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It might surprise you how many indie movies are actually on Netflix, but when you stop to think about it you will realize that Neflix stretches far beyond the USA. Even if you are in the USA or never watched them before indie movies are great when you don’t know what else to watch and you’re looking for something that’s different.
Not all of them are diamonds in the rough, but when you find an interesting one, it’s usually worth the time to watch it.
The beauty of Netflix is being in the comfort of your own home and being able to turn off something that you’re not enjoying or easily find similar movies or shows. However, gettign started can be difficult which is why we’re here to give you a list of indie films you may love.
What is an Indie Movie?
Indie movies are normally passion projects and are often low-budget films that don’t rely on flashy CGI or distribution from a major motion picture studio, or if they are getting distribution, they may only be receiving less than 50% of their budget from the studio. What makes indie movies great is their focus on the story and bringing the characters to life.
It’s not about selling a brand, like Marvel Studios films, or being the hit blockbuster romance of the summer. Indie movies are about real stories and highlighting universal truths.
They’ve all got something we can relate to.
Top Indie Movies of All Time
There’s a lot of indie movies out there that transcended their status because they resonated with people. Movies like Juno, Little Miss Sunshine, and Garden State achieved timeless status from the masses, but so too did early indie films that became cult classics. From directors that would eventually rise to fame, cult classic indies like Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction or Peter Jackson’s Dead Alive captured mass followings that boosted them into indie classic status.
The same applies to actors such as Jake Gyllenhaal in Donnie Darko. Indie movies are everywhere, but sometimes it takes a while to discover them. That’s why we’re here to help you find them.
Here are best indie movies on Netflix that you should consider watching right now.
Tallulah, a Netflix original movie written and directed by Sian Heder, who also wrote and produced “Orange Is The New Black,” is a complex story of a drifter (Ellen Page) who kidnaps a neglected child. She passes the child off as her daughter to her ex-boyfriend’s mother (Allison Janney).
The context for the set up is unclear because the decisions made by the drifter don’t make the best sense, but the interactions between Page and Janney are really what makes this movie worth watching. It’s really the whole focus of the story, and they have a chemistry that can’t be denied as they go through the laughs and pathos of this stunning film.
2. Moonrise Kingdom
If you’re a Wes Anderson film buff, you’ve probably already heard of Moonrise Kingdom, but it’s too good to leave off the list. It’s the story of two kids in love who run away causing their town to panic, but Sam and Suzy aren’t just kids; they’re precocious and hold pain in their hearts beyond their level of maturity, finding solace with each other as they create their own Eden on the beach.
It’s a story you won’t want to miss as you watch adults lose control and children struggle to hold on to sanity.
3. Sunshine Cleaning
Amy Adams and Emily Blunt play sisters who run a maid service, Sunshine Cleaning, but it’s not the usual sweep, mop, and dust; these girls clean crime scenes. It’s a dark gory mess, but someone has to do it.
However, the sisters aren’t qualified and aren’t actually good at their jobs. It’s a living though, and these two are struggling to get by in a small town and trying to find themselves.
If you don’t mind some blood and guts, this is a pretty fun viewing experience.
Cube is like Saw before the jigsaw existed, but the beauty of Cube is the simplicity. Six strangers: a cop, a math whiz, a building designer, a doctor, an escape master, and a disabled man awaken to find themselves inside a giant cube that they must escape from.
There are hidden traps and not everyone will make it out alive. Together, they must use their skills to help each other escape the cube. This is a low-budget horror, it’s dark and gruesome and bloody.
You’re going to need a strong stomach for this one, so prepare accordingly before watching it.
5. The Babadook
Horror fans know The Babadook, a psychological horror about the struggles and frustrations of being a parent. When a mother, played by Essie Davis, loses her husband in a car accident on the way to give birth, she bears some mixed feelings for her child.
Her son is 6 in the film and she both loves and resents him because of the accident; these fears manifesting in a strange and supernatural pop-up book called Mister Babadook that shows up on her son’s shelf. The fear is present in the stylish and creepy shots of the film, but it’s the acting that truly makes it real.
You won’t sleep after watching this one.
6. All These Sleepless Nights
All These Sleepless Nights is a slice of life film that straddles the line between fiction and documentary. It’s a coming of age story about two art school students in Warsaw, Poland who are seeking the most out of life in a place that doesn’t seem ready to be fully awake. It’s indulgent and decadent as the students drift through parties and clubs seeking pleasure and new experiences as they push each other to the brink.
It’s largely plotless and experiential as each moment passes by becoming something new as they try to add meaning to the meaningless. This film is great if you want to experience something and not think too hard about it; it’s about existing in the moment and loving it.
