" they deal with similarly dark material --the story involves a police detective who tortures a man suspected of being a child killer. Sounds bleak, but word is that it's also funny -- in a twisted Tarantino sort of way.

"Big Eyes"
Director: Tim Burton
Cast: Amy Adams, Christoph Waltz, Krysten Ritter, Danny Huston, Jason Schwartzman
Distributor: The Weinstein Company
Release Date: TBD

Why It Might Be a Must See: Tim Burton has gotten a lot of flack as of late thanks to big budget, critically panned films like "Alice in Wonderland" and "Dark Shadows." But he's making a return to fantasy-free, low-budget fare with in 2014 -- really for the first time since 1994's "Ed Wood" (which is perhaps his most critically acclaimed film). With a script from "Wood" screenwriters Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, "Big Eyes" takes on the true story of husband and wife artists Walter and Margaret Keane (Christoph Waltz and Amy Adams), the former of whom rose to fame in 1950s for his paintings of big-eyed kids. But a heated divorce later saw Margaret accuse Walter of stealing credit for those paintings, and all hell breaks loose. With a supporting cast including Krysten Ritter, Danny Huston and Jason Schwartzman, the film marks an extraordinarily promising career move for Burton. Here's hoping it makes us completely forget about "Dark Shadows" and anticipate a whole new era of work from Burton.

"Birdman"
Director: Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu
Cast: Emma Stone, Edward Norton, Naomi Watts, Andrea Riseborough, Michael Keaton
Distributor: Fox Searchlight
Release Date: TBD

Why It Might Be a Must-See: Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu, the filmmaker behind such depressing epic dramas as "Amores Perros," "21 Grams" and "Babel" breaks new ground with his latest, the ensemble comedy "Birdman." Michael Keaton stars in the film as an actor best known for playing an iconic superhero in movies (great casting) who attempts to mount a Broadway play. His bid to gain industry respect is thwarted when he begins to butt heads with the lead actor of the play. Emma Stone, Naoimi Watts, Edward Norton and Andrea Riseborough all co-star.

"The Boxtrolls"
Director: Graham Annable, Anthony Stacchi
Cast: Elle Fanning, Simon Pegg, Toni Collette
Distributor: Focus Features
Release Date: September 26

Why It Might Be a Must-See: Laika, the Portland-based stop-motion outfit that brought you "Coraline" and "ParaNorman" are back this fall with another animated family film sure to impress, "The Boxtrolls." The film, featuring the voices of Elle Fanning, Simon Pegg and Toni Collette, is based on the book "Here Be Monsters!," and centers on a young orphan boy raised by trolls who has to save his clan when an evil exterminator threatens his brood. The trailer for the film, which has been playing before "Frozen" in theaters, hints at a lovingly animated tale in the ghoulish vein of Laika's two predecessors.

An animated Rob Wright in "The Congress."

"Boyhood"
Director: Richard Linklater
Cast: Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke
Distributor: None as of yet, but after a festival debut that should change quickly.
Release Date: TBD

Why It Might Be a Must See: Richard Linklater's "Before" trilogy has enthralled audiences for almost two decades, but it's not the only time-based narrative that the ambitious filmmaker has been guiding along. For years known only as "Linklater's 12 Year Project," the nearly completed "Boyhood" is said to have begun production in Houston in the summer of 2002 and reportedly completed shooting in late 2013. The central drama involves a divorced couple (Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette) and their impact on their son (Ellar Salmon) as he grows from childhood to his teen years. The experimental production has largely been shrouded in secrecy as Linklater has returned to it each summer, but one can imagine based on the director's recent work that a thoughtful and tremulously innovative analysis of human development is in store.

"Carol"
Director: Todd Haynes
Cast: Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara
Distributor: The Weinstein Company
Release Date: TBD

Why It Might Be a Must See: The involvement of Todd Haynes or Cate Blanchett in anything warrants a must-see status, but for them to come together again 8 years after "I'm Not There" for a 1950s set lesbian drama co-starring Rooney Mara as Blanchett's love interest!? It's almost too much for us to handle. Based on the 1952 novel "The Price of Salt" by Patricia Highsmith (whose books "Strangers on a Train" and "The Talented Mr. Ripley" also resulted in fantastic queer-interest films -- the latter notably also starring Cate Blanchett), the film follows Therese (Mara), a young New York department store clerk who falls for Carol (Blanchett), an older, married woman. The film is set to shoot in Spring, so it's possible we won't actually see it until 2014. But here's hoping for a Christmas "Carol" care of Haynes and Blanchett.

"The Congress"
Director: Ari Folman
Cast: Robin Wright, Harvey Keitel, Jon Hamm
Distributor: Drafthouse Films
Release Date: TBD

Why It Might Be a Must-See:  Among the most divisive titles to play at Cannes (our own Eric Kohn was a fan, The Playlist was not), "The Congress," loosely based on Stanislaw Lem's science-fiction novel "The Futurological Congress," takes a meta "Being John Malkovich" approach by featuring Robin Wright as a fictional version of herself, who at the outset is struggling as an actress in an industry that values youth over experience. At the behest of her agent (Harvey Keitel), Wright agrees to partake in a revolutionary experiment to create a digital replica of herself (albeit a younger one) to take over her career. The catch? The real Wright can never act again.

"Dear White People"
Director: Justin Simien
Cast: Kyle Gallner, Dennis Haysbert, Tyler James Williams
Distributor: None as of yet
Release Date: Debuts at this month’s Sundance Film Festival

Why It Might Be a Must-See: We've got a special interest in "Dear White People," which was Indiewire and Tribeca Film Institute's first-ever Project of the Year. First-time writer/director Justin Simien's semi-autobiographical film centers on four black students at an Ivy League college where a riot breaks out over an "African American" themed party thrown by white students. We're hoping for a smart satire that explores racial identity. Although he's likely to be compared to another African-American Sundance-approved filmmaker, Simien told Indiewire, "I'm not the next Spike Lee. I'm the first me."

"Dinosaur 13"
Director: Todd Douglas Miller
Distributor: None as of yet
Release Date: Debuts at this month’s Sundance Film Festival

Why It Might Be a Must See: This opening night selection for the Sundance Film Festival contains the irresistible qualities of being a non-fiction thriller about dinosaurs. More specifically, Todd Miller’s look at the 1990 discovery of the world’s most complete Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton suggests an element of intrigue that could be applied to all history no matter how distant. In the aftermath of the excavation, the skeleton becomes the center of a battle between the FBI and the National Guard, self-righteous museums and passionate Native American tribes. If documentary can bring this war to life with the same excitement and danger that the story entails, it may very well rank among one of the more enticing stories of the year. More than anything else, "Dinosaur 13" looks well-poised to tap into the massive reverberations of far-flung history in the present moment.

"Ex Machina"
Director: Alex Garland
Cast: Oscar Isaac, Domhnall Gleeson, Alicia Vikander
Distributor: None as of yet
Release Date: TBD

Why It Might Be a Must-See: This psychological thriller marks the directorial debut of veteran screenwriter Alex Garland, whose scripts for "28 Days Later," Sunshine" and "Never Let Me Go" have been some of the most underrated and compelling to come out of Hollywood in recent years. Garland has also written the script for "Ex Machia," which follows a 24-year-old coder at an internet company who wins a competition to spend a week at the CEO's private mountain retreat. There he meets the first artificially intelligent robot that inhabits the body of a beautiful girl. Though the plot seems to cover some of the same ground covered in "Her," we're hoping this could be the breakout roles that make Domhnall Gleeson (best known as Bill Weasley from "Harry Potter" and Alicia Vikander household names. And did we mention Oscar Isaac plays the reclusive CEO?

"Everything Will Be Fine"
Director: Wim Wenders
Cast: James Franco, Rachel McAdams, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Marie-Josee Croze
Distributor: None as of yet
Release Date: TBD

Why It Might Be a Must See: Following up his remarkably successful, Oscar nominated 3D documentary "Pina," Wim Wenders returns to narrative filmmaking, but we'll still be wearing the 3D glasses. From a script by Bjorn Olaf Johannessen, the film tells the story of a writer (Franco), who loses control of his life after a car accident which kills a young boy. It follows him over a period of 12 years as he tries to find self-forgiveness, with McAdams (in a role originally set for Sarah Polley) playing his girfriend Kate. While clearly the plot does not sound like your typical 3D fare, leave it to Wenders to offer us an entirely new utilization of the format (as he did with "Pina").

'Far From The Madding Crowd'

"Far From the Madding Crowd"
Director: Thomas Vinterberg
Cast: Carey Mulligan, Michael Sheen, Tom Sturridge, Matthias Schoenaerts
Distributor: Fox Searchlight
Release Date: TBD

Why It Might Be a Must-See: "A Celebration" director Thomas Vinterberg made quite the comeback at Cannes a couple of years back with "The Hunt," and he follows it up with this promising adaptation of Thomas Hardy's 19th century classic headlined by the ever reliable Carey Mulligan as a woman who inherits a large farm and becomes romantically entangled with three men (Michael Sheen, Tom Sturridge and Matthias Schoenaerts). Vinterberg has proven adept at drawing out career best performances from his cast (Mads Mikkelsen took home top acting honors at Cannes for his showstopping turn in "The Hunt"), so signs point to this being a heated character study.

"Frank"
Director: Lenny Abrahamson
Cast: Michael Fassbender, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Domhnall Gleeson, Scoot McNairy
Distributor: None, but its Sundance premiere seems all-but-assured to change that
Release Date: TBD

Why It Might Be a Must See: Just as he (surely) receives his first Oscar nomination for "12 Years a Slave," Michael Fassbender will show audiences at Sundance his very different follow-up. A comic take on the true story of Chris Sievey (Fassbender), a comedian who decides to front a pop band via his alter ego Frank Sidebottom (who hides under a cardboard head), "Frank" is a long ways away from "12 Years a Slave." Co-starring Maggie Gyllenhaal and Domhnall Gleeson, the film is director Lenny Abrahamson's follow-up to the underrated "What Richard Did," and should definitely be high on the to-see lists of anyone heading to Sundance next week.

