The Best Independent Movies of All Time
Table of Contents
Introduction to Independent Movies
The list of independent films (indie movies) consists of independent cinema films that differ from the mainstream, shot by their directors and producers with innovative methods and approaches, largely ignoring the authority and sectoral requirements of the period.
What is Independent Movie
Independent films are films where their producers showcase their libertarian/innovative content and methods. Filmmakers can often find a way to do this outside of the system.
As a result of being independent, films often do not have access to funding, distribution channels, professional equipment, and equipment. This situation pushes the filmmakers to produce innovative solutions in terms of creating the aforementioned resources besides the film.
Origin of the Term Independent
Brief History of Independent Movies
Cinema has had a multidisciplinary structure since its early days when it became an art. For this reason, throughout the history of cinema, the cost of producing a work professionally and bringing this work together with art lovers was higher than other art disciplines. Due to the high production and distribution costs, industrialization or cartels were inevitable for cinema from the very beginning.
One of the most prominent and good examples of the emergence of independent cinema is the emergence of American independent cinema.
The main motivation in the formation of independent cinema in America was triggered by the desire of filmmakers to shoot films with the content and methods they wanted. The cartels and authorities that dominated the industry, with their capital, crew-equipment, set opportunities and reputation, paved the way for the movies they wanted, but prevented the shooting of the movies they didn’t want. This situation forced independent filmmakers to create a new cinema separate from the mainstream.
First Independent Cinema: Hollywood
American cinema was founded under the monopoly of a single person, Thomas Edison. Although Edison is described as a scientist and inventor, he was also an important businessman. He was earning commercial income with his inventions and initiatives in many fields from communication devices to chemicals, from mining to cinema.
The Kinetograph was the first motion picture camera patented by Edison. Many other inventors were working in Edison’s firm besides himself. After the Kinetograph, camera types such as Kinetoscope and Vitascope were also patented by Edison.
Edison was also an important filmmaker. His studio produced nearly 1,200 films, including classics such as Sneeze (1894), The Kiss (1896), The Great Train Robbery (1903), Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1910), and Frankenstein (1910).
Motion Picture Patents Company (MPPC), called the “Edison Monopoly” (Edison Trust), was an institution with many licenses and competencies related to cinema. Edison, Biograph, Vitagraph, Essanay, Selig, Lubin, Kalem, American Star, American Pathé, George Kleine, Eastman Kodak companies were included in this cartel. These firms were producers, distributors and film producers. In a short time, almost everything, from all cinema-related fixtures and consumables to studios and licenses, was gathered under the Motion Picture Patents Company cartel. The Edison Trust alone dominated all American cinema.
The Edison Trust was terminated by two decisions of the United States Supreme Court. Its patent on stock film was revoked in 1912, and all of the company’s MPPC patents were revoked in 1915. While these resolutions succeeded in legalizing independent film, they were not very effective in correcting the actual bans and restrictions on minor productions. Some small filmmakers, not part of the Edison Monopoly, who fled to Southern California during the enactment of the law, laid the foundations for the studio system of classic Hollywood cinema. These producers were the first community to be called independent filmmakers.
With the development of new production and distribution methods, the system, which was monopolized by the Motion Picture Patents Company, started to pass to the initiative of the newly established companies. By the 1930s, many companies had gotten rid of the Edison monopoly and declared their independence. Known as the “Big Five,” 20th Century Fox, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Paramount Pictures, RKO Pictures, Warner Bros., and other smaller firms Columbia Pictures, United Artists, Universal Studios., Grand National, Republic Pictures, Monogram Pictures and Producers Releasing Corporation became independent during this period.
Hollywood, which started with the independents, soon turned from a monopoly to an oligopolistic structure. There was now more than one ruler of the market instead of one. This situation has been tried to be changed by the individual and collective movements of many new independent filmmakers over time.
Two great structures emerged as a result of the movement together. In 1919, “United Artists” was formed, with participants such as Mary Pickford, Charles Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, and D. W. Griffith.
