Indie The Best Movies Where Nothing Really Happens  

Ann Casano
90.5k votes 17.9k voters 755.1k views 28 items

List Rules Vote up the greatest movies on this list

It’s not like absolutely nothing happens in these movies; it’s just that there are no big displays of action, obvious plots, gut-wrenching excitement or character arcs that seem larger than life. These movies (most of them independent films) feature no discernable story or plot points, but rather offer a more abstract approach to film. So, even though the meaning may not be obvious, you may enjoy them because it's all about the feel of it, right?! Right. These are the best movies where nothing may happen, but they will entertain you anyway. 

Most theatrical releases feature at least one main plot that drives the narrative forward to achieve a single goal. Every scene, bit of dialogue, and character is placed to progress towards the movie's climax and subsequent ending. 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, that defy this formulaic Hollywood structure. The films on this list are not defined by one single plot line or result that achieves a singular goal. They are not interested in the same generic stories shown repeatedly in cinema. Rather, this list is full of movies that examine abstract concepts, such as exploration of the human condition or the deconstruction of complicated interpersonal relationships. 

Even though several movies on this list are critically acclaimed films, they did not see the big box office grosses of blockbuster hits. 

For example, despite all the awards and positive buzz that Boyhood received, the movie's total box office gross was around $25 million - and it was in theaters for months! So, how does a film with so much hype under-perform in theaters? It's simple - there's not enough meat to bring in large audiences. 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, and there is no evil villain. Boyhood tackles the rigors of adolescence and the journey each character takes as they face new chapters in their lives. Films like this one are made for audiences that appreciate depth over destruction.

This list represents the best movies where huge explosions aren't necessary. The moviegoers that enjoy these flicks instead look for the inspiration, the underdog's storyline and the representations of real life. These movies are relatable and reflect deeper experiences outside of the action-packed Hollywood format. 

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



1 8,425 VOTES

Dazed and Confused is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Movies Where Nothing Really Happens
Photo: Dazed & Confused/Gramercy Pictures

This 1993 coming-of-age comedy is set in 1976 and follows a group of Texas teenagers on their last day of school. There is some hazing, smoking (and not just cigarettes), and a ton of drinking. The film is a simple day-in-the-life tale of high school students celebrating the start 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

#32 on The Funniest '90s Movies

#90 on The Best Teen Romance Movies

#4 on The Best Movies of 1993

#3 on The Best Movies to Watch While Stoned

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2 7,963 VOTES

Clerks is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Movies Where Nothing Really Happens
Photo: Melesse/Wikimedia Commons/Fair Use

There are plenty of pointless debates about Star Wars and career goals between a minimum wage worker and his friends. They stream in and out of the Quick Stop convenience store where he works throughout the day. Kevin Smith's black and white, uber-low budget comedy has no plot, but its familiar dialogue makes you feel like your part of the clique in the movie. 

Directed by: Kevin Smith

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

Initial Release: 1994

Also Ranked

#43 on The Funniest '90s Movies

#63 on The Most Quotable Movies of All Time

#79 on The All-Time Greatest Comedy Films

#15 on Movies Turning 25 in 2019

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3 4,722 VOTES

American Graffiti is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Movies Where Nothing Really Happens
Photo: Metaweb (FB)/Public domain

George Lucas is best known for the Star Wars franchise. However, before Ewoks and Luke Skywalker, Lucas gave the world American Graffiti. This comedy follows a group of bored teenagers hanging out - and it is brilliant. It infuses a sense of nostalgia and take audiences back to a time when it was socially acceptable to hang out at the diner all night, cruise the strip, and listen to great tunes. 

Directed by: George Lucas

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

Initial Release: 1973

Also Ranked

#52 on Musical Movies With the Best Songs

#29 on The Greatest Soundtracks of All Time

#52 on The Best Movies Roger Ebert Gave Four Stars

#18 on The Best '70s Movies

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4 6,294 VOTES

Reservoir Dogs is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Movies Where Nothing Really Happens
Photo: Reservoir Dogs/Miramax

Sure, there is a bank robbery gone wrong, but it's not the kind a big-budget action scene that features a high-speed chase after the heist. Rather, Quentin Tarantino's first successful feature film is a classic because of the banality of various scenes. This includes the point at which the wiseguys sit around and discuss the dos and don'ts of restaurant tipping. They also espouse the virtues of Madonna's hit song "Like A Virgin." 

Mr. Blonde's take on the pop song's meaning: "It's about a girl who is very vulnerable. She's been f*cked over a few times. Then she meets some guy who's really sensitive."

Directed by: Quentin Tarantino

Actors: Quentin Tarantino, Steve Buscemi, Tim Roth, Harvey Keitel, Michael Madsen, + more

Initial Release: 1992

Also Ranked

#57 on The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time

#29 on The Greatest Movies for Guys

#51 on The Best Movies of All Time

#28 on The Greatest Soundtracks of All Time

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