Have another look at our list of 2013's best movies, and pay close attention to the top ten entries. Of that dime's worth of the year's greatest films, seven of them are independent, and, chances are, if you go back and comb through previous years' countdowns the results will be similar.

No surprise there, though. The allure of small, do-it-yourself cinema is easy to comprehend. Whereas major studio movies are made with countless cooks in the figurative kitchen, films made independently are pure, untainted passion projects, directed by limitless artists doing it more for the love than the bottom dollar. Because, of course, no big studio fat-cat would ever give someone like Harmony Korine $25 million to make a summer tentpole version out of the script he wrote for what became Spring Breakers, nor would high-flying Hollywood casting agents cast a mostly unproven actress like Brie Larson to lead an intimate character study like Short Term 12.

That's the beauty of indie film, and with the Sundance Film Festival—the independent world's week-long setter of trends and introducer of future award-winners—beginning next weekend, indies are on every cinephile's mind these days. Meaning, there's no better time than now to put you up on game with a rundown of 35 independent movies you should be excited about this year. Or, its alternate distinction, the first time you'll hear about many of the movies that will make our Best of 2014 list.

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