Recommend some indie and foreign films for me, please

I’ve seen quite a number of mainstream American movies over the years, but I haven’t given much attention to movies from other countries or those that are a little more quirky and less noticed than big-budget films with plenty of stars. Seems like I’m possibly missing out on a wealth of great films because I don’t see that many foreign or small, independent films advertised, while bigger movies (like the recent It’s kind of a funny story) is advertised to death everywhere I go. To be honest, I’m a little bored with the same formulas being used for different movie genres: A horror movie will involve an exorcism or haunting, or a cute child who’s really eeevil; movies about teenagers will have a protagonist who doesn’t fit in and eventually comes to terms with his own identity, etc.

So I’d love to see some films that don’t have a big enough budget to be advertised but are still great, or films from other countries that have been overlooked by American media. Which indie or foreign releases do I have to see?

I’ve seen a few J-horror releases: Ringu, the original One Missed Call, Janghwa, Hongryeon (A Tale of Two Sisters). I’ve also seen a lot of Guillermo del Toro’s movies and loved them. Grave of the Fireflies, Spirited Away, and Paprika weren’t as great as people made them out to be, IMO.

Indie films I have seen include Little Miss Sunshine, 10 items or less, and I’m sure a bunch more that I can’t remember at the moment.

The types of movies I like are usually dramatic (but not overly so) or horror/psychological thriller. I do like animated movies, but I’ve been kind of underwhelmed by the Japanese animation I’ve seen. I also love musicals and comedy, if it’s done well.

Any and all recommendations are really appreciated.

City of God

The City of Lost Children

Run Lola Run


All of these are great but different. It was the best I could do without some more information on what you really like.

J-Horror category: Uzumaki.

If you’re in the mood for something more bizarre than that, Tetsuo: The Iron Man.

A great World War I love story: A very long engagement
one of the more famous French musicals: The Umbrellas of Cherbourg
a weird French black comedy: Delicatessen

I really enjoyed The Triplets of Belleville. Animated, but not Japanese. (I was going to say French, but I looked it up and it’s actually "an international co-production between companies in France, the United Kingdom, Belgium and Canada.)

Mongol was pretty cool.

I would recommend you go to your local art house cinema and just watch whatever they’re showing this week.

You might like Battle Royale.

The only problem with that is that I just moved to Bangor, Maine, and I kind of doubt there are many art house theaters around.

City of God, but that was already mentioned
How about…

Vicky Cristina Barcelona, it’s directed by Woody Allen, I’m not sure if it’s considered foreign, but it’s really good. I just rented it for the second time.

Life is Beautiful

The Grey Zone
Drugstore Cowboy
Rabbit Proof Fence

The Cube (and the sequel, Cube2: Hypercube - Bizarre movies about a group of apparently random people thrown together in a deadly maze. Watch this with a group of people, then discuss it afterward.

How to Get Ahead in Advertising - Hilarious film about an advertising exec and his struggle with the immorality of his career.

Pi - A very strange but interesting movie about a man obsessed with numbers, and his quest to find the hidden name of god in the Torah.

If you can overlook the face punchability of insane couch-jumping scientology wacko Tom Cruise, check out Vanilla Sky, a strange but very cool movie.

Donnie Darko is a surrealistic movie that people either seem to love or hate.

If I can nominate some Terry Gilliam (from Monty Python) movies, I’m also going to throw out:
The Adventures of Baron Munchausen and Time Bandits, both of which are sort of Kid’s movies, but work better for adults (I think most of it would go over the kid’s heads nowadays). Sort of along the lines of A Princess Bride as far as being kid/adult movies goes. Both movies are funny, surrealistic, and awesome.

12 Monkeys

Brazil was a “1984” style Orwellian vision of the future. There’s a really interesting backstory about the movie itself, the studio released a very different film than Gilliam envisioned. He took out a full page ad in Variety magazine asking the producers why they wouldn’t release “his” movie. I have the Criterion edition, which has the theatrical movie, and Gilliam’s version. The two are very, very different despite using the same footage, and are a testament to what you can do with editing. Gilliam’s is by far the better movie though, but the theatrical is well worth watching just to see how you can turn the same movie into something almost completely different in the editing room.

Jabberwocky is one of Gilliam’s earlier and often overlooked movies because of the roughness of the special effects (the “monster” is a completely fake looking paper mache mess). Very similar humor to Monty Python, if you loved Monty Python and the Holy Grail and/or the Life of Brian you should watch this.

Two movies that I think deserve more press than they got:

Brick - A 1950’s film noir set in a present day suburban high school in California. The idea is brilliant and it works on so many different levels.

Home Room - Two students dealing with the aftermath of witnessing a school shooting. Very exceptional acting by the two leads, and very well written characters. The full movie is available on hulu for free.

One movie that deserves more praise than it got:

The Rules of Attraction - It’s a subversive take on all the Van Wilder type films. Directed and written by Rober Avary who co-wrote Pulp Fiction. Avary has been having trouble getting work since he directed the film. It has a low IMDB rating because most people miss what the film is trying to do. They approach it thinking it’s a shallow film about college students getting high and having lots of sex. They miss the fact that the film is really a critical look at that type of lifestyle.

Foreign films you should see:

Since you mentioned Guillermo, you’ve probably already seen Pan’s Labyrinth. Very beautiful and amazing film.

Let the Right One In is a must see foreign film. Vampire horror film that’s much more than a vampire horror film. They’ve just remade it with Let Me In. I would watch the original even if you’ve seen the American version.

Some good recommendations already.

I’ll include:

The Cook the Thief His Wife & Her Lover
The Vengeance Trilogy:
Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance
Lady Vengeance
Dancer in the Dark


This Is England

Elite Squad

Buffalo '66

Ghost World

The Fall

Goodbye Lenin! is a hilarious and sad film about life in post-communist Germany. The protagonist’s mother falls into a coma just before the fall of the Berlin Wall and he’s told after she wakes that she’s too weak to handle the news, so he and his friends recreate the trappings of East Germany for her in their apartment.

Brat is a Russian film about a guy who shoots people, but unlike most films about a guy shooting people it’s very subdued and understated. It has a setup like a Hollywood movie but without a Hollywood execution or a Hollywood ending. Also, the director seems to REALLY want everyone to listen to a certain band.

How many years do you want to go back? Do you want foreign and independent American films from the entire history of movies or just those no further back than some given number of years?

Fitzcarraldo is an unbelievable movie by the eccentric Werner Herzog about an obsessed opera loving rubber baron who hauls a riverboat over a ridge between river valleys. The movie was as insane and deadly as the original adventure the movie was based upon. It stars the nutjob Klaus Kinski in all his glory.
Kung Fu Hustleis a hilarious martial arts comedy by Stephen Chow. The fight scenes, dancing, and tributes to Tex Avery combine for what I consider the greatest martial arts movie ever.

Assuming you’re not tied to the films produced during any particular decade, I would be frightfully remiss if I didn’t recommend Akira Kurosawa’s Ikiru.

Want a more recent, but no less excellent Kurosawa epic? Try Ran. (Of course, one can never go wrong when one opts to take in Kurosawa’s Rashomon or Seven Samurai.)

Want to try another, less accessible Japanese auteur? Try Kenzi Mizoguchi’s Sanshô Dayû.

Moving away from foreign films and towards (more contemporary) indie films, two good choices (both starring Kevin Spacey when he was still an acting force to be reckoned with) are: Swimming with Sharks, and The Big Kahuna.

And if you really want to revel in unadulterated misogyny, there’s always the excellent, troubling In the Company of Men.

Also: Want a good indie doco? Try Barbara Koppel’s Harlan County U.S.A., or Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky’s Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills. And then just try to sleep at night.

