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Member Lists

GreenCine's 100 Most Valuable Indies
List creator: GreenCineStaff
Created on: November 20, 2005 - 2:07 PM PST
Description: "Indie, or Independent": [n] A film funded by non-studio sources and made outside the traditional Hollywood system (it could be distributed by a studio). This list emphasizes historical and/or artistic relevancy. In alphabetical order:

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Badlands (Criterion) (1973)
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  Terence Malick's quietly complex first feature. Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek are mesmerizing as serial killers on the lam.
Before Night Falls (2000)
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  Sad, fascinating life story of the Cuban writer Reinaldo Arenas features a remarkable performance by Javier Bardem.

Related: Bardem interview.

Before Sunset (2004)
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  Winner of the Village Voice 2004 critics' poll, this sequel to Before Sunrise is one of the most adult and real love stories in American cinema.

Related: Craig Phillips's 2004 top ten.

Being John Malkovich (1999)
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  Slip inside the mind of iconic actor-turned-puppeteer Malkovich in this inventive, bizarre, darkly hilarious wild ride of a movie.

Related: Malkovich interview.

Blood Simple (1984)
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  The Coen Brothers' noirish debut is still one of their most consistent works, and fun, to boot. Future Coen-bride Frances McDormand's first film.
Blue Velvet (1986)
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  Some call David Lynch's film one of the best ever; others truly abhor it. Either way, it's both important and imaginative, a beautifully realized vision of American innocence lost.

Related: Lynch interview.

Boogie Nights (1997)
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  Ambitious and perhaps even overreaching porn-story epic is full of cinematic virtuosity and strengthened by a superb cast.
Bottle Rocket (Criterion) (1996)
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  Wes Anderson's first feature improves on repeated viewings. Owen Wilson who makes a notable debut of his own. "And you're out, too. And I don't think I'm in, either. No gang!"
Boys Don't Cry (1999)
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  Shattering drama based, unfortunately, on a true story, Kimberly Peirce's heartbreaking film is made even more rewarding by Hilary Swank's wrenching, Oscar-winning performance in the lead.

Related: Queer Cinema primer.

Boyz N the Hood (1991)
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  Ok, Columbia helped produce John Singleton's first film, but he made it fresh out of film school, it feels indie in spirit - so! The best portrayal of the South Central LA at a crucial time.

Related: Black Cinema primer.

Clerks (1994)
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  As low-budget as they come and probably still Kevin Smith's best film. "Do you have that one with that guy who was in that movie last year?"

Related: Smith interview.

Croupier (1998)
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Not Rated
  Overlooked in theaters, Mike Hodges' 1997 gem is about a blocked writer who takes a job in a casino where a plot for his novel really kicks in. As much about writing as about gambling, an equally fascinating exploration of both worlds.
Daughters of the Dust (1992)
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Not Rated
  Set in 1902 on an island off Georgia, Julie Dash's film is steeped in Gullah myth and symbolism; a truly independent vision.

Related: Black Cinema and Women in Film primers.

Days of Heaven (1978)
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  An allegorical epic mixed with love story from the reclusive Terence Malick, the film works like a root-poem. The locust climax is especially memorable.
Dazed and Confused (1993)
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  Anyone who grew up in the 70s or 80s can find something to relate to in Richard Linklater's rocking, unpretentious, knowing day-in-the-teen-life comedy. Added bonus: play Spot the Then-Unknown Future Stars.
Dead Man (1995)
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  Only Jim Jarmusch would attempt a metaphysical, existential black and white Western - and succeed. Best of all is Gary Farmer's eccentric Indian.

Related: Discussions 1 and 2.

Detour (1946)
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Not Rated
  "A wide-awake nightmare of unforgiving fate and dead-end fatalism that may be the cruddiest great movie ever made," wrote Joe Leydon.

Related: Interview with Ulmer's daughter.

Do the Right Thing (Criterion Collection) (1989)
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  Spike Lee's most perfectly realized film still packs a wallop.

Related: Black Cinema primer.

Donnie Darko (Director's Cut) (2001)
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  The enigmatic debut from Richard Kelly flopped at the box office but has since found a huge and dedicated following on DVD. Dig that awesome mopey 80s soundtrack, too.

Related: Interview.

