From Eileen (2023) to Polaris (2024), here are 12 new indie movies we’re looking out for in 2023, 2024.
(This article was updated October 25, 2023).
Throughout the 20th century, mainstream cinema has often served to reinforce dominant ideologies, but independent filmmakers have consistently pushed boundaries to create authentic, thought-provoking work. These indie creators challenge societal norms and spark important conversations about the medium’s potential for social impact. While not always commercially successful, indie films are vital for a culturally rich nation. It’s imperative for cinema to flourish outside the creatively stagnant studio pictures. It’s equally crucial for audiences to engage with diverse stories and look beyond the myopia of prejudice.
The industry’s financial constraints, especially in the digital age, have made it difficult for indie films to secure funding and distribution. Yet, even in the face of challenges like the recent pandemic, these filmmakers remain committed to bringing their unique stories to audiences.
We love our big-budget superhero flicks and family-friendly fairy tales, no doubt. But while blockbuster hits have their place, it’s crucial to also support smaller, independent productions that offer diverse narratives. Our curated list hopes to spotlight intriguing upcoming indie films, but there may be more titles we might have overlooked. Feel free to add more titles and keep the discussion going in the comments below.
Indie Movies To Look Out For in 2023, 2024
1. The Persian Version (2023)
The invigorating rom-com is the third feature film from Maryam Keshavarz, an American independent filmmaker of Iranian descent. The Persian Version took the U.S. Dramatic Audience Award at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Keshavarz is best known for her 2011 film Circumstance, which tells the beautiful yet distressing tale of two Iranian teenagers. With the Persian Version, Keshavarz seems to offer a vibrant and funny narrative on the clash of cultures within a large Iranian-American family.
Keshavarz employs complicated family dynamics to explore the estranged relationship between a mother and daughter. Layla Mohammadi, who was in The Sex Lives of College Girls and Special Ops: Lioness, plays the daughter, Leila. This heartfelt indie comedy is getting its limited theatrical release on October 20.
2. All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt (2023)
Poet and photographer Raven Jackson’s first feature film, All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt, is set in 1970s rural Mississippi. The narrative chronicles the life journey of a black woman named Mack (Charleen McClure). Moonlight fame Barry Jenkins has served as one of the producers. Moses Ingram (Obi-Wan Kenobi), Reginald Helms Jr., and Sheila Atim play crucial roles in Mack’s tale of young adulthood and self discovery. All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt had its premiere at Sundance in the US Dramatic Competition section. The film has received critical praise for Jackson’s assured and contemplative direction.
Writer/director Raven Jackson has said in interviews how her background in poetry helped her to subtly explore the myriad emotions in a woman’s life through small gestures and sparse dialogues. It premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, and A24 is releasing the film on November 3, 2023.
3. Eileen (2023)
William Oldroyd’s sophomore directorial effort, Eileen, is based on Ottessa Mosfegh’s 2015 novel of the same name. It won the PEN award for debut fiction and was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. Adapted to the screen by Luke Goebel (Causeway), the film revolves around Eileen Dunlop (Thomasin McKenzie), who leads a drab existence in the 1960s small-town Massachusetts. The young woman lives with her alcoholic father (Shea Wigham) and works as a secretary at a juvenile prison. Soon, Eileen’s life is transformed with the arrival of a new colleague, Rebecca (Anne Hathaway).
Oldroyd has previously directed the BAFTA award-nominated Lady Macbeth, starring Florence Pugh. DoP Ari Wegner is noted for her work in The Power of the Dog and The Wonder. Eileen was lauded at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and is having a limited release in the US this year on December 8, 2023.
4. Magazine Dreams (2023)
Elijah Bynum’s Magazine Dreams is a character study of a black amateur body-builder, Killian Maddox, who is dealing with mental health issues. The film, which premiered at Sundance, boasts a breakout performance from Jonathan Majors (who plays Kang the Conqueror in MCU). Killian’s characterization is said to bear shades of Travis Bickle (from Taxi Driver). American bodybuilder and model Michael O-Hearn plays Killian’s idol, Brad. The cast also includes well-known names in the indie circuit, like Haley Bennett and Taylour Paige.
Elijah Bynum made his directorial debut with the underwhelming neo-noir Hot Summer Nights (2017), starring Timothee Chalamet. With his latest film, Magazine Dreams, Bynum seems to have created a captivating and provocative feature dealing with themes like toxic masculinity and violence. Searchlight Pictures is releasing the film in the United States on December 8.
5. Agra (2023)
Indian independent filmmaker Kanu Behl – who worked as an assistant director for Dibakar Banerjee – made his directorial debut with the riveting crime drama Titli (2014). It was nominated for Golden Camera and Un Certain Regard awards at the Cannes Film Festival. Nearly a decade later, Behl returns with an equally hard-hitting feature titled Agra. The narrative revolves around Guru, a young, distressed call center employee. Debutant actor Mohit Agarwal and Priyanka Bose play the central characters.
Agra premiered at the Directors Fortnight at Cannes and was met with overwhelming praise, including a standing ovation from the audience. It won the Best Indie Film Award at the Melbourne Indian Film Festival. Agra was lauded for unflinchingly exploring the destructive nature of patriarchy. The film’s theatrical or streaming release hasn’t yet been announced.
6. Sometimes I Think About Dying (2024)
Rachel Lambert’s Sometimes I Think About Dying is based on Kevin Armento’s play called Killers. It was adapted into a short film in 2019 by Stefanie Abel Horowitz and Katy Wright-Mead, who serve as screenwriters in this feature-length adaptation. Star Wars fame Daisy Ridley has produced and acted in the central role of Fran, an isolated office worker living in small-town Oregon. Fran spends her days dreaming about different ways of dying until her loneliness is dispelled by a charming new colleague, Robert (Dave Merheje).