"Finding Fela"
Director: Alex Gibney
Cast: Fela Kuti
Distributor: None as of yet
Release Date: Debuts at this month’s Sundance Film Festival

Why It Might Be a Must-See: Fela Kuti, the late Nigerian musician who spawned Afrobeat and the political movement that accompanied it, has already inspired a successful musical and there's also a Hollywood biopic in the works. But his Kuti's story warrants the documentary treatment and Academy Award winning documentarian Alex Gibney ("The Armstrong Lie") is just the director to bring it to life. From his musical legacy to his political activism (Kuti was jailed on political grounds in Nigeria) to his love life (he had many wives), Fela Kuti's life should make a gripping documentary – and the music is guaranteed to satisfy.

"Foxcatcher"
Director: Bennett Miller
Cast: Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo, Steve Carell, Sienna Miller, Vanessa Redgrave
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics
Release Date: TBD

Why It Might Be a Must See:  "Foxcatcher" was a highly anticipated potential fixture in the awards race going on right now for last year's films. But the film was pushed to 2014 at the last minute because director Miller ("Capote," "Moneyball") didn't want to rush things. But considering how crowded the current Oscar race is, maybe it was for the best. And it gives us something to very much look forward to in 2014. Starring Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo, Steve Carell, Sienna Miller and Vanessa Redgrave, the film tells the true story of Olympic Wrestling Champion brothers Mark Schultz (Tatum) and Dave Schultz (Ruffalo) and their relationship with the eccentric John du Pont (Carell), heir to the du Pont Chemical fortune that led to murder. Written by E. Max Frye and "Capote" scribe Dan Futterman, if it were to so work out roughly a year from now, it would be Bennett Miller's third straight film to receive a best picture nomination.

"Grace of Monaco"
Director: Olivier Dahan
Cast: Nicole Kidman, Tim Roth
Distributor: The Weinstein Company
Release Date: March 14

Why It Might Be a Must-See: Harvey Weinsteim bumped the film's release from last December to this March, effectively barring it from this season's awards race, but that alone does not diminish our hope for the biopic. If there was ever an actress born to embody screen legend Grace Kelly, it's Nicole Kidman with her strikingly similar porcelain features and radiant on-screen presence. And director Olivier Dahan proved that he can deliver a ravishing film in the same mold, with his Oscar-winning "La Vie en Rose." Maybe Harvey was simply telling the truth; that it wasn't ready in time. Only time will tell.

"The Grand Budapest Hotel"

"The Grand Budapest Hotel"
Director: Wes Anderson
Cast: Ralph Fiennes, Tilda Swinton, Saoirse Ronan, Edward Norton
Distributor: Fox Searchlight
Release Date: March 7

Why It Might Be a Must-See: It’s hard to say Wes Anderson is on a roll since he never really slowed down, but "The Grand Budapest Hotel" looks like another capricious delight from America’s great chronicler of whimsical personalities. Set in the Europe of the 1920’s, the movie features Ralph Fiennes as a noted hotel concierge framed for murder and hiding from the police; meanwhile, Bill Murray naturally finds his way into the story as the manager of a rival hotel. Early buzz and trailers indicate an elegant, snappy comedy, confirming Anderson’s claims that he’s working in the tradition of great screwball director Ernst Lubitsch. While Anderson’s style might be easy to parody and sometimes too precious for its own good, there’s no doubting that he ranks among the more enjoyably inventive entertainers working in film today.

"Grand Piano"
Director: Eugenio Mira
Cast: Elijan Wood, John Cusack
Distributor: Magnet Releasing
Release Date: March 7

Why It Might Be a Must See: Eugenio Mira’s wildly entertaining Brian De Palma homage stars Elijah Wood as famous young pianist Tom Selznick thrust into the hardest concert of his career — mainly because an unseen gunman (voiced by John Cusack) forces the musician to play the piece correctly in order to stay alive. While an unsuspecting audience looks on, Tom desperately pounds on one key to the next, while constantly thinking through his scenario: Who is this shadowy puppet master and what does he really want? Once the oddball premise is established, "Grand Piano" is a slick thriller that earns its reputation as a classical music riff on "Speed," with Wood transforming into an unlikely tuxedoed action figure. It’s a ridiculous and outrageously fun alternative to any big scale blockbuster you’ll see this year.

Magnolia "Happy Christmas"

"Happy Christmas"
Director: Joe Swanberg
Cast: Anna Kendrick, Lena Dunham
Distributor: None of yet
Release Date: Debuts at this month’s Sundance Film Festival

Why It Might Be a Must-See: After going all star crazy with last summer’s "Drinking Buddies," Joe Swanberg is at it again, employing bankable actors for his latest ensemble comedy, "Happy Christmas." "Buddies" star Anna Kendrick is back, alongside a roster of Swanberg newcomers including Lena Dunham, Mark Webber and Melanie Lynskey. Working with "Beasts of the Southern Wild" cinematographer Ben Richardson (who also shot "Drinking Buddies"), the quintessentially digital-friendly Swanberg made "Happy Christmas" on Super 16mm film, his first production to utilize the medium since film school.

