We’ve hit the dog days of August, which traditionally marks a fallow period for both movie studios and moviegoers. With so many big-name, big-budget flicks being hoarded until the fall — so that they can enter the overcrowded awards-season race — the last few weeks of summer often feels like a dumping ground for schlocky horror flicks, subpar shoot-’em-ups, and middling dramas. There are exceptions, of course: Just check out the excitement for this weekend’s Straight Outta Compton. But for most movie fans, the last few weeks of summer are appropriately sweat-inducing, as they wonder, Where did all the good movies go?
Luckily, the world of indie film has plenty of solid options for the quality-starved cinephile — some of which you can watch without leaving the comfort of your couch. Below are seven great small-scale flicks that you can catch as the season winds down.
Starring: Bridey Elliott and Clare McNulty
Directed by: Sarah Violet-Bliss and Charles Rogers
Why you’ve got to see it: By now, the “Self-involved Brooklyn Millennial” genre is well-trod territory, but Fort Tilden manages to exemplify that genre while also satirizing it. The film focusses on two self-involved young New Yorkers (Elliot and McNulty) who are on a quest to spend a day at the far-flung Brooklyn beach from which the film takes its name. It’s hard not to laugh along with some of their selfish, misguided shenanigans, especially because you can laugh even harder with they get their just desserts during a catastrophic outing. Check out a clip from the film above.
How to watch it: In limited theaters now, and on demand via iTunes, Amazon, and Google Play.
Starring: Greta Gerwig and Lola Kirke
Directed by: Noah Baumbach
Why you’ve got to see it: Director Baumbach co-wrote this screwball comedy with Gerwig, his creative and romantic partner. But the real breakout here is 24-year-old Kirke, the younger sister of Girls star Jemima Kirke, who plays an NYU freshman and aspiring writer who gets caught in the whirlwind city life of her future step-sister (Gerwig). It’s a fast-paced, charming comedy about the wide-eyed hopes of youth, the creeping disillusionment of your 30s, and the ways to navigate both.
How to watch it: In theaters now.
Starring: James Grant and John Diaz
Directed by: Keith Miller
Why you’ve got to see it: Writer-director Miller’s drama is a daunting, cinéma vérité-style portrait of gang life in one of Brooklyn’s housing projects. It’s a feature film, but it’s lent doc-like authenticity by Grant, its leading man (and a real-life former gang member) who plays a gang leader who takes the son of a recently murdered friend under his wing. Quiet and intense, the film shines a light on a world rarely seen on the big screen, and demonstrates how many destinies are tragically pre-written.
How to watch it: On demand via iTunes, Amazon, Google Play.
Starring: Kevin Bacon, Camryn Manheim and Shea Whigham
Directed by: Jon Watts
Why you’ve got to see it: A throwback thriller, Watts’ feature debut stars Bacon as a corrupt sheriff whose patrol car gets jacked by two curious (and foul-mouthed) kids. The jackers are young and naive, while Bacon’s cop character is dumber than dirt, a combination that helps raise the stakes and amplify the off-beat humor in a cat-and-mouse chase around the abandoned roads circling nameless rural community. And for any superhero-lovers out there: Watts will next direct the latest Spider-Man reboot.
How to see it: In theaters now, and on demand via iTunes, Amazon and Google Play.
Directed by: Sacha Jenkins
Why you’ve got to see it: Jenkins’ documentary chronicles the intertwined rise of hip-hop and urban fashion, as they propelled one another into the public consciousness. It’s an insightful insider’s look not only at the wild styles that began in Harlem and the Bronx in the 1970s, but also how money, celebrity, and power can radically shape cultures and communities.
How to see it: In limited theaters now, and on demand via iTunes, Amazon, and Google Play.
Starring: Nina Hoss and Ronald Zehrfeld
Directed by: Christian Petzold
Why you’ve got to see it: This German drama follows a concentration camp survivor on a potentially impossible quest to piece back together her very broken life. Horribly disfigured in the war, she’s undergone extensive facial reconstruction surgery, and is embarking on the difficult the task of finding her lost husband — who may or may not have sold her out to the Nazis. The film has won unanimous praise, with a 98 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and its mix of drama and suspense will tear out your rapidly beating heart.
How to see it: In limited theaters now.
Starring: Jason Douglas and James Landry Hebert
Directed by: Alex R. Johnson
Why you’ve got to see it: Two Step is a simmering Texan tale about a college dropout and a local con man who get forced into some very dangerous situations and desperate decisions by a mob boss. It’s received rave reviews for its mix of slow-burn and late thrills, a potent combination.
How to see it: In limited theaters now, available on demand via iTunes, Amazon and Google Play