The Best Indie Movies on Netflix Right Now

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While everyone loves a good blockbuster from time to time, there’s something about a great independent film that strikes a particular chord. Indie movies can feel like hidden gems when you discover them, as they rarely get the kind of distribution or marketing that turns major studio movies into box office hits. And you can often feel the blood, sweat, and tears that went into making an indie movie, as the filmmakers involved put everything on the line for the sake of their art.

So since Netflix contains a multitude of viewing options, we figured it’d be appropriate to go through and pull out the very best independent films currently available on the streaming service. So below, peruse through our list of the best indie movies on Netflix right now.


For additional recommendations, check out our lists of the best dramas on Netflix, best comedies on Netflix, and best documentaries on Netflix.

The Squid and the Whale

The Squid and the Whale Cast
Image via Samuel Goldwyn Films

Director/Writer: Noah Baumbach

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

The film that really solidified Noah Baumbach as an indie filmmaker to watch was his semi-autobiographical 2005 film The Squid and the Whale. Set in 1986, it tells the story of two young boys struggling through their parents’ divorce, with Jesse Eisenberg playing a stand-in for Baumbach himself. The filmmaker’s dry wit is on full display here, as well as his knack for melancholy. It’s a textured, emotionally raw film that really epitomizes the “indie drama” if that’s what you’re in the mood for. – Adam Chitwood

The One I Love

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Image via Radius-TWC

Director: Charlie McDowell

Writer: Justin Lader

Cast: Mark Duplass, Elisabeth Moss, and Ted Danson

If you like your indie movies with a dose of twisty sci-fi, you may enjoy The One I Love. The 2014 film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and follows a married couple who have likely reached the end of their rope, played by Mark Duplass and Elisabeth Moss. The less you know about this story going in the better, but the basic setup is that the couple is sent by their therapist to a secluded retreat where they’re confronted by an unexplained phenomenon that may or may not just save their marriage. It’s a darkly funny, twist-filled, sci-fi relationship drama and Duplass and Moss are both excellent. – Adam Chitwood

Fruitvale Station

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Image via The Weinstein Company

Director/Writer: Ryan Coogler

Cast: Michael B. Jordan, Melonie Diaz, Kevin Durand, Chad Michael Murray, Ahna O’Reilly, and Octavia Spencer

Before they teamed up on Creed or Black Panther, filmmaker Ryan Coogler and actor Michael B. Jordan took the Sundance Film Festival by storm with their gut-wrenching 2013 drama Fruitvale Station. The film tells the true story ofOscar Grant III, a 22-year-old from Hayward, California who was wrongfully shot and killed in 2009 by a BART police officer. As crafted by Coogler, the film chronicles the last day of Oscar’s life, and as it builds to its inevitable conclusion you’ll be racked with emotion, anger, and frustration at how far we still have to go. It’s a stunning debut by Coogler and also put Jordan on Hollywood’s radar in a big way. – Adam Chitwood

A Ghost Story

Photo by Bret Curry, courtesy of A24

Director/Writer: David Lowery

Cast: Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara

Right off the bat I’ll say that A Ghost Story is not for everyone, but if you’re into the idea of an indie about the existentialism of life as told via ghost story, this might be for you. This 2017 drama finds Casey Affleck playing a man who dies but then comes back to haunt his wife (Rooney Mara) and her house. There are no big special effects, it’s simply Affleck wearing a white sheet and moping around. But the construction of the film, and the incredible score, drive home the largess of existence and the sorrow of loss. This one’s certainly unique. – Adam Chitwood

Wildlife

Carey Mulligan Wildlife
Image via IFC Films

Director: Paul Dano

Writers: Paul Dano and Zoe Kazan

Cast: Carey Mulligan, Jake Gyllenhaal, Ed Oxenbould, and Bill Camp

The 2018 directorial debut of actor Paul Dano is a handsomely crafted and emotionally overwhelming chronicle of a marriage falling apart, all seen through the eyes of the couple’s young boy. Based on the book of the same name by Richard Ford, Wildlife takes place in 1960 and follows a couple (Carey Mulligan and Jake Gyllenhaal) and their teenage son as they move to Montana. Shortly after arriving, the father loses his job and is forced to take the only work he can – going off and fighting wildfires, leaving his wife and son behind to fend for themselves. Mulligan gives a quietly devastating performance as a single mother doing her best, and Gyllenhaal brings a seething intensity to the role of a man trying to hide his shame. Dano directs the whole thing with the care and confidence of a veteran auteur (his handle on shot composition is truly stunning), and the screenplay by Dano and Kazan is assured and poetic. This is a deeply emotional and mature family drama that proves Dano is the real-deal behind the camera, and it’s also lowkey one of the best films of the last few years. – Adam Chitwood

