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The Best Indie Movies of 2014 So Far (Updated)

The Best Indie Movies of 2014 So Far (Updated)

Throughout 2014, members of Indiewire’s Criticwire Network — comprised of nearly 500 critics from around the world — have been adding their grades and reviews to our database of film pages. Below is a collection of those films released in theaters during that time that have a) received 15 or more reviews and b) maintained a grade average of "B+" or higher. We’ll update this list as new additions surface and as fresh waves of feedback arrive. Averages and totals are subject to change (grade totals listed in italics below have changed since the last update), but for now, these are the titles that many members of the Criticwire Network suggest you should watch.

For more insight into conversations from the critical landscape, turn to our 
Criticwire blog.

It’s not often that a week of theatrical releases includes a biopic, a documentary and some thrilling genre fare. To have all three of those films among the best-reviewed of the year is even rarer.

Two of these films got an early start on the weekend, opening in select theaters on Wednesday. "The Guest," directed and written by the team of Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett, has been a festival favorite ever since its premiere at Sundance back in January. Dan Stevens stars as a soldier with a mysterious past, staying with the family of one of his fallen comrades. What begins as a story of people just trying to fit in becomes something with far more energy and intrigue. With Stevens’ contribution, six of the top ten Lead Performances in our Sundance 2014 Critics Poll now have a spot on this list as well (with only "Whiplash," "Listen Up, Philip," "Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter" and "The Voices" yet to be released).

The Nick Cave documentary "20,000 Days on Earth" also reached audiences for the first time in Park City. While not a purely unstaged look at Cave’s milestone day of life, Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard blend theatricality and spontaneity, not too dissimilar to hybrid seen in another film on this list, Jafar Panahi and Kambuzia Partovi’s "Closed Curtain."

This week’s third entry, John Curran’s "Tracks," began its festival life at TIFF 2013. Now, over a year later, the story of Robyn Davidson’s solo trek across treacherous Australian desert starts its theatrical run. Starring Mia Wasikowska, with supporting turns by Adam Driver and a bevy of charismatic camels. The film’s most positive reviews single out not only Wasikowska’s central performance, but the gorgeous landscapes that serve as the background for her exploits.

Elsewhere on the list, "Ida" is back with "Boyhood" among the ranks of the elite "A" average films. Meanwhile, the American eating habits documentary "Fed Up" has dropped off the list. The year’s first five-way tie sees "Abuse of Weakness," "Child’s Pose," "Finding Vivian Maier," "Stray Dogs" and "Vic + Flo Saw a Bear" all in close proximity.

The Top-Rated Films of 2014

1. Boyhood (Film Page), directed by Richard Linklater (2014 Sundance Film Festival; July 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: A (74 grades)

2. Ida (Film Page), directed by Pawel Pawlikowski (2013 Telluride Film Festival; May 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: A (43 grades)

3. Only Lovers Left Alive (Film Page), directed by Jim Jarmusch (2013 Cannes Film Festival; April 2014 theatrical release) 
Average Criticwire Rating: A- (83 grades)

4. The Grand Budapest Hotel (Film Page), directed by Wes Anderson (2014 Berlin International Film Festival; March 2014 theatrical release) 
Average Criticwire Rating: A- (75 grades)

5. Under the Skin (Film Page), directed by Jonathan Glazer (2013 Telluride Film Festival; April 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: A- (70 grades)

6. Blue Ruin (Film Page), directed by Jeremy Saulnier (2013 Cannes Film Festival; April 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: A- (60 grades)

7. The Wind Rises (Film Page), directed by Hayao Miyazaki (2013 Venice Film Festival; February 2014 theatrical release) 
Average Criticwire Rating: A- (55 grades)

8. Life Itself (Film Page), directed by Steve James (2014 Sundance Film Festival; July 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: A- (49 grades)

8. Stranger by the Lake (Film Page), directed by Alain Guiraudie (2013 Cannes Film Festival; January 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: A- (49 grades)

