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How to Classify Movies Now That “Independent Film” Is Dead

This week, since the big sweep of the Independent Spirit Awards by the sure-doesn’t-feel-like-much-of-an-independent-movie Silver Linings Playbook, several film observers (including us) have raised the perennial question of what “independent film” even is, aside from a useful marketing designation that indicates the film you’re about to see will probably not include robots that transform into cars. This ongoing controversy got us thinking: if “independent film” is just a label to begin with, then why not expand it, and get a little more specific? Every film isn’t either indie or studio — let’s break it down, so we know exactly what we’re getting when we go to the cinema. Our suggestions for new, ultra-descriptive movie classifications, from lowest to highest profile, are after the jump.

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Underground

We’re not exactly coining this one, but it’s a useful description for a very specific kind of independent film: one made for next to nothing, usually in an uncommercial format (high-contrast black and white, faded Super 8 film, ViewMaster slides, Instagram flip-books), trafficking in surrealistic imagery, and utterly incomprehensible to the average moviegoer.

Examples: Eraserhead, El Topo, Tetsuo: The Iron Man

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