"The Immigrant"
Director: James Gray
Cast: Marion Cotillard, Joaquin Phoenix, Jeremy Renner
Distributor: RADiUS-TWC
Release Date: TBD

Why It Might Be a Must-See: Labeled "the most divisive film in last year's Cannes competition" by Indiewire's Eric Kohn, James Gray's Marion Cotillard-starring period drama "The Immigrant" was among one of the most anticipated and ultimately debated films to play at the event. Beloved by many for what Kohn described as its "classical virtues" and derided by some who found the pacing too deliberate and the protagonist too opaque, "The Immigrant" was dropped by its original distributor The Weinstein Company, only to be picked up by its RADiUS label. The 1920s set drama stars Cotillard as Ewa, a Polish woman with a mysterious past who immigrates to New York in the hope of a better life for her and her sister. When her sibling is detained by authorities and confined after she shows signs of illness, Ewa meets a seedy show runner (Gray frequent collaborator Joaquin Phoenix), who takes her in and forces her into prostitution. With the money earned, Ewa hopes to free her sister and be reunited.

"I Origins"
Director: Mike Cahill
Cast: Brit Marling, Michael Pitt, Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey, Archie Panjabi, Steven Yeun
Distributor: None as of yet
Release Date: Debuts at this month’s Sundance Film Festival

Why It Might Be a Must-See: Mike Cahill's debut feature, the sci-fi "Another Earth" won the Special Jury Prize at Sundance ’11, and "I Origins" has already received the Sundance stamp of approval. Not only will it premiere at the upcoming fest, but the film also was the first-ever recipient of the Dolby Family Sound Fellowship. Cahill wrote, directed, produced and edited the film about a molecular biologist and his lab partner who discover evidence that could have dramatic implications for society. We're expecting some stunning visuals and impressive sound design.

"Laggies"

"Laggies"
Director: Lynn Shelton
Cast: Keira Knightley, Chloe Moretz, Mark Webber
Distributor: Debuts at this month’s Sundance Film Festival

Why It Might Be a Must-See: A new movie from "Humpday" filmmaker Lynn Shelton is always a welcome prospect, and "Laggies" finds the director working with her highest profile cast yet as well as making her first film penned by another screenwriter -- Andrea Seigel in her screenplay debut. Keira Knightley stars as a woman who, after her boyfriend (Mark Webber) proposes, lies about going on a business trip in order to spend time with her new teenage friend (Chloë Grace Moretz). Shelton's always been good about belated coming of age stories -- it should be fun to see how the often very grown up Knightley.

"Le Week-end"
Director: Roger Michell
Cast: Jim Broadbent, Lindsay Duncan, Jeff Goldblum
Distributor: Music Box Films
Release Date: March 14

Why It Might Be a Must See: Last year’s "Before Midnight" ended with its feuding lovers imagining what it might be like to grow old together. While it involves a different set of characters, Roger Michell’s "Le Week-end" may answer that question anyway, as it involves a near-geriatric British couple (Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan) wandering Paris on a vacation gone awry while going for the jugular in their arguments over the proper direction for their remaining lives. Michell's tender comedy-drama — written by "My Beautiful Laundrette" scribe Hanif Kureishi — gets under your skin with darkly amusing exchanges between the couple that marry the humor with a philosophical sadness and vice versa. Also featuring a naturally hilarious appearance by Jeff Goldblum as the Broadbent character’s more successful former colleague, "Le Week-end" is both a somber existential medication and a cynical rant, yet maintains a sense of levity as its stars gradually shed their problems and rediscover the romanticism that drew them together in the first place.

"Life Itself"
Director: Steve James
Cast: Roger Ebert, Errol Morris, Werner Herzog, Martin Scorsese
Distributor: None as of yet
Release Date: Debuts at this month’s Sundance Film Festival and simultaneous live stream available to the film's Indieigogo backers

Why It Might Be a Must-See: It's the first-ever feature-length documentary on the life of Roger Ebert, which is enough of a reason for us to see it. But the fact that it's directed by Steve James ("Hoop Dreams") and features interviews with filmmakers such as Errol Morris, Werner Herzog, Ava DuVernay and Martin Scorsese (who is one o the film's executive producers), elevates the film to must-see status. No doubt, it will cover Ebert's early days at the University of Illinois to his move to Chicago where he became the first critic ever to win the Pulitzer Prize, and then to his time on television where he became a household name alongside Gene Siskel. But we're most excited to see the way the film handles Ebert's "third act," when he overcome disabilities and became an important voice on social media, not to mention his ongoing love affair with his wife, Chaz Ebert.

"Love is Strange."

"Love is Strange"
Director: Ira Sachs
Cast: Alfred Molina, John Lithgow
Distributor: None as of yet
Release Date: Debuts at this month’s Sundance Film Festival

Why It Might Be a Must-See: Two years after winning raves for his "Keep The Lights On," Ira Sachs is back with another gay love story, though this doesn't sound quite as brutal as the semi-autobiographical "Lights." "Love Is Strange" stars John Lithgow and Alfred Molina as Ben and George, who after 39 years together decided to take advantage of the new marriage laws and tie the knot in New York City. On the return from their honeymoon, and on account of their vows, Ben gets fired from his longtime job as a choir director for a co-ed Catholic school. Suddenly, with no real savings to count on, the couple finds that they can’t afford the rent on their small Chelsea apartment. The film looks like an age demographic not often served in LGBT cinema (or in any cinema, really) and we're very curious to see where Sachs takes us after keeping those lights on two years ago.

"The Lobster"
Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
Cast: Ben Whishaw, Olivia Colman, Lea Seydoux, Jason Clarke
Distributor: None as of yet
Release Date: TBD

Why It Might Be a Must See: Acclaimed Greek filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos ("Dogtooth") starts shooting his English language debut this March, and we couldn't be more excited. With a cast including Ben Whishaw, Olivia Colman, Lea Seydoux and Jason Clarke, the film is set in a dystopian near future and focuses on a group of single men and women who are brought to a creepy hotel and instructed to find a life partner within 45 days. If they don't? Well, then they are transformed into animals and released into the woods. If that isn't a plot that has you running to cinemas whenever the film ends up getting released, then we don't know what would be.

"The Lunchbox"
Director: Ritesh Batra
Cast: Irrfan Khan, Nimrat Kaur
Distributor: Fox Searchlight
Release Date: February

Why It Might Be a Must-See: Ritesh Batra’s Mumbai-set drama revolves around a housewife (Nimrat Kaur) who tries to resurrect her failing marriage through her kitchen, only to find that her husband’s special lunch has inadvertently been given to his co-worker. This setup leads her to start a lunchbox-based correspondence with the other man, a lonely man looking back on his life whose solace comes in the form of an equally downtrodden soul. A hit on the 2013 festival circuit, "The Lunchbox" plays Sundance this January before hitting in theaters in February.

Marcia Gay Harden and Emma Stone in 'Magic in the Moonlight'

"Magic in the Moonlight"
Director: Woody Allen
Cast: Emma Stone, Colin Firth, Marcia Gay Harden, Jacki Weaver
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics
Release Date: July

Why It Might Be a Must-See: Even Woody Allen’s detractors can’t deny that he’s been on something of a roll lately: "Midnight in Paris" and "Blue Jasmine" were both box office hits and critically acclaimed testimonies to the vitality of his filmmaking voice as he barrels through his late seventies. With "Magic in the Moonlight," Allen returns to France for a romantic comedy featuring the usual parade of old and young talent eager to work with the director: Emma Stone, Colin Firth, Hamish Linklater, Jacki Weaver and Erica Leerhsen. As usual, plot details are vague, though early reports suggest the story unfolds over two decades. Allen’s last few projects have been especially introspective, so we’re excited to see if he continues that trend.

"Maps to the Stars"
Director: David Cronenberg
Cast: Julianne Moore, Robert Pattinson, Mia Wasikowska, John Cusack, Olivia Williams, Carrie Fisher
Distributor: eOne US
Release Date: TBD

Why It Might Be a Must-See: A near certainty for Cannes 2014, David Cronenberg's follow up to his divisive "Cosmopolis" once again teams the director with Robert Pattinson, this time alongside a dreamy ensemble including Julianne Moore, Mia Wasikowska, John Cusack, Olivia Williams and Carrie Fisher. Said to be a "vicious look at a twisted Hollywood dynasty" and a takedown of the industry altogether, "Maps" sure sounds juicy. It's already been rated by the MPAA (and given an "R," which is clearly no surprise given Cronenberg's history), so it must be just a matter of waiting for the Croisette (unless it's a surprise addition to Berlin, which is not an impossibility).

Jesse Eisenberg in "Night Moves."

"Mommy"
Director: Xavier Dolan
Cast: Antoine-Olivier Pilon, Anne Dorval, Suzanne Clement
Distributor: None as of yet in the US
Release Date: TBD

Why It Might Be a Must-See: Another year, another Xavier Dolan film. The nearly 25 year old is offering us his 5th feature film in just six years, and it sounds like a doozy: With a title that winks at his debut "I Killed My Mother," Dolan's latest re-teams him with Anne Dorval and Suzanne Clement (who gave remarkable performances in "Mother" and "Laurence Anyways," respectively), though instead of Dolan himself joining them on screen, its newcomer Antoine-Olivier Pilon, who plays Dorval's troubled teenage son. Shooting started last fall, suggesting "Mommy" might be bringing Dolan back to the Southern French festival where he first broke out, perhaps this time finally in official competition.

"Mr. Turner"
Director: Mike Leigh
Cast: James Norton, Timothy Spall, Roger Ashton-Griffiths, Lasco Atkins, Jamie Thomas King
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics
Release Date: TBD

Why It Might Be a Must-See: Do we need to go farther than the name "Mike Leigh"? Four years after "Another Year," the director -- who has pretty much never failed -- returns with this biopic about the life of controversial 19th century British painter and printmaker J.M. Turner (frequent Leigh collaborator Timothy Spall). Likely heading -- like many films on this list -- to Cannes, if the film is anywhere near as good as Leigh's last film set in the 1800s -- 1999's magical "Topsy-Turvy" (which also featured Spall), then it will be more than worth our time.