10. Nymphomaniac, Vol. 1 (Film Page), directed by Lars von Trier (2014 Berlin International Film Festival; March 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: A- (48 grades)

11. Gloria (Film Page), directed by Sebastián Lelio (2013 Berlin International Film Festival; January 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: A- (41 grades)

12. Like Father, Like Son (Film Page), directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda (2013 Cannes Film Festival; January 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: A- (40 grades)

13. Tim’s Vermeer (Film Page), directed by Teller (2013 Toronto International Film Festival; January 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: A- (39 grades)

14. Love is Strange (Film Page), directed by Ira Sachs (2014 Sundance Film Festival; August 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: A- (31 grades)

15. Closed Curtain (Film Page), directed by Jafar Panahi & Kambuzia Partovi (2013 Berlin International Film Festival; July 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: A- (29 grades)

16. We are the Best! (Film Page), directed by Lukas Moodysson (2013 Toronto International Film Festival; May 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: A- (27 grades)

17. The Missing Picture (Film Page), directed by Rithy Panh (2013 Cannes Film Festival; March 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: A- (25 grades)

18. Ernest and Celestine (Film Page), directed by Stéphane Aubier, Vincent Patar and Benjamin Renner (2012 Cannes Film Festival; February 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: A- (24 grades)

18. Manakamana (Film Page), directed by Stephanie Spray and Pacho Velez (2013 Locarno Film Festival; April 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: A- (24 grades)

20. The Last of the Unjust (Film Page), directed by Claude Lanzmann (2013 Cannes Film Festival; February 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: A- (22 grades)

21. The Strange Little Cat (Film Page), directed by Ramon Zürcher (2013 Berlin International Film Festival; August 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: A- (19 grades)

22. Starred Up (Film Page), directed by David Mackenzie (2013 Toronto International Film Festival; August 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: A- (18 grades)

23. Rich Hill (Film Page), directed by Andrew Droz Palermo & Tracy Droz Tragos (2014 Sundance Film Festival; August 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: A- (17 grades)

24. Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me (Film Page), directed by Chiemi Karasawa (2013 Tribeca Film Festival; February 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: A- (16 grades)

25. 20,000 Days on Earth (Film Page), directed by Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard (2014 Sundance Film Festival; September 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: A- (15 grades)

26. The Immigrant (Film Page), directed by James Gray (2013 Cannes Film Festival; May 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (55 grades)

27. Snowpiercer (Film Page), directed by Bong Joon-ho (2013 Korean premiere; June 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (48 grades)

28. The Double (Film Page), directed by Richard Ayoade (2013 Toronto International Film Festival; May 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (42 grades)

28. The Raid 2: Berandal (Film Page), directed by Gareth Evans (2014 Sundance Film Festival; March 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (42 grades)

30. Locke (Film Page), directed by Steven Knight (2013 Venice Film Festival; April 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (40 grades)

31. Jodorowsky’s Dune (Film Page), directed by Frank Pavich (2013 Cannes Film Festival; March 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (38 grades)

31. Joe (Film Page), directed by David Gordon Green (2013 Venice Film Festival; April 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (38 grades)

33. Calvary (Film Page), directed by John Michael McDonagh (2014 Sundance Film Festival; August 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (37 grades)

33. Enemy (Film Page), directed by Denis Villeneuve (2013 Toronto International Film Festival; March 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (37 grades)

33. Obvious Child (Film Page), directed by Gillian Robespierre (2014 Sundance Film Festival; June 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (37 grades)

33. The Unknown Known: The Life and Times of Donald Rumsfeld (Film Page), directed by Errol Morris (2013 Telluride Film Festival; April 2014 release date)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (37 grades)

37. Cold in July (Film Page), directed by Jim Mickle (2014 Sundance Film Festival; May 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (35 grades)

37. A Most Wanted Man (Film Page), directed by Anton Corbijn (2014 Sundance Film Festival; July 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (35 grades)

39. Chef (Film Page), directed by Jon Favreau (2014 SXSW Film Festival; May 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (32 grades)

