While a bunch of top-notch studio films may steal the spotlight this fall, there a handful of notable indie flicks that shouldn't be missed.
Sometimes the best independent and foreign films can go unnoticed, so we're here to get these critically acclaimed and controversial movies on your radar. From a double dose of sexually heated cougar drama with Naomi Watts and Robin Wright to an Adam Scott-Jane Lynch comedy, there are plenty of indies this season to put on your must-see list.
So take a break from the Leo DiCaprio and George Clooney films and make sure to check our can't-miss independent flicks of the season -- some of them even star your favorite actors (hey James Franco!).
Gallery | Indie Fall Movie Preview
- ‘A Teacher’ (Sept. 6)
What It’s About: From writer-director Hannah Fidell, “A Teacher” follows Diana (Lindsay Burge, “First Winter”), a young high school teacher who begins an affair with her teenage student Eric (Will Brittain). Their relationship quickly moves from innocent attraction to dangerous obsession as Diana fails to control herself and risks their secret being discovered.
Why We’re Excited: “A Teacher” screened at SXSW and Sundance this year to rave reviews for Burge’s powerful and unsettling performance. While teacher-student affair stories are usually best kept to the tabloids, from the looks of the trailer it seems like Fidell swapped sensationalism for realism. We love anything that deviates from your average high school romance tale.
- 'Adore' (Sept. 6)
What It’s About: Originally titled “Two Mothers” when it premiered at Sundance, Anne Fontaine’s “Adore” tells the story of two mothers, Lil (Naomi Watts) and Roz (Robin Wright). When Lil’s son Ian (Xavier Samuel) begins a sexual relationship with Roz, Roz’s son Tom (James Frencheville) takes revenge by getting involved with Lil.
Why We’re Excited: The older-woman-younger-man story is always full of drama, but with “Adore” there’s a double dosage. Wright and Watts always give memorable performances and there’s also James Frencheville's performance to look forward to, who proved himself an actor to watch in 2010’s “Animal Kingdom.”
- 'Hell Baby' (Sept. 6)
What It’s About: From Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon, two of the creators of the TV series “Reno 911!,” “Hell Baby” is a comedic horror spoof. Rob Corddry and Leslie Bibb play an expecting couple who move into a haunted house and seek out the Vatican to save them from their demonic baby.
Why We’re Excited: he guys behind “Reno 911!” made us laugh so “Hell Baby” will probably have it’s fair share of ridiculous gags. Plus, there's a demonic baby involved.
- 'Salinger' (Sept. 6)
What It’s About: This documentary from Shane Salerno explores the mystery behind the reclusive author J.D. Salinger, best known for his classic novel “Catcher in the Rye.” “Salinger” gives a first-time look at the author’s private life and investigates the many secrets he left behind after his death in 2010. The film also features interviews from 150 subjects, including Philip Seymour Hoffman, Martin Sheen, Edward Norton, and more, about the influences Salinger’s work had on them.
Why We’re Excited: Docs that explore mysterious ground are always the most enthralling and “Salinger” looks promising, if just for its unseen footage of and information about the author. Anyone affected by Salinger’s work will most likely find something to cherish in the film.
- 'Touchy Feely' (Sept. 6)
What It’s About: Written and directed by Lynn Shelton (“Your Sister’s Sister”), “Touchy Feely” stars Rosemarie DeWitt as Abby, a massage therapist who suddenly develops a fearful aversion to physical contact. While Abby loses sight of her identity and love life, her brother Paul (Josh Pais) saves his previously failing dentist practice with his sudden new “healing touch.”
Why We’re Excited: We’re totally suckers for those indie dramas about healing and self-discovery, and “Touchy Feely” is definitely one. The film also stars Ellen Page and Allison Janney (we’re excited for this “Juno” reunion) and looks like it may just be that little indie film that leaves you crying, laughing, and feeling good.
- ‘Winnie Mandela’ (Sept. 6)
What It’s About: Jennifer Hudson stars as the title character and Terrence Howard as Nelson in this historical drama about the life and struggles of the woman dubbed South Africa’s "Mother of the Nation." The first film to solely focus on the controversial activist instead of her former husband, “Winnie Mandela” tells her story from childhood, to her eighteen-month prison sentence, to her criminal convictions.
Why We’re Excited: The film quickly disappeared after its 2011 premiere at the Toronto Film Festival, so we’re even more anxious to finally see it. There has also been some controversy surrounding it when the real Winnie Mandela spoke out against the film in a CNN interview. Regardless, this is the first time Hudson is headlining a film -- and in she looks pretty impressive in this exclusive clip
- 'Wadjda' (Sept. 13)
What It’s About: The first film shot entirely in Saudi Arabia, Haifaa Al-Mansour’s “Wadjda” tells the story of a young girl determined to buy a bike so she can race with the boys. Although it’s culturally and socially unacceptable for girls to ride bikes, nothing stops Wadjda from doing everything she can to raise money for it.