7. Buster’s Mal Heart
Starring Rami Malek from “Mr. Robot,” this is a film about conspiracies, paranoia, and delusions. A drifter living in the mountains is on the run from the police and an event only known as The Inversion.
He is haunted by a recurring dream in which he is lost at sea and suffers flashbacks to his former life as a family man. If your thing is conspiracies, this is the movie for you.
8. Super Dark Times
Super Dark Times is the directorial debut of Kevin Philips. It portrays the atmospheric aesthetic of the 90s in the same way Stranger Things portrays the 80s. Teenagers Zach and Josh are best friends, but an accident in the woods causes another boy to get stabbed in the throat with a Katana. They hide the body and the sword, and the aftermath of the ordeal threatens to pull them apart.
Reminiscent of Stand By Me, this film is about the loss of innocence but with more jealousy, violence, and paranoia. It’s a story about an adolescent obsession with danger and how that can spin wildly out of control and is a must watch for any nostalgic 90s kids.
9. To the Bone
A fan of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” may recognize the name Marti Noxon as one of the head writers on that groundbreaking show. To The Bone is a film written and directed by Marti Noxon about her personal struggles with eating disorders.
Starring Lily Collins, this film is about an anorexic young woman who has been in and out of treatment 5 times and is now in a communal house as part of an inpatient treatment facility that is overseen by an innovative doctor (Keanu Reeves).
It shows dangers of the disorder and the self-destructive tricks patients use, but it also has a dark humor and touching friendships that form when under duress. It’s a beautiful film that portrays mental health and struggles people deal with daily.
10. Blue Valentine
A romantic drama, Blue Valentine is a non-linear love story about a couple falling apart. Starring Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling, we see these two fall in love. Then addiction, failing careers, unhappiness, and dishonesty all collide to make the relationship become a train wreck of a story.
All great love stories are like that, though, because they’re the ones with the most passion. This great love story follows the couple that fights to make it work when they should have given up, all because they’re blinded by love.
If you’re a sucker for tragic romances, this is the indie movie for you.
If you’re looking for an excellent movie to watch on Netflix, you’ll want to check out Moonlight. This 2016 drama is an adaptation of a semi-autobiographical play by Tarell Alvin McCraney. It stars Mahershala Ali, Naomie Harris, and Trevante Rhodes.
It is a beautiful, thought-provoking film about race, class, and the human spirit.
“Moonlight,” won the Academy Award for Best Picture and is a moving coming-of-age story that centers on a young man who grows up in Miami, grapples with his sexuality, and looks for guidance from his drug-addicted mother. It’s a lyrical and heartwarming film, and it earned awards for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress.
12. Reservoir Dogs
If you’re into indie films, then Reservoir Dogs is definitely worth a look. It was directed by Quentin Tarantino, who is a legend in Hollywood. This film takes place in the aftermath of a heist gone wrong. A group of six robbers who survive the heist come together at a rendezvous point, and try to figure out who set them up.
The plot of Reservoir Dogs is very different than other indie movies on Netflix. It’s an existential drama that centers on a dorky kid who has been instructed by his mother to befriend a woman who recently was diagnosed with cancer.
The film’s narration notes that this is not a romance, and it’s certainly not for the faint of heart.
The film’s heightened sense of empathy is a strong characteristic of indie films. It doesn’t settle for tired genre tropes and reaches a wide range of audience members. It’s full of humanity and can’t be kept on a shelf. If you’re looking for a good indie movie on Netflix, you’ve come to the right place.
13. Safety Not Guaranteed
If you enjoy indie movies and are looking for something a bit different to watch on your couch, then you should consider checking out Safety Not Guaranteed with your Netflix subscription. This film was made on a shoestring budget of $750,000 and has a quaint, indie-film feel to it. Despite being billed as a comedy/drama/romance, it is far more melancholy than comical, and is a strange film about missed opportunities.
Safety Not Guaranteed is a movie about family and affection that plays on the underlying theme of a broken relationship. Duplass’s performance makes his character sympathetic, and he lets Aubrey in on his secrets. This film plays around with the notion of time travel, and the authenticity of the time machine, while giving the audience clues about the character’s fractured love affair and lonely childhood.
14. Super Dark Times
Another indie movie on Netflix is Super Dark Times. Written and directed by Kevin Philips, this movie captures the moody aesthetic of the 1980s and 1990s. It centers around two best friends, Zach and Josh, who find a body of a boy and a sword, and the aftermath of their ordeal threatens to tear the boys apart.
While it may seem like a rehash of Stand By Me, this film explores the loss of innocence and a person’s obsession with danger.
