Lesser Known Indie/Cult Movies from 1987-1997
July 12, 2018 11:15 AM   Subscribe

What it says on the tin. I've been hankering to scratch a bit of a nostalgia itch. I've recently watched or re-watched some of the movies from this time period 1987 - 1997 and I'm hoping I can find some more suggestions! Looking for more ideas for art house/queer/indie/artsy movies from around this time. Open to all genres, but focus is on artsy/indie movies that wouldn't necessarily be on a regular Top 10 Movies of 1993 type list.

Examples of some of the movies I've seen already that I really liked:

The Living End (1992),
The Doom Generation (1995),
Shadowlands (1993),
High Art (1998),
Drugstore Cowboy (1989),
Kids (1995),
SLC Punk (1998),
Heathers (1988),
Swingers (1996),
Four Rooms (1995),
Welcome to the Dollhouse (1995)
posted by forkisbetter to Media & Arts (90 answers total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
Love and a .45
posted by humboldt32 at 11:17 AM on July 12 [2 favorites]

My Own Private Idaho (1991)
posted by Leontine at 11:18 AM on July 12 [6 favorites]

Bagdad Cafe (1987)
Rosalie Goes Shopping (1989)

These are by the same director and star the same actress. If you end up liking Rosalie Goes Shopping, you will be the first person I recommended it to who does. I think it's brilliant though.

Babette's Feast (1987)
posted by FencingGal at 11:21 AM on July 12 [3 favorites]

It's a couple of years early for you, but My Beautiful Laundrette, which is from 1985.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 11:22 AM on July 12 [8 favorites]

Hal Hartley’s Trust.
posted by Buddy_Boy at 11:25 AM on July 12 [10 favorites]

All Over Me (1997) has the queer teen angst you seek.

If you liked Shadowlands you will freaking love The Remains of the Day (1993), a legitimately wonderful film.
posted by cakelite at 11:26 AM on July 12 [1 favorite]

Slaves of New York (1989)
posted by mefireader at 11:26 AM on July 12 [2 favorites]

Also, I love Wings of Desire (1987). It should absolutely not be confused with the terrible American remake City of Angels.
posted by FencingGal at 11:26 AM on July 12 [8 favorites]

Yeah, I was going to say Trust, as well as The Unbelievable Truth and Simple Men.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 11:27 AM on July 12 [5 favorites]

It's a couple of years early for you, but My Beautiful Laundrette, which is from 1985.

But Sammy and Rosie Get Laid, by the same screenwriter, is 1987.
posted by FencingGal at 11:28 AM on July 12 [3 favorites]

Drop Dead Gorgeous.
posted by politikitty at 11:29 AM on July 12 [5 favorites]

Slums of Beverly Hills (1998)
posted by radioamy at 11:32 AM on July 12 [8 favorites]

posted by sardonyx at 11:35 AM on July 12 [8 favorites]

Big Night (1996)
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 11:35 AM on July 12 [1 favorite]

The Lost Language of Cranes (1991)

Priest (1994)

When Night is Falling (1995)


Tongues Untied (1989)

Paris is Burning (1990)

A bunch of Ken Loach (not queer, but good - if heavy - films):

Riff Raff (1991)

Land and Freedom (1995)

Carla's Song (1996)
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 11:35 AM on July 12 [3 favorites]

John Greyson's Zero Patience (1993)

Youtube link. As the name suggests, it deals with the supposed Patient Zero, but does so as a rather campy musical film.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 11:50 AM on July 12 [1 favorite]

Sweetie by Jane Campion (1989)
posted by thenewbrunette at 11:51 AM on July 12 [3 favorites]

Jawbreaker (1999) - outside your window but....
posted by wocka wocka wocka at 11:56 AM on July 12 [3 favorites]

Caravaggio (1986)

The Last of England (1987)

Drowning by Numbers (1988)

Distant Voices, Still Lives (1988)

Prospero's Books (1991)

With hindsight, that was something of a golden age for British arthouse movies, thanks partly to the influence of Channel 4.
posted by verstegan at 11:56 AM on July 12 [3 favorites]

Walking and Talking (the Nicole Holofcener film)
Heavenly Creatures
posted by vunder at 11:57 AM on July 12 [4 favorites]

Suture (1993)
posted by plastic_animals at 12:00 PM on July 12

Law of Desire by Pedro Almodovar. Everything 80's and 90's Almodovar scratches this itch.