39. Omar (Film Page), directed by Hany Abu-Assad (2013 Cannes Film Festival; February 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (32 grades)

39. The One I Love (Film Page), directed by Charlie McDowell (2014 Sundance Film Festival; August 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (32 grades)

42. Le Week-End (Film Page), directed by Roger Michell (2013 Toronto International Film Festival; March 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (31 grades)

43. Cheap Thrills (Film Page), directed by E.L. Katz (2013 SXSW Film Festival; March 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (30 grades)

43. The Lunchbox (Film Page), directed by Ritesh Batra (2013 Cannes Film Festival; February 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (30 grades)

45. The Trip to Italy (Film Page), directed by Michael Winterbottom (2014 Sundance Film Festival; August 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (26 grades)

46. The Skeleton Twins (Film Page), directed by Craig Johnson (2014 Sundance Film Festival; September 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (25 grades)

47. Abuse of Weakness (Film Page), directed by Catherine Breillat (2013 Toronto International Film Festival; August 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (23 grades)

47. Child’s Pose (Film Page), directed by Calin Peter Netzer (2013 Berlin International Film Festival; February 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (23 grades)

47. Finding Vivian Maier (Film Page), directed by John Maloof and Charlie Siskel (2013 Toronto International Film Festival; March 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (23 grades)

47. Stray Dogs (Film Page), directed by Tsai Ming-liang (2013 Venice Film Festival; September 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (23 grades)

47. Vic + Flo Saw a Bear (Film Page), directed by Denis Côté (2013 Berlin International Film Festival; February 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (23 grades)

52. It Felt Like Love (Film Page), directed by Eliza Hittman (2013 Sundance Film Festival; March 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (21 grades)

53. Belle (Film Page), directed by Amma Asante (2013 Toronto International Film Festival; May 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (20 grades)

53. The Dance of Reality (Film Page), directed by Alejandro Jodorowsky (2013 Cannes Film Festival; May 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (20 grades)

53. The Guest (Film Page), directed by Adam Wingard (2014 Sundance Film Festival; September 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (20 grades)

56. The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz (Film Page), directed by Brian Knappenberger (2014 Sundance Film Festival; June 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (19 grades)

57. 12 O’Clock Boys (Film Page), directed by Lotfy Nathan (2013 SXSW Film Festival; January 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (16 grades)

58. Bethlehem (Film Page), directed by Yuval Adler (2013 Venice Film Festival; March 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (15 grades)

58. The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them (Film Page), directed by Ned Benson (2013 Toronto International Film Festival; September 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (15 grades)

58. Tracks (Film Page), directed by John Curran (2013 Toronto International Film Festival; September 2014 theatrical release)
Average Criticwire Rating: B+ (15 grades)

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Comments

GAGP

You forgot: Gloria, directed by Sebastián Lelio (2013, theatrical release january 2014), and The Dance of Reality, directed by Alejandro Jodorowsky (2013 Cannes Film Festival; May 2014 theatrical release)

Lenny

Even a one sentence description would’ve made this list more interesting (as well as genre – comedy, drama, thriller, etc.)

Larry

NIGHT MOVES. Best indie movie of the year in my opinion. Either way, It should be here.

MALCOLM FOXWELL

Mr. Greene ~

THE RETRIEVAL
directed by Chris Eska

A- Indiewire
92% – ROTTEN TOMATOES

April 2, 2014 Theatrical Release

SXSW 2013 World Premiere
SXSW 2013 Best Actor – TISHUAN SCOTT
2013 Deauville Film Festival ~ Cartier International Critics Prize

Alexia

Also The Patrol, 78% on Rotten Tomatoes?

Gordon

Both The Rover and Maps to the Stars belong on this list.

jaysen bryhan

the apostate: call of the revenant

Jonathan Miller

How is it that LEVEL FIVE by Chris Marker, which is 100% on Rotten Tomatoes and the HIGHEST RATE limited release film on Metacritic is not on this list?

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