20 Great 2000s Indie Movies You May Have Missed

7. Half Nelson (2006)

Half Nelson (2006)

The teacher who cares is a stock feelgood trope, yet when said teacher is also a lovelorn crack addict this paradigm is overturned dramatically. Ryan Gosling has been accused in recent years of becoming more a wooden actor as his stock has raised. This performance is often sighted as evidence of this.

Sure enough, Gosling is superb as the troubled Dan Dunne, exchanging urban high fives with the students one minute, then out of his mind in his apartment the next. Interestingly, Dan is portrayed as a victim of the urban environment in general. He can “rap” with the students effortlessly, endearing himself as the “cool guy”, yet urban malaise is also his trapping in terms of addiction.

Thankfully, the film avoids the pitfalls of a societal preach film. Yes, drug addiction is central to the films plot. Yet, the film instead opts pleasantly to tell the tale of an unlikely friendship between Dunne and Dray, a young student who walk in on Dunne smoking crack in a toilet cubicle after hours in the school.

Though removed from Dan’s world of romantic isolation, bars, and crack dens, Dray can relate to alienation from society, being from an disadvantaged home. The two teach each other more than either of them could have possibly imagined, and the script sets the framework for these exchanges effortlessly. The film’s final image is so effortlessly rich, you may wish to watch it over again instantaneously. Such is the sppeal of a great Indie film.


6. Mysterious Skin (2004)

Mysterious Skin

Another Indie gem from a rising Joseph Gordon Levitt. Levitt clearly learned to work on his own term before becoming a superstar, because Mysterious Skin must have been an uncompromising script to sign on to. The resulting film is almost otherwordly. Scenes of child abuse are visited, suppressed, and revisited ad nauseum through startlingly experimental imagery.

Raining cereal, extra terrestrial glows, and much star-gazing abounds. But, are the characters in contact with aliens? Victims of falling through society’s cracks? Or has an inconspicuous high school basketball coach affected their lives in ways clearly irreversible? The answers come with disturbing frankness for the viewer, even if the characters remain delusional as to their fate.

The film does find itself in a strange early 2000s style-bubble. Over the course of the runtime, you will find the fashion sense of the characters tragically dated, and you may wonder when you last saw actors Brady Corbet and Michelle Trachtenberg in action. Yet, stylistically the film also champions the best of its era. It’s hyper stlye makes the disturbing seem oddly wonderous.

Like Paul Thomas Anderson’s Punch Drunk Love (released 2 years earlier) the film virtually makes a comic book pastiche of its dark underbelly. The final meeting of two abused boys from opposite ends of the tracks is infinitely compelling. A final confrontation is far from traditional, but devastating nonetheless. Are there lessons learned? It is debatable. But there may not need to be.


5. American Splendor (2003)

American Splendor

In a film remembered fondly for its structural innovations, it is refreshing that, for those who have managed to see this film, the real star of American Splendor remains Harvey Pekar. Pekar is truly inimitable, be it represented by the man himself or played by Paul Giamatti.

It should be stated at this point that American Splendor is a film that comprises both of documentary footage of the real Harvey Pekar, and narrative recreation of Pekar;s backstory, his attempts at a long term relationship and fatherhood, and his neurosis as portrayed by Paul Giamatti. it is a fascinating structural treat.

We witness David Letterman interview that ingeniously synergise the real archive footage with dramatic reinactment. Better still, the narrative drama is reinforced by hearing the real hindsight perspective of the man himself on his life’s journey.

In this film, Pekar is a character in every sense of the word. The film gives good insight into the rise of American Splendor, Pekar’s original comic that trades traditional comic book action for the petty struggles of the American proletariat. However, the film is really about the dichotomy of the artist himself.

Pekar manages to be both a confirms misanthrope, and, by his own unique method, a loving husband and father. He is a nihilist, but that shouldn’t suggest that his film will make you more cynical about mankind. It will, in fact, warm even the coldest heart.

Paul Giamatti’s ability to champion the ways of the common man is his acting strong suit, and he is well cast here. If there are moments that lose you, never fear, this is a film that can draw you right back in. Pekar’s death in 2010 has only served to make this Indie curio more essential viewing still.


4. Shattered Glass (2003)

Shattered Glass

Here is an interesting notion- If you are unconvinced as to the acting ability of Hayden Christensen, you would be well served to watch his lead performance in this sadly under-heralded 2003 film. Christensen’s portrayal of Stephen Glass anchors the film and represents as comprehensive a study of the unreliable narrator device as one is likely to see in cinema.

The film chronicles the true story of Glass, the journalist who rose to prominence with publications such as Rolling Stone, only to have his career ruined by allegations of false reporting. Glass’ delusion is played with considerable emotive charge, with Christensen exuding both confidence and vulnerability in equal measure, This admirably makes Glass’ story, and its subsequent film, a cautionary tale of ambition gone awry.

