The 50 Best Indie Movies of All-Time

The 50 Best Indie Movies of All-Time

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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. 

50. Trainspotting (1996)

6.9

Country

UK, United Kingdom

Director

Danny Boyle

Actors

Annie Louise Ross, Billy Riddoch, Dale Winton, Eddie Nestor

Moods

Challenging, Depressing, Intense

Renton (McGregor), a Scottish twenty-something junkie, must choose to clean up and get out, or continue following the allure of the drugs and the influence of friends. Find out if he chooses life in this brutal yet entertaining Danny Boyle masterpiece. While definitely not for the faint of heart, Trainspotting still manages to be funny at times, and provides an overall very entertaining experience.

49. The World’s Fastest Indian (2005)

6.9

Country

Japan, New-Zealand, Switzerland

Director

Roger Donaldson

Actors

Aaron Murphy, Alison Bruce, Annie Whittle, Anthony Hopkins

Moods

Character-driven, Easy, Feel-Good

You know Anthony Hopkins as the evil Hannibal Lecter, but in this film he gives a warm and heartfelt performance portraying real life New Zealand motorcycle legend Burt Munro who set a land speed record in 1967 on a hand-built 1920 Indian. It’s a story of never giving up on your dream even in the face of ridicule and opposition. Hopkins’ performance turns what could have been just another schmaltzy formulaic story line into true gold. You’ll be cheering for Burt/Anthony by the end!

48. Waking Life (2001)

6.9

Country

United States of America

Director

Richard Linklater

Actors

Adam Goldberg, Alex Jones, Bill Wise, Caveh Zahedi

Moods

Dramatic, Original, Thought-provoking

Waking Life is composed exclusively of a series of conversations involving the main character, with him sometimes participating and sometimes just as a spectator. The discussions revolve around issues such as metaphysics, free will, social philosophy or the meaning of life. The title refers to a quote from Jorge Santayana: “sanity is a madness put to good uses; waking life is a dream controlled.”, and the whole movie wanders around the state of a lucid dream, emphasized by the rotoscoping technique in which it was filmed. Waking Life is not just a movie worth watching, it is a movie worth watching a thousand times, because you will always notice something that you have previously missed out.

47. Little Miss Sunshine (2006)

6.9

Country

United States of America

Director

Female director, Jonathan Dayton

Actors

Abigail Breslin, Alan Arkin, Beth Grant, Brenda Canela

Moods

Easy, Funny, Sweet

Starring a sad-sack Steve Carrell and an ensemble cast with brilliant timing and real heart, Little Miss Sunshine is a rare understated comedy that brings laughter and tears. As a dysfunctional family’s youngest member gets chosen to be in a pageant in California, the family must come together and support her through her journey. Along the path that they take, they learn and cope with each other. A great movie filled with phenomenal acting and writing with a real heart that will leave you breathless.

46. Control (2007)

6.9

Country

Australia, France, Japan

Director

Anton Corbijn

Actors

Alexandra Maria Lara, Andrew Sheridan, Ben Naylor, Craig Parkinson

Moods

Sunday, True-story-based, Well-acted

Joy Division, formerly known as Warsaw, was a brilliant rock group that served its time and something that has lived through decades with the help of their songs, love for fans, and legendary performances – unfortunately for his band-mates and singer Ian Curtis, this picture-perfect scenery was cut short. Control is an exploration of his personal and professional musings, adding to the woes of his romantic troubles and inner desire to somehow break free from his deteriorating health.
Thoroughly processed in black and white, this enthralling biopic starring the brooding, and then-relatively unknown Sam Riley is all parts gut-wrenching and borderline extraordinary.

45. A Single Man (2009)

6.9

Country

United States of America

Director

Tom Ford

Actors

Aaron Sanders, Adam Shapiro, Colin Firth, Elisabeth Harnois

Moods

Character-driven, Warm

Shot as a single day, it tells the story of college professor George (Colin Firth) who, unable to cope with the death of his partner months prior, resolves to commit suicide. The movie is not all dark, however, there are moving, deeply human encounters as George moves through his last day. Fashion designer Tom Ford’s directorial debut and set in 1960s Los Angeles, it speaks powerfully of the colour-stripping effects of grief and loneliness. Fantastic performance also by Julianne Moore as Charley, an equally lonely and desperate character, but with a markedly different story. A Single Man is a gorgeous film in every sense of the word.

44. Retablo (2017)

7.0

Country

Germany, Norway, Peru

Director

Álvaro Delgado-Aparicio L., Alvaro Delgado-Aparicio

Actors

Amiel Cayo, Claudia Solís, Coco Chiarella, Hermelinda Luján

Moods

Dark, Depressing, Discussion-sparking

Fourteen-year-old Segundo dreams of being just like his father Noé, a revered tableau artist in their small Peruvian town. The teenage apprentice follows Noé’s every move and instruction, that is until one day, he discovers a shocking truth about Noé’s identity. Hurt, angered, and incredibly confused, Segundo starts detaching from his family, as well as from the life he thought he’d wanted to live. 

Retablo is a slow but vibrant film, set in Peruvian locales and spoken in the country’s indigenous tongue, Quechua. Its limited dialogue smartly reflects the people’s own silence when it comes to sex and gender ideas, although the movements themselves—from traditional parties to teenage fights—have a lot to say about masculinity, conservatism, and the dangers of their excess. Retablo might be a difficult watch for some, but it’s just as necessary and enlightening.

43. The Peanut Butter Falcon (2019)

7.4

Country

United States of America

Director

Michael Schwartz, Tyler Nilson

Actors

Ann Owens, Aurelian Smith Jr., Bruce Dern, Dakota Johnson

Moods

A-list actors, No-brainer, True-crime

This buddies-on-the-road drama was the highest-grossing independent film of 2019, which tells you everything you need to know about it: it’s familiar, but it’s not overblown.

A fisherman (Shia LaBeouf) has to flee after vandalizing the property of a rival fishing group who bully him. On the way, he meets a man with Down syndrome, who, unexpectedly, is on a journey to become a pro wrestler.

42. The White Ribbon (2009)

7.5

Country

Austria, Canada, France

Director

Michael Haneke

Actors

Anne-Kathrin Gummich, Arndt Schwering-Sohnrey, Birgit Minichmayr, Branko Samarovski

Moods

Dark, Depressing, Dramatic

This 2009 Palme d’Or winner is filmed beautifully in black and white by Michael Haneke. In equal parts mysterious and disturbing, it is set in a northern German village in between 1913 and 1914 where strange events start to happen seemingly on their own. The people of the village, who feel as if they were punished, try to investigate it as the events start affecting them one by one. As they speculate on who is behind the acts that never stop, the film unfolds its slow but captivating plot. A brilliant and unique movie.

41. Rocks (2019)

7.5

Country

Germany, UK, United Kingdom

Director

Female director, Sarah Gavron

Actors

Afi Okaidja, Anastasia Dymitrow, Bukky Bakray, D’angelou Osei Kissiedu

Moods

Dramatic, Emotional, Heart-warming

It’s rare now to hear the phrase “girl power” without being immediately suspicious of its intentions, reduced as it were to cheesy adspeak and empty platitudes. But in the case of Rocks—a movie helmed by a predominantly female crew and co-written by the teenage cast themselves—the slogan fits. There is power in this type of girlhood: open, collaborative, and supportive, and that’s just what happens off-screen. 

On-screen, what unfolds is even more complex and beautiful. As Rocks struggles to take care of her younger brother all on her own, as she’s forced to grow up and face ethical dilemmas normally reserved for adults, she is backed unwaveringly by her friends Sumaya, Agnes, Yawa, Khadijah, and Sabina. It’s their specific bond, unsentimental but deeply considerate and loyal, that keeps the film as solid and grounded as the title suggests.

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