Mumblecore is a subgenre of independent film[1][2] characterized by naturalistic acting and dialogue (sometimes improvised), low-budget film production, an emphasis on dialogue over plot, and a focus on the personal relationships of people in their 20s and 30s. Filmmakers associated with the genre include Andrew Bujalski, Lynn Shelton, Mark Duplass, Jay Duplass, Greta Gerwig, Aaron Katz, Joe Swanberg,[1][3][4] and Ry Russo-Young; in many cases, though, these directors reject the term.[5]

The genre is a mostly American phenomenon, but Indian and German mumblecore films have also been produced.

The term mumblegore has been used for films mixing the mumblecore and horror genres.

Years active2002–present
CountryUnited States
Major figuresAndrew Bujalski, Lynn Shelton, Aaron Katz, Mark Duplass, Jay Duplass, Joe Swanberg, Ry Russo-Young, Greta Gerwig
InfluencesFrench New Wave, DIY culture, Dogme 95, American independent film, digital filmmaking

Distinguishing characteristics

Naturalism – both in performance and dialogue – is a key feature of almost all mumblecore films.[2] Early mumblecore films tended to feature non-professional actors,[1][2][6] although later films have had more professional actors,[7] including major stars such as Anna Kendrick (Drinking Buddies and Happy Christmas) and Orlando Bloom (Digging for Fire). Some mumblecore films feature a prominent use of improvisation,[2][6] with the cast sharing script credits,[1] though some, like Bujalski's films, are mostly scripted.[8]

Lynn Shelton
Director Lynn Shelton in 2012

Mumblecore films are generally produced with a low budget, which has ranged from several thousand to several million dollars as well as low production values.[6][9] Filming is done in real places, as opposed to studio sets or soundstages. Many of these films are shot digitally,[1][9] although Bujalski's films have all been shot on film.[10] Soundtracks tend to be limited, or nonexistent.

Mumblecore films tend to revolve around characters in their twenties and early thirties who are usually single, white, and fairly aimless in both their professional and personal lives.[9][11] Plots are often concerned with difficulties in romantic relationships, exacerbated by the characters' inability to articulate their own desires.[9]

Influences on mumblecore

The genre can trace its roots back to the French New Wave of the 1960s—especially the films of Eric Rohmer—whose films focused on the romantic intrigues of characters, and depicted lengthy conversations.

Other films that have been described as influencing, or at least anticipating, the conventions of mumblecore include Girlfriends (1978), Manhattan (1979), Stranger Than Paradise (1984), Slacker (1991), Clerks (1994), Go Fish (1994) and Before Sunrise (1995).[12][13]

Reality television, including what one critic called "the spring-break psychodrama of MTV's The Real World", has also been called an influence on mumblecore.[14]

Another often-cited influence on mumblecore is the profusion of cheaper filmmaking technology starting in the early 2000s,[14] such as the Panasonic AG-DVX100 video camera,[3] and desktop video editing software such as Final Cut Pro.[15]


Andrew Bujalski has been described as the "Godfather of Mumblecore".[6] His 2002 directorial debut, Funny Ha Ha, is generally considered to be the first mumblecore film.[9]

The 2005 South by Southwest Film Festival screened a number of other films that came to be considered part of the mumblecore movement, including Bujalski's second film, Mutual Appreciation; The Puffy Chair, by Mark Duplass & Jay Duplass; and Kissing on the Mouth, by Joe Swanberg.[2][6][7][16] That festival was also the origin of the term "mumblecore": Eric Masunaga, a sound editor who has worked with Bujalski, coined the term one night at a bar during the festival, when asked to describe the similarities between those three films.[6] The term was first used publicly by Bujalski in an interview with indieWIRE.[2][9] Bujalski has downplayed the existence of an organized "movement", however, and stated that he does not intentionally make "mumblecore" films.[5]

Film journalists have also referred to the genre collectively with the terms "bedhead cinema" and "Slackavetes" (a portmanteau derived from the title of Richard Linklater's dialogue-heavy, lo-fi 1990s film Slacker,[2] and the name of independent film director John Cassavetes).

In 2007, the IFC Center in New York City exhibited a ten-film series of mumblecore films, titled "The New Talkies: Generation D.I.Y."[2]

New York-based Benten Films, a boutique DVD label run by film critics, has championed such mumblecore titles as Swanberg's LOL, and Katz's first two films: Dance Party USA and Quiet City.[17]

Some critics have stated that mumblecore ended around 2010, as the original crop of directors began making films with larger budgets, more diverse storylines, and a more conventional cinematic approach.[18][19] For this reason, films made since 2010 or so that retain an emphasis on naturalistic dialogue and plot are sometimes referred to as "post-mumblecore". Filmmakers who have been labelled as "post-mumblecore" include Kentucker Audley, Amy Seimetz, Sean Price Williams, Alex Karpovsky and Kate Lyn Sheil.[20]

Influences on other genres

The big-budget films Magic Mike (2012)[21] and its sequel Magic Mike XXL (2015)[22] have been described as having mumblecore elements due to their use of naturalistic dialogue. Some TV series, including the HBO series Girls (2012), Looking (2014) and Togetherness (2015), and the Netflix series Easy (2017) have been called mumblecore-inspired, or, in the words of one critic, "mumbleshows".[11]

Horror films using mumblecore techniques have resulted in the term "mumblegore." Films that have been described as "mumblegore" include Baghead (2008), The House of the Devil (2009), Entrance (2011), You're Next (2011), V/H/S (2012), The Sacrament (2013), and Creep (2014).[23][24]

Outside the United States

Indian cinema has been producing independent films of the genre for decades. Directors like Sai Paranjpye have made films like Chashme Buddoor (1981) and Kathā (1982). One of the more recent ones to come out from the Hindi scene is Sulemani Keeda.

Alvaro Robles (Chile) made the films "El Sueño del Caracol" (2000) and "Huevo Negro" (2001), both of which suggest similar principles as mumblecore. In that same time, in 2001, he wrote an essay on "post-cinema" (2001), in which he openly describes the essential characteristics of mumblecore, being a precedent of the movement outside the United States.

Mumblecore has not been a strictly American phenomenon. Since about 2009, the Berlin Mumblecore movement has had its own manifesto, Sehr gutes Manifest. Berlin Mumblecore is not a reaction to the American hype so much as it is a reaction to the lack of reform in the German public financial support system for the film industry (Filmfoerderung). Crowdfunding is a new possibility to finance movie productions with small and very small budgets independently from restrictions of the German Filmfoerderung.[25]

In 2009, Jette Miller's Austern ohne Schale was screened in Berlin. In 2011, the movies Frontalwatte by Jakob Lass and Papa Gold by Tom Lass were released. The latter won several German film awards. 2012 saw the release of Klappe Cowboy by Timo Jacobs and Ulf Behrens, as well as the award-winning Dicke Mädchen by Axel Ranisch.[26] In 2015, Malte Wirtz Voll Paula! had its theatrical release, having also been produced without film funding. [27]


List of mumblecore films

List of mumblegore films


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External links

Andrew Bujalski

Andrew Bujalski (born April 29, 1977) is an American film director, screenwriter and actor, who has been called the "godfather of mumblecore."

Beeswax (film)

Beeswax is a 2009 American mumblecore film written and directed by Andrew Bujalski. The film examines a few days in the life of twins, played by real-life sisters Tilly and Maggie Hatcher.

It premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival and had a limited theatrical release in the United States on August 7, 2009.

Bob Byington

Robert Byington (born April 29, 1971) is an American film director, screenwriter and actor living in Austin, Texas. He is most noted for his films RSO (Registered Sex Offender) (2008), Harmony and Me (2009), Somebody Up There Likes Me (2012), winner of The Special Jury Prize at the 2012 Locarno Film Festival, and 7 Chinese Brothers (2015) starring Jason Schwartzman, Olympia Dukakis and Tunde Adebimpe. His most recent film, Infinity Baby (2017), premiered at South by Southwest in March 2017.

Dance Party USA (film)

Dance Party USA is a 2006 film written and directed by Aaron Katz. It stars Cole Pensinger and Anna Kavan. The film and director have also been mentioned by the media as an important part of the "mumblecore" movement in independent cinema.

Ethan Vogt

Ethan Vogt (born July 13, 1974 in Boston Massachusetts) is an American filmmaker, photographer, visual artist and festival producer.He is the son of Eric E. and Susan (née Smith) Vogt and the grandson of Evon Z. Vogt.

Ethan studied photography and filmmaking as an undergraduate at Harvard where he met the writer/director Andrew Bujalski in an introductory film class. Ethan would later producing Bujalski's feature films, Funny Ha Ha (2003), Mutual Appreciation (2005) and Beeswax (2009) which were distributed internationally to critical acclaim. Funny Ha Ha is considered the first "Mumblecore" film and was recognized as one of the 10 most culturally, commercially or technologically important, consequential or groundbreaking films of 2000-9" by A.O. Scott, a chief film critic in the New York Times.In 2005 when studying at NYU, Ethan wrote and directed Game: On a branded-content short for Volvo North America cited as one of the first commercial projects to combine live-action filmmaking with machinima animation. The short was awarded Best Picture and Best Commercial Machinima in the 2005 Machinima Film Festival and recognized for “Distinctive Merit” in the 84th Annual Art Director Club Awards. The production process was featured in an article by Clive Thompson in the New York Times Magazine “The Xbox Auteurs”, and the book Machinima: Making Animated Movies in 3D Virtual Environments (Muska & Lipman Publishing, 2005). Ethan's real-time video sets with live music "Live Projections Volume One" premiered at the Marfa Film Festival in 2010.

On October 2, 2010, Ethan produced Bring to Light a free public nighttime festival of light, sound and projection art in Greenpoint, Brooklyn which was the first Nuit Blanche event in New York City.

Funny Ha Ha

Funny Ha Ha is a 2002 American film written and directed by Andrew Bujalski. It has been described as the first mumblecore film. The film was shot on 16 mm film on a very low budget. It deals with the lives of people in their twenties as they try to come to terms with life after college and confront the responsibilities of adulthood, if only to put them off for as long as possible.

