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The Best Indie Movies of 2015, According to the Criticwire Network

The Best Indie Movies of 2015, According to the Criticwire Network

Throughout the year, 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.

Averages and totals are subject to change, but we’ll update the list with new additions as notable titles make their way onto theaters or VOD screens across the country. But for now, here are the films from 2015 that the Criticwire Network has collectively selected as the year’s upper echelon.

For a similarly-updated breakdown of the latest additions and other notable upcoming films, see our analysis on the Criticwire blog.

The Best Films of 2015, According to the Criticwire Network
(last updated: December 31st)

1. Carol
A / 66 reviews
dir. Todd Haynes

2. The Look of Silence
A / 48 reviews
dir. Joshua Oppenheimer

3. Clouds of Sils Maria
A- / 76 reviews
dir. Olivier Assayas

4. It Follows
A- / 73 reviews
dir. David Robert Mitchell

5. Ex Machina
A- / 70 reviews
dir. Alex Garland

6. Spotlight
A- / 64 reviews
dir. Tom McCarthy

7. Timbuktu
A- / 59 reviews
dir. Abderrahmane Sissako

8. Brooklyn
A- / 55 reviews
dir. John Crowley

8. Wild Tales
A- / 55 reviews
dir. Damián Szifrón

10. Love & Mercy
A- / 48 reviews
dir. Bill Pohlad

11. Room
A- / 47 reviews
dir. Lenny Abrahamson

11. Tangerine
A- / 47 reviews
dir. Sean Baker

13. The Tribe
A- / 46 reviews
dir. Myroslav Slaboshpytsky

14. Phoenix
A- / 45 reviews
dir. Christian Petzold

14. Son of Saul
A- / 45 reviews
dir. László Nemes

16. The End of the Tour
A- / 44 reviews
dir. James Ponsoldt

17. The Assassin
A- / 42 reviews
dir. Hou Hsiao-hsien

18. The Duke of Burgundy
A- / 41 reviews
dir. Peter Strickland

19. Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck
A- / 38 reviews
dir. Brett Morgen

19. What We Do in the Shadows
A- / 38 reviews
dir. Taika Waititi & Jemaine Clement

21. Amy
A- / 37 reviews
dir. Asif Kapadia

22. Listen to Me Marlon
A- / 36 reviews
dir. Stevan Riley

23. Best of Enemies
A- / 35 reviews
dir. Morgan Neville & Robert Gordon

23. The Diary of a Teenage Girl
A- / 35 reviews
dir. Marielle Heller

25. A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence
A- / 34 reviews
dir. Roy Andersson

26. Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief
A- / 32 reviews
dir. Alex GIbney

27. James White
A- / 31 reviews
dir. Josh Mond

28. Anomalisa
A- / 30 reviews
dir. Duke Johnson & Charlie Kaufman

29. 45 Years
A- / 28 reviews
dir. Andrew Haigh

29. Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem
A- / 28 reviews
dir. Ronit & Shlomi Elkabetz

31. About Elly
A- / 27 reviews
dir. Asghar Farhadi

31. The Revenant
A- / 27 reviews
dir. Alejandro González Iñárritu

33. In Jackson Heights
A- / 25 reviews
dir. Frederick Wiseman

34. Cartel Land
A- / 24 reviews
dir. Matthew Heineman

34. The Forbidden Room
A- / 24 reviews
dir. Guy Maddin & Evan Johnson

36. Hard to Be a God
A- / 23 reviews
dir. Aleksei German

36. Heart of a Dog
A- / 23 reviews
dir. Laurie Anderson

36. The Salt of the Earth
A- / 23 reviews
dir. Juliano Ribeiro Salgado & Wim Wenders

36. Tales of the Grim Sleeper
A- / 23 reviews
dir. Nick Broomfield

40. Blind
A- / 20 reviews
dir. Eskil Vogt

40. Taxi
A- / 20 reviews
dir. Jafar Panahi

40. Victoria
A- / 20 reviews
dir. Sebastian Schipper

43. Güeros
A- / 19 reviews
dir. Alonso Ruizpalacios

43. Horse Money
A- / 19 reviews
dir. Pedro Costa

45. Arabian Nights
A- / 18 reviews
dir. Miguel Gomes

46. Finders Keepers
A- / 17 reviews
dir. Bryan Carberry & Clay Tweel

47. Breathe
A- / 16 reviews
dir. Mélanie Laurent

47. Dior and I
A- / 16 reviews
dir. Frederic Tcheng

47. Janis: Little Girl Blue
A- / 16 reviews
dir. Amy Berg

47. The Second Mother
A- / 16 reviews
dir. Anna Muylaert

47. (T)ERROR
A- / 16 reviews
dir. Lyric R. Cabral & David Felix Sutcliffe

47. Welcome to Leith
A- / 16 reviews
dir. Michael Beach Nichols & Christopher K. Walker

53. The Russian Woodpecker
A- / 15 reviews
dir. Chad Gracia

54. Mommy
B+ / 61 reviews
dir. Xavier Dolan

55. While We’re Young
B+ / 54 reviews
dir. Noah Baumbach

56. Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter
B+ / 51 reviews
dir. David Zellner

57. Sicario
B+ / 48 reviews
dir. Denis Villeneuve

58. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
B+ / 47 reviews
dir. Alfonso Gomez-Rejon

