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.
Best indie movies on Netflix:
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. 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.
3. A Serious Man
A Serious Man is a black comedy-drama that revolves around a Minnesota Jewish man named Larry who just can’t catch a break. His wife wants a divorce and he is on the verge of losing his job. He is also facing loads of other problems and decides to seek help. He goes and visits two rabbis for advice and isn’t happy with the outcome, especially since one of them is always unavailable. Does Larry solve his problems in the end and finds happiness he so desperately wants? Watch the movie and find out!
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 a while, 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.
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.
6. Ex Machina
From the brilliant mind of writer/director Alex Garland (Sunshine, Dredd), Ex Machina is a unique sci-fi film that explores the themes of AI and big data.
Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) is a programmer at tech giant Blue Book (think Google/Facebook) who wins a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to visit the private residence of the company’s reclusive genius CEO Nathan (Oscar Isaac). When he gets there, he finds out he’s been chosen to find out if a new AI humanoid robot (Alicia Vikander) is capable of passing the Turing test.
The result is a fascinating dive into what makes us human, and the film’s commentary on big data is even more relevant today than it was when the film was first released in 2014.
7. 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.
8. Dallas Buyers Club
There are a lot of big names in this movie including Matthew McConaughey and Jennifer Gardner. It revolves around a man named Ron Woodroof whose life turns upside down when he is diagnosed as HIV-positive and given only 30 days to live.
He refuses to accept his fate and starts smuggling unapproved pharmaceutical drugs into the country from Mexico, which turn out to be helpful. So much that he even starts selling them to others who need it, which is where things start getting interesting.
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.
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: