8 indie movies to watch this summer: ranked

The cast of Joy Ride looking in shock
Stephanie Hsu, Sabrina Wu, Ashley Park and Sherry Cola in Joy Ride (Image credit: Lionsgate Movie)

With Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 now playing, the blockbuster movie season is upon us. But there's more playing on the big screen than big budget titles, as a number of indie movies are also set to come out over the next few months (just to be clear, we're not talking about Indiana Jones). 

We've ranked some of the indie movies (we may be using that term a little broadly, but basically not the massive, star-studded studio blockbusters) that we're most excited to watch this summer, from comedies to psychological dramas to heartfelt romances.

Let's not waste any time and get right on into our ranked list.

8. The Machine (May 26 in US; June 2 in UK)

Bert Kreischer and Mark Hamill in The Machine

Bert Kreischer and Mark Hamill in The Machine (Image credit: Sony Pictures)

Bert Kreischer is not a household name, but if you have heard of him it is likely because of his famous stand-up bit where he recounts a summer he spent in Russia and earned the nickname "the Machine." Well, he's taking that bit and turning it into a full fledged movie. Set years after the initial story, the movie version of Bert finds out that his antics as "the Machine" created some enemies in Russia. Now, 20 years later, they are taking their vengeance against him and his reluctant father, played by Mark Hamill. It looks absurd and we can't wait. 

7. Fool's Paradise (May 12 in US; TBD in UK)

Ray Liotta and Charlie Day in Fool's Paradise

Ray Liotta and Charlie Day in Fool's Paradise (Image credit: Roadside Attractions)

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia star Charlie Day makes his directing and writing debut with this star-studded Hollywood satire. Day plays a character known only as The Fool, who despite not being able to speak and seemingly an idiot, becomes an overnight sensation in Hollywood. Starring alongside Day are the likes of Adrien Brody, Kate Beckinsale, Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis, Jillian Bell, Ken Jeong, Dean Norris, Edie Falco, Glenn Howerton, John Malkovich and Ray Liotta. It has vibes of the classic movie Being There, but perhaps more of a straight up comedy, which has us intrigued. 

6. Joy Ride (July 7 in US & UK)

Sabrina Wu, Ashley Park, Sherry Cola and Stephanie Hsu in Joy Ride

Sabrina Wu, Ashley Park, Sherry Cola and Stephanie Hsu in Joy Ride (Image credit: Ed Araquel/Lionsgate)

While there are going to be a number of big budget comedies with the likes of Jennifer Lawrence (No Hard Feelings), Robert De Niro (About My Father) and Will Ferrell (Strays), Joy Ride could become the surprise sensation. Starring Oscar-nominee Stephanie Hsu along with Ashley Park, Sherry Cola and Sabrina Wu, this story of four friends traveling to China to try to find one of their birth mother's promises to be a raucous ride. It already has pretty strong buzz after premiering at the South by Southwest Film Festival, with a 100% "Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes as of publication. 

5. Master Gardener (May 19 in US; May 26 in UK)

Joel Edgerton in Master Gardener

Joel Edgerton in Master Gardener (Image credit: Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures)

Paul Schrader has been on a roll recently with the critically acclaimed movies First Reformed and The Card Counter, which focus on mentally tormented leading men played by Ethan Hawke and Oscar Isaac. He continues that trend with his latest movie, Master Gardener, which sees Joel Edgerton star as a horticulturist with a mysterious past. Schrader, who is best known for writing Taxi Driver, is a master of these provocative, edgy kinds of movies; will Master Gardener live up to his previous outings? 

4. Theater Camp (July 14 in US; August 25 in UK)

Molly Gordon and Ben Platt in Theater Camp

Molly Gordon and Ben Platt in Theater Camp (Image credit: Searchlight Pictures)

The Sundance Film Festival is a hotbed for indie movies that have the potential to become breakout hits, as evidenced by our next few picks. The first of which, Theater Camp, is a straight comedic romp with a hilarious ensemble that features Ben Platt, Molly Gordon, Noah Galvin, Ayo Edebiri, Amy Sedaris, Jimmy Tatro, Patti Harrison, Nathan Lee Graham, Owen Thiele and Caroline Aaron as the staff of theater camp trying to keep the things afloat. While the summer camp antics may not be as wild as Wet Hot American Summer, it definitely could be ripe for a fun time. 

3. You Hurt My Feelings (May 26 in US; July TBD in UK)

Julia Louis-Dreyfus at a bar in You Hurt My Feelings

Julia Louis-Dreyfus in You Hurt My Feelings (Image credit: A24)

Nicole Holofcener reunites with her Enough Said co-star Julia Louis-Dreyfuss for a story that is like if a rom-com sequel followed the central couple years into their relationship. You Hurt My Feelings sees Louis-Dreyfuss star as a novelist who hears what her husband really thinks about her latest work, which upends their entire relationship. The movie is one of the better reviewed (currently 96% "Fresh" on Rotten Tomatoes) titles from the 2023 Sundance Film Festival hitting screens this summer. 

2. Past Lives (June 2 in US; September 8 in UK)

Greta Lee and Teo Yoo sitting on a ferry in Past Lives

Greta Lee and Teo Yoo in Past Lives (Image credit: Jon Pack/A24)

A new filmmaker looking to burst onto the scene this summer is Celine Song, who wrote and directed Past Lives. The romance movie sees former close friends Nora (Greta Lee) and Hae Sung (Teo Yoo) reconnect for the first time in 20 years, where feelings of love and questions regarding destiny bubble to the surface. Already a hit at Sundance and the Berlin Film Festival (where it was nominated for Best Film) in the winter, can Past Lives become a summer sleeper hit?

1. Asteroid City (June 16 in US; June 23 in UK)

Jason Schwartzman and Tom Hanks in Asteroid City

Jason Schwartzman and Tom Hanks in Asteroid City (Image credit: Focus Features)

It's always an event when Wes Anderson makes a movie, as he always creates a unique and colorful sandbox for his star-studded ensembles to play in. That is certainly the case again with Asteroid City, which brings the likes of Jason Schwartzman, Scarlett Johansson, Tom Hanks, Jeffrey Wright, Tilda Swinton, Bryan Cranston, Hope Davis, Liev Schreiber, Steve Carrell, Matt Dillon, Margot Robbie and more to a small town in the desert where aliens show up. Anderson may not be everyone's cup of tea, but if you’re looking for something different from the superhero blockbusters set to get most of the attention this summer, you probably couldn’t be further from that than Asteroid City

Michael Balderston

Michael Balderston is a DC-based entertainment and assistant managing editor for What to Watch, who has previously written about the TV and movies with TV Technology, Awards Circuit and regional publications. Spending most of his time watching new movies at the theater or classics on TCM, some of Michael's favorite movies include Casablanca, Moulin Rouge!, Silence of the Lambs, Children of Men, One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest and Star Wars. On the TV side he enjoys Only Murders in the Building, Yellowstone, The Boys, Game of Thrones and is always up for a Seinfeld rerun. Follow on Letterboxd.