Independently produced films had an outstanding year in 2023. In fact, they won tops prizes at the Academy Awards® (Everything Everywhere All at Once), Cannes Film Festival (Anatomy of a Fall), and Venice Film Festival (Poor Things). These titles demonstrated, once again, why indie films are integral to cinema as both an artform and industry: they bring audiences bold, unexpected visions.

As we are approaching a new year, we decided to round up some great indie films that either have recently been released or will soon be released. Here is our list with brief descriptions of the selections, identified by title, director, and main production studio. They’re organized chronologically by U.S. release date.

Past Lives, dir. Celine Song, A24 (June 23, 2023)

Past Lives follows the relationship between Nora (Greta Lee) and Hae Sung (Teo Yoo) across three time periods, separated by 12-year intervals. When Nora is 12 years old, she and Hae Sung are close friends until her family leaves Korea. When Nora is 24, she reconnects with Hae Sung online. When Nora is 36, Hae Sung visits her in New York City and meets her husband, Arthur (John Magaro).

The visit causes great emotional confusion, so the characters try to explain their feelings through In-Yun, a Buddhist view of destiny in which relationships deepen over cycles of reincarnation. But can anyone know which relationships have a sufficiently substantial past or promising future? Because Past Lives so poignantly asks that question, we have continued to recommend it since our Thanksgiving blog.

Priscilla, dir. Sofia Coppola, American Zoetrope (November 3, 2023)

Based on Priscilla Beaulieu Presley’s memoir Elvis and Me (1985), Priscilla pierces the glamour around 20th-century America’s most iconic musical superstar. The biopic covers a period of 14 years, beginning with the first meeting between Priscilla (Cailee Spaeny) and Elvis (Jacob Elordi) in 1959 and concluding with their divorce in 1973.

Initially, Priscilla feels starstruck, but she gradually uncovers Elvis’ flaws. A possessive and even tyrannical husband, Elvis wants to control every aspect of Priscilla’s appearance. Meanwhile, he conducts numerous – and sometimes highly publicized – affairs. Finally, Priscilla musters the courage to divorce Elvis. For vividly portraying Priscilla’s 14-year journey, Spaeny won the Coppa Volpi for Best Actress at the 2023 Venice Film Festival.

BlackBerry, dir. Matt Johnson, Rhombus Media (November 13, 2023)

Before the iPhone’s release in 2007, the BlackBerry accounted for nearly half of the smartphone market, as Jacquie McNish and Sean Silcoff recall in Losing the Signal: The Untold Story Behind the Extraordinary Rise and Spectacular Fall of BlackBerry (2015). Their book provided the basis for Matt Johnson’s satire of Research In Motion (RIM), the Canadian company behind the BlackBerry.

RIM’s founders, Mike Lazarides (Jay Baruchel) and Doug Fregin (Matt Johnson), lack the skills to market their innovative device, so Mike seeks help from opportunistic salesman Jim Balsillie (Glenn Howerton). The decision strains Mike’s friendship with Doug and changes their company’s culture. Although the BlackBerry falls into oblivion, BlackBerry remains a fable to warn tech entrepreneurs against betraying youthful ideals for short-term gains.

May December, dir. Todd Haynes, Gloria Sanchez Productions (December 1, 2023)

May December isn’t simply about an intergenerational relationship, as its understated title might suggest. It’s a study of characters living in the aftermath of a crime and scandal. The film mirrors the true story of convicted rapist Mary Kay Letourneau, a teacher who had a sexual relationship with a 12-year-old student. They were later married.

The fictional relationship between Grace (Julianne Moore) and Joe (Charles Melton) began when Grace was 36 and Joe was 13. Now, at the ages of nearly 60 and 36, the married couple opens their home to Elizabeth (Natalie Portman), an actor hired to portray Grace onscreen. Grace and Joe hope that the new film will tell their story in a way they deem accurate, but Elizabeth may also tear their lives apart.

Poor Things, dir. Yorgos Lanthimos, Element Pictures (December 8, 2023)

At the 2023 Venice Film Festival, Yorgos Lanthimos won the Golden Lion for his adaptation of Alasdair Gray’s novel Poor Things (1992), a version of Frankenstein where the monster is … a woman! Due to her immodest candor, irrepressible sexuality, and zest for life, Bella Baxter (Emma Stone) proves to be a terror to Victorian society, particularly its male members.

Bella’s unnatural life begins when a mad scientist, Dr. Godwin Baxter (Willem Dafoe), reanimates a pregnant woman’s drowned corpse. After Bella relearns how to speak, she becomes engaged to Max McCandles (Ramy Youssef) but elopes with Duncan Wedderburn (Mark Ruffalo). Bella quickly exhausts Duncan during their European adventures, but her joyous existence is troubled as she discovers unpleasant facts about human society – and her own past.

The Boy and the Heron, dir. Hayao Miyazaki, Studio Ghibli (December 8, 2023)

Miyazaki’s animated fairy tale begins in Tokyo during the second World War. A young boy named Mahito (Soma Santoki) loses his mother during the bombing of a hospital. Mahito’s father remarries, and the family moves to a rural town. Mahito continues to grieve, but one day, a talking heron (Masaki Suda) offers to reunite Mahito with his mother.

The heron leads Mahito to a tower. Inside, Mahito discovers a strange place, perhaps the underworld, populated by even stranger creatures or spirits. During Mahito’s adventures, he finds a real book, Genzaburo Yoshino’s How Do You Live? In Japanese, Miyazaki’s film has the same title. As Mahito’s journey demonstrates, the question has no simple answers that could be looked up in a book.

You Hurt My Feelings, dir. Nicole Holofcener, FilmNation Entertainment (January 22, 2023)

In this comedy, the marriage between Beth (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and Don (Tobias Menzies) reaches a crisis when Beth discovers the truth: contrary to Don’s repeated assurances, he does NOT admire the draft of Beth’s second book. Beth finds out when she and her sister, Sarah (Michaela Watkins), overhear Don confiding in Sarah’s husband, Mark (Arian Moayed). Of course, Don’s unfiltered opinion hurts Beth’s feelings.

The conflict motivates Beth to reexamine her family’s personal and professional relationships. For instance, Sarah routinely praises Mark’s mediocre acting. Sarah’s clients doubt her expertise in interior design. Don’s therapy patients say their appointments are a waste of money. Meanwhile, Beth nurtures her son’s doomed interest in creative writing. To forgive Don, Beth may have to learn the lesson that encouragement is not always as kind as it seems.

All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt, dir. Raven Jackson, A24 (January 22, 2024)

“You want to know a secret? It doesn’t end or begin – just changes form,” Mack (Charleen McClure) tells her daughter while they watch the rain. Mack is talking about water, but it’s a metaphor for life in poet Raven Jackson’s evocative debut film. Almost like a visual symphony, the film shows images from Mack’s life, stirring emotions with few words.

During childhood, Mack (initially played by Kaylee Nicole Johnson) learns to fish from her father. She admires her mother applying makeup. Mack also survives tragedies and, in difficult circumstances, gives birth to a daughter. What unites the experiences is that they belong to Mack, a Black woman from rural Mississippi. By showing Mack’s life so intimately, Jackson moves us more than we can say.

That’s our roundup!

We hope you will appreciate these new indie films as much as we do. If there’s another one that you particularly enjoyed, let us know in the comments! We’d love to hear what you admired most about it.

Until next time, find some creativity wherever you can. Stay safe, and be well. #StandCreative