Best Avant-Garde/Experimental films (IMO)

by Catrician | created - 18 May 2013 | updated - 12 Feb 2017 | Public

IMPORTANT: Avant-garde/experimental directors, please message me here if you want me to see your short film or feature, I'd love to expand my horizons. I've found that this list is the first one on the net if you google "best avant-garde movies" so if I like it enough, and it ends up on here, it could be very good for everyone! Keep em coming!

Based on the very limited amount I've seen

Godard: 8 Brakhage: 4 Rivette: 3 Akerman, Snow, von Trier, Lynch, Korine: 2

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1. Celine and Julie Go Boating (1974)

Unrated | 193 min | Comedy, Drama, Fantasy

A mysteriously linked pair of young women find their daily lives preempted by a strange boudoir melodrama that plays itself out in a hallucinatory parallel reality.

Director: Jacques Rivette | Stars: Juliet Berto, Dominique Labourier, Bulle Ogier, Marie-France Pisier

Votes: 4,087 | Gross: $0.03M

2. The Tree of Life (2011)

PG-13 | 139 min | Drama, Fantasy

85 Metascore

The story of a family in Waco, Texas in 1956. The eldest son witnesses the loss of innocence and struggles with his parents' conflicting teachings.

Director: Terrence Malick | Stars: Brad Pitt, Sean Penn, Jessica Chastain, Hunter McCracken

Votes: 155,993 | Gross: $13.30M

This one's arguable, but I can see enough experimental elements for it to qualify.

3. Wax, or the Discovery of Television Among the Bees (1991)

85 min | Documentary, Drama, Sci-Fi

A man recalls the story of how his bees implanted in him a bee television, causing him to lose all perception of space, time, and self in the deserts of the American West.

Director: David Blair | Stars: Father Bessarion, David Blair, William S. Burroughs, Florence Ormezzano

Votes: 261

4. Dogville (2003)

R | 178 min | Crime, Drama

60 Metascore

A woman on the run from the mob is reluctantly accepted in a small Colorado town. In exchange, she agrees to work for them. As a search visits the town, she finds out that their support has a price. Yet her dangerous secret is never far away.

Director: Lars von Trier | Stars: Nicole Kidman, Paul Bettany, Lauren Bacall, Harriet Andersson

Votes: 126,119 | Gross: $1.53M

5. Mulholland Drive (2001)

R | 147 min | Drama, Mystery, Thriller

83 Metascore

After a car wreck on the winding Mulholland Drive renders a woman amnesiac, she and a perky Hollywood-hopeful search for clues and answers across Los Angeles in a twisting venture beyond dreams and reality.

Director: David Lynch | Stars: Naomi Watts, Laura Harring, Justin Theroux, Jeanne Bates

Votes: 290,137 | Gross: $7.22M

6. Dreams That Money Can Buy (1947)

Approved | 99 min | Drama, Fantasy

After learning how to look inside himself, a poetic bum sells people vivid dreams.

Director: Hans Richter | Stars: Jack Bittner, Libby Holman, Josh White, Norman Cazanjian

Votes: 718

7. La Jetée (1962)

Not Rated | 28 min | Short, Drama, Romance

The story of a man forced to explore his memories in the wake of World War III's devastation, told through still images.

Director: Chris Marker | Stars: Étienne Becker, Jean Négroni, Hélène Chatelain, Davos Hanich

Votes: 26,328

8. Gummo (1997)

R | 89 min | Comedy, Drama

19 Metascore

Lonely residents of a tornado-stricken Ohio town wander the deserted landscape trying to fulfill their boring, nihilistic lives.

Director: Harmony Korine | Stars: Nick Sutton, Jacob Sewell, Lara Tosh, Jacob Reynolds

Votes: 29,091 | Gross: $0.02M

9. Marketa Lazarová (1967)

Not Rated | 162 min | Drama, History, Romance

A grim portrayal of the shift from Paganism to Christianity in medieval Czechoslovakia - as a young virgin promised to God is kidnapped and raped by a marauder who her religious father seeks to kill in return.

Director: Frantisek Vlácil | Stars: Josef Kemr, Magda Vásáryová, Nada Hejna, Jaroslav Moucka

Votes: 3,744

10. Window Water Baby Moving (1959)

13 min | Documentary, Short

Stan Brakhage films the birth of his first child, Myrrena.

