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Ten Great Films You Can Buy For Under Ten Bucks

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By Matt Singer and Alison Willmore

IFC News

[Photo: “The Color of Money,” Buena Vista Pictures, 1986)

We here at IFC News recognize the great contributions companies like The Criterion Collection have made to the fields of film preservation and restoration, and we treasure the DVDs of theirs in our respective collections. But let’s be honest. Those suckers are expensive: always at least thirty bucks, and sometimes as much as twice that for the really cool sets.

You might be under the impression that the only movies worth owning are the ones that have been blessed with one of these glitzy DVD treatments, which often act as much as a seal of approval as anything else. And when wading into the murky waters of DVD discount bins, it’s easy to get discouraged amidst a sea of low-rent cartoons and minor Elvis movies.

But know this: there are diamonds in the rough out there, only these diamonds don’t cost as much as diamonds. These are great movies that are dirt cheap; so great and so cheap, in fact, that there’s really no good reason your DVD shelf shouldn’t be without them. Here are IFC’s guaranteed-to-delight-and-impress-but-not-kill-your-wallet picks.

Big Trouble in Little China (1986)

Directed by John Carpenter

List price: $9.98

So you’ve got this thousand-year-old incorporeal sorcerer who needs to marry a girl with green eyes; a stolen truck named The Pork Chop Express; two rival Chinatown street gangs; Kim Cattrall as a lawyer whose last name is actually Law; a trio of magical weather-monikered henchmen; and Kurt Russell doing what is, apparently, a mulleted John Wayne impression. There’s no denying John Carpenter’s “Big Trouble in Little China” is trash, but it’s great trash, the kind you reach for when you’ve got a few friends over, a few beers in you and a desire for raucous, campy entertainment. In other words, this DVD is an invaluable purchase.

The Color of Money (1986)

Directed by Martin Scorsese

List price: $9.99

“The Color of Money” has a bad reputation, as a minor film by Martin Scorsese and as the movie for which Paul Newman finally won his Best Actor Oscar, not for his performance, but as a sort of lifetime achievement award. Having “The Color of Money” in your DVD collection, then, sends a statement; that (a) you don’t automatically accept the conventional wisdom about any movie and (b) “The Color of Money” is one of the most underrated movies of the 1980s — not to mention one of the most underrated movies by Scorsese and one of the most underrated sequels of all time. Watch it for some of Scorsese’s most dynamic camerawork and Richard Price’s razor-sharp screenplay, pick up a few talking points about how Newman’s Fast Eddie fits in with other Scorsese anti-heroes, and watch your auteur cred grow.

Days of Heaven (1978)

Directed by Terrence Malick

List price: $9.98

In the history of cinema, there have been plenty of films to offer up unforgettable images of loveliness and emotional weight, but it’s possible that none can ever match the elegiac beauty of Terrence Malick’s “Days of Heaven.” Cinematographer Néstor Almendros won an Oscar for his work — a lower-billed Haskell Wexler would later write to Roger Ebert that he sat in a theater, timing the scenes he shot with a stopwatch to prove that over half the footage was his. Whoever was responsible, the film’s shots of the endless Texas landscape, so often steeped in golden, late day light, are both epic and achingly wistful, a reminder that the happiness recounted by the film’s narrator Linda (Linda Manz) was fleeting and is still mourned. One to own on the basis of its sheer greatness.

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)

Directed by John Ford

List price: $9.98

John Wayne made a ton of pictures. A lot of them weren’t very good, a bunch have fallen out of copyright, and plenty of those are available in poorly transferred discs. But there are significantly less of his truly great films available for the budget-minded DVD consumer — you’re really left with John Ford’s “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” and Wayne’s elegiac final picture “The Shootist” from director Don Siegel. Though I love both films, I’m giving the nod here to “Valance,” and really, how could I not? It’s one of the most important westerns Ford ever made, particularly in the way it shows the director, nearing the end of his career, coming to grips with the way in which his ideas and art had become accepted as some kind of literal representation of life on the American frontier. No surprise, then, that the film concludes with the classic line “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” Plus you get to hear John Wayne call Jimmy Stewart “pilgrim” a whole lot.

The Naked Gun (1988)

Directed by David Zucker

List price: $9.99

Speaking personally, I will say that while I have many better-made, more important, more artistic movies on my own DVD rack, I haven’t watched any disc I own more times than my copy of “The Naked Gun,” David Zucker, Jim Abrahams and Jerry Zucker’s timeless cop pastiche. Maybe it’s not the funniest movie ever made — but maybe it is. And it’s definitely one of the most quotable; and ten bucks is a small price to pay to have your own copy to memorize whenever you please. I’d suggest you start with the priceless scene in which Leslie Nielsen’s hapless Lt. Drebin gives a rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” that makes Roseanne’s look respectful in comparison (“And the rockets red glare! Bunch of bombs in the air!”). You’ll never attend a sporting event in quite the same way again.

