The meaning of the term ‘indie movie’ has changed a good bit since it first came into popularity in the early 2000s.
It used to refer solely to movies that were produced independently, outside of the mainstream Hollywood system.
But nowadays, many indie movies are produced independently but then receive wide-scale distribution thanks to major movie studios like 21st Century Fox (now part of Disney) or Paramount.
But as far as we’re concerned, indie can also refer to movies that actually bother to bring original ideas, scripts, and characters to the screen.
Below you’ll find seven of the best indie movies on Amazon Prime video streaming. You’re welcome to argue about whether each of these movies deserves to be categorized as an indie, but one thing’s for sure: they’re all great movies that are worth checking out, regardless of how we label them.
At the time of publishing, all of these movies should be available to stream via the basic Amazon Prime subscription tier. Just keep in mind that that may change as time goes on, since, streaming services seem determined to shuffle around their streaming options on about a monthly basis.
The Virgin Suicides (2000)
Sofia Coppola is the daughter of film great Francis Ford Coppola, the gentleman behind Apocalypse Now and the Godfather series.
But Sofia has definitely stepped out from behind her father’s shadow by creating several feature films that are truly her own.
One of her earliest efforts was The Virgin Suicides, a pleasant little story about a bunch of sisters in the same family who kill themselves.
But that’s not the whole story, of course, and it isn’t even really a spoiler. Most of the movie is about their attempts to act like normal teenage kids in a household that doesn’t want to let them do that.
It’s a story of teenage rebellion and petty disruption, all set to an excellent soundtrack and score.
The Lighthouse (2019)
Director Robert Eggers burst onto the scene with his movie The Witch, which featured period-accurate dialogue in a colonial New England setting.
The Lighthouse, only his second movie, takes us to a different time period: the late 1800s, where two lighthouse keepers are stranded on a desolate shore in the middle of nowhere.
Are mermaids real? Are they going insane? Is there something more sinister at work here? After having seen the movie several times, we still can’t answer these questions, but watching it all play out is just so compelling.
Using period-accurate dialogue once again, this film forces Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson to trudge through miserable conditions while giving career-defining performances.
At the end of the day, it’s horror, yes, but it’s also just plain drama.
The Big Sick (2017)
This slightly unexpected rom-com from comedian-turned-Hollywood-actor Kumail Nanjiani is based on how he met his real-life wife. Just keep in mind that for most of the runtime, the love interest is in a coma.
We have quite a few criticisms of this movie, but we’ll save those for some future post. Truth is, for most viewers, The Big Sick is a lovely little movie that takes a very different approach to a subgenre that was getting old.
Oh yeah, and Ray Romano shows up and does a great job. We had kind of forgotten about him honestly, but he does a good job and disappears into the role, which is pretty important for a former TV star.
Manchester By the Sea (2016)
Now let’s move over to a movie with virtually no comedy whatsoever. Manchester By the Sea is a hard-hitting drama, plain and simple.
It follows a handful of New Englanders as they work through devastating personal tragedy, and it also happens to have an absolutely excellent script with heaps of ultra-realistic dialogue and wonderful performances that make that dialogue sing.
The Act of Killing (2013)
Whenever someone brings up The Act of Killing, it requires some explanation. The title alone doesn’t really help that much.
The Act of Killing is a documentary, a documentary with several more fictional elements. Basically, the subjects of the documentary are former leaders of killing squads in Indonesia.
These people murdered many, and for the sake of the documentary, they were asked to re-enact their killings as short films, aided by a professional film crew.
If it wasn’t already blatantly obvious, this movie is difficult to watch. It’s also nearly three hours, which adds significantly to the challenge.
But if you enjoy dense storytelling and difficult subject matter, The Act of Killing is a modern classic that says so much, even without commentary from the filmmakers.
The Royal Tenenbaums (2002)
If you haven’t heard of this one, The Royal Tenenbaums is one of auteur Wes Anderson’s best movies, at least in our opinion.
The Tenenbaum family, once the home of three brilliant children destined for greatness, is thrown into disarray when their distant father, Royal, returns and tells everyone he’s dying.
It’s a classy drama that doesn’t contain all that much yelling, which for any other filmmaker would be a no-brainer for a drama.
Add to that some distinct and inviting cinematography based on drawings from Anderson’s own brother.
If you take your drama with a heaping helping of dry comedy and wit, The Royal Tenenbaums is an easy indie choice on Amazon Prime.
Eat Drink Man Woman (1994)
Eat Drink Man Woman is one of Ang Lee’s first movies, and it’s definitely one of his best. There’s just no arguing that, unless you happen to be a big fan of his Hulk adaptation.
This movie is about an aging man and his relationship with his daughters, all of whom proceed to find love interests throughout the course of the movie.
In fact, many scenes follow the daughters specifically as they try to navigate the muddy waters of young love.
It’s a comedy at heart, and one that works surprisingly well for American audiences, despite not being in English. Oh yeah, you’ll need to be ok with subtitles to watch this one. Hope that’s ok.