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20 Great Mumblecore Movies Every Indie Lover Should See

03 August 2015 | Features, Film Lists | by Edwanike Harbour

mumblecore movies

Mumblecore as a genre is not particularly difficult to define. Primarily you have a small, intimate cast of characters, low budget production, in a film that relies heavily on dialogue to tell the story without the use of gimmicky plot devices or a great deal of action. Typically, the casts are not professional actors or actors with a small amount of experience.

While Andrew Bujalski heralded the Mumblecore genre, auteurs like John Cassevetes and Eric Rohmer’s work have definitely served as a precursor to the movement. Both directors made deeply personal films that relied on relationships between cast members and naturalistic dialogue. It should be noted here that Mumblecore films have a narrow range of audience in mind and may not have wide appeal for certain people.

The realism and everyday situations that are portrayed in this film usually depict a slice of life that some people find relatable. Many times they can be very whimsical or insanely absurd, but the reality is that life is often a reflection of these things. They are full of humor but make you cringe at the same time. Mark Duplass, Joe Swanberg, and Greta Gerwig are good representatives of Mumblecore films as of late. The genre is growing so here is a list that showcases some of the best movies that Mumblecore has to offer.

 

20. Funny Ha Ha (2002)

funny-ha-ha

Andrew Bujalski has been credited with starting the Mumblecore movement. 2015’s Results has been a hit at film fest circuits. Bujalski does a great job of selecting lesser-known actors and casting non-professional actors as well. Funny Ha Ha is Bujalski’s first full-length film and set the groundwork for the genre, as we know it today.

Marnie (Kate Dollenmayer) epitomizes the term slacker. She graduated from college but is content to settle for temporary jobs. She still parties like she did in college in her quest to find love. She flits around from guy to guy, not really being serious about anything. Her prospects for both romance and finances look bleak and she floats about life in her early 20s.

Bujalski has advanced quite a bit as a director since his debut film. This movie is really raw and honest and is emblematic of Gen X’s quest for meaning during this time period. It is about as close to real life as is gets. There are no crescendos to some huge climax or any major revelations about anything. It is just a series of events that happen to a young woman drifting through life. It’s a movie about the spaces in between those slices of life that we assign meaning.

 

19. Uncle Kent 2 (2015)

Uncle Kent 2

The makers of this film want you to know that you don’t have to have seen Uncle Kent in order to appreciate Uncle Kent 2. They are correct in this assertion. There are definitely some complete WTF films that have been floating around some film festivals this year (Roar, The Astrologer) but Uncle Kent 2 is one of the more bizarre, but absolutely fun times you will have in a theatre.

Joe Swanberg directed Uncle Kent in 2011, which looks at the life of Kent Osbourne, an animator who has worked on Spongebob Squarepants and Adventure Time. In a self-referential nod to Uncle Kent, Osbourne talks to Swanberg at a party about some ideas he has for Uncle Kent 2.

Swanberg is not really on board with making a sequel but Osbourne is really excited about this prospect. Swanberg talks about how Hollywood is already saturated with sequels and that there’s no point in doing a sequel. Osbourne is undeterred and has a trip scheduled to a comic convention in San Diego. He confronts a weird tear in the space/time continuum and what ensues is probably the most insane thing you will see on film.

Joe Swanberg (Drinking Buddies, Happy Christmas) has brought us some memorable Mumblecore films and this is definitely an unforgettable film. The meta aspect of creating the sequel and the mix of animation and live action sequences makes for an interesting amalgam of experiences. This is a short film at less than 80 minutes but is worth the watch with a group of friends just to process what in the world you just watched.

 

18. Humpday (2009)

Humpday

Mark Duplass is arguably the better known Duplass brother at this point (Zero Dark Thirty, The Skeleton Twins). Mark and Jay Duplass formed the production company, Duplass Brothers Productions and created the HBO series, Togetherness. While they haven’t been credited with creating the Mumblecore genre, they have definitely produced some of the more popular films within the movement.

Andrew (Joshua Leonard) shows up one night at Ben’s (Mark Duplass) door. Andrew and Ben were college roommates. Andrew lives a relatively bohemian life style and was recently traveling in Chiapas. Since he drops by unexpectedly, Ben and his wife Anna (Alycia Delmore) put him up for a few nights. Andrew hasn’t actually seen Ben and Anna since the wedding so he came to Seattle to hang out for a while.

Ben and Anna live a more straight-laced lifestyle in comparison to Andrew and are working on having a baby. Instead of spending time with them to catch up, Andrew drags Ben along to a party with a bunch of artists that he just met. Some of them will be participating in an amateur porn fest called Humpfest. In an ill thought, drunken state, the two men decide they will participate in the fest by creating an art project where they, two straight men, will have sex with each other.