Why We’re Excited: This is the first film made by a female Saudi filmmaker, an incredibly feat in a country where cinemas are banned and women have few rights. “Wadjda,” which won a handful of festival awards, is sure to be a groundbreaking, historical acheivement of cinema.
- 'Blue Caprice' (Sept. 13)
What It’s About: “Blue Caprice” investigates the Beltway sniper attacks that took place in Washington D.C. in 2002, but does so from the perspective of the killers.
Why We’re Excited: Rarely do we get a movie that depicts an historical violent event told through the eyes of the killers. Not only does “Blue Caprice” look like a chilling, dark story that will stay with us, but it may mark the start of a promising career for its director and youngest star, Tequan Richmond.
- 'Enough Said' (Sept. 18)
What It’s About: Nicole Holofcener’s (“Please Give”) indie rom-com stars Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Eva, a divorced mother who starts dating a Albert (James Gandolfini) who turns out to be her new friend’s ex-husband. When her friend begins telling her bad things about Albert, Eva starts to question herself and her feelings.
Why We’re Excited: Gandolfini has never failed to impress whether it be comedy or drama, and as one of his final film roles, “Enough Said” is definitely a must-see. In the trailer alone Gandolfini and Louis-Dreyfus seem to have great chemistry, and we can’t wait to see her on the big screen again (it’s been 16 years!).
- 'Single Shot' (Sept. 20)
What It’s About: When hunter John Moon (Sam Rockwell) accidentally kills a young girl in the woods, he discovers a box of money near her body. Taking the money and hiding it, Moon tries to cover up the murder.
Why We’re Excited: With an impressive cast that also includes William H. Macy, Jason Isaacs, Melissa Leo, and Jeffrey Wright, “A Single Shot” is guaranteed to have some powerful performances. The noir-like, thriller tone of the trailer has left us anxious to see what happens to this group of gritty characters.
- 'After Tiller' (Sept. 20)
What It’s About: This documentary from Martha Shane and Lana Wilson explores the highly controversial topic of third-trimester abortions. The film follows the 2009 assassination of Dr. George Tiller, one of the few who performed the procedure.
Why We’re Excited: “After Tiller” may just be the most important documentary of the year and not just because it deals with a hotly debated topic. The film seems more motivated to explore the real stories and experiences of these doctors, rather than adopt a specific stance on the issue. If anything, “After Tiller” is sure to get you thinking about the topic regardless of your personal opinion.
- 'C.O.G.' (Sept. 20)
What It’s About: Based on the story of the acclaimed author David Sedaris, “C.O.G.” follows Samuel (Jonathan Groff, TV’s “Glee”), a cocky young man who travels to Oregon to work on an apple farm. Written and directed by Kyle Patrick Alvarez (“Easier With Practice”), the film also stars Cory Stall (“The Bourne Legacy”), Troian Bellisaro (TV’s “Pretty Little Liars”), and Dale Dickey (“Iron Man 3”).
Why We’re Excited: Jonathan Groff has proven himself a compelling actor to watch both on television and on stage (“Spring Awakening”), so we know he’ll be just as entertaining on the big screen. As an adaptation of the Sedaris' essay and the second film from a promising director, “C.O.G.” is an indie drama to have on your radar.
- 'Plus One' (Sept. 20)
What It’s About: This supernatural thriller from Dennis Iliadis starts off as a typical college house party until something mysterious happens. Suddenly the whole party is duplicated and everyone has a clone, a situation each person seems to take advantage of in different ways.
Why We’re Excited: The first half of the “Plus One” trailer may have you rolling your eyes thinking it’s “just another college movie,” but just wait. Once the cloning (if that’s what it is) begins, this sci-fi thriller looks utterly unique and crazy. The film also and has the same cinematographer (Mihai Malaimare Jr.), from Paul Thomas Anderson’s “The Master.” We’re excited.
- 'As I Lay Dying' (Sept. 27)
What It’s About: An adaptation of William Faulkner’s classic 1930 novel, “As I Lay Dying” was written and directed by James Franco, who also stars in the film. The story follows the Bundren family on their journey to bring their deceased mother Addie to her hometown for her burial.
Why We’re Excited: First of all, it’s a Faulkner story. As far as the cast, we haven’t seen Franco get this serious in a while (which is exciting) and we’ve never seen McBride anything but goofy (we’re intrigued, but still hesitant).
- 'Thérèse' (Sept. 27)
What It’s About: From Claude Miller (“The Best Way to Walk”), “Thérèse” is based on French author François Mauriac's 1927 novel “Thérèse Desqueyroux.” Audrey Tautou (“Amlie,” “Coco Before Chanel”) stars in the title role as an unhappily married woman itching to break free from social pressure and her mundane suburban life.
