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The Ultimate Guide to Arthouse Film in 2024

If one of your “ins” for the new year is to dip a toe into indie cinema, let this be your guide to resolution fulfillment.

PureRadiencePhoto/ Shutterstock

Don’t get me wrong, we all need a rom-com or superhero movie every now and then. Big studios bring us predictable (and thus comforting) stories that feel like the equivalent of a “beach read.” So, what if your 2024 resolution was to break free of the studio circuit and perhaps venture into uncharted cinematic waters?

These films are conceived and produced outside of the system to which we are accustomed, which can feel uninviting. If your New Year’s reading list consists of books that aim to challenge you and your understanding of the world, so should your movie list. 

Poor Things took home seven awards at the 2024 Golden Globes Credit: Hamara/ Shutterstock

The end of 2023 began a big season for independent film. From Saltburn to Poor Things, independent films have been dominating the cultural landscape. Naturally, these films are a fantastic place to start on your adventure beyond the break of blockbuster movies and into the vast ocean of lesser-known films. If, after seeing any of this year’s breakthrough indies, you are left craving more, here’s how you find them. 

Follow the Directorial Breadcrumbs

A simple way to ease yourself into indie is to work your way backward from something familiar. Pick a director; almost any director. You will find that at some point, they were directing independent or arthouse films. 

Martin Scorcese’s first feature was an indie called Who’s That Knocking at My Door
Credit: Lev Radin/ Shutterstock

If you, like the rest of the world, saw Barbie this year, then you may be familiar with director Greta Gerwig. Follow her directorial credits back just a few short years and you will find the Oscar-winning indie Lady Bird (2017). Nearly a decade more and you find her directorial debut, Nights and Weekends (2008), in which she was a triple threat acting, writing, and directing. This can also be an effective tool with your favorite actors, screenwriters, and composers; almost nobody started in blockbusters.

Read Poetry

Counterintuitive to a movie-watching resolution? Only partially. Independent cinema frequently challenges what we know as the “hero’s journey” or studio format for film. That is to say, these movies might be non-linear or otherwise unusual in composition, dialogue, or structure. It can be closer to poetry than to movies at the big box office. Allowing your brain to think and question outside of its usual patterns can help you to find an appreciation for independent films. 

Fun Fact: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is both nonlinear and independent

Find an Indie Theater

The Chinese Theater on Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles
Credit: Sean Pavone/ Shutterstock

In LA this isn’t difficult, but there are perhaps even more arthouse theaters to find outside of Hollywood. Operating outside the big studio system typically means movies that also run circuits outside of the big nickelodeons. A favorite indie cinema in Los Angeles is the Alamo Drafthouse Theater, but they have locations all across America. Laredo, Texas, a border town with less than 260,000 residents, boasts an Alamo Drafthouse complete with reclining seats, gourmet food, and the latest indie films. 

There are 39 Alamo Drafthouse locations across the United States
Credit: Mitch Lazorko/ Shutterstock

Search for your University or City’s Local Film Festival

Most universities, even those without a film department, will have some sort of film club or cinema festival every year. Local universities are a wonderful place to look for fresh (and affordable) perspectives and film, ranging from shorts to features. 

Watch What’s Getting Praise at International Festivals 

Limiting yourself to a single language when exploring the world of cinema is one of the worst mistakes any film lover could make. There is a vast universe beyond the English-speaking cinema scene, and it has never been easier to venture into it. Whether you prefer English voice-dub (really?) or subtitles, most indie films watched at home will have accessible options available to you. Take a peek at any of the festivals from China to France, and you will discover film styles you have never seen from an American studio. 

Utilize the Netflix Genre Codes

Netflix claims to have over 4,000 separate genre codes and categories
Credit: Robert Bodnar T/ Shutterstock

Streaming services can actually be a huge asset when it comes to discovering independent films within genres you already love. Check out any of the incredibly specific Netflix codes for finding movies of the same genre, and you will see that at least half are independently made films. There are even independent streaming services like Shudder, which specializes in providing a streaming platform for indie horror. 

Shudder’s library boasts over 650+ horror films. Credit: Luke W Bryant/ Shutterstock

Don’t Get Too Caught Up in What’s “Real Indie”

Silver Linings Playbook (2012) starred two of the biggest actors of the decade Credit: Debby Wong/ Shutterstock

The truth is, you’ve probably watched way more indie cinema than you even realize. Donnie Darko (2001), Juno (2007), and even My Big Fat Greek Wedding are all indie films. Popularity doesn’t necessarily equate to being a big studio film, as there are countless indie films that have made their way into the permanent cultural zeitgeist. How far you want to travel down the rabbit hole is a decision all your own, and you have a whole year to do it!

Written By

TrillMag Entertainment intern and writer! Based in Los Angeles, CA.

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