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. 

40. Shattered Glass (2003)

7.1

Country

Canada, United States, United States of America

Director

Billy Ray

Actors

Andrew Airlie, Bill Rowat, Brett Watson, Brittany Drisdelle

Moods

A-list actors, Challenging, Character-driven

Shattered Glass tells the unbelievably true story of Stephen Glass, a popular and promising young journalist at The New Republic. Stephen’s storytelling skills are sought out not just by his admiring colleagues but by other publications as well, so when a rival journalist from Forbes finds holes in one of Stephen’s stories, no one takes the accusation seriously at first—except perhaps for Charles Lane, Stephen’s editor. Immune to Stephen’s charms, Charles digs for the truth and tries, despite an alarming lack of support, to pursue what’s right.

Set in the ’90s, Shattered Glass may be a throwback to old-school journalism, but its ideas about the integrity of facts still hold water, especially in an age fraught with rampant disinformation.

39. The Nightingale (2018)

7.1

Country

Australia

Director

Female director, Jennifer Kent

Actors

Aisling Franciosi, Anthony Phelan, Baykali Ganambarr, Ben McIvor

Moods

Challenging, Dark, Depressing

From The Babadook director Jennifer Kent comes another horror, although this one is more about the horrors of humanity. Set in 1825 Tasmania, The Nightingale follows Irish settler Clare as she seeks bloody revenge on the monsters who wronged her and her family. She teams up with an Aboriginal guide named Billy to accomplish her goal.

Because of its often violent and disturbing tone (the film is rated R for its potentially triggering scenes), The Nightingale understandably polarized audiences upon its release. But it’s also an excellent conversation piece, best watched with friends or anyone up for a discussion-filled movie night.

38. The Divine Order (2017)

7.1

Country

Switzerland

Director

Female director, Petra Biondina Volpe

Actors

Bettina Stucky, Ella Rumpf, Marie Leuenberger, Marietta Jemmi

Moods

Discussion-sparking, Grown-up Comedy, Heart-warming

With a particularly empowering tenderness and resilience, The Divine Order explores a glossed-over chapter in history wherein Swiss women could not vote until 1971. The hillside Swiss farming village in which Nora Ruckstuhl lives seems picture-perfect. But under the village’s close-knit and idyllic surface, change is stirring. When an emerging sense of autonomy pushes Nora to question her identity beyond being a complacent housewife, she publicly declares herself in favor of women’s suffrage and draws attention from both outspoken opponents and quiet supporters.

As Nora discovers herself—what she does and doesn’t like; what her body looks like; what pleasure feels like—she also uncovers a yearning for better, for more: who is she not just as a spouse and mother, but also as a friend, a member of a greater community, an independent woman?

37. The Fallout (2021)

7.1

Country

United States, United States of America

Director

Female director, Megan Park

Actors

Austin Zajur, Christine Horn, Jenna Ortega, John Ortiz

Moods

Character-driven, Depressing, Discussion-sparking

Survivors are often painted in a brave light; they’re applauded for their resilience and toughness, and in the case of school shootings, many of them are also expected to take up arms and fight the good fight. While this is of course laudable, many survivors are simply trying to get by. Unable to process trauma and inexplicable loss, they become withdrawn, depressed, and reckless—not exactly noteworthy traits, but understandable and equally deserving of empathy.

The Fallout shifts the focus on this side of survival by following Vada in the aftermath of a school shooting. Unlike her peers, she fails to cope positively and becomes increasingly self-destructive. But it’s through this unsentimental portrayal that The Fallout achieves a frankness and rawness that few films like it have. 

36. I’m Your Man (2021)

7.2

Country

Germany

Director

Female director, Maria Schrader

Actors

Annika Meier, Christoph Glaubacker, Dan Stevens, Falilou Seck

Moods

Feel-Good, Funny, Grown-up Comedy

Romantically pairing up AI with humans is hardly new, and I’m Your Man is aware of that. Instead of spending way too much time explaining the advanced tech that makes the perfect mate possible, the movie zeroes in on its charismatic leads Tom the robot (Dan Stevens) and Alma the indifferent academic (Maren Eggert). Tom is the curious, humanoid automaton who is designed to worship Alma, and Alma is the disillusioned human who is conflicted with the authenticity of her growing feelings for Tom. I’m Your Man is smart and empathetic enough to stay afloat amidst its swirling genres and ethical dilemmas, but it is mostly the chemistry between Tom and Alma that anchors it to the love story that it actually is. 

35. Pieces of April (2003)

7.2

Country

United States, United States of America

Director

Peter Hedges

Actors

Adrian Martinez, Alice Drummond, Alison Pill, Anney Giobbe

Moods

Character-driven, Emotional, Grown-up Comedy

The entirety of Pieces of April takes place on Thanksgiving Day, a busy holiday meant to bring loved ones together. Sure enough, April, the eldest Burns daughter, takes great pains to prepare a nice dinner for her visiting family. But we soon learn that she is motivated less by excitement than by dread: she’s long been estranged, disowned even, by her uptight mother, Joy, who is only agreeing to come because she’s sick with cancer. April seems to be on a reluctant mission to fix their fraught relationship, but pesky (albeit funny) mishaps, both on her and Joy’s end, keep getting in the way. 

Shot digitally and very closely with hand-held cameras, Pieces of April looks as intimate as it feels. It’s a snapshot of an era and of a particular family dynamic, one that relatably relies on both love and scorn to keep going. It’s an excellent, honest, and underrated gem of a movie.

34. Swan Song (2021)

7.2

Country

United States, United States of America

Director

Todd Stephens

Actors

Annie Kitral, Brandon Lim, Bryant Carroll, Dave Sorboro

Moods

Heart-warming, Lovely, Slice-of-Life

In Swan Song, acclaimed actor Udo Kier stars as the real-life Pat Pitsenbarger, a local queer legend in the small town of Sandusky. He used to live a private but joyful life, beautifying socialities by day and performing in drag at night. But now the aging icon is resigned to live out his days in a bleak retirement home, where he takes part in feeble acts of rebellion to keep himself amused. This is bound to change when Pat returns to town on an oddly specific request. There, he makes peace with old friends and grabs at the chance to revive his inner beauty queen once more. 

It’s a simple story with a simple premise, but Swan Song is elevated by Krier’s powerful presence and director Todd Stephens’ obvious love for his hometown. Every diss Krier drops as the sassy Pat is to be savored, and every tribute Stephens makes to town life is to be admired. Filled, too, with colorful and euphoric moments that celebrate gay pride, Swan Song makes for quite the lovable film. 

33. American Honey (2016)

7.2

Country

UK, United Kingdom, United States of America

Director

Andrea Arnold, Female director

Actors

Andrea Arnold, Arielle Holmes, Chris Bylsma, Isaiah Stone

Moods

Romantic

British filmmaker extraordinaire Andrea Arnold (Fish Tank) draws the perfect portrait of two young American drifters who fall in love.

Star (Sasha Lane) runs away with Jake (Shia Laboeuf), a traveling magazine salesman with more experience on the road. The freedom is tempting at first, especially given her difficult situation at home, but Star is quickly confronted with the risks that come with running away.

American Honey is shot in a succession of moments that take place almost entirely during golden hour, as if to say that the best part of the day comes right before dark.

32. Office Space (1999)

7.3

Country

United States of America

Director

Mike Judge

Actors

Ajay Naidu, Alexandra Wentworth, Charissa Allen, David Herman

Moods

Discussion-sparking, Grown-up Comedy, Quirky

Before “burnout,” “bullshit jobs,” and “quiet quitting” became part of our everyday lexicon, there was a film in the ‘90s that prophesied the rise of these workplace problems. Office Space follows three co-workers who, having had enough of their dreary low-paying jobs, fight back against their company via an embezzlement scheme. 

Office Space makes the most out of its indie budget as it mostly takes place in the cramped quarters of a company, effectively bottling us into the cubicled windowless world of the characters. But the real beauty of the film is in the details, from its quick zingers and thoughtful takes on the essence of work down to its elaborate “planning to plan” scheme in the background and the employees’ forced politeness singing happy birthday to their boss. Modern viewers will notice that Office Space sits right in between the dystopian thriller Severance and the beloved sitcom The Office—a dark comedy that highlights the necessity of humanity in everyday work. 

31. Cha Cha Real Smooth (2022)

7.3

Country

United States of America

Director

Cooper Raiff

Actors

Brad Garrett, Colton Osorio, Cooper Raiff, Corrie Danieley

Moods

Character-driven, Easy, Emotional

Primarily, Cha Cha Real Smooth follows Andrew (Cooper Raiff) as he figures out what to do with his life post-college. But peripherally, it’s also about love, friendship, coming of age, and parenthood. Sometimes the movie wobbles under the weight of all it wants to be and you start to wonder whether it would benefit from a leaner script and a tighter focus. 

But ultimately, Cha Cha Real Smooth is endearing and a breeze to watch. Andrew is relatable as a know-it-all who doesn’t actually know it all, and Domino (Dakota Johnson) is moving as a young mother consumed by both her envy and love for Andrew. Despite its occasional unevenness, the film’s big emotional heart triumphs, and sometimes that’s the best that you can hope for in a story about one’s 20s.

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