The film is framed by an interesting storytelling device in which Glass is telling his story to a high school class. Impressive too are turns by Chloe Sevigny as a peer taken in by Glass and Peter Sarsgaard as an editor who sees trouble in Glass from the onset. This film has the capacity to both entertain you as you watch it and linger in the consciousness long afterwards.

As such, it is very telling of the appeal of the modern indie film in general. An arrested development exists in Christensen’s performance, typical of the hipster ideal often portrayed by Indie. Yet, Glass’s selfishness is sinister and returns the film constantly to detective film territory. The films final images will stay with you for some time and are well worth experiencing.


3. In the Bedroom (2001)

In The Bedroom (2001)

A lethal gem of murder, lust, and betrayal in middle America. In the Bedroom is sensationally acted, and staged by director Todd Field with the precision of Orson Welles. Here we have a tale best described by its fans as a story if escalating serendipity. The film is also a worthy entry into the unlikely vigilante canon, as murder and revenge abounds in what initially appears like it may be simply a kitchen sink melodrama.

The fact that the vigilante element gels admirably with the romantic elements is a credit to both the script and the tactful storytelling of Todd Field, as well as a tremendous ensemble cast that include Sissy Spacek, Marisa Tomei, Nick Stahl, and Tom Wilkinson. Thus, it is especially surprising that the film was not at all a hit, despite its assorted Oscar nominations.

The concept is simple. A story of a young man who begins a romance with an older woman and a middle aged man who seeks vengeance for his murdered son is told in a realist vein, but the stylistic flourishes are present also. The photography is quite breathtaking, and there are fascinating editing techniques at play such as the match cut and montage rhythms which are sure to please the purists.

Most importantly for the films devotees, the final scene is left open to moral assessment. The viewer is left to decide whether or not anybody’s actions were truly justified. The film made a star of its former actor and dogged intellectual director, and is certainly one of the stars of this list.


2. Away From Her (2006)

Away From Her

Julie Christie has always commanded a vivid sensitivity behind her beauty. Though radiant, we rarely feel alienated from her characters, her sense of humanity prevails. Director Sarah Polley, for her part, showed a strong predilection towards family solidarity in her non fiction outing Stories We Tell. Here, in a film about an ageing couple dealing with alzheimers in the female, these two artists and their sensibilities collaborate to devastating effect.

Julie Christie and Gordon Pinent are sensational as Grant and Fiona Anderson, are a childless but loving couple who have been married for half a century. Suddenly, their dignified upper class contentment is devastated by a very real affliction. Beginning quietly with notes around the kitchen, and ending in complete alienation. The result? The struggle to maintain dignity, and the understanding it takes to maintain a relationship has rarely been depicted on screen with higher stakes.

Away From Her is littered with scenarios in which the viewer can only ask themselves what would they do if faced with such impossible odds. When to commit your lover to a care home? How does one survive weeks long separation so your partner can acclimatise themselves to their new environment? Most devastatingly, Grant must cope with Fiona finding a new lover, such is her capacity to forget Grant’s existence.

The film is to be commended for doggedly avoiding easy answers to these questions. Yet, Poley does not allow her film to become overly bleak wither. Love is real, this film certainly seems to assert this. Yet, as the film’s conclusion may outline, that which is real is not necessarily easy.


1. Rachel Getting Married (2008)

Rachel Getting Married

A staggering departure in tone for Oscar winning director Jonathan Demme; a staggering leap forward for Indie film in the 2000s. Rachel Getting Married is an unassuming masterpiece. Brimming with awkward conversation, dark confessions, strange introductions, and the occasion insight into awkward sex, this might well be the best family reunion movie with Festen (1998). Devastatingly real and presented in the style of cinema verite, this is a film in which not a single scene feels misspent.

The story centers around Kym, the family’s black sheep, who has just left rehab and is still riddled with the self-loathing of an addict. She returns home for the wedding of her good-girl sister Rachel to her dashing partner Sidney. The meeting of Kym’s arrested development and Rachel’s “Bridezilla” tension is, as predicted, not a sound union.

The set up may be the stuff of rom com fare, but the candidness is excruciatingly human. It feels like your own family, yet you may also leave the film thankful to still have the family that you came in with.

Not even a daringly overstuffed wedding sequence can stem the films blistering flow. As the film progresses, the cander of the characters becomes increasingly acidic. We have all been there- the awkward wedding speeches, somebody always goes too far. Bumping into a person you have sexualised outside of a sexual setting. These are the kind of moments captured so earnestly that it feels unfair to single one out.

But a scene at an AA meeting in which Rachel comes to terms with the root of her addiction is surely the flagship. scene. In a devastating monologue piece, Rachel’s flaws suddenly become entirely understandable, not to mention her broken family. Cinema rarely gets this inspired; a character justified in one monologue.

This is why we seek out underrated movies, because a film is often overlooked can still change your perspective forever.

Author Bio: Ross Carey is a Film Studies graduate from County Cork In Ireland. He is an award winning short filmmaker and is in the midst of writing his debut feature film. Before joining Taste if Cinema he was ran a popular blog entitled “Kino Shout! Films”. He will discuss the subject of film at any opportunity.