43 Fast Facts About Field of Dreams

Amy Madigan and Kevin Costner star as Annie and Ray Kinsella in Field of Dreams (1989).
Amy Madigan and Kevin Costner star as Annie and Ray Kinsella in Field of Dreams (1989).
Universal Pictures

If you have seen Field of Dreams, you likely have a strong opinion on it. While some are moved by its fantastical and heartfelt story of personal redemption, others dismiss it as maudlin and silly, or a "male weepie at its wussiest," as Richard Corliss of TIME Magazine once infamously put it. Either way you look at it, the Oscar-nominated movie—which made its debut on May 5, 1989—is still being talked about 30 years after its release.

1. Field of Dreams was based on a book called Shoeless Joe.

Field of Dreams writer-director Phil Alden Robinson had loved W.P. Kinsella's Shoeless Joe since the book was first published in 1982. Despite 20th Century Fox's repeated insistence through the years that the story wasn't commercial enough to be adapted into a movie, Robinson continued working on a script for it. Eventually Robinson and producers Lawrence and Charles Gordon sold the screenplay to Universal.

2. Shoeless Joe evolved from a short story.

Ray Liotta in 'Field of Dreams' (1989)
Ray Liotta stars as Shoeless Joe Jackson in Field of Dreams (1989).
Universal Pictures

Before Shoeless Joe, there was “Shoeless Joe Jackson Comes to Iowa,” a 20-page short story that W.P. Kinsella penned for an anthology. When Larry Kessenich—an editor at Houghton Mifflin—read the synopsis, he contacted Kinsella and convinced him to turn the premise into a full-length novel. “I wrote back to say I would need guidance, as I had published four collections of short stories but had never written a publishable novel," Kinsella said.

3. It took W.P. Kinsella just nine months to write the book.

While Shoeless Joe may have been Kinsella's first novel, he finished it rather quickly. With Kessenich’s help, this new extended version of the story was completed in the span of nine months.

4. Phil Alden Robinson was upset that the studio wouldn’t let him use the title Shoeless Joe.

When Field of Dreams was first shown to test audiences, it was using the title Shoeless Joe. Audiences said it reminded them of a hobo. With trepidation, Robinson called Kinsella to tell him that the movie's name was being changed to Field of Dreams. Kinsella was ok with it, as one of his own ideas for his book's title was The Dream Field. It was apparently his publisher who pushed for Shoeless Joe.

5. A few characters from Shoeless Joe were omitted from the Field of Dreams script.

In the Shoeless Joe novel, we’re introduced Eddie “Kid” Scissions, the previous owner of Ray’s farm. An elderly Iowan, Scissons claims to be the “oldest living Chicago Cub,” but soon enough, Ray learns he never even suited up for the team. “It was a wonderful subplot,” Robinson said, “[but] we couldn’t find room for it.” Another character cut out of Robinson’s screenplay was Richard Kinsella, Ray’s identical twin brother.

6. In the book, J.D. Salinger was the author Ray Kinsella tries to kidnap.

W.P. Kinsella's real original title for his book was The Kidnapping of J.D. Salinger. Studio executives, however, were afraid that bad publicity from Salinger's threats to file a lawsuit would harm them, so the character of Terence Mann was created instead.

7. Ray Kinsella was named after a J.D. Salinger character.

A photo of J.D. Salinger
Wikimedia Commons

W.P. Kinsella insists he didn't just put his own last name as Ray's and call it a day. Kinsella was a last name Salinger used in two stories: Richard Kinsella was an annoying classmate of Holden Caulfield in The Catcher In the Rye, and Ray Kinsella was a character in the short story A Young Girl in 1941 With No Waist at All. The idea was for a Salinger creation to appear in front of his creator and take him to a ballgame.

8. An outfield fence was considered, but never built, for Field of Dreams.

Here’s another difference between Kinsella’s novel and its Hollywood adaptation. “In the book, there’s a fence with a door in it that separates the ball field from the corn field, and we had done drawings of walls and fences” Robinson explained in a discussion with sportswriters Stephen C. Wood and J. David Pincus. “I asked, ‘Why would he build a fence?’ and then the corn became the wall.”

9. Kevin Costner wasn't initially considered for Field of Dreams because he had just starred in Bull Durham.

Kevin Costner and Tim Robbins in Bull Durham (1988)
Tim Robbins and Kevin Costner face off in Bull Durham (1988).
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.

Kevin Costner was the first actor to come to Robinson's mind to play Ray, but he had just starred in Bull Durham, another baseball movie. A Universal executive got Costner to read the script anyway, and he decided to do it because he felt it would be akin to It's a Wonderful Life.

10. W.P. Kinsella and his wife almost appeared in Field of Dreams.

Kinsella and his wife were in the crowd for a scene of a PTA meeting, which was shot at a gymnasium in Farley, Iowa. “My wife and I were part of the audience at the PTA scene,” Kinsella later said. “We were trapped there for a full day of sweltering retakes, and we never appeared in the final cut.”

11. Ben Affleck and Matt Damon were extras in Field of Dreams.

Damon was 17 years old and Affleck turned 16 during the summer of 1988, when the film shot on location for the scenes in Fenway Park. More than a decade later Affleck would star in Robinson's The Sum of All Fears; on the first day of shooting, he reportedly told Robinson: "Nice working with you again."

