Best Independent Movies of All Time

List No 2 (3 All)

The Best Independent Movies of All Time

Article 4min to read List 25 Films



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.
Independent Movies

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.

Studio System

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.

  1. Tangerine (2015) Sean Baker
  2. Tangerine 2015 poster

    A hooker tears through Tinseltown on Christmas Eve searching for the pimp who broke her heart.


    Trailer, info

  3. What We Do in the Shadows (2014) Jemaine Clement, Taika Waititi
  4. What We Do in the Shadows 2014 poster

    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.


    Trailer, info

  5. Dogville (2003) Lars von Trier
  6. Dogville 2003 poster

    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.


    Trailer, info

  7. The Room (2003) Tommy Wiseau
  8. The Room 2003 poster

    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.


    Trailer, info

  9. Donnie Darko (2001) Richard Kelly
  10. Donnie Darko 2001 poster

    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.


    Trailer, info

  11. Memento (2000) Christopher Nolan
  12. Memento 2000 poster

    A man with short-term memory loss attempts to track down his wife’s murderer.


    Trailer, info

  13. Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (1999) Jim Jarmusch
  14. Ghost Dog The Way of the Samurai 1999 poster

    An African-American Mafia hit man who models himself after the samurai of old finds himself targeted for death by the mob.


    Trailer, info

  15. Being John Malkovich (1999) Spike Jonze
  16. Being John Malkovich 1999 poster

    A puppeteer discovers a portal that leads literally into the head of movie star John Malkovich.


    Trailer, info

  17. The Blair Witch Project (1999) Daniel Myrick, Eduardo Sánchez
  18. The Blair Witch Project 1999 poster

    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.


    Trailer, info

  19. Pi (1998) Darren Aronofsky
  20. Pi 1998 poster

    A paranoid mathematician searches for a key number that will unlock the universal patterns found in nature.


    Trailer, info

  21. Happiness (1998) Todd Solondz
  22. Happiness 1998 poster

    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.


    Trailer, info

  23. Gummo (1997) Harmony Korine
  24. Gummo 1997 poster

    Lonely residents of a tornado-stricken Ohio town wander the deserted landscape trying to fulfill their boring, nihilistic lives.


    Trailer, info

  25. Clerks (1994) Kevin Smith
  26. Clerks 1994 poster

    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.


    Trailer, info

  27. Natural Born Killers (1994) Oliver Stone
  28. Natural Born Killers 1994 poster

    Two victims of traumatized childhoods become lovers and psychopathic serial murderers irresponsibly glorified by the mass media.


    Trailer, info

  29. Pulp Fiction (1994) Quentin Tarantino
  30. Pulp Fiction 1994 poster

    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.


    Trailer, info

  31. Do the Right Thing (1989) Spike Lee
  32. Do the Right Thing 1989 poster

    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.


    Trailer, info

  33. The Thin Blue Line (1988) Errol Morris
  34. The Thin Blue Line 1988 poster

    A film that successfully argued that a man was wrongly convicted for murder by a corrupt justice system in Dallas County, Texas.


    Trailer, info

  35. Bad Taste (1987) Peter Jackson
  36. Bad Taste 1987 poster

    The population of a small town disappears and is replaced by aliens that chase human flesh for their intergalactic fast-food chain.


    Trailer, info

  37. Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986) John McNaughton
  38. Henry Portrait of a Serial Killer 1986 poster

    Arriving in Chicago, Henry moves in with ex-con acquaintance Otis and starts schooling him in the ways of the serial killer.


    Trailer, info

  39. This Is Spinal Tap (1984) Rob Reiner
  40. This Is Spinal Tap 1984 poster

    Spinal Tap, one of England’s loudest bands, is chronicled by film director Marty DiBergi on what proves to be a fateful tour.


    Trailer, info

  41. Stranger Than Paradise (1984) Jim Jarmusch
  42. Stranger Than Paradise 1984 poster

    A New Yorker’s life is thrown into a tailspin when his younger cousin surprise-visits him, starting a strange, unpredictable adventure.


    Trailer, info

  43. Eraserhead (1977) David Lynch
  44. Eraserhead 1977 poster

    Henry Spencer tries to survive his industrial environment, his angry girlfriend, and the unbearable screams of his newly born mutant child.


    Trailer, info

  45. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) Tobe Hooper
  46. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre 1974 poster

    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.


    Trailer, info

  47. Pink Flamingos (1972) John Waters
  48. Pink Flamingos 1972 poster

    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”.


    Trailer, info

  49. THX 1138 (1971) George Lucas
  50. THX 1138 1971 poster

    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.


    Trailer, info

Best Independent Movie Directors

  • Wes Anderson
  • Jim Jarmusch
  • Quentin Tarantino
  • Darren Aronofsky
  • Spike Jonze

Best Independent Movies Films

References and Further Reading