Hasidic drug mules. Serial-killing sheriffs. Genetically engineered mutants. The summer slate of independent films should be diverse and compelling enough to supplement (or even replace) your multiplex visits until Labor Day. With upcoming films by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Michael Winterbottom, Rodrigo Garcia and a slew of talented new directors, 'Iron Man 2' and 'The A-Team' don't have to take up all of your moviegoing budget for the next four months.

Putting together this list was like having to choose our favorite child, so consider this more of a primer than a definitive guide. But we've whittled down this season's crop to 15 movies that, with its creativity, range and intelligence, should be worth your hard-earned dollars.
Hasidic drug mules. Serial-killing sheriffs. Genetically engineered mutants. The summer slate of independent films should be diverse and compelling enough to supplement (or even replace) your multiplex visits until Labor Day. With upcoming films by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Michael Winterbottom, Rodrigo Garcia and a slew of talented new directors, 'Iron Man 2' and 'The A-Team' don't have to take up all of your moviegoing budget for the next four months.

Putting together this list was like having to choose our favorite child, so consider this more of a primer than a definitive guide. But we've whittled down this season's crop to 15 movies that, with their creativity, range and intelligence, should be worth your hard-earned dollars.

'Mother and Child'
Opening
: May 7
Starring: Naomi Watts, Annette Bening, Kerry Washington, Jimmy Smits, Samuel L. Jackson
What It's About: Rodrigo Garcia's film follows three women (Bening, Watts, Washington) whose lives have been affected by adoption. Karen gave up her baby as a teenager and has been haunted by the decision ever since. Elizabeth feels the effects in adulthood of growing up as an adopted child. And Lucy and her husband have just started the adoption process. As he did with 'Nine Lives' and 'Passengers,' Garcia excels in weaving disparate, but thematically similar, stories into one cohesive whole.

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'Babies'
Opening: May 7
Starring: Four 'Aww'-worthy babies
What It's About: This documentary from Thomas Balmes follows the lives of four babies from first breaths to first steps. Pointing his lens at Mongolia, Namibia, San Francisco and Tokyo, Balmes captures both the cultural differences of child-rearing around the world and the universal similarities inherent in the experience.

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'Holy Rollers'
Opening
: May 21
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Justin Bartha, Q-Tip
What It's About: If you have to see one movie about Hasidic Jews becoming international ecstasy drug mules, this is the one. In this story based on real events -- the actual participants smuggled over a million pills into the U.S. in a year -- Sam Gold (Eisenberg) is offered a deal to transport "medicine" between the U.S. and Europe, gradually becoming more and more entangled into the drug scene. Any movie where Q-Tip says, "There's my mishpacha" while wearing a Star of David necklace is worth your time.

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'Micmacs'
Opening: Dany Boon, André Dussollier, Nicolas Marie
Starring: May 28
What It's About: Jean-Pierre Jeunet ('Amelie,' 'City of Lost Children') has built a career out of directing creative, whimsical films that combine a child's playfulness with mind-bending visual effects. In 'Micmacs,' Bazil (Boon) is caught in the crossfire of a drive-by shooting and takes a bullet to the head. After his release from the hospital, an ex-con and his group of outcasts take him in to plan their revenge against the weapon manufacturers that indirectly caused the accident and may have been responsible for the death of Bazil's father years ago.

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'Ondine'
Opening: June 4
Starring: Colin Farrell, Alicja Bachleda, Stephen Rea
What It's About: When Irish fisherman Syracuse (Farrell) finds a mysterious woman named Ondine (Bachleda) in his fishing net, he assumes she is dead before finding out she may in fact be a mermaid. With the help of his disabled daughter, Syracuse falls in love with the possible mythical creature before a series of dark events threaten to overshadow the relationship.

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Splice'Splice'

Opening
: June 4
Starring: Adrien Brody, Sarah Polley, Delphine Cheneac
What It's About: In Vincenzo Natali's sci-fi thriller, Clive (Brody) and Elsa (Polley) are two scientists who mix human DNA with genetically engineered animal experiments to create Dren, a deformed female infant. Surprisingly, absolutely nothing goes wrong after that. Or Dren becomes a winged half-human monster hellbent on destroying all in her path.

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'Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work'
Opening
: June 11
Starring: Joan Rivers, Don Rickles, Kathy Griffin
What It's About: This documentary takes a look at the life and work of Joan Rivers, one of the most popular comediennes and television personalities in history. Starting her career in the early '60s as a stand-up comic -- no small feat for a female at the time -- Rivers became a 'Tonight Show' staple and has hosted several talk shows. Filmmakers Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg followed Rivers for a year as the comedian prepared for an one-woman show in the UK and became a participant on a reality TV show.

