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The 23 Best Independent Movies of 2014

23 December 2014 | Features, Film Lists | by D.A. Zapata

best indie movies 2014

2014 has undoubtedly been an incredible year for cinema. From satirical comedies to engrossing thrillers to thematically heart-wrenching tales, independent films flourished this year and have portrayed some of the best performances and most original storylines we have seen in years.

Whether you’re looking for a laugh, a scare, or an intellectually stimulating experience, it is bound to be found in one of the 23 indie films listed below. These are the films of 2014 that simply cannot be missed.


23. Under the Skin

Under The Skin (2014)

With her recent endeavors in sci-fi films, from Her to Lucy, Scarlett Johansson has proven herself to be a highly resilient and successful actress in the genre. Under the Skin is no exception.

In the film, Johansson embodies an alien predator who has taken the form of a human, using her sexually alluring nature to seduce men. Upon lustfully luring a man back to her apartment, Johansson unclothes herself as the man she has seduced walks towards her, slowly submerging himself into a black liquid until he is fully underneath. His body then caves in on itself and disappears, leaving only the remains of his exterior skin.

Johansson’s character does this repeatedly, though the reasons for it are never made entirely clear. Under the Skin is a hallucinatory experience with metaphorically dense roots in the power of human sexuality, lust, and sexism.

It is not a film with a linear plot or any key developmental points, but rather a film to be experienced and interpreted with a sense of mystery and dread. Under the Skin is not a crowd-pleasing film and is not meant to be pleasantly enjoyable, and by no means does it end on a satisfying note. However, it remains to be one of the most aesthetically hypnotic and exquisitely constructed pieces of art house cinema of the year.


22. The Zero Theorem

The Zero Theorem (2013)

Terry Gilliam’s directorial work has always had a taste for scientific absurdities and fanatically hallucinatory ambiances, from Brazil to 12 Monkeys to Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. It comes as no surprise that The Zero Theorem exists in the same vein of his surrealist filmography.

Starring Christoph Waltz as a hyper-intelligent and existentially tormented man in a seemingly utopian future, The Zero Theorem tells the tale of an attempt to decipher the meaning of life, or lack thereof, in purely scientific terms. Waltz is magnificent and unnerving in his role, always referring to himself in plurals and over-analyzing everything that is told to him in his daily interaction, whether with other humans or artificially intelligent beings.

As he begins to obsessively work on the theorem of life, or “The Zero Theorem,” the lines between reality and cyber-reality begin to blur in a crazed and elusive manner, all while presenting deeply philosophical concepts such as the importance of life, love, and beauty.

The Zero Theorem, however, is never quite interested in answering these questions, but rather idealizing them in an enthrallingly bizarre manner. This is a film with remarkably absorbing ideologies that create a beautiful and ponderous journey through the human experience, making it insightfully unforgettable.


21. Locke


Films like Locke prove that a low budget should in no way coincide with mediocrity. Locke is a claustrophobic and intense thriller that takes place, from beginning to end, in a vehicle, with a powerful and uncompromising performance by Tom Hardy. This film is a perfect encapsulation of one’s drive for success and moral responsibility, as Hardy tries to manage the strenuous nature of his job as they are juxtaposed with the consequences of his reprehensible actions from months before.

Pieces of the story are slowly delivered through a series of phone calls as Locke attempts to balance his success in his job responsibilities as well as what he deems to be his moral obligation, and the outcome is nothing short of astoundingly moving through one of the most original forms of character development depicted on film.

Locke is an impressive and compelling film that relies more on true humanistic integrity than action-packed thrill sequences, and therein lies its success.


20. The Theory of Everything

The Theory of Everything

Although having been labeled a Stephen Hawking biopic, The Theory of Everything is a film that supersedes the simplistic retellings of a man’s life. It is a thoughtful, passionate, and deeply insightful look into the past of one of the most influential individuals who has ever lived, and it is told with heartwarming poignancy.

We are first introduced to the newly graduated Stephen Hawking at Cambridge University in the 1960’s, where he meets and falls in love with Jane Wilde. The two meet at a party and are immediately drawn to one another, particularly due to their contemplative and intellectual natures. They discuss everything from the concrete nature of science to the existence of God—something they stand at odds with yet something that does not impede on their affection for one another.

At age 21, Hawking is diagnosed with motor neuron disease, a disease known for its severe physical decline in terms of all motor functioning and limited life expectancy. However, this in no way hinders Hawking’s success, as he becomes one of the most acclaimed physicists of all time despite his disability worsening over time.

The Theory of Everything is truly a film about everything, from existence to science to personal battles to the entire spectrum of human emotion. It is the beautifully told biopic Stephen Hawking deserves, and it is as melancholic as it is eloquently significant.


