The 50 Best Indie Movies of All-Time

The 50 Best Indie Movies of All-Time

January 6, 2024

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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. 

21. The Past (2013)

best

9.0

Country

Belgium, France, Iran

Director

Asghar Farhadi

Actors

Ali Mosaffa, Babak Karimi, Bérénice Bejo, Eléonora Marino

Moods

Emotional

A Good Movie to Watch features almost every work of Asghar Farhadi for the sole reason that his films, although highly acclaimed and brilliant, are criminally under-watched. As always, Farhadi offers complex, compelling, and contemporary drama and piercing insight into human relationships and emotions. Expect the twists, subtleties, and emotional limbo that you’re probably familiar with from A Separation or About Elly. That said, The Past is a bit different, because, for one, it focuses on romantic relationships, and, secondly, it plays in the far more permissive world of a Parisian suburb –⁠ and not in theocratic Teheran. Independent of its location, The Past’s key subject is the universally human phenomenon of having to deal with the choices made in the past. In addition to Farhadi’s intricate directing and the sensitive script, it is imperative to mention the powerful performances by Ali Mosaffa, Tahar Rahim, and, above all, Bérénice Bejo. An unforgettable experience.

22. Whiplash (2014)

best

8.9

Country

United States of America

Director

Damien Chazelle

Actors

Adrian Burks, April Grace, Austin Stowell, C.J. Vana

Moods

Dramatic, Intense, Raw

Miles Teller plays Andrew Nieman, an ambitious young jazz drummer striving for greatness, who is edged towards breaking point by the sadism of his teacher and conductor, Terence Fletcher, played expertly by J.K. Simmons. Fletcher insults him, pressures him, and makes him cry in front of all his peers. Directed by Damien Chazelle, who was one of the youngest people to receive a Golden Globe and an Academy Award for the powerful La La Land, the aptly titled Whiplash poses some intense questions about artistry and ambition. Will Andrew survive? Will it lift him to a higher artistic level? Can his tormentor be appeased through accomplishment? It’s almost impossible to single out the best part of this film, considering the flawless performances, masterful script, and meticulously crafted soundtrack. Cherishing the existential artist without giving easy answers, Whiplash is an inspiring watch.

23. Philomena (2013)

best

8.8

Country

France, UK, United Kingdom

Director

Stephen Frears

Actors

Amber Batty, Amy McAllister, Anna Maxwell Martin, Barbara Jefford

Moods

Character-driven, Feel-Good, Heart-warming

An inspired by true events tale about an elderly Irish woman trying to find the child she was forced to give up many years earlier. Steve Coogan co-wrote the script and, though the base story is a tragic one, his special brand of very subtle, wry wit is apparent in the dialogue throughout. Judi Dench plays the mother who had kept her “sinful” past a secret for fifty years and, being Judi Dench, I don’t need to bother going on about her exemplary talent, suffice to say she’s charming beyond measure in the role. Steven Frears directs, as usual, deftly, and keeps the story compelling scene after scene, intensifying the emotions inherent to each, whether they be heart-warming, comedic, or outright enraging. Whoever decided to let Steve Coogan have his way with the script, it was a brave and wise choice and together this cast and crew have produced a wonderful and important piece of cinema.

24. Nebraska (2013)

best

8.7

Country

United States of America

Director

Alexander Payne

Actors

Angela McEwan, Anthony G. Schmidt, Bob Nelson, Bob Odenkirk

Moods

Challenging, Depressing, Original

Nebraska is a poem distilled into a film. Peter Travers from Rolling Stone says “is it a comedy or a drama? Both at the same time, as life itself.” Everything about it is perfect: the acting, the photography, the story. In case that’s not enough and you need to know the plot to get convinced, I’ll tell you that it’s a road movie about a senile old man and his son. If you still want more information, you can Google it, but come on! You’ll just be wasting time that would be better spent on watching this masterpiece.

25. Nightcrawler (2014)

best

8.6

Country

United States of America

Director

Dan Gilroy

Actors

Alex Ortiz, Ann Cusack, Bill Blair, Bill Paxton

Moods

A-list actors, Challenging, Character-driven

The film stars Jake Gyllenhaal as Lou Bloom, an impromptu freelance videographer who begins covering the crime world in LA for a local TV station. Almost as dark as a mystery can get, it is disturbing, and plays out as a combination of “Drive” and “The Network”. The film is visually stunning as well as immensely suspenseful. It then becomes almost impossible to look away, even when you’re the most horrified by just how far Bloom is willing to go to reach success. Gyllenhaal’s performance is widely compared to that of Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver, which should give you an idea of its caliber.

