The 50 Best Indie Dramas of All Time

The 50 Best Indie Dramas of All Time

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The one genre that indie movies have perfected is drama, and it’s not just due to budget constraints. Films like Juno and Lady Bird have shown that a realistic, stripped-down approach works best for dramas.

Below are the best indie drama movies as ranked by our staff. 

50. Private Life (2018)

best

8.1

Country

United States of America

Director

Female director, Tamara Jenkins

Actors

Alyssa Cheatham, Caroline Martin, Danny Deferrari, Denis O'Hare

Moods

Grown-up Comedy, Romantic, Slice-of-Life

Paul Giamatti, man. Ever watched Win/Win? What a performance. I didn’t think he could do any better than that. But here he did.

This movie is now on Netflix. It’s about a couple that is trying to have a kid but can’t. Their frustration grows, but so does their willingness to do whatever it takes to become parents. They try to adopt, go to fertility clinics and ultimately ask their niece to donate her eggs. To really work, such a plot requires well-written, multifaceted characters one can relate to. I did, and it really worked.

49. Rust and Bone (2012)

best

8.1

Country

Belgium, France, Singapore

Director

Jacques Audiard

Actors

Armand Verdure, Bouli Lanners, Celine Sallette, Corinne Masiero

Moods

A-list actors, Challenging, Depressing

This is the type of movie I completely fell in love with but cannot articulate exactly why. Maybe it’s the mixture of beauty and pain portrayed, maybe it’s the intricate sounds and beautiful imagery, maybe it’s the story, maybe it’s all of the above. A woman is hit with sudden disability after an accident and calls on an unlikely companion, a night club bouncer by the name of Ali. Together they explore her new predicament and its implications, while forming a special bond. This is a movie that will call upon your internal strength, while portraying how us humans can become strong together. Most of all it provides an immensely powerful, ultimately simple story that is both touching and will stay with you for a very long time. Directed by Jacques Audiard (A Prophet).

48. Columbus (2017)

best

8.1

Country

United States of America

Director

Kogonada

Actors

Alphaeus Green, Jr., Caitlin Ewald, Erin Allegretti, Haley Lu Richardson

Moods

Easy, Feel-Good, Romantic

What goes well with a love story? Creative architecture. Columbus the movie is such a great and genuine exploration of this idea, filmed in Columbus the city – a weird experimental hub for architecture that actually exists in real life! After his architect father goes into a coma, Jin (John Cho), a Korean-born man finds himself stuck in Columbus without a foreseeable end. In Korean tradition when a parent dies, the son should be in the same place physically otherwise they can’t mourn. While waiting to see what will happen to his father he meets Casey (Haley Lu Richardson), an aspiring architect herself, who’s also stuck in Columbus because of her mother. This is a beautiful movie with real-life issues and situations, to be especially appreciated by viewers who don’t mind a slow narrative in exchange for a meticulously-crafted movie.

47. Camp X-ray (2014)

best

8.1

Country

United States of America

Director

Peter Sattler

Actors

Cory Michael Smith, John Carroll Lynch, Joseph Julian Soria, Julia Duffy

Moods

Challenging, Character-driven, Thrilling

This is Kristen Stewart’s proof that she is more than a lip-biting, vampire-loving teenager. Reactive and emotive, she will not disappoint you here. Rather, expect an electrifying and exceptional performance. Paired with Payman Moaadi, they both make of this work an emotionally poignant movie that questions the notion of freedom in the unlikeliest of places: Guantanamo Bay.

46. Joe (2013)

best

8.2

Country

United States of America

Director

David Gordon Green

Actors

Aaron Spivey-Sorrells, Adriene Mishler, Brenda Isaacs Booth, Brian Mays

Moods

Character-driven, Dramatic, Emotional

Casting is Joe’s strong suit, with the notable case of the character of a homeless alcoholic man played by a real-life homeless alcoholic man, as the abusive father of beyond-his-age, responsible 15-year-old Gary. It doesn’t stop there either, because Nicolas Cage’s performance is one of his career’s best (so you can rest assured as far as that is concerned), and somehow still manages to be matched by Tye Sheridan’s (as Gary). This added to the bleak and bold Southern-themed script make for a hard-hitting, moving, and compelling tale of growth, and how father figures fit into it. Joe is a proud entry to the genre of powerful, yet enjoyable father-figure dramas, right next to its equally impressive brother-movie Mud.

