The 11 Best Indie Movies You Might Have Missed This Summer

6 minute read

For every Wonder Woman, Spider-Man: Homecoming and Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2 that raked in hundreds of millions at the box office this summer, there were half a dozen indies that dazzled audiences in smaller theaters (and, in some cases, in their living rooms). From A Ghost Story’s lyrical exploration of grief to newcomer Danielle Macdonald’s virtuoso rap performances in Patti Cake$, the best indie movies of the summer of 2017 were, as always, an antidote to superhero fatigue and a trove of wonders to which we’ll no doubt be returning. Here are some of our favorites and where you can watch them now.

Best Indie Movies This Summer

Band Aid

Released June 2

Life in Pieces star Zoe Lister-Jones shows great promise as a filmmaker with her directorial debut (which she also wrote, produced and starred in) about a bickering couple who decide to channel all their gripes into song. Adam Pally plays the sweet but emotionally inaccessible husband and Fred Armisen nails the creepy neighbor (not to mention his drum solos).

Watch it now on Amazon or iTunes.

MORE: Zoe Lister-Jones on What Happens When You Only Hire Women Behind the Camera

A Ghost Story

Released July 7

David Lowery’s work of visual poetry takes a fanciful concept—what if we really do haunt our loved ones as ghosts after we die?—and turns it into a profound meditation on loss. Casey Affleck spends most of the movie’s running time under a white sheet with two eye holes, and Rooney Mara plays his grieving wife.

Watch it now in limited theaters.

Read TIME’s review: A Ghost Story Chills—and Makes You Wonder

The Incredible Jessica James

Released July 14

Comedian, former Daily Show correspondent and 2 Dope Queens podcast co-host Jessica Williams adds leading woman to her resume in this fresh Netflix rom-com. Williams plays an oft-rejected aspiring playwright struggling to get over her ex (Atlanta’s Lakeith Stanfield) while falling unexpectedly for a sweet but bruised divorcée (Chris O’Dowd).

Watch it now on Netflix.


Released July 21

The trio that spawned 2014’s charming so-called “abortion comedy” Obvious Child—director and writer Gillian Robespierre, writer-producer Elisabeth Holm and actor Jenny Slate—returns with a nuanced family dramedy set in 1990s New York City. Signifiers of the era (scrunchies, eyebrow rings) may induce nostalgia, but its exploration of sibling bonds and parent-child relationships (John Turturro and Edie Falco play mom and dad) are timeless.

Watch it now in limited theaters.

Read TIME’s review: Landline Is a Message From the Lost World of the 1990s

Brigsby Bear

Released July 28

Saturday Night Live’s Kyle Mooney takes the stilted, awkward manchild he’s cultivated throughout his years of sketch comedy and fleshes him out into a three-dimensional character. As James, he has just been rescued from a life in captivity in which his entire world revolved around a fictional TV bear, and his efforts to reintegrate are as sweetly moving as they are funny.

Watch it now in limited theaters.

Read TIME’s review: Dude Nostalgia Done Right


Released Aug. 4

On its surface, Amanda Lipitz’s documentary is a portrait of a step team at an all-girls Baltimore charter school, but it’s really about so much more. For one thing, it’s about growing up in a city where hope is often in short supply and the death of Freddie Gray still feels fresh. But it’s also a window into that supercharged moment when a young person is exploring who, and how, they want to be after the diploma is hung on a wall.

Read TIME’s review: In Step, Portraits of Determination and Dance

Watch it now in limited theaters.

Wind River

Released Aug. 4

Oscar-nominated Hell or High Water writer Taylor Sheridan writes and directs this bleak but powerful thriller about a murder on a Native American reservation in Wyoming. Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen costar as the unlikely team that sets out to solve the case, he a taciturn hunter for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and she a young FBI agent.

Watch it now in limited theaters.


Released Aug. 4

John Cho and Hailey Lu Richardson costar in this drama set among the modern architectural wonders of Columbus, Ind. Both play characters who are stuck at an emotional impasse, hampered by their relationships with a parent, and their unexpected connection unfolds in a quietly moving way.

Watch it now in limited theaters.

Ingrid Goes West

Released Aug. 11

Aubrey Plaza gets the meatiest role of her career in this dark satire for the Instagram age. Plaza plays an unstable woman who becomes obsessed with a social-media celebrity (Elizabeth Olsen) and attempts to befriend her — and perhaps become her — at any cost.

Watch it now in limited theaters.

MORE: Aubrey Plaza’s Status Update

Patti Cake$

Released Aug. 18

A smash at Sundance, Patti Cake$ tells the story of an early-20s aspiring rapper (talented Aussie newcomer Danielle Macdonald) trying to trade in dead-end jobs and mounting bills for a shot at glory. Its take on the American Dream manages to be both gritty (it takes place in Jersey strip malls, after all) and whimsical (we live out Patti’s smoke machine-enhanced onstage fantasies alongside her) all at once.

Read TIME’s review: A Jersey Girl Dreams Big

Watch it now in limited theaters.

Beach Rats

Released Aug. 25

Writer-director Eliza Hittman captures the aching juxtaposition between the interior and exterior lives of Frankie (astonishing breakout talent Harris Dickinson), a teenager from working-class Brooklyn who’s quietly exploring his attraction to men while keeping up a front of traditional masculinity among his big-muscled posse.

Read TIME’s review: A Portrait of Male Beauty in Anguish

Watch it now in limited theaters.

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