Last Updated: November 7th
Indies are often thought of as low-budget, passion projects. They’re the answer to the summer blockbuster and the superhero franchises of the world. Instead of blowing sh*t up and overloading us with CGI, they bring something different to the table. A reserved, refined, authentic storytelling ability. They’re quirky, coming-of-age narratives and messy relationship dramas. They’re meandering portraits of the Midwest and crime thrillers in the wilderness. They’re cult-favorite horror flicks and macabre comedies. An indie doesn’t ascribe to one genre but it usually sports some big talent and even bigger themes in its narrative. In other words, an independent film is one with something to say.
Here are 10 of the most interesting indies movies on Netflix currently.
Frances Ha (2012)
Run Time: 86 min | IMDb: 7.4/10
Before Greta Gerwig was directed Oscar-nominated coming-of-age dramas, she was writing and starring in this black-and-white dramedy about a young woman also trying to find her way in the professional dance world of New York City. Gerwig is magnetic in the titular role of Frances, a dancer dissatisfied with her career prospects and forced to contemplate a move to Tribeca on the whim of her best friend and roommate. That trek across Manhattan serves as a jumping off point for Frances, who travels home, then to France, before settling in Washington Heights on her journey to self-discovery.
The Land of Steady Habits (2018)
Run Time: 98 min | IMDb: 6.2/10
Ben Mendelsohn, Connie Britton, and Edie Falco star in this American drama about a dysfunctional family and the tragic events that bring them together. Mendelsohn plays Anders Hill, an ex-finance guy who struggles to adapt to retired life, especially since he’s still pining for his ex-wife Helene (Falco). Their son Preston (Thomas Mann) is a recovering addict whose sobriety is in limbo. Over the course of a couple family gatherings, secrets come to light, a death hits close to home, and Anders must figure out how to move on from the life he thought he’d have.
Blue Valentine (2010)
Run Time: 112 min | IMDb: 7.4/10
This romantic drama starring Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling is equal parts sweet love story and messy, unavoidable tragedy. The actors play a pair of lovers whose relationship is charted in nonlinear fashion over the course of the film. Things begin promisingly, as they always do, before failed careers, addiction, dishonesty, and a general feeling of unhappiness slowly rot away at the couple’s marriage. It’s a mesmerizing train wreck, but honestly, aren’t all of the great love stories?
American Honey (2016)
Run Time: 163 min | IMDb: 7/10
This coming-of-age drama reimagines the typical Midwestern road trip adventure, telling it through the eyes of a troubled young teen desperate to escape her abusive home. Sasha Lane plays Star, a kid looking to break free of her small town who meets Jake (Shia LaBeouf) and his group of traveling salesmen. The teens pitch magazine subscriptions around the Midwest, getting into trouble and trying to make their own way in life, which first appeals to Star before she discovers the dangers of trusting people she doesn’t know and the hardship of life on the road.
Run Time: 111 min | IMDb: 7.4/10
Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight will always be remembered for winning the Academy Award for Best Picture after a mix-up that initially named La La Land as the winner. But that’s just an asterisk attached to a momentous coming-of-age story set over three eras in a young man’s life as he grows up in Miami, grappling with the sexuality he feels will make him even more of an outcast while searching for guidance that his drug-addicted mother (Naomie Harris) can’t provide. The film is both lyrical and moving and won justifiable acclaim for its talented cast, including a Best Supporting Actor award for Mahershala Ali as a sympathetic drug dealer.
Run Time: 85 min | IMDb: 7.1/10
Tom Hardy stars in this one-man masterpiece which serves as an intimate portrait into the worst day of a person’s life. Hardy plays Locke, a construction foreman preparing for the largest concrete pour in British history. The night before the big job, he receives word that a woman he had an affair with has gone into labor early. He decides to drive to London to be with her for the birth and over the course of the two-hour journey, makes some life-changing calls to his wife, his children, and his boss. Hardy is brilliant in this, a good thing since the success of the film rests solely on his performance.
Dallas Buyers Club (2013)
Run Time: 117 min | IMDb: 8.0/10
Matthew McConaughey’s Dallas Buyer Club is a searing look at how the world failed the LGBTQ community during the devastating AIDS crisis. McConaughey stars as Ron Woodruff, a man diagnosed with the disease in the ’80s during a time when the illness was still misunderstood and highly stigmatized. Woodruff went against the FDA and the law to smuggle in drugs to help those suffering from the disease, establishing a “Dallas Buyers Club” and fighting in court to the right to aid those in need. The story is all the more powerful because it’s true and McConaughey delivers one of the best performances of his career as Woodruff, a man who changes his entire outlook on life after being dealt a tragic blow.
Run Time: 118 min | IMDb: 8.2/10
Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay star in this gripping drama about a mother and son held hostage for nearly a decade. The film, based off a work of fiction, pulls elements from real life trauma cases as it follows a woman named Joy (Larson) and her son Jack (Tremblay) who exists in a singular room, cut off from the outside world. The two plot an escape, are eventually rescued and must cope with the effects of their harrowing ordeal while adjusting to life outside of the room. Larson is deserving of every award she won for this thing, and her chemistry with Tremblay will have you grabbing for the tissues throughout the film.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
Run Time: 83 min | IMDb: 7.5/10
Probably the most influential horror film in the slasher genre, this 70s era nightmare has spawned a franchise that continues to thrill movie audiences, but the original film from Tobe Hooper is a cult classic. The film follows a group of friends who attract the attention of cannibals on their way to visit an old homestead and must try to survive the torture of Leatherface, a terrifying villain with an even scarier get-up. There’s plenty of gore if that’s your thing and some sly political commentary if you can look past it.
Winter’s Bone (2010)
Run Time: 100 min | IMDb: 7.2/10
A film noir set in the Ozarks of Missouri, Winter’s Bone was the breakthrough role for Jennifer Lawrence, who plays Ree Dolly, a 17-year-old who looks after her family since her father disappeared. With the looming threat of losing her home, Ree goes in search of her missing father, drawing her into a world of distrust and violence. It was nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and though it didn’t take any Oscars home, it did win the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance.