She's Gotta Have It(1986)
Non-union actors, no retakes, a director who demanded that his actors keep their drinks cans for the recycling money - budgets don't get much lower than this. Debate still rages about whether the plot - about a woman with three different boyfriends to provide different emotional and sexual needs - is a marvel of feminist filmmaking or misogyny of the worst sort, but either way the film's humour and lively characters brought Spike Lee to the attention of audiences and paved the way for his particular outlook on life. And since he was, until the arrival of John Singleton at least, the only major African-American director in Hollywood, that's an important perspective to have.
The Coen Brothers launched themselves upon an unsuspecting world with this noir throwback in 1984, and they haven't looked back. But all their subsequent success - and many of their trademark flourishes - can be dated back to this Texas-set tale of private eyes, murder most foul and more double (triple, and quadruple) crosses than you can count. The style is present and correct in the almost black-and-white locations and bright red blood, but it's the tone that stands out. Like Fargo without the warmth of Marge Gunderson, or Miller's Crossing without the qualms of conscience, Blood Simple is the darkest, and arguably up there with the best, of the Coens' films.