Simply put, an independent film is one made outside the influence/funding of a major studio. Just because a film is an indie doesn’t mean it has to be shot on a budget of $2,500 over 4 days of non-stop filming. So, by that definition you would say Mel Gibson’s “Passion of the Christ” is an indie film, likewise “The Terminator” is also an independent movie. It is in that spirit that I present to you, in no specific order, 15 independent movies you may not have seen that you should:
15. Bella (2007)
Set in New York, this drama focuses on a day in the life of a pregnant woman getting to know a troubled chef. Much in the vein of “Before Sunrise”, this is a well told story that takes you on an emotional journey to find family.
Genre: Drama, Romance
14. Cashback (2007)
From across the pond, “Cashback” revolves around a college student who has his heart broken and uses his sleepness nights to make money at a local grocery store. We frequently take trips through his imagination as he stops time and appreciates a moment. What I loved about this was the great blend of visuals with a melancholy score in sync with well-developed characters.
Genre: Drama, Romance, Comedy
13. The Wackness (2008)
1995 New York, “The Wackness” is the tale of a kid between High School and his first year of college. No friends and a steadily breaking homelife, he sells drugs to save for tuition and finally gets a shot at the girl of his dreams. Ben Kingsley is the pitch-perfect cracking therapist and Olivia Thirlby the would-be girlfriend. The best mid-90s hip hop and an engaging story makes this a must-see.
12. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (2008)
A WWII story of a Nazi commander’s son who stumbles onto the concentration camp his father runs and makes friends with a Jewish boy on the other side of the fence.
11. Gigantic (2009)
Paul Dano plays a quiet young man who gets hooked in with an odd Zooey Deschanel, a rich girl who starts affecting his plans to adopt a Chinese baby.
10. Gone Baby Gone (2007)
A Boston detective’s journey through various cases. The big surprise here is that Ben Affleck directed a hell of a film and his brother is a flat out excellent actor.
9. A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints (2006)
An excellent coming-of-age set in New York during the 80s. Robert Downey Jr returns home and remembers (as played out by Shia LaBeouf) the trials of seeing friends die and end up in prison. Even Channing Tatum knocks this one out of the park.
8. I Am David (2004)
As far as WWII concentration camp survivor movies go, this is by far the most innocent of them all. A child escapes from a camp and makes his way through Europe to deliver an important letter, meeting a variety of helpful characters along the way.
7. In Bruges (2008)
Perhaps my favorite Colin Farrell performance ever. Fine, that isn’t saying much, but this is one of the more brutal comedy/action films I’ve seen to date. You owe it to yourself to see this one.
Genre: Thriller, Black Comedy
6. Match Point (2006)
Woody Allen’s least “Woody Allen” film he’s ever made. A crime drama about a tennis pro who has an affair, Allen pours on the suspense and details.
Genre: Crime, Drama
5. My Blueberry Nights (2007)
If you haven’t seen any of Wong Kar Wai’s films, you should probably start with “ChungKing Express” or “In the Mood for Love”, but this is a great treat to see his work in America with English actors. His unique style translates perfectly as he sculpts the journey of a woman who takes the longest path across the street of her life.
Genre: Drama, Romance
4. Sunshine Cleaning (2009)
Amy Adams alone should sell you on why you should see this, she’s fantastic no matter what she’s in. A fun dramatic comedy about her starting her own business and trying to live up to her glory days as the High School prom queen…of course, a business as a crime scene clean-up service isn’t so high brow.
Genre: Comedy, Drama
3. Wristcutters: A Love Story (2007)
What really happens to people who commit suicide? Apparently they end up in a life more drab than the one they left, no smiling, laughing or happiness. After hearing his girlfriend is also wandering in the same afterlife, Zia ventures forth with a Russian rocker and sees the oddities in the bitter hereafter.
Genre: Comedy, Fantasy
2. The Fall (2008)
You should remember the name Tarsem Singh, someone who still believes in finding actual scenery for films rather than creating them in a computer. He filmed this in 39 countries and it’s one of the most gorgeous and visually stunning films on celluloid.
Genre: Fantasy, Drama, Adventure
1. Adam (2009)
How this one was overlooked last year is beyond me. Well, I guess that’s the lot for great indie dramas. An excellent story about a girl, Rose Byrne, who falls for a guy with Asperger’s Syndrome (Adam Raki). If you like dramas, then you’ll love this.
Genre: Drama, Romance