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 we have you covered. We’ve rounded up the 10 best indie movies on Netflix for you, in no particular order
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Best indie movies on Netflix:
Editor’s note: This list will be updated as indie movies leave and other new arrivals debut on Netflix.
Jon Favreau started writing and directing indie movies before he became a big-budget director with hits like Elf, Iron Man, and the live-action Lion King. However, this 2014 returns him to his low budget indie roots. He writes, directs, and stars in Chef. He plays a chef at a high-end LA restaurant who gets into a dispute with its owner. He leaves LA with his son and ex-wife and heads to Miami. He launches a food truck serving Cuban cuisine and rediscovers what he once loved about cooking. Without a doubt, it’s one of the best indie movies on Netflix.
The Florida Project
This independent drama movie follows the life of a six-year-old girl and her single, rebellious mother. They live in a motel in Florida, close to the popular Walt Disney World. The movie is set over one summer and shows the adventures of the little girl with her friends as well as the struggles of her mother to make ends meet and make sure the two don’t go homeless. The Florida Project is an emotional roller coaster that makes you think and is definitely worth checking out.
Viggo Mortensen plays a father of an unconventional family in this 2016 film. He, his wife, and their children live off the grid in the mountains of Washington. However, when his wife suddenly dies, the rest of the family leaves the wilderness to attend her funeral. As a result, they encounter people and places in our conventional civilization, and the children start to doubt their father and his unconventional parental skills. It’s one of the best indie movies on Netflix
Safety Not Guaranteed
This 2012 movie is actually based on a true story, or at least an actual classified ad. A person placed an ad in a small magazine many years ago, asking for a companion to come time traveling with him. This fictional movie takes a look at a trio of reporters who find a similar ad and try to track down its author. As it turns out, the creator of the ad insists that his ad is real. So is he crazy, or is there something to his claims? The writer-director team for this movie, Derek Connolly and Colin Trevorrow, were recruited by Universal after the release of this movie to reboot the Jurassic Park franchise with Jurassic World.
This romantic drama takes place in Dakar, Senegal. It follows Ada, a young woman who is arranged to marry a rich man named Omar but is in love with a construction worker who goes by the name of Suleiman. Suleiman, along with his colleagues, hasn’t been paid by the construction company for months, so he decides to leave the country by sea in search of a brighter future in Europe. Things start getting interesting when someone burns Omar’s bed and one of the main suspects becomes Suleiman himself, even though some claim he’s not even in the country anymore. Keep in mind that the movie is in French, so you may need to turn on subtitles. It’s one of the best indie movies on Netflix.
This film was first released in 2014 and while it wasn’t a huge hit, it has slowly gained a cult following. A young mother and her son live in a small town. They are dealing with the recent death of her husband, a soldier who was killed in battle. However, a man, played by Dan Stevens, who claims to be a close friend of the dead husband suddenly appears in town. It later becomes clear that this man has some deep secrets he is running from, and that’s when this film starts to go into full thriller territory. It’s not only one of the best indie movies on Netflix but also a great action film.
Greta Gerwig, who gained fame in the indie film world as an actress and writer, wrote and directed this gem of a film from 2017. Nominated for several Academy Awards, the film stars Saoirse Ronan as Christine, a teenager growing up in Sacramento. However, she believes she needs to move away from what she thinks is a low culture city and head east to attend a high-brow school. She even renamed herself as “Lady Bird” so she can show others how smart and cultured she is. Obviously, this puts her into conflict with her mother, played by Laurie Metcalf, and her friends at school. This is a very different take on the “coming of age” drama that doesn’t feel forced for once.
Silver Linings Playbook
Bradley Cooper showed he was more than just a pretty face with his performance in this 2012 indie film. He plays a man with bipolar disorder who, after a stay in a mental institution, starts living with his parents, played by Robert DeNino and Jackie Weaver. He befriends a woman with her own issues, played by Jennifer Lawerence. Soon, the two people start to team up to win a dance competition, which helps them both heal from their problems. Directed by David O. Russell, this movie about people with problems that look for “silver linings” in their lives is both entertaining and touching.
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.
Roma takes place in a 1970’s home in the Colonia Roma neighborhood of Mexico City. The black and white Spanish-language drama follows the life of an indigenous housekeeper and live-in nanny (Yalitza Aparicio) of a middle-class family.
Without giving too much away, events in both her life and the family’s bring them all together, even as the world around them falls apart.
The semi-autobiographical take on writer/director Alfonso Cuarón’s upbringing in Mexico City is made even more authentic by the performance of lead actress Yalitza Aparicio, who was raised by a single mother working as a maid. Her first film netted her a Best Actress Oscar nomination, despite having no formal acting training.
Best Indie Movies on Netflix – Honorable Mentions
Here are a few more indie movies on Netflix that you should check out that didn’t quite make the top 10 list:
- Code 8 – This sci-fi movie, funded initially by a crowdfunding campaign, takes a cool and different look at the superhero genre.
- Fruitvale Station – This movie, starring Michael B. Jordan and directed by Ryan Coogler, tells the real-life story of a black man in San Fransisco that was shot and killed by a transit cop in 2009.
- Howard’s End – The 1992 adaptation of the E.M. Forester novel takes a fresh look at class relations in Britain over 100 years ago.
- Radium Girls – This is a drama based on the real-life events of women who were unknowingly hit with radiation poisoning while putting in radium dials in watches during the early 20th century.
- Layer Cake – Daniel Craig became a movie star with this UK crime drama about a criminal asked to do one last big job for his employer.
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. Here are some of our other Netflix guides worth checking out: