US independent films made away from the pressures and glitz of Hollywood have offered directors a greater creative freedom.
Put simply, some of the most imaginative films of all time would not exist were it not for the American independent sector. Little Fugitive (1953), about a boy who believes he has committed murder, had a great influence of François Truffaut and the French New Wave, while Pink Narcissus, a camp fantasy from 1971, is a landmark gay underground film. George A. Romero’s zombie classic, Night of the Living Dead (1968), is one of the most profitable films of all time and spawned terrific bigger budget sequels. More recently, independent cinema has introduced us to Gregg Araki (Totally F***ed Up), Ira Sachs (Keep the Lights On) and new talent Benh Zeitlin (Beasts of the Southern Wild). All these films prove that you don’t need a huge budget and studio backing to create great works of cinema.
Drama201891 minsDirector: Aaron Schimberg
Aaron Schimberg’s dextrous, darkly comedic discourse on physical difference makes you think about cinematic representation without offering simple resolutions.
Science Fiction201998 minsDirector: Lorcan Finnegan
Imogen Poots and Jesse Eisenberg play a pair of first-time buyers who get more than they bargained for in this twisted fable about the horrors of suburban living.
Comedy201997 minsDirector: Michael Schwartz
Effortlessly charming buddy movie about a young man with Down's syndrome (Zack Gottsagen) in pursuit of his dreams, with Shia LaBeouf.
Drama201990 minsDirector: Rashaad Ernesto Green
Budding writer Ayanna’s life is transformed over the course of one hot Harlem summer, when a handsome and mysterious stranger walks into her life.
Drama201890 minsDirector: Andrew Bujalski
Andrew Bujalski serves up a big-hearted comedy with his day-in-the-life look at Double Whammies – a Hooters-style bar and its tight-knit, all-female staff.
Horror2019104 minsDirector: Jim Jarmusch
Bill Murray, Adam Driver and Tilda Swinton lead this star-studded, bonkers addition to the zombie canon from cult director Jim Jarmusch.
Thriller2018111 minsDirector: Kim Nguyen
Jesse Eisenberg and Alexander Skarsgård are sensational as scheming cousins on a lucrative but ethically dubious mission, in this fast, funny and topical technological caper.
Comedy201890 minsDirector: Jim Cummings
Following the death of his mother, an emotionally unstable cop sees his life slowly unravel in this extraordinary tragicomedy.
Comedy201886 minsDirector: Jonah Hill
Jonah Hill's delightful directing debut follows Stevie, a thirteen-year-old who spends his summer with a group of new friends he meets at a skate shop.
Maggie Gyllenhaal gives a career-best performance as a kindergarten teacher who finds herself in an ethical quagmire after discovering the poetic talents of a precocious student.
Drama201893 minsDirector: Jeremiah Zagar
Sensitive and increasingly different from his hyper-masculine brothers, a young boy faces the truth of his own desires.
Thriller201894 minsDirector: Mélanie Laurent
Ben Foster and Elle Fanning play fugitives on the run from a criminal gang, in this gritty crime thriller from the creator of True Detective.
Thriller2018121 minsDirector: Karyn Kusama
Nicole Kidman is astonishing – and almost unrecognisable – as a jaded police detective haunted by her past in Karyn Kusama’s brooding thriller.
Comedy2016118 minsDirector: Jim Jarmusch
Adam Driver excels in this effortlessly charming tale of a bus driver poet in New Jersey, filmed with typically groovy elan by Jim Jarmusch.
Drama2014117 minsDirector: Richard Linklater
A gang of wild college jocks enjoy three days of freewheeling fun before school starts, in Richard Linklater’s ‘spiritual sequel’ to Boyhood and Dazed and Confused.
Drama2016104 minsDirector: kogonada
A young librarian with a thing for Modernist architecture expands her horizons when a Korean lawyer (John Cho) comes to town, in this impeccable debut from acclaimed video artist kogonada.
Comedy201895 minsDirector: Carlos López Estrada
While on probation, a man begins to re-evaluate his relationship with his volatile best friend, in this electrifying Sundance hit.
Drama201792 minsDirector: David Lowery
David Lowery's haunting exploration of love and loss, with Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck is a high-point of recent independent American cinema.
Drama201886 minsDirector: Yen Tan
Stunningly shot drama following a closeted advertising executive who tries to reconnect with his family during the first wave of the AIDS crisis.
Comedy2017120 minsDirector: Michael Showalter
The hilarious, breakout indie comedy about a Pakistan-born comedian and his culture-clash relationship with an American grad student.
