What better way to celebrate Independence Day than to tip our caps to the men and women who broke away (or didn’t even bother with) the system, and made their movies by hook or by crook? In the post-Sundance, post-SXSW, post-digital cinema era, we take the notion of non-Hollywood moviemaking for granted. But to get to this moment, a number of weirdos, mavericks, muckrakers, anti-corporate agitators, enthusiastic amateurs and outright pioneers persevered to make sure their personal vision made it to a theater near you. Low budgets and low-fidelity results weren’t going to deter them any more than closed studio gates (real and metaphoric) were.
So here are 30 of the greatest examples of independent filmmaking done right, the ones that inspired, irritated the mainstream and influenced other moviemakers to pick up cameras and tell their stories. In the end, these films did it their way.