Director: Stan Brakhage | Stars: Jane Brakhage, Myrrena Brakhage, Stan Brakhage

Votes: 1,969

11. First Name: Carmen (1983)

R | 85 min | Crime, Drama, Music

A woman involved with a terrorist group becomes dangerously close to the police officer guarding the bank they plan to rob.

Director: Jean-Luc Godard | Stars: Maruschka Detmers, Jacques Bonnaffé, Myriem Roussel, Christophe Odent

Votes: 2,902

12. The Color of Pomegranates (1969)

Not Rated | 79 min | Biography, Drama, History

A super-stylized, surreal biography of Armenian troubadour Sayat Nova, whose life is depicted through non-narrative amalgamations of poetic images.

Director: Sergei Parajanov | Stars: Sofiko Chiaureli, Melkon Alekyan, Vilen Galstyan, Gogi Gegechkori

Votes: 7,339

13. Je Tu Il Elle (1974)

86 min | Drama

'Je' is a girl voluntarily lock up in a room. 'Tu' is the script. 'Il' is a lorry driver. 'Elle' is the girlfriend.

Director: Chantal Akerman | Stars: Chantal Akerman, Niels Arestrup, Claire Wauthion

Votes: 1,437

14. 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her (1967)

Not Rated | 87 min | Comedy, Drama

A day in the life of a Parisian housewife/prostitute, interspersed with musings on the Vietnam War and other contemporary issues.

Director: Jean-Luc Godard | Stars: Marina Vlady, Anny Duperey, Roger Montsoret, Raoul Lévy

Votes: 5,788 | Gross: $0.10M

15. The Hart of London (1970)

80 min | Mystery

A surreal sequence of images of nature and London, Ontario, life and death.

Director: Jack Chambers

Votes: 315

16. Prelude: Dog Star Man (1962)

25 min | Short, Drama

The prelude to Dog Star Man (1964), an experimental film wherein a man climbs a mountain along with his dog.

Director: Stan Brakhage | Stars: Jane Brakhage, Stan Brakhage

Votes: 1,255

includes all parts of Dog Star Man

17. Notre musique (2004)

80 min | Drama

77 Metascore

An indictment of modern times divided into three "kingdoms": "Enfer" ("Hell"), "Purgatoire" ("Purgatory") and "Paradis" ("Paradise").

Director: Jean-Luc Godard | Stars: Sarah Adler, Nade Dieu, Rony Kramer, Simon Eine

Votes: 2,668 | Gross: $0.14M

18. 88:88 (2015)

65 min | Documentary

An experimental film diary about young people in Winnipeg who have difficulty making ends meet.

Director: Isiah Medina | Stars: Erik J. Berg, Eliza Bronte, Avery Medina, Avery Medvin

Votes: 144

19. Weekend (1967)

Not Rated | 105 min | Adventure, Comedy, Drama

A surreal tale of a married couple going on a road trip to visit the wife's parents with the intention of killing them for the inheritance.

Director: Jean-Luc Godard | Stars: Mireille Darc, Jean Yanne, Jean-Pierre Kalfon, Karl Marx

Votes: 11,885

20. F for Fake (1973)

PG | 89 min | Documentary

A documentary about fraud and fakery.

Directors: Orson Welles, Gary Graver, Oja Kodar, François Reichenbach | Stars: Orson Welles, Oja Kodar, François Reichenbach, Elmyr de Hory

Votes: 13,200

21. Synecdoche, New York (2008)

R | 124 min | Comedy, Drama

67 Metascore

A theatre director struggles with his work, and the women in his life, as he creates a life-size replica of New York City inside a warehouse as part of his new play.

Director: Charlie Kaufman | Stars: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Samantha Morton, Michelle Williams, Catherine Keener

Votes: 71,940 | Gross: $3.08M

As with The Tree of Life, I think there's enough elements of avant-garde to let this qualify as an experimental film.

22. Outer Space (1999)

Not Rated | 10 min | Short, Horror

Footage from The Entity (1980) is edited into an abstract nightmare.

Director: Peter Tscherkassky | Star: Barbara Hershey

Votes: 1,527

23. Out 1: Spectre (1972)

253 min | Comedy, Drama, Thriller

A shorter version of Out 1 (1971), however some of the omitted scenes of the long version are included.

Director: Jacques Rivette | Stars: Pierre Baillot, Juliet Berto, Jean Bouise, Michel Delahaye

Votes: 278

24. Chelsea Girls (1966)

210 min | Drama

Lacking a formal narrative, Warhol's art house classic follows various residents of the Chelsea Hotel in 1966 New York City, presented in a split screen with a single audio track in conjunction with one side of screen.