Greta Gerwig

Greta Celeste Gerwig (; born August 4, 1983) is an American actress, playwright, screenwriter, and director. She first garnered attention after working on and appearing in several mumblecore films. Between 2006 and 2009, she appeared in a number of films by Joe Swanberg, some of which she co-wrote and co-directed.Since the early 2010s, Gerwig has collaborated with Noah Baumbach on several films, including Greenberg (2010), Frances Ha (2012), for which she earned a Golden Globe Award nomination, and Mistress America (2015). She has also performed in Damsels in Distress (2011), To Rome with Love (2012), Jackie (2016), and 20th Century Women (2016), the latter of which earned her a nomination for the Critics' Choice Movie Award for Best Supporting Actress.In 2017, Gerwig wrote and made her solo directorial debut with the critically acclaimed comedy-drama film Lady Bird, which won the award for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy at the 75th Golden Globe Awards. For her work on Lady Bird, Gerwig also received two Academy Award nominations, for Best Director and Best Original Screenplay, as well as Golden Globe and BAFTA nominations for Best Screenplay.

Hannah Takes the Stairs

Hannah Takes the Stairs is a 2007 American independent mumblecore film by Joe Swanberg.

Joe Swanberg

Joe Swanberg (born August 31, 1981) is an American independent film director, producer, writer, and actor. Known for micro-budget films which make extensive use of improvisation, Swanberg is considered a major figure in the mumblecore film movement. His films often focus on relationships, sex, technology, and the filmmaking process, and he is credited with launching the careers of Lena Dunham, Greta Gerwig, and The Duplass Brothers.

Kent Osborne

Kent Osborne (born August 30, 1969) is an American screenwriter, actor, and producer for film and television. As a writer and storyboard artist for such animated television shows as SpongeBob SquarePants, Camp Lazlo, Phineas and Ferb, The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack, Adventure Time, Regular Show and The Amazing World of Gumball, he has received multiple Emmy Award nominations and has won twice for Adventure Time (in 2015 and 2017). He is currently the head writer for Cartoon Network's animated series Summer Camp Island, which premiered in 2018. He has also starred in several mumblecore films, including Hannah Takes the Stairs, Nights and Weekends, All the Light in the Sky and Uncle Kent (in the title role). His brother is the director Mark Osborne.

Kissing on the Mouth

Kissing on the Mouth is a 2005 American film directed by Joe Swanberg. The small cast served as the only crew, with the film featuring real interviews with recent college graduates and a documentary approach to the graphic sex and conversations. It is considered one of the original films of the Mumblecore movement.

LOL (2006 film)

LOL is a 2006 independent mumblecore film by Joe Swanberg that examines the impact of technology on social relations. It is an improvised film that premiered in 2006 at the South By Southwest Film Festival and was later released on DVD.

Michael Harring

Michael Harring (born January 31, 1979 in Oak Harbor, Washington) is an American independent filmmaker, sometimes associated with the independent film movement known as "Mumblecore". His films include Cardinal (2001), Driving Around, Following Strangers (2005), Small Little Thing (2006), and the feature The Mountain, the River and the Road (2009).

Mutual Appreciation

Mutual Appreciation is a 2005 independent film by Andrew Bujalski who previously directed Funny Ha Ha (2002). The script is primarily dialogue between a group of young people as they try to determine where they fit in the world. It is considered part of the mumblecore movement.

Nights and Weekends

Nights and Weekends is a 2008 American mumblecore film co-directed, co-written, co-produced by and co-starring Joe Swanberg and Greta Gerwig. The film follows a long-distance relationship and its aftermath.

It premiered at South by Southwest, screened within such festivals as Maryland Film Festival, and was released theatrically in the United States on October 10, 2008.

Opera film

An opera film is a recording of an opera on film.

Pilgrim Song

Pilgrim Song is a 2012 mumblecore drama film, directed by Martha Stephens, from a screenplay by Stephens, and Karrie Crouse. It stars Timothy Morton, Bryan Marshall, Karrie Crouse, Harrison Cole and Michael Abbott Jr.

The film had its world premiere at South by Southwest on March 10, 2012. It was released in a limited release on May 10, 2013, by Brink.

The Puffy Chair

The Puffy Chair is a 2005 road movie mumblecore film written and directed by Mark Duplass and Jay Duplass. It stars Mark Duplass, Katie Aselton and Rhett Wilkins. The film had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2005, and went onto screen at South by Southwest in March 2005, winning the Audience Award. The film was released on June 2, 2006, by Netflix and Roadside Attractions.

Young American Bodies

Young American Bodies is an American web series, which originally premiered on and aired on IFC and at in the United States until 2009.Considered to be the only Mumblecore television series, each short episode looks into the intersecting love lives of six twenty-somethings in Chicago and was known for its honest portrayal of sexuality.The series was produced and directed by Joe Swanberg and Kris Swanberg, and featured actors Greta Gerwig, Lynn Shelton and Karl Jacob.

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