indie The Best Movies Where Nothing Really Happens  

Ann Casano
66.8k votes 13.5k voters 584.9k views 28 items

It’s not like absolutely nothing happens in these movies, it’s more like nothing happens in the traditional sense of Hollywood storytelling. These movies (most of them indie films) feature no real story or major plot points, but are more artistic in nature. Sure, not a lot happens as far as the story goes, but it's all about the feel of it, right?! Right. These are the best movies where nothing happens, but will totally make you think.

In 99% of the movies you see in theaters, there is one main plot line that drives the narrative forward in order to achieve a single goal. Every scene, every bit of dialogue, and every character is in place for the sole purpose of progressing towards the climax of one story’s conclusion. That goal may be to find the gold, win the big game, solve the murder case, make it off the island, finish the musical to a standing ovation, or save the day.

However, there is a small set of films, usually independent films released outside of the studio system, that defy this formulaic traditional Hollywood structure. The films on this list are not defined by one single narrative plot line with the end result of achieving a singular goal. These films are not interested in the same generic stories and arcs that we’ve seen a million times. These films are instead concerned with examining aspects like the human condition, or deconstructing a complicated relationship with real dialogue.

Even though several movies on this list are critically acclaimed films, they did not see big box office grosses. For all the awards and positive buzz that Boyhood received, its total box office gross was around $25 million, and it was in theaters for months! You may be wondering how it’s possible that a film with so much hype could be so low grossing. Well, it’s simple. It’s because nothing really happens… at least in the grand sense. There are no major catastrophes, the boy (Mason) in the film does not grow up to be the president, there is no murder case to solve, there is no evil villain.

Instead, Boyhood examines growing up, it tracks the progression of all the characters as they get older and face new chapters in their lives. No one who had anything to do with the film thought the production was going to rake it in at the box office. These types of films where nothing happens are art pieces; they are not made for the masses. This list represents the best movies where nothing really happens. However, they are inspiring and satisfying, despite their lack of a traditional plot. Anyone can enjoy these films and relate to their deeper meanings, but it takes some getting used to. There are no giant explosions and showy special effects here!

Upvote the best movies in which nothing happens below and start the discussion about these films' themes and ideas in the comments section!



1 6,381 VOTES

Dazed and Confused

Dazed and Confused is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Movies Where Nothing Really Happens
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This 1993 Linklater coming of age comedy is set in 1976. The film follows a group of Texas teenagers on their last day of school. There is some hazing, a little weed smoking, and a whole lotta drinking. The film is a simple day-in-the-life tale of high school students celebrating the birth of summer. And yes, "it would be a lot cooler if you did."

Directed by: Richard Linklater

Actors: Ben Affleck, Milla Jovovich, Matthew McConaughey, Renée Zellweger, Parker Posey, + more

Initial Release: 1993

Also Ranked

#24 on The Greatest Soundtracks of All Time

#30 on The Funniest '90s Movies

#4 on The Best Movies of 1993

#63 on Movies That Should Never Be Remade

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2 5,968 VOTES


Clerks is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Movies Where Nothing Really Happens
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There are plenty of pointless debates about Star Wars and career goals between a minimum wage worker and his friends who come visit him (all day) at the Quick Stop convenience store. Kevin Smith's black and white uber-low budget comedy is plotless, but its familiar dialogue makes us feel like we're chatting alongside the characters like we're all old pals.

Directed by: Kevin Smith

Actors: Kevin Smith, Jason Mewes, Scott Mosier, Brian O'Halloran, Walt Flanagan, + more

Initial Release: 1994

Also Ranked

#62 on The Most Quotable Movies of All Time

#49 on The Funniest '90s Movies

#74 on The Very Best Movie Franchises

#74 on The Best Black and White Movies Ever Made

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American Graffiti

American Graffiti is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Movies Where Nothing Really Happens
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Oh, the good ole days. George Lucas's coming of age film is really just about a bunch of bored teenagers hanging out - and it's brilliant. It made audiences yearn for their younger days, when it was perfectly acceptable to hang out at the diner all night, cruise the strip, and listen to great tunes with your best buds.

Directed by: George Lucas

Actors: Harrison Ford, Ron Howard, Suzanne Somers, Richard Dreyfuss, Mackenzie Phillips, + more

Initial Release: 1973

Also Ranked

#17 on The Best '70s Movies

#32 on The Greatest Soundtracks of All Time

#47 on Musical Movies With the Best Songs

#54 on The Best Movies Roger Ebert Gave Four Stars

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4 6,903 VOTES

Napoleon Dynamite

Napoleon Dynamite is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Movies Where Nothing Really Happens
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The comedy examines what it's like to be a totally socially awkward teen in high school. But the biggest thing that happens in the story is Pedro getting elected as class president, despite giving the worst speech ever. You'll cringe a lot during the movie, but you'll spend plenty of time laughing as well.

Directed by: Jared Hess

Actors: Haylie Duff, Jon Heder, Diedrich Bader, Tina Majorino, Efren Ramirez, + more

Initial Release: 2004

Also Ranked

#22 on The Most Quotable Movies of All Time

#55 on The All-Time Greatest Comedy Films

#82 on The Greatest Date Movies of All Time

#50 on The Absolute Funniest Movies Of All Time

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