59. Heaven Knows What
B+ / 46 reviews
dir. Josh & Benny Safdie

60. ’71
B+ / 43 reviews
dir. Yann Demange

60. Beasts of No Nation
B+ / 43 reviews
dir. Cary Fukunaga

62. Mistress America
B+ / 41 reviews
dir. Noah Baumbach

63. Slow West
B+ / 40 reviews
dir. John Maclean

64. 99 Homes
B+ / 37 reviews
dir. Ramin Bahrani

65. Girlhood
B+ / 36 reviews
dir. Céline Sciamma

66. Red Army
B+ / 35 reviews
dir. Gabe Polsky

66. Seymour: An Introduction
B+ / 35 reviews
dir. Ethan Hawke

68. Dope
B+ / 34 reviews
dir. Rick Famuyiwa

68. Eden
B+ / 34 reviews
dir. Mia Hansen-Løve

68. Experimenter
B+ / 34 reviews
dir. Michael Almereyda

71. Appropriate Behavior
B+ / 32 reviews
dir. Desiree Akhavan

71. Jauja
B+ / 32 reviews
dir. Lisandro Alonso

71. Mississippi Grind
B+ / 32 reviews
dir. Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck

74. The Voices
B+ / 31 reviews
dir. Marjane Satrapi

75. Queen of Earth
B+ / 29 reviews
dir. Alex Ross Perry

76. The Wolfpack
B+ / 29 reviews
dir. Crystal Moselle

77. Chi-Raq
B+ / 28 reviews
dir. Spike Lee

77. Saint Laurent
B+ / 28 reviews
dir. Bertrand Bonello

79. Far from the Madding Crowd
B+ / 27 reviews
dir. Thomas Vinterberg

79. Grandma
B+ / 27 reviews
dir. Paul Weitz

79. Tom at the Farm
B+ / 27 reviews
dir. Xavier Dolan

82. Spring
B+ / 26 reviews
dir. Justin Benson & Aaron Scott Moorhead

83. Buzzard
B+ / 25 reviews
dir. Joel Portykus

83. Iris
B+ / 25 reviews
dir. Albert Maysles

83. Sleeping with Other People
B+ / 25 reviews
dir. Leslye Headland

83. The Stanford Prison Experiment
B+ / 25 reviews
dir. Kyle Patrick Alvarez

87. The Wonders
B+ / 24 reviews
dir. Alice Rohrwacher

88. The Hunting Ground
B+ / 23 reviews
dir. Kirby Dick

89. Hitchcock/Truffaut
B+ / 22 reviews
dir. Kent Jones

89. I’ll See You in My Dreams
B+ / 22 reviews
dir. Brett Haley

89. Queen and Country
B+ / 22 reviews
dir. John Boorman

92. The Mend
B+ / 21 reviews
dir. John Magary

92. Mustang
B+ / 21 reviews
dir. Deniz Gamze Ergüven

94. Amour Fou
B+ / 20 reviews
dir. Jessica Hausner

94. Faults
B+ / 20 reviews
dir. Riley Stearns

94. Sunshine Superman
B+ / 20 reviews
dir. Marah Strauch

94. What Happened, Miss Simone?
B+ / 20 reviews
dir. Liz Garbus

94. Beloved Sisters
B+ / 20 reviews
dir. Dominik Graf

99. Stray Dog
B+ / 19 reviews
dir. Debra Granik

100. Ballet 422
B+ / 18 reviews
dir. Jody Lee Lipes

100. La Sapienza
B+ / 18 reviews
dir. Eugène Green

102. The Kindergarten Teacher
B+ / 17 reviews
dir. Nadav Lapid

102. Man from Reno
B+ / 17 reviews
dir. Dave Boyle

102. Meru
B+ / 17 reviews
dir. Jimmy Chin & E. Chai Vasarhelyi

105. Christmas, Again
B+ / 16 reviews
dir. Charles Poekel

105. Welcome to New York
B+ / 16 reviews
dir. Abel Ferrara

107. Far From Men
B+ / 15 reviews
dir. David Oelhoffen

107. An Honest Liar
B+ / 15 reviews
dir. Justin Weinstein & Tyler Measom

107. Human Capital
B+ / 15 reviews
dir. Paolo Virzi

107. Stations of the Cross
B+ / 15 reviews
dir. Dietrich Brüggemann

If you’re curious to see the top films from previous years, be sure to check out the best of 2013 and 2014.

READ MORE: The Criticwire Network’s Best Documentaries of 2015

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Thanks for the list, but I also find there are way too many films here actually from 2014

Simone Butler

What about I BELIEVE IN UNICORNS and THE MEND? Two of my favorite titles from SXSW released in theaters earlier this year…



Robert Goldberg

I thought "Maggie" was the most remarkable film, esp. in the horror genre (but much more) I’ve seen this year. It was visually exquisite, and featured a startling performance by the usually exobiological Arnold, one in which he redefined his capabilities in my mind. "It Follows," while clever, wasn’t a patch on "Maggie" in my opinion. There was that shot (no spoilers) very near the end, a closeup on Abigail Breslin’s eyes (I can say no more) that was deliciously poetic and touching.

Miguel Valdez-Lopez

Wait. This article’s from April, 2015.
Since then, many more movies have gotten good reviews. This list needs some updating.

Miguel Valdez-Lopez

13 out of 72. That’s al right, right? Right?


Where is Mad Max:Fury Road !? The fil. Got tons of great reviews


Creep should be on the list. it was an indy film and received nothing but love for it.


I find it really difficult to understand the concept of "indie" – is it films which cost under 30 million dollars?

Mehrdad Kermani

I’m curious why Amy is not on the list. Not an indie film? Not enough good reviews? I personally thought it better than the Kurt biopic (which I absolutely loved, by the way).


The Czech movie TO SEE THE SEA is a funny, quirky, coming of age film about a young filmmaker. Clearly semi-autobiographical. It belongs on this list.


I don’t understand how GOING CLEAR is on this list. The subject matter was incredible but the execution was so poor: really bad story-telling.

Bassam Alasad

I can add to this great list the great jordanian movie Theeb

Janice Marie Foote

Go see Wild Tales! It is a wild and crazy ride of excellent wacky fun!


The first movie title incorrectly links to It Follows, FYI


I have seen quite a few of the films on the list, but I think Gett: The Trial of Viviane Ansalem is by far the best. The acting is supburb. Its a film about love, its a film about marriage, its a film about the desire of self determination, its a film exploring a culture that we don’t live in and can’t understand, its a domestic drama, its about the nature of friendship, it’s a drama about a trial, its about compromise, its about unrequited love, it’s about trust, it’s about mistrust, it’s about humanity. Just a stunning achievement.

Nathan Duke

I think the best so far are: It Follows, While We’re Young, Timbuktu, Queen and Country and Wild Tales. Seeing Clouds of Sils Maria and Ex Machina (and Lost River) this weekend.


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Absolutely thrilled to see Timbuktu at the top of this list. That movie was absolutely incredible. It is so emotional not to mention an important fictional account of the barbarism of Islamic jihadists in Mali in 2012 and the silent revolt of the city’s residents. Way to go critics, you got that one right!

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