50 Greatest American Independent Films

Blue Velvet (1986)

The Film: David Lynch tried big-budget spectacle in Dune . It didn't take. So he persuaded that film's maverick producer Dino De Laurentiis to let him do it the Lynch way.

Only In America: Lynch's dream-like evocation of suburbia, with its emphasis on those white picket fences, is uniquely American.

Donnie Darko (2001)

The Film: Richard Kelly's debut was the kind of film no studio would ever green-light but its mix of 80s nostalgia, teen romance and time-warped weirdness was perfect American indie.

Only In America: Another film that hinges on Halloween traditions. If it was a Britflick, Frank the Rabbit would probably be a bloke in a tracksuit.

Mean Streets (1973)

The Film: Martin Scorsese's breakthrough, a semi-autobiographical account of New York's Italian-American gangland that is frisky with kinetic camerawork, raw performances and great tunes.

Only In America: This most authentic and lived-in of Noo Yawk movies was mostly shot - where else? - in Los Angeles.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

The Film: While Hollywood horror lurked in the big city ( Rosemary's Baby , The Exorcist ) Tobe Hooper dragged his victims into a backwoods, backwards hillbilly hell.

Only In America: The whole 'middle of nowhere' premise needs big open spaces to work in. As writer Robert Rankin once surmised, the British equivalent would be The Texas Chainstore Massacre .

The Usual Suspects (1995)

The Film: Bryan Singer's neo-noir classic hinged on two typically independent moves - one; a really intricate screenplay and two; a reliance of character actors over big stars in order to keep THAT ending a secret.

Only In America: The film's poster was conceived before a single line of dialogue had been written.

Reservoir Dogs (1992)

The Film: Quentin Tarantino's debut made the American independent scene cool, and made the lives of casting directors easy for the next decade - get Buscemi.

Only In America: The opening argument about the merits of tipping waitresses doesn't have quite the same impact in Britain, a country where tipping isn't a cultural standard.

Easy Rider (1969)

The Film: The year of Woodstock and Altamont, Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda took to the road to prove that film could be just as rock and roll.

Only In America: The hippies' freewheeling odyssey is cut short by rednecks.

sex, lies and videotape (1989)

The Film: Steven Soderbergh's Palme D'Or winning, Oscar-nominated, surprise hit debut didn't so much sneak under the radar, as smash the dish into pieces. A million independent filmmakers suddenly thought: "that could be me ."

Only In America: The obsessive cataloguing of sexual dysfunction could only have come out of a country obsessed with therapy.

Night Of The Living Dead (1968)

The Film: George A. Romero's zombie movie was made in the cast and crew's spare time with local butchers supplying the entrails. With no execs to answer to, they made the bleakest, bloodiest American horror to date.

Only In America: The shocking ending - in which militia mistake the film's (black) hero for another zombie - must have felt like a hammer blow in a country reeling from Martin Luther King's assassination.

Pulp Fiction (1994)

The Film: The face of modern indie - backed by a major studio (Disney), but branded as edgy and leftfield. Its commercial and critical success changed the way Hollywood worked.

Only In America: The obsession with food, from small talk about McDonald's metric conversions to the choice of steak at Jack Rabbit Slim's: "burnt to a crisp or bloody as hell."