What all of the best indie films of all time have in common is a desire to not let creative or financial restrictions interfere with a creative vision. Indie film is not a separate genre for low budget movies, but a category referring to films that are produced outside of the major movie studio system. These indie movies are widely influential to the culture of cinema and were definitely career-making efforts for the directors involved.

  1. "The Terminator" Before James Cameron re-defined the meaning of box office blockbusters with "Titanic" and "Avatar," he directed and co-wrote this science fiction indie extravaganza that became a full blown mini industry. This 1984 classic was produced by Gale Anne Hurd-no stranger to the genre-who Cameron met while working for the B-movie legend Roger Corman, and made a larger than life star out of Arnold Schwarzenegger. This action-packed indie featured Schwarzenegger playing a deadly cyborg traveling from the future to kill a woman before she can have an impact on upcoming events.

  2. "Donnie Darko" Making a time-traveling, science-fiction, coming-of-age story about a teenaged boy who gets manipulated by a giant rabbit takes the type of courage and astute ambition that leads to the greatest indie films. Only a few years removed from college, director Richard Kelly managed to write and direct this cult classic with a budget of $4.5 million and a cast that included: Jake Gyllenhaal, Patrick Swayze, Drew Barrymore, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and a debut film performance from Seth Rogen. This 2001 surreal genre mash-up was set in the 1980's such as other time traveler films like "The Terminator," "Back to the Future," and "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure."

  3. "She's Gotta Have It" Spike Lee made a radical black and white debut with this 1986 indie romantic comedy film that was truly a family affair. Spike's sister Joie Lee played Clorinda who was a friend of the lead character Nora Darling; Spike's father Bill Lee provided the musical score, brother David Lee supplied the still photography montage, and Spike's other brother Cinqué Lee was a production assistant. This Brooklyn-based indie tells the story of a woman reluctant to commit to any of her three lovers by using more art forms than you could ever imagine - jazz music, black and white photography, poetry, paintings, and even a dance sequence.

  4. "Shadows" The forefather of independent filmmaking, John Cassavetes, was completely fearless with this 1959 dramatic indie film about interracial relationships during the New York City of the 1950's. Cassavetes encouraged his actors to naturally respond to the given scenarios and improvise most of their dialogue. With a handheld 16mm film camera and a $40,000 budget, John Cassavetes brought forth a provocative debut with subject matter many of that era shied away from, that was chosen in 1993 to be preserved in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.

  5. "Reservoir Dogs" This indie heist mystery film about jewelry thieves trying to fin the informant amongst them brought writer/director extraordinaire Quentin Tarantino to the international forefront of independent filmmaking. Tarantino had a virtual who's who of 1990's crime movie character actors: Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Chris Penn, Steve Buscemi, and Michael Madsen. This witty, highly quotable independent movie appeared in multiple film festivals of distinction including: Sundance Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival, and the Stockholm Film Festival, winning awards in the latter two.