Movie blogs and cinephile chatter sound like broken records lately. If the conversations aren’t about Daisy Ridley and Star Wars: The Force Awakens, they’re about Todd Haynes’ awards powerhouse Carol, Quentin Tarantino and The Hateful Eight, Leonardo DiCaprio’s not-bear-rape in The Revenant, the steamrolling Best Picture frontrunner Spotlight, or the unlikely Best Picture contender (!) Mad Max: Fury Road. (“Unlikely” because it includes badass scenes like this, and this, and this.) Nothing else stands a chance.
That’s a shame, too, since, despite what Bret Easton Ellis will tell you, 2015 was a superlative year for movies. Per usual, the many of the year’s best cinematic achievements were independently made, and, as a result, have struggled to find the same-sized audiences as those glossier aforementioned Oscar contenders and box office smashes. What’s especially interesting is that many of 2015’s prestige movies call to mind specific indie movies, due to shared plot points, mirrored artistic ambitions, and/or actor pairings. And there’s no reason why the smaller ones should keep being overshadowed.
As we head into the Christmas break, there’s no better time to play catch-up with this year’s lesser-known gems, and to help you pick and choose which indie flicks to watch first, we’ve put together this guide to 2015’s best indie movies based on your prestige, A-list movie preferences, complete with how you can watch each one right away.
If you love Star Wars: The Force Awakens, try…
Chief among the many things to love about Star Wars: The Force Awakens is Oscar Isaac’s Poe Dameron, this generation’s new Han Solo, but it’s also impossible not to leave a screening of the box office juggernaut while thinking about Domhnall Gleeson’s fiery dictator-gone-H.A.M. monologue as the villainous General Hux. In Ex Machina, however, the actors’ roles are reversed. Gleeson plays the well-meaning protagonist, a computer programmer/nebbish lured by charismatic yet devious tech CEO (played by Isaac) into a dangerous three-way relationship; the third party is a humanoid, A.I. robot with her own sneaky agenda (and played brilliantly by Alicia Vikander).
If the hugely entertaining Star Wars: The Force Awakens is popcorn sci-fi, the exceptional Ex Machina is genre caviar…