21. Slacker (1991) (Watch on Netflix)
This film showed us Richard Linklater was going to be someone to watch…and he proved right by following this up with probably the quintessential high school movie “Dazed and Confused”. It follows “slacker” 20 something’s in Austin Texas in long unedited takes, passing from one character to the next through the seemingly random interactions we have on a daily basis.
It’s a kind of movie you just don’t see very often…something very special. Recently selected for preservation by the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress for being “culturally significant”. It’s not something easily described plot wise…but go with it and you’ll probably find yourself spellbound.
22. Smoke (1995) (Watch on Netflix)
Another popular theme of the indie scene is the “intersecting lives” motif. And none did it with as much class of storytelling as “Smoke”. The stories “intersect” through a local NYC tobacco shop operated by Harvey Keitel. Includes a stellar cast of William Hurt as Keitel’s close friend, a great supporting role by Forrest Whitaker, and Stockard Channing.
The heartbreaking epilogue shot in black and white is worth viewing alone. The Tom Waits’ classic and beautiful song “Innocent When you Dream” plays with perfect placement over the above mentioned ending epilogue.
23. The Station Agent (2003) (Watch on Netflix)
A man with dwarfism and a love for trains finds himself breaking out of his self imposed solitary life when his only friend and employer dies and in his will leaves him property of an abandoned train depot. Peter Dinklage stars in one of his very first films; struck everyone who saw it with such presence during its initial release.
It has such a fine control of comedy and drama, with real characters with depth and uniqueness. It’s one of the strongest first time features. Writer/Director/Actor Tom McCarthy went on to direct “Win Win”, another great gem, and the academy award nominated “The Visitor”. His next is the Adam Sandler starring “The Cobbler”. I digress; “The Station Agent” is a rare pleasure of a film. Watch.
24. Ghost Dog: The Way of The Samurai (1999) (Watch on Netflix)
Jim Jarmusch has been anything but “mainstream”. The indie of indie directors with most of his film financed through international funding. “Ghost Dog” is the closest he’s ever come to a major hit, and it was completely by word of mouth.
The meditative crime drama with just the right amount of humor was a hit with the indie scene. Mixing samurai wisdom with gangster justice, Whitaker gives the quiet and powerful performance of a hitman on retainer to the mob man who saved his life. A subtle and beautiful score by RZA really set the tone for this more entertaining and thought provoking than it should little gem of a film.
25. Safety Not Guaranteed (2012) (Watch on Netflix)
Inspired by an actual classified ad looking for a partner in a time travelling adventure, this little film turned a somewhat absurd plot and created quite the heartwarming and touching adventure film.
The building of the time travelling machine is the main “goal”. Aubrey Plaza (current sarcastic but sweet indie girl of the moment) joins Mark Duplass (current too cool for school indie dude of the moment) on his mission to gather parts to create the machine that will take him back in time to stop the death of his first girlfriend. With a high concept like time travel its impressive home simple the story unfolds and maintains it’s pacing strictly with the characters and not the usual discussion of the time travel theory.
Author Bio: Michael James Edwards is a California native, he moved to NYC to work in audio before realizing his passion for cinema was too great to ignore. Now he’s living in Los Angeles working in film festival operations and writing about cinema here and on his own blog, forreelsreviews.blogspot.com.