Opinion & writing by Tony Frame

We live in an era where franchise movies and their endless sequels and spin-offs are rife. Where your film and television subscription package offers you hundreds of TV shows and movies to watch, yet you still find it difficult to find a decent film that appeases your appetite.

For those of you that are looking for a film that is a little bit different, has you thinking about it afterwards, and can be re-watched countless times, then allow me to recommend these 5 indie classics…

Stranger than Paradise (1984)

Jim Jarmusch’s second feature-film is a bleak but strangely fascinating tale about a deadbeat New Yorker and the unexpected arrival of his Hungarian cousin who has to stay with him for the interim.

The film is partly a road-movie and almost a kitchen-sink drama at times, but without the drama as such.

There’s also a particularly likeable and humorous friendship with the two male leads, as a couple of poker-playing hustlers which makes for some off-beat entertainment.

Another unique aspect of the film are the locations and the cinematography which paints New York and the mid-west as a barren, almost alien-like landscape which gives the movie a European feel about it.

Don’t let the fact that it is shot in black and white put you off; it adds to the mood of the story and sets it in stone as a timeless, idiosyncratic, indie classic.

Images courtesy of IMDB

Director: Jim Jarmusch

Writer: Jim Jarmusch

Stars: John LurieEszter BalintRichard Edson | See full cast & cre 

Repo Man (1984)

Emilio Estevez is taken under the wing of Harry Dean Stanton to work as a reposesser of cars – a repo man.

Set in the punk era of 80s LA, the film is full of quirky characters, shoot-outs and a mixture of genres which are all blended together with a soundtrack by Iggy pop.

Ultimately it’s about the strange cargo in the trunk of a Chevy Malibu and the race to find the said car, of which everyone in the movie is trying to do.

Director Alex Cox would later go on to direct the acclaimed Sid and Nancy and a number of other films, such as Walker, as well as host the BBC’s Moviedrome slot.

With a career spanning over 30 years of directing movies, it will probably be this — his feature film debut — that will be regarded as his magnum opus and the one film that he is most likely to be remembered for.

Images courtesy of IMDB

Director: Alex Cox

Writer: Alex Cox

Stars: Harry Dean StantonEmilio EstevezTracey Walter | See full cast & crew» 

The Music of Chance (1993)

A Kafkaesque tale and an unlikely friendship forms when Mandy Patinkin and James Spader get more than they bargained for after a game of poker with two millionaires.

The film is predominantly a showcase for Spader’s acting prowess as the colourful and fast-talking Jack Pozzi; a card shark hustler whose morality and character is tested to the limit with the predicament that he and Patinkin find themselves in.

The cast also features veteran actors Charles Durning and M. Emmet Walsh in what is a probably a hidden classic of ’90s indie cinema.

Based on the novel of the same name, from esteemed author Paul Auster, this is one to watch late at night and will have you thinking about in the days after.

Images courtesy of IMDB

Director: Philip Haas

Writers: Philip Haas (screenplay), Belinda Haas (screenplay) | 1 more credit »

Stars: James SpaderMandy PatinkinM. Emmet Walsh | See full cast & crew» 

Slacker (1990)

A journey around Austin, Texas, as the camera gives a brief glimpse into the lives of the people it follows before moving on to the next person that they encounter or pass by.

There is no plot as such — which makes it very unique — and it manages to avoid falling into the trappings of surrealistic art-house cinema by keeping the characters and situations engaging.

In many ways it’s poetic and is a film that defines what ’90s indie cinema stood for; taking risks, avoiding conventional narrative and focusing on characters and their own stories.

Richard Linklater would go on to make his mark predominantly with his films Dazed and Confused, School of Rock and Boyhood, but this is probably my favourite pick from his filmography.

Like all indie classics it offers something new with each viewing.

Images courtesy of IMDB

Director: Richard Linklater

Writer: Richard Linklater

Stars: Richard LinklaterRudy BasquezJean Caffeine | See full cast & crew »

Spanking the Monkey (1994)

This small town story is about a young medical student who is forced to retreat back home, to take care of his mother whilst his father is away on business.

The film deals with sexual frustration and the personal inadequacy of a young man, feeling trapped in his home town, and the psychological consequences he suffers after a strange twist in the plot.

Despite the seemingly dark story-line it makes for rather compelling viewing and is aided with some perfectly blended black humour and strong performances throughout.

Director David O. Russell would go on to become a highly acclaimed and successful Hollywood film-maker with films such as The Fighter and American Hustle.

This 1994 feature film debut of his subsequently won the audience award at the Sundance film festival, which is no surprise, given the originality of it.

Images courtesy of IMDB

Director: David O. Russell

Writer: David O. Russell

Stars: Jeremy DaviesAlberta WatsonElizabeth Newett | See full cast & crew »

Other recommendations

Mystery Train (1989)

Living In Oblivion (1995)

Exotica (1994)

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