This Summer's 7 Must-See Indie Films

Photo of Leann Barna
21 December 2016

Summer is known for its big budget blockbuster movie openings, but oftentimes it’s the unsung independent film that tug at the heartstrings and stir emotions, from the psychological thrillers that cause nightmares to the family friendly comedies that renew a sense of peace in the world. Check out these seven indie films in theaters this summer that will captivate an audience until the ending credits roll.

Learning to Drive

Learning to Drive was the first runner-up for the People’s Choice Award at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival. This intriguing film examines the relationship between a New York woman and her devout Sikh driving instructor. In the movie, she takes driving lessons to gain more independence so she can visit her daughter in Vermont after the end of her marriage.

Learning to Drive will be released in theaters on August 21, 2015.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, the adaption of Jesse Andrew’s novel, premiered at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival to a standing ovation, positive reviews and both the Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic Award and the Audience Award: Dramatic U.S. This coming-of-age dramedy is full of as much clever wit as it is with heartbreak. Sundance is known for screening unique films that suddenly become wildly popular with Academy Award nominations (Whiplash, Boyhood, Beasts of the Southern Wild), which makes this film a must-see for the summer.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is set to be released in theaters June 12, 2015.

Beyond the Mask

Beyond the Mask opened small, to mostly positive reviews, which allowed for a wider theater expansion this summer. This historical action film is family-friendly, which will give it a greater appeal and audience reach. The story of the risk of a double-crossed assassin for the British East India Company finding adventure, love and redemption in America might make this film an unexpected breakout, with its action coupled with a positive message.

Beyond the Mask will open in theaters on June 5, 2015.

Once I Was a Beehive

Once I Was a Beehive is coming-of age film about a teenage girl who is sent away to camp for the first time when her mother remarries a man of another religion after the death of her father. It is refreshing to see a family-friendly indie film with a positive message and some easily relatable comedy mixed in.

Once I Was a Beehive will be released in theaters August 14, 2015.

The Stanford Prison Experiment

The Stanford Prison Experiment, adapted from Phillip Zimbardo’s book The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil, also premiered at Sundance. This film is based on Zimbardo’s 1971 experiment in which he made his students role play as prisoners and guards. It quickly spiraled out of control and had to be shut down early. Tim Talbott, the screenwriter, was awarded the coveted Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award at Sundance. While there are some mixed reviews of the film, it being based on a true story kept the audience on the edge of their seat.

The Stanford Prison Experiment will be released in theaters July 17, 2015.

Love and Mercy

Love and Mercy premiered at Toronto International Film Festival to good reviews. It tells the story of Brian Wilson, of the Beach Boys, and the extreme highs and lows of his career and his personal life. The film explores his struggle with mental illness and the battle between his controversial therapist and the woman he loves. This is a must see-film for Beach Boy fans who want to get a glimpse behind the music.

Love and Mercy is still making the film festival rounds and is set for theater release on June 5, 2015.

Live From New York

Live From New York premiered at the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival with good reviews, and it is definitely the nostalgia that makes it so special, as it examines the late night sketch comedy television show, Saturday Night Live. The look back at 40 years of comedy, history, controversy and some behind-the-scenes knowledge feels like the closest thing to time travel through the past four decades.

Live From New York will walk its audience down memory lane when it opens in theaters June 12, 2015

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