"Night Moves"
Director: Kelly Reichardt

Cast: Dakota Fanning, Jesse Eisenberg, Peter Sarsgaard
Distributor: Cinedigm
Release Date: Spring 2014

Why It Might Be a Must-See: With her distinctive minimalist vision, Reichardt has directed some of the most insightful and haunting indie films of recent years, including "Wendy and Lucy" and "Meek's Cutoff." Her fifth feature has already been a festival favorite, playing Venice and Toronto before winning the Grand Prize at the Deauville Film Festival.  The story of three radical environmentalists plotting the explosion of a hydroelectric dam, "Night Moves" is a neo-noir for set against the backdrop of Oregon. With Fanning, Eisenberg and Sarsgaard in the lead roles, the film is a psychological portrait of the activists as well as a paranoid thriller.

"Nymphomaniac"
Director: Lars von Trier
Cast: Charlotte Gainsbourg, Uma Thurman, Shia LaBeouf, Jamie Bell
Distributor: Magnolia
Release Date:  "Nymphomaniac: Part One" will open in theaters on March 21, and be available On Demand as of March 6. "Nymphomaniac: Part Two" will open in theaters on April 18, and be available On Demand as of April 3

Why It Might Be a Must-See: A new Lars Von Trier movie always elicits a mixture of excitement and unease, but "Nymphomaniac" is on another level. The two-part, four-hour-plus epic, which stars Charlotte Gainsbourg as the sex-addicted woman of the title, promises plenty of explicit nudity and outrageous exchanges — along with more than a modicum of brains. Early reviews suggest that Von Trier’s film, which features a cast that also includes Stellan Skarsgaard and Shia LaBeouf among many other familiar faces, brings an enticing literary and philosophical sensibility to its lewd subject matter. It’s another reminder that no matter how much people like to characterize Von Trier as a provocateur, the ideas embedded in his work resonate even louder than the shocks.

"The Raid 2: Berandal"
Director: Gareth Evans
Cast: Iko Uwais, Yayan Ruhian
Distributor: Sony Pictures Clasics
Release Date: 28 March

Why It Might Be a Must-See: Gareth Evans’ 2011 Indonesian action movie "The Raid: Redemption," a blisteringly fast-paced action story set entirely in the confines of an apartment building, resulted in one of the most remarkable entries in the genre to come along in years. Both the tale of a bumbling SWAT team making its way through hordes of criminals and a relentless martial arts experience, "The Raid" also managed to establish a keen contrast in warring siblings Rama (Iko Wais), an unflappable police officer, and Andi (Donny Alamsyah), a committed mob boss. They still haven’t worked out their differences: Though the plot of "The Raid 2: Berandal" isn’t entirely clear, we know that it begins relatively soon after the end of the first movie and that the plot involves Rama going undercover as a criminal to protect his family. That might sound like familiar turf, but the trailer promises wall-to-wall action from start to finish — and judging by the first movie, that means you may as well grow nails out, because "The Raid 2" is likely to make you gnaw them to pieces.

"The Sacrament," Ti West

"The Sacrament"
Director: Ti West
Cast: Amy Seimetz, Joe Swanberg, AJ Bowen
Distributor: Magnet Releasing
Release Date: VOD May 5th; Theaters June 6th

Why It Might Be a Must-See: After dabbling in found-footage horror via a short "V/H/S" segment, "The Sacrament" marks "The Innkeepers" filmmaker's first full fledged film in the genre. Framed as a Vice documentary (that are so in style these days), the thriller centers on a group who venture out to an isolated community to investigate a possible suicide cult led by a charismatic leader. Understandably skeptical at first, the crew slowly come around to the group's utopian claims, only to soon discover that the leader is in fact a nutcase. Indie vets Joe Swanberg, Amy Seimetz and Kate Lyn Sheil all star.

"Serena"
Director: Susanne Bier
Cast: Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence
Distributor: None as of yet
Release Date: TBD

Why It Might Be a Must-See: Based on Ron Rash's 2008 novel about a North Carolina timber baron and his ruthlessly ambitious wife during the Depression, "Serena" reunites Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, who sparked onscreen chemistry in "Silver Linings Playbook" and, more recently co-starred in "American Hustle." There's less romance and humor in "Serena," which is said to be more American Gothic than "American Hustle." Academy Award winning director Susanne Bier has an established track record for delivering intense and intelligent relationship dramas ("After the Wedding," "In a Better World") and we're expecting "Serena" to be equally gripping.

"Squirrel to the Nuts"
Director: Peter Bogdanovich
Cast: Jennifer Aniston, Lucy Punch, Kathryn Hahn, Owen Wilson, Will Forte and Joanna Lumley
Distributor: None as of yet, but after a festival debut that should change quickly.
Release Date: TBD

Why It Might Be a Must See:  It's been well over a decade since seminal American filmmaker (and current Indiewire blogger) Peter Bogdonavich directed a narrative feature, and even as he's remained busy with journalistic pursuits and documentary work, it's hard not to wonder what sort of stories the man behind "The Last Picture Show" could tell today. Wonder no longer: Aided by producers Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach, "Squirrel to the Nuts" finds Bogdonavich returning to the screwball comedy genre that he explored so well with the likes of "Paper Moon" and "What's Up, Doc?" in the early seventies. With a high-profile cast that includes Jennifer Aniston, Lucy Punch, Kathryn Hahn, Owen Wilson, Will Forte and Joanna Lumley (the latter of which seems everywhere lately), in addition to a screenplay co-written by Bogdonavich and ex-wife Louise Stratten, the project -- in which Wilson plays a Broadway director who falls in love with a prostitute -- holds the potential to realize some of Bogdonavich's old school charm with a fresh set of faces.

