50 Greatest American Independent Films

Drive (2011)

The Film: Nicolas Winding Refn's leftfield thriller is a throwback to the kind of lean, mean movies Hollywood used to make, but which nowadays only get made independently.

Only In America: The central premise of a stuntman who moonlights as a getaway driver. Over here, Ryan Gosling would probably be a parcel courier.

Do The Right Thing (1989)

The Film: Spike Lee proved that debut She's Gotta Have It was only a hint of his talent, in a combustible hothouse drama that defined his status as America's leading African-American director.

Only In America: We sadly have riots over here now, but it's doubtful ours would ever be set off by such powderkeg hot weather.

Halloween (1978)

The Film: Already an indie veteran, John Carpenter stripped things to essentials in his third film - shadows, Steadicam and a William Shatner mask.

Only In America: The whole dressing up and going Trick or Treating thing.

Hoop Dreams (1994)

The Film: The flag bearer for modern American independent documentary, as Steve James follows two college basketball hopefuls over five years of highs and lows.

Only In America: The sheer complexity of sport as a crucible for race, class, education and wealth, as revealed from over 250 hours of footage.

Memento (2000)

The Film: The inevitable destination for indie after Tarantino's jigsaw-puzzle narratives - a thriller that starts at the end and then works backwards.

Only In America: Christopher Nolan is half-British, so this one could travel without too much tweaking. That said, it'd probably have fewer guns had it been made over here.

Clerks (1994)

The Film: By day, Kevin Smith worked in a New Jersey convenience store. By night, he bit the hand that fed him by making this foul-mouthed classic about a guy who hates working in a New Jersey convenience store.

Only In America: The 'hockey on the roof' set-piece looks too much like hard work to anybody on this side of the Atlantic.

The Terminator (1984)

The Film: Before James Cameron sought mega-bucks studio budgets to finance his sci-fi spectaculars, he did it with timey-wimey ingenuity and an Austrian bodybuilder.

Only In America: The Terminator walks into a gun shop and comes out with an arsenal.

Fargo (1996)

The Film: After big-budget, mainstream comedy The Hudsucker Proxy tanked, the Coen brothers went back to their roots, with a story of kidnap and ransom so small-scale they pretended it was a true story. It wasn't.

Only In America: All of this chaos and bloodshed over used automobiles. Tsk.

Apocalypse Now (1979)

The Film: An indie film by default, as Coppola raided his personal fortune to prevent his Vietnam epic collapsing under the weight of nervous breakdowns, on-set typhoons and Marlon Brando's ego.

Only In America: Coppola's most biting anti-war statement arrives in his most spectacular, rousing "yee-haw" set-piece - the Ride of the Valkyries helicopter assault.

The Blair Witch Project (1999)

The Film: Yes, you can blame this for the past decade's invasion of 'found footage' movies, but this one is genuinely found - the directors sat back and made the cast do all of their own filming.

Only In America: It'd frankly be difficult for British backpackers to get lost in a wood without eventually stumbling across a Tesco Express.