Down by Law (Criterion Collection) (1986)
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  The opening shots of the Louisiana swamp and New Orleans facades, Tom Waits's whiskey-laced voice rumbling, resonate more than ever.

Related: Jarmusch interview (Cannes 2002).

Drugstore Cowboy Meridian Collection (1989)
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  Gus Van Sant's cool, thoughtful and funny look at drug culture. Check out William Burroughs as an ex-junkie priest.

Related: Van Sant interview.

The Emperor Jones (1933)
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Not Rated
  Paul Robeson takes his powerful Broadway performance to the first widely distributed independent film with a predominantly African-American theme and cast.

Related: Paul Robeson: Here I Stand.

Eraserhead (1977)
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Not Rated
  A nightmare on film, David Lynch's experimental first feature is a cult classic if there ever was one.

Related: Lynch interview.

The Evil Dead (1983)
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Not Rated
  Watch Sam Raimi use zooms and crazy angles to overcome an ultra-low budget in this now-classic horror flick. Some fans feel the sequels are better - but as this is the first and possibly scariest, it makes our list.

Related: Bruce Campbell interview.

Faces (Criterion Collection) (1968)
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  Cassavetes's 1968 ground-breaker was one of the first independent films to earn multiple Oscar nominations (for Seymour Cassel and Lynn Carlin).
Fresh (1994)
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  Sean Nelson is great as a 12-year-old drug runner growing up too fast in the projects, and Samuel L. Jackson is his usual standout self as his tough love, chess-playing father.
Funny Ha Ha (2003)
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Not Rated
  The few who've seen either of Andrew Bujalski's features - this, his first, or Mutual Appreciation - tend to become evangelists for this low-key director. Count us among them.
George Washington (Criterion Collection) (2000)
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  David Gordon Green's debut is a beautiful depiction of overlapping lives of black and white children in a small North Carolina town is short on plot but big on languorousness, grace and feeling.
The Grifters (1990)
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  One of the best con films ever. An outstanding cast in the extraordinarily talented hands of director Stephen Frears.
Happiness (1998)
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Not Rated
  May be Todd Solondz's most fully realized expression of his love-hate relationship with humanity. An what an ensemble.

Related: Solondz interview.

Hard Eight (1996)
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  Some of PT Anderson's favorite three-named actors add grace to the story - Philip Baker Hall, Philip Seymour Hoffman and John C. Reilly - while Gwyneth Paltrow (no accent!) is also quite touching.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001)
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  "How did some slip of a girly boy from communist East Berlin become the internationally ignored song stylist barely standing before you?" John Cameron Mitchell's adaptation of his own stage musical is a sheer delight.

Related: Interview.

Henry Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986)
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Not Rated
  Definitely not a sheer delight. Initially subdued but increasingly intense and shocking. One of the best portrayals of a deranged man's pathology ever put on celluloid.
The Hitch-Hiker (1953)
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Not Rated
  In 1950, sultry-voiced Ida Lupino published a "Declaration of Independence" and later declared that this film - a short, tight race through Mexico and one of the first cross-country serial killer movies - was her best.
I Shot Andy Warhol (1996)
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  One of those films where actor (Lili Taylor) and director Mary Harron) converge in such perfect symmetry that it's exhilarating to watch. Indie rock demigods Yo La Tengo play their idols, The Velvet Underground in the film.
Jesus' Son (1999)
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  A jarring narrative that reflects the inner psyche of the drug-addled protagonist/narrator. Billy Crudup excels in the lead. Hypnotic and often darkly funny.
Killer of Sheep (Special Edition) (Disc 1 of 2) (1977)
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  New arrival on the list, as it finally made it to DVD. An important film for its portrayal of black experience, South Central LA in the 70s, yet has an easy, slice of life feel. Beautifully filmed, lovingly handled.
The Last Seduction (1994)
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  Linda Fiorentino plays what may be the sexiest "id" character in movie history. The way she toys with men is just plain evil and yet you can't help but admire her.
Leaving Las Vegas (1995)
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  Nicolas Cage won a well-deserved Oscar for his remarkably tortured portrayal of... a remarkably tortured man on a downward spiral. Hard to fully embrace such a sad, downbeat story - albeit one enlivened by humor and pathos - but easy to admire and remember for a long time afterwards.
Lone Star (1996)
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  Possibly John Sayles's most consistent, perfect film - an irresistible mix of mystery, history, love lost and regained, racial tension, dry humor and Texas bordertown flavor.
Longtime Companion (1990)
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  As groundbreaking as this film was for being the first to tackle the way the AIDS crisis affected gay male relationships, at its center is a host of great acting that grounds the story.

