A “Few” Favourite Indie Films

Independent‘ simply refers to any film made outside a major Hollywood studio and may be either low-budget or big-budget. These films tend to have more substance and emotion than your regular every day blockbuster. For example, did you know that The English Patient was a big-budget independent film? Now you do. You’re welcome.

Here are some my favourites. The list is not written in any particular order (but Half Nelson is my #1). I had initially started a MASSIVE list, but later realized that that was becoming more of a list of every indie film I’ve seen as opposed to my favourites. I tried to include a good mix of films, featuring some more popular ones as well as some relatively unknown ones. If you haven’t seen them before, I highly suggest you try to! Also, if you have any great suggestions, feel free to comment 🙂 THANK YOU!

As for the films I removed from the aforementioned massive list, I will try to simply write reviews on them on post them under the “Spotlight On…Independent Cinema” category.

Brick (2005)

Director: Rian Johnson

Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Meagan Goode, Lucas Haas, Nora Zehetner

A provocative and magnetic detective mystery. The language is raw, quick and original. Levitt is unbeatable and mesmerizing (as usual).

Candy (2006)

Director: Neil Armfield

Cast: Abbie Cornish, Heath Ledger

One of Ledger’s best performances, alongside Brokeback Mountain and Dark Knight. The story follows the lives of two lovers who become crack addicts that try to break the habit. Over and over again.

Brokeback Mountain (2005)

Director: Ang Lee

Cast: Anne Hathaway, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Williams, Heath Ledger

Truly beautiful. Superb performances by all. Wonderful directing.

Thirteen (2003)

Director: Catherine Harwicke

Cast: Holly Hunter, Nikki Reed, Evan Rachel Wood, Jeremy Sisto, Brady Corbet

Raw. Pain. Anger. Jealousy. Curiosity. Friendship. Drugs. Betrayal. Thirteen.

(500) Days of Summer (2009)

Director: Marc Webb

Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Zoe Deschanel, Chloe Moretz

I met somebody who told me they didn’t like this. I still think something is wrong with that person.

Half Nelson (2006)

Director: Ryan Fleck

Cast: Ryan Gosling, Shareeka Epps, Anthony Mackie

Four years later, and it’s still my favourite. Oh yeah and introducing! Shareeka Epps and Anthony Mackie. I knew we would see more of them in the years to come. You can see Mackie in The Hurt Locker and Epps in Mother and Child. Mackie got much praise for his performance in Locker despite lacking recognition from the Academy. You can see him next in The Adjustment Bureau with Matt Damon. So, he is most certainly on his way to becoming part of that elite group of black male actors in Hollywood. What a tiny group that is! Whatever happened to Cuba Gooding Jr. I ask you? Epps will next be seen along with Zoë Kravitz in Yelling to the Sky.

Garden State (2004)

Director: Zach Braff

Cast: Zach Braff, Natalie Portman, Peter Sarsgaard

Zach Braff makes a good film. Yes, he does.

District 9 (2009)

Director: Neil Blomkamp

Cast: Sharlto Copley

I cannot wait for Blomkamp to make his next film. I said it before and I will say it again, Blomkamp brings something fresh and original back to the film industry.

Let The Right One In (2008)

Director: Tomas Alfredson

Cast: Kare Hedenbrat, Lina Leandersson, Peter Ragnar

Creepy vampire love that far surpasses that of Twilight. More depth, substance and heart.

Juno (2007)

Director: Jason Reitman

Cast: Ellen Page, Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman, Michael Cera, Allison Janney, J.K. Simmons

“That ain’t no etch-a-sketch. This is one doodle that can’t be undid”

The Messenger (2009)

Director: Oren Moverman

Cast: Woody Harrelson, Ben Foster, Jena Malone

Superb and tugs at your heart strings.

Blue Valentine (2010)

Director: Derek Cianfrance

Cast: Ryan Gosling, Michelle Williams, Mike Vogel

One of those films that feature the whole cross-cutting between time periods thing. Don’t laugh, but I actually haven’t even seen this yet. Yet, my nifty intuition thing with movies tells me it’s amazing. I cannot wait.