The transcendent and ground breaking Liquid Sky.

The Hunger, my favorite Tony Scott film.

Liquid Sky and The Hunger are '82 & '85, respectively, and Law of Desire is '87, but I think these are important films that heralded the filmmaking movement you are ultimately interested in. The Hunger played as a mdnight movie well into the 90's in lower Manhattan, Almodovar was just a giant in the movement, and Liquid Sky was a ground breaking little indie that STILL resonates. Liquid Sky was a feat at the time indie filmmakers were breaking out in NYC and worldwide, when the Weinstein bros were about to dominate independent film production and build an empire out of it.


I just found out recently this film was not the huge indie hit I perceived it to be back in NYC at the time. It is one of my favorite movies and soundtracks of all time.


Oh. My. God.

Everything Neil Jordan from this era, but The Crying Game and ESPECIALLY ESPECIALLY BREAKFAST ON PLUTO.

Some of these films have questionable choices in terms of being respectful towards lgbtq folks (Law of Desire, Happiness) where others just purely celebrate and relate complicated human stories (Velvet Goldmine, Breakfast on Pluto.)

This is my list having been there in the moment as a kid and young adult. YMMV.
posted by jbenben at 12:04 PM on July 12 [6 favorites]

+1 Paris Burning.

Indispensable from my list and I apologize for the oversight.
posted by jbenben at 12:06 PM on July 12 [2 favorites]

Baraka (1992)
posted by flabdablet at 12:10 PM on July 12 [4 favorites]

The Lair of the White Worm
The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover (any Greenway)
Betty Blue
Eat the Rich
Wish You Were Here
Prick Up Your Ears
How to Get Ahead in Advertising
River's Edge
posted by cocoagirl at 12:12 PM on July 12 [3 favorites]


The Cook, The Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover (not for the squeemish, look up spoilers first if you'd were disturbed by movies like Silence of the Lambs)

The Pillow Book

Sex, Lies, and Videotape

Living In Oblivion

Being John Malkovich

A lot of people adore Ghost Dog and Dead Man but I can't stand them. I also don't think much of Kids.
posted by Candleman at 12:15 PM on July 12 [2 favorites]

The core films of my queer adolescence:

The Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls in Love, 1995.
Foxfire, 1996.
Bound, 1996.

These three being primarily selected on the basis of "I managed to see them without my parents finding out", not quality, but Bound was the Wachowskis pre-Matrix and I still love it. Foxfire is maybe not explicitly about lesbians but it's pretty heavily coded that direction, enough so that my copy lived at the back of a box in my closet because I would not have risked my parents even knowing I owned it, so yeah.
posted by Sequence at 12:16 PM on July 12 [4 favorites]

Dead Ringers (1988): Cronenberg in top form; Jeremy Irons is quintessentially creepy.
posted by flabdablet at 12:16 PM on July 12 [8 favorites]

posted by ElectricGoat at 12:16 PM on July 12

Zhang Yimou's outsize impact on the late 80's/early 90s:
- Red Sorghum
- Ju Dou
- Raise the Red Lantern
- The Story of Qiu Ju
- Shanghai Triad
posted by cocoagirl at 12:17 PM on July 12 [3 favorites]

The Opposite of Sex (or most anything with Christina Ricci!) is great.

The Dentist

Being John Malkovich is so weird and awesome.

Chasing Amy

There are a ton of lists for cult movies. Here's one that might be helpful.
posted by hydra77 at 12:19 PM on July 12 [2 favorites]

*slaps forehead*

Bruce La Bruce!

A good chunk of his output was in the period you're looking for, in particular:

No Skin Off My Ass (1991)

Super 8½ (1994)

Hustler White (1996)
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 12:20 PM on July 12

Chungking Express
Happy Together
Stealing Beauty
posted by BeHereNow at 12:21 PM on July 12 [3 favorites]

Party Girl
Cold Comfort Farm
Grosse Pointe Blank
Welcome to the Dollhouse
posted by zoetrope at 12:34 PM on July 12 [2 favorites]

Speaking of Cronenberg, essential early 1990s for me is Naked Lunch (1991). It came out when I was at the height of my Burroughs fandom in high school. I saw it again about a year ago and it stands up, I have to say.

In a rush of nostalgia, just remembered another Bruce's movies...

