The 13 Tribeca Film Festival Movies You Need to See

The annual festival is back in town this month with new documentaries, feature films, and more

Every spring, downtown New York becomes home to film industry greats, moviephiles and critics as the Tribeca Film Festival hits town. Founded back in 2002 by Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal as an effort to revitalize a downtown Manhattan that was still deeply affected by 9/11, the 10-day festival presents a variety of documentaries, feature films and multimedia works before they hit theaters.

Given this year’s 90-plus offerings, navigating the festival can prove daunting. Worry not: we’re here to help. Below are the 13 films you should definitely be watching (check out the festival’s full schedule right here):

1. Clive Davis: The Soundtrack of Our Lives
Chris Perkel’s documentary has been chosen to kick off the festival—and for good reason: Legendary music producer Clive Davis has worked in the industry for over five decades alongside the likes of Alicia Keys, Bruce Springsteen, Whitney Houston and Santana. The world premiere will be followed by a special concert featuring some of the greatest musical talents of all times: Aretha Franklin, Jennifer Hudson, Earth, Wind & Fire and more.

2. Literally, Right Before Aaron
Justin Long stars in this romantic comedy by The Blacklist actor Ryan Eggold. While still mourning his break-up with college sweetheart Allison (Cobie Smulders), Adam (Long) gets invited to her rather sudden wedding, which forces him to return home and deal with his past, present and future. Cobie Smulders as Allison and Justin Long as Adam in LITERALLY, RIGHT BEFORE AARON. Photo credit: Seamus Tierney.Cobie Smulders as Allison and Justin Long as Adam in LITERALLY, RIGHT BEFORE AARON. Photo credit: Seamus Tierney.

3. Manifesto
Artist Julian Rosefeldt mounted an installation at the Armory back in 2016 and Manifesto is the feature film version of said art work. Between Cate Blanchett’s stunning performance and the film’s beautiful cinematography, this is a definite must-see.

4. Rock’n Roll
Guillaume Canet and Marion Cotillard, a real-life couple, play themselves in this satirical comedy in which Canet attempts to “evolve” after being told by a younger co-star that he’s just not “rock ‘n’ roll” anymore. Guillaume Canet in ROCK'N ROLL. Photo credit: Jean Claude Lother.Guillaume Canet in ROCK’N ROLL. Photo credit: Jean Claude Lother.

5. The Circle
James Ponsoldt adapts Dave Eggers’ bestseller about the world’s largest tech and social media company leading a never-before-done experiment that stretches privacy and ethics bounds. Emma Watson stars as Mae, the company’s newest hire, to Tom Hanks’ Eamon Bailey, the company’s founder.

6. The Boy Downstairs
Diana (Zosia Mamet) is a writer who returns to New York after two years in London. She finds the ideal apartment but then realizes that her neighbor downstairs is actually her ex-boyfriend. Zosia Mamet as Diana and Matt Schear as Ben in THE BOY DOWNSTAIRS. Photo by Jon Pack.Zosia Mamet as Diana and Matt Schear as Ben in THE BOY DOWNSTAIRS. Photo by Jon Pack.

7. Dare to be Different
This documentary by Ellen Goldfarb tells the history of Long Island-based radio station WLIR 92.7, which defined music through the 1980s. The production includes interviews and rare archival footage of Blondie, U2, Duran Duran, Depeche Mode, Joan Jett, Billy Idol and more.

8. Chuck
Liev Schreiber plays Chuck Wepner, a heavyweight boxer that fought the likes of Muhammad Ali and George Foreman back in the ‘70s and was the real-life inspiration behind Rocky. The film chronicles his rise and eventual fall into drugs and alcohol abuse, also starring Elisabeth Moss as Wepner’s wife and Naomi Watts as a local bartender. Liev Schreiber as Chuck Wepner in Philippe Falardeau’s CHUCK. Courtesy of IFC Films. An IFC Films release.Liev Schreiber as Chuck Wepner in Philippe Falardeau’s CHUCK. Courtesy of IFC Films. An IFC Films release.

9. The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson
David France directs the documentary about “street queen” Marsha P. Johnson, a legendary activist in New York City’s gay ghetto. Back in 1992, she was found dead in the Hudson River and the NYPD ruled her death a suicide—amid protests and disbelief by those who knew her. The film seeks to find a different explanation, casting activist Victoria Cruz as a detective of sorts.

10. The Clapper
The Clapper’s star studded cast includes Ed Helms as a widower who moves to Los Angeles and becomes a professional paid audience member, Tracy Morgan as Helms’ best friend, Amanda Seyfried as a gas station attendant and Adam Levine as a late night talk show producer.

11. Dabka
Dabka is based on a true story and follows rookie Canadian journalist Jay Bahadur (Evan Peter) as he moves to Somalia to research his first book. Al Pacino plays Bahadur’s journalistic idol and Melanie Griffith is cast as his mother.

12. Whitney. “Can I Be Me”
Music video director Rudi Dolzal and documentarian Nick Broomfield team up to offer a behind-the-scenes look at iconic singer Whitney Houston’s stardom and eventual death at 48 in 2012.

13. The Dinner
This psychological ensemble drama stars Richard Gere and Steve Coogan as brothers and Rebecca Hall and Laura Linney as their respective wives. The film focuses on an intense dinner between all the characters that leads to the disclosure of family secrets and moreSteve Coogan as Paul Lohman, Richard Gere as Stan Lohman, Rebecca Hallas Katelyn Lohman, and Laura Linney as Claire Lohnman in THE DINNER. Photo courtesy of The Orchard.Steve Coogan as Paul Lohman, Richard Gere as Stan Lohman, Rebecca Hallas Katelyn Lohman, and Laura Linney as Claire Lohnman in THE DINNER. Photo courtesy of The Orchard.