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41. Stop Making Sense (1984)
People had been filming rock concerts and calling the resulting footage "movies" for decades before Jonathan Demme took command of the director's chair. But working with his stars, Talking Heads, Demme made a concert movie with no out-of-focus shots, catch-as-catch-can camerawork, or even the intruding interviews that characterized even Martin Scorsese's The Last Waltz. Plus, the Heads had already designed the concert to have the escalating feel of a movie, which didn't hurt. — P.N.
42. Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song (1971)
The coolest thing Bill Cosby ever did was to help finance Melvin Van Peebles' labor of love about a righteous black man kicking ass at a time when pop culture was utterly devoid of such imagery. Like an African-American Easy Rider, the underground hit fed the hunger of an underserved audience (while launching the career of Earth, Wind & Fire as an added bonus). — A.O.
43. Taxi Driver (1976)
Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro, a couple of hometown boys on their way to becoming legendary, worked together to create one of the most intensely alive visions of New York City ever. Taxi Driver's New York is a squalid, writhing beast with a hooker on every street corner and a gun dealer in every hotel lobby. The idea was to make the feelings of a lonely killer comprehensible to sane people. But Taxi Driver didn't just make those feelings comprehensible — it burned them into the screen with acid. — P.N.
44. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)
Tobe Hooper's nightmare in bright Southwestern sunlight is one of the smartest films ever to be consistently described as "harrowing." It is harrowing, even though it plays on your nerves instead of waving entrails in your face — it's much less gory than the uninitiated probably assume, and than many who have seen it probably remember. Along with another 1974 drive-in movie, Macon County Line, it also led the way in the innovation of flat-out lying about being based on "a true story." — P.N.
45. The Thing (1982)
Sure, the 1951 original is a sci-fi classic, but the monster that attacks a frozen research base in that film is basically James Arness with a forehead prosthetic. And, yes, the 2011 prequel has CGI. But the jaw-dropping, pre-digital effects in John Carpenter's version still blow our minds. And besides: who kicks more ass than Kurt Russell? — A.O.
46. The Toxic Avenger (1984)
According to hyperbole-prone director Lloyd Kaufman, his New York-based Troma Entertainment may be the most truly independent film studio of all time. Indeed, the company's been sticking it to The Man with its own distinctive brand of political gross-out horror (and sex comedy) since 1974, with their signature nerd-turned-superhero "Toxie" serving as the (melted) face of Tromaville like a mutant Mickey Mouse. — A.O.
47. Two-Lane Blacktop (1971)
Two-Lane Blacktop is the ultimate road movie, which is to say that, like a lot of road trips, it captures the thrill of feeling the country passing by your car window even though it doesn't really go anyplace. Esquire magazine published Rudolph Wurlitzer's script in its pages and put the lead actress, Laurie Bird, on the cover with the promise, "Movie of the Year." The magazine later repented after the movie died at the box office, but even though 1971 turned out to be a pretty good year for movies, they were closer to being right the first time. — P.N.
48. The Warriors (1979)
"Warriors... come out to play! Warriors! Come out to plaaay-hay!" Walter Hill's spare, compelling (and, yes, kind of goofy) urban adaptation of an ancient Greek heroes' journey deserves its spot on this list just for the scene where David Patrick Kelly's rogue gang leader taunts the hunted Warriors. The Riffs, the Lizzys, the Baseball Furies, and especially the hot lips of Lynne Thigpen's disembodied DJ all just sweeten the deal. Can you dig it? — A.O.
49. Welcome to the Dollhouse (1995)
For Todd Solondz's likably unlikable dork protagonist, Dawn "Weiner-Dog" Weiner (Heather Matarazzo), puberty is a hilariously grim nightmare of abuse, neglect, and hideous kitty sweatshirts.Welcome to the Dollhouse is the perfect movie for anyone who's ever tried to forget their own teenage wasteland. — A.O.
50. Withnail and I (1987)
Richard E. Grant gives the performance of his life, in the role he was born to play, as a character who's a cult object all by himself: Withnail, the profane, druggy, vicious would-be actor whose career will never take off, because what role could be grand enough to tempt him to ever be anyone but his own thrilling self? Oscar Wilde said that you have to decide between putting your art into your work or your life. This movie makes the best possible case for making the wrong choice. — P.N.
Runners-up: The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai, Aguirre - The Wrath of God, Akira, Audition, Bad Lieutenant, Blade Runner, Bottle Rocket, Brick, Chungking Express, El Topo, Fantastic Planet, Hands on a Hard Body, Head, Heavenly Creatures, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Irma Vep, The Little Shop of Horrors, Liquid Sky, My Neighbor Totoro, Mysterious Skin, Night of the Comet, Once Upon a Time in the West, Putney Swope, Reefer Madness, Return of the Living Dead, Sexy Beast, The Stepfather, Suspiria, This is Spinal Tap, Troll 2, Velvet Goldmine, Wet Hot American Summer, The Wicker Man