Directors: Paul Morrissey, Andy Warhol | Stars: Brigid Berlin, Randy Borscheidt, Christian Päffgen, Angelina 'Pepper' Davis

Votes: 1,069

25. Out 1 (1971)

Not Rated | 729 min | Drama, Mystery

87 Metascore

Following the May 1968 civil unrest in France, a deaf-mute and a con artist simultaneously stumble upon the remnants of a secret society.

Directors: Jacques Rivette, Suzanne Schiffman | Stars: Michèle Moretti, Hermine Karagheuz, Karen Puig, Pierre Baillot

Votes: 962 | Gross: $0.03M

26. I Am Cuba (1964)

Not Rated | 108 min | Drama, History, War

Four vignettes about the lives of the Cuban people set during the pre-revolutionary era.

Director: Mikhail Kalatozov | Stars: Sergio Corrieri, Salvador Wood, José Gallardo, Raúl García

Votes: 7,183 | Gross: $0.16M

27. Meshes of the Afternoon (1943)

Not Rated | 14 min | Short, Fantasy, Mystery

A woman returning home falls asleep and has vivid dreams that may or may not be happening in reality. Through repetitive images and complete mismatching of the objective view of time and space, her dark inner desires play out on-screen.

Directors: Maya Deren, Alexander Hammid | Stars: Maya Deren, Alexander Hammid

Votes: 9,453

28. Last Year at Marienbad (1961)

Not Rated | 94 min | Drama, Mystery

In a strange and isolated chateau, a man becomes acquainted with a woman and insists that they have met before.

Director: Alain Resnais | Stars: Delphine Seyrig, Giorgio Albertazzi, Sacha Pitoëff, Françoise Bertin

Votes: 17,868 | Gross: $0.01M

29. The Mirror (1975)

G | 107 min | Biography, Drama

A dying man in his forties remembers his past. His childhood, his mother, the war, personal moments and things that tell of the recent history of all the Russian nation.

Director: Andrei Tarkovsky | Stars: Margarita Terekhova, Filipp Yankovskiy, Ignat Daniltsev, Oleg Yankovskiy

Votes: 32,014

30. Jeanne Dielman, 23, Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975)

Not Rated | 201 min | Drama

A lonely widowed housewife does her daily chores, takes care of her apartment where she lives with her teenage son, and turns the occasional trick to make ends meet. However, something happens that changes her safe routine.

Director: Chantal Akerman | Stars: Delphine Seyrig, Jan Decorte, Henri Storck, Jacques Doniol-Valcroze

Votes: 5,713 | Gross: $0.02M

31. Mr. Nobody (2009)

R | 141 min | Drama, Fantasy, Romance

63 Metascore

A boy stands on a station platform as a train is about to leave. Should he go with his mother or stay with his father? Infinite possibilities arise from this decision. As long as he doesn't choose, anything is possible.

Director: Jaco Van Dormael | Stars: Jared Leto, Sarah Polley, Diane Kruger, Linh Dan Pham

Votes: 196,751 | Gross: $0.00M

32. The Idiots (1998)

R | 117 min | Comedy, Drama

47 Metascore

The group of people gather at the house in Copenhagen suburb to break all the limitations and to bring out the "inner idiot" in themselves.

Director: Lars von Trier | Stars: Bodil Jørgensen, Jens Albinus, Anne Louise Hassing, Troels Lyby

Votes: 27,771 | Gross: $0.01M

33. Nouvelle vague (1990)

89 min | Drama

Composed entirely by literary quotations from many different sources and from several historical periods, Godard's film works as an allegory on film. The loose narrative tells about a ... See full summary »

Director: Jean-Luc Godard | Stars: Alain Delon, Domiziana Giordano, Jacques Dacqmine, Christophe Odent

Votes: 1,262

34. Star Spangled to Death (2004)

402 min | Documentary, History

Star Spangled to Death is a 2004 experimental film directed by Ken Jacobs, consisting almost entirely of archive footage, depicting the history of the United States in film.

Director: Ken Jacobs | Stars: Jack Smith, Jerry Sims, Gib Taylor, Bill Carpenter

Votes: 120

35. Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One (1968)

Not Rated | 75 min | Documentary

71 Metascore

Filmmaker William Greaves auditioned acting students for a fictional drama, while simultaneously shooting the behind-the-scenes drama taking place.