The Hole (2001)

Director: Nick Hamm

Cast: Keira Knightley, Thora Birch, Desmond Harrington

Creepy psychological thriller about horny, rich private school kids that get “trapped” in a bunker during a school break. Series of unfortunate, chilling events ensue.

Requiem for a Dream (2000)

Director: Darren Aronofsky

Cast: Jared Leto, Ellen Burstyn, Jennifer Connelly, Marlon Wayans

Drug addictions cause different people’s ambitions to fall apart. Fantastic score and cinematography.

A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints (2005)

Director: Dito Montiel

Cast: Shia LaBeouf, Channing Tatum, Robert Downey Jr., Rosario Dawson, Melonie Diaz, Adam Scarimbolo, Dianne Wiest

Seriously. So good.

The Chumscrubber (2005)

Director: Arie Posin

Cast: Jamie Bell, Rory Culkin, Justin Chatwin, Glenn Close, Camilla Belle, Ralph Fiennes

Suburbia is never as well put together and peaceful as it seems.

Funny Games (2007)


Director: Michael Haneke

Cast: Michael Pitt, Tim Roth, Naomi Watts, Brady Corbet

A remake of the 1997 version by same name and director. Actually some sort of psychology experiment by Haneke. Disturbing, to say the least. Mindf*ck.

Ghost World (2001)

Director: Terry Zwigoff

Cast: Thora Birch, Scarlett Johansson, Steve Buscemi, Brad Renfro

Thora Birch: Queen of Indie. Or at least, she used to be.

Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)

Director: Guillermo del Toro

Cast: Ivana Baquero, Sergi Lopez, Doug Jones

Beautiful and fantastical world.

The Orphanage (2007)

Juan Antonio Bayona

Belen Rueda, Fernando Cayo, Oscar Casas, Roger Princep

LOVE this. Beautiful, slightly off-kilter, almost fantastical  film (see above for Pan’s Labyrinth)

Mean Creek (2004)

Director: Jacob Aaron Estes

Cast: Trevor Morgan, Josh Peck, Rory Culkin, Scott Mechlowicz, Carly Schroeder

Oh how some accidents get worse.

Y Tu Mamá También (2001)

Director: Alfonso Cuarón

Cast: Gael García Bernal, Diego Luna

Best friends. Road trips. Lust.

Bad Education (2004)

Director: Pedro Almodóvar

Cast: Gael García Bernal, Fele Martínez

The human mind can truly be a horrific place.

The Basketball Diaries (1995)

Director: Scott Kalvert

Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Walhberg

How will you rise after you’ve fallen into ashes? The beginnings of the greatness that is diCaprio.

The Motorcycle Diaries (2004)

Director: Walter Salles

Cast: Gael García Bernal, Rodrigo De La Serna

The ultimate road movie.

Shattered Glass (2003)

Director: Billy Ray

Cast: Peter Sarsgaard, Chloë Sevigny, Hayden Christensen, Hank Azaria

Compulusive liar? Creationist? Who knows!

Bobby (2006)

Director: Emilio Estevez

Cast: Shia LaBeouf, William H. Macy, Anthony Hopkins, Heather Graham, Joshua Jackson, Demi Moore, Christian Slater, Joy Bryant, Nick Cannon

I feel like 2004-2006 was the era of ensemble films. For me, that’s when they begun. That’s as far as I can remember. But I’m pretty sure I saw Bobby before I saw Crash, and I found it to be creative, compelling, and enjoyable.

Life As A House (2001)

Director: Irwin Winkler

Cast: Jena Malone, Kristin Scott Thomas, Hayden Christensen

Great cast, great acting, heartfelt story.

New York, I Love You (2009)

Directors: Natalie Portman,  Shekhar Kapur, Wen Jiang, Mira Nair etc

Cast: Ensemble cast including Bradley Cooper, Shia LaBeouf, Natalie Portman, Olivia Thirlby and Anton Yelchin

I admit, I only wanted to see this because of LaBeouf. That was before I realized it had a predecessor- Paris, Je T’Aime, and actually featured some good actors and interesting individual segments.

