7 Best Critically-acclaimed Independent Movies Movies to Watch

Staff & contributors

This fun comedy-drama is about a New York playwright called Radha who never hit big. When she turns 40, she decides to reinvent herself as RadhaMUSPrime, a rapper.

And it’s all a personal affair: Radha Blank plays the main character (named after herself) and is also the writer, director, and producer.

The story is about rap and theater, but being so connected to reality, it feels like it’s about Blank making the movie itself. Its very existence feels like a triumph against the pressure of age, the misunderstanding of others, and the weight of unreached goals.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Music

Actor: Antonio Ortiz, Ashlee Brian, Haskiri Velazquez, Imani Lewis, Jacob Ming-Trent, Oswin Benjamin, Peter Kim, Peter Y. Kim, Radha Blank, Reed Birney, Stacey Sargeant, T.J. Atoms, Welker White

Director: Radha Blank

Rating: R

A revelation of a movie, both in filmmaking and commercial success. While little-known abroad, it has made more than $42 million in US Box Office revenue out of a tiny $5 million budget. Kumail Nanjiani, stand-up comedian and star of the show Silicon Valley, tells his own story of romance with his now-wife Emily V. Gordon (who co-wrote the movie). Because it is based on a true story, and because it is the product of the love of both its writers and stars, this movie is incredibly heartfelt. It is also timely, addressing heavy themes such as identity, immigration, and family relationships. Not to mention it is absolutely hilarious. And it's produced by Judd Apatow. Trust me and go watch it.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Adeel Akhtar, Aidy Bryant, Alison Cimmet, Andrew Pang, Anupam Kher, Bo Burnham, Celeste Arias, Charles Gould, David Alan Grier, Ed Herbstman, Holly Chou, Holly Hunte, Holly Hunter, Isabel Shill, Jack Corrigan, Jack O'Connell, Jeff Blumenkrantz, Jeremy Shamos, Keilly McQuail, Kerry Flanagan, Kuhoo Verma, Kumail Nanjiani, Kurt Braunohler, Lauren Patten, Lawrence Ballard, Linda Emond, Marilyn Torres, Matthew Cardarople, Mitra Jouhari, Myra Lucretia Taylor, Myra Turley, Rahul Bedi, Ray Romano, Rebecca Naomi Jones, Shana Solomon, Shenaz Treasury, Shunori Ramanathan, Sophia Muller, Spencer House, Susham Bedi, Vella Lovell, William Stephenson, Zach Cherry, Zenobia Shroff, Zoe Kazan

Director: Michael Showalter

Rating: R

Ordinary People tells the harrowing story of Jane and Aries, two teenage parents struggling to survive the streets of Manila. At the mercy of limited welfare, the two resort to criminal activity to get by. When a woman offers to help them financially (on loan), Jane eventually relents—but is shocked to discover that her baby's been kidnapped. Trying everything from going to the police to contacting the perpetrator's mother, the reality becomes unavoidable: no one truly cares for the poor even if they're children. Interspersed with CCTV footage of the crimes the characters commit or witness, this powerful, heartbreaking portrait of poverty still offers glimmers of hope as they fight the odds to continue their search together. 

Genre: Drama

Actor: Alora Mae Sasam, Bon Andrew Lentejas, Erlinda Villalobos, Gold Aceron, Hasmine Killip, Karl Medina, Maria Isabel Lopez, Moira Lang, Raymond Lee, Ronwaldo Martin, Ruby Ruiz, Sue Prado

Director: Eduardo Roy Jr.

Rating: R

Margarita with a Straw is a bold and unflinching film that offers a sensitive and nuanced portrayal of disability, sexuality, and identity. The film follows the journey of a young woman with cerebral palsy as she navigates her way through life, love, and self-discovery. The film's honest portrayal of exploring sexuality, its rich and diverse cast of characters, and its raw and emotional story make it a deeply affecting watch. It's a triumph of representation and inclusivity, and a testament to the power of storytelling to challenge and change the way we see the world.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Andrew Hsu, Doug Plaut, Hussain Dalal, Jacob Berger, Kalki Koechlin, Kuljeet Singh, Malhar Khushu, Marco Torriani, Revathi, Revathy, Sayani Gupta, Shuchi Dwivedi, Tenzing Dalha, Vin Scialla, William Moseley

Director: Nilesh Maniyar, Shonali Bose

Rating: Not Rated

A sweet feel-good movie starring Nick Offerman as a dad who has to deal with his only daughter leaving for college and his record store struggling. The daughter is played by Kiersey Clemons who you might recognize from the show Easy. And Ted Danson has a great role too. This is a relatable and heartwarming movie, one of the best the so-called "indie" genre has known in a long time.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Family, Music

Actor: Alex Reznik, Andrea Morales, Blythe Danner, Harrison Chad, Jeff Tweedy, Kiersey Clemons, Kim Ramirez, Linda Lee McBride, McManus Woodend, Michael Abbott Jr., Nick Offerman, Quincy Dunn-Baker, Rafael Poueriet, Robert Reed Murphy, Sasha Lane, Ted Danson, Toni Collette, Will Rogers

Director: Brett Haley

Rating: PG-13

It’s hard to pin point exactly what makes this movie so good. It’s an all-around “movie” movie. I think it can be called a buddy comedy because it is about two best friends who are also movers. It’s about their day-to-day, their families and their relationships. They’re both from the underclass of Oakland, and one of them is black, the other is white. And that’s where it stops being a comedy and becomes a more hard-hitting film. It illustrates gentrification better than any other movie I’ve ever seen. It has relevant and striking commentary on the main characters’ race, upbringing, and identity. But at the end of the day, it has a great plot, and for the most part it’s an easy-flowing movie. It’s half entertainment, half social commentary, and both parts are equally well-done. It’s like movie unicorn, and it’s perfection. One of the two friends is played by Daveed Diggs, who you might know from Hamilton.

Genre: Comedy, Crime, Drama

Actor: Aviel Ayoung, Carlos López Estrada, Casey Adams, Cassie Hendry, Charles Johnson, Chris Harding, Daveed Diggs, Dawayne Jordan, Eduardo Ambriz DeColosio, Emmy Raver-Lampman, Ethan Embry, Geoffrey Quan, George Watsky, Janina Gavankar, Jasmine Cephas-Jones, John Lobato, Jon Chaffin, Jonathan Groff, Justin Chu Cary, Ke'Mari Moore, Kelli McCrann, Kendra Andrews, Kevin Carroll, Leland Orser, Margo Hall, Matt McAbee, Molly Shaiken, Nyambi Nyambi, Peter Fitzsimmons, Rafael Casal, Rashida Clendening, Rayna Angélique, Sean Michael McGrory, Steven Wiig, Tina Gilton, Tisha Campbell, Tisha Campbell-Martin, Travis Parker, Utkarsh Ambudkar, Wayne Knight, Zack Duhame

Director: Carlos López Estrada

Rating: R

Toni Collette, Jessie Buckley, and Jesse Plemons star in this mind-bending drama from Charlie Kaufman, the writer of Being John Malkovich.

The Young Woman, as she is known in the movie, takes a day trip with her boyfriend to his family’s secluded farm in Oklahoma. On the way, she thinks about breaking up with him.

But once there, she meets her boyfriend’s unusual mom (Colette) and everything gets progressively weirder for The Young Woman. The dialogue of the movie is complex and so reference-heavy that it begs either a second viewing or a handful of explanation articles online.

Genre: Drama, Fantasy, Horror, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Abby Quinn, Anthony Grasso, Ashlyn Alessi, Colby Minifie, David Thewlis, Dj Nino Carta, Gus Birney, Guy Boyd, Hadley Robinson, Jason Ralph, Jesse Plemons, Jessie Buckley, Oliver Platt, Teddy Coluca, Thomas Hatz, Toni Collette, Unity Phelan

Director: Charlie Kaufman

Rating: PG, R