9 Indie Romance Movies That Look at Relationships Differently

9 Indie Romance Movies That Look at Relationships Differently

My favorite genre of film has always been romance—whether it is in the form of a cliché-ridden comedy starring Kate Hudson, or a heart-wrenching tale of unrequited love like 500 days of Summer. But when I need a break from mainstream blockbusters, I turn my attention to independents. Indie romance movies typically go against the grain of conventional filmmaking.

An independent film is essentially any movie without one of the big studios backing it. Indies have been around for as long as filmmaking has been around. With changing times the genre has undergone a makeover of sorts. Subverting the genre has become a common trait. Today, ‘indie’ is less of a genre and more of an attitude – an anti-corporate, fiercely independent approach to filmmaking.

While there are plenty of blockbusters to enjoy, these indie romance movies have the heart you’re looking for.

1. Call Me By Your Name (2017)

Genre: Romance, drama

Duration: 2h 12m

Where to watch: Netflix

Call Me BY Your Name, a Luca Guadagnino film
Call Me By Your Name

Luca Guadagnino’s films are all about the transformative power of nature—the way it allows our true selves to shine through and inspires us to pursue our hidden passions. From the same director, Call Me By Your Name revolves around Elio (Timothée Chalamet), a 17-year-old boy who falls for his father’s slightly older student (Armie Hammer). Writer James Ivory’s generous, sensitive adaptation of Andre Aciman’s novel reveals these characters and their ever-evolving dynamic in beautifully steady yet detailed fashion. Set in sun-drenched northern Italy and soundtracked by Sufjan Stevens, it’s a sumptuous portrayal of first love and heartbreak.

There are scenes that make you hold your breath with their intimate power, where the emotions feel completely authentic. And yet, the most resonant part may not even be the romance itself. But rather the lingering sensation that it can’t last, which Guadagnino evokes through long takes and with expert use of silence. A feeling of melancholy tinges everything, from the choice of a shirt to the taste of a perfectly ripe peach. I’m not even lying when I say, this cinematic masterpiece broke me in the most beautiful way possible.

2. Her (2013)

Genre: Romance, sci-fi

Duration: 2h 6m

Where to watch: Netflix

Her, a Spike Jonze love story

The invention of virtual iPhone assistant Siri or Amazon’s Alexa has made Spike Jonze’s fourth feature film feel all too real. We fear that technology’s ability to enhance our relationships will eventually impair them through its unnatural interference. And this uneasiness is taken to the next level in Her. Joaquin Phoenix plays a lonely divorcée who falls in love with Samantha (Scarlett Johansson), a highly evolved AI assistant (think a sexier, more accommodating Siri).

Their intricate relationship at an emotional level seems surreal and weird at first. But slowly you start empathizing and believing in it. It features some breathtaking sequences and a heartbreaking story that idealizes futuristic love in a contemporary setting. Her falls under the list of the best indie romance movies not only because it delves into sci-fi, but because it forces us to look at relationships in the modern world a bit differently.

3. The Big Sick (2017)

Genre: Romance, drama

Duration: 2h 4m

Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video

The Big Sick, an American romantic comedy film
The Big Sick

Pakistani-born stand-up comedian Kumail Nanjiani and his American wife Emily V. Gordon’s real-life story served as an absolute charmer. Sharp and winsome, The Big Sick shows how a cross-culture love story cleverly subverts the rom-com genre. Nanjiani plays a younger version of himself, a man who struggles with his traditional Muslim background and familial expectations, especially when he begins to fall in love with his then-girlfriend Emily (played by Zoe Kazan). It follows Gordon ending up in a medically induced coma, with Nanjiani having to keep vigil with her parents by her hospital bed.

The offbeat comedy explores everyday racism, loyalty and culture. Gordon and Nanjiani wrote the script together as an intense form of couples therapy, only for uber-producer Judd Apatow and director Michael Showalter to recognize its potential and help shape it into Sundance gold. The film was nominated for the Oscars in the category of Best Original Screenplay.

4. Before Sunrise (1995)

Genre: Romance, drama

Duration: 1h 45m

Where to watch: Buy or rent on Amazon Prime Video

Before Sunrise, the first instalment in the Before trilogy
Before Sunrise

Director Richard Linklater’s Before trilogy follows Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy), who encounter each other at various points in their lives, sharing romantic moments, and then parting ways. On a tiny budget and at the mercy of Viennese trains and Ferris wheels, 1995’s Before Sunrise, the first installment in the series, managed to create ‘90s movie magic.

It focuses on two strangers who meet on a train on the way from Budapest to Paris to their respective journeys back home. They decide to spend the last night wandering around the Austrian capital, sharing cerebrally charged anecdotes and gradually falling in love. And as the sun comes up and the time for them to go their separate ways grows ever closer, the possibility of them ever seeing each other again becomes steadily more remote. Before Sunrise is so much like real life – like a documentary shot by an unacknowledged camera. The movie does a great job in showcasing the human aspects of postmodern romance and making the relationship between the two lead characters believable. Altogether, it’s charming, funny, and smart and will keep you hooked from the start to the end.