"Suite Francaise"

"Suite Francaise"
Director: Saul Dibb
Cast: Michelle Williams, Matthias Schoenaerts, Kristin Scott Thomas
Distributor: The Weinstein Company
Release Date: TBD

Why It Might Be a Must-See: Based on the powerful novel of the same name set in 1940s France, the source material has an equally dramatic backstory: the Jewish-Russian born author Irene Nemirovsky planned a five-novel cycle beginning in 1940, just as forces overran northern France. In the summer of 1942, Nemirovsky, who had converted to Catholicism, was shipped to Auschwitz and the two completed parts of Nemirovsky's planned cycle were discovered only six decades later. Though a film based on Nemirovsky's story sounds compelling, so does the book which Nemirovsky finished, on which the film is based. "Suite Francaise" tells the story of a woman in 1940s France who falls for a German officer posted in the town as she awaits her prison-of-war husband's return. The cast, with Michelle Williams playing the woman opposite Matthias Schoenaerts as her lover, should bring this strong material to life.

"Theory of Everything"
Director: James Marsh
Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, David Thewlis, Emily Watson
Distributor: None as of yet
Release Date: TBD

Why It Might Be a Must-See: Eddie Redmayne stole the show in "Les Miserables" and in "Theory of Everything" he gets his first shot at a leading role -- and it's a juicy one. Redmayne plays a young Stephen Hawking in the fictional feature from acclaimed novelist and playwright Anthony McCarten and director James Marsh ("Man on Wire," "Shadow Dancer"). Felicity Jones will play opposite Redmayne as Hawking's wife, Jane. While a relationship between a famous physicist and his wife doesn't sound inherently compelling, we're confident that Marsh, who has seamlessly moved between documentary ("Man on Wire") to nonfiction ("Shadow Dancer") with impressive results, can deliver.

Mia Wasikowska in 'Tracks'

"They Came Together"
Director: David Wain
Cast: Paul Rudd, Amy Poehler, Cobie Smulders, Michael Shannon, Melanie Lynskey, Ed Helms, Max Greenfield, Michaela Watkins
Distributor: Lionsgate
Release Date: TBD

Why It Might Be a Must See: Twelve years after "Wet Hot American Summer" slowly began its rise to cult classic status, director David Wain is reuniting many of its cast members in "They Came Together," the tale of a corporate executive for Candy Systems and Research (Paul Rudd) and the owner of small candy shop (Amy Poehler). Said to be a hilarious homage to American romantic comedies, the film debuts at Sundance this month before surely heading to theaters to win us all over. Unless somehow the equation of Wain plus Rudd plus Poehler goes wrong, which we simply can't imagine.

"Tracks"
Director: John Curran
Cast: Mia Wasikowska, Adam Driver
Distributor: The Weinstein Company
Release Date: TBD

Why It Might Be a Must-See: Based on writer Robyn Davidson's memoir about her nine-month, 1,700-mile trek across the Australia deserts using camels, John Curran's ("The Painted Veil") latest film "Tracks" features the promisingly offbeat pairing of Mia Wasikowska as Robyn and Adam Driver as photojournalist Rick Smolan, who sporadically met up with Robyn as she made her epic journey. "Tracks," which premiered at Venice last year, has attracted particular praise for Wasikowska's performance and for cinematographer Mandy Walker's breathtaking photography -- the film was shot on location in Southern Australia.

"The Trip to Italy"
Director: Michael Winterbottom
Cast: Steve Coogan, Rob Brydon, Rosie Fellner
Distributor: IFC Films
Release Date: Debut at this month's Sundance Film Festival

Why It Might Be a Must-See: This follow-up to Michael Winterbottom's road trip comedy, "The Trip," this semi-fictional film also re-teams stars Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon. Following the pair on a driving tour of Italy from Liguria to Capri as they talk about life, love and work, the film promises spectacular scenery as well as lots of clever, off-the-cuff banter.

"Tusk"
Director: Kevin Smith
Cast: Justin Long, Michael Parks, Genesis Rodriguez
Distributor: A24
Release Date: Late this year

Why It Might Be a Must-See: Billed as a "modern-day monster movie," "Tusk" (at least on paper) seems like new territory for writer-director Kevin Smith. And given A24 snapped up rights while the film was still in production, signs point to this being a return to form for Smith following a string of critical and commercial misfires like "Red State" and "Cop Out." In "Tusk," Justin Long plays a journalist who finds the story of a lifetime in a worldwide adventurer with amazing tales and a curious penchant for walruses. Michael Parks, Haley Joel Osment and Genesis Rodriguez co-star.