Nashville (1975)

Directed by Robert Altman

List price: $9.98

“Nashville” requires more from you than you expect — Robert Altman’s masterpiece is a film that sprawls, but also one that spins its storylines obliquely, catching people and relationships in medias res. I’ve tossed it in the DVD player to have on in the background while doing something else, only to find myself unable to not pay attention to it. By the end, always, when Barbara Harris picks up the mic to sing “It Don’t Worry Me,” I’m enraptured. There’s nothing more I need add to the scads of acclaim “Nashville” has built up over the years; the only thing that remains to be written is that, unlike many other critically acclaimed films, “Nashville” is one you may actually reach for to watch for fun.

The Quick and the Dead (1995)

Directed by Sam Raimi

List price: $9.95

Here’s a tip for enjoying this film at home: when Sharon Stone is on screen, just put your hand over her. Voilà — suddenly you’ve got a rollicking western pastiche with a presciently excellent cast that includes a pre-“L.A. Confidential” Russell Crowe and a pre-“Romeo + Juliet” Leonardo DiCaprio. Even with the outrageously miscast Stone left uncovered, Sam Raimi’s underrated and over the top homage to Sergio Leone and later, wilder westerns is a jolly good time, and precisely the kind of DVD you’d actually watch instead of just displaying on your shelf as a sign of your impeccable taste. Extra credit must be given to Gene Hackman, whose wicked John Herod rules the town of Redemption with an iron fist, a lightning draw and a heart squishy with unlikely regret.

Targets (1968)

Directed by Peter Bogdanovich

List price: $9.98

“Targets” is a great part of a collection as a “lender” — a disc you don’t watch too much, but you give out to people who spot it and go “What the hell is this movie?” In this case, it’s a remarkable overlooked film from writer/director Peter Bogdanovich. It was produced under remarkable conditions, too: star Boris Karloff was under contract to producer Roger Corman for two shoot days and Corman entrusted Bogdanovich to make a movie — any movie — by recycling footage from the Karloff/Corman film “The Terror” with stuff from the two new days. Bogdanovich’s solution was as ingenious as it was economical: in “Targets,” “The Terror” material plays itself, as does Karloff (sorta) as an aging horror film star struggling to find relevancy in a darker time with darker movies. In a concurrent story, a young man (played by Tim O’Kelly) with a happy family loses his mind, kills his loved ones and goes on a murder spree. It’s a smart, disturbing movie that surprises pretty much everyone who watches it. More of my friends have watched my copy of “Targets” than I have at this point, and a couple of them have even bought the disc themselves.

3 Days of the Condor (1975)

Directed by Sydney Pollack

List price: $9.98

The 1970s were a pretty amazing decade for American film, and any self-respecting DVD collector needs to own at least a few New Hollywood films that demonstratively scream seventies. That means anti-government, anti-corporate and, above all, deeply paranoid. You could go with Alan J. Pakula’s “The Parallax View” ($9.98) starring Warren Beatty, but I’ve always preferred the somewhat less pretentious, somewhat more entertaining “3 Days of the Condor,” starring that other left-wing icon, Robert Redford. The Sundance Kid plays low-level CIA operative Joseph Turner (codename: Condor) who returns from his lunch break to find his co-workers dead, which sets off a movie-wide manhunt, a veritable blooming onion of deception, and a love affair with Faye Dunaway, which, come to think of it, is another de rigeur 70s trope.

Vanishing Point (1971)

Directed by Richard C. Sarafian

List price: $9.98

In Quentin Tarantino’s half of “Grindhouse,” Zoë Bell hops off a plane from New Zealand and has only has one thing on her mind — she wants to drive an Alpine White 1970 Dodge Challenger. While I’d probably be more in line to take a shower and a nap, I can’t fault her choice of make and model. It’s the same car as the one Barry Newman’s Kowalski, loaded up on Bennies, takes from Denver to Cisco, California in “Vanishing Point,” one of the great car chase movies of all time, if a particularly existential and shaggily 70s one. Cred alone could justify this purchase — “Vanishing Point” is a solid cult favorite, and one that’s always being threatened with remakes. Charles Robert Carner directed one for TV in the late 90s, starring Viggo Mortensen as a kinder, gentler Kowalski; another big screen remake has been kicking around in development. All the more reason to have the original on hand.

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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