Roadkill (1989)

Highway 61 (1991)

Hard Core Logo (1996).
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 12:41 PM on July 12 [4 favorites]

1983 Farewell My Concubine.

Excellent excellent amazing cinema.
posted by jbenben at 12:42 PM on July 12 [1 favorite]


Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown
posted by Mchelly at 1:13 PM on July 12 [2 favorites]

Down By Law (1986) and Stranger Than Paradise (1984), both directed by Jim Jarmusch. They fall outside of your time period but worth a mention.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 1:23 PM on July 12 [3 favorites]

Empire Records (1995) is real cheesy, but that never stopped me from dozens of re-watches.
posted by witchen at 1:30 PM on July 12 [2 favorites]

Jesus of Montreal
The Sweet Hereafter
Hard Eight
posted by vunder at 1:38 PM on July 12 [1 favorite]

The Adjuster (1991)
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 1:42 PM on July 12

Looking for Langston (1989)
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 1:44 PM on July 12

We used to watch the hell out of Psychos in Love (1987).
posted by rikschell at 2:07 PM on July 12

My Beautiful Laundrette
posted by rhizome at 2:09 PM on July 12

The Ice Storm
posted by vunder at 2:18 PM on July 12

The Blue Kite
posted by BeHereNow at 2:27 PM on July 12

But I'm A Cheerleader just misses your cutoff (1999), but it's worth mentioning.
posted by schoolgirl report at 2:49 PM on July 12 [3 favorites]

Man Bites Dog (1992)
posted by ldenneau at 3:12 PM on July 12

It's a bit before the time range mentioned (1984), but I'm popping in to mention Repo Man.
posted by cleverevans at 3:32 PM on July 12 [4 favorites]

Black Robe (1991). Don't think it's streaming anywhere, though.
posted by Jane Austen at 4:12 PM on July 12

Every Jim Jarmusch film, but especially Mystery Train
Anything with Parker Posey
Roadside Prophets with John Doe and Adam Horovitz
Tapeheads with Tim Robbins and John Cusack

Some good foreign films as well:
Wild Zero. Don't read anything about it. Just know that it starts with the Japanese version of the Ramones trying to save rock 'n roll, and then it gets weird.
posted by stefanie at 4:40 PM on July 12 [4 favorites]

House of Yes
Six Degrees of Separation
posted by vunder at 4:43 PM on July 12 [1 favorite]

The Swedish film Show Me Love (Fucking Åmål) is from 1998 but it is lovely.
posted by vunder at 4:55 PM on July 12

Let’s Get Lost, a film about Chet Baker.
posted by kerf at 6:35 PM on July 12

I've Heard the Mermaids Singing (1987)

Sid and Nancy (1986) (Just misses your cutoff date)

Straight to Hell (1987)

Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit (1990) is a TV mini series based on the semi-autobiographical novel by Jeanette Winterson.

Tales of the City (1993) is a TV mini series based on the books and columns of Armistead Maupin.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 6:51 PM on July 12

Repo Man is a few years before your window but is a cult classic and has a great punk rock soundtrack.
posted by vrakatar at 8:07 PM on July 12

Withnail and I (definitely not lesser known in the UK, but a cult classic everywhere else) ; Wild at Heart
posted by jeudi at 10:48 PM on July 12 [4 favorites]

Dream with the Fishes
posted by goofyfoot at 11:41 PM on July 12

Go Fish (1994)

You might also be interested in John Pierson’s book Spike, Mike, Slackers & Dykes, which is about the history of art house/queer/indie/artsy movies from 1986-1996.
posted by chrisulonic at 12:13 AM on July 13 [1 favorite]

Near Dark, 1987
Down by Law, 1986
riffing on Baraka up thread, Koyannisqatsi, Powaqqatsi

All the upthread Alex Cox stuff, Repo Man, Sid and Nancy, Straight to Hell, Walker (1987, Ed motherfucking Harris)

Slacker, 1990
posted by mwhybark at 12:44 AM on July 13 [1 favorite]

The Navigator, 1988 (NZ)
Meet the Feebles, 1989, (NZ, Peter Jackson, fucking bizarre based on the Peter Jackson you know today)
Heavenly Creatures, 1994, (NZ, *also* Peter Jackson, fine double feature with preceding fim)
posted by mwhybark at 12:50 AM on July 13

Black Robe, Let's Get Lost, 32 SF abt (gnuuurgh) Glenn Gould
posted by mwhybark at 12:54 AM on July 13