The Florida Project

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Image via A24

Director: Sean Baker

Writers: Sean Baker and Chris Bergoch

Cast: Brooklynn Prince, Bria Vinaite, Willem Dafoe, and Caleb Landry Jones

The Florida Project is brilliant and human and it will absolutely break your heart. The film follows a six-year-old girl named Moonee (Brooklynn Prince) who lives in a motel in Kissimmee, Florida, just around the corner from DisneyWorld. In Moonee’s eyes, her days are filled with adventure as she makes the best out of living week-to-week in a motel with her single mother. But through the eyes of Bobby (Willem Dafoe), the motel’s manager, we see the abject poverty surrounding its tenants, and the loops they continue getting stuck in without any promise of upward mobility. Like Boyhood this story feels at once individualistic and universal, and Sean Baker’s docudrama-like filmmaking makes the events feel all too real. This is an essential watch. – Adam Chitwood

Chef

Image via Open Road Films

Director/Writer: Jon Favreau

Cast: Jon Favreau, John Leguizamo, Scarlett Johansson, Oliver Platt, Bobby Cannavale, Sofia Vergara, Amy Sedaris, and Robert Downey Jr.

After Jon Favreau kicked off the MCU with Iron Man but before he revolutionized Star Wars on the small screen with The Mandalorian, he made the most personal film of his career: 2014’s Chef. Favreau wrote, directed, and stars in this comedy/drama about a chef who loses his job at an esteemed Los Angeles restaurant after getting into a fight with a food critic. He decides to go back to his roots and cook different food, buying a food truck that he operates with his young son. The film is very clearly inspired by Favreau’s experience with the critical derision of Iron Man 2 and Cowboys and Aliens, but even beyond the autobiographical nature it’s just a really sweet and warm film about family, friends, and finding (or rediscovering) passion in what you do. – Adam Chitwood

Free Fire

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Image via A24

Director: Ben Wheatley

Writers: Amy Jump and Ben Wheatley

Cast: Armie Hammer, Sharlto Copley, Brie Larson, Cillian Murphy, Jack Reynor, Sam Riley, and Noah Taylor

What if an entire movie took place during a Mexican Standoff? That’s essentially the premise of Ben Wheatley’s Free Fire, which is a violent, R-rated good time. Set in the 1970s, the film begins with a meet-up between IRA members and an arms dealer, but complications ensue, backs are stabbed, and weapons are unloaded. There’s an undercurrent of dark humor to the entire proceeding that makes the film far more fun than you may be expecting, and performers like Armie Hammer and Brie Larson are more than up to the challenge of letting their comedic sensibilities shine. If you’re looking for an action movie that’s a little offbeat, a little different, give this one a shot. – Adam Chitwood

Freaks

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Image via Well Go USA

Writers/Directors: Zach Lipovsky, Adam B. Stein

Cast: Emile Hirsch, Bruce Dern, Grace Park, Amanda Crew, Lexy Kolker

I’m going to save one of the major things that wows me about Zach Lipovsky and Adam B. Stein’s Freaks for the very end of this blurb because I would suggest jumping into this story knowing as little as possible. But, do know that this is one of the best character-driven sci-fi thrillers of 2019. The movie features a show stopping performance from Lexy Kolker as seven-year-old Chloe. She’s spent her entire life completely isolated from the world inside her home with her father, Henry (Emile Hirsch). He’s always told her that the outside world is a dangerous place, but the older Chloe gets, the more tempted she becomes to venture out – and then she finally does. Okay, are you ready for that semi-spoilery detail to further emphasize how wildly impressive this film is? Here it goes; I love a good big budget superhero film as much as anyone, but if you’re looking to see what can be accomplished with a limited budget in the genre, Freaks is an absolute must see. It’s one of those movies that’ll have you leaning in more and more with its early curiosities before absolutely exploding with creativity as Chloe discovers more and more about her reality. – Perri Nemiroff

Nightcrawler

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Image via Open Road Films

Director/Writer: Dan Gilroy

Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Riz Ahmed, Rene Russo, and Bill Paxton

An utterly dark yet compelling thriller in the vein of Taxi Driver, the 2014 film Nightcrawler features one of Jake Gyllenhaal’s best performances ever. He plays an odd and hungrily ambitious freelance photographer named Lou who goes to grotesque lengths to capture exclusive footage of grisly crime scenes in Los Angeles. Riz Ahmed is heartbreaking as Lou’s assistant and Rene Russo gives an Oscar-worthy performance as the morning news director at a local station. If you’re into dark thrillers with standout performances, give this one a watch. – Adam Chitwood

Hostiles

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Image via Lorey Sebastian, Le Grisbi Productions/Waypoint Entertainment

Director/Writer: Scott Cooper

Cast: Christian Bale, Rosamund Pike, Wes Studi, Jesse Plemons, Adam Beach, Rory Cochrane, Ben Foster, and Timothee Chalamet

