The 50 Best Indie Movies of All-Time

Updated May 23, 2024 • Staff

agoodmovietowatch is a platform that recommends little-known but acclaimed movies - films you haven't yet seen that you are likely to enjoy. Naturally, many indie movies fall in this category. 

"Indie" used to refer to the way the film was made, a comment about its low-budget or lack of association with big studios. But recently, it has morphed into its own genre. Calling a movie "indie" is like saying it is a comedy, it means that it has very specific characteristics. 

The genre has been overexploited, but many new releases still stand out every year. So, looking back at the evolution of the genre, here are the 50 best indie movies of all-time as ranked by our staff. 

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50.

We Need to Talk About Kevin (2012)

Adapted from the Lionel Shriver novel of the same name, We Need to Talk About Kevin is the story of a mother (Tilda Swinton) that never quite bonds with her child, but not by her choice. The son grows up to do a heinous act that begs the question: nature or nurture? This film is an uncompromising view on the development of an unloved child. Silent pain gets voice. Feelings are shown by actions not emotions in an authentic, comprehensible and aesthetic manner. Great work.

Our staff rating: 7.9/10
Genre: Drama, Thriller
Actor: Aaron Blakely, Alex Manette, Andy Gershenzon, Annie O'Sullivan, Ashley Gerasimovich, Blake DeLong, Caitlin Kinnunen, Daniel Farcher, Erin Darke, Ezra Miller, Francesca Murdoch, Georgia X. Lifsher, J. Mallory McCree, J.J. Kandel, James Chen, Jason Shelton, Jasper Newell, Jeffrey Mowery, Jennifer Kim, John C. Reilly, Jose Joaquin Perez, Joseph Basile, Joseph Melendez, Kenneth Franklin, Kimberley Drummond, Lauren Fox, Leland Alexander Wheeler, Leslie Lyles, Louie Rinaldi, Mark Elliot Wilson, Maryann Urbano, Paul Diomede, Paul Marra, Polly Adams, Rebecca Dealy, Rock Duer, Rocky Duer, Simon MacLean, Siobhan Fallon Hogan, Suzette Gunn, Tilda Swinton, Ursula Parker
Director: Lynne Ramsay
Rating: R

Free Watching Options:

Watch We Need to Talk About Kevin (2012) on Amazon Prime for free
49.

You Can Count on Me (2000)

Written and directed by Academy-Award-winning Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester by the Sea, Gangs of New York), you can certainly count on the qualities of this subtle, beautiful, and moving drama about two siblings growing apart and reuniting later in life.

An Academy-Award-nominated Laura Linney plays Sammy, a single mother in a small town who is extremely protective of her 8-year-old son. When her younger and somewhat troubled brother Terry (played by the ever-reliable Mark Ruffalo) visits her out of the blue, Sammy has to deal with a slew of contradicting emotions towards her brother, whose appearance threatens to upend her life as she knew it.

Straight, thoughtful, and beautifully crafted, You Can Count on Me is an honest and genuine exploration of unconditional love in celluloid form. Think of it as much more hopeful The Skeleton Twins.

Our staff rating: 9.4/10
Genre: Drama, Family
Actor: Adam LeFevre, Amy Ryan, Betsy Aidem, Gaby Hoffmann, Halley Feiffer, J. Smith-Cameron, Jon Tenney, Josh Lucas, Kenneth Lonergan, Laura Linney, Lisa Altomare, Mark Ruffalo, Matthew Broderick, Michael Countryman, Nina Garbiras, Rory Culkin, Whitney Vance
Director: Kenneth Lonergan
Rating: R
48.

Biutiful (2010)

Ever wondered how much your life will change when faced with the reality that death is about to come? That’s normal, and not nearly as life-altering as being told you only have a few more moments to live. Because of a terminal illness, Uxbal (Javier Bardem) is driven to this situation and tries to right his wrongs in the wake of modern Barcelona. This melodrama is supercharged by Bardem’s unearthly performance as the story’s only hero, demonstrating the selfless love of a destroyed and dying father to his children – paired with cinematography unlike any other, this film is exceptionally beautiful. Directed by González Iñárritu' (Babel, Birdman, The Revenant).

Our staff rating: 7.7/10
Genre: Drama, Romance
Actor: Adelfa Calvo, Ailie Ye, Alain Hernández, Ana Wagener, Annabel Totusaus, Cheikh Ndiaye, Cheng Taishen, Diaryatou Daff, Dunia Montenegro, Eduard Fernandez, Félix Cubero, George Chibuikwem Chukwuma, Guillermo Estrella, Hanaa Bouchaib, Isaac Alcayde, Javier Bardem, Jin Luo, Karra Elejalde, Luo Jin, Manolo Solo, Maricel Álvarez, Nasser Saleh, Rubén Ochandiano, Sophie Evans, Taisheng Chen, Tomás del Estal, Violeta Pérez
Director: Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Alejandro González Iñárritu
Rating: R

Free Watching Options:

Watch Biutiful (2010) on Amazon Prime for free
47.

