Best Mumblecore Movies - Featured

Mumblecore is one of those genres that’s difficult to put into words, but you know a mumblecore film when you see it. There generally isn’t a lot of action. The plot’s mainly driven by dialogue that has a naturalistic feeling. They are intimate stories focused on the small parts of existence most people wouldn’t pay a second thought to. While it may sound weird, the best mumblecore movies show you can do a lot with a little.

On this list, we’re celebrating the films that show independent cinema is still alive and well. There’s a healthy mix of mumblecore and post-mumblecore films here, and you should give as many of them a watch as you can to see how the genre has evolved. All you DIY filmmakers should take a cue from best mumblecore movies ever made.

Mumblecore Films

10. Drinking Buddies (2013)

Interview With Joe Swanberg  •  Drinking Buddies

Drinking Buddies is definitely a product of a more post-mumblecore direction with a cast of big-name actors. However, it retains its naturalistic tendencies in part because the cast actually drank a lot of beer throughout filming, according to Olivia Wilde.

The fact that they’re improvising dialogue while slurring a little bit through major scenes makes it feel all the more real. It certainly could have been a disaster, but when you have strong performers like Anna Kendrick and Jake Johnson, it all comes together wonderfully.

75%
Directing
90%
acting
80%
Story
60%
style
76%
OVERALL SCORE
  • The Performances
  • The Humor
  • A Lot of Fun
  • Uneven
  • Flat in Tone
  • N/A

BEST MUMBLECORE MOVIES

Conclusion

Surprisingly, Quentin Tarantino named this one of his top 10 movies of 2013. It’s a great character study about four people you’d maybe want to catch a beer with.

Good Mumblecore Films

9. The Puffy Chair (2005)

This Is Duplass  •  Origin of The Puffy Chair

To save money, the filmmakers of The Puffy Chair stayed at actress Katie Aselton’s parent’s house during production. With a $15,000 budget and a Panasonic AG-DVX100, the Duplass Brothers pushed the mumblecore genre more into the public consciousness with a tale about a road trip to pick up a chair. Even Duplass’ real parents play his character’s parents in the film, and it’s those kinds of tricks that can really help inspire DIY filmmakers out there to pursue unique avenues to get a movie made.
90%
DIRECTING
75%
ACTING
80%
Story
70%
STYLE
79%
OVERALL SCORE
  • The Dialogue
  • Comedic Beats
  • Uncomfortable Silences  
  • Portrayal of Female Lead
  • Imbalance of Tones
  • N/A

BEST MUMBLECORE MOVIES

Conclusion

The Puffy Chair is a good introduction to the mumblecore genre. It’s also a good place to see where the Duplass brothers got their start before entering more mainstream fare.

List of Mumblecore Films

8. Mutual Appreciation (2006)

Interview With Andrew Bujalski  •  Mutual Appreciation

Mutual Appreciation really encapsulates what the mumblecore film movement wanted to accomplish. The film essentially consists of a bunch of dialogue scenes. There’s no real driving force, and every scene is just a little bit awkward. It captures what it meant to come of age in the mid-2000s in a world that didn’t really have a place for you.
90%
DIRECTING
80%
ACTING
70%
Story
80%
STYLE
80%
OVERALL SCORE
  • Black and White Aesthetic
  • The Music
  • The Humor
  • Some Boring Characters
  • Overly Long
  • N/G

BEST MUMBLECORE MOVIES

Conclusion

Mutual Appreciation works best as a critique of lackadaisical 20-somethings drifting through life. This is where the film draws much of its humor.

Post-Mumblecore Films

7. Jeff, Who Lives at Home (2012)

Ed Helms Interview  •  Jeff, Who Lives at Home

Jeff, Who Lives at Home is a good example of post-mumblecore. It’s definitely more mainstream, starring the likes of Jason Segel and Susan Sarandon. It’s more polished than earlier mumblecore films, and while it follows an aimless 30-year old, it even has more of a plot going for it. But this movie excels in how it takes older mumblecore sensibilities and enfuses them into a more classic type of movie, delivering themes on how both our actions and inactions have consequences.
75%
DIRECTING
90%
ACTING
85%
Story
80%
STYLE
83%
OVERALL SCORE
  • The Performances
  • The Comedy
  • The Climax
  • Uncompelling Characters
  • Thin Side Plot
  • N/A

BEST MUMBLECORE MOVIES

Conclusion

Jeff, Who Lives at Home is a more whimsical type of mumblecore movie. It’s charming, and while it’s a slow burn, it’s worth it for the laughs and insights.

Mumblecore Films, Ranked

6. Daddy Longlegs (2010)

Q&A With Josh and Benny Safdie  •  Daddy Longlegs

Before they gave audiences collective anxiety with Uncut Gems,
the Safdie Brothers delivered Daddy Longlegs. It’s a movie about a divorced father making the most of the two weeks he has his kids, which often leads to disastrous consequences. The Safdies based the script off of their own divorced father, which helps give the film a more intimate quality, lending itself naturally to the mumblecore aesthetic.

90%
DIRECTING
85%
ACTING
75%
Story
85%
STYLE
84%
OVERALL SCORE
  • Camerawork
  • Visuals of New York
  • Lead Performance
  • Thin Characterizations
  • Pacing Issues
  • N/A

BEST MUMBLECORE MOVIES

Conclusion

Daddy Longlegs showed what kind of filmmakers the Safdie brothers would become. A must-watch for fans of Uncut Gems.

Great Mumblecore Films

5. Joshy (2016)

Joshy Cast  •  Variety

Writer/director Jeff Baena wrote a 20-page treatment for Joshy. The cast knew where each scene needed to go, but they were left to come up with the actual dialogue. A lot of comedic actors are in the cast, and they’re certainly funny, but what’s so intriguing is that the story itself is incredibly sad. In hindsight, the comedy functions as a mask of these guys who don’t want to address the elephant in the room and would rather just screw off for a weekend.

80%
DIRECTING
90%
ACTING
90%
Story
75%
STYLE
84%
OVERALL SCORE
  • The Comedy
  • Deconstruction
  • The Climax
  • Odd Mix of Elements
  • N/A
  • N/A

BEST MUMBLECORE MOVIES

Conclusion

Joshy is funny but not quite a flat-out comedy. It finds humor in dark places and will disturb as much as entertain you.

Ranking the Best Mumblecore Films

4. Wendy and Lucy (2008)

Why Watch Wendy and Lucy  •  Derek Cianfrance

Loneliness and isolation are common themes in 21st century cinema. But few films have touched on those themes in such a unique way as Wendy and Lucy, a movie about a woman traveling to Alaska with her dog who gets stuck in a small Oregon town. It feels like everything is working against her in what should have been a simple quest, and thanks to Michelle Williams’ performance, you empathize immensely with her.

90%
DIRECTING
95%
ACTING
80%
Story
80%
STYLE
86%
OVERALL SCORE
  • Michelle Williams
  • Timely Themes
  • Climax and Finale
  • Slow Pace
  • N/A
  • N/A

BEST MUMBLECORE MOVIES

Conclusion

Spoilers but don’t worry. The dog doesn’t die in the end.

Top 3 Mumblecore Films

3. Appropriate Behavior (2015)

Desiree Akhavan Talks Appropriate Behavior  •  Sundance

When you watch just a few mumblecore movies, it becomes abundantly clear the genre is mainly interested in straight, white 20-somethings. Appropriate Behavior is a breath of fresh air, focusing on a bisexual Persian woman reflecting on her past romantic relationships. It’s also unique in its utilization of flashbacks, not often seen in mumblecore, which tends to follow strictly linear plotlines. The film shows that it’s not just white people in New York who have relationship problems.
90%
DIRECTING
90%
ACTING
85%
Story
85%
STYLE
88%
OVERALL SCORE
  • Lead Performances
  • The Humor
  • Unique Perspective
  • Minimal Insights
  • N/A
  • N/A

BEST MUMBLECORE MOVIES

Conclusion

Appropriate Behavior is an underseen indie gem. More than anything, it shows that Desiree Akhavan should be writing and directing a lot more often.

The Quintessential Mumblecore Movie

2. Funny Ha Ha (2002)  

Trailer  •  Funny Ha Ha

Funny Ha Ha is considered to be the first mumblecore movie, and it set the template for where many independent films would head in the ensuing decade. It has a guerilla aesthetic with shaky camera moves and muffled sound (hence the name mumblecore). It follows a woman going through a temp job and romantic ups and downs. There’s nothing really special about the life we’re presented, but every minute occurrence means the world to this protagonist.
95%
DIRECTING
90%
ACTING
80%
Story
95%
STYLE
90%
OVERALL SCORE
  • Intimate Portrayals
  • Naturalistic Dialogue
  • Utmost Sincerity
  • Low on Plot
  • N/A
  • N/A

BEST MUMBLECORE MOVIES

Conclusion

Funny Ha Ha isn’t as comedic as the title would let on. However, Kate Dollenmayer is fantastic as the lead and keeps things moving along as we get a slice of life portrait into a post-college life for recent graduates.

The Best Mumblecore Movie

1. Frances Ha (2013)

Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach Talk New Film  •  The New Yorker

Frances Ha takes the conventions of mumblecore and takes them to their fullest potential. You have a driftless character dealing with relatable conflicts like a romantic relationship that fizzles out for no real reason, a falling out with a best friend, and the struggle to get a dream job. But none of this ever feels aimless. The titular lead makes mistakes and finds solutions, and while she doesn’t figure everything out, we know she’ll be okay.

95%
DIRECTING
100%
ACTING
90%
Story
100%
STYLE
97%
OVERALL SCORE
  • Greta Gerwig
  • The Writing
  • The Humor
  • N/A
  • N/A
  • N/A

BEST MUMBLECORE MOVIES

Conclusion

Frances Ha transcends the mumblecore label. It’s a great film that showcases what an immense talent Greta Gerwig is.

UP NEXT

A brief history of mumblecore

All of these movies showcase the best of mumblecore. But if you need a primer on what exactly that entails, then make sure to check out our blog running down the definition of mumblecore films. You may be surprised to see how the genre has evolved over the years.

Up Next: Mumblecore origins →
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