45. Adam (2009)

best

8.2

Country

United States of America

Director

Max Mayer

Actors

Adam LeFevre, Amy Irving, Andrew Patrick Ralston, Bill Dawes

Moods

Romantic, Touching, Warm

A simple and sweet movie about love, trust, and space.  Adam is a 30-something year old with Aspergers syndrome, this film is about how he navigates his way through loneliness and love and all things in between. It is both humorous and slightly heart-breaking, and will leave you feeling that way as well. Maybe the reason we all belong together is that we don’t, and this movie is a beautiful examination of that.

44. The Florida Project (2017)

best

8.3

Country

United States of America

Director

Sean Baker

Actors

Aiden Malik, Bria Vinaite, Brooklynn Prince, Caleb Landry Jones

Moods

Heart-warming, Touching

Every once in a while there are movies that expand the definition of quality film-making. This is one of those movies.

Here is an incredible, yet delicate film that follows three children from poor families who are stuck living in subpar motels. Their lives and friendships are portrayed with honesty and precise aesthetics. It’s a story that at first seems as plot-free as life itself.

It succeeds in capturing an innocence that is usually reserved to a child’s imagination: a precarious living condition full of adventures and fun. It’s hard to describe it beyond that; it’s the kind of film that must be seen to be fully understood.

And it ends on a very high note.

43. Eddie the Eagle (2016)

best

8.4

Country

Germany, UK, United Kingdom

Director

Dexter Fletcher

Actors

Ania Sowinski, Aria DeMaris, Christopher Walken, Daniel Ings

Moods

A-list actors, Feel-Good, Heart-warming

Michael “Eddie” Edwards (Taron Egerton) was a man with big glasses and even bigger dreams. As a physically disabled child-turned-oddly determined young adult, he tried his hands at all kinds of sports to earn himself a place in United Kingdom’s Team, only to be shunned and rejected more times than one can count. While his coming home a hero can easily be attributed to Great Britain’s lack of a ski jumper representative to the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics, the world has Eddie’s perseverance and never-say-die attitude to thank. A story about conquering greater heights and just taking flight, Eddie the Eagle shows the world how winning doesn’t always mean taking home the crown.

42. The Fundamentals of Caring (2016)

best

8.4

Country

United States of America

Director

Rob Burnett, Robert Meyer Burnett

Actors

Alan Boell, Alex Huff, Ashley White, Bill Murphey

Moods

Easy, Feel-Good, Funny

The Fundamentals of Caring is an offbeat comedy/drama starring Paul Rudd as a man attempting to overcome his looming divorce by becoming the caretaker for a teenager with muscular dystrophy (Craig Roberts, Submarine). The two develop an unconventional relationship based largely on sarcasm and profanity, delivering many laugh-out-loud moments, while also slowly exposing the pain each is carrying inside.

Together, at Ben’s urging, they embark on a road trip across the western United States for Craig to see the world. It’s somewhat formulaic but fun and touching road movie that covers much familiar ground, but also offers a fine illustration of caregiving, personal growth, and emotional healing. Paul Rudd is as good ever, and Roberts is utterly superb. One of the best movies on the Netflix Originals catalog, and an undeniable winner, all-in-all.

41. Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011)

best

8.4

Country

United States of America

Director

Sean Durkin

Actors

Adam David Thompson, Allen McCullough, Brady Corbet, Christopher Abbott

Moods

Challenging, Dark, Mind-blowing

A very intelligent and nuanced movie that relentlessly asks unpleasant questions. It’s a story about a woman seeking freedom by turning away from her own family and finding something she did not expect. The main character of the movie, Martha, is taken in by a cult and the movie depicts how this experience shapes and warps her life, thoughts, and actions. The time she spent with the cult ultimately also shapes her own personality, which raises questions about her identity and the place she now fits in. Every actor is well cast, and especially Elizabeth Olsen (playing Martha) puts on a stand-out performance, which proves that she is an actor to watch out for in the years to come.

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