This film is challenging on several levels. It really takes on the “bro” trope in many buddy comedies. How far are you really willing to go for a friend? Needless to say, Andrew and Ben spend a lot of time talking about this. A lot of time. Most of the dialogue is improvised and it is about as natural as it comes for such an awkward situation. As absurd as they premise is of the film, it explores something very human and emotional and represents the genre very well.

 

17. Drinking Buddies (2013)

Drinking Buddies

Joe Swanberg just might be the Prince of Mumblecore if there ever was such a thing. He wrote and directed this comedy starring Olivia Wilde and Anna Kendrick. If romantic comedies are not your thing, you will probably really enjoy this film. Ron Livingston fans will also love his performance in this movie. This film also offers more laughs than your average Mumblecore film.

Kate (Olivia Wilde) and Luke (Jake Johnson) work together at a microbrewery in Chicago. They are great friends and spend a lot of time flirting at work and drinking with friends at night. They would make an awesome couple on paper if not for the fact that Luke has a girlfriend of six years who is eager to get married and Kate is dating someone as well.

At a brewery party, Chris (Ron Livingston), Kate’s boyfriend, invites Luke and his girlfriend, Jill (Anna Kendrick) to his family’s cottage for a weekend getaway. As each character spends time with the other’s respective significant other, temptation begins to grow and alcohol blurs both judgment and boundaries.

Anna Kendrick has the ability to nail any role that she takes and her performance in this film is no different. Olivia Wilde does a great job being the fleeting “cool girl” that men dream about. It also tackles relationships and the idea that you can always do better in a hilariously biting way. The dialogue is very well written and it really is an underrated film. Relationships are portrayed in a very realistic manner through solid performances and attention to detail. It’s not a first date kind of film but one that should be seen nonetheless.

 

16. Cyrus (2010)

Cyrus (2010)

John C. Reilly could be described as one of the best character actors of his generation. He has a lot of depth and flexibility and his range goes a lot deeper than that. He is hilarious in his role in Cyrus. Part of his success in this role is having Jonah Hill as his foil. Their quibbling and banter in this film really makes the movie a success.

Another entry by the Duplass brothers, Cyrus is a romantic comedy of sorts. John C. Reilly plays John, a lonely divorcé who just found out that his ex-wife is remarrying. His marriage broke up seven years ago but has really been unable to get his romantic affairs back on track. He is trying desperately to connect with someone and embark upon a new relationship.

After being invited to a party by his ex-wife, he reluctantly agrees but manages to meet the woman of his dreams, Molly, played by Marisa Tomei. What John does not count on is Molly’s 21 year-old son, Cyrus (Jonah Hill) having an unusually close relationship with his mother. Cyrus seems innocent enough at first but it becomes quickly apparent that he is not about to allow John to get involved with his mother. This film presents viewers with a different kind of love triangle and some really great, improvised performances.

There is definitely dramatic tension in this film but the humor undercuts it from time to time. John C. Reilly natural sad sack disposition makes him the perfect fit for this role. Marisa Tomei carries a fine balance of John’s love interest and playing the doting mother of Cyrus. This film is just as heartbreaking as it is funny and another showcase for the talented Duplass brothers.

 

15. Passenger Side (2009)

Passenger Side

This film is about as indie as they come. There is no shortage of quirk and it happens to have one of the best soundtracks in the last ten years. Written and directed by Matt Bissonnette, this film is surprisingly funny and filled with quirk. This was a bit of a sleeper hit at film festivals in the states. Fans of “Parks and Rec” will really appreciate Adam Scott’s performance in this film.

Michael Brown (Adam Scott) receives a telephone from his estranged brother on his birthday. Tobey (Joel Bissonnette) has struggled with drug addiction along with other blows that life has dealt. He is not aware that it is his brother’s birthday. Tobey’s car is on the fritz and he needs Michael to drive him around L.A. on some errands with the hopes of completing some secretive quest that he won’t divulge to Michael. They engage in ridiculous conversations and encounter the kind of weird people you would expect in a film about the absurd side of life in L.A.

This film is really very sweet and poignant at its core. It is your prototypical Mumblecore film, but it’s also a road movie and a movie about the bond between brothers. Michael ends up having revelations about his own life through his interactions with others in addition to his brother that fateful day. This is a fun movie despite some of the subject matter and a soundtrack that you will want on your next road trip.

 

 

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  • Jowana Bueser

    Obvious Child!

    • Ian

      …is horrible.

      • Jowana Bueser

        Oh well, “Ian.” On-line anonymity is also horrible.

        • Rich G

          Just saw the trailer I am inclined to agree with Ian. Looks shockingly bad.

          • Ted Wolf

            Actually watched Obvious child with my spouse and found it funny and heartbreaking. maybe i need a supplement because my irony levels are low.

