10 SXSW films you’ll want to know about before the fest begins
11 mins read

10 SXSW films you’ll want to know about before the fest begins

SXSW has arrived! And along with an enthralling conference bursting with music, comedy, tech, VR, and entertaining activations, South by Southwest is one of America’s most thrilling film festivals. 

This year’s headliners include such hotly anticipated movies as the Jake Gyllenhaal-fronted Road House remake, Dev Patel’s action-packed directorial debut Monkey Man, Ryan Gosling and Emily Blunt’s rom-comedy-action romp The Fall Guy, and Alex Garland’s tense USA-set thriller Civil War. Plus, there are Sundance favorites like the audacious band biopic Kneecap and the Zellner Brothers’ curious bigfoot drama, Sasquatch Sunset. But if you only focus on the flashiest titles, you’re sure to overlook the hidden gems.

We’ve probed deep into SXSW’s schedule to find the movies that Mashable readers won’t want to miss. Be it a biopic from a popular Youtube star, a horror movie so intimate it feels like a gawking Reddit thread, or a true crime doc that shows you the secret cruelty of eBay, these movies are sure to intrigue.

Here are 10 SXSW movies you’ll want to know about ahead of the fest:


Friends gather for an eerie buck's night in "Birdeater."

Friends gather for an eerie buck’s night in “Birdeater.”
Credit: Fons PR

If you’re addicted to AITA Reddit, you’ll relish this thriller out of Australia. The feature debut of co-directors Jack Clark and Jim Weir, Birdeater begins with an engaged couple so inseparable that Irene (Shabana Azeez) is even invited to Louie’s (Mackenzie Fearnley) buck’s night (that’d be a bachelor party in America). Gathered together in the outback are some of his friends and one of hers for a night that should be about eating, drinking, and being merry. However, as booze and hard drugs roll out, uncomfortable secrets are revealed that call into question not just their relationship, but just about everything binding this band of friends and lovers together. 

Birdeater debuts at SXSW March 9. 

Brandy Hellville & the Cult of Fast Fashion

A teen girl poses with a Brandy Melville sign in the titular store.

A teen girl poses with a Brandy Melville sign in the titular store.
Credit: Warner Bros.

What do you really know about Brandy Melville? The controversial clothing line was adored for its cute California girl aesthetic, but criticized for its “one size fits all” tags that scoffed at size inclusivity. The company’s on-brand fat-shaming is just the tip of the iceberg of ick revealed in Eva Orner’s jolting documentary. Not only does she unearth the shady CEO who hid behind a fleet of teen wannabe influencers, but also, she speaks to the former Brandy Melville employees who faced body-shaming, exploitation, racism, misogyny, and even assault under his (ongoing) reign. A scorching indictment of fast fashion and its hidden cost on the bodies and well-beings of women, this doc is a must-see before you click that next clothing ad on Instagram.

Brandy Hellville & the Cult of Fast Fashion debuts at SXSW March 11. 

Desert Road

A woman (Kristine Froseth) looks out across the vast desert before her, with no hope in sight.

Kristine Froseth stars in “Desert Road.”
Credit: Nico Navia / SXSW

Seeking a mind-bending thriller that’s off the beaten path? Let writer/director Shannon Triplett be your guide with Desert Road. This freaky film stars Kristine Froseth as a sharp young woman who is nobody’s fool. Traveling alone down a long, remote highway, she’s on the lookout for pit stops and scam artists eager to fleece her. But nothing can prepare her for what happens after a minor car accident. Sure, she can change her tire and call a tow truck. But the real problem becomes how she can escape this place, where every road leads her back to her crashed car. Think Groundhog Day with a twist as unique as it is enthralling, and you’ve got a sense of where Desert Road will lead you.

Desert Road debuts at SXSW March 10. 

Grand Theft Hamlet

Five gamers face off in "Grand Theft Hamlet."

Credit: SXSW

To be or not to be? is the question of William Shakespeare’s forlorn Dane in Hamlet. But in January of 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic caused lockdowns across the UK, two out-of-work actors grappled with this dense play while playing Grand Theft Auto. How does that work? This comical documentary set entirely in the notoriously mayhem-laced video game reveals exactly that. Through online gaming, strangers not only got into virtual showdowns, but also rehearsed, grappled with the text, and repeatedly got killed off by other gamers or NPC cops who only came for gunfire. Yet amid the chaotic setting, a community of theater kids and lonely souls just might find something beyond loot and cheap thrills.

Grand Theft Hamlet debuts at SXSW March 10. 


Rudy Mancuso and Camila Mendes star in "Música."

