10 Best Gritty Dramas

Tuesday, March 1 by Lara Stewart

If you are an independent film fan, you need to see these 10 best gritty dramas. These are films that are grim and transgressive and rarely feature the happy endings and neat resolutions that Hollywood seems to demand. These gritty dramas represent some of the best and most daring independent filmmaking.

  1. "Requiem for a Dream" This gritty drama explores the descent of four drug users as their addictions lead them to deeper and deeper lows. It's hard to watch, but incredibly powerful.
  2. "Sex, Lies, and Videotape" Andie MacDowell, James Spader, Laura San Giacomo and Peter Gallagher deserve credit for the restrained portrayals of their duplicitous characters in this gritty drama about lies and infidelity. When their confessions are caught on videotape, the truth gets harder to hide.
  3. "Boys Don't Cry" In a gritty drama based on a tragic true story, everyone knows from the beginning what is going to happen. As we watch the last days of transgendered youth Brandon Teena's life, the inevitable conclusion of the story weighs heavily on the viewer.
  4. "High Art" Artistic expression, drug abuse and questions about sexuality all come into play in this gritty drama about a has-been photographer and the young magazine editor who is drawn into her life. The morally ambiguous motives of all characters give viewers a lot of food for thought.
  5. "Happiness" Robert Altman's gritty drama/comedy takes on taboo subjects ranging from violent sexual fantasies to pedophilia. The film is well-acted and the intertwining of the stories of the three sisters is elegant, but it's one that, once you've seen it, you will never want to watch again.
  6. "The Basketball Diaries" Poet, novelist and punk rock musician Jim Carroll's autobiography explores his fall from teenage basketball star to homeless drug addict. The gritty drama offers some hope at the end, but there's some pretty grim watching before you get there.
  7. "American History X" Few films try to look at racism from the racist's point of view. Edward Norton is relatable and captivating in this gritty drama about a white supremacist who is forced to reevaluate his beliefs.
  8. "Reservoir Dogs" This heist movie is the gritty drama that kicked off the neo-noir movement. The combination of the film's snappy dialog and hyper-violence were an unusual combination that inspired, for better or worse, a decade of similar films.
  9. "Blood Simple" The Coen Brothers' first film is not a perfect movie by any means, but, this gritty drama about a woman trying to escape her abusive husband is mesmerizing. The clean, inventive cinematography and these early examples of that uncanny Coen dialogue is excellent.
  10. "Bound" It's tricky to figure out just where sexpot Meg Tilly's loyalties lie in this gritty drama about a lesbian apartment maintenance worker who falls for a mobster's girlfriend. It's an exciting ride as the new lovers try to pull off a dangerous heist.