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The 30 Best American Independent Movies You Should Watch

07 June 2013 | Features, Film Lists | by David Zou

best american indies

Before 1960s, American cinema was dominated by the studio system. After the New Hollywood Movement, directors started making low-budget films outside the system. The 1990s saw the rise of it, after two groundbreaking indies (Pulp Fiction and Sex, Lies and Videotapes) won the top prize in Cannes Festival. The stories of Tarantino and Soderberg inspired thousands of anonymous filmmakers to make their own indies. The Sundance Film Festival, which focuses on indie movies both at home and abroad, becomes one of the major film festivals in America.

Here are 30 greatest American indie movies you should consider watching if you are tired of Hollywood mainstream films.

 

30. Primer

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Shane Carruth’s head-scratcher makes a virtue of a tiny budget (its time machine is, literally, a box) to deliver what is probably cinema’s most authentic – as in, totally confusing – exploration of time travel.

 

29. Black Swan

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With its Oscar win and big box-office, this might not be as obviously ‘indie’ as Aronofsky’s lo-fi debut Pi, but the budget was so tight Natalie Portman gave up her trailer to keep a nurse on set to treat all of the ballet injuries.

 

28. Lost In Translation

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Sofia Coppola escapes her father’s shadow – not to mention THAT performance in The Godfather Part 3 – by eloping to Tokyo to make a tender tone-poem with Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson.

 

27. Paranormal Activity

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Extreme even by the limitations of ‘found footage,’ Oren Peli’s debut simply switched on the CCTV and let it record things going bump in the night.

 

26. The Passion Of The Christ

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Mel Gibson, torturing Jesus in lingering detail and Aramaic dialogue. Indie only because no studio would touch it and he had to finance it himself.

 

25. Blue Valentine

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Derek Cianfrance’s jagged, time-hopping rise-and-fall is like Cassavetes jamming with Tarantino, backed by best-of-their-generation stars Gosling and Williams.

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  • Iam_Sparticus

    Wasn’t Kubrick’s Paths of Glory independent? If so, it was one of the most brilliant.

  • Garrett William

    Here’s a list of good, well known movies. You should watch them.

  • Don Johnson

    Blair Witch Project was all hype and is no respect a good film.

  • LiamT

    Memento – british writer and director, aussie actor. is it really a USA movie? it is a great movie though.

  • UltraModerate

    I’m really disappointed John Waters didn’t get a nod on this list. A lot of people wouldn’t really label his movies as “good,” but they are definitely something to experience.