The 31 best independent movies you can watch on Netflix right now

The Weinstein Company/A24/Universal Pictures/Paramount Vantage/Miramax Films‘The Master,’ ‘Ex Machina,’ and ‘There Will Be Blood’ were nominated for 13 Oscars between them.
  • Mainstream movies and massive franchises are always a great joy to watch, but a lot of the best films are actually independent movies with much smaller budgets.
  • These indie movies are the sort of films that Martin Scorsese would describe as true cinema rather than the “theme park” movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
  • Netflix has an incredible selection of independent movies that explore a huge variety of themes, featuring the work of some of cinema’s greatest auteurs.
  • There are Oscar-winning masterpieces like “Ex Machina” and “There Will Be Blood,” unsettling horrors like “The Witch” and “It Comes at Night,” and provocative romances such as “Blue Is the Warmest Colour” and “Love.”
  • Here are the 31 best ones available to watch on Netflix right now.
  • Insider has many movie and TV show lists to keep you occupied. You can read them all here.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Sometimes we just need a break from the blockbuster spectacle of big-budget franchises and the like. In fact, it’s often the smaller-budgeted independent that are the films we relate to the most and can affect us the most.

These movies explore themes that studio movies wouldn’t dare, and explore them in a more adventurous way than studio films would ever consider, too.

Independent movies are the films that, mostly, populate the Academy Awards every year – and there’s a reason for that. A lot of the time, they are the best films of the year.

Well, Netflix has a great selection of independent films that you can really sink your teeth into.

Here are the 31 best independent movies (listed alphabetically) you can watch on Netflix right now.

Note: Numerous Netflix titles drop off the service monthly, so the availability of titles below may change.


’20th Century Women’ (2016)

A24Directed by Mike Mills.

Set in 1970s California, Mike Mills’ film is pretty nice to look at, and features a cast full of great actresses – including Annette Bening, Elle Fanning, and Greta Gerwig.


‘A Serious Man’ (2009)

Focus FeaturesDirected by Joel and Ethan Coen.

This Coen brothers film is one of their most under-appreciated. Speaking of under-appreciated – Michael Stuhlbarg is consistently excellent in every film he is in, and he’s been in a host of terrific films, like “Call Me By Your Name” and “The Shape of Water.” It’s nice to see him take centre stage here.


‘A Single Man’ (2009)

The Weinstein CompanyDirected by Tom Ford.

Colin Firth, being the Brit he is, does suppressed emotions and restraint very, very well. He earned an Oscar nomination for this, playing a man mourning the loss of his boyfriend in Tom Ford’s directorial debut.


‘Atlantics’ (2019)

Ad Vitam/NetflixDirected by Mati Diop.

This was the feature-film debut of director of Mati Diop, and is a pretty beautiful drama. It follows workers on the construction site of a futuristic tower rebelling and leaving their jobs after months without pay, and heading to the ocean for better lives.


‘Babel’ (2006)

Paramount Vantage/Mars DistributionDirected by Alejandro González Iñárritu.

This interlocking story is masterfully crafted by director Alejandro González Iñárritu, who weaves together four different stories featuring Brad Pitt,Cate Blanchett, and Gael Garcia Bernal.


‘Beasts of No Nation’ (2015)

Bleecker Street/NetflixDirected by Cary Joji Fukunaga.

This was actually Netflix’s first-ever original film. Directed by “No Time to Die” director Cary Fukunaga, it almost earned Idris Elba an Oscar nomination.


‘Blue Is the Warmest Colour’ (2013)

Wild Bunch/Cinéart/Vértigo FilmsDirected by Abdellatif Kechiche.

Winner of the Palme D’Or at Cannes in 2013, this LGBT romance is touching, beautiful, and an instant classic.


‘Blue Valentine’ (2010)

The Weinstein CompanyDirected by Derek Cianfrance.

Ryan Gosling and director Derek Cianfrance have worked together several times, but this is the best result of their collaboration. It also features Michelle Williams, who was Oscar-nominated for her performance.


‘The Boy in the Striped Pajamas’ (2008)

BBC Films/Heyday Films/Miramax FilmsDirected by Mark Herman.

This movie is notorious for inducing tears amongst every audience member to have watched it, and there’s a reason for that. It’s a heartbreaking film about the son of a Nazi soldier befriending a Jewish boy in a concentration camp.


‘City of God’ (2002)

Miramax FilmsDirected by Fernando Meirelles and Kátia Lund.

This is one of those films that you’ve probably heard of and always meant to watch, but never have. It follows the stories of two kids in the Rio slums taking different paths in life.


‘Crash’ (2004)

Lionsgate FilmsDirected by Paul Haggis.

“Crash” famously won best picture, beating “Brokeback Mountain” to the win, which many thought should have won. But don’t let that controversy fool you: “Crash” is still a very good film in its own right, following numeral LA citizens in a dramatic tale of race, loss, and redemption.


‘Ex Machina’ (2014)

A24/Universal PicturesDirected by Alex Garland.

Alicia Vikander won her Oscar for “The Danish Girl,” but this movie came out the same year and many would argue she should have won for this. This is a great sci-fi featuring a trio of great actors: Vikander, Domhnall Gleeson, and Oscar Isaac.


‘Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile’ (2019)

NetflixDirected by Joe Berlinger.

The days of “High School Musical” will seem very long ago indeed after you watch this. It’s probably Zac Efron’s best performance – certainly his most mature. He plays notorious serial killer Ted Bundy.


‘God’s Own Country’ (2017)

Orion Pictures/Samuel Goldwyn Films/Picturehouse EntertainmentDirected by Francis Lee.

The Yorkshire-UK version of “Call Me By Your Name.” Josh O’Connor is also the more rugged, British version of Timothee Chalamet. This movie is as beautiful, just in its own way.


‘Good Time’ (2017)

A24Directed by Josh and Benny Safdie.

Robert Pattinson, after the pop-culture heights of “Twilight,” has appeared mostly in indie flicks since his days as Edward Cullen finished, and he is proving what a great actor he is. This is one of his very best.


‘Hell or High Water’ (2016)

Lionsgate/CBS FilmsDirected by David Mackenzie.

Jeff Bridges earned an Oscar nomination for his performance in this movie following two brothers and their desperate scheme to save their family’s Texan ranch. Chris Pine and Ben Foster also star.


‘The Invitation’ (2015)

Drafthouse FilmsDirected by Karyn Kusama.

A tense, taut drama with more than a few hints of horror. It’s unsettling from the beginning, and while it is a slow burner, you won’t be able to keep eyes off of the screen.


‘It Comes at Night’ (2017)

A24Directed by Trey Edward Shults.

As a strange threat occurs in the world, a man (Joel Edgerton) establishes a frail order in his home with his wife and son. But a young stranger seeking refuge threatens that.


‘Locke’ (2013)

Lionsgate/A24Directed by Steven Knight.

Tom Hardy and Olivia Colman. Do you really need another reason to watch? This is a tense, mysterious drama featuring one of Hardy’s very best performances.


‘Love’ (2015)

Wild BunchDirected by Gaspar Noé.

This highly-erotic drama, featuring unsimulated sex scenes, explores the effects a no-strings-attached threesome can have on a couple.


‘The Master’ (2012)

The Weinstein CompanyDirected by Paul Thomas Anderson.

Paul Thomas Anderson is one of the very best filmmakers out there, and it is more than reasonable to argue that he has never made a bad movie. This one stars Joaquin Phoenix as a veteran struggling to integrate back into society and stumbling into a cult run by Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Amy Adams also features.


‘Moon’ (2009)

Sony Pictures ClassicsDirected by Duncan Jones.

Sam Rockwell is another underrated actor who consistently excels in every film he is in. He may have won an Oscar for “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” but he’s still slept on. He takes the lead here in this one-man space drama.


‘Moonlight’ (2016)

A24Directed by Barry Jenkins.

“Moonlight” beat “La La Land” to win best picture, which is a statement in itself considering how excellent the latter film is. But “Moonlight” is achingly beautiful, and rewards multiple viewings.


‘Mudbound’ (2017)

NetflixDirected by Dee Rees.

Dee Rees’ Netflix original was nominated for four Oscars, two of which went to Mary J. Blige (best supporting actress and best original song). Carey Mulligan and Garrett Hedlund also star.


‘The Pianist’ (2002)

Focus Features/StudioCanalDirected by Roman Polanski.

This is one of the best war dramas ever made, and Adrien Brody made history by becoming the youngest man ever to win best actor at the age of just 29. He beat frontrunners Jack Nicholson and Daniel Day-Lewis, who split the vote between them, to the award.


‘Roma’ (2018)

Espectáculos Fílmicos El Coyúl/NetflixDirected by Alfonso Cuarón.

This is Alfonso Cuarón’s most personal film and, in black and white, just looks gorgeous. It is masterful in its ability to wring drama from the most every-day circumstances, and the cinematography makes it worth a watch, too.


‘Room’ (2015)

Elevation Pictures/StudioCanal/A24Directed by Lenny Abrahamson.

Brie Larson may be known mostly for “Captain Marvel” now, but one drawback of the MCU is that it does make you forgot just how good the actors can be in “normal” movies. Larson won best actress for “Room,” which is not to be confused with “The Room,” a film of a very different kind and quality.


‘Silver Linings Playbook’ (2012)

The Weinstein Company.Directed by David O. Russell.

Jennifer Lawrence won best actress for this, while Bradley Cooper earned his first of his eight nominations. This is a rom-com, but a rom-com of the highest order.


‘Swiss Army Man’ (2016)

A24Daniel Scheinert/Daniel Kwan

Daniel Radcliffe plays a dead body. Do you really need any more convincing? Well, Paul Dano (another underrated actor) plays a man deserted on an island, and befriends Radcliffe’s dead body in a surreal movie.


‘There Will Be Blood’ (2007)

Paramount Vantage/Miramax FilmsDirected by Paul Thomas Anderson.

Another Paul Thomas Anderson film, but this one is his best. Daniel Day-Lewis delivers one of the best performances ever committed on a cinema screen – by anyone. He won his second of three best actor Oscars for this masterpiece, which isn’t an easy watch but it is easily one of the best movies of this century.


‘The Witch’ (2015)

A24/Universal PicturesDirected by Robert Eggers.

Robert Eggers followed this movie up with “The Lighthouse,” starring Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe, proving he is an expert at surreal, very specific period-drama with horror strewn through their stories. “The Witch” was his break out, and it is a must-watch.

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