15. The Squid and the Whale
This new indie movie, directed by Noah Baumbach, is a bittersweet comedy set in Brooklyn in 1986. A young son of an artist, Squid plays the role of a troubled boy. His father splits up the family, forcing his son to choose sides. Although he doesn’t get the satisfaction that he wants, he doesn’t have to let it ruin his life.
The Squid and the Whale, is the director’s directorial debut, and has won several awards for its screenplay. The film also stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Carey Mulligan.
16. Hell or High Water
If you’re looking to watch a new movie this year, consider streaming Hell or High Water on Netflix. This 2016 crime drama stars Chris Pine and Jeff Bridges.
The plot of the Hell or High Water film follows two brothers (Tanner and Toby), an ex-con and divorced father, as they work together to save their family’s West Texas ranch. The brothers rob bank branches to save the family ranch, which is being foreclosed on. But the robbery ends up in the arms of a Texas Ranger. It is not a happy ending though, and the brothers are forced to work together to escape the police and save the ranch.
17. O Brother, Where Art Thou
Netflix’s original film streaming service has made it possible to watch classics like O Brother, Where Art Thou for free. In this adaptation of Homer’s Odyssey, three convicts escape from a Mississippi jail in the Depression. They encounter a horde of peril, from witchy women to KKK members and an insane Bible salesman.
While it may be a bit corny, this film is well worth the watch.
18. The Danish Girl
If you want a break from the usual Oscar bait, “The Danish Girl” is a must-see on Netflix. The film follows the true story of a transgender woman undergoing sex reassignment surgery, and Alicia Vikander and Eddie Redmayne star. In fact, Redmayne has hailed the film as one of the best performances of his career.
But if you’re unsure whether this film is for you, here’s what you need to know.
“The Danish Girl” stars Eddie Redmayne as a transgender painter named Lili Elbe, and Alicia Vikander as his wife Gerda. Einar paints portraits and landscapes, but his wife is a photographer. She wants to paint a portrait of her mutual friend Oola, and asks Einar to stand in for her.
While painting the portrait, he puts on Oola’s clothes, and tries to capture the essence of her personality.
“Freaks” is a low-budget sci-fi film with a unique plot. Like many recent sci-fi movies, it tries to do too much, but the film is genuinely entertaining, especially if you go into it blind. Though it draws inspiration from recent sci-fi stories, the movie is ultimately derivative and could have been interpreted as an allegory for racism.
20. I Am Mother
“I Am Mother” is a sci-fi thriller starring Rose Byrne as a computer-created mother who raises a young woman as her own. The film is interrupted by an outsider, played by Hilary Swank. Although the film is full of action and comedy, it also maintains its existential sadness.
It is a surprisingly emotional movie, featuring strong performances from the cast, including Paul Giamatti and Kathryn Hahn.
21. The Half of It
The title of The Half of It on Netflix is a clever homage to the famous Edmond Rostand play Cyrano de Bergerac, a romantic comedy about an intelligent man with an “ugly nose” who woos a woman by playing on her weaknesses.
While the film appears to start as a charming LGBTQ take on the age-old rom-com narrative, it ultimately grows into something more complex.
The Half of It’s first half starts off promisingly, but the movie quickly becomes overloaded with the love triangle. While the chemistry between Aster and Leah is believable, the weak link in the film is the character of Paul. While Paul isn’t given much to do until about a quarter of the way through the film, her performance is worth watching.
It’s an enjoyable film, but you should be aware that it won’t be for everyone.
22. Other People
The film Other People is a delightful and surprisingly moving coming-of-age drama. It centers around the plight of David, a thirty-year-old comedy writer whose mother is dying of cancer. While he’s at loose ends professionally, David’s five-year relationship has come to an end.
In order to prevent his family from worrying, he doesn’t tell them that he’s gay. Even his father refuses to acknowledge that he’s gay.
The plot is a compelling drama, and the characters are all incredibly sympathetic and endearing. Younger teens may find this book a little too intense, but it’s worth a read regardless. The novel deals with issues of death and identity that aren’t typically addressed in YA fiction, including a sexy movie set in a cancer treatment facility.
And, despite the underlying themes of compassion and acceptance, it is not a book to be read unless you’re mature enough to understand and appreciate such issues.
Another excellent film on Netflix is Windfall, a thriller starring Jason Segel as an unnamed home invader. He tries to take whatever he can find, and the wife (Lily Collins) and owner of the house try to stop him.
The three inhabitants of the house try to keep themselves and their belongings safe while dealing with the intrusion. This bare-bones thriller has a strong core cast.
These indie movies each have a unique genre and story that will pull you in and won’t let you go. If you’re a film enthusiast looking for something interesting, check them out and you won’t be disappointed.