Beyond Netflix: 15 Must-Watch Indie Films Of The Year

February 25, 2024

Photo By Jakob Owens

In the realm of cinema, independent films, or “indies,” have carved out a unique space for themselves, offering viewers a refreshing alternative to mainstream blockbusters. Embracing creativity, innovation, and often tackling thought-provoking themes, indie films captivate audiences with their authenticity and artistic vision. As we delve into indie cinema, let’s explore the rich history of independent filmmaking and discover 15 must-watch indie films of the year.

The roots of independent cinema can be traced back to the early 20th century when filmmakers sought creative freedom outside the confines of major studios. In the 1940s and 1950s, filmmakers like John Cassavetes and Shirley Clarke pioneered the American independent film movement, producing raw, character-driven dramas that explored the human condition with unflinching honesty.

The 1980s and 1990s marked a significant turning point for indie cinema, with the emergence of influential filmmakers such as Spike Lee, Quentin Tarantino, and Steven Soderbergh. These directors challenged traditional storytelling conventions, pushing the boundaries of cinematic expression, and paving the way for a new generation of independent filmmakers.

Today, indie films continue to thrive, thanks partly to digital technology and online streaming platforms like Netflix, which provide greater accessibility to indie filmmakers and their work. From intimate character studies to bold experimental films, indie cinema offers a diverse array of storytelling possibilities that resonate with audiences around the world.

15 Must-Watch Indie Films of the Year

1. Nomadland (2020) Directed by ChloƩ Zhao

Following the economic collapse of a company town in rural Nevada, Fern (Frances McDormand) packs her van and embarks on a journey through the American West, exploring life on the road as a modern-day nomad.

2. Minari (2020) – Directed by Lee Isaac Chung

A tender and sweeping story about what roots us, Minari follows a Korean American family that moves to a tiny Arkansas farm in search of their American Dream.

3. Sound of Metal (2019) – Directed by Darius Marder

A heavy-metal drummer’s life is thrown into freefall when he begins to lose his hearing. As he grapples with this new reality, he must confront his past and find a way forward.

4. First Cow (2019) – Directed by Kelly Reichardt

A skilled cook has travelled west and joined a group of fur trappers in Oregon, though he only finds a true connection with a Chinese immigrant also seeking his fortune. Soon the two collaborate on a successful business.

5. The Father (2020) – Directed by Florian Zeller

A man refuses all assistance from his daughter as he ages. As he tries to make sense of his changing circumstances, he begins to doubt his loved ones, his mind, and even the fabric of his reality.

6. Promising Young Woman (2020) – Directed by Emerald Fennell

A young woman, traumatised by a tragic event in her past, seeks vengeance against those who cross her path, in this thrilling and wildly entertaining story about revenge and redemption.

7. The Farewell (2019) – Directed by Lulu Wang

A Chinese family discovers their grandmother has only a short while left to live and decides to keep her in the dark, scheduling a wedding to gather before she dies.

8. Rocks (2020) – Directed by Sarah Gavron

A young teenage girl finds herself struggling to take care of herself and her younger brother after being abandoned by their single mother with no choice but to live out on the streets.

9. Saint Frances (2019) – Directed by Alex Thompson

After an accidental pregnancy turned abortion, a deadbeat nanny finds an unlikely friendship with the six-year-old she’s charged with protecting.

10. Never Rarely Sometimes Always (2020) – Directed by Eliza Hittman

A pair of teenage girls in rural Pennsylvania travel to New York City to seek out medical help after an unintended pregnancy.

11. The Peanut Butter Falcon (2019) – Directed by Tyler Nilson, Michael Schwartz

Zak runs away from his care home to make his dream of becoming a wrestler come true.

12. Palm Springs (2020) – Directed by Max Barbakow

When carefree Nyles and reluctant maid of honour Sarah have a chance encounter at a Palm Springs wedding, things get complicated as they are unable to escape the venue, themselves, or each other.

13. The Assistant (2019) – Directed by Kitty Green

A searing look at a day in the life of an assistant to a powerful executive. As Jane follows her daily routine, she grows increasingly aware of the insidious abuse that threatens every aspect of her.

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