15 Best Independent Films Streaming on Netflix

With a total number of 9,796 movies streaming on Netflix, it’s often impossible to find what to watch. This list ranks some of the best independent films on the service.

Brittany Park

With a total number of 9,796 movies streaming on Netflix, it’s often impossible to find what to watch. This list ranks some of the best independent films on the service.

Because of the endless options, it’s often hard to find a good film to watch on Netflix. Whether you like romantic dramas, dark comedies or crime thrillers, this ranking features some of the most well-made, independent films featured on the popular streaming service.


15) “Silver Linings Playbook,” rated R: Featuring one of the best couples of modern cinema; Tiffany and Pat, played by Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper, have vastly different perspectives and personalities, and despite their mental and emotional issues, they fall in love. Pat has returned to his parents’ house after living in a mental hospital for his bipolar disorder while Tiffany is grieving the death of her police husband. Their twisted views and strange interactions are surprisingly cute and make it easy to root for them. Not only is “Silver Linings Playbook” a romantic drama, but it’s a testament to family and looking on the bright side of life.

14) “The Blair Witch Project,” rated R: this campy 1999 horror flick opened the door for “shaky camera” filming. It follows four young adults as they seek out an old legend of a witch who inhabits a Maryland forest. As they investigate the woods, the suspense builds slowly but with enough creeps to give you chills. Gore and cheesy ghosts aren’t necessary. As Heather Donahue runs through the forest at night with tears and snot running down her face, you are convinced the footage is real. The combination of jump scares, superb acting and the minimal budget is what makes the effects from “The Blair Witch Project” so long-lasting. Caution: this film can cause motion sickness due to the camera movement.

13) “Mystic Pizza,” rated R: “Mystic Pizza” seems to be more of a cult classic than an independent film but it doesn’t matter because you can’t go wrong with a 1980’s Julia Roberts, small town romance and Matt Damon’s first film role. Roberts, as well as Annabeth Gish and Lili Taylor, play three young women who work at a east coast pizza parlor all while going through the trials and tribulations of love. While this might not be a critic’s favorite film, “Mystic Pizza” is such a charming, feel-good movie you can’t help liking it.

12) “Chasing Amy,” rated R: I wasn’t a Kevin Smith fan before I saw this film because of his excessive crudeness and unlikeable characters.  However, in “Chasing Amy,” there was plenty dialogue about sex but there was also insight on relationships and something raw that Smith hasn’t shown in his other works like “Mallrats” and “Dogma.” It follows Holden, a naive Ben Affleck as he falls in love with a lesbian woman, Alyssa, played by Joey Lauren Adams. While their relationship is flawed, they learn a lot about each other as well as themselves. “Chasing Amy” is a intriguing twist on boring romantic comedies and is a great homage to 1990s culture.

11) “A Coffee in Berlin,” not rated: a German coming of age film may be a stereotypical indie film with it’s moody male lead and black and white cinematography, but that’s what makes it good. “A Coffee in Berlin” follows Nico Fischer, Tom Schilling, as a college dropout with little money and little ambition. While walking aimlessly around the city he meets a cast of characters, such as a girl he teased in high school and his old actor buddy. Though Fischer speaks little, his charm and snarkiness puts him in entertaining and often enlightening situations. “A Coffee in Berlin” is a perfect representation of late adolescence against the backdrop of a beautiful city.

10)    “Beginners,” rated R: A somber mixture of family drama and romance with a sprinkle of comedy, the always wonderful Ewan McGregor plays a single man, Oliver, who is grieving the death of his recently come-out-of-the-closet father, Hal, played by the equally wonderful Christopher Plummer. Through flashbacks you see Hal’s weakening state but also his happiness in his relationships with his boyfriend and his son. As Hal tries to recover, he meets Anna, played by Melanie Laurent, and they start an extremely cute but sad relationship as they are both mildly troubled. “Beginners” isn’t always the most uplifting, but it’s an important representation of family, loneliness and how we fall in love.

9) “Tiny Furniture,” not rated: Lena Dunham, the writer, director and star actor in “Tiny Furniture” takes the struggles of post-college life and morphs them into something we can all relate to and understand. As Aura, played by Dunham, is pushed by her mother and sister, she loses more and more motivation in her career and in her love life. Her childish behavior and honesty is what makes Dunham’s first film so heartfelt and funny.

8) “Ida,” rated PG-13: the most recently made film on this list has been nominated for Best Foreign Film at the 2015 Oscars. The Polish film is about a young Jewish woman in the 1960s who grew up in a nunnery due to the fact her family died in the Holocaust. When she meets her last surviving aunt, she grows close to her and learns so much about herself. This thoughtful drama not only holds historic truth but also truth, about coming to terms with tragedy and the choices you make in the aftermath.