5. Obvious Child (2014)

Genre: Comedy, romance

Duration: 1h 30m

Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video

Obvious Child, a romcom, written and directed by Gillian Robespierre in her directorial debut
Obvious Child

It’s a romantic comedy about abortion! Now that I have your attention, Obvious Child is about a struggling stand-up comedian (played by Jenny Slate) who chances on a drunken one-night stand post break up only to end up pregnant. Think Knocked Up for the millennial age, but so much more relatable and likable. The dialogue is genuinely hilarious and Slate is infallible as her raw, vulgar, and oh-so-messy character. Written and directed by Gillian Robespierre, it represents the best of what the indie rom-com can offer: beats and characters that feel similar to the genre, but with specificity and complexity that would never fly in a major studio release. Without any doubt, Obvious Child is certainly the funniest film on this list.

6. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

Genre: Romance, sci-fi

Duration: 1h 48m

Where to watch: Netflix

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, a science fiction romantic drama
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Ever had a break-up so bad you wish you could erase the person from your life? The fact that Charlie Kaufman’s bizarre science-fiction-meets-comedy-drama hybrid showed such a procedure really hit a nerve. Here, Jim Carrey (Joel) and Kate Winslet (Clementine) play an estranged couple who after a huge row, wish to forget the memories. But as the plot evolves, the process takes the shape of a disorientating and dreamlike trip down memory lane. Wonderfully weird, the movie looks at the fragility of memory. The main idea is that you can erase someone from your mind, but not from your heart. In short, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind has all the ingredients for the kind of filmmaking that you appreciate more and more upon every watch.

7. Marriage Story (2019)

Genre: Romance, drama

Duration: 2h 17m

Where to watch: Netflix

Marriage Story, a Noah Baumbach film
Marriage Story

Set over the course of a bitter and emotionally exhausting divorce between playwright Charlie Barber (Adam Driver) and Nicole Barber (Scarlett Johansson), Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story goes on about the emotions, realities, and struggles of a failed marriage. As the couple grows apart and their young son Henry is stretched across the country, the movie examines how quickly relationships can be upended when things no longer work. In other words, it is truly gut-wrenching and gripping in a way that most movies are incapable of.

Marriage Story is richly detailed, tastefully balanced with some needed comedy, and consistently attentive to the inner lives of the lead characters, who endure all the dehumanization of the divorce process in America. This 2019 Academy Award-winning film is really an examination of what happens between two people that, despite being at their worst, never really stop loving one another. It is this idea that has stayed with viewers and why Marriage Story has resonated so strongly.

8. The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)

Genre: Romance, drama

Duration: 1h 45m

Where to watch: Netflix

The Perks of Being a Wallflower, an American coming-of-age drama
The Perks of Being a Wallflower

The Perks of Being a Wallflower chronicles the life of a socially awkward teen Charlie (Logan Lerman), a wallflower, always watching life from the sidelines until two charismatic students become his mentors. Free-spirited Sam (Emma Watson) and her stepbrother Patrick (Ezra Miller) help Charlie discover the joys of friendship, first love, music, and more, while a teacher sparks Charlie’s dreams of becoming a writer. The characters are not primitive high school kids just dancing and singing aimlessly, but dealing with real issues. The coming-of-age drama also depicts the protagonist’s struggle with and overcoming post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). I love this movie, especially because of how authentic the characters really are. Both the book and its film adaptation are unique and stand out from the mass of all the one-like-the-other young adult books and movies.

9. 500 Days of Summer (2009)

Genre: Romance, drama

Duration: 1h 37m

Where to watch: Buy or rent on Google Play

500 Days of Summer, an indie romance movie
500 Days of Summer

We tend not to remember events in chronological order, especially when we’re going back over a failed romance. We start near the end and then hop around between the good times and the times that left pain. People often say “start at the beginning,” but we don’t know at the time that it is the beginning. 500 Days of Summer is a movie that moves that way. On the surface, it looks like a quirky, hipster romantic comedy about a greeting-card writer named Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) as he falls in love with Summer (Zooey Deschanel)who doesn’t quite believe in love and relationships. But it’s anything but a happy-go-lucky story of young love.

The real heart of this movie is the breakup that takes up a large portion of the runtime as Tom tries to figure out what went wrong. The story is told in a non-linear structure jumping to different days within the 500-day relationship. This indie film shattered our long-held illusions of what love should look like as inspired by the countless romance movies we’ve watched in the 2000s. Even the narrator warns us that what we’re watching is not a love story, it is a story about love. This refreshing concept garnered the movie numerous awards including Best Original Screenplay at the 14th Satellite Awards.

Indie films of late have often done wonders within the genre itself. The intimacy of romance stories lends itself well to smaller indie movies. Give our list of indie romance movies a try when you’re bored of the commercial rom-com.

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This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Bipradeep


  2. sancheeta

    Absolutely love this list. Will definitely check out the recommendations. I particularly enjoyed the way the writer described every movie.

  3. Shivansh Sinha

    My romance deprived posterior found itself wanting love just by a recommendation article, that should be a testament to how articulately detailed (yet not botched by it) the writing is. It’s good. The author never fails to wow.


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