19. Whiplash


Few films about musicians have ever been as intensely electrifying as Whiplash. It is a film about the quest for greatness and the relentlessness that true success entails. Whiplash follows Andrew Neyman, played with marvelous ferocity by Miles Teller, who dreams of becoming a jazz drummer. Andrew attends Shaffer Conservatory to achieve his goal, which is known to be one of the most prestigious music universities in the entire nation.

It is here that Andrew is pushed to his limits, both emotionally and physically, in an attempt to stretch his talent to its full potential. Andrew’s instructor, Terence Fletcher, pushes him to ferocious breaking points, creating a palpable tension that becomes psychologically tormenting as the film progresses.

Whiplash is a feverous and brutally thrilling experience, delineating the severe pressures one must endure to achieve their goals and the extremities to which they are willing to be pushed.


18. Why Don’t You Play in Hell?

Why Don’t You Play in Hell

This Japanese action film by Shion Sono is transcendental in almost every way possible. Combining comically self-aware Japanese cinema techniques—such as quick-zooms and freeze-frames—with gallons of bloodshed and the feel of a screwball comedy, Why Don’t You Play in Hell? is one of the goriest and most hilariously outlandish films to be released in years.

We follow a group of amateur filmmakers (whose name will be left out for expletive purposes) from childhood to their young adult lives, with an ever-present dream to create the greatest action film of all time.

In an alternate storyline, we learn of a violent feud that is festering between two yakuza clans, surely to end in bloodshed. After years of dreaming of the perfect action flick, the possibility of filming this gory brawl between the gangs practically falls into the laps of these young amateur filmmakers just as they’ve given up hope.

Why Don’t You Play in Hell? is a ridiculous good time without a single dull moment, building to a maddening climactic finale with a spew of severed body parts and witty dialog. It is a bloody good time for gore enthusiasts and screwball comedy fans alike.


17. The Rover


Few films this year have been as dark and despairing as The Rover. Taking place ten years after the collapse of all society, The Rover is a tale of survival and the violent trepidation of enduring life in a desolate and violently lawless world. Anguish, death, and the loss of human morals are forces to be reckoned with at every corner, presenting an indistinguishable line between desperation and immorality.

Guy Pearce and Robert Pattinson’s performances are heart-wrenchingly astounding as they struggle to keep the values of a once-esteemed society, such as honor and integrity in a world that has become all too bleak and inhumane. The Rover is both melancholic and unnervingly intense, making it a gripping yet contemplative experience.



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  • Ted Wolf

    thanks, there’s a few that I haven’t seen yet!

  • krone888

    I’ve got to check some of these out.

  • Pingback: David Michôd: “Best of 2014 Lists” Roundup for The Rover | Michôd's Kingdom()

  • Hugh Buttsworth

    I prefer indy films, because during the actual filmmaking, the art tends to take priority over the returns. Big budget Hollywood shows have more money at stake, so the pressure for pleasing investors takes priority over the storytelling.

    Great list 🙂

  • Alex Nasaudean

    Slight typo there for film 18, the name of the director is Shion Sono,

    • Ghosteep

      If you meant instead of “Sion Sono”, both are correct. Shi is the same as Si. When you’re romanising Japanese, especially with names, the rules aren’t so rigid and Sion seems to be more prevalent than Shion.

  • Still D.R.E.

    The Guest is fuckin awesome such a weird movie kinda mixing genres but amazing nevertheless

  • Pingback: Ionut Oprea » Cea mai mare listă a celor mai bune lucruri din 2014()

  • Pingback: List of lists #1()

  • great movies

  • jasoncbcasey

    Nymphomaniac=worst/most boring/under acted film of 2014.

  • Dalvyn Nunes

    Birdman >>>>>>>>>>>>>> Boringhood

    • Arnaldo Fernandez

      Agree….but “Under the skin” is even more boring than Boyhood.

      • Devlyn Marcs

        Agreed. Under the Skin = I’m an alien who landed on the earth, so I’m going to drive around in a van and trick people into getting into my van so I can absorb their body energy, because that is what I eat. LAME-OOOOO!!!

  • Craig Swinson

    COULDN’T care less…how can you write and not know the difference between typing couldn’t and could care less…

  • Lê Bin

    Birdman so amaizng

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  • Brandon Thompson

    I never will agree with a list completely so I go off the choices in the list and this list is pretty strong. 3 of my top 5 of 2014 are on this list (Under the Skin, Whiplash and The Double). I also enjoyed Boyhood, Birdman, Grand Budapest and Snowpiecer.

    My top 5 for 2014 is (in order)
    Under the Skin
    The Double
    Gone Girl
    The Wind Rises

    • Brian Lussier

      I don’t think Gone Girl qualifies as independent, does it?

  • The Rover is my favorite!

    • Joel Zachariah

      not much love for the movie

  • no foxcatcher?

  • Erik Kyle Loncar

    SNOWPIERCER ANALYSIS 😀 a different take on it!

  • I have seen almost each one on the list, really nice!