"Untitled Terrence Malick Project"
Director: Terrence Malick
Cast: Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Christian Bale, Natalie Portman, Ryan Gosling
Distributor: None as of yet
Release Date: TBD

Why It Might Be a Must-See: We used to have to wait decades for a new Terrence Malick movie. These days, you never know: Last year’s "To the Wonder" showed up just a year after "Tree of Life," and Malick’s been working on at least two features for quite some time now. We’re especially intrigued by this still untitled work, which stars Christian Bale and Natalie Portman — as well as Ryan Gosling, Rooney Mara, Val Kilmer and many others, but with Malick, you never know who will make the final cut. Apparently a romance of "obsession and betrayal," Malick shot the film around Austin, Texas and set the story amid the city’s vibrant music scene, which might result in the director’s hippest work to date (if such a thing were even possible). Malick tends to divide critics, but his films are always fascinatingly inventive and distinctly reflective of the exact movies he wants to make, so we just hope he finally decides this one’s finished so we can check it out in the next 12 months.

"Veronica Mars"
Director: Rob Thomas
Cast: Kristen Bell, Krysten Ritter
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Release Date: March 14

Why It Might Be a Must See: Two reasons the "Veronica Mars" movie is worth attention even if you never watching the show: It proved that a film project could raise millions on Kickstarter (with the help of a well-established franchise and some celebrity, to be fair) and it represents a triumph of fan dedication over the network and studio logic that led to the series being canceled back in 2007. And for followers of the show, the film looks like not just a resurrection of beloved characters but an exercise in seeing how they aged into adults and the choices they made -- and, of course, it features a classic love triangle between Kristen Bell's Veronica, good guy boyfriend Piz Piznarski (Chris Lowell) and irresistible bad boy Logan Echolls (Jason Dohring).

"White Bird in a Blizzard"
Director: Gregg Araki
Cast: Shailene Woodley, Eva Green, Christopher Meloni, Shiloh Fernandez, Gabourey Sidibe, Thomas Jane
Distributor: None as of yet
Release Date: TBD

Why It Might Be a Must See: The first dramatic offering from Araki since his acclaimed 2005 film "Mysterious Skin," "White Bird in a Blizzard" is a late 1980s set tale of a a young woman (Shailene Woodley) whose life is thrown into chaos when her mother disappears. Based on the acclaimed novel by Laura Kasischke, "Blizzard" will make its debut amidst the snow covered mountains of Sundance, it could very well mark a turning point in the career of Araki, who burst onto the scene at that very festival 21 years ago with "The Living End."

"Wild"
Director: Jean-Marc Vallee
Cast: Reese Witherspoon, Gaby Hoffmann, Laura Dern
Distributor: Fox Searchlight
Release Date: TBD

Why It Might Be a Must-See: Since winning her Best Actress Oscar for 2005's "Walk the Line," Reese Witherspoon has kept busy appearing in blockbusters ("This Means War"), melodramas ("Water for Elephants") and romantic comedies ("How Do You Know"). But it was her raw supporting turn in last year's "Mud" that got us excited about the actress again. She follows that up with this promising vehicle from "Dallas Buyers Club" director Jean-Marc Vallee, in which she stars as Cheryl Strayed, who undertook a 1,100-mile solo hike as a way to recover from a recent catastrophe.

Zach Braff's "Wish I Was Here."

"Wish I Was Here"
Director: Zach Braff
Cast: Josh Gad, Joey King, Jim Parsons, Kate Hudson, Zach Braff, Mandy Patinkin, Ashley Greene
Distributor: None as of yet
Release Date: Debuts at this month’s Sundance Film Festival

Why It Might Be a Must-See: Even if you weren't a fan of Braff's directorial debut "Garden State," you might be charmed by his Kickstarter-funded follow-up effort which stars Braff as a 35-year-old struggling actor, father and husband who homeschools his two kids. The supporting cast alone – including Joey Kimg, Kate Hudson, Mandy Patinkin, Josh Gad and Ashley Green – is enough of a reason to check out the film, which managed to raise over $3 million on Kickstarter.

"While We're Young"
Director: Noah Baumbach
Cast: Ben Stiller, Naomi Watts, Amanda Seyfried, Adam Driver, Charles Grodin, Brady Corbet
Distributor: None as of yet
Release Date: TBD

Why It Might Be a Must See: A year after "Frances Ha," Noah Baumbach re-teams with "Greenberg" star Ben Stiller for a $10 million Scott Rudin production about an uptight documentary filmmaker (wait, Ben Stiller playing someone uptight?) and his wife (Naomi Watts) who try to loosen up a bit by befriending a free spirited younger couple (Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfriend). Its a great cast, and Baumbach is clearly on a roll as of late. The film doesn't have a release date yet -- and Baumbach also is working on "Untitled Public School Project" with "Frances" star Greta Gerwig -- but one way or another, we'll get us some more Baumbach (or double the Baumbach) by year's end.


This article is related to: Most Anticipated 2014, Sundance 2014, Movie Lists, Lists, News, Sundance Film Festival, Cannes Film Festival, Berlin International Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival