The Best Independent Movies on Netflix Right Now

From the A24 hidden gem 'Woodshock' to indie comedy 'Friends with Money' starring Jennifer Aniston, these are the best indie movies on Netflix right now.


Image via A24


When you’ve caught up on all of the blockbusters and award-winning TV, scared the heck out of yourself with all of the horror movies, and laughed yourself nearly to death with every comedy on Netflix, where do you turn? The answer is simple: the indie films selection.

Though the streaming platform is best known for its wide variety of TV selections, Netflix Originals, Oscar winners and, as previously mentioned, blockbusters, Netflix's indie section is also popping. The best part about the indie genre is that is includes so many different types of movies, in a different fashion than your typical Hollywood flick: you can have indie comedy, thriller, sci-fi, horror, drama, and romance movies.

Lately, indie films are getting more and more Oscar buzz, of course most recently with Barry Jenkins' queer coming-of-age drama Moonlight, which won Best Picture in 2017. These often low-budget films are just as high quality as a fully Hollywood picture, especially when it comes to storytelling and performances. So if you're looking to broaden your cinema horizons, look no further than the most popular streaming service. These are the best indie movies on Netflix.

Woodshock (2017)


Director: Kate Mulleavy, Laura Mulleavy

Cast: Kirsten Dunst, Pilou Asbæk, Joe Cole, Jack Kilmer

Genre: Drama

Rating: R

Runtime: 1h 41m

Rotten Tomatoes: 26% (Critics) 24% (Audience)

Transitioning from fashion designer to movie director is an unusual but fruitful career move, especially when taking Tom Ford’s brilliant 2009 debut A Single Man into consideration. 2017 saw sisters Kate and Laura Mulleavy, founders of the fashion label Rodarte, take a similar plunge, writing and directing the evocative and impressive Woodshock. Released by A24, Woodshock follows Theresa (Kirsten Dunst), as she’s torn between depression resulting from a profound loss and the surreal effects of a potent drug. While its experimental stylings may not be for everyone, its stunning visuals and impressive performance from Dunst are enough to overcome any narrative shortcomings, with it essentially being one of the more high profile experimental films to be released by a major distributor in recent years. The Mulleavys have an interesting eye for composition and color, and use it to their advantage, portraying a women’s descent into depression in a uniquely purposeful way. Woodshock is an expressive, curious cinematic trip.

Monsoon (2019)

Monsoon (2019)

Director: Hong Khaou

Cast: Henry Golding, Parker Sawyers, David Tran, Molly Harris

Genre: Drama

Rating: TV-MA

Runtime: 1h 25m

Rotten Tomatoes: 87% (Critics) 43% (Audience)

In only his third role, the up and coming Henry Golding went from the glitzy Hollywood productions Crazy Rich Asians and A Simple Favor to a sensitive indie drama. Monsoon follows Kit (Golding), a young British man who returns to his home country of Vietnam after escaping as a refugee as a child, and reconnects with his memories of his parents and falls for Lewis (Parker Sawyers), an American whose father fought in the war. Henry Golding proved he could be a good Hollywood heartthrob in his earlier films, but this film proves he has serious acting chops with his sensitive, romantic performance. The direction from Hong Khau helps bring out the beauty in both the performances and Vietnam, which contrasts with Kit’s own difficult memories. Both the film and the viewer find the complicated beauty in re-discovering your heritage in the wake of familial tragedy, while also opening up yourself to another person. Sensitively told and subtly romantic, Monsoon is an underseen gem.

Wind River (2017)

wind river

Director: Taylor Sheridan

Cast: Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen, Gil Birmingham, Jon Bernthal

Genre: Thriller, Drama

Rating: R

Runtime: 1h 51m

Rotten Tomatoes: 87% (Critics) 90% (Audience)

Writer and director Taylor Sheridan followed up his Oscar nominated Hell or High Water with 2017’s similarly darkly themed Wind River. The crime thriller centers on a U.S. Fish and Wildlife service agent (Jeremy Renner) and an FBI agent (Elizabeth Olsen) as they investigate a murder on the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming. Similar in tone to his other films, Wind River is a dark, gritty exploration into real world issues, in this case the ongoing Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women human rights crisis. The film explores the deleterious effect of masculinity on men as they give into violence and abuse, and the grief felt by everyone involved in the aftermath. Sheridan’s brand of pulpy violence (best seen in Sicario) is present here as well, with a third act shootout that will leave you on the edge of your seat. Propulsively violent and thoughtful, Wind River is some of Taylor Sheridan’s most impressive work yet.

Destination Wedding (2018)

Destination Wedding (2018)

Director: Victor Levin

Cast: Keanu Reeves, Winona Ryder

Genre: Romance, Comedy

Rating: R

Runtime: 1h 26m

Rotten Tomatoes: 51% (Critics) 58% (Audience)

Keanu Reeves is one of the most interesting A-lister actors we have, and Destination Wedding is further proof of that. The romantic comedy drama centers on Frank (Reeves) and Lindsay (Winona Ryder), two emotionally stunted people, as they meet on the way to a destination wedding and find themselves bonding over the course of the weekend, despite initial repulsion to one another. The film is essentially a two-hander, with Keanu and Winona Ryder the only meaningful characters, and the entirety of it is essentially just them arguing with each other, but trust us: it works. Not many people will be into the concept of “Before Sunrise if they both acted like Larry David” but those who will, will get a kick out of this movie that works thanks to the considerable charms of both Reeves and Ryder. Destination Wedding is the perfect anti-rom com for all of the cynics out there.

Friends With Money (2006)

Friends with Money

Director: Nicole Holofcener

Cast: Jennifer Aniston, Joan Cusack, Catherine Keener, Frances McDormand

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Rating: R

Runtime: 1h 28m

Rotten Tomatoes: 72% (Critics) 40% (Audience)

Independent filmmaker Nicole Holofcener hit the mainstream in 2006 after two minor indie hits with Friends With Money, her most star-studded feature to date at that time. The comedy drama follows Olivia (Jennifer Aniston), a consistently broke woman, who quits her job out of frustration and finds herself re-evaluating her future and her relationships with her wealthy friends (Joan Cusack, Catherine Keener, Frances McDormand). Featuring an all-star cast of female actors (including Aniston fresh off the end of Friends), the film features some of the most nuanced performances of their careers thanks to Holofcener’s sensitive direction. Her career entirely consists of films that have complex women characters and are usually careful explorations of their everyday lives, and Friends with Money is no different. Another great movie in the underrated Nicole Holofcener’s filmography, Friends With Money is a quiet delight.

Raising Victor Vargas (2002)

Raising Victor Vargas

Director: Peter Sollett

Cast: Victor Rasuk, Judy Marte, Melonie Diaz, Altagracia Guzman

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Rating: R

Runtime: 1h 28m

Rotten Tomatoes: 96% (Critics) 83% (Audience)

Adapted from his autobiographical short film Five Feet High and Rising, Raising Victor Vargas is the directorial debut of Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist director Peter Sollett. The comedy drama centers on Victor (Victor Rasuk) as he lives on the Lower East Side with his eccentric family and attempts to win the affection of Judy (Judy Marte). The film is based on Sollett’s own childhood, specifically the people he wished he could be more like, so the film feels very lived in. It also feels all too realistic, with the film shot in actual cramped apartments on the Lower East Side. The cast of actors, all non-professional, are great as well, especially Altagracia Guzman as Victor’s grandmother, in the role that’s the heart and soul of the film. Authentically great, Raising Victor Vargas proved how strong independent film was at the start of the millennium. 

The Beguiled (2017)

The Beguiled

Director: Sofia Coppola

Cast: Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst, Elle Fanning

Genre: Drama

Rating: R

Runtime: 1h 34m

Rotten Tomatoes: 79% (Critics) 48% (Audience)

After dipping into the period piece genre with Marie Antoinette in 2006, Sofia Coppola returned to the genre with 2017’s chamber drama The Beguiled. Based on the 1966 novel of the same name (that was originally adapted for film in 1971), The Beguiled centers on a Southern girls’ boarding school during the Civil War, as they take in a wounded soldier (Colin Farrell) and sexual tension and dangerous rivalries set in among the women. Coppola reunites with Kirsten Dunst here, and together with Nicole Kidman and Elle Fanning puts together an impressive central cast. Like the original book and film, the Southern gothic feel is present in Coppola’s adaptation and is even more textured as she digs deep into the repression and passion within the women as they encounter such a brute, masculine presence. Coppola’s usual dreamlike direction makes the longing of the characters even more explicit, with the feeling that their fantasies could come true at any moment. Yet another gem from Sofia Coppola, The Beguiled is a thoughtful and dark delight.

Tangerine (2015)


Director: Sean Baker

Cast: Kitana Kiki Rodriguez, Mya Taylor, James Ransone, Karren Karagulian

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Rating: R

Runtime: 1h 27m

Rotten Tomatoes: 96% (Critics) 76% (Audience)

Sean Baker has a lengthy filmography but only really burst into the mainstream with 2015’s Tangerine. The comedy drama follows the lives of sex workers Sin-Dee (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez) and Alexandra (Mya Taylor) over Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, as they deal with cheating boyfriends, make ends meet, and encounter a rough patch in their friendship. The result is an equally funny and sad romp through Los Angeles that’s shot remarkably well for being shot on an iPhone. Mya Taylor and Kitana Kiki Rodriguez give incredible performances in the main roles, and became the first transgender actresses to have a producer-backed ad campaign for an Oscar nomination. The film showcases what Baker does best: he captures communities otherwise ignored by society at large and portrays them in nuanced light. There are no easy answers to be found in this movie, but there is plenty of insight into what it feels like to be these specific people. A remarkable movie that has come to define director Sean Baker’s career, Tangerine is a triumph.

Sword of Trust (2019)

Sword of Trust

Director: Lynn Shelton

Cast: Jillian Bell, Michaela Watkins, Marc Maron, Jon Bass

Genre: Comedy

Rating: R

Runtime: 1h 29m

Rotten Tomatoes: 93% (Critics) 62% (Audience)

One of the most beloved figures of indie cinema, Lynn Shelton gifted the film world with one last film before she passed away in 2020. 2019’s Sword of Trust follows Cynthia (Jillian Bell) and Mary (Michaela Watkins) as they come into possession of Cynthia’s grandfather’s inheritance, which is just one item: an antique sword that he believed is proof that the South won the Civil War. The film is indicative of what Shelton did best, with a cast full of fantastic comedic actors (including Marc Maron in a standout role), a smart and screwy screenplay, and direction that makes the story believably come to life. It’s quirky, without delving into completely unrealistic slapstick, a specialty of Shelton’s that came to define her career and influence, countless other independent filmmakers. Sword of Trust is a fantastic, if not melancholy, example of the best of what independent cinema has to offer.

Concrete Cowboy (2020)

Concrete Cowboy (2020)

Director: Ricky Staub

Cast: Caleb McLaughlin, Idris Elba, Jharrel Jerome, Lorraine Toussaint

Genre: Drama

Rating: R

Runtime: 1h 51m

Rotten Tomatoes: 80% (Critics) 71% (Audience)

One of the more surprising and little-known cultural institutions of Philadelphia is its African-American horse-riding culture, with the Fletcher Street Urban Riding Club being one of its most visible organizations. This culture inspired the novel Ghetto Cowboy by Greg Neri, which was, in turn, adapted into the film Concrete Cowboy. The Western drama centers on young Cole (Caleb McLaughlin) as he’s sent to live with his father Harp (Idris Elba) for the summer, and becomes part of the tight-knit local Black cowboy community. The film is essentially a love letter to a community that’s keeping a unique way of life alive and provides a home for those who need it. Idris Elba is always a strength in any film, and he’s no different here, but Stranger Things’ Caleb McLaughlin surprisingly almost outshines him, in a performance that shows real promise for the young actor’s future. Heartfelt and vital in terms of representing a cultural institution, Concrete Cowboy is a unique and moving tale.

The Guest (2014)

the guest

Director: Adam Wingard

Cast: Dan Stevens, Maika Monroe, Brendan Meyer, Lance Reddick

Genre: Thriller, Action

Rating: R

Runtime: 1h 39m

Rotten Tomatoes: 91% (Critics) 69% (Audience)

An underrated and stylish throwback to the movies of John Carpenter, The Guest deserves more attention. The movie centers on soldier David (Dan Stevens) who unexpectedly visits the family of a dead soldier, claiming to have been his friend before he died. When mysterious deaths begin to happen in their small town, daughter Anna (Maika Monroe) begins to suspect David may be behind them. Dan Stevens plays David as The Terminator meets Magic Mike: he’s undeniably menacing, but his charm and impressive physique mask his darker intentions before the bodies start piling up. Director Adam Wingard’s direction is sleek and expertly focused, using color, close-ups, and neon lighting to pay homage to the sci-fi and horror movies of the 1980s, of which John Carpenter is the undisputed master. The Guest is a devilishly fun throwback delight that’s sure to please horror movie fans.

Yes, God, Yes (2020)

yes god yes

His House (2020)

His House

Director: Remi Weekes

Cast: Wunmi Mosaku, Sope Dirisu, Matt Smith

Genre: Horror

Rating: TV-14

Runtime: 1h 33m 

Rotten Tomatoes: 100% (Critics) 75% (Audience)

An impressive indie horror debut, His House is an under the radar Netflix original critical hit. The Sundance hit follows a refugee couple (Sope Dirisu and Wunmi Mosaku) as they escape from South Sudan and move into an English town that’s housing a secret evil force. At first a melancholy metaphor for grief, His House eerily transforms itself into a treatise on historical trauma, and the way the past still hurts us long after it’s over. The movie takes on a haunting surreal aura, as the couple’s dreams and their reality begin to bleed into one another. Breakout Lovecraft Country star Wunmi Mosaku in particular stands out, following that show with another great performance that signals a strong career ahead of her. His House is unsettling, masterful horror cinema.

The Forty Year Old Version (2020)

radha blank

Director: Radha Blank

Cast: Radha Blank, Peter Kim, Oswin Benjamin

Genre: Comedy

Rating: R

Runtime: 2h 3m

Rotten Tomatoes: 98% (Critics), 63% (Audience)

The Forty Year Old Version marks the arrival of a new promising cinematic voice in that of writer/director/star Radha Blank. The comedy-drama follows Radha (Blank), once a rising playwright, who embraces turning 40 without any major success by reinventing herself as a rapper. Utilizing black and white cinematography and a loosely autobiographical plot, the movie is unlike anything else out right now, especially with its focus on the creative frustrations that can plague Black women in the arts world. While the whiteness of the arts world is one of the bigger subjects of the film, The Forty Year Old Version also nails what it’s like to feel like you’re past your prime and creatively burnt out, an idea the film explores with incisive, warm humor. An exciting addition to the world of indie cinema, The Forty Year Old Version is a delight. 

I’m Thinking of Ending Things (2020)

im thinking of ending things

Director: Charlie Kaufman

Cast: Jesse Plemons, Jessie Buckley, Toni Collette

Genre: Mystery, Thriller

Rating: R

Runtime: 2h 14m

Rotten Tomatoes: 82% (Critics) 48% (Audience)

Director/screenwriter Charlie Kaufman has long been known for his mind-bending films, starting with 1999’s Being John Malkovich and continuing as recently as 2015’s Anomalisa. Kaufman, this time in both the screenwriter and director’s seats, returns this year with the appropriately surreal and strange I’m Thinking of Ending Things. Based on the novel of the same name by Iain Reid, it follows Lucy (Jessie Buckley) and her boyfriend Jake (Jesse Plemons) as they go on a road trip to visit Jake’s parents. On the way, Lucy starts “thinking of ending things,” and ponders whether to continue the relationship as she meets Jake’s odd parents (Toni Collette and David Thewlis) and strange, frightening events start to occur. Nightmarish and darkly funny, I’m Thinking of Ending Things is an unsettling look at how we view ourselves and the relationships we have with others. Jesse Plemons has slowly been giving solid performances for years, but this may just be his best performance yet, recalling Philip Seymour Hoffman at times. Jessie Buckley, a relative newcomer to Hollywood, turns in a great performance as well, holding her own against Plemons. Bizarre and thought-provoking, I’m Thinking of Ending Things is well worth a watch, and maybe a rewatch if you need help deciphering that intriguingly strange ending.

