I’m a lover of indie films partially for their eccentric, off-the-wall themes, but mostly for their messages about society. This list describes some of my favorite indie films and shows that display messages that disrupt some of our societal views.
DISCLAIMER: Some of these movies and shows discuss serious topics that others may find unsettling or disturbing. Viewer discretion advised.
- The Watermelon Woman (1996)
The Watermelon Woman is a film directed by Cheryl Dunye who is a black lesbian filmmaker. The movie shows the journey of Cheryl (who plays herself) exploring a black actress in the 1930s who plays the “mammy” stereotype.
This movie showcases disruptive elements of sexuality and racial stereotypes. Being a black lesbian filmmaker in the 90s is not as socially acceptable as it would be today, and even today there are still stigmas against people of color and the LGBTQ+ community.
If you’re looking for a movie that will give you a glimpse into the harmful stereotype of the “mammy” character and the hardships of Cheryl being a black lesbian filmmaker in the 90s, I definitely would recommend The Watermelon Woman.
- Freaks and Geeks (1999)
Freaks and Geeks is a TV show directed by Paul Feig and Judd Apatow. The show is about two siblings (Lindsay and Sam Weir) in 1980’s Michigan, who navigate different stages of high school together. Lindsay is an upperclassman and former mathlete, who becomes friends with burnouts, and Sam is in his freshman year of high school.
The show makes you see elements of school norms (the clicks), coming of age, sexuality, etc. Freaks and Geeks is meant to show a realistic glimpse into teenage life. The pressures of sex, how to be popular or seen as “cool”, experimenting with drugs, and dealing with the teenage things life may throw your way (ex parents divorce).
This isn’t like your average “coming of age” movies or shows. Freaks and Geeks show realistic aspects of teenage life and don’t make them overly dramatic like how other films or shows portray them.
- Call Me By Your Name (2017)
Call Me By Your Name is a film directed by Luca Guadagnino. This film is set in 1980s Italy, and showcases a romantic relationship between a 17-year-old boy named Elio and a 24-year-old college graduate named Oliver, who is working for Elio’s father.
Firstly, this film disrupts the idea of a minor and adult in a sexual relationship together. This also disrupts the idea of a homosexual relationship in the 1980s. While as previously stated in my film about The Watermelon Woman, we have come a long way with being more accepting of the LGBTQ+ community, but we still have a long way to go.
This film is filled with beautiful cinematography showing Italy’s countryside while describing the raw romance between Elio and Oliver. While this movie does have elements that others may find disturbing, if you want to watch a movie that is visually appealing and will make you think about sexuality (and is based on a book), I recommend giving it a watch.
- A Clockwork Orange (1971)
Probably the most disturbing and eccentric of the list, A Clockwork Orange is a film directed by Stanley Kubrick based on the novel written by Anthony Burgess. The movie is about a young man named Alex DeLarge who is described as an “ultraviolent” youth who controls an underground gang who essentially does the unfathomable: they steal, rape, and kill innocent people for sadistic fun. He is arrested and convicted of murder, but is volunteered to undergo a mind-altering experiment to change his behavior.
This film shows disruptive elements of sexual fantasies (both consensual and non-consensual sex), violence, and the idea of altering one’s mind. There are also many visually disruptive elements as well. This film is a hard one to watch if you are sensitive to certain topics or easily triggered, but shows inside the working mind of a disrupted individual which some might find fascinating.
If you want a film that utterly disrupts your mind, in more ways than one, I would definitely give this film a go, but again, it’s not for the light-hearted.
- Girlboss (2017)
The show Girlboss, directed by Christian Ditter and written by Kay Cannon is about a young woman named Sophia who begins her own eBay clothing business named Nasty Gal which launched in 2006.
This movie’s title firstly is disruptive since in our society, women for years were not seen as capable of being bosses, but now as we see, this perception is changing. But of course, there are some who still don’t see women as being capable. There are also disruptive moments of drug use and sexuality.
While Girlboss is a more lighthearted and inspiring show, it does show disruptive elements of growing into womanhood and the struggles of starting an online business alone and as a woman. If you are looking for an empowering show that is based on a true story, this is worth watching.
This is such a small glimpse into millions of indie movies and shows to watch to make you rethink our societal views and the struggles we face still today. While not all of them are disruptive in the same way, or in a way all of us find disruptive, films are a good way to spread messages about life experiences and important topics that we should all learn about.