American Independent Films

Monday, April 4 by Joshua Wade

These American independent films showcase impeccable writing, iconic cinematography and early performances by award winning actors like Robert De Niro, Jeff Bridges and Anna Paquin. Featuring debuts from acclaimed filmmakers like Martin Scorsese and Spike Jonze as well as seminal favorites by Indie greats like Wes Anderson and Jim Jarmusch, these masterful films exemplify the best of what American Independent cinema has to offer.

  1. “The Squid and the Whale” Writer-director Noah Baumbach’s award winning 2005 film about a the effects of a messy divorce on two boys growing up in the 1980’s, “The Squid and the Whale” won Baumbach high acclaim and has remained his most successful film. The film features sharp writing by Baumbach and exceptional performances by Jeff Daniels, Laura Linney, Anna Paquin and Jesse Eisenberg.
  2. “Down by Law” A staple among American independent films, this 1986 classic by Indie icon Jim Jarmusch tells the story of three men and their arrest, incarceration, and escape from a Louisiana jail. Noted for Robby Muller’s slow-moving camerawork which beautifully captures New Orleans and the Louisiana bayou, “Down by Law” delivers amazing early performances by musician Tom Waits, Italian filmmaker Roberto Benigni and co-writer John Lurie.
  3. “The Big Lebowski” One of Joel and Ethan Coen’s most memorable films, “The Big Lebowski” follows a hilarious case of mistaken identity and introduced the iconic slacker Jeffrey “The Dude” Lebowski, immortalized by award winning actor Jeff Bridges. Laden with the absurd humor and idiosyncratic characters for which the Coen’s films have become known, the film features hilarious performances by John Goodman, Steve Buscemi and Philip Seymour Hoffman.
  4. “Winter Passing” A sentimental gem from writer Adam Rapp, “Winter Passing” marked his directorial debut and stars a brilliant ensemble cast including Zooey Deschanel, Ed Harris, Amelia Warner and Will Ferrell in one of his first serious turns. A moving and beautifully written story, “Winter Passing” follows Reese, a struggling, twentysomething actress who returns to her childhood home to retrieve a series of letters from her reclusive writer father.
  5. “Pulp Fiction” Quentin Tarantino’s highly stylized film about mobsters, criminals and a mysterious briefcase is arguably one of the most influential American independent films ever made. This 1994 classic further established Tarantino as a formidable filmmaking talent after his highly successful 1992 debut, “Reservoir Dogs.”
  6. “Swingers” One of the best American independent films of the past decade, “Swingers” was the screenwriting debut of actor-director Jon Favreau and fictionalized the filmmaker’s real-life breakup and relocation to Los Angels to become an actor. The film served to launch Favreau’s career and featured an early breakthrough performances by Vince Vaughn, as well as early performances by Ron Livingston and Alex Desert.
  7. “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou” The fourth feature from acclaimed Indie filmmaker Wes Anderson, this tale about an oceanographer who sets out to capture an allusive shark in undoubtedly one of Anderson’s best films. A underrated classic, the film featured Anderson’s trademark filming style, absurdist humor, and stock acting company including Bill Murray, Anjelica Huston and Owen Wilson.
  8. “Being John Malkovich” A bizarre film about a struggling puppeteer who finds a portal into the mind of the titular actor, “Being John Malkovich” was written by award winning screenwriter Charlie Kaufman and was the feature-length directorial debut of Spike Jonze. This strange and moving story is highlighted by career-defining performances by John Cusack, Cameron Diaz and John Malkovich, who portrays himself.
  9. “Mulholland Drive” A mind-bending hallmark among American independent films, “Mulholland Drive” is filmmaker David Lynch’s most memorable film and follows the strange relationship between an aspiring actress and the amnesiac woman she finds hiding in her aunt’s apartment. Featuring a cryptic nonlinear storyline and the surreal imagery for which Lynch’s work has become known, the film delivers outstanding performances by Naomi Watts, Laura Elena Harring and Justin Theroux.
  10. “Mean Streets” A classic among American independent films, “Mean Streets” marks the first film written and directed by acclaimed filmmaker Martin Scorsese. The 1973 film chronicles the efforts of a young Italian-American man to move up in Little Italy’s local mafia and features powerful early performances by Harvey Keitel and long-time Scorsese collaborator, Robert De Niro.