5 Requiem for a Dream (2000)
At the opposite end of the spectrum from Little Miss Sunshine is this dark (very dark), kinetic, unforgettable flick about, basically, how drugs mess up four people’s lives. Sounds fun, I know. It’s based on the book by Hubert Selby Jr (worth reading) and stars Ellen Burstyn, Jared Leto, and Jennifer Connelly. It’s directed by Darren Aronofsky who made a name with a little flick called Pi, and now he’s blown up with Black Swan and the upcoming Noah, with Russell Crowe playing Noah. Yep that Noah, with the arc. Requiem for a Dream is proof this guy oozes talent.
4 Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
This is the only “feel-good” movie on this list, which says a lot about independent films. They don’t aim to make you feel warm and fuzzy usually, which is refreshing. This is a case where warm and fuzzy worked. It’s directed by husband and wife commercial directors Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton, and it’s a charming family road trip movie with one of the best soundtracks around (in a feel-good way). Little Miss Sunshine came out of nowhere and made a TON of money – it’s known as one of those lightning in a bottle Sundance success stories. See what you think.
3 Ghost Dog
Way of the Samurai (1999): This one’s a real gem. NYC filmmaker Jim Jarmusch (the dude with the white/grey pompadour who also directed Smoke, Mystery Train, and Dead Man) made this awesome flick that stars Forest Whitaker as Ghost Dog, the most Zen mafia hit man you’ll ever meet. He lives his life like a modern-day Brooklyn Samurai warrior. RZA did the soundtrack and he makes a classic cameo. This is one flick that deserves a sequel.
2 Mean Streets (1973)
Let’s go way back, before blockbusters like Jaws and Star Wars took over. Martin Scorsese was a film school grad in New York City and early on his signature style and visceral filmmaking were easy to see. Mean Streets has Robert De Niro and Harvey Keitel struggling to make it on the “Mean Streets” of Little Italy. Keitel is awesome, and De Niro is scary good. This one should be in your queue, if not in your collection.
1 Memento (2000)
You might know a director called Christopher Nolan? He did some minor movies like the Dark Knight trilogy and Inception? That’s what we thought. Nolan didn’t become one of Hollywood’s most respected directors overnight. He did a solid film called Following before making his name with the mind-bending flick Memento that starred Guy Pierce as a guy with short-term memory loss who uses tattoos and notes to hunt down the man he thinks killed his wife. It’s bold, stylish, gripping, and original. Watch it.
So, let us know what you would pick!