26. Moon (2009)

best

8.5

Country

UK, United Kingdom, United States of America

Director

Duncan Jones

Actors

Adrienne Shaw, Benedict Wong, Dominique McElligott, Kaya Scodelario

Moods

Mind-blowing, Thought-provoking

Moon is a sci-fi movie that doesn’t care that it’s a sci-fi movie. It’s not about space exploration or aliens. It’s about a man struggling to understand what and who he is and the dehumanizing effect of industrialization. Moon leaves you with a pit in your stomach and an incredible feeling of melancholy. It is perfectly acted by Sam Rockwell and the voice of Kevin Spacey. Moon keeps you guessing and deeply enthralled. A true masterpiece I would recommend to anyone, whether they are sci-fi nerds or just movie lovers.

27. What We Do in the Shadows (2014)

best

8.4

Country

New-Zealand, United States of America

Director

Jemaine Clement, Taika Waititi

Actors

Ben Fransham, Chelsie Preston Crayford, Cohen Holloway, Cori Gonzalez-Macuer

Moods

Funny

Deadpan comedy styled as a mockumentary, following four flatmates who happen to be vampires. They range in ages from 183 to 8000, and spend their nights trying to adapt to modern day living, eating,   reminiscing about old times, and solving the problems that come with every shared flat. It is filmed in a fake documentary style similar to The Office, with one-on-one interviews interspersed into the film. From the creators of Flight Of The Conchords and Boy, it is a truly great, hilarious comedy that you will not want to miss!

28. Show Me Love (1998)

best

8.2

Country

Denmark, Sweden

Director

Lukas Moodysson

Actors

Alexandra Dahlström, Bo Lyckman, Erica Carlson, Jill Ung

Moods

Emotional, Gripping, Romantic

Set in the small town of Åmål, western Sweden, the debut feature by Lukas Moodysson (We Are the Best), is itself a metonymy for the bigger questions of life. It’s playful and dead serious at the same time, in the way it portrays teenager Agnes, who, after two years of living in Åmål, still hasn’t made any friends that would attend her birthday party. Instead, she spends her time typing away on her computer, poetic diaries and love confessions to a girl from school named Elin. She’s the popular one and therefore, out of reach. The amount of tension and escalating ambivalence the film conjures with just a simple narrative decision—a bet, a kiss, an apology—is palpable throughout the 86 minutes of its runtime. A perfect capsule of lesbian desire and first love, Show Me Love is a gem of a movie; one that would make you think Close was a tad overrated. Oh, and don’t forget to add the titular song by Swedish pop star Robyn to your Spotify favorites.

29. Ordinary People (2016)

best

8.2

Country

Philippines, United States of America

Director

Eduardo Roy Jr.

Actors

Alora Mae Sasam, Bon Andrew Lentejas, Erlinda Villalobos, Gold Aceron

Moods

Character-driven, Dark, Depressing

Ordinary People tells the harrowing story of Jane and Aries, two teenage parents struggling to survive the streets of Manila. At the mercy of limited welfare, the two resort to criminal activity to get by. When a woman offers to help them financially (on loan), Jane eventually relents—but is shocked to discover that her baby’s been kidnapped. Trying everything from going to the police to contacting the perpetrator’s mother, the reality becomes unavoidable: no one truly cares for the poor even if they’re children. Interspersed with CCTV footage of the crimes the characters commit or witness, this powerful, heartbreaking portrait of poverty still offers glimmers of hope as they fight the odds to continue their search together. 

30. Thank You for Smoking (2005)

best

8.1

Country

United Kingdom, United States of America

Director

Jason Reitman

Actors

Aaron Eckhart, Aaron Lustig, Adam Brody, Aloma Wright

Moods

Funny, Grown-up Comedy, Smart

As black a comedy as they come. Nick Naylor (superbly portrayed by Aaron Eckhart) is the chief spokesperson for tobacco and shows the world why smoking is as key to protect as any other liberal value. This movie is funny, smart, thoughtful and raises some good questions about the ego, the morale and what we leave behind, from unexpected sides.

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