50 Greatest American Independent Films

Brick (2005)

The Film: Indie's status as a laboratory to mix and match genres is exemplified by Rian Johnson's debut, an innovative blend of hard-boiled noir and high school.

Only In America: There's enough crime to justify high school kids acting like Philip Marlowe.

Paranormal Activity (2007)

The Film: Extreme even by the limitations of 'found footage,' Oren Peli's debut simply switched on the CCTV and let it record things going bump in the night.

Only In America: Distributors who bought the rights to Peli's no-budget film wanted to reshoot the entire thing, until test screenings revealed how scared audiences were by the original.

The Passion Of The Christ (2004)

The Film: Mel Gibson, torturing Jesus in lingering detail and Aramaic dialogue. Indie only because no studio would touch it and he had to finance it himself.

Only In America: The film's astonishing success - the highest-grossing R-certificate movie ever - is testament to the purchase power of evangelical Christians.

Rushmore (1998)

The Film: Wes Anderson redefined American indie as a hipster's whimsical paradise, with the help of Adrian-from-Rocky's son and Bill Murray being funnier when he's not trying to be funny.

Only In America: Max Fischer's school plays are full-blown recreations of classic Hollywood movies, notably Apocalypse Now .

Blue Valentine (2010)

The Film: Derek Cianfrance's jagged, time-hopping rise-and-fall is like Cassavetes jamming with Tarantino, backed by best-of-their-generation stars Gosling and Williams.

Only In America: A sex hotel with ultra-futuristic, but creepily asexual, metallic fixtures and fittings. What happened to romance?

King Of New York (1990)

The Film: A decade on from notorious debut Driller Killer, Abel Ferrara showed age hadn't mellowed him with this corrosive, violent tale of Christopher Walken's New York drug lord, Frank White.

Only In America: Ferrara's subversive morality means that, by default, White is a more honest, likeable man than his despicable rivals or the hypocritical lawmen on his tail.

Winter's Bone (2010)

The Film: "Indie" all too often means urban and cosmopolitan. Debra Granik reminded us that America is a big place with her taut thriller, which is also a portrait of the rural Ozarks community.

Only In America: Flame-grilled squirrel as an appetiser.

Slacker (1991)

The Film: Austin auteur Richard Linklater started his impossible-to-pigeonhole career as he meant to go on, by weaving a plotless mosaic of the lives of his city's fellow citizens.

Only In America: The slackers' topics of conversation include those perennial favourites of the country's counter-culture, UFOs and the JFK assassination.

Being John Malkovich (1999)

The Film: Charlie Kaufman: "It's about a puppeteer who finds a portal into the head of John Malkovich hidden behind a filing cabinet on the 7-and-a-half floor of a Manhattan office building." Studio exec: "Get out."

Only In America: The idea of charging people money to see the world through Malkovich's eyes.

The Evil Dead (1981)

The Film: Sam Raimi had an eye for horror but a taste for comedy, turning the archetypal 'cabin in the woods' movie into a genre hybrid driven by full-pelt hysteria.

Only In America: Raimi financed his low-budget film by making an even-lower-budget short, Within The Woods , to show to investors.