In 1941, the “Society of Independent Motion Picture Producers” initiative was founded within United Artists, with participants such as Mary Pickford, Charlie Chaplin, Walt Disney, Orson Welles, Samuel Goldwyn, David O. Selznick, Alexander Korda and Walter Wanger.
These groups of filmmakers not only made independent films, but also fought an important legal battle for independent cinema to survive on a legal platform.
In 1948, the monopolies and salon chains created by the work of the Society of Independent Motion Picture Producers and the big studios were ended by the decision of the United States Supreme Court. The closures caused by these decisions ended what was indirectly called the Golden Age of Hollywood. The Society of Independent Motion Picture Producers dissolved itself because it achieved all its goals.
Obstacles and Solutions
In all countries that have developed their own independent cinema, there is a situation of moving away from the authority, power, and therefore the mainstream, which dominate cinema, similar to the one in America.
At points where there is no monopoly, oligopolistic structures, similar to those in America, prevent the realization of independent content and methods in cinema. The system is based on the commercial contribution of each film to be shot to these structures.
The acceptance and spread of the libertarian, democratic and liberal movements that took place after the 2nd World War provided the liberation of the cinema in a similar way.
With the emergence of auteur cinema, the directors’ ability to create cult films and gain personally loyal audiences enabled them to have a much greater say in the films they would shoot in the future. This has significantly increased the number of independent films.
The financing, production, distribution and audience of independent films have increased with the emergence of film festivals specialized in topics that will not be accepted in the mainstream. The awareness of independent films, their views, directors and actors increased in proportion to the size of the festival. At the same time, festivals and awards have become critical for the financing of independent films.
Many independent film festivals have emerged such as Sundance Film Festival, Slamdance Film Festival, South By Southwest (SXSW) film festival, Raindance Film Festival, Telluride Film Festival, Palm Springs Film Festival, The European Independent Film Festival. As a contradiction, the producers and directors who tried to be successful in these festivals that supported independent cinema, formed their films in accordance with the festival norms over time, making their independence in doubt.
As a result of technological developments, the decrease in the equipment and consumable costs used in the shooting of the movies, the increased use of special effects, and the decrease in the costs of the distribution channels have increased the shooting opportunities for independent movies. The fact that independent films often include subjects that cannot be included in mainstream films, and that B and Z films are more accepted by the audience, were also very critical for the spread of independent cinema.
Characteristics of Independent Movies
Independent films are generally low-budget. Too many B and Z movies are made as independent films. It is possible to see actors, technical staff, directors, screenwriters and producers at the beginning of their careers in independent films.
Independent films give more space to regional or periodical issues than mainstream films.
Independent filmmakers often use the shock effect to get their films noticed. For this reason, the language of expression can be very harsh or contain abuse that can be included in the cinema of exploitation. On the other hand, some independent film directors try their luck with very minimalistic, slow-paced films in order to qualify their films as art films and stand out.
Independent films, like mainstream films, have market, commercial, artistic, reputation concerns. For this reason, films are usually shot in accordance with the sensitivities of specific film festivals, audiences and distribution channels, depending on the concerns of the director, even if they are disconnected from the mainstream.
Independent Movie List
*Films sorted by release year, from newest to oldest.
- Tangerine (2015) Sean Baker
- What We Do in the Shadows (2014) Jemaine Clement, Taika Waititi
- Dogville (2003) Lars von Trier
- The Room (2003) Tommy Wiseau
- Donnie Darko (2001) Richard Kelly
- Memento (2000) Christopher Nolan
- Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (1999) Jim Jarmusch
- Being John Malkovich (1999) Spike Jonze
- The Blair Witch Project (1999) Daniel Myrick, Eduardo Sánchez
- Pi (1998) Darren Aronofsky
- Happiness (1998) Todd Solondz
- Gummo (1997) Harmony Korine
- Clerks (1994) Kevin Smith
- Natural Born Killers (1994) Oliver Stone
- Pulp Fiction (1994) Quentin Tarantino
- Do the Right Thing (1989) Spike Lee
- The Thin Blue Line (1988) Errol Morris
- Bad Taste (1987) Peter Jackson
- Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986) John McNaughton
- This Is Spinal Tap (1984) Rob Reiner
- Stranger Than Paradise (1984) Jim Jarmusch
- Eraserhead (1977) David Lynch
- The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) Tobe Hooper
- Pink Flamingos (1972) John Waters
- THX 1138 (1971) George Lucas
A hooker tears through Tinseltown on Christmas Eve searching for the pimp who broke her heart.
