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12 of the best indie movies to stream on Showmax

By Showmax 23 April 2021

Steer clear of the mainstream with these international indie and arthouse movies to stream on Showmax now.

The meaning of the term “indie” when it comes to movies is pretty fluid – no one can really agree on a strict definition. The term used to refer to movies made without the backing of a major Hollywood studio. But nowadays, if recent recipients of the Independent Spirit Awards are anything to go by, indie movies can include films that are free, bold, quirky, edgy and unafraid, no matter who they’re made by (especially since a number of big studios now have their own “independent” labels).

So we think it’s fair to say that the best way to know if a movie qualifies as “indie” is by how it makes you feel. Is it quirky/unusual/weird? Does it make you uncomfortable? Does it deal with controversial themes and/or seem experimental? And does it have accompanying merchandise? (If you answered “yes” to that last one, it’s absolutely not an indie movie, FYI.)

Going with a fluid definition of the term, here’s our pick of the best international indie and arthouse movies to stream or download on Showmax.

Never Rarely Sometimes Always (2020)

Never Rarely Sometimes Always is one of those haunting film experiences that lives with you long after the credits roll. Telling the story of two teenage girls who travel by bus from rural Pennsylvania to New York City in search of medical help, there’s a heartbreaking honesty to this critically acclaimed and award-winning drama.

While snubbed by the Oscars, Eliza Hittman’s quietly powerful and intimate film about a teenage pregnancy has raw staying power. You sink into the lives of Autumn and Skylar, played with nuance and precision by Sidney Flanigan and Talia Ryder.

IMDB rating: 7.4/10

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 99%

 

Wild Rose (2018)

 Wild Rose centres on Rose-Lynn, a rebellious young Scottish woman whose passion for country music and map of Nashville keep her dreams alive as she reconnects with family and tries to hold down a day job as a cleaner. Jessie Buckley (Chernobyl) stars opposite Julie Walters, and delivers a BAFTA-winning performance.

IMDB rating: 7.2/10

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 92%

 

Lady Bird (2015)

Although you probably associate her with Little Women, Lady Bird is the film that established Greta Gerwig as a filmmaker. She created an intimate, thought-provoking and even funny semi-biographical film about a high schooler’s strained relationship with her mother.

Starring Brooklyn’s Saoirse Ronan, Lady Bird’s an authentic and poignant character portrait filled with honest writing and terrific performances. It’s uncommon for a coming-of-age teen movie to truly captivate, delivering on character and story without skimping on substance. Lady Bird is one such comedy drama, filled with humour and equal doses of tenderness and wisdom.

IMDB rating: 7.4/10

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 99%

 

Tully (2018)

Diablo Cody is best known for writing the critically acclaimed indie comedy drama Juno, about a wise-cracking pregnant teenager. Tully is her second Charlize Theron vehicle after Young Adult, almost serving as a chronological progression of womanhood for the screenwriter. She joins forces with Jason Reitman once again, and the three Hollywood veterans have fun with this fantasy drama about a mother of three who befriends a night nanny.

Mackenzie Davis supports Charlize, who went through a radical body transformation to play the role. The two have wonderful on-screen chemistry as we journey with Marlo, a mother struggling to hold it together with the arrival of a new baby. 

IMDB rating: 7.0/10

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 87%

 

I, Tonya (2017)

Tonya Harding has become a pop culture one-liner, which is probably why the biographical character portrait I, Tonya has a wink-wink undertone. It’s a strange blend of genres as dramatic re-enactment and behind-the-scenes turmoil bubble over into the world of competitive ice-skating. 

While I, Tonya wrestles with the ice skater’s dysfunctional marriage, it plays like a trashy crime drama. Standout performances from an all-in Margot Robbie and all-out Allison Janney lift this edgy drama. Running with scissors, the filmmakers give it comedic flair, which is offset by some gritty and madcap drama.

IMDB rating: 7.5/10

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 90%

 

Carol (2015)

Carol tells the story of a photographer in 1950s New York who falls for an older woman trapped in a loveless marriage. Transgressing convention and the cereal box idealism of the 50s, this honest and intimate romance finds the lovers struggling to make sense of their deep connection and unbridled attraction.

Cate Blanchett (Truth) is incredible – beautifully poised and full of grace, she carries a similar screen presence to Grace Kelly but with a more bewitching quality. Rooney Mara completes the enigmatic Hollywood pairing. Together the two stars embellish this stylish forbidden romance with excellent performances. 

IMDB rating: 7.2/10

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 94%

 

A Vigilante (2018)

Olivia Wilde’s blue eyes are unmistakable and she has often brandished them in roles that accentuate her beauty. While she’s known for films like TRON: Legacy and Cowboys & Aliens, it seems her best is yet to come. In A Vigilante, she plays Sadie, a dark angel who commits her life to protecting the vulnerable and avenging the crestfallen. It sounds like a job for a superhero but this isn’t some high-flying marvel; it’s more in tune with the grittier world of Kick-Ass.

After narrowly escaping her abusive husband, Sadie reinvents herself as a vigilante, using her anonymity to take down bad guys with a lethal brand of street justice. Wilde showcases her ability as an action-ready performer, reserving the quieter moments for a thoughtful and reflective lead performance.

IMDB rating: 5.7/10

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 90%

 

Skin (2019)

Jamie Bell is a quiet giant. His breakthrough performance as a child aside, he’s overcome any threat of being typecast by just getting on with it. Slowly building his career on smaller supporting roles, he’s now getting more substantial parts. His most uncharacteristic performance must surely be in Skin, where he plays a tattooed skinhead who turns his back on hatred.

In this tough biographical drama based on the life of Bryon Widner, Bell is compelling and unflinching. With Widner caught between the white supremacists who raised him and a black activist trying to free his mind, Guy Nattiv’s complex crime drama and character portrait bristles with intensity. Bell demonstrates his ability and adds to his reputation for versatility – also catch him in the Elton John biopic, Rocketman.

IMDB rating: 6.9/10

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 76%

 

The Old Man and the Gun (2018)

David Lowery is the visionary writer-director who brought us A Ghost Story. The artful and original fantasy romance drama sets the stage for a much more grounded story based on real-life San Quentin escapee Forrest Tucker. Employing a similar appetite for visual aesthetic and slower pacing, he sets about crafting this amusing crime drama about a 70-year-old bank robber.

Robert Redford (Truth), a fine filmmaker in his own right, plays the delightful and spirited Tucker. Echoing his classic role in The Sting, the Hollywood veteran proves he’s still got it with a string of daring heists. He may not be challenging Clint Eastwood for the title of Hollywood’s oldest living film icon but still has loads of charm, class and star power.

IMDB rating: 6.7/10

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 97%

 

Molly’s Game (2017)

The Social Network is Aaron Sorkin’s masterpiece, a densely written screenplay that’s still regarded as one of the best of all time. He’s proven himself as a screenwriter over and over again, first venturing onto the director’s chair with Molly’s Game. An in-form Jessica Chastain plays Molly Bloom, an Olympic-level skier who attracts the attention of the FBI after running an exclusive high stakes poker game.

It’s a bizarre true story, brought home by Sorkin’s razor-sharp wit and carried forth by his engaging dialogue. 

IMDB rating: 7.4/10

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 81%

 

Booksmart (2019)

Drop-dead gorgeous Olivia Wilde is best known for her work in front of camera, which would make you think she’s relied on her film star looks. Destroying this misconception, she directs the charming, funny and stylish coming-of-age teen comedy.

When two overachievers realise they haven’t had a “full” school experience, they try to overcorrect in one night. Starring up-and-coming talents Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein (Lady Bird) as Amy and Molly, this uproarious film about female friendship is complemented by Jason Sudeikis, Lisa Kudrow and Will Forte. Guided by Wilde’s wicked sense of humour, it can get raunchy but dials back to being just as sweet and entertaining.

IMDB rating: 7.2/10

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 96%

 

The Big Sick (2017)

Kumail Nanjiani, best known for Silicon Valley, stars opposite Zoe Kazan (The Plot Against America) in a passion project comedy about a Pakistan-born comedian whose girlfriend contracts a mysterious illness. Loosely based on the story of Kumail and his wife, the simple, restrained and emotionally resonant indie comedy was a surprise box office hit.

Dealing with illness and comedy is tricky especially when you’re already trying to do a culture clash concept justice. Somehow, The Big Sick strikes the right balance, as a stand up comedian tends to his budding career, his ailing girlfriend, her parents and his, who would sooner have him paired off with an eligible bachelorette of their choosing. It’s a funny yet contemplative film about finding yourself in the chaos of life.

IMDB rating: 7.5/10

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 98%

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