The art of independent filmmaking has evolved considerably over the past few decades with a ceaseless collection of distinct and inimitable cinema.
Although audiences distinguish most indie films as obscure treasures and cult favorites, numerous independent films from both past and present are equally as undesired and disregarded by moviegoers.
Conclusively, here is a brief list of 20 impeccably crafted independent films that predominantly prevail in their genres but either failed to receive substantial recognition for their enduringly paramount impact or just have solely slipped through the cracks.
1. L.I.E. (2001)
Michael Cuesta’s directorial debut, L.I.E. is a coming-of-age tale of a troubled Long Island teenage boy, immaculately portrayed by a young Paul Dano in one of his earliest roles, struggling to cope with the loss of his mother, his father’s illegal activity and the inner perplexity of his sexuality. He eventually develops a relationship with a middle-aged ex-marine turned sexual predator whom he inexplicably finds a comforting father figure in.
Unsettling, honest and thought-provoking, L.I.E. tackles a complex and controversial subject matter in a way that is both tender and open-minded. Despite its flawed and corrupt characters, the film manages to create enough realism to evoke genuine emotion and empathy.
Comparable to other coming-of-age flicks, L.I.E. succeeds at depicting a daring tale of the complexities of growing up. However, with its low budget and absurd NC-17 rating, it unfortunately got lost in the shuffle somehow despite its superiority over more renowned films in its genre.
2. Adult World (2014)
Directed by Scott Coffey, Adult World is about a young aspiring poet, played by Emma Roberts, struggling to come to terms with her lack of success in gaining substantial recognition for her poetry. She finds herself thrust into the adult world and eventually lands herself a job at a small adult shop.
Amy also finds a mentor in fellow poet Rat Billings, wittily and sarcastically portrayed by John Cusack. Cusack’s iconic sarcasm and monotone communication contrasts greatly with Amy’s free-spirited and lighthearted nature, providing a solid comic relief to the film.
Adult World deals with real-life struggles while intertwining humor and wit gracefully and effectively. The characters are quirky, funny and have likable qualities. Every element from the writing, casting, cinematography, humor, to the soundtrack is cohesive and delivers solid fluidity, creating a successful story and convincing film.
3. Nowhere (1997)
Nowhere, the final installment in cult filmmaker Gregg Araki’s Teenage Apocalypse Trilogy, is about a group of reckless and eccentric teenagers and their misadventures over the course of an average day going nowhere. With character names such as Dark, Lucifer, Egg, Dingbat and Handjob, not to mention an alien with a handgun, the film succeeds at being one of the most unique and offbeat creations from its time with bizarre characters and zany humor and lingo.
Nowhere possesses an iconic and assorted soundtrack featuring ‘90s gems from artists such as Slowdive, Nine Inch Nails, Hole, The Jesus & Mary Chain, Filter and Radiohead. The film also has the most extensive and unusual Hollywood cameos, with familiar faces including John Ritter, Traci Lords, Heather Graham, Beverly D’Angelo, David Leisure, Charlotte Rae and Denise Richards.
Nowhere is comparable to a bad car crash; despite being messy and shocking, you undeniably can’t look away from it. With its quirkiness and visual oddities, it still proves to be an impactful and distinctive cult indie gem.
4. Manic (2001)
A film by Jordan Melamed, Manic stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Lyle, a troubled and violent young man who is committed into a mental intuition, and captures his interactions with several patients as he and the other troubled youths struggle to determine the root of their mental illnesses and personal havocs.
Manic is neither buoyant nor pompous with its message but instead portrays a very evocative and honest look at characters with mental illnesses and how society inadvertently has a drastic and destructive affect on youth. Its authentic acting and raw, improvised ambiance are the film’s driving factors, creating a relatable experience for the audience. The film also features Don Cheadle and future Levitt co-star Zooey Deschanel.
5. Wild Tigers I Have Known (2006)
Written, edited and produced by independent filmmaker Cam Archer with executive producer Gus Van Sant, Wild Tigers I Have Known tells a lyrical tale of Logan, a lonely outcast and sexually confounded 13-year-old living with his struggling single mother. His fascination with both the aloof popular boy at school and the wild mountain lions prowling the town’s local woodlands become more prominent as he begins to explore the more complicated and reclusive complexities that dwell within him.
The film relies heavily on surreal and symbolic imagery rather than plot and dialogue to convey its message; however its message is anything but straightforward and can be interrupted in numerous ways. With this ambiguity, the viewer possesses the definitive power pertaining to the main character’s fate and overall evolvement as the film progresses.
Wild Tigers I Have Known is a poetic and artful installment in the vast sea of coming-of-age independent filmmaking, diving into the mind of a confused, lonely adolescent, illustrating heartbreak and anguish in an unsettling and ethereal approach. Although not for everyone, the film still succeeds with its abstract and unconventional storytelling.
6. The Favor (2007)
The Favor is a transfixing drama from director Eva Aridjis about a despondent teenager named Johnny who is taken in by Lawrence, his mother’s former boyfriend, after she loses her life in a tragic accident. The film evolves to illustrate the problematic relationship between Johnny and Lawrence, as Johnny repeatedly rejects Lawrence’s attempts at becoming a substandard father figure, and the burdens Johnny is faced with as he pursues a captivating classmate, quarrels with a local drug dealer, and battles his innermost guilt over his mother’s death.
Its sporadic, lighthearted humor in conjunction with very gray and stagnant moments makes this an entrancing and engaging underground gem. The main characters are both compellingly portrayed by actors Ryan Donowho and Frank Wood. The film’s soundtrack is another cohesive and efficacious factor, featuring tracks from artists such as The Cure and The Stone Roses.