Related: Queer Cinema primer.

Lovely & Amazing (2001)
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  A toss-up as to whether this or Nicole Holofcener's earlier film, Walking and Talking, made our list. We've chosen the more mature work, which also happens to be sharply on-target and funny.
Maria Full of Grace (2003)
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  Powerful in its simplicity, Joshua Marston's debut feature follows Maria (Catalina Sandino Moreno in an Oscar-nominated screen debut) as she smuggles heroin from Columbia to the US.

Related: "Saving Grace."

El Mariachi/Desperado (1992)
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  Winner of the Shoestring Budget Sweepstakes. Robert Rodriguez really did spend a mere $7000 on his first homemade cut of this brisk action flick, but once the tape got around, hundreds of thousands were spent getting it to the screen.
Matewan (1987)
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  Imagine Norma Rae set in 1920s West Virginia, only the coal miners working conditions are a lot bleaker. Outstanding performances all around and dark and misty cinematography by the great Haskell Wexler.
Mean Streets (1973)
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  Before its release, Francis Ford Coppola (who'd given Scorsese $5000 to finish it) screened it and saw the then-unknown Robert De Niro for the first time. He immediately cast him in Godfather II. Nuff said.
Medium Cool (Criterion) (1969)
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  Informed by Godard and McCluhan, this leftist critique of the media comes alive in scenes shot at the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago - and has one of the best promo lines ever: "Watch out, Haskell! It's real!"
Metropolitan (Criterion Collection) (1990)
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  At last, Whit Stillman's witty delight is on DVD. Quotable, smart, sharp and pretty darned terrific.
Memento (2000)
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  And you thought Pulp Fiction was convoluted. Like Harold Pinter's Betrayal, Memento proves you can tell your story backwards and still be utterly captivating.

Related: Christopher Nolan interview.

Midnight Cowboy (1969)
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  7 nominations, 3 Oscars, including Best Picture. And all for one of the bleakest portraits of America ever put to celluloid.

Related: Dustin Hoffman interview.

Mulholland Dr. (2001)
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  Officially borderline "indie" but most of its funding came from outside the US studio system - and it's too important to ignore. At times funny, at times scary, at times incomprehensible, always riveting.

Related: Lynch interview.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002)
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  Artistically nothing to write home about but its wide appeal and phenomenal, slow-burning box office success makes it an indie landmark.
My Dinner With Andre (Criterion) (1981)
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Not Rated
  Like a contemporary Plato and Aristotle, Andre and Wally argue the verities vs. the particulars. And it works. Great fun.
Mystery Train (Criterion) (1989)
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  Bursting with saturated color, which was a real surprise from Jim Jarmusch at the time. More typically for him, it's all about the characters and the talk within the carefully composed, almost static frames.
The Naked Kiss (Criterion Collection) (1964)
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Not Rated
  Sam Fuller said of this one that he hated the sort of ordinary love story he set out to tell: "So I knew I was going to have fun the minute she finds him molesting the child."

Related: B-Movies primer.

Nashville (1975)
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  A big, sweeping snapshot of America on the eve of the Bicentennial. When Robert Altman goofs, it can be painful to watch, but when he gathers all the right elements and sets them in motion, magic happens. It does here. Quintessential Altman.
Near Dark (1987)
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  True to the dark realism of Kathryn Bigelow's feature debut, the word "vampire" never pops up. This is just another ordinary family struggling to make ends meet - by sucking the blood of others.

Related: Vampires primer.

Night of the Living Dead (1968)
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Not Rated
  Made for $114,000 and dumped by its distributor, Night became a word-of-mouth phenomenon, eventually pulling in $50 million. Copycats swarmed faster than flies to a zombie.

Related: George A. Romero interview.