Derek Jarman’s Blue (1993)
posted by Going To Maine at 1:04 AM on July 13

Also, Wikipedia’s “list of avang-garde films of the 1990s” might be generally helpful in your quest.
posted by Going To Maine at 1:07 AM on July 13

The Last Supper (1995)
Things To Do In Denver When You're Dead (1995). Not sure how indie this one is but it sometimes seem to be a forgotten little gem.
In the Bleak Midwinter (1995) - also know as "A Midwinter's Tale"
posted by WhyamIhereagain at 2:09 AM on July 13

Meet the Feebles, 1989, (NZ, Peter Jackson, fucking bizarre based on the Peter Jackson you know today)

Likewise his directorial debut, Bad Taste (1987): "Aren't I lucky, I got a chunky bit."
posted by flabdablet at 2:20 AM on July 13

If we're allowing a bit of window slippage, The Quiet Earth (1985) offers a rare opportunity to see Bruno Lawrence wield a shotgun and an axe and give a cardboard cutout of Adolf Hitler a stern talking-to while wearing only a silk slip.
posted by flabdablet at 2:27 AM on July 13

Whit Stillman's Metropolitan (1990) and Barcelona (1994)
Four Rooms (1995)
Kathryn Bigelow's Strange Days (1995)
Linklater's SubUrbia (1997)

If you want to stretch to 1998, Pi and Lola Rennt, and back to 1985, Luc Besson's Subway.
posted by lmfsilva at 4:38 AM on July 13 [2 favorites]

+1 on Dead Ringers for sure; another great Jeremy Irons movie from this era is 1992's Waterland.
posted by Bron at 6:58 AM on July 13

Oh, Love and Other Catastrophes is perfect for this! That extremely 90's trailer of course cuts out the queer stuff, but it's there.
posted by this roof at 8:42 AM on July 13

Amateur, my favorite Hal Hartley movie, and Flirt, my second favorite
Crybaby, Serial Mom and Pecker are all fine, classic John Waters movies from this time period
posted by ivan ivanych samovar at 9:05 AM on July 13 [1 favorite]

It's outside of your time window (1980) but I'm going to mention Times Square anyway as it deserves to be much better known. Teenage girl runways get romantic and squat in NYC, start a punk band, hang with Tim Curry.

I also like Gas Food Lodging, and Allison Anders in general.
posted by veery at 10:35 AM on July 13 [2 favorites]

Well loved among those who've seen it, but virtually unheard of: Run Lola Run
posted by hydra77 at 11:12 AM on July 13 [1 favorite]

A trilogy: "Three colors: Red, White, Blue"
posted by hydra77 at 11:16 AM on July 13

Aria (1987) Ten different directors film a musical piece inspired by their favourite operatic aria. Sad clown John Hurt! Opera-singing Elvis impersonators! Nudity!
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 1:53 PM on July 13

Dellamorte Dellamore, also known as Cemetary Man (1994).
posted by porpoise at 3:59 PM on July 13

Dogs in Space. I haven't seen it in decades and maybe it hasn't aged well, but I saw it five times in the theater when it came out.
posted by The corpse in the library at 1:43 PM on July 15 [1 favorite]

Diva, if we can go a few years earlier.
posted by The corpse in the library at 1:45 PM on July 15

A little early:
Over The Edge (1979, highly underrated movie about unsupervised youth in a housing development, Mark's the first appearance of a 14yo Matt Dillion, apparently a favorite of Kurt Cobain)
Liquid Sky (1982)
Suburbia (1983, not to be confused with the similarly titled 1996 film)
Within your time frame:
Slacker (1991)
Naked in New York (1993)
My Own Private Idaho
Nowhere (1997) (it's the 3rd of the Greg Araki trilogy you've already seen the first 2 of)
posted by ethical_caligula at 4:23 PM on July 15 [2 favorites]

Idiot Box (1996): get a dog up ya
posted by flabdablet at 5:33 AM on July 16

And continuing the Australian grunge feel: Romper Stomper (1992)
posted by flabdablet at 5:37 AM on July 16

Then raise the mood by splitting the beer atom with Yahoo Serious: Young Einstein (1988)
posted by flabdablet at 5:44 AM on July 16

The Taiwanese film, Rebels of the Neon God (1992), might be a fit to what you are looking for. I think it's slower paced than the ones on your list, but it also an arthouse/indie film about youth.
posted by FJT at 9:33 AM on July 16

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