Following (1998)

Following is the first movie Christopher Nolan ever directed, a mesmerizing low-budget effort that introduced the world to the genius who will later give us Memento, Inception, The Dark Knight, and many other classics. Shot in "extreme" conditions to quote Nolan himself, for just over £3000, it had to be filmed in the span of a year on Saturdays only and in friends' houses. But almost none of that is visible in the sharp camera work, the magnificent acting (most of it was first or second takes), and the twisted script. It tells the story of an unsuccessful writer (The Young Man) who tries to find inspiration in following random people in the street, and doing it via strict rules. One day he follows a man in a suit (Cobb), who catches him and becomes intrigued by him. It turns out that Cobb has his own fascination with people's intimate lives, of criminal nature, which he lets The Young Man into. Using the same non-linear plot technique as in Memento, this movie is halfway between a thriller and a film noir. The inspiration for it came when Nolan's own apartment in London was robbed, and he was fascinated by the act of strangers going through his personal items. If you take into consideration the conditions of its making, this movie is a masterpiece.

Our staff rating: 7.1/10
Genre: Drama, Mystery, Thriller
Actor: Alex Haw, Barbara Stepansky, David Julyan, Dick Bradsell, Emma Thomas, Gillian El-Kadi, Jennifer Angel, Jeremy Theobald, John Nolan, Lucy Russell, Nicolas Carlotti, Paul Mason, Rebecca James
Director: Christopher Nolan
Rating: R
46.

Rust and Bone (2012)

This is the type of movie I completely fell in love with but cannot articulate exactly why. Maybe it's the mixture of beauty and pain portrayed, maybe it's the intricate sounds and beautiful imagery, maybe it's the story, maybe it's all of the above. A woman is hit with sudden disability after an accident and calls on an unlikely companion, a night club bouncer by the name of Ali. Together they explore her new predicament and its implications, while forming a special bond. This is a movie that will call upon your internal strength, while portraying how us humans can become strong together. Most of all it provides an immensely powerful, ultimately simple story that is both touching and will stay with you for a very long time. Directed by Jacques Audiard (A Prophet).

Our staff rating: 8.1/10
Genre: Drama, Romance
Actor: Armand Verdure, Bouli Lanners, Celine Sallette, Corinne Masiero, Fabien Baïardi, Françoise Michaud, Irina Coito, Jean-Michel Correia, Marion Cotillard, Matthias Schoenaerts, Mourad Frarema, Yannick Choirat
Director: Jacques Audiard
Rating: 15, R
45.

2046 (2004)

Director Wong Kar-Wai made this loose sequel to one of the best films ever made, his 2000 classic In the Mood for Love. Much of the story is set around Christmas eve.

In the far future, people take a train to the world of 2046, where no sadness or sorrow can be experienced. No one has ever returned from that world except for a lonely Japanese writer, who narrates the first part of the film.

There are four acts to the story and as is common to Wong Kar-Wai, they are listed in non-chronological order. Not that you will care but 2046 is far from confusing. Instead, it functions as a dazzling visual poem on unreciprocated love.

Our staff rating: 7.7/10
Genre: Drama, Fantasy, Romance, Science Fiction
Actor: Akina Hong, Akina Hong Wah, Ben Yuen, Ben Yuen Foo-Wah, Benz Kong To-Hoi, Berg Ng, Carina Lau, Chang Chen, Chen Chang, Ching Siu-Lung, Dong Jie, Farini Cheung, Farini Cheung Yui-Ling, Faye Wong, Gong Li, Jie Dong, Li Gong, Maggie Cheung, Maggie Cheung Man-Yuk, Ping Lam Siu, Ronny Ching Siu-Lung, Siu Ping-lam, Takuya Kimura, Thongchai McIntyre, Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, Zhang Ziyi, Ziyi Zhang
Director: Kar-Wai Wong, Wong Kar-wai
Rating: R
44.

Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988)

Break-ups aren’t the easiest thing to overcome, but how we deal with them usually doesn’t get as ludicrous as the events Pepa goes through in Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. The film makes said nervous breakdown chaotic– it includes spiked gazpacho, a frantic call to the police, and being held at gunpoint– but as Pepa and the women around her try to put off each fire, at least one of them literally, writer-director Pedro Almodóvar ensures sympathy for them, with Pepa's snappy dialogue cutting through the lies of a smooth-talking womanizer refusing to face them. And it’s all paired with a suitably dramatic score, meticulous staging, and exaggerated, colorful frames mostly occurring in the wreck of a fabulously styled penthouse.

