Art needs combating; it needs to combat with traditions by experimenting with prevailing, age-old customs with which it can present something new. It happened with music, literature, painting, sculpture, and every other form of art; not to mention the cinema, which was once in itself an experimental art form that later persisted. Independent films, often known as indie films, carry that tradition of experimentation and combating.
These films were started as a protest to the studio films where monopoly reigned supreme. While the studio films were concerned with unanimous commercial appeal, grandeur, and business, these independent films were generally made with a limited budget and experimented with the form of cinema. They were also distributed independently, without depending upon the major distribution companies, and largely found their audiences in film festivals.
Independent films created numerous film movements across the world that were always rebellious to the mainstream mentality. Avant-garde or coming-of-age, comedy or drama, indie films cover all genres. In the 21st century, indie films are getting seen by more people than ever alongside mainstream offerings. Without further ado, here are 25 best indie films of the 2010s.
Matching the spirit and theme of this article, the first entry “Mustang” is a little known Turkish-French co-production. The struggle of five sisters against a small patriarchal Turkish village has been told with unbelievable intimacy and gritty realism, a la “The Virgin Suicides.” It was short-listed in the Best Foreign Language Film category at the 88th Academy Awards, and was shown in the Director’s Fortnight section of the Cannes Film Festival.
2. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
This sweet little, quirky coming-of-age film has a beautiful homage section for cinema that drives the plot further. It embraced the traditional tropes of quirky teen dramas, but at the same time made something completely different from the rest. “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” premiered at the Sundance Film Festival with a standing ovation from the audience.
3. Only Lovers Left Alive
Veteran Jim Jarmusch had shown a completely original vision in “Only Lovers Left Alive,” something that no other vampire film had attempted prior. Here, the vampires are cursed by their immortality and their existentialist thoughts disturb them amidst some occasional intellectual and romantic time. Life-affirming and romantic, hypnotizing and melancholic, this is genre-defying vampirism.
4. Short Term 12
“Short Term 12” highlights important teenage problems with heartwarming intimacy. In the first lead performance of Brie Larson, she shined as Grace Howard, a young supervisor of a group home who has had an ambiguous childhood. The performances from the kids are splendid with effortless realism from the director. “Short Term 12” premiered at South by Southwest festival and won the grand jury award.
5. Ex Machina
Alex Garland’s directorial debut “Ex Machina” is an intelligent investigation of identity and consciousness. The film competently balanced the hard science fiction facts with ravishing production design. The artificial brains of “Ex Machina” never feel like an exaggeration; rather, the closer home feeling indicates a near dystopian future of which we all should be aware.
6. Upstream Color
The greatest example of indie production, “Upstream Color” is directed, edited, acted, produced, composed and designed by the same man – Shane Carruth. Hypnotic, alluring, and wonderfully abstract, this deep sci-fi drama provokes the question of life’s cycles, and the vivid, dreamlike images provide visual satisfaction.
Social commentary hides under the body horror of “Raw,” which tests the nerve of experimental viewers. Erotic and bone-chilling, graphic and symbolic, this film is a great entry in the horror canon of the 21st century. “Raw” premiered in the 2016 Cannes Film Festival with mixed reviews.
It is not an exaggeration to say that “Her” is one of the best romantic films of the decade, although in a more passive way. Joaquin Phoenix gives one immortal performance as the sensitive, introverted, divorced man Theodore, and the mastermind Spike Jonze hit the bull’s eye with the perfect casting of Scarlet Johansson as the artificial intelligent Samantha, albeit only heard in the film.