Jessica Winter’s Top 50 Independent Films

January 15, 2014 : 10:25 pm | by Hailey Escobar

The cover of Jessica Winters The Rough Guide to American Independent Film

The cover of Jessica Winter's "The Rough Guide to American Independent Film"

Of the two books that we are required to read, Jessica Winter’s “The Rough Guide to American Independent Film” (2006) lists what Winter’s to believe to be the top 50 films of the genre. It was our assignment on Thursday and Friday to read through that list in order to understand the range of films that have made an impact on the independent film community and know how they made influenced the industry.

The list goes as follows:

  • Bad Lieutenant
  • Before Sunrise
  • Before Sunset
  • Being John Malkovich
  • The Blair Witch Project
  • Blood Simple
  • Boys Don’t Cry
  • Buffalo ‘66
  • Citizen Ruth
  • Crumb
  • Do the Right Thing
  • Drugstore Cowboy
  • Easy Rider
  • Eraserhead
  • The Evil Dead
  • Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!
  • Gas, Food Lodging
  • Go Fish
  • Kids
  • The Living Dead
  • El Mariachi
  • Mean Streets
  • Medium Cool
  • Memento
  • Metropolitan
  • Near Dark
  • Night of the Living Dead
  • One False Move
  • Our Song
  • Poison
  • Portrait of Jason
  • Pulp Fiction
  • Return of the Secaucus 7
  • Roger & Me
  • Safe
  • Schizopolis
  • sex, lies, and videotape
  • Shadows
  • Sherman’s March
  • Shock Corridor
  • Slacker
  • Spanking the Monkey
  • Stranger than Paradise
  • Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song
  • Tarnation
  • The Thin Blue Line
  • To Sleep With Anger
  • Wanda
  • Welcome to the Dollhouse
  • A Woman Under the Influence

Reviewing the list, I understood how many of the films made it onto this list and admired the courage that these filmmakers had in telling these stories. I was shocked to see just how much of a success The Blair Witch Project saw after it was released and the fact that it made 60,000 more than the budget of the film. There were a few other titles that I recognized as well, such as Night of the Living Dead and The Evil Dead, that I was surprised to see were independent films. This fact alone has shown me that it doesn’t have to take much to make a major difference not just in a genre, but in pop culture.

However, I do believe that the book is in need of updating. Knowing that this book, which was published back in 2006, is already out of print and I believe that much has happened in the past 8 years. There have been many independent films that have been pushing the boundaries and have been receiving so much recognition such as Beasts of the Southern Wild and Juno.

Despite all of that, I was extremely glad to see the amount of female directors that had films on this list. One of them, Kathryn Bigelow, would even go on to become the first female director to have an independent win at the Oscars. As a female filmmaker, this is truly inspiring to see, but it’s also slightly disheartening because it shows how many female filmmakers and their stories are pushed aside by the studio system. I can only hope they will continue telling those stories and that I will hopefully join them.

I’m really glad that Professor Andersen assigned us this book for our readings before going to the Sundance Film Festival. I feel that it’s not only prepared me with the history of independent film, but it also gave me a glimpse of the best they have to offer. I believe it’s given me a better idea of what independent film is…and it also gives me a good list of movies to watch.

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