Within this list there are an array of fantastic independent movies. It’s important to watch indie film and support these smaller movies as their budget is far smaller than the grand films seen today. Indie movies have been on a real wave of progression in recent times. Studios such as Amazon, A24, Roadside Attraction, Netflix and so many more have been producing a high calibre, standard of movies.
If you’re an indie movie fan, then these films should provide a real level of satisfaction. However, if you’re new to the genre, then these recommendations are a great place to start for your first taste of indie film. This list has many different styles of movies and there are a variety of topics covered. Such as crime-thrillers, social satires, coming of age dramas, family dynamics and tackling race relations.
To stress, there has been so many great Indie movies in recent times that it was very difficult to choose which movies should make the list. This list is not exhaustive and is an attempt to figure out films that the typical movie-goer has not seen or heard about. So this list represents that thought process rather than just picking the best movies or the ones that have had the most success. If there are any movies missed in this list, please do comment other indie movies that people could enjoy.
1. Blindspotting (2018)
This movie is written and starred in by Daveed Diggs (Hamilton) and Rafael Casal (The Away Team) who create an absolutely riveting and original film. The movie follows Collin (Diggs) and Miles (Casal), two best friends in modern day Oakland, California. Collin is trying to make it through the last three days of his probation without any hiccups, as he sees this as his chance at a new beginning. However, his best friend Miles is a troublemaker and Collin consistently has to help him out of precarious situations, putting his own life in danger and jeopardizing being put back into prison.
This film is important in relation to the social climate of the world right now. It tackles some supremely complex issues in society and addresses them in inventive ways. The approach it takes to these complex and severe issues is interesting, as it adopts a method of light-heartedness rather than being supremely serious throughout. However, this light-heartedness and comedic aspect to the movie doesn’t diminish the severity of these issues and Blindspotting is an extremely funny film. It also shows some beautiful locations of Oakland, locations that we may not normally see, adding a real atheistically pleasing aspect to it.
What ensues is one of the most original films of 2018. Its originality stems from the way it stays clear of the common Hollywood tropes and has a fresh and vibrant screenplay which all adds to the imaginativeness of this film. From the sublime acting, to the brilliant direction, to the beautiful cinematography and colour palette, all aid one of the most slept on movies of the modern era.
2. Waves (2019)
Directed by Trey Edward Shults (It Comes At Night), this movie provides a real visceral experience for the audience, which tries to fully immerse them into the movie. The film is set in modern day South Florida and follows a suburban African-American family and their navigation through love, loss and forgiveness. Tyler is a promising high school wrestler, but has to deal with all the pressures that being a young African-American man can bring. He has an overbearing father who pushes Tyler to be his best but sometimes may over step a boundary. Emily is Tyler’s sister and is quiet, but as the movie develops, she begins to shine.
It has a youthful cast with Kelvin Harrison Jr (Luce) playing Tyler, who provides a really powerful and gut wrenching depiction of his character. It also features Sterling K. Brown (Black Panther) who gives a masterful performance as Tyler’s father, Ronald. He holds this rare quality where he can convey words without speaking. Taylor Russel (Escape Room) plays Emily, and this is a breakout role for Russel who is an actress to watch out for over the next few years. The way she is able to show her character’s development is sublime. The acting is a real strong aspect of this movie.
All the elements of Waves are meticulously chosen to convey certain feelings from the audience. The camera uses an array of different shots and moves organically to try and put us, as the audience, into the protagonist’s mind. The movie manipulates the lights, colour, framework and aspect ratio to create a visually stunning film. Waves is aesthetically dazzling and the cinematography is picturesque, with a colour palette that is so expressive. It can be a very disorientating and weighty involvement for the audience, but this only adds to the impact of the movie.
This movie is an example of masterful filmmaking as it’s so different to many movies that are being created today. The plot and structure of the film is also dissimilar to modern movies, which will not be disclosed, as it’s a very fascinating aspect of the movie.
3. Good Time (2017)
Good Time is a relentless crime-thriller directed by Josh and Benny Safdie, and is a movie that does not let go of its audience. Within this indie movie list, there are many movies that have been brought to us by A24 and Good Time is considered one of the best. The film follows a bank robber, over the course of a day and night, who will stop at nothing to get his mentally handicapped brother out of prison. This film is made in a way that doesn’t let the audience breath, it consistently tries to put the audience on the edge of their seat, wondering what is going to happen.