Drama2016163 minsDirector: Andrea Arnold
Andrea Arnold dazzles with a sun-soaked and tune-filled epic about door-to-door teenage magazine sellers (led by Shia LeBeouf) traversing the American highways.
Drama2016111 minsDirector: Barry Jenkins
Winner of the 2017 Oscar for Best Picture (eventually!), Barry Jenkins’ intoxicating drama follows the furtive life of a gay black boy through 80s Miami.
Drama201798 minsDirector: Eliza Hittman
Gripping account of repressed sexual desire in a hyper-masculine environment, with British newcomer Harris Dickinson as a virulently macho Brooklyn teen.
Comedy201286 minsDirector: Noah Baumbach
Lady Bird creator Greta Gerwig steals this hit comedy about an awkward girl and her complex passions, a critical smash hit for its star and her director, Noah Baumbach.
Drama201495 minsDirector: Ira Sachs
Ira Sachs’s refined Manhattan-set drama sees Alfred Molina’s Ben and John Lithgow’s George in the latter days of a tender, loving 39-year relationship.
Comedy2016104 minsDirector: Kelly Fremon
Kelly Fremon Craig’s coming-of-age comedy eschews quirkiness for genuine warmth, while boasting a hilarious supporting turn from Woody Harrelson.
Biopic201684 minsDirector: Richard Tanne
This smart, sophisticated, Sundance-nominated romance follows the first date of a couple who would go on to change the world – Barack and Michelle Obama.
Drama2014102 minsDirector: Richard Glatzer
Julianne Moore won an Oscar for her extraordinary performance as a linguistics professor diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.
Thriller201595 minsDirector: Jeremy Saulnier
A punk band becomes besieged in the backstage hideaway of a hideous neo-Nazi club, in this gloriously tense shocker from the director of Blue Ruin.
Thriller2016103 minsDirector: Billy O'Brien
A teenage sociopath comes face to face with an evil force in this chilling and darkly humorous adaptation of Dan Wells’ acclaimed cult novel.
Drama201572 minsDirector: Anna Rose Holmer
Toni, an eleven year-old tomboy, finds a new purpose when an epidemic of seizures strikes her dance class, in this riveting and psychological character portrait from filmmaker Anna Rose Holmer.
Drama2016119 minsDirector: Matt Ross
Viggo Mortensen plays the father-gone-primitive in this wonderful award-winning comedy about an off-grid family.
Documentary2015116 minsDirector: Michael Moore
Michael Moore is on a mission from the Pentagon: to invade friendly countries and steal their best ideas on behalf of the United States.
Documentary201576 minsDirector: Jack Riccobono Pettibone
Terrence Malick presents this haunting and visually arresting documentary about the cycle of violent drug culture on a remote Native American reservation.
Drama201792 minsDirector: Desiree Akhavan
Desiree Akhavan’s award-winning follow-up to Appropriate Behaviour, with Chloë Grace Moretz as a teen sent to a gay conversion camp.
Drama201786 minsDirector: Christina Choe
Andrea Riseborough is extraordinary in this disquieting drama about a woman convinced that she was kidnapped as a child and might have found her real parents.
Drama201688 minsDirector: John Carroll Lynch
Harry Dean Stanton gives the performance of a lifetime as an irascible nonagenarian maverick in a New Mexican town, grappling with his mortality.
Drama201896 minsDirector: Reinaldo Marcus Green
Unravelling the aftermath of a police killing of a black man - and how it affects the lives of three separate individuals. With John David Washington (BlacKkKlansman).
Drama2016118 minsDirector: Mike Mills
Annette Bening shines as the hipster mum who enlists two young friends (Greta Gerwig and Elle Fanning) to help her son navigate adolescence in this Oscar nominated comedy-drama.
Drama201783 minsDirector: Joshua Z Weinstein
This story of a widower's struggle to reclaim his child is both a funny, moving drama and an insight into the world of New York's Yiddish-speaking Hasidic community.
Drama2015102 minsDirector: Marielle Heller
The US indie hit tells the bold, bawdy and hilarious story of a teenager's sexual awakening after she sleeps with her mother’s boyfriend.
Comedy201698 minsDirector: Daniel Scheinert
Paul Dano and a flatulent corpse (Daniel Radcliffe) excel in this bizarre, yet surprisingly moving surreal comedy.