One False Move (1991)
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  Based on the first screenplay produced by the excellent writing team of Tom Epperson and Billy Bob Thornton, Carl Franklin's neo-noir thriller tackles interracial relations without going for Tarantino's transgressive laughs or the angry fatalism of so many of his peers.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975)
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  Yep, it was indie. Kirk Douglas tried for over a decade to get it made; Hollywood wouldn't touch it. When his son, Michael, and Saul Zaentz finally saw it through with Czech director Milos Forman, the result was one of the all-time great ensemble pieces - led, of course, by Nicholson in all his ferocious youth.
Our Song (2000)
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  Jim McKay, an American but European in spirit, is an incredibly underrated indie director who has been working on the fringes for years.

Related: McKay interview.

Passion Fish (1992)
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  The story sounds wretchedly clichéd, but as this is a John Sayles movie and the players are Mary McDonnell and Alfre Woodard, trust us, it works.
Pi (1998)
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  Could we figure out - literally figure out - the mysteries of the universe? Max, a paranoid genius periodically walloped by surreal migraines, is almost there. This $60K black-and-white mindgame put Darren Aronofsky on the map.
Pink Flamingos (1973)
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  "One of the most vile, stupid and repulsive films ever made," wrote Variety. The immortal Divine heads up John Waters's Baltimore cast of regulars in a trash-fest that cost all of $12,000 to make.
The Player (1992)
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  When Robert Altman calls, actors come running. Seems half of Hollywood showed up to bite the hand that feeds them in this adaptation of Michael Tolkin's biting novel.
Poison (1991)
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  Todd Haynes explores his artistic reach with a stylistically varied triptych of scary tales: a possibly murderous boy, a mad scientist who extracts and liquefies the human sex drive and a Fassbinder-ish prison story.
Pollock (2000)
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  Biopics are tough, but the believable way this one depicts making art as a physical feat and the brilliant acting make this one work. Oscar for Marcia Gay Harden.
Raising Victor Vargas (2002)
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  A budding romance among Lower East Side kids is beautifully captured by Peter Sollett in this simple but near-perfect debut. That the actors are amateurs makes it all the more miraculous.
Rambling Rose (1991)
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  Martha Coolidge was stuck in Woman Director's Hell (you do either docs or teen comedies) until she broke out with this simmering story of raging desire in a place and time in which desire was not supposed to rage: the pre-60s American south. Outstanding performances from Laura Dern and Robert Duvall.
Red Rock West (1993)
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  Cowboy noir at its finest, this one sports a cast sizzling with indie cred. Nicolas Cage is perfect as the killer who never meant to be one while Dennis Hopper once again embodies everything you were afraid America might reveal when the mask is ripped off.
Repo Man: Special Edition (1984)
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  By 1984, punk had already zipped over the horizon, but it'd left a skid mark of attitude a mile wide. Alex Cox was one of the eras best directors and this comedy is his most audacious.

Related: Cox interview.

Reservoir Dogs (Widescreen) (1992)
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  Wanna start an argument? Take up one of two positions: 1) This is an homage to Ringo Lam's City on Fire; 2), it's a rip-off of same. Regardless, there's no denying that the macho banter, blazing gunfire and shuffled timeline all make for great fun. And made Tarantino flavor of the decade.
River's Edge (1986)
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  As in Stand By Me, a group of kids sets out to catch their first glimpse of a dead body. But Tim Hunter's chilling film is the emotional polar opposite.
Rushmore (Criterion Collection) (1998)
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  "I saved Latin. What did you ever do?" Highly quotable insta-cult classic, with adolescent angst done up Wes Anderson-style.
Safe (1995)
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  A quietly haunting tale of a woman who's come down with the "20th century disease." Again, the ghosts of Douglas Sirk and Fassbinder waver in the contaminated air.
Salt of the Earth (1954)
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  The cast and crew of Herbert J. Biberman's powerful docudrama about a strike at a zinc mine in New Mexico faced arrests and death threats to get this film made. Even then, at the height of the McCarthy era, projectionists refused to screen it. French critics named it the best film of 1954, but it wasn't released in the US until 1965.
Schizopolis (Criterion Collection) (1996)
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  Steven Soderbergh's surprisingly deeply witty film "will leave you feeling disjointed for days," says scarabin.
The Secret of Roan Inish (1994)
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  A retelling of a Gaelic fairy tale, shot on location in Ireland and probably the most gorgeous of John Sayles's films.
Sex, Lies and Videotape (1989)
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  A Sundance phenom that catapulted "independent film" to the mainstream. What's often forgotten is that it also happens to be quite good, a tight drama of revelation as four thirtysomethings discover their true selves.
Shadows (Criterion Collection) (1959)
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  Talking on the radio about his acting workshop, John Cassavetes mentioned he might like to make an improvisational movie. Surprise: $20,000 in donations poured in. He matched it, threw on some Charlie Mingus records, aimed his handheld camera at his hip ensemble, and the rest, as they say...
Sid & Nancy (1986)
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  Chameleon extraordinaire Gary Oldman whips out another remarkable transformation as Sex Pistols guitarist and punk icon Sid Vicious. Director Alex Cox punches up an already outrageously loud story with hallucinogenic fantasies and a thumping soundtrack by the Pogues, Joe Strummer and Pray for Rain.
Sideways (2004)
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  A road movie that won over its audience by refusing to pander to it.