This movie could be seen as the catalyst for the resurgence of Robert Pattinson (Twilight saga) in cinema and the moment when everyone started to give him critical acclaim for his acting abilities. Pattinson plays Constantine Nikas, a real slimy and unlikeable character, as the film follows him on a wild night where he commits constant atrocities to pay for his brother’s release from prison. He is absolutely superb in this film and is consistently riveting. Benny Safdie plays Nickolas Nickas, the brother of Constantine, who has a mental disability. This is Benny Safdie’s first acting role and is great, as he is able to evoke some much emotion from his character.
This is a very unique film, which can be attributed to the way it is directed. The Safdie brothers have such an imaginative vision of city nightlife. They use a vast array of long takes and close up shots which give the film a documentary type feeling. Good Time is very grungy and through the characters and the actions they commit, represents a genuine and realistic depiction of what criminals would do in the situations they find themselves in. The movie is also very audacious, there are some scenes that are shocking and there is a certain level of respect that films receive for taking such risks which Good Time has been acknowledged with. Represented by the 5 nominations it received at the Independent Spirit Awards in 2018.
4. Mid90s (2018)
This is the debut directorial feature for Jonah Hill (Superbad). He creates a coming of age drama that follows a 13-year-old boy in Los Angeles and his navigation between a troubled home life and a new group of friends he has come across. Hill has described this movie as his “love letter” to this time and environment. It holds a heavy focus on skateboarding and represents how this theme held a strong influence on teenagers in LA in the 1990s.
Stevie (Sunny Suljic) starts off as a quiet character and suffers physical abuse from his brother Ian (Lucas Hedges). He also has a dysfunctional relationship with his mum (Katherine Roberston) and with no dad around, he does not have many people in his life. This is until he meets a group of older skaters and starts to hang around them, and they become his influencers. The movie makes the point that its important who you take influence from, as some of the boys have aspirations and goals, whereas others are heading down the wrong path.
All aspects of this movie are chosen to represent a supremely realistic depiction of the 90s skate scene. From the cinematography, to the music and costume, it is all representative of the time. The film is shot in 16 mm, in a 4-3 ratio, which really adds to the 90s feeling of the film. It’s all about nostalgia and creating as authentic a period piece as possible. Hill even chose non actors to play many of the lead roles. He chose actual skaters living in California to gain even more authenticity for the characters. This decision paid off, as the acting is superb, and solidifies the 90s feeling of the movie.
What’s important about this movie is that you do not need to have any idea about skateboarding or know anything about the culture to enjoy this movie. As it is very much a drama film and at its core represents the character arch of Stevie. It is framed and written in a way that engages all audiences. On the flip side, if you’re an avid skater and immersed in this culture, this movie provides a nostalgic and respectful representation of the skate scene in the 1990s. This film represents the clear potential Hill has for directing.
5. Wind River (2017)
Wind River is part of the trilogy of films written by Taylor Sheridan, as he wrote Sicario and Hell or High Water. He has received critical acclaim for all of these movies, however, Wind River was the only film he also directed. Wind River gives the audience an insight into the secluded and chilling life of people who live on the Wind River Native American reservation and how much this environment takes from these individuals.
The movie stars Jeremy Renner as Corey Lambert, who hunts predators on the reservation and Elizabeth Olsen as Jane Banner, an FBI agent. Corey has found the body of a dead women on the reservation and Jane is sent there to solve this murder even though she has no idea about conditions she will face or the lack of help that is available to the people who live there. The two characters’ team up to solve this mystery. This movie takes the audience on a real visceral experience that depicts the cultural barrier of this closed off and very isolated place. This film is thrilling, gut-wrenching, powerful and wants to shock the audience.
The shots of the reservation, full of snow, are not only beautiful but mesmerising. However, the film takes a real interest in making the audience feel like they are there. During the movie the audience can physically hear the wind, it tries to make them feel the chill and cold. Sheridan, who wants to make the town a character, forces the town to feel part of the film and represents how it is infecting everyone who lives there. Sheridan also uses brutal dialogue that he wants to cut deep into the audience’s core.
Breaking down the layers of this movie, from the message the film is trying to get across and the clear focus on the environment, the audience is left with a fantastic murder mystery movie. The slow and eerie storytelling is engaging and the film is very methodically put together and produces a supremely interesting action/drama/thriller movie. It is a slow build but once you reach the culmination of this movie, the payoff is so worth it and rewarding.