Our staff rating: 8/10
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Actor: Agustín Almodóvar, Ana Leza, Ángel de Andrés López, Antonio Banderas, Carmen Maura, Chus Lampreave, Eduardo Calvo, Fernando Guillen, Francisca Caballero, Gabriel Latorre, Guillermo Montesinos, Imanol Uribe, Joaquín Climent, José Antonio Navarro, José Marco, Juan Lombardero, Julieta Serrano, Kiti Manver, Loles León, Lupe Barrado, María Barranco, Rossy de Palma, Yayo Calvo
Director: Pedro Almodóvar
Rating: R
43.

A Single Man (2009)

Shot as a single day, it tells the story of college professor George (Colin Firth) who, unable to cope with the death of his partner months prior, resolves to commit suicide. The movie is not all dark, however, there are moving, deeply human encounters as George moves through his last day. Fashion designer Tom Ford's directorial debut and set in 1960s Los Angeles, it speaks powerfully of the colour-stripping effects of grief and loneliness. Fantastic performance also by Julianne Moore as Charley, an equally lonely and desperate character, but with a markedly different story. A Single Man is a gorgeous film in every sense of the word.

Our staff rating: 6.9/10
Genre: Drama, Romance
Actor: Aaron Sanders, Adam Shapiro, Colin Firth, Elisabeth Harnois, Erin Daniels, Ginnifer Goodwin, Jenna Gavigan, Jon Hamm, Jon Kortajarena, Julianne Moore, Keri Lynn Pratt, Lee Pace, Matthew Goode, Melissa Goodwin Shepherd, Nicholas Hoult, Nicole Steinwedell, Paul Butler, Paulette Lamori, Ridge Canipe, Ryan Simpkins, Teddy Sears, Tricia Munford
Director: Tom Ford
Rating: R
42.

The Station Agent (2003)

The Station Agent is about loneliness, change and friendship. Sounds corny right? It’s not. The characters are developed, they have their own reasons for the choices they make and nothing feels forced, neither actions or conversations. It’s a small and wonderful movie about a little man that moves out of the city and his comfort zone when his only friend dies, moves to said friend’s old train station and sets his life there. From there on it follows his social interactions with a slew of people, the relationships he forms with them. Oh, and the little man? Peter Dinklage (Tyrion Lannister), who pulls off a great performance, albeit a quiet one.

Our staff rating: 9.2/10
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Actor: Bobby Cannavale, Ileen Getz, Jase Blankfort, Jayce Bartok, Jeremy Bergman, Joe Lo Truglio, John Slattery, Josh Pais, Lynn Cohen, Maile Flanagan, Marla Sucharetza, Michelle Williams, Patricia Clarkson, Paul Benjamin, Paula Garces, Peter Dinklage, Raven Goodwin, Richard Kind
Director: Tom McCarthy
Rating: R

Free Watching Options:

Watch The Station Agent (2003) on Fubo for free
41.

Thank You for Smoking (2005)

As black a comedy as they come. Nick Naylor (superbly portrayed by Aaron Eckhart) is the chief spokesperson for tobacco and shows the world why smoking is as key to protect as any other liberal value. This movie is funny, smart, thoughtful and raises some good questions about the ego, the morale and what we leave behind, from unexpected sides.

Our staff rating: 8.1/10
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Actor: Aaron Eckhart, Aaron Lustig, Adam Brody, Aloma Wright, Brian Palermo, Bruce French, Cameron Bright, Catherine Reitman, Christopher Buckley, Connie Ray, Courtney Taylor Burness, Dana E. Glauberman, Daniel Travis, David Koechner, David O. Sacks, Dennis Miller, Earl Billings, Elon Musk, Eric Haberman, Eva La Dare, J.K. Simmons, Jeff Witzke, Joan Lunden, Jordan Garrett, Katie Holmes, Kim Dickens, Marc Scizak, Maria Bello, Marianne Muellerleile, Mary Jo Smith, Melora Hardin, Michael Mantell, Nancy O'Dell, Rachel Thorp, Renée Graham, Richard Speight Jr., Rob Lowe, Robert Duvall, Robert Malina, Roy Jenkins, Sam Elliott, Sean Patrick Murphy, Spencer Garrett, Terry James, Timothy Dowling, Todd Louiso, William H. Macy
Director: Jason Reitman
Rating: R

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