Why We’re Excited: Everything beloved French actress Tautou is in is remarkable, whether a moving drama or goofy comedy. We’re also suckers for gorgeously shot, countryside period pieces.
- 'A.C.O.D' (Oct. 4)
What It’s About: Carter (Adam Scott) seemed to be a well-adjusted A.C.O.D, or Adult Child of Divorce, but discovers that the doctor he thought was his child therapist (Jane Lynch) really studied him and published a book about him. When Carter’s brother (Clark Duke) decides to get married, he’s forced to relive his parents (Catherine O’Hara and Richard Jenkins) bitter divorce.
Why We’re Excited: Whether on TV or film, Adam Scott always manages to make us laugh and play a variety of different characters. While we’re not sure if he can carry a whole film, it looks like “A.C.O.D.” will have a handful of hilarious moments thanks to the rest of the cast. Did we mention Amy Poehler is also in it and plays Richard Jenkins’ young wife? Enough said.
- 'CBGB' (Oct. 11)
What It’s About: Randall Miller’s (“Bottle Shock”) film tells the story of the legendary New York City music venue that became the birthplace of underground punk-rock. “CBGB” stars Alan Rickman as the club’s owner Hilly Kristal, Malin Akerman as Debbie Harry, Rupert Grint as Cheetah Chrome of The Dead Boys, the Foo Fighters’ Taylor Hawkins’ as Iggy Pop, and more.
Why We’re Excited: A movie about CBGB is not only awesome, it’s necessary since there was so much history that took place in the famous club. Plus we secretly envision this as a mini-“Harry Potter” reunion with a dash of punk -- Avada Kedavra would be a kickass band name.
- 'Escape From Tomorrow' (Oct. 11)
What It’s About: The debut film from Randy Moore, “Escape from Tomorrow” follows a father on vacation at Disney World whose sanity slowly begins to slip when he develops an interest in two young girls.
Why We’re Excited: “Escape from Tomorrow” was one of the most talked about and controversial films at the Sundance Film Festival this year, mainly because it was made entirely without Disney’s permission. The film was shot in secret throughout the theme park, which sounds pretty insane knowing Disney’s extremely strict rules. A movie about the insanity-inducing effects of Disney World is nothing less than intriguing to us.
- 'Camille Claudel 1915' (Oct. 16)
What It’s About: This biopic from Bruno Dumont stars Juliette Binoche as the famous French sculptress who was confined to a psychiatric hospital by her family after she began destroying her work and showing signs of mental illness.
Why We’re Excited: French actress Juliette Binoche is always moving and powerful in her performances, but portraying Camille Claudel seems like the role she was born for. We have a feeling that this film will be talked about come Oscar season.
- 'Kill Your Darlings' (Oct. 16)
What It’s About: A murder in 1944 draws together the great poets of the beat generation, including Allen Ginsberg (Daniel Radcliffe), Jack Kerouac (Jack Huston of “Boardwalk Empire”), and William Burroughs (Ben Foster). “Kill Your Darlings” also stars Elizabeth Olsen, Michael C. Hall, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Kyra Sedgwick.
Why We’re Excited: We’ve had a handful of films about Ginsberg in recent years, but there’s something about Daniel Radcliffe portraying the famous poet that has us excited. Plus there was tons of positive buzz about the film when it premiered at Sundance.
- 'Paradise' (Oct. 18)
What It’s About: After surviving a plane crash, the young and conservative Lamb (Julianne Hough) goes to Vegas to let loose and live for the first time, but not without the help of a bartender (Russell Brand) and showgirl (Octavia Spencer).
Why We’re Excited: “Paradise” is written and directed by Diablo Cody (“Juno”), so we know there’s going to be a good mix of funny and sentimental. Brand and Spencer together, in Vegas mind you, is a hilarious pairing we honestly can’t wait to see. Plus “Paradise” also stars Nick Offerman as a conservative, nearly-unrecognizable balding father; who could say no?
- 'Blue Is the Warmest Color' (Oct. 25)
What It’s About: “Blue Is the Warmest Color” follows the long relationship of a young lesbian couple, Adele (Adèle Exarchopoulos) and Emma (Léa Seydoux, “Midnight in Paris”).
Why We’re Excited: Abdellatif Kechiche’s “Blue” won the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival and critics haven’t stopped raving about it since. The film will open in the U.S. with an NC-17 rating due to its extended and explicit sex scenes, which were applauded as beautiful over exploitative. “Blue” also looks like an incredibly promising drama for depicting a lesbian relationship honestly, rather than stereotypical as many films have.