An Education (2009)

Director: Lone Scherfig

Cast: Carey Mulligan, Peter Sarsgaard, Alfred Molina, Dominic Cooper

This movie in particular was superbly refreshing. It was so because of Carey Mulligan. It was great to sit down and finally watch a performance that made me feel exactly what the actress was feeling. She was unbeatable in this film. Peter Sarsgaard, a personal favourite, delivered a substantial and convincing performance.

Into the Wild (2007)

Director: Sean Pean

Cast: Emilie Hirsch, Jena Malone, Kristen Stewart, Catherine Keener, Marcia Gay Haden, William Hurt

All I have to say is, EMILE HIRSCH!

The Squid and the Whale (2005)

Director: Noah Baumbach

Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Jeff Daniels, Anna Paquin, Laura Linney

“Behold Jesse Eisenberg” said the film Gods.

Manic (2001)

Director: Jordan Melamed

Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Don Cheadle, Zooey Deschanel

Joseph Gordon-Levitt becomes king of the independent in this film about mentally distraught teens at a therapy centre.

The Hurt Locker (2008)

Director: Kathryn Bigelow

Cast: Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie

I don’t mean to brag, but while everyone was rooting “Avatar!”, I stood alone backing “The Hurt Locker“. Sorry, who won best director and best film again? That’s right. Also while most are under the impression it was released only last year (summer 2009), I knew it had a previous release in 2008.

The United States of Leland (2003)

Director: Neil Jordan

Cast: Ryan Gosling, Don Cheadle, Chris Klein, Jena Malone, Michelle Williams

What can I say? Gosling’s got IT.

Chungking Express (1994)

Director: Kar Wai Wong

Cast: Brigitte Lin, Takeshi Kaneshiro

Behold one of Quentin Tarantino’s greatest inspirations 🙂

Memento (2000)

Director: Christopher Nolan

Cast: Guy Pearce, Carrie-Ann Moss

This brought us Chris Nolan. ‘Nuff said!

Taxi Driver (1976)

Director: Martin Sorcese

Cast: Robert DeNiro, Jodie Foster

The epitome of the anti-hero brought to film.

Pulp Fiction (1994)

Director: Quentin Tarantino

Cast: Samuel L. Jackson, John Travolta, Uma Thurman, Bruce Willis

I’m obsessed with Tarantino. My laptop is named after him. I mean, Tarantino taught himself you know. And he is amazing. You watch a Tarantino film and you remember what real filmmaking is about. You fall in love with movies again. I would love to hear his thoughts on 3-D actually…

The Usual Suspects (1995)

Director: Bryan Singer

Cast: Kevin Spacey, Chazz Palminteri, Benico Del Toro

The beauty of this film, is Spacey’s character. Okay, I could be wrong about this, but you know ‘Dewey’ from Scary Movie right? You know how the camera follows his feet in the end and it is revealed that he actually planned the whole thing? Yeah, that’s from Suspects.

A Single Man (2009)

Director: Tom Ford

Cast: Colin Firth, Julianne Moore

A.M.A.Z.I.N.G. You can respect Tom Ford as a director.

Do The Right Thing (1989)

Director: Spike Lee

Cast: Martin Lawrence, John Torturro

Racial tension told through the visual genius that is Spike Lee. Must See.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

Director: Michel Gondry

Cast: Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, Elijah Wood, Kirsten Dunst

Man, I just thoroughly enjoyed this. I like Carrey and I like Winslet and I think they are both talented so here it is!

Little Miss Sunshine (2006)

Directors: Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris

Cast: Abigail Breslin, Paul Dano, Greg Kinnear, Alan Arkin

Okay, I actually hesitated to put this on my list because it’s so popular, BUT I cannot deny it’s greatness. Especially when Paul Dano finds out he is colourblind. Bummer.

Teeth (2007)

Director: Mitchell Litchenstein

Cast: Jess Weixler

This movie will make little boys think twice before having sex. Very provocative topic which makes it intriguing. She has teeth alright, but not where you would expect…

*Ones I have yet to see, but have heard great things about:

1. Amores Perros

2. My Own Private Idaho

3. Seven Samurai


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