The 50 Best Indie Movies of All-Time

Updated January 2, 2022 • Staff

agoodmovietowatch is a platform that recommends little-known but acclaimed movies - films you haven't yet seen that you are likely to enjoy. Naturally, many indie movies fall in this category. 

"Indie" used to refer to the way the film was made, a comment about its low-budget or lack of association with big studios. But recently, it has morphed into its own genre. Calling a movie "indie" is like saying it is a comedy, it means that it has very specific characteristics. 

The genre has been overexploited, but many new releases still stand out every year. So, looking back at the evolution of the genre, here are the 50 best indie movies of all-time as ranked by our staff. 

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50.

City Island (2009)

City Island is a lighthearted comedy/drama about the Rizzo family, residents of the titular fishing community in The Bronx, New York. Andy Garcia plays the patriarch of the family who works as a corrections officer, and who decides one day to bring home a young ex-con named Tony under somewhat mysterious circumstances. Tony soon becomes entwined in the dysfunctional household as he develops varying relationships with each family member, even as each of them lives their own secret life apart from the rest. This secrecy drives much of the plot, as their personal mysteries play out in an unexpected and often amusing ways. It’s a lively slice-of-life full of boisterous characters, comedic misunderstandings and ultimately a warm embrace of family unity.

Genre: Comedy, Drama
Actor: Alan Arkin, Andy Garcia, Carrie Baker Reynolds, Dominik Garcia, Dominik Garcia-Lorido, Emily Mortimer, Ezra Miller, Hope Glendon-Ross, Julianna Margulies, Louis Mustillo, Louise Stratten, Steven Strait
Director: Raymond De Felitta
Rating: PG-13
49.

Eddie the Eagle (2016)

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.

Genre: Adventure, Comedy, Drama, History
Actor: Ania Sowinski, Aria DeMaris, Christopher Walken, Daniel Ings, Daz Black, Dexter Fletcher, Dickon Tolson, Edvin Endre, Hugh Jackman, Iris Berben, Jessica Allain, Jim Broadbent, Jo Hartley, Joachim Raaf, Keith Allen, Mads Sjogard Pettersen, Marc Benjamin, Mark Benton, Matt Rippy, Rune Temte, Taron Egerton, Tim McInnerny, Tom Costello
Director: Dexter Fletcher
Rating: PG-13
48.

Bagdad Café (1987)

This quirky 1988 adventure drama is newly available on Amazon Prime. It’s the classic that never was, the story of a rundown gas station motel in the Southern US where a lonely West German lady called Jasmin Munchgstettner ends up by accident.

The owner of the operation, a short-tempered woman by the name of Brenda, doesn’t really take to Jasmin. However, the longer the West German guest stays at the motel, the more a friendship forms between the two.

Genre: Comedy, Drama
Actor: Alan S. Craig, CCH Pounder, Christine Kaufmann, Darron Flagg, Gary Lee Davis, George Aguilar, Hans Stadlbauer, Jack Palance, Marianne Sägebrecht, Monica Calhoun, Ray Young
Director: Percy Adlon
Rating: PG
47.

Boy (2012)

Boy is the highest-grossing New Zealand film of all time, and a masterpiece of compassion and good humor. Set in New Zealand's rural East Coast in 1984, the film's protagonist, Boy, imagines a world outside, dreaming of meeting Michael Jackson and having adventures. These fantasies serve to distract him from the sad circumstances of his life, living with his grandmother while his father serves out a prison sentence. However, adventure comes to Boy suddenly when his ex-convict father returns to find a long hidden bag of money. Written, directed, and starring Taika Waitit and featuring the new comer James Rolleston as Boy, it's a hilarious and heartwarming tale.

Genre: Comedy, Drama
Actor: Cherilee Martin, Cohen Holloway, Craig Hall, Darcy Ray Flavell-Hudson, Haze Rewiti, James Rolleston, Jarod Rawiri, Maakariini Butler, Moerangi Tihore, Pana Hema-Taylor, Rachel House, Rajvinder Eria, RickyLee Waipuka-Russell, Stuart Rutherford, Taika Waititi, Te Aho Eketone-Whitu
Director: Taika Waititi, Topaz Adizes
Rating: Not Rated
46.

Frances Ha (2013)

Frances (Greta Gerwig) lives in New York – but not the glamorous NYC of Woody Allen movies. Taking place primarily in the gritty and rapidly gentrifying North Brooklyn, the black and white film paints a picture of an extended adolescence. Focusing on the goofy and carefree Frances, who loses her boyfriend, her best friend and her dream of being a dancer. She moves in with two guys, both of whom are more successful than her, and becomes even more determined to fulfil her goals, impractical as they may be. Fans of HBO’s Girls and other odes to not being a “real person” yet will love this film.

Genre: Comedy, Drama
Actor: Adam Driver, Britta Phillips, Charlotte d'Amboise, Christine Gerwig, Cindy Katz, Daiva Deupree, Dean Wareham, Finnerty Steeves, Grace Gummer, Greta Gerwig, Hannah Dunne, Isabelle McNally, Josh Hamilton, Juliet Rylance, Justine Lupe, Lindsay Burdge, Marina Squerciati, Maya Kazan, Michael Esper, Michael Zegen, Michelle Hurst, Mickey Sumner, Noah Baumbach, Patrick Heusinger, Peter Scanavino, Ryann Shane, Teddy Cañez, Vanessa Ray
Director: Noah Baumbach
Rating: R
45.

Disconnect (2012)

I watch many movies and the great majority of them leave little impression on me. They are fun and entertaining, but quickly forgettable. Not Disconnect, though. This is a powerful and provocative film that not only keeps you pinned to your seat but also makes you think about the consequences of your actions. It should certainly be a required viewing not only for young people but also for any one who uses social media or communicates via the Internet. Disconnect is a timely, well-written, well-acted, and well-paced movie that stays with you long after you finish watching it. I was also pleased by the fact that the director and writer did not take the easy way out. No glib, predictable solutions here, which is one reason why the film's events linger in your mind.

Genre: Drama, Mystery, Thriller
Actor: Alexander Skarsgård, Andrea Riseborough, Colin Ford, Erin Wilhelmi, Frank Grillo, Haley Ramm, Hope Davis, Jason Bateman, John Sharian, Jonah Bobo, Kasi Lemmons, Max Thieriot, Michael Nyqvist, Norbert Leo Butz, Paula Patton, Tessa Albertson
Director: Henry Alex Rubin
Rating: R
44.

The Ice Storm (1997)

Set during the swingin' seventies, two small town Connecticut families are the subject of this visually stunning and somewhat disturbing drama. With an all-star cast that includes Sigourney Weaver as Janey Carver, an unsatisfied housewife and mother of two and Elijah Wood as her eldest son, there's plenty of star power and drama. In addition, director Ang Lee brings his signature sense of trial and unease while unleashing a quirky and pointed 70's aesthetic.

Genre: Drama
Actor: Adam Hann-Byrd, Allison Janney, Barbara Garrick, Bettina Skye, Byron Jennings, Christina Ricci, Colleen Camp, Courtney Peldon, Daniel McDonald, David Krumholtz, Donna Mitchell, Elijah Wood, Glenn Fitzgerald, Henry Czerny, Jamey Sheridan, Joan Allen, Joe O'Connor, John Benjamin Hickey, Jonathan Freeman, Kate Burton, Katie Holmes, Kevin Kline, Larry Pine, Maia Danziger, Marcell Rosenblatt, Michael Cumpsty, Sarah Thompson, Scott Wentworth, Sigourney Weaver, Tobey Maguire, William Cain
Director: Ang Lee
Rating: R
43.

Keith (2008)

I was pleasantly surprised at how much I liked this film. I’ll be honest and say I did not really expect much given that it starred Jesse McCartney in the title role. Nevertheless, he managed to really surprise me. McCartney and Harnois have excellent chemistry as Keith and Natalie and you find yourself rooting for them to end up together. The film does a great job at building up their relationship and emotional connection, and it will definitely succeed in pulling at your heartstrings. If you enjoy films in the vein of A Walk to Remember, you should check this one out!

Genre: Drama, Family, Romance
Actor: Courtney Halverson, Dennis Cockrum, Elisabeth Harnois, Ethan Phillips, Gareth Williams, Ian Nelson, Ignacio Serricchio, Jennifer Grey, Jesse Heiman, Jesse McCartney, Jessy Schram, Margo Harshman, Michael Bryan French, Michael McGrady, Michael OKeefe, Rance Howard, Victoria Chalaya
Director: Todd Kessler
Rating: PG-13
42.

We Need to Talk About Kevin (2012)

Adapted from the Lionel Shriver novel of the same name, We Need to Talk About Kevin is the story of a mother (Tilda Swinton) that never quite bonds with her child, but not by her choice. The son grows up to do a heinous act that begs the question: nature or nurture? This film is an uncompromising view on the development of an unloved child. Silent pain gets voice. Feelings are shown by actions not emotions in an authentic, comprehensible and aesthetic manner. Great work.

Genre: Drama, Thriller
Actor: Aaron Blakely, Alex Manette, Ashley Gerasimovich, Blake DeLong, Caitlin Kinnunen, Erin Darke, Ezra Miller, J. Mallory McCree, James Chen, Jasper Newell, Jennifer Kim, John C. Reilly, Joseph Melendez, Kenneth Franklin, Kimberley Drummond, Leslie Lyles, Maryann Urbano, Paul Diomede, Polly Adams, Rock Duer, Rocky Duer, Siobhan Fallon Hogan, Suzette Gunn, Tilda Swinton, Ursula Parker
Director: Lynne Ramsay
Rating: R
41.

You Can Count on Me (2000)

Written and directed by Academy-Award-winning Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester by the Sea, Gangs of New York), you can certainly count on the qualities of this subtle, beautiful, and moving drama about two siblings growing apart and reuniting later in life.

An Academy-Award-nominated Laura Linney plays Sammy, a single mother in a small town who is extremely protective of her 8-year-old son. When her younger and somewhat troubled brother Terry (played by the ever-reliable Mark Ruffalo) visits her out of the blue, Sammy has to deal with a slew of contradicting emotions towards her brother, whose appearance threatens to upend her life as she knew it.

Straight, thoughtful, and beautifully crafted, You Can Count on Me is an honest and genuine exploration of unconditional love in celluloid form. Think of it as much more hopeful The Skeleton Twins.

Genre: Drama, Family
Actor: Adam LeFevre, Amy Ryan, Betsy Aidem, Gaby Hoffmann, Halley Feiffer, J. Smith-Cameron, Jon Tenney, Josh Lucas, Laura Linney, Mark Ruffalo, Matthew Broderick, Michael Countryman, Nina Garbiras, Rory Culkin
Director: Kenneth Lonergan
Rating: R

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