Independent cinema is a thriving new cinematic genre, and has produced some outstandingly funny and very clever films. Not all indie movies are comedies, certainly not, but a hefty percentage are. Here are ten great independent comedies–not necessarily the ten best, but just ten great ones, in no particular order.
“This job would be great if it weren’t for the fucking customers.” It’s impossible for anyone aged 15-45 to not absolutely love this Kevin Smith comedy. As well as bringing down the house with its decidedly unsubtle humour and observations about workplace scenarios and real life drama, it also manages to be an inspiration for budding filmmakers, shot for less than 30 grand with B&W cameras and a tiny cast of unknowns. Well… why not?
Thomas Haden Church, decidedly reminiscent of an entire subculture of American men (no offense intended) and Paul Giamatti, an also dryly stereotypical but impossibly original variation of the schmuck-with-a-book tactic (again, not trying to offend!), make a perfect odd-couple in this honest comedy about a pre-marital weekend-long bachelor party consisting of various wine tastings, gratuitous nudity, and not to mention the sacred bonds of the un-buddy-breakable male friendships that decorate so many films of this cult flavour kind. Read my review here.
Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
In much the same vein as Sideways, this far funnier and hugely honest movie about the imperfections of family is almost perfect in a way. The comedy is fresh, original and extremely well-acted by a great cast including Greg Kinnear, Toni Collette, Steve Carrell, Paul “I am a false prophet, God is a superstition” Dano, Abigail Breslin, and a far from Glengarry Glen Ross Alan Arkin. You really can’t go wrong.
Garden State (2004)
I only saw this very recently, and it was the film that really got me thinking about doing this list. Zach Braff is surprisingly fresh and different from Scrubs, and Natalie Portman is wonderful in her supporting performance, perfectly placed halfway between Mathilda and Nina Sayers. While the ending is decidedly tacky and annoyingly brief, the rest of the film is smart and well-played, at a pace which makes the awkward humour funnier by miles that what it might normally be.
The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)
It was either this or Rushmore from Wes Anderson, and… well, sorry, Rushmore, it’s just plain impossible for you to beat The Royal Tenenbaums. Anderson weaves an honest, magical tale and gives all of his actors something decent to do, as well as paying a glorious homage to great comedic stereotypes. I have a rather foggy memory of this, and I need to rewatch it, but I remember enough to say this is a classic indie comedy, more than worthy of a place on this list.
Eagle vs. Shark (2006)
No, I’m not just picking this movie because it’s a product of the rapidly growing film industry of my home country, New Zealand. It is actually a very witty, quite funny comedy about quirky relationships. It stars Jemaine Clement, whom “you Americans” might recognize from Flight of the Conchords, possibly the most successful byproduct of the Kiwi entertainment industry. It’s certainly not the best film on this list, but a kitsch excersize in low-budget fun nonetheless. Enjoy!
High Fidelity (2000)
John Cusack stars as a record-store owner with a deep passion for music that perhaps exceeds my love for movies. Nick Hornby’s novels are often a delight, and this adaptation is superb, with a cast including a memorable Jack Black. Suspiciously Clerks-like, this tale of friends and relationships is funny and true to the heart, something Hornby has a true gift for.
(500) Days of Summer (2008)
Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel are two talented actors who manage to carry this otherwise normal romantic comedy to new heights and rise it from a possible daunting rubble. The humour is timed well, and the characters are likeable, setting this rom-com apart from the rest of the clutter and crowd.
Decide for yourself whether you love or hate this witty and cleverly scripted indie comedy starring the always entertaining and offbeat Ellen Page and scripted by ex-stripper Diablo Cody, which has caused quite a rift in indie movie tastes between me and friends – I seem to be the only one who likes it. And I stand by that statement.
Buffalo ’66 (1998)
Definitely beyond a shadow of a doubt my absolute favourite indie comedy of all time, Vincent Gallo’s Buffalo ’66 is a film that is rarely mentioned when talking about such a genre. It is a true classic, with ingenious and subtle humour scripted excellently by Gallo, and direction from the man himself that shows true talent, as well as contributions to the music department and of course, the brilliant starring performance that ties the whole film together. Gallo is a very talented actor, and this film is, as he himself has said, his masterpiece, and a masterpiece of independent cinema.
Now it’s time for your opinion! Leave a comment with what you thought of my choices and list some of your own.
Thanks for reading.