7) “Election,” rated R: based on the novel by Tom Perrotta, this film is a black comedy that features a young, effervescent, as well as manipulative Reese Witherspoon. It follows her as high school student named Tracy who is running for class president. One of her teachers, Jim, played by Matthew Broderick, tries to sabotage her campaign. Beneath their surfaces they have majors issues; Tracy’s had an affair with a teacher while Jim has an affair of his own. Both are so focused on achieving what they want, that they are blindsided by the chaos they’re creating. Not only was “Election” dark, but the domino effects created by the characters’ mistakes and misfortunes made it surprisingly funny.

6) “Reservoir Dogs,” rated R: the 1992 directorial debut of the infamous filmmaker, Quentin Tarantino, is a perfect crime story. The tension-filled thriller is told through six men as their bank robbery takes a turn for the worst when they suspect a police informant among them. One of the ways “Reservoir Dogs” is different from other crime films is its storytelling. As the plot thickens, there are flashbacks showing the backstory of each criminal that helps us to understand the characters and how they became involved with each other. Through clever dialogue and crooked characters, Tarantino showed what he could do in “Reservoir Dogs” and opened a door for his future blockbusters.

5) “Amelie,” rated R: this French independent romance is the cutest and quirkiest movie on this list. It features Audrey Tautou as a shy, curious young woman living in Paris as she navigates through love and adulthood. “Amelie” can’t be much wackier than her interactions with other characters like an angry fruit stand owner and a recluse painter with brittle bones. Not only is it wonderfully weird, but it’s one of the best films of the 2000s. It took cinema to a new creative level with its pretty cinematography and storytelling. In 2002, “Amelie” was nominated for five Oscars and went on to win 55 other awards.

4) “Frances Ha,” rated R: Greta Gerwig, one of this generation’s indie queens, kills in “Frances Ha.” Gerwig plays an ambitious ballet student and teacher as she struggles to stay afloat financially, as well as in her relationships. This black and white drama is filled to the brim with moodiness, without becoming melancholy. The setting in New York is a perfect contrast to simple filming and minimal editing. “Frances Ha” is not only honest, but it’s also heart-warmingly funny.

3)  “Submarine,” rated R: this romantic dramedy is a perfect evolution from corny teen flicks into something adolescents can relate to. The main character, Oliver, played by Craig Roberts, is a peculiar boy experiencing his first love as well as his parents failing marriage. “Submarine’s” Wes Anderson-esque style adds to its quirkiness with its spanning camera angles and contrast of colors. The plot is set up to be sad, but with Olivers charm and funny reactions, “Submarine” is a sweet mix of laughs and self-discovery.

2) “Fargo,” rated R: two of the best indie crime directors, Joel and Ethan Coen created this 1996 drama which features talented actors like Frances McDormand, Steve Buscemi and William H. Macy. This truth-based film follows Jerry, played by Macy, who is strapped for cash and hires two criminals Carl and Gaear, played by Buscemi and Peter Stormare, to kidnap his wife. But after the thugs cause damage and suspicion in the North Dakota town, a state trooper named Marge, played by McDormand, is on the case. Jerry and Carl are such flawed, neurotic characters that they make mistake after mistake, but they are the most fun to watch thanks to the Coen’s witty writing. “Fargo’s” comedic darkness has made it more than an iconic film. It sparked the creation of a miniseries by the same name in 2014.

1) “Donnie Darko,” rated R: this psychological drama has grown a huge cult following since its release in 2001 and is arguably the best independent film on Netflix. A young Jake Gyllenhaal stars as Donnie Darko, a schizophrenic teen who loses his grip on reality after envisioning a 6-foot rabbit telling him the world will end. Initially, is sounds like an extremely weird, almost disturbing storyline but the depiction of adolescence and family life makes it seem like a regular coming of age tale. Darko’s dialogue with his peers, teachers and parents are slightly reminiscent of Holden Caulfield in “The Catcher in the Rye.” His outlook on life is cynical and childish, but unapologetic to say the least. The soundtrack is also perfect due to the fact the film takes place in 1988. The music, primarily songs by “Tears for Fears,” “The Church” and “Echo and the Bunnymen”  fits well with the storyline and Donnie’s moody character. The combination of teen drama and more serious issues of mental illness, mixed with a bit of science fiction, makes “Donnie Darko” unbeatable in all aspects of independent filmmaking.