These aren't going to be everybody's top 10 indie lists, of course. They're here to get you started on your own. You can also find a few Web sites and local video and DVD rental stores that will help you find these and many more such titles.
Pulp Fiction, 1994. What can we say? In this crime movie, Quentin Tarantino hits every high note. Without a doubt the most popular cult hit of its generation. A classic.
Memento, 2000. A movie that progresses back to front as a man (Guy Pearce) tries to recover his memory, this flashback of a story is brilliantly told.
Clerks, 1994. Kevin Smith's debut, featuring some of the rudest convenience-store workers in existence, is ribald, original and terrifically liberating.
Amores Perros, 2000. This extraordinary film from Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu shows the fatalistic intersection of several characters in Mexico who are all connected by a road accident. Entrancing and memorable.
City of God, 2002. Fernando Meireilles's film about ghetto kid gangsters in Brazil is a junior "Godfather," an unnervingly inspired film.
Trainspotting, 1996. Danny Boyle's outstanding adaptation of Irvine Welsh's novel turns Scottish heroin addicts into amazingly lovable rogues. A superbly edited and acted film.
Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, 1998. Old-time British gangsters and cocky young poseurs combine to make this a riveting crime fantasy from Guy Ritchie.
Being John Malkovich, 1999. This weird journey into the heart (or brain) of actor Malkovich's darkness marked the exclamation-point arrival of director Spike Jonze and screenwriter Charlie Kaufman.
Sling Blade, 1996. Billy Bob Thornton's character, Karl Childers, is a biblical wonder, a man with a shady past who seems to keep on living after the movie. After you watch this, you just want to imitate his guttural "Mmm-hhhm."
Magnolia, 1999. "Boogie Nights" was brilliant enough. But Paul Thomas Anderson's "Magnolia" is high art. A magnificent movie set in Los Angeles about fate, love and tragedy with an all-star cast.
Yes, there was life before 1994's "Pulp Fiction." Here is a list of 10 great independent movies that goes back as far as the 1970s. In no particular order:
Reservoir Dogs, 1992. In many ways this is an even better film than "Pulp Fiction." Tarantino's sun-splashy film noir pays tribute to everything from Hong Kong gangster films to Stanley Kubrick's "The Killing."
Repo Man, 1984. Alex Cox's science-fictiony film about a world of men who repossess cars is a cool, out-there fantasy.
Blue Velvet, 1986. David Lynch has made so many great films, but this dark vision of American life -- featuring Kyle MacLachlan as an innocent who discovers a bizarre underworld beneath suburbia -- deserves its own grim category.
She's Gotta Have It, 1986. Spike Lee's sensational debut about a special woman (Tracy Camilla Johns) and her three lovers, introduced his own one-of-a-kind humor, a new sensibility and the whole Spike industry.
El Mariachi, 1992. Robert Rodriguez made this brilliant post-Sergio Leone flick set in Mexico on a shoestring. A guitarist as lone hero? Who knew?
Pink Flamingos, 1972. John Waters's gross-out classic is not to be missed. I couldn't eat eggs for months after seeing the Egg Lady, who eats 'em and eats 'em.
The Thin Blue Line, 1988. Errol Morris's film about a Texas man who was falsely imprisoned for murder started an ongoing revolution of personal documentaries as high art.
Slacker, 1991. Richard Linklater's debut, a movie that coined a new word and put Austin on everyone's hip map, became the story of an entire generation.
Bottle Rocket, 1996. Director Wes Anderson's debut set in Texas, which also introduced a funny young man named Owen Wilson to the world, remains the funniest, quirkiest film he has made.
Stranger Than Paradise, 1983. Jim Jarmusch began to establish himself as a sort of indie father figure with this slice-of-lifer about a New York hipster who gets a surprise visit from his Hungarian cousin.
Here's a bonus movie (because this one has been removed from release and is only available, ahem, in certain circles): Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story, 1987. Todd Haynes's satirical takeoff on biopictures uses Barbie dolls to reenact singer Carpenter's sad life. No, it's not campy; it's surprisingly moving.
WHERE TO FIND 'EM
Some Web sites to visit to buy or
rent DVDs and videos include
www.olivefilms.com, which will lead you to such great video distributors as Criterion Collection, Koch Films, New Yorker Films, Kultur, Wellspring Media and Water Bearer Films. Also check
www.netflix.com. And you can visit in person any Potomac Video outlet in the Washington area, Video Americain in Takoma Park and Northwest Washington, and Video Vault in Old Town Alexandria.
-- Desson Thomson