Related: Interview with director Alexander Payne and co-writer Jim Taylor and Craig Phillips's 2004 top ten.

Slacker (Criterion Collection) (1991)
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  Little wonder Richard Linklater's been called the American Eric Rohmer. While inadvertently slapping a generation with an unwanted moniker, his first feature argues that talk can make for engaging cinema.
Smoke Signals (1998)
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  The problem with your film getting tagged "the first Native American indie" is that most people will wish it well and ignore it as a film. Chris Eyre overcame the token status and went on to win both the Audience Award and Filmmaker's Trophy at Sundance.
Spanking the Monkey (1994)
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  Finally out on DVD, David O. Russell's audacious debut won the Sundance Audience Award. "ranks as one of the most original 'What I Did on My Summer Vacation' compositions I've ever seen," marvelled Marjorie Baumgarten of the Austin Chronicle.
Stand and Deliver (1988)
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  Edward James Olmos, who'd be nominated for an Oscar, put on 41 pounds to play Jaime Escalante, a high school math teacher in East LA who turns his kids around and gets them through an advanced placement test. Twice.

Related: Latino primer.

Stranger Than Paradise (1984)
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  Jim Jarmusch's breakthrough film was an art-house hit around the world and an inspiration to a whole generation of future indie filmmakers.
Suture (1994)
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Not Rated
  A neo-noir that sharply divided critics, this debut feature from San Francisco filmmakers Scott McGehee and David Siegel essentially takes Hitchcock's The Wrong Man and throws a couple of whammies on it.
Swingers (1996)
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  For a while there, going out in the mid-90s took on the look and feel of going out in the 40s. A career-maker for director Doug Liman.
Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song (1971)
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  Melvin Van Peebles ushered in a new era of angry African American cinema.

Related: Melvin's son, Mario's Baadasssss!, a docudrama about the making of the original.

Tender Mercies (1983)
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  Robert Duvall not only plays an introverted alcoholic, he sings country western ballads. Wrote 'em himself, too. Oh, and finally won an Oscar, too.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (Ultimate Edition) (1974)
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  Indie horror would never be the same. What's more, it's still genuinely scary.

Related: Slashers primer.

This Is Spinal Tap (1984)
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  Rob Reiner's "rockumentary," co-written with Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Simpsons stalwart Harry Shearer, the trio playing hard rockers past their prime (drummers keep getting offed), is jam-packed with so much comedic brilliance it's probably got the longest "memorable quotes" page at the IMDb.
True Stories (1986)
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  David Byrne goes to Texas, taking with him the faux naiveté he learned from Gertrude Stein and Andy Warhol.

Related: Rock on Film primer.

The Unbelievable Truth (1989)
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  Hal Hartley's oddball, deadpan comic style is made for film buffs, a melodrama for post-modern intellectuals (but funnier than that just sounded).

Related: Hartley interview.

The Waterdance (1991)
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  An honest and emotionally charged ensemble piece in which every actor, including Wesley Snipes, William Forsythe, Helen Hunt and Eric Stoltz as the writer, delivers some of their finest work.
Welcome to the Dollhouse (1995)
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  High school is hell, and the laughs are here, but they hurt.

Related: Todd Solondz interview.

You Can Count on Me (2000)
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  Writer-director Ken Lonergan packs his emotional punches by knowing when to pull them. Little wonder this film made so many critics' "Best of 2000" lists.

Go here for Indie Honorable Mentions.

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