The Sundance Film Festival is an annual showcase that debuts some of the most groundbreaking documentaries, short films and feature-length productions from the last year.

It is held in Utah during the month of January, and has evolved from a tiny gathering of independent filmmakers to a Hollywood extravaganza that attracts some of the biggest talent from all over the world. The following list looks at ten of the standout movies from this year’s festival.

1. Whiplash


Whiplash is the story of a young drummer who arrives at Music College only to find himself going head-to-head with his gifted yet slightly psychotic music teacher. The film swept the board at Sundance and received the top prizes in its category from both the audience and the grand jury.

Miles Teller stars as the determined young student, and J.K. Simmons puts in an incredible performance as the veteran teacher. Shortly after the movie opened the festival it was acquired by Sony Pictures. Audiences will most likely see director Damien Chazelle’s latest offering evolve into a far bigger success over the coming year.

2. Dear White People


Justin Simien’s Dear White People is a brilliant satire on college life that deals with issues such as race, class, personal identity and growing up in multicultural America. The movie tells its story through the experiences of the students who attend the Ivy League Westchester College.

It is reminiscent of Spike Lee’s School Daze as it attempts to address the delicate subject of racism within American colleges. The film is an incredible debut from Simien who also co-wrote the story. The director has managed to create a thought-provoking, humorous movie that gives a fresh take on a tried and tested storyline.

3. Boyhood


Boyhood is the latest offering from director Richard Linklater who is the genius behind the Before Sunrise movie franchise. The movie has been 12 years in the making as filming only took place for a couple of weeks each year. The story follows the lives of a young brother and sister in the 12 years immediately after their parent’s divorce.

Big names in the movie include Ethan Hawke, Lorelei Linklater, Ellar Coltrane and Patricia Arquette. Richard Linklater is a master of taking risks on film, and his unusual production method has succeeded in creating an extremely tender, thought-provoking movie.

4. Cold In July


Neo-noir crime-thriller Cold in July stars Michael C. Hall as Richard Dane, a small-town resident who shoots and kills an intruder he discovers in his home. Although hailed as a hero by the entire town, Richard finds himself in danger after the intruder’s father arrives in town seeking revenge.

Cold in July is the second entry to the Sundance Film Festival from director Jim Mickle who impressed the board with his remake of Spanish horror film We Are What We Are. The movie also stars Sam Shepard and Don Johnson and will be released this summer after IFC Films acquired the rights.

5. The Skeleton Twins


The Skeleton Twins is directed by Craig Johnson and brings together two Saturday Night Live actors in the lead roles. Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig play a brother and sister named Milo and Maggie who are both separately contemplating ending their lives. Milo actually goes through with his plan and slits his wrists.

Maggie then convinces her brother to return to their hometown where the two siblings attempt to rebuild their shattered relationship that has kept them apart for ten years. The Skeleton Twins is a wonderful exploration of the bond between siblings and their ability to both support and destroy one another.

6. Laggies


Laggies stars the beautiful Keira Knightley who assumes an American accent for her role as Megan, a typical American sweetheart in her late 20s who suffers from boredom due to her mundane existence. She meets a fiery teenager named Annika played by Chloe Grace Moretz and decides to put her life on hold in order to spend time with her newfound friend.

The film is a touching tale directed by Lynn Shelton who previously brought us Humpday. It also features a stellar performance by Sam Rockwell as Annika’s father Craig who clashes with Megan’s long-term boyfriend played by Mark Webber.

7. Frank


Frank is a slightly weird story of an aspiring musician who joins a pop band led by a charismatic lead singer who wears a huge papier-mache head. The movie is loosely based on the experiences of director Jon Rohnson who spent a brief spell with musician Chis Sievey who pioneered the fake head trend.

Frank brings together directors Jon Rohnson and Peter Straughan who previously collaborated on The Men Who Stare at Goats. It features superb performances by Maggie Gyllenhaal, Domnhall Gleeson and Michael Fassbender as the mysterious man behind the head.

8. They Came Together


They Came Together attempts to rescue the spoof genre from the likes of Scary Movie and Meet The Spartans. The film casts Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler in the lead roles and is directed by David Wain who is best known for his previous hits such as Wanderlust and Role Models.

Paul Rudd is the master of goofy comedy and carries the movie with his sparkling performance as a corporate worker who is determined to put Amy Poehler’s character out of business. The movie received mainly positive reviews with one critic claiming that the film “combines broad, ludicrous potshots with precise, devastating sniper-fire.”

9. The Raid 2


Action movies are not usually found at festivals such as Sundance, but The Raid 2 builds on the success of its predecessor that wowed the judges back in 2011. Writer, director and editor Gareth Edwards has created a slick, thrilling movie that stuns audiences with its incredibly choreographed fight scenes.

Main actor Iko Uwais excels as a Jakarta police officer battling crime and corruption in his hometown. The sequel picks up immediately where the original left off and carries the story through a series of fast-paced action sequences leaving the audience breathless. The film also features an incredible set design.

10. Love is Strange


Ben and George have been in a relationship for 39 years and are ready to take advantage of the new laws that finally allow them to get married. However, once George’s employers learn of his relationship he is immediately fired and the couple are forced to give up their home.

George then goes to live with a gay couple next door, whereas Alfred is forced to stay with his nephew. Love is Strange is directed by Ira Sachs whose previous work includes 40 Shades of Blue and Keep the Lights On. Incredible performances by Jon Lithgow and Alfred Molina in the main roles make this move a must-see.