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.
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.
Comedy2017120 minsDirector: Michael Showalter
The hilarious, breakout indie comedy about a Pakistan-born comedian and his culture-clash relationship with an American grad student.
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.
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.
Drama2016118 minsDirector: Mike Mills
Annette Bening shines as the hipster mum who enlists two young friends (Greta Gerwig and Ellie Fanning) to help her son navigate adolescence in this Oscar nominated comedy-drama.
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.
Science Fiction201699 minsDirector: Michael Almereyda
In the near future, holograms of late loved ones provide comfort for their surviving relatives, in this intelligent and moving sci-fi exploring memory, identity, love and loss.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Documentary201586 minsDirector: Michael Beach Nichols
What would you do if a Nazi moved next door? This chilling documentary follows the white supremacist takeover of a tiny Dakotan town.
Terrence Malick presents this haunting and visually arresting documentary about the cycle of violent drug culture on a remote Native American reservation.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Drama2016103 minsDirector: Peter Sollett
Julianne Moore plays the cancer-stricken police officer who must fight on a second front to secure the transfer of her pension to her partner (Ellen Page).
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Horror196896 minsDirector: George A. Romero
Landmark film from 'zombie godfather' Romero, whose makeshift heroes fight for their lives against a new and terrifying enemy.