Screened at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, the film has received accolades for its subtle examination of solitude and its critique of the monotony in modern work environments. Oscilloscope Films acquired the indie film which is set for a limited release on January 26, 2024.
7. Henrico’s Farm (2024)
Lav Diaz is a prolific independent Filipino filmmaker revered for his extraordinarily long and austere black-and-white indie movies. His ambitious work, Evolution of a Filipino Family (2004), was filmed over ten years. With a runtime of 624 minutes, it’s considered to be one of the longest films ever made. Henrico’s Farm is said to focus on a 65-year-old woman returning home to Manila from Frankfurt after three decades. It’s a journey of her reflections and a traumatic past.
Lav Diaz often meditatively explores the themes of fascism, corruption, and poverty – issues that still plague a nation burdened by the dark legacy of colonial oppression and dictatorship. Henrico’s Farm might once again be a sprawling yet intimate epic on the tragic and violent past of the Philippines. It was screened at the Singapore International Festival of Arts in September.
8. Greedy People (2024)
While Joseph Gordon-Levitt has acted in major Hollywood projects like Inception and The Dark Knight Rises, he often champions independent projects, from Rian Johnson’s Brick (2005) to his own directorial debut, Don Jon (2013). Old Henry director Potsy Ponciroli’s crime/drama, Greedy People is yet another independent project headlined by Levitt. The film is set in a small island town that faces an unprecedented upheaval after a sensational crime.
Levitt apparently plays a local cop. The film also boasts a wonderful cast, including Lily James, Traci Lords, and Tim Blake Nelson. Mike Vukadinovich, who was nominated for a Golden Globe for the comedy series Kidding (2018-2020), has penned the script. Greedy People is in the post-production stage and is expected to release early 2024.
9. Love Lies Bleeding (2024)
A24 Films, a significant player in the indie entertainment landscape, is involved in British filmmaker Rose Glass’ second feature, Love Lies Bleeding. Rose Glass made her debut with the riveting indie horror Saint Maud (2019), which unfolds in the scenic North Yorkshire town of Scarborough. Love Lies Bleeding is set in America, and Glass has co-written the script with Weronika Tofilska. The film also features a talented cast of Kristen Stewart, Jena Malone, Ed Harris, and Dave Franco.
The film is said to be set in 1980s rural Nevada and focuses on an aspiring bisexual bodybuilder. The movie is described as a romantic thriller that explores the bodybuilding world. It’s expected to have its premiere at 2024 Sundance (January) and might have a limited theatrical release in early or mid-2024.
10. The Shrouds (2024)
Canadian auteur and acclaimed filmmaker David Cronenberg is best known for his provocative body horror flicks. His recent film Crimes of the Future garnered polarizing reactions from the audiences. His new film The Shrouds stars Vincent Cassel and Diane Kruger. It’s said to revolve around Cassel’s businessman character, Karsh. Grieving the loss of his wife, Karsh invents a new device to connect with the dead. The Shrouds was initially planned as a Netflix series, but the streaming giant backed out of the project.
Besides Kruger and Cassel, IMDb lists an extraordinary ensemble cast for The Shrouds, including Guy Pearce, Sandrine Holt, and Ingvar Sigurdsson. The shoot for the film is finished, and it’s expected to debut at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2024.
11. Polaris (2024)
Scottish filmmaker and cinematographer Lynne Ramsay is best known for her devastatingly brilliant indie movies Ratcatcher (1999) and We Need to Talk about Kevin (2011). In 2017, she collaborated with Joaquin Phoenix for the critically acclaimed indie You Were Never Really Here. Now, she is reuniting with the Joker actor for Polaris, which is expected to be retitled Dark Slides. The plot details aren’t yet revealed, except that Phoenix is playing a photographer. Rooney Mara is also attached to the project.
Polaris features an original script from Lynne Ramsay. This is interesting because apart from Ramsay’s directorial debut, Ratcatcher, her films are adaptations of novels. Polaris is in the post-production phase and is expected to release early next year.
12. Where to Land (2024)
Hal Hartley is a prominent American independent filmmaker who has made acclaimed indie movies like The Unbelievable Truth (1989) and Surviving Desire (1992). In 2019, he launched a Kickstarter campaign for his new feature, Where to Land, a comedy-drama about a director. Hartley has called Where to Land’s screenplay the best he’s ever written. However, the pandemic impacted the film’s production schedule. In fact, the post-pandemic scenario has hurt independent filmmakers across the globe.
Where to Land is expected to start shooting soon and might release sometime in 2024. The film’s main characters are said to be played by Edie Falco, Robert John Burke, and Hartley’s frequent collaborator Parker Posey. But there might be a change in the casting due to production delays.
Independent filmmaking is gradually recovering from the hard times brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic. The critical success of films like Cassandro, Talk to Me, and Passages is encouraging for indie directors. Apart from the aforementioned 12, several prestigious indie movies are awaiting their release. This long list includes Sofia Coppola’s Priscilla, Bertrand Bonello’s The Beast, Kristen Roupenian’s Cat Person, David Lowery’s Mother Mary, Molly Gordon & Nick Lieberman’s Theater Camp, and Russian auteur Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Jupiter.
An ardent cinephile, who truly believes in the transformative power and shared-dream experience of cinema. He blogs at ‘Passion for Movies.’