Drama201685 minsDirector: Ira Sachs
Ira Sachs’ poignant drama about how money affects relationships follows an artistic family’s attempts to attune to a new Brooklyn neighbourhood.
Drama2015109 minsDirector: Joachim Trier
Jesse Eisenberg, Isabelle Huppert and Gabriel Byrne star in Joachim Trier’s astute and deftly realised family drama.
Drama2015101 minsDirector: Sebastián Silva
Kristen Wiig plays a woman trying to start family with a gay couple, in this biting black comedy set among a diverse Brooklyn community.
Biopic2017127 minsDirector: Destin Daniel Cretton
Woody Harrelson, Brie Larson and Naomi Watts play members of an anarchic family that refuses society's norms, in this moving and offbeat drama from the director of Short Term 12.
Drama2015106 minsDirector: Paul Dalio
Two young poets with bipolar disorder begin a highly passionate, volatile relationship that threatens both their futures.
Comedy201491 minsDirector: Michael Tully
In Maryland, 1985, teenager Rad is forced to face down the bullies in a table tennis tournament, with only his best friend and the expertise of his mysterious Mr Miyagi-esque neighbour for guidance.
Drama201293 minsDirector: Benh Zeitlin
Set in a Deep South delta, Zeitlin’s feature debut takes a child’s eye view of poverty, adult apathy and ecological crisis. Hallucinatory fare
Drama2012102 minsDirector: Ira Sachs
A filmmaker escapes the pain of a break-up through casual sex and meets a closeted lawyer in this deeply personal work from Ira Sachs.
Drama201491 minsDirector: Gregg Araki
Shailene Woodley and Eva Green star in Gregg Araki’s lyrical and impressionistic adaptation of Laura Kasischke’s novel.
Comedy199691 minsDirector: Steve Buscemi
Venerable character actor Steve Buscemi steps behind the camera in this profound character study on a lonely, alcoholic, and unemployed mechanic.
Science Fiction199784 minsDirector: Darren Aronofsky
Darren Aronofsky’s magisterial monochrome mystery concerns a mathematician whose discovery of a powerful number leads to the dark side.
Crime1994154 minsDirector: Quentin Tarantino
Quentin Tarantino’s crackling crime classic still retains its swagger as one of the great American films of recent decades.
Film noir199199 minsDirector: Quentin Tarantino
Quentin Tarantino explodes onto the screen with his debut feature following a jewellery heist gone horribly, violently wrong.
Horror196896 minsDirector: George A. Romero
Landmark film from 'zombie godfather' Romero, whose makeshift heroes fight for their lives against a new and terrifying enemy.
Drama201687 minsDirector: Josh Mond
Reality bites for a hedonistic young New Yorker who suddenly has to grow up quickly, in a brilliantly acted drama from the team behind Martha Marcy May Marlene.
Drama2015116 minsDirector: Brady Corbet
Brady Corbet’s brilliantly ominous study of evolving evil follows a small boy as he grows into a fascist despot.
2005100 minsDirector: David Slade
Ellen Page became an indie sensation as the teenage vigilante trying to trap a predatory older man, in David Slade's smart psychological thriller.
Comedy201791 minsDirector: Sophie Brooks
The captivating Zosia Mamet (Girls) takes centre-stage in this smart and sassy Manhattan-set relationship drama which channels the spirit of Nora Ephron.
Comedy201285 minsDirector: Colin Trevorrow
Mark Duplass stars in the indie time-travel comedy that won a major prize at Sundance and set director Colin Trevorrow on the road to Jurassic World.
Horror201697 minsDirector: Michael O’Shea
Milo isn't your usual introverted, strange teenager; he also believes he's a vampire. Michael O'Shea's dark drama presents a transgressive twist on the teen vampire tale.
Drama1997115 minsDirector: Kasi Lemmons
Samuel L. Jackson stars in this seething slice of Southern Gothic, about the travails of a Louisiana family bedevilled by infidelity, incest and witchcraft.
Biopic2017107 minsDirector: Marc Meyers
Marc Meyers' adaptation of Derf Backderf’s revered graphic novel is an unnerving teen horror-drama about the makings of a murderer.
Comedy2018111 minsDirector: Boots Riley
A mild-mannered call centre operator whizzes up the corporate ladder after he discovers a unique ability to adopt a "white voice" in writer-director Boots Riley's breathlessly inventive satire.
Drama201690 minsDirector: Philipp Karner
Writer-director Philipp Garner also stars in this refreshing gay drama, a portrait of a couple trying to make it work in the film world of Los Angeles.