'The Green Knight,' 'Zola' and more: 10 indie films you absolutely must watch this summer

Brian Truitt

The summer movie season came out swinging on Memorial Day weekend, with "A Quiet Place Part II" and "Cruella" blitzing the box office and helping theaters recover to their pre-pandemic blockbuster form.

Major studio movies will be hitting reopened cinemas in the coming months, but there are plenty of hidden gems and smaller indie fare for the hardcore cinephiles, too. Festival favorites are making their appearances in theaters, some hot docs are bringing true stories to the masses, and you might even see some players in the upcoming Oscar season begin their runs before the fall. (We see you coming, Adam Driver.)

Here are 10 must-see movies coming to theaters, streaming services and video-on-demand platforms that should definitely to be on your radar between now and Labor Day:

Memorial Day weekend at the movies:'A Quiet Place Part II' collects box office pandemic-best

Edgar Wright’s documentary "The Sparks Brothers" focuses on the eccentric California-bred brothers of the band Sparks - Ron Mael (left) and Russell Mael - and their continually evolving music over the past 50-plus years.

'The Sparks Brothers'

Those who have no clue about the art-pop glam band Sparks – or musical brothers Ron and Russell Mael – might have the best time with director Edgar Wright's documentary. Using animation and interviews with the likes of Mike Myers and Beck, the film tracks the California-raised siblings' 50 years in the music business, their epic ups and downs and their astounding evolution through the decades.

Where to watch: In theaters June 18

"Werewolves Within" stars Sam Richardson as a newly arrived forest ranger who has to keep residents of a small town safe from each other, after a proposed oil pipeline causes division, and a vicious beast.

'Werewolves Within'

In director Josh Ruben's horror comedy based on a virtual reality party video game (no, really), Sam Richardson stars as a newly arrived forest ranger in a snowbound New England town where the residents are divided over a proposed gas pipeline. Oh, there's also a fearsome, murderous creature on the loose, and things get really hairy when a group of folks hunker down in the local inn with a killer among them.

Where to watch: In theaters June 25, VOD July 2

A Detroit waitress (Taylour Paige, right) is seduced into a wild, party-filled weekend by a customer (Riley Keough) in "Zola."


An absolutely bonkers Twitter thread comes to the big screen with Janicza Bravo's crime dramedy/real-life stripper saga. Zola (Taylour Paige) is a Detroit waitress who befriends a customer named Stefani (Riley Keough), and the two go on an insane road trip to Florida that involves hedonism, pole dancing, gangsters and one very dumb boyfriend during a series of stranger-than-fiction adventures.

Where to watch: In theaters June 30

Tyson Brown (right) plays a teen whose night out with his crush (Shelby Duclos) goes awry in the action comedy "First Date."

'First Date'

Imagine Quentin Tarantino making an indie teen comedy, and you've got Manuel Crosby and Darren Knapp's violent spin on a familiar trope. Mike (Tyson Brown) finally gets a chance to take out his crush (Shelby Duclos), but his parents have taken the family van. To get some wheels, Mike buys a 1965 Chrysler clunker, a car that soon embroils him in a mess full of colorful cops, crooks and various weirdos.

Where to watch: In theaters and on VOD July 2

"Summer of Soul" is a documentary featuring never-before-seen footage of artists (including The 5th Dimension) at the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, an event that brought a divided community together by celebrating Black art.

'Summer of Soul'

With never-before-seen footage and new interviews, Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson's directorial debut looks back on the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, a seminal event that brought a divided community together to celebrate Black culture and music. If you're a music-doc nerd, the performances are phenomenal, from 19-year-old Stevie Wonder to the supremely soulful team-up of Mahalia Jackson and Mavis Staples.

Where to watch: In theaters and on Hulu July 2

Sir Gawain (Dev Patel), King Arthur's headstrong nephew, runs into ghosts, giants and thieves on his epic quest to confront the formidable, emerald-skinned title character of David Lowery's fantasy "The Green Knight."

'The Green Knight'

Directed by David Lowery ("A Ghost Story"), the dark fantasy adventure features Dev Patel as Sir Gawain, King Arthur's headstrong nephew. The ax-wielding protagonist ventures out beyond the round table on an epic quest to find and confront the enigmatic Green Knight, a journey that brings him into contact with a talking fox, Alicia Vikander, giants, ghosts and other characters while testing his honor and strength.

Where to watch: In theaters July 30

Winston Duke stars as a reclusive individual who picks human souls to be born in the sci-fi fantasy "Nine Days."

'Nine Days'

The existential sci-fi drama is a showcase for up-and-coming writer/director Edson Oda and leading man Winston Duke ("Us," "Black Panther"). Living an isolated life in a desert landscape, Will (Duke) is a reserved sort who determines which souls will be given life on Earth. When one of his favorite souls dies, Will judges a new crop of candidates, including Emma (Zazie Beetz), who unlocks a hidden human side within him.

Where to watch: In New York and L.A. theaters July 30, nationwide Aug. 6

Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard play a celebrity couple whose first child has an intriguing destiny in the musical "Annette."


The opening film at July's Cannes Film Festival, director Leos Carax's musical centers on a celebrity couple – a stand-up comedian (Driver) and an international singing superstar (Marion Cotillard) – and how their lives change with the arrival of their baby daughter. Pro tip: You'll want to have watched "The Sparks Brothers" beforehand, since the film's soundtrack is pretty much an entire Sparks album.

Where to watch: In theaters Aug. 6, Amazon Prime Aug. 20

Emilia Jones stars in "CODA" as a teenage girl and only hearing member of a deaf family who has to balance her passion for singing with the demands of working on her parents' struggling fishing boat.


The Sundance smash hit stars Emilia Jones in this heartwarming drama as a teenage girl who's the only hearing member of her deaf family. When not in school, she works long and hard hours for her parents (Marlee Matlin and Troy Kotsur) on their struggling fishing boat but has a hard choice to make when she begins to realize her passion and talent for singing. 

Where to watch: In theaters and on Apple TV+ Aug. 13

Rebecca Hall stars as a widow whose husband has just died unexpectedly and now experiences visions living alone in the lakeside house he built for her in the psychological horror film "The Night House."

'The Night House'

Directed by David Bruckner ("The Ritual"), the psychological chiller stars Rebecca Hall as a widow coming to grips with her husband's unexpected suicide. A mysterious letter left in the wake of his death, as well as ghostly visions at night, send her down a rabbit hole digging into his dark secrets, including the rather strange blueprints for the lake house he built for her. 

Where to watch: In theaters Aug. 20