If you’re looking for something a little different to start the new year, we have a list of must-see modern indie movies streaming this month.
Granted, there are plenty of unique hidden gems across all the streaming platforms. It’s difficult to account for all of them, and technically any original streaming films fall in this category.
With that in mind, check out this list of 10 indie movies that may have slipped under your radar. We’ll update this list monthly, and it won’t always reflect only newly arrived titles, so come back for more!
50/50 (Netflix & Hulu)
This is the epitome of a strong modern dramedy. Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars as a cancer-stricken young man, whose best friend, played by Seth Rogen, helps him navigate the life-threatening situation.
Considering the subject matter, there’s a surprising amount of humor in 50/50. That’s a large part of what makes the dramatic moments work so well.
50/50 is definitely a lot to take in, but it’s ultimately a rewarding, moving viewing experience.
The Art of Self-Defense (Hulu)
Jesse Eisenberg doesn’t come across as the martial arts type. That’s why he’s perfect for the role of Casey Davies. After Casey gets jumped by a disguised gang, he takes matters into his own hands and enrolls in self-defense classes.
This just released in early 2019 to rave reviews. If dark comedy is your thing, The Art of Self-Defense is one of the best films of last year in that vein.
Good as Eisenberg is, his mentor, Sensei (Alessandro Nivola), delivers a comedic deadpan performance among the best of its kind in recent memory.
The End of the Tour (Netflix)
Another Eisenberg-led feature, The End of the Tour chronicles a book tour embarked upon by legendary author David Foster Wallace after the release of Infinite Jest.
Eisenberg plays Rolling Stone reporter David Lipsky, who accompanies Jason Segel’s Wallace on the tour. It sounds like a pretty boring premise, right?
Don’t be deceived by that mundane description. Segel puts forth the performance of his career — unfortunately overlooked during awards season. The End of the Tour is a two-hander for the most part, and it’s well worth your time.
Good Time (Netflix)
The Safdie brothers have garnered near-universal acclaim for their most recent effort, the Adam Sandler-starring Uncut Gems, but their preceding project is in part what led Sandler to sign on in the first place.
That’s Good Time, perhaps the very best among indie movies streaming this month. The film is an absolutely pulse-pounding thrill ride through the criminal underworld of New York City.
Robert Pattinson is nearly unrecognizable in the lead role. When he was cast as the new Batman, writer-director Matt Reeves tweeted a GIF of Pattinson from Good Time.
You can see how different Pattinson looks just from that! Dive headfirst into Good Time as blindly as possible, and discover how much of a, well, good time it is.
Hearts Beat Loud (Hulu)
Brett Haley co-wrote and directed this 2018 family-centric film that focuses on a relationship between father and daughter around music.
Nick Offerman plays Frank Fisher, the owner of a vinyl record shop that’s about to go under. His daughter Samantha (Kiersey Clemons) is about to leave for college, but he tries to convince her to stay behind and start a band.
All of this culminates in a heartwarming finale. Fans of music-driven movies shouldn’t miss Hearts Beat Loud. It’s also a great showcase for Offerman, who’s fully capable of pulling off dramatic roles in addition to comedic characters.
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I’ll See You in My Dreams (Netflix)
Another of Haley’s indie movies makes the streaming cut! It’s not often films are centered around a retired woman, but such is the case in I’ll See You in My Dreams.
Blythe Danner’s character is a widow in retirement, content with her life and uninterested in finding love again. However, something happens at the very beginning that eventually leads her to a change of heart.
An excellent supporting cast, highlighted by Sam Elliott and Martin Starr, pack a lot of punch into this fantastic story.
Ingrid Goes West (Hulu)
The perils of modern social media are captured in brilliant, albeit harrowing fashion in Ingrid Goes West.
Aubrey Plaza stars as Ingrid, who’s discontent with her small-town life and opts to move to Los Angeles. Her plan is to befriend her Instagram role model, and it goes well! For a while, at least.
Although Ingrid’s obsession is unsettling, she’s suffering from mental health issues, so it creates empathy for her character. Plaza’s performance is probably her best overall to date.
This is probably the most obscure streaming choice among the indies movies on this list. Moonwalkers scores in the low 40s in Rotten Tomatoes‘ critics and audience scores, but it’s difficult to understand why.
For Harry Potter fans, you’ll find Rupert Grint in here co-starring with the O.G. Hellboy Ron Perlman. What’s the initial premise? Perlman’s CIA agent is trying to recruit Stanley Kubrick to film the fake moon landing.
Conspiracy theory enthusiasts will love this alternate take on history, and there’s a great blend of action and comedy to satiate wider audiences.
Pi (Amazon Prime Video & Hulu until March 31)
Writer-director Darren Aronofsky launched his career with this feature-film debut that cost only $60,000 to make.
Pi is essentially about a genius mathematician who sees a pattern in the many digits of pi. Thanks to gritty filmmaking, an unsettling atmosphere and serious dramatic tension, the movie succeeds on so many levels.
Released in 1998, Pi earned Aronofsky the Sundance Film Festival Directing Award that year.
You Were Never Really Here (Amazon Prime Video)
You Were Never Really Here stars Joaquin Phoenix, which is reason enough to see it already. That’s especially so if you want to comb through his filmography following his Golden Globe win for Joker.
Phoenix’s character is a military veteran who used to be in the FBI and is dealing with PTSD. He’s hired to find the kidnapped daughter of a politician, who’s been abducted into a human trafficking ring.
It took me a while to come around to watching this film due to the depressing subject matter. However, it delivers in a big way, and Phoenix is comparably good in this role as he is as Joker.
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