Whether you’re in the market for a great western or superhero movie, Netflix has a little something for everyone, but what if you want something multi-generic — something a little more avant-garde, if you will.
Well, my friend, what you want is an indie movie, part of an eclectic and increasingly undefinable category of film where the ambition of a project relates to more than its special effects budget.
These movies are smart, deep, and often very funny. There are a lot of them out there, but don’t worry. We have a list of eight of the best indie movies on Netflix for you, in no particular order.
Best Indie movies on Netflix:
- Obvious Child
- Kicking and Screaming
- Band of Robbers
- While We’re Young
- France Ha
- Wet Hot American Summer
Editor’s note: This list will be updated as indie movies leave and other new arrivals debut on Netflix.
1. Obvious Child
Obvious Child follows standup comic Donna (Jenny Slate) as she navigates getting dumped, meeting someone new, and getting pregnant in relatively short order. It’s an awkward, honest, and charming take on a sensitive subject, and it made Jenny Slate an overnight comedy star (previously her most notable role was as the voice of Marcel the Shell).
This film is a great option for anyone looking for a light, yet thoughtful and relatable story, and it’s damn funny. Without a doubt it’s one of best indie movies on Netflix, or anywhere else, in years.
2. Kicking and Screaming
The directorial debut of indie darling Noah Baumbach, Kicking and Screaming centers on Grover (Josh Hamilton), a fresh faced college grad who doesn’t know what to do with his life now that he’s not in school. That’s right, this one’s not about Will Ferrel coaching little league soccer. When his girlfriend moves to Prague, Grover moves into a house with a bunch of friends from college, all of whom are in the same position he is.
When Kicking and Screaming came out, critics didn’t really know what to make of Baumbach’s particular writing style, which focuses on often mundane conversations. Nevertheless, it struck a chord with some people, and Baumbach’s had a dedicated following ever since.
3. Band of Robbers
A modern retelling of the classic Mark Twain works The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Band of Robbers follows Sawyer (Adam Nee) and Finn (Kyle Gallner) as adults, still hunting for Murrell’s treasure.
In this adaptation, Tom’s grown up to be a milquetoast small-town cop who gets pulled back into the wild life of his childhood friend after releasing him from jail. With their other friends Joe Harper (Matthew Gray Gubler) and Ben Rogers (Hannibal Buress), the gang hatches a plan to rob Injun Joe’s pawn shop, where they think the treasure is hidden.
This is a fun twist on a classic story, and definitely one of the best indie movies on Netflix.
4. While We’re Young
Noah Baumbach really has a knack for making great indie movies. While We’re Young follows middle-aged Josh (Ben Stiller) and Cornelia (Naomi Watts) as they come to grips with getting older and the disappointment that can accompany it.
A documentary filmmaker, Josh’s life is turned upside down when he meets young aspiring filmmaker Jamie (Adam Driver) and his girlfriend Darby (Amanda Seyfried), both living what seems like the quintessentially spontaneous bohemian lifestyle of a hip young person in New York.
For awhile Josh seems to live vicariously through Jamie and Darby, but nothing is as straightforward as it first seems.
While We’re Young is a film about growing up, oddly from the perspective of people who have been grownups for a long time. It’s funny and poignant, and absolutely worth watching.
If someone ever had to pick a director to crown king of the indie film, Richard Linklater would surely be in contention. The director of films like Dazed and Confused, Before Sunrise, and School of Rock brought out his most ambitious projects with Boyhood.
Shot over 12 real-life years, the film follows the childhood and adolescent life of Mason (Ellar Coltrane) as he grows up in Houston with his single mother Olivia (Patricia Arquette) and sister Samantha (Lorelei Linklater).
The production shot for a few days every year from 2001 to 2013, and chronicles all the awkwardness, curiosity, and heartache that comes with going through adolescence. If you’re anywhere near the age of the main character, expect to get hit with some real nostalgia for what pops up in the background too. It’s ambitious and fascinating.
6. Frances Ha
Oh look, another Noah Baumbach movie! This is the last one, I swear (it’s also the best one). Co-written by the film’s star, Greta Gerwig, Frances Ha follows aspiring dancer Frances (Gerwig) as she struggles to live and work in New York City. Despite her often dire circumstances, Frances’ upbeat can-do mindset makes this movie a charming experience throughout.
Everything from the acting and writing, to the music and striking black and white aesthetic is a real treat. This is one of the best indie movies on Netflix, and my personal favorite. Seriously, watch this film.
7. Wet Hot American Summer
Imagine if a movie came out in 2019 starring Paul Rudd, Amy Poehler, Bradley Cooper, Elizabeth Banks, Joe Lo Truglio, H. John Benjamin, and a ton of other big name actors. You’d probably be expecting some kind of comedic Avengers movie — heck, Rudd and Cooper are involved, so maybe it’d just be a regular Avengers movie.
When Wet Hot American Summer came out in 2001, these were all just talented, little-known actors, who came together to play high school and junior high kids at summer camp. It’s wacky and weird, and definitely worth watching.
Paddleton follows neighbors and best friends Michael (Mark Duplass) and Andy (Ray Romano), as they struggle to come to grips with Michael’s new diagnosis of terminal cancer.
The film takes place over the few days after Michael decides not to seek treatment and instead take medication that will end his own life. Much of the story finds the two watching kung-fu movies, making pizza, and fighting over Michael’s decision.
It’s a touching and heartbreaking story of friendship, loss, and all the inside jokes and habits that accumulate when two people have been friends for years. It’s without a doubt one of Netflix’s saddest comedies.
That’s it for our list of the best indie movies on Netflix. There are tons of other options to watch once you get through this list, and no doubt more on the way.