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'The Killer Inside Me'
Opening
: June 18
Starring: Casey Affleck, Jessica Alba, Kate Hudson, Simon Baker, Bill Pullman
What It's About: Michael Winterbottom ('24 Hour Party People,' '9 Songs') directs this neo-noir about small-town Sheriff Lou Ford (Affleck), who leads a double life as a serial killer. When his area becomes inundated with unsolved murders, Ford must deflect any suspicions about him toward other suspects. The film is based on author Jim Thompson's acclaimed 1952 novel.

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'The Kids Are All Right'
Opening: July 7
Starring: Annette Bening, Mark Ruffalo, Julianne Moore, Mia Wasikowska
What It's About: Jules (Moore) and Nic (Bening) are a happily married lesbian couple whose lives get altered when their two teenage children born by artificial insemination want to meet their biological father, Paul (Ruffalo). When Paul gets introduced to the family and decides to make his involvement more than an one-day stop, relationships are altered and re-defined.

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'Cyrus'
Opening
: July 9
Starring: John C. Reilly, Jonah Hill, Marisa Tomei, Catherine Keener
What It's About: John (Reilly) has been divorced for seven years and has given up on meeting the perfect woman. When his ex-wife (Keener) invites him to a party, he meets Molly (Tomei), a beautiful, fun woman with only one downside: her weird son Cyrus (Hill). A 21-year-old New Age musician, Cyrus enjoys a bond with his mother that's a bit closer than most, which means his displeasure with mom's new boyfriend runs fast and deep, and Cyrus and John repeatedly -- and comedically -- lock horns.

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'Get Low'
Opening: July 30
Starring: Robert Duvall, Sissy Spacek, Bill Murray
What It's About: It's the true story of Felix "Bush" Breazeale (Duvall) who, in the 1930s, came out of 40 years of seclusion to plan his own funeral party while still alive. "I want everybody to come who's got a story to tell about me," says Bush. The event became a national spectacle, with Bush selling lottery tickets to the funeral with his valuable plot of land as the prize. Twelve-thousand mourners reputedly arrived. Murray plays the funeral home owner in charge of arranging the event.

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'Mao's Last Dancer'
Opening: August 6
Starring: Joan Chen, Kyle Maclachlan, Chi Cao, Chengwu Gao
What It's About: Based on a true story, 'Mao's Last Dancer' looks at the life of Li Cunxin (Cao), a boy who worked his way up from an apprenticeship as a classical dancer in communist China to a heralded star in America. Bruce Beresford's film explores the cultural and political differences and uncertainties between the two countries and looks into the effects, both positive and negative, of fame and celebrity. 'Dancer' was filmed in China, the U.S. and Australia.

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'Lebanon'
Opening
: August 13
Starring: Yoav Donat, Itay Taran, Oshri Cohen
What It's About: Israeli writer/director Samuel Moaz crafts this historical drama set amid the 1982 Israel/Lebanon battle that sees four Israeli soldiers assigned to take part in the first strike on Lebanon. While setting out towards the Lebanese border, the men experience many facets of the war experience before arriving at their destination, a town already bombed by the Israeli Air Force. When a group of Syrian resistance fighters overtake the group, the soldiers find themselves in very dangerous territory. 'Lebanon' was an Official Selection at the 2009 Venice International Film Festival.

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'The Tillman Story'
Opening
: August 20
What It's About: Pat Tillman was a former football player for the Arizona Cardinals before turning down a multi-million dollar contract to enlist in the U.S. Army. While serving in Afghanistan, Tillman was killed by friendly fire and became the center point of an alleged cover-up by the U.S. military and government to conceal the details of his death. Amir Bar-Lev ('My Kid Could Paint That') delves into Tillman's life and investigates the circumstances behind his tragic and controversial death.

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Josh Radnor'Happythankyoumoreplease'
Opening
: August 27
Starring: Josh Radnor, Malin Akerman, Kate Mara
What It's About: The winner of the Audience Award at this year's Sundance Film Festival, Josh Radnor's directorial debut looks at life in New York for a group of late 20s/early 30s people struggling to keep up with the pace of the city. While riding the subway, Sam (Radnor) meets Rasheen, a young boy abandoned by his parents, and subsequently takes him in. Mississippi (Mara) is a bartender trying to make it as a musician. Annie (Akerman) is a pretty girl who suffers from alopecia, a rare condition that leaves the person with no hair. Relationships intersect and lessons, we assume, are learned.

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For more indie film previews, check out Indiewire's summer preview of 25 films you need to see this season.