  • these are the best movies i have ever seen… but be honest those are not 🙂 Coursework Writer

  • bridge

    Its very essential nowadays to have higher education degree and qualification. If you are an expert in a field but dont have the required qualification then dont worry and get an online life experience degree based on only your prior job experiences and give a required boost to your credentials, my friend also got a degree in Accounting and Finance based on his experiences only.

  • Caelus Champion

    Seriously tho every single movie on this list is better than Under the Skin. I guess ScarJo did a good job but what did she really do? Look pensive and not say much? GREAT JOB lol

    • Brian Lussier

      Funny, I think apart from Birdman and The Grand Budapest Hotel, Under The Skin is the best film on this list.

      • Caelus Champion

        The beauty of film and really all of art my friend, different people appreciate different things for different reasons. It’s lovely

        • Brian Lussier

          Totally agree with that. Wasn’t mad you disliked or anything, was just saying how I personally enjoyed it very much.

      • Caelus Champion

        If you’re interested, I encourage you to join the film discussion group I started on Facebook. It’s called Film Club. I’ll give you a like but if you’d prefer just search for Film Club on Facebook and find us!! Most people really have a good time with it.

  • Vera

    Hi, D.A. Zapata, just some extra info: Jake Gillenhaal’s “Enemy” is based on a novel by Portuguese Nobel Prize José Saramago. It’s an amazing book called “O homem duplicado” (I’m sure you can find a translation), and the screen adaptation was not that bad, so if you liked the film, you will love the text.

  • Murillo Chibana

    Shion Sono, not Shion Solo.
    Yakuza, not yukaza.
    Just saying.

  • Cinema270

    I really think we need to redefine the term “Independent Film”.

  • Richard Anderson

    Blue Ruin

  • Christiana Haikali

    such a good list….but boyhood as #1?hell no!

  • SoiledDoughnut

    Nightcrawler certainly deserves its spot on this list. Probably my favourite movie from 2014.

  • Colin Mann


  • Danielle Burkhalter

    Just and fyi that Enemy is a 2013 film 🙂

    Also, I thought The Guest was one of the most laughably terrible films I’ve ever seen.

    • John W. Thackery

      Yes, but very limited release in 2013. Didn’t really get the buzz til 2014 however.

      • Danielle Burkhalter

        That doesn’t make it not a 2013 release 🙂

  • Gústaf Berg

    I would have liked to see Buzzard on here.
    Did everyone miss it?

  • tbone

    Boyhood #1??? Masterpiece? No F’n way.

  • ELBSeattle

    ‘Under the Skin’ is, hands-down, the worst film adaptation of a book that I have ever seen.

  • I haven’t watched Under the Skin. After my work at I am going to watch this movie.

  • tu papa

    Boyhood truly deserves the number 1 spot on this list…it took them 12 years to make it! WOW!

    • Danielle Burkhalter

      You’d think in 12 years they would have made a better film

      • tu papa

        Youre goddamn right

  • Iván Solorio (SanS)

    The Theory of Everything = Worst Movie of the Year. Shouldn’t even be in this list. Overrated cheesy film.

    • John W. Thackery

      I agree. The Theory of Everything was nothing but maudlin Oscar-bait. It wasn’t made to entertain the audience, only to win Oscars. A stolen Oscar that is. Michael Keaton deserved it for Birdman.

      • Iván Solorio (SanS)

        A stolen Oscar that is. Michael Keaton deserved it for Birdman. I couldn’t agree more with you there, mate. Also a stolen nomination from Jake Gyllenhaal for Nightcrawler.

        • John W. Thackery

          Yes, indeed. Gyllenhaal’s snub is unforgivavble. I would have bumped both Redmayne and Bradley Cooper for Gyllenhaal and David Oyelowo in Selma.

  • Whiplash should be way higher up.

  • Danielle Burkhalter

    Enemy deserves to be higher!! Or, at the very least, higher than The Double :/

    • Julio C. Castillo

      Totally agree with you!

  • Daniele Concina

    I despised The Grand Budapest Hotel with a passion. Actually i loathe every single Wes Anderson movie I’ve seen so that is not a surprise.

  • Great list! Then I saw “Nymphomaniac” here and some validity was lost. K love Lars Von Trier, but that movie was rubbish!

  • Harry smith


  • miriamsteve

    I love watching movies and especially that one called Lucy is very nice to watch and really worth every minute. Independent movies must have had a great hit, and that’s the ultimate goal of every team that gets together to make a movie. The best capstone project reviewing services are offered by the most professional experts, who from recruitment have been assured of professionalism. If you have a custom paper that require to be reviewed, our firm is the best place to be.

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  • Chris B. Good

    Nice list. Now, where are the indies?

  • Matt Cofrancesco

    Boyhood- quite possibility the worst film I’ve ever seen

  • Allister Cooper

    Try Gun Woman.

  • Great movies