  • Jesus Vasquez

    im not many of these are mumblecore. and they left medicine for meloncholy off the list too.

  • Bintang Lestada

    Obvious Child, Drinking Buddies, and Safety Not Guaranteed! Yesssss I love those films!

  • Most of these films are NOT mumblecore. As someone who spent a lot of time studying the nature of said cinema, i find quite unnerving to see such misleading information being spread. Where is Hannah Take The Stairs, Mutual Appreciation, In Search of a Midnight Kiss, The Exploding Girl, Quiet City?

    • Alan Laidlaw

      I’ve interviewed In Search of a Midnight Kiss director Alex Holdridge, and he completely rejects that his film is part of the mumblecore movement, although he doesn’t really mind being compared to Bujalski.

      • Too bad for him. But anyway, i see mumblecore as a balanced combination of style/narrative with specific production values and a ‘way’ that a movie may or may not have. Kiss seems to fall perfectly into that niche, unlike July’s or Linklater’s films, even though i love them both.

        • Rich G

          I see Mumblecore as a genre made up by film critics and film fanatics with a Hipster perception of themselves, who want to give significance to dull boring Pseudo intellect cinema they want to latch on to because they think it makes them look trendy.
          The fact that so many people on here cannot agree on what constitutes Mumblecore says it all.
          The film genre that does not really exist!

    • Brett Fillmore

      I would wholeheartedly make the argument that Quiet City is the best mumblecore film, full stop.

  • Simone Bionda

    mumblecore = wordy movies? 😛
    in italian there is a meaningful idiomatic expression: “parlarsi addosso” … when the characters (the director) love to hear the sound of their voices.

  • Rich G

    Mumblecore the film genre made up by film critics and unknown to 99.9% of the population who are not film fanatics.
    I saw funny ha ha. God it was incredibly tedious. Plane, dull, nerdy middle class girl goes to nerdy parties, engages in dull, boring conversation about nothing. If this is what being young is to some people, god help them when they get older.
    My youth, partying clubbing and raving was a million times more exciting. This film made me realise how lucky I was.
    If you are one of the many ordinary people who have never heard of Mumblecore, then wallow in your ignorance because believe me you are better off!

    • Alex Nasaudean

      If mumblecore’s not your thing, why be a dick about it?

      • Rich G

        If discussing film with a well reasoned lucid argument to illustrate your point is not your thing Alex, why just insult people?

        • Alex Nasaudean

          Just an honest question, Dick.

          • Rich G

            Its not a question its a statement. You called me a dick, there is no answer to that. It is simply your opinion. Mumbelcore cannot be “my thing” since as a genre it basically does not exist.
            Oh well I guess if you cant beat them join them and lower yourself to their depths. So hear goes.
            Alex Nasudean GO FUCK YOURSELF COCKSUCKER!

          • Alex Nasaudean

            You are a deranged and thoroughly stupid anal wart. I clearly asked why be a dick. Mumblecore is a subgenre. And isn’t Dick short for Richard, a name you used to sign in? Anyway, DIE!

          • Rich G

            Love you too Xxxxx

  • Dave Shuttleworth

    I have to disagree with a lot of the films of this list.
    I mean Mumblecore is pretty hard to define correct, but I really would contest a lot of them.
    Appropriate behaviour?
    Before Sunset?
    Wendy & Lucy?
    Maybe… but you’ve missed out plenty of movies that are what many lovers of the genre would consider far more worthy:
    Nights and Weekends
    Baghead
    Hannah takes the stairs
    Cold Weather
    Quiet City
    Alexander the Last
    Dance Party USA
    In search of a midnight kiss
    Mutual Appreciation
    I don’t wanna sound elitist but sometimes lists like these just take the cake…

    • bookofmatchesmedia

      Baghead is awesome, and like one of the only Duplass movies left off this list lol.

  • Daniel Carrera

    For anyone who loves “Frances Ha”, please tell me why.

  • bookofmatchesmedia

    Like, I love the Duplass brothers a whole ton, but just call the list what it is: Watch These Duplass Bros. Movies. I mean, this list doesn’t even mention Slacker or Clerks, and I’ve never heard anyone in the world call Bellflower mumblecore. Indie as balls, yes, but not really mumblecore.

    Good try though. Any list with a John Hawkes film in it is okay by me.

  • Erick Ramonetti

    Greenberg

  • Jacob Lyon Goddard

    Do Primer and Martha Marcy May Marlene not count?

  • Lawrence Thompson

    I don’t know how Mumblecore or Indie these two would be, but they’re the two best dialogue driven films I’ve ever seen — “The Man From Earth” and “Mindwalk”.

  • Massimo Salvato

    I would like to add “Medicine for Melancholy” (Barry Jenkins, 2009) 🙂

  • Daniel J

    No movies by Alex Ross Perry?
    The Color Wheel for example