Filmmaker Scott Cooper is known for making incredibly bleak and severe movies, but Hostiles may just be his darkest film yet. The director behind Crazy Heart and Out of the Furnace tries his hand at the Western genre with Hostiles, which tells the story of a U.S. Captain (Christian Bale) in 1892 who is tasked with one last act before retirement: escort a dying Cheyenne war chief (Wes Studi)—who is being held in prison—to his tribal land in Montana, under directive from President Harrison. He is joined in his journey by a widow (Rosamund Pike) who lost her family to violent Native American attackers and fellow soldiers, all of whom have nothing but disdain for their prisoner and his family members. It’s a severe, meditative Western about violence, prejudice, and forgiveness in which Bale gives an unsurprisingly great performance. – Adam Chitwood

Roma

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Image via Netflix

Director/Writer: Alfonso Cuarón

Cast: Yalitza Aparicio, Marina de Tavira, Fernando Grediaga, Jorge Antonio Guerrero, and Marco Graf

While Roma is billed as a Netflix original film and is a major Oscar contender, the film was actually written, prepped, and shot as an independent movie. It wasn’t until all the footage was captured that Netflix agreed to distribute the movie on its streaming service and in theaters, and so Alfonso Cuaron’s masterpiece is indeed a tried and true indie. The film recreates Cuaron’s childhood through the eyes of a live-in domestic worker named Cleo, following a middle class family in 1970s Mexico as the parents divorce and the family unit threatens to crumble. It’s a heartbreaking and yet almost otherworldly piece of cinema that’s sure to pull at the heart strings. – Adam Chitwood

Swiss Army Man

 

Swiss Army Man Daniel Radcliffe Paul Dano
Image via A24

Directors/Writers: Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan

Cast: Paul Dano, Daniel Radcliffe, and Mary Elizabeth Winstead

Swiss Army Man is undoubtedly one of the weirdest movies you’ll ever see, but there’s a charm to it that’s positively unmistakable. Paul Dano stars as a man marooned on an island who is just about to hang himself when he notices a body (Daniel Radcliffe) wash up on shore. When he approaches the body, it begins farting uncontrollably, the force of which propels it forward. Dano’s character then rides the body through the waves, using the farts as a motor to propel himself off this island once and for all. This is the opening scene of the movie. And yet an endearing relationship blossoms between Dano and Radcliffe as the body begins to awaken, and Dano’s character teaches it how to be human. Backed by a killer soundtrack and brought to life with impressive (and ambitious) visuals, Swiss Army Movie is guaranteed to be a viewing experience you’ll never forget. – Adam Chitwood

Newness

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Image via Sundance

Director: Drake Doremus

Writer: Ben York Jones

Cast: Nicholas Hoult, Laia Costa, Courtney Eaton, Jessica Henwick, and Matthew Grey Gubler

Newness is a movie made for the Netflix and Chill era, as it takes a microscope to the world of online dating and casual hookups. Nicholas Hoult and Laia Costa play a pair of twentysomethings who meet in New York City on a dating app, and soon thereafter begin a somewhat open relationship. The ups and downs and all that entails care chronicled in intimate detail by Like Crazy filmmaker Drake Doremus, and while this is very much a 21st Century Love Story at heart, it’s quite, uh, steamy getting there. – Adam Chitwood

The Invitation

Image via Drafthouse Films

Director: Karyn Kusama

Writers: Phil Hay, Matt Manfredi

Cast: Logan Marshall-Green, Tammy Blanchard, Michiel Huisman, and John Carroll Lynch

If you’re in the mood for a horror movie that will really mess you up, but not in a super graphic way, then The Invitation is the film for you. The story begins simple enough: a man (Logan Marshall-Green) brings his girlfriend to a dinner party arranged by his ex-wife, which reunites a group of old friends. But soon things turn a bit… strange when the host (Tammy Blanchard) begins espousing about a group she and her new beau (Haunting of Hill House’s Michiel Huisman) have joined. This is a contained horror film that plays heavily on psychological and emotional trauma as opposed to jump scares for blood spurts, and it’s all the better for it. Director Karyn Kusama (Jennifer’s Body) shows a masterful handle on tone and tension, and the story will keep you guessing right up until the jaw-dropping final shot. – Adam Chitwood

Hunt for the Wilderpeople

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Image via The Orchard

Director/Writer: Taika Waititi

Cast: Sam Neill, Julian Dennison, Rhys Darby, Rima Te Wiata, and Rachel House

Before Taika Waititi made one of the best MCU movies to date, and before he won an Oscar for Jojo Rabbit, he made a delightful New Zealand adventure movie in which a grumpy Sam Neill is forced to team up with a foul-mouthed child when the two are the target of a manhunt throughout the New Zealand bush. It’s based on an existing book, but in tone and execution Hunt for the Wilderpeople oftentimes feels like an adaptation of a Roald Dahl book we never knew about. It’s delightful and whimsical and a little terrifying, with Waititi’s playful anarchy filling the whole thing out for good measure. This movie is guaranteed to put you in a good mood. – Adam Chitwood

john-boyega-robert-de-niro-the-formula-social
John Boyega, Robert De Niro to Star in Netflix Heist Movie ‘The Formula’

Gerard McMurray will write, direct and produce the movie, which follows a Formula One racer turned getaway driver.


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