Sundance Film Festival
Will any future Oscar contenders emerge from the 2015 Sundance Film Festival (pictured) in Utah this weekend? Reuters

The Oscars are still a month away, but the race for 2016 has already begun! The 2015 Sundance Film Festival kicked off Thursday as some of the best independent films and filmmakers descended on Utah to make their debuts. While only a lucky few will get to see the films during the festival, many movies that premiere at Sundance go on to gain critical acclaim in wide release, and eventually, Academy Award glory. A Best Picture nominee this year, “Whiplash,” was a big Sundance winner last year.

Here are 8 films from the 2015 Sundance Film Festival to keep on your radar:

“The Stanford Prison Experiment”

The premise alone makes this film worth watching. Kyle Patrick Alvarez’s project tells the true story of a 1970s psychological experiment which involves a group of subjects that were placed in a fake prison – some as prisoners and some as guards – and observed as they fell into their assumed roles. Starring Billy Crudup, Ezra Miller, and Tye Sheridan, this movie has the makings of a great psychological thriller.

“Z for Zacharia”

“Compliance” director Craig Zobel’s film tells the post-apocalyptic story of two men who both fall for what might be the last woman on earth. Watching the co-leads, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Chris Pine, go head-to-head should be something worth seeing.

“The Experimenter”

With a cast that includes Peter Sarsgaard, Winona Ryder, Jim Gaffigan and John Leguizamo, “The Experimenter” would be worth watching no matter what it was about. Luckily, the premise -- a social “obedience” experiment where test subjects press a button to shock a person in another room – lives up to its all-star cast.

“The D Train”

Now this one just looks fun! Jack Black’s Dan Landsman was never popular on high school. In fact, the popular kids constantly harassed him. Now, in charge of his high school reunion, he forgoes a fake friendship with James Marsden’s formerly super-cool Oliver Lawless and hilarity ensues.

“The Bronze”

Brian Buckley’s film follows Melissa Rauch as a former Olympian gymnast who mentors a younger gymnast. The catch? She must overcome the urge to destroy her out of jealous spite. Could this be 2015’s “Whiplash?”

“Stockholm, Pennsylvania”

The always-mysterious Saoirse Ronan plays a girl who returns home after a 17-year abduction and must adjust to normal life again. Nikole Beckwith’s film, which also stars Cynthia Nixon and Jason Isaac, promises to be heavy, but rewarding.

“Mississippi Grind”

“Mississippi Grind” pairs a talented, but degenerate gambler with a hot shot poker player as they tear through casinos in the south cashing in on their partnership. With a cast that includes super star Ryan Reynolds, brilliant character actor Ben Mendelsohn and Sierra Miller – fresh off the “American Sniper” hype – this one should be a future award-winner.

“Slow West”

It has Michael Fassbender – what else do you need to know? But if you want a premise for the film, it stars Fassbender as a late-1800s traveler who guides a Scottish aristocrat through the Wild West in search of his true love.

Which movies are you most excited to see? Tweet your thoughts to @Ja9GarofaloTV.