There are some great suggestions here, and some awful ones (The Cook, The Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover, really?), but there are a huge number of independent and foreign films released every year that get little or no press, and it is hard to select just a few out of all of them. Overall, I like sitnam and Darryl Lict’s suggestions, and would add to that Vozvrashcheniye (The Return), a Russian film about two boys whose father returns suddenly one day and takes them on a fishing trip. It sets up like some kind of thriller, but becomes a very different film than you would possibly expect. If you like Japanese films, try Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon, the story of the murder of a samurai and the alleged rape of his wife, as told from several different conflicting viewpoints. John Frankenheimer’s Seconds is a great, Twilight Zone-ish tale about a man who is given a second chance at life, brilliantly shot by renowned cinematographer James Wong Howe. In Bruges is a complex, multilayered story about a pair of assassins sent to Belgium to “cool off”. I’ll second recommendations for Brick, and think that a good pairing for Goodbye, Lenin! is the German film The Business of Others, about a Stasi agent who is directed to investigate a playright and his girlfriend for reasons other than state security and gets too involved in his subjects. David Cronenberg’s Eastern Promises, a story about human trafficking and the Russian Mafia, is pretty mainstream for him, but a great film nonetheless. Memento, the second film of Batman Begins and Inception director Christopher Nolan, is both a clever mystery and a character study in self-delusion.

And no list of independent films would be complete without mentioning the Coen brothers (Blood Simple, The Big Lebowski, O Brother Where Art Thou) and David Mamet(I’d start with Heist or The Spanish Prisoner, but I think Spartan and House of Games are really his best work). Krzysztof Kieślowski’s Three Colors Trilogy (Red, White, and Blue) are mesmerizing, and La battaglia di Algeri (The Battle for Algiers) has been cited by directors from Spike Lee to John Frankenheimer as a major influence on their careers. Vittorio De Sica’s The Bicycle Thief and Umberto D. are heartbreaking, and anything by Fellini that wasn’t made after Juliet of the Spirits (especially Nights of Cabiria and La Dolce Vita) is well worth the time spent. I’m not a huge fan of Bergman and think that The Seventh Seal is somewhat overrated, but Wild Strawberries is an excellent film. I think Michelangelo Antonioni’s The Passenger, along with Six Easy Pieces is an excellent display of Jack Nickelson’s more subtle acting ability before he became the scenery chewing menace he is today. And no mention of independent films would be complete without mentioning Scorsese. People usually cite Taxi Driver, which is indeed a hypnotic (if disturbing) film, and of course the popular Goodfellas, but I think his best work is Raging Bull and his version of Cape Fear. Sidney Lumet’s Network (written by Paddy Chayefsky) is more relevant now than when it was released in 1976.

I could go on indefinitely, but really, you could fill every night of the year watching great non-mainstream films and barely scratch the surface. I think the best thing to do is find a director or writer you like and sample a few films.


I have been underwhelm by most the recent indies. The great one I have seen recently is:
‘me and you and everyone we know’

some of the older ones:
Being John Malcovich
Donnie Darko
Ghost World
Napoleon Dynamite

even older ones:
Buffalo 66
Mystery Train
After Hours

Some great foreign titles you might be interested in:
In the Mood for love
Raise the Red Lantern
Pan’s Labyrinth
What time is it there?
Chungking Express

Every time I recommend this, people watch it and just…don’t…get it. Never mind how brilliantly original it is–like a Monty Python skit that just keeps changing course but never falls off the rails–it just goes so many directions so quickly no one seems to know what to make of it. Kaufman’s self-depricating Adaptation ups the ante, and Schenectady, NY is such a ludicrously original and honest film I can barely stand to watch it again. The closest Kaufman has gotten to mainstream (aside from the fun but bastardized Confessions of a Dangerous Mind) is Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, a sort of anti-romantic comedy.


Flame and Citron is a great Danish WWII movie, great drama and lots of tense moments.

Primer is an excellent indie sci-fi film. Probably the most “realistic” time-travel movie I’ve seen, and probably the best I’ve seen period at that budget (shot for ~$7,000 IIRC). Mentioned in XKCD

I second the recommendation for the Vengeance Trilogy - they’re a great jumping off point for Korean cinema, and based on your OP you should really like them.

I also second Brick - it’s unique and stylish and a lot of fun to watch.

All of these are available to watch instantly, if you have Netflix.