Viago, Deacon, and Vladislav are vampires who are struggling with the mundane aspects of modern life, like paying rent, keeping up with the chore wheel, trying to get into nightclubs, and overcoming flatmate conflicts.
A woman on the run from the mob is reluctantly accepted in a small Colorado community in exchange for labor, but when a search visits the town she finds out that their support has a price.
Johnny is a successful bank executive who lives quietly in a San Francisco townhouse with his fiancée, Lisa. One day, putting aside any scruple, she seduces Johnny’s best friend, Mark. From there, nothing will be the same again.
After narrowly escaping a bizarre accident, a troubled teenager is plagued by visions of a man in a large rabbit suit who manipulates him to commit a series of crimes.
A man with short-term memory loss attempts to track down his wife’s murderer.
An African-American Mafia hit man who models himself after the samurai of old finds himself targeted for death by the mob.
A puppeteer discovers a portal that leads literally into the head of movie star John Malkovich.
Three film students vanish after traveling into a Maryland forest to film a documentary on the local Blair Witch legend, leaving only their footage behind.
A paranoid mathematician searches for a key number that will unlock the universal patterns found in nature.
The lives of several individuals intertwine as they go about their lives in their own unique ways, engaging in acts society as a whole might find disturbing in a desperate search for human connection.
Lonely residents of a tornado-stricken Ohio town wander the deserted landscape trying to fulfill their boring, nihilistic lives.
A day in the lives of two convenience clerks named Dante and Randal as they annoy customers, discuss movies, and play hockey on the store roof.
Two victims of traumatized childhoods become lovers and psychopathic serial murderers irresponsibly glorified by the mass media.
The lives of two mob hitmen, a boxer, a gangster and his wife, and a pair of diner bandits intertwine in four tales of violence and redemption.
On the hottest day of the year on a street in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, everyone’s hate and bigotry smolders and builds until it explodes into violence.
A film that successfully argued that a man was wrongly convicted for murder by a corrupt justice system in Dallas County, Texas.
The population of a small town disappears and is replaced by aliens that chase human flesh for their intergalactic fast-food chain.
Arriving in Chicago, Henry moves in with ex-con acquaintance Otis and starts schooling him in the ways of the serial killer.
Spinal Tap, one of England’s loudest bands, is chronicled by film director Marty DiBergi on what proves to be a fateful tour.
A New Yorker’s life is thrown into a tailspin when his younger cousin surprise-visits him, starting a strange, unpredictable adventure.
Henry Spencer tries to survive his industrial environment, his angry girlfriend, and the unbearable screams of his newly born mutant child.
Five friends head out to rural Texas to visit the grave of a grandfather. On the way they stumble across what appears to be a deserted house, only to discover something sinister within. Something armed with a chainsaw.
Notorious Baltimore criminal and underground figure Divine goes up against a sleazy married couple who make a passionate attempt to humiliate her and seize her tabloid-given title as “The Filthiest Person Alive”.
In the 25th century, a time when people have designations instead of names, a man, THX 1138, and a woman, LUH 3417, rebel against their rigidly-controlled society.
Best Independent Movie Directors
- Wes Anderson
- Jim Jarmusch
- Quentin Tarantino
- Darren Aronofsky
- Spike Jonze
Best Independent Movies Films
- THX 1138 (1971) – George Lucas
- Pink Flamingos (1972) – John Waters
- Eraserhead (1977) – David Lynch
- Stranger Than Paradise (1984) – Jim Jarmusch
- Pulp Fiction (1994) – Quentin Tarantino
- Clerks (1994) – Kevin Smith
- Happiness (1998) – Todd Solondz
- Pi (1998) – Darren Aronofsky
- Being John Malkovich (1999) – Spike Jonze
- Dogville (2003) – Lars von Trier