In the vast landscape of cinema dominated by Hollywood blockbusters, there exists a treasure trove of indie films that often slip under the radar. These films, born out of passion, creativity, and a desire to tell unique stories, bring a fresh perspective to the world of filmmaking.
In the last decade, a plethora of indie gems has graced the screen, deserving of recognition and appreciation. Here are 10 must-watch underrated indie films from the last decade that have left an indelible mark on the cinematic landscape.
1. “Moonlight” (2016)
“Moonlight,” directed by Barry Jenkins, is a poignant coming-of-age drama that explores the life of a young African-American man named Chiron as he navigates his identity and sexuality. The film, which won the Academy Award for Best Picture, is a beautifully crafted exploration of human connection, self-discovery, and the lasting impact of pivotal moments in one’s life. Despite its critical acclaim, “Moonlight” remains underrated in mainstream discussions.
2. “A Ghost Story” (2017)
David Lowery’s “A Ghost Story” is a contemplative and visually stunning exploration of time, loss, and the lingering presence of the past. Starring Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara, the film follows a recently deceased ghost who remains in his house, observing the passage of time. With its unique narrative structure and evocative cinematography, “A Ghost Story” is a hauntingly beautiful meditation on the human experience.
3. “The Florida Project” (2017)
Directed by Sean Baker, “The Florida Project” provides an intimate and compassionate look at the lives of a group of children living in the shadow of Disney World. The film captures the magic and resilience of childhood amidst the challenges of poverty. Willem Dafoe delivers a standout performance, and the film’s vibrant color palette and authentic storytelling make it a standout indie gem that deserves more recognition.
4. “The Farewell” (2019)
Lulu Wang’s “The Farewell” is a heartfelt and culturally resonant film that delves into the complexities of familial bonds and cultural identity. Awkwafina stars as Billi, a Chinese-American woman who returns to China with her family under the guise of a fake wedding to stealthily say goodbye to their beloved matriarch, who is unaware of her terminal illness. The film beautifully navigates themes of tradition, identity, and the universal experience of saying goodbye.
5. “Columbus” (2017)
“Columbus,” directed by Kogonada, is a quietly powerful film that explores the unlikely connection between a Korean-born man and a young woman in the small town of Columbus, Indiana. The film’s exquisite cinematography and contemplative pace create a meditative experience as the characters grapple with their own aspirations and relationships. “Columbus” is a visually arresting indie film that deserves more attention for its artistry.
6. “The Rider” (2017)
Chloé Zhao’s “The Rider” blurs the line between fiction and reality as it follows a young rodeo rider, played by real-life cowboy Brady Jandreau, who grapples with identity and purpose after a life-altering injury. The film, praised for its authenticity and emotional resonance, offers a unique perspective on masculinity, resilience, and the bond between humans and animals. Despite its critical acclaim, “The Rider” remains underseen by a wider audience.
7. “Swiss Army Man” (2016)
Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert’s “Swiss Army Man” is a surreal and inventive film that defies categorization. Starring Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe, the film follows a man stranded on a deserted island who befriends a corpse with supernatural abilities. Through its whimsical narrative and poignant exploration of loneliness and human connection, “Swiss Army Man” stands out as a refreshingly original and underrated indie gem.
8. “Paterson” (2016)
Directed by Jim Jarmusch, “Paterson” is a quiet and introspective film that follows a bus driver and aspiring poet named Paterson, played by Adam Driver. The film unfolds over the course of a week, capturing the subtle beauty in the routine of everyday life. “Paterson” is a meditation on creativity, love, and the poetry found in the ordinary, offering a unique and contemplative cinematic experience.
9. “Sorry We Missed You” (2019)
Ken Loach’s “Sorry We Missed You” is a powerful and socially relevant drama that explores the impact of the gig economy on a working-class family in the UK. The film follows a delivery driver and his family as they navigate the challenges of precarious employment. Loach’s unflinching depiction of the human cost of economic instability and the erosion of workers’ rights makes “Sorry We Missed You” a must-watch indie film that demands attention.
10. “The Lobster” (2015)
Yorgos Lanthimos’s “The Lobster” is a darkly comedic and dystopian exploration of societal expectations and the quest for love. In a world where single people are transformed into animals if they fail to find a romantic partner, the film follows a man played by Colin Farrell as he navigates the absurdities of a loveless society. With its unique premise, deadpan humor, and satirical commentary, “The Lobster” is an underrated indie gem that challenges conventional storytelling.
In Conclusion: Hidden Treasures in Indie Cinema
The last decade has seen a rich and diverse array of indie films that, despite their brilliance, often exist in the shadows of mainstream cinema. From the emotionally resonant “Moonlight” to the surreal beauty of “Swiss Army Man,” these movies offer a cinematic experience that transcends the boundaries of conventional storytelling. As we celebrate the creativity and passion behind these underrated indie gems, let us continue to explore the hidden treasures that independent cinema has to offer.