11. Frankenstein Unbound (1990)
Directed by Roger Corman, clocking in at a length of 1 hour, 25 minutes and released in November 1990; this unique retelling of Mary Shelley’s classic novel proved to be the legendary Corman’s last directorial effort to date. Somewhat of a commentary on the use of weapons and the effects on the world, a scientist is transported back to 19th century Switzerland where he encounters the famous Dr. Frankenstein, in the flesh, who is already in the midst of a conflict with his troubled Creature.
Raul Julia is Dr. Frankenstein and John Hurt is the time traveling scientist, and an ending that proves reality is stranger than fiction.
12. Barbarians At The Gate (1993)
Directed by Glenn Jordan, clocking in at a length of 1 hour, 47 minutes and released in March 1993, based off the book by Bryan Burrough; this fictionalized yet true event story tells the tale of the 1980s attempt by F. Ross Johnson to buy RJR-Nabisco and the chaos that followed (along with the relatively insane amount of money being talked about).
Satirical and tongue-in-cheek, Johnson tries to get the company before anyone knows what is going on, but tongues wag and soon the biggest dog on the block comes in, resulting in a showdown that forever changed Wall Street and the American Tobacco and Food Industries.
13. About Schmidt (2003)
Directed by Alexander Payne, clocking in at a length of 2 hours, 5 minutes and released January 2003, this is a film gem was meant as a drama, but as the filming progressed and was edited into a final film, it turned out to be a black comedy. And it was all for the better. Nicholson is a retired man with a very strict, cheap routine of life that is interrupted by a series of events that includes his daughter’s wedding.
Nominated for numerous awards, which included a shared Best Actor award with Daniel Day-Lewis at a Writers award ceremony, in which Nicholson invited on stage the late, great Robin Williams, who made an impromptu speech that tore the house down.
14. American Splendor (2003)
Directed by Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, clocking in at a length of 1 hour, 41 minutes and released in September 2003, this is an autobiographical/fictionalized black comedy/dramatic account of comic book hero Harvey Pekar.
Cheap, cynical, and lonely, Harvey works as file clerk until one day he meets a kindred soul and they start a comic book called American Splendor. Through Harvey’s narration and point of view, he is still strapped for cash while his cohort gets rich; and in the meantime Harvey finds love and deals with animated caricatures of his own self yelling at him as he makes decisions and drinks orange soda.
15. The Dreamers (2004)
Directed by Bernardo Bertolucci, clocking in at a length of 1 hour, 55 minutes and released in February 2004, this is a cinematic diary of 1968 France and the upheaval of that time. Matthew is a young American cinephile studying in France, and strikes up a friendship with Theo and Isabelle; a brother and sister who have a very unusual relationship and whose parents seemingly leave them a check and take month long holidays on a regular basis.
All three are cinema buffs and spend their days debating cinema, lounging around, and slowly absorbing the protests around their French apartment. As the summer goes on, sexual tensions arise as well as political and cinematic differences, and when desires are surrendered to, not all is at it seems. Cinema buffs and fans of the French New Wave will notice the respect paid to the Jean-Luc Godard classic A Band of Outsiders, in particular a scene in the museum and the protests outside the Cinémathèque Française.
16. Primer (2004)
Directed by Shane Carruth, clocking in at a length of 1 hour, 17 minutes and released in October 2004, this independent feature is in the same indie breath of the legendary John Cassavetes. Directed and written by Shane Carruth, who also co-stars, four struggling entrepreneurs end up successfully building an invention that actually time travels.
As they try to determine how and what to do with it, two of the friends start experimenting with the invention, only to find that soon there are some things that are never meant to be messed with. The film was awarded the Dramatic Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival in 2004 as well as the Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize.
17. Saved! (2004)
Directed by Brian Dannelly, clocking in at a length of 1 hour, 32 minutes and released in May 2004, this teen comedy takes a unique twist by placing its events in a Christian high school where one of the most popular girls not only finds out her boyfriend is gay, but also after trying to “turn him straight” by having sex with him, she ends up pregnant!
As hypocrisy and isolation ensues by her former friends, she finds support from outcasts and her paralyzed brother, plus a new love interest in the son of the new principle. Hillary Faye; the main antagonist played by Mandy Moore, was originally to be played by Anne Hathaway, but to due budget and scheduling, Hathaway had to drop out.
18. Shank (2009)
Directed by Simon Pearce, clocking in at a length of 1 hour, 34 minutes and released in September 2009 in the United Kingdom; this is a hard hitting drama that takes a look at homophobia, gang life, and love. Forbidden passions and love are brought to the forefront when a teenage gangbanger (who secretly is gay) falls in love with another teenager that was gay-bashed.
The climax is brutal yet heart wrenching and there is a twist that comes out of a Greek tragedy. Be warned: this is not a family film nor is it a film to watch in mixed company; especially if that mixed company has differing political views.
19. Adam (2009)
Directed by Max Mayer, clocking in at a length of 1 hour, 39 minutes and released in July 2009; this is a romantic comedy that follows the rules but adds a twist. Adam is the typical working young American male living with his elderly father…and he has Asperger’s Syndrome; a condition in which a person has autism but can still function in society.
After the death of his father, Adam encounters for the first time open hostility at work and the fakeness of his co-workers until he starts dating a woman, Beth, who sees past the Asperger’s (after an initial awkward date that is rather hilarious) who has her own troubles. They discover growth through one another…and face the one obstacle every other couple doesn’t have to cope with.
20. Upstream Color (2013)
Directed by Shane Carruth, clocking in at a length of 1 hour, 36 minutes and released in January 2013, this is Carruth’s second venture. This time around, two strangers are attracted together by the cycle of an organism that has wrecked their and other people’s lives.
As they try to put the puzzle pieces back together, illusion is identity, identity is illusion, and nothing makes sense. This film was awarded the Special Jury Prize for Sound Design at the Sundance Film Festival in 2013.
Author Bio: Elijah Blevins is 30 years old, married, and a resident of Roanoke, Virginia where he has lived all his life; pursuing a variety of interests but cinema always being one of them. When he turned 17 his interest became quite serious and now is an ever evolving student of film history and film viewing.