The Florida Project (2017)

The Florida Project

Director: Sean Baker

Cast: Brooklyn Prince, Bria Vinaite, Willem Dafoe

Genre: Drama

Rating: R

Runtime: 1h 55m

Rotten Tomatoes: 96% (Critics) 80% (Audience)

Director Sean Baker has an eye for portraying the lesser-privileged. He turned his eye (specifically, his iPhone 5S) toward transgender sex workers with 2015’s Tangerine, and in 2017, he portrayed the lives of young girl Moonee (Brooklyn Prince) and her young mother Halley (Bria Vinaite), who live in a motel in Kissimmee, Florida, near Disney World, with The Florida Project. The movie focuses on Moonee as she daydreams and plays around with other young children in the motel complex, often raising the ire of the cranky but loving hotel manager Bobby (Willem Dafoe). The film is kind, empathetic, and caring toward Moonee and Halley as they struggle with their living conditions but make the most of the very little they have. The ending is also one of the best of 2017; surprising, surreal, and perfect all the same.

I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore (2017)

I Don't Feel At Home In The World Anymore

Director: Macon Blair

Cast: Macon Blair, Melanie Lynskey, Elijah Wood

Genre: Crime, Drama

Rating: TV-MA

Runtime: 1h 36m

Rotten Tomatoes: 89% (Critics) 76% (Audience)

The Sundance Film Festival remains the watermark for independent film showcases, demonstrating some of the best in independent filmmaking and illuminating some of the best in emerging film talent, including Damien Chazelle, Ava Duvernay, and Ryan Coogler. One such writer/director from last year’s festival is Macon Blair, who demonstrated a keen eye for dark comedy with his film about a depressed nurse (Melanie Lynskey) and her neighbor (Elijah Wood) as they set out to find the men who robbed her home. The film nabbed the Grand Jury Prize, the festival’s highest honor, and was soon picked up by Netflix, where it’s become something of a cult favorite.

Manson Family Vacation (2015)

'Manson Family Vacation'

Director: J. Davis

Cast: Jay Duplass, Linas Phillips, Leonora Pitts

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Rating: TV-MA

Runtime: 1h 24m

Rotten Tomatoes: 93% (Critics) 56% (Audience)

This dark comedy follows two brothers who couldn’t be more different on an impromptu road trip. But this road trip isn’t your usual journey to find yourself. The only sites this duo is interested in checking out are those made infamous by Charles Manson. Linas Phillips’ creepy backpacker look makes him perfect for the role of Conrad, the Mason Family-obsessed brother. Jay Duplass stars as Conrad’s brother Nick, an uptight professional with a sociopathic son.

Mudbound (2017)

mudbound film still

Director: Dee Rees

Cast: Mary J. Blige, Carey Mulligan, Garrett Hedlund, Jason Mitchell

Genre: Historical Drama

Rating: R

Runtime: 2h 14m

Rotten Tomatoes: 97% (Critics) 84% (Audience)

Mudbound, Dee Rees’ sprawling story of two families, one white and one black, in postwar Mississippi, picked up four record-breaking nominations at the 90th Academy Awards. This included Best Adapted Screenplay (Rees was the first black queer woman nominated in the category) and Best Cinematography (Rachel Morrison was the first female nominee), in addition to Mary J. Blige’s two nominations for Best Supporting Actress and Best Original Song (the first time any acting nominee had been nominated for music).

Other People (2016)

Other People

Director: Chris Kelly

Cast: Jesse Plemons, D'Arcy Carden, Molly Shannon

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Rating: TV-MA

Runtime: 1h 37m

Rotten Tomatoes: 85% (Critics) 79% (Audience)

The beauty of the growing indie film scene is that filmmakers are free to tell stories that most studios wouldn’t be willing to spend money on, and Chris Kelly’s semi-autobiographical directorial debut is a great indicator of that. Inspired by his own experiences with his mother, whom he took care of in the late stages of her leiomyosarcoma, and her resistance to his sexuality, Other People features winning performances from the Jesse Plemons and SNL great Molly Shannon, who picked up an Indie Spirit Award for her role, and successfully mixes hilarious comedy (Kelly is the co-head writer of SNL) with serious drama.

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