Independent films, indies for short, are motion pictures that are produced and distributed by companies that are not part of the usual major motion picture system. Usually, they’re lower budget pieces featuring relatively or completely unknown performers, and they rarely achieve blockbuster status, though some garner critical acclaim and becoming launching pads for those involved.
Occasionally, though, an indie makes it to the mainstream. Some of the independent feature films whose humble beginnings might surprise you include:
- American Beauty
- The Breakfast Club
- Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs (both Quentin Tarantino pictures)
- Being John Malkovich
- The Meaning of Life and Life of Brian (two Monty Python flicks)
- Brokeback Mountain
- No Country for Old Men
- Texas Chainsaw Massacre
- The Usual Suspects
- The Terminator
- Night of the Living Dead
While the above list represents some of the breakout indie hits, there are few other titles you might not know, but that are definitely worth watching and feature actors whose names you’re sure to recognize:
The Perks of Being a Wallflower: Logan Lerman and Emma Watson star in this novel-based movie about a young man’s first year of high school. The lesson we take away is that our struggles shouldn’t keep us from enjoying life once in awhile and that real friendship can’t be overrated.
Thirteen: Tracy, played by Evan Rachel Wood, is an unhappy but otherwise normal teenage girl who becomes friends with adventure-seeking Evie and is delighted to be one of the cool kids for once. Tracy finds out soon enough, though, that her newfound popularity comes at a price.
Poison Ivy: Teen Silvie, portrayed by Drew Barrymore, was a nice quiet girl until wild-child Ivy came into her life, turning life into an anything-but-quiet adventure.
Factory Girl: Sienna Miller stars as Edie Sedgwick, generally regarded as the muse of artist Andy Warhol. The movie follows Edie’s rise and fall and will keep you engrossed until the very end.
Ramen Girl: In one of her last movies, Brittany Murphy portrays Abby, a girl who travels all the way to Tokyo with her boyfriend, only to be dumped when they get there. Abby decides it’s time to pursue her own dream of becoming a ramen cook.
Requiem for a Dream: Jared Leto is a handsome guy who, along with his girlfriend, best friend, and mother, are drug addicts spiraling out of control. It’s not a happy film, but is an accurate and powerful depiction of the ugliness that is drug abuse.
Ellie Parker: Starring Naomi Watts, this film follows actress wannabe Ellie through multiple rejections and frustrations, both professional and personal. This film highlights the tough business that is the LA movie scene.
Donnie Darko: Jake Gyllenhaal stars in this twist-filled movie about mystery, growing up, and romance. You may want to watch it more than once just to make sure you didn’t miss anything.
The Runaways: Featuring Kristen Stewart as 80’s rocker Joan Jett, this film tells the story of Jett’s band, The Runaways. It features everything you’d expect, including sex, drugs, and rock and roll.
Before Sunrise and its sequel Before Sunset: Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy meet on a train and spend one night together in Vienna before going back to their “real” lives in the first film. The second film reunites the pair nine years later in Paris.
Secretary: Starring James Spader and Maggie Gyllenhaal, this sexy film follows Lee as she starts a new job as a secretary. She soons finds out that her boss’s romantic interest will lead to some erotic adventures.
500 Days of Summer: Summer and Tom, played by Zooey Deschanel and Joseph-Gordon Levitt, fall in love. After a few months, things go off track, teaching us all lessons about love and commitment issues.
The next time you’re in the mood for something other than big-studio fare, one of these titles could be just the ticket!