5.Reservoir Dogs – Quentin Tarantino (1992)
Quentin’s charismatic debut is frequently disregarded in favour of his later work, this is a real shame in my opinion- as it most certainly acts to introduce many of the trademark quirks which would be championed with the release of the likes of ‘Pulp Fiction’ and ‘Kill Bill’. Harvey Keitel, Steve Buscemi, Tim Roth and an always entertaining Michael Madsen star (amongst others) as the members of a crew put together to perform a diamond heist. Mixing hard-to-watch brutality with satirical and flawless dialogue- Reservoir Dogs was a sure sign that Quentin could and would take over the industry.
4. Clerks – Kevin Smith (1994)
The first of several cult comedy classics from Kevin Smith, Clerks has established itself as a favourite of mine. Shot in the store where Smith himself worked at the time, Clerks follows the exploits of a pair of friends who work together as convenience store clerks. Very conversationally based, the plot is effectively based around the many encounters the two young men have with a wide array of acquaintances over the course of a typical day. Shot entirely in black in white, Clerks was made for under $30,000- so when it grossed around $3million upon its release, Smith was able to quit his job in the store.
3. The Shawshank Redemption – Frank Darabont (1994)
Very commonly cited as one of the most touching and inspiring pieces of film ever created, Frank Darabont could not have realistically done much better when creating his first movie. With a plot surrounding a successful accountant and his wrongful conviction for murder- The Shawshank Redemption challenges the infrastructure and purity of the American correctional system circa 1940/50/60. A strong cast featuring Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman is complimented perfectly by the graceful way in which the fascinating story is committed to film.
2. Texas Chainsaw Massacre – Tobe Hooper (1974)
Inspired by the crimes of notorious murderer Ed Gein, Tobe Hooper co-wrote, produced and directed this highly impactful slasher/horror at a time when to do so was to make a rather large statement. The plot follows a group of friends who are subject to attack from a particularly vicious family of cannibals whilst on a recreational journey. The film, although banned outright in numerous countries worldwide upon its release, is nonetheless a milestone in filmmaking- especially within the horror genre as a whole.
1. Donnie Darko – Richard Kelly (2001)
Before its release, Kelly’s debut was originally tipped to go straight to video format. Actor Drew Barrymore (who features in the movie) however managed to swing a theatrical release via her own production company- and it’s just as well. The film has grown to cultish proportions since- tying together a dark plot with visceral and surreal imagery, complete with an inspired soundtrack. The piece was made when Kelly was just 27, it’s no surprise then that it secured his place amongst peers as a bit of big shot. The same effect also transcended onto a yet-to-break Jake Gyllenhaal, who portrays Donnie in his first lead role.