Rudy Mancuso and Camila Mendes star in “Música.”
Credit: Prime Video

Fans of YouTuber/puppeteer/musician Rudy Mancuso will be stoked to see his musical rom-com, which is based on aspects of his own life. Mancuso directed and co-wrote and stars, playing himself as a teenager on the verge of graduation. But as his ambitious blonde girlfriend plans their future together, Rudy is drawn to the beguiling fish market clerk Isabella (who is played by Mancuso’s real-life girlfriend, Camila Mendes). As if a love triangle and growing pains weren’t enough to deal with, Rudy is also plagued by synesthesia, a perceptual phenomenon that — in his case — transforms ambient noise into music that can be magical or mad distracting! Infusing his story with songs, dance, and (of course) puppets, Mancuso delivers a semi-autobiographical romp that should play well to his online fanbase. Will it win him a new wave of followers? 

Música debuts at SXSW March 13, before coming to Prime Video on April 4. 


A woman sticks her hand into the mouth of a wooden sculpture.

Credit: SXSW

Seeking something uniquely creepy? Then you’ll want to watch Damian McCarthy’s freaky follow-up to the superbly spooky Caveat. Once more, this inventive horror maker has centered his story on an eerie house in a remote location. Once more, a cryptic plaything will play a major role. This time, instead of a sickly bunny toy, it’s a full-sized man, carved out of wood, his mouth open in a silent scream. If that’s not enough to entice you to come out for this Midnighter, how about a dash of plot? A blind medium (Carolyn Bracken) seeks to understand what really happened the night her sister died. Along the way, there will be bumps in the night, ghoulish violence, and twists that’ll make your stomach flip.

Oddity makes its world premiere at SXSW March 8.

Sew Torn

A woman lies in a burning building.

Credit: Macdonald Entertainment Partners & Orisono GmbH

If you like your crime stories cozy, you’ll want to check out Sew Torn. Written and directed by Freddy Macdonald, this comedic thriller combines whimsy and grit as a mobile seamstress (a beguiling Eve Connolly) crosses paths with a pair of bumbling drug dealers (Thomas Douglas and Calum Worthy). Can a perfect crime be all stitched up with some wit and thread? Well, just when it seems this story’s come to its end, McDonald tugs us back to the start to offer another path. Think Run Lola Run with Pushing Daisies vibes. Each version is rich with detail, character, and grisly possibilities, making Sew Torn a spectacular thrill.

Sew Torn makes its world premiere at SXSW March 8.

Things Will Be Different 

Adam David Thompson and Riley Dandy play siblings in "Things will Be Different."

Credit: Exile PR

If you like your sci-fi slight and sly, you’ll relish director Michael Felker’s unusual family drama. Things Will Be Different begins with a bank-robbing brother and sister duo, Joseph and Sidney (Adam David Thompson and Riley Dandy), who are planning to flee not only the scene of the crime but their current timeline altogether. A mysterious safe house on a remote farm transports them and their bags of cash to the past, where they can lie low as their former present ticks by. But their plan for a two-week getaway is stalled when their way out is blocked and a masked stranger shows up shooting. Marooned on this farm in the past, the siblings will learn whether family bonds will keep them together or tear them apart. 

Things Will Be Different debuts at SXSW March 11. 

Whatever it Takes

A middle-aged woman looks at a computer screen.

Credit: SXSW / Thorsten Thielow

True crime collides with toxic internet culture in this outrageous documentary that’s sure to shock you. Sure, you know communities online can curdle, and journalists on the web can be harassed by nameless trolls. But this story centers on a mild-mannered middle-aged couple who cover e-commerce and found themselves horrifically harassed, stalked, and threatened by a mysterious online group. Vicious tweets soon escalated to a van stalking them around their hometown and a barrage of cryptic packages that included props from horror movies, and an ominous funeral wreath. The Fourth Estate director Jenny Carchman not only unfurls the tale of trauma these two endured, but also the outrageous corporate culture that lies behind the screen names who plagued these journalists. It’s a story that’s surprising not only in its twisted turns but also in its unexpected allusions to movies like Training Day, Full Metal Jacket, and Meet the Parents. Spoilers: You’ll never look at eBay the same way again. 

Whatever it Takes debuts at SXSW March 9.

The World According to Allee Willis

A photo of Allee Willis from "The World According to Allee Willis."

Credit: SXSW

You might not know the name of Allee Willis, but chances are good she had a musical impact on your life. Ever got down to “September” or “Boogie Wonderland?” Did you love The Color Purple Musical? Do you know the Friends‘ theme by heart? Then you’ve had a brush with the incredible creativity of the American singer-songwriter, who not only penned a barrage of hits but also inspired countless artists and colleagues. Documentarian Alexis Spraic sits down with a slew of them, including Paul Reubens, Julie Brown, Paul Feig, Michael Patrick King, and Cyndi Lauper, to explore the weird and wonderful world of Allee Willis. Enlightening, engaging, and entertaining, this bio-doc offers food for thought and plenty of fun.

The World According to Allee Willis makes its world premiere at SXSW March 11.

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