Director: William Greaves | Stars: Patricia Ree Gilbert, Don Fellows, Jonathan Gordon, Bob Rosen

Votes: 1,269

36. Hapax Legomena I: Nostalgia (1971)

36 min | Short

Frampton burning slowly his an nostalgia black and white photograph who his taken on a hot plate.

Director: Hollis Frampton | Star: Michael Snow

Votes: 536

37. Lost Highway (1997)

R | 134 min | Mystery, Thriller

52 Metascore

After a bizarre encounter at a party, a jazz saxophonist is framed for the murder of his wife and sent to prison, where he inexplicably morphs into a young mechanic and begins leading a new life.

Director: David Lynch | Stars: Bill Pullman, Patricia Arquette, John Roselius, Louis Eppolito

Votes: 118,205 | Gross: $3.80M

38. Numéro deux (1975)

88 min | Drama

An analysis of the power relations in an ordinary family.

Director: Jean-Luc Godard | Stars: Sandrine Battistella, Pierre Oudrey, Alexandre Rignault, Rachel Stefanopoli

Votes: 666

39. The Headless Woman (2008)

Unrated | 87 min | Drama, Mystery, Thriller

81 Metascore

After hitting something with her car, a bourgeois Argentine woman's life slowly descends into paranoia and isolation, as she fears she may have killed someone.

Director: Lucrecia Martel | Stars: María Onetto, Claudia Cantero, Inés Efron, César Bordón

Votes: 3,943 | Gross: $0.10M

40. Touki Bouki (1973)

Not Rated | 85 min | Drama

Mory, a cowherd, and Anta, a university student, try to make money in order to go to Paris and leave their boring past behind.

Director: Djibril Diop Mambéty | Stars: Magaye Niang, Myriam Niang, Aminata Fall, Ousseynou Diop

Votes: 1,918

41. Histoire(s) du cinéma (1989–1999)
Episode: Une histoire seule (1989)

42 min | Documentary

An 8-part documentary chronically the history of cinema: "All the Histories", "A Single History", "Only Cinema", "Deadly "Beauty", "The Coin of the Absolute", "A New Wave", "The Control of the Universe", and "The Signs Among Us".

Director: Jean-Luc Godard

Votes: 701

includes the entire Histoire(s) du cinema

42. Spring Breakers (2012)

R | 94 min | Comedy, Crime, Drama

63 Metascore

Four college girls hold up a restaurant in order to fund their spring break vacation. While partying, drinking, and taking drugs, they are arrested, only to be bailed out by a drug and arms dealer.

Director: Harmony Korine | Stars: Vanessa Hudgens, Selena Gomez, Ashley Benson, Rachel Korine

Votes: 126,173 | Gross: $14.12M

43. Goodbye to Language (2014)

Not Rated | 70 min | Drama, Fantasy

75 Metascore

A silent, surreal parallel between a couple and a dog.

Director: Jean-Luc Godard | Stars: Héloïse Godet, Kamel Abdelli, Richard Chevallier, Zoé Bruneau

Votes: 4,900

44. Leviathan (I) (2012)

Not Rated | 87 min | Documentary

81 Metascore

A documentary shot in the North Atlantic and focused on the commercial fishing industry.

Directors: Lucien Castaing-Taylor, Verena Paravel | Stars: Brian Jannelle, Adrian Guillette, Arthur Smith, Asterias Vulgaris

Votes: 2,929 | Gross: $1.09M

46. Sleep Has Her House (2017)

90 min | Drama, Horror, Mystery

The shadows of screams climb beyond the hills. It has happened before. But this will be the last time. The last few sense it, withdrawing deep into the forest. They cry out into the black, as the shadows pass away, into the ground.

Director: Scott Barley

Votes: 182

47. Wavelength (1967)

45 min | Drama

One of the most unconventional and experimental films ever made, Wavelength is a structural film of a 45-minute long zoom in on a window over a period of a week.

Director: Michael Snow | Stars: Hollis Frampton, Lyne Grossman, Naoto Nakazawa, Roswell Rudd

Votes: 2,040

48. The Dante Quartet (1987)

6 min | Short

Dante's Divine Comedy depicted as thousands of abstract paintings by Stan Brakhage himself.

Director: Stan Brakhage

Votes: 912

49. The End (1953)

35 min | Short

A short film which explores the last day in the lives of six different people.

Director: Christopher Maclaine