12. There’s a Watergate Easter egg in Field of Dreams.

A portrait of 37th president Richard Nixon
Keystone/Getty Images

While walking through the streets of Chisholm, Minnesota, Ray spots a campaign poster for Richard Nixon in a storefront window. Guess what’s on display right behind it? An assortment of tape recorders. “I thought that was so clever, but in the film print you can’t actually see [the recorders],” Robinson said in 2013. However, they’re clear as day in digital editions of the movie.

13. The person who voiced "The Voice" that spoke to Ray in Field of Dreams remains a mystery.

For years it was rumored that the voiced belonged to Ray Liotta, who played Shoeless Joe Jackson. Kinsella wrote that he was told it was actually Ed Harris, Amy Madigan's husband (Madigan played Ray's wife, Annie).

"What’s funny is that a few people who thought they knew have revealed it and gotten it wrong," Robinson said in June 2019. "I’ll read people saying, ‘Well I happen to know that it’s so-and-so,’ and I’m like, ‘Oh no, it’s not!’ We’ll let that remain a secret. It’s a great mystery, and I like that.” The Voice is officially credited as being played by Himself.

14. A deleted scene from Field of Dreams sees Ray getting his hearing checked.

Before Ray starts obeying the mysterious voice that's speaking to him, he tries to find a logical explanation for it. “I … had a scene in which he goes to an ear doctor to have his hearing checked,” Robinson told Deadline. Ultimately, this footage wound up on the cutting room floor.

15. People regularly misquote Field of Dreams’s most famous line.

The actual quote is: "If you build it, he will come," not "If you build it, they will come." It's a common mistake. The line was ranked number 39 on AFI's 100 Greatest Movie Quotes of All Time.

16. The grass was painted green for Field of Dreams.

Filmed on an actual cornfield-turned-baseball diamond in Dyersville, Iowa, a season-long drought led to the need for some cosmetic touch-ups. The dying grass was coated with some green vegetable dye and latex turf paint.

17. James Earl Jones's wife told him his "people will come" speech would never make the final cut.

It was James Earl Jones's wife who convinced him to accept the role of Terence Mann in the first place, though she warned him that the "long speech about baseball will never be in the film, it'll be on the cutting-room floor."

18. James Earl Jones reunited with a former Broadway co-star while shooting Field of Dreams.

Back in 1958, Jones made his Broadway debut in a stage production of Sunrise at Campobello. One of his castmates in that show was Anne Seymour, who portrays the Chisolm newspaperwoman in Field of Dreams. This was to be her last role, as she died shortly before the movie’s release. “It was nice to have that moment with Anne,” Jones told the Des Moines Register in 2019.

19. Moonlight Graham is a real person.

Kinsella used Archibald Moonlight Graham's real life story for his book, with the exception that the real Graham's lone major league game took place on June 1905, not on the last day of the 1922 season like Burt Lancaster's character in the film. The author found Graham's name in a baseball encyclopedia he received as a Christmas gift and decided the name was better than anything he could ever come up with on his own. In real life, Graham became the beloved town doctor of Chisholm, Minnesota after answering a newspaper ad.

20. Moonlight Graham’s on-screen uniform in Field of Dreams is a little anachronistic.

Late in the film, a young Graham takes the field in an orange and black New York Giants jersey. This isn’t quite period-accurate: The Giants didn’t start wearing those uniform colors until 1933—long after Graham’s MLB career wrapped up.

21. Jimmy Stewart was the first choice to play Moonlight Graham in Field of Dreams.

Jimmy Stewart in Alfred Hitchock's 'Rear Window' (1954)
Jimmy Stewart in Alfred Hitchock's Rear Window (1954).
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Jimmy Stewart passed on the role. Burt Lancaster himself initially didn't "get it," but a friend convinced by him to take the part. In Roger Ebert's four-star review of the movie, he said Field of Dreams was "the kind of movie Frank Capra might have directed and James Stewart might have starred in."

22. Field of Dreams quotes Moonlight Graham’s actual obituary.

When the real Graham died in 1965, Veda Ponikvar—the founder of the Chisolm Free Press and Tribune—wrote a stirring tribute. “There were times when children could not afford eyeglasses or milk or clothing,” noted Ponikvar at the time. “Yet no child was ever denied these essentials because in the background there was always Dr. Graham. Without any fanfare or publicity, the glasses or the milk or the tickets to the ballgame found their way into the child’s pocket.” In Field of Dreams, Anne Seymour recites those lines word-for-word.

23. Field of Dreams was Burt Lancaster's last film to play in theaters.

Oscar-winning actor Burt Lancaster was 74 years old during the filming of Field of Dreams. After a couple of TV movie jobs, Lancaster retired from acting. He passed away in 1994.

24. Field of Dreams was Gaby Hoffmann's first movie.

Kevin Costner, Gaby Hoffmann, and Burt Lancaster in 'Field of Dreams' (1989)
Kevin Costner, Gaby Hoffmann, and Burt Lancaster in Field of Dreams (1989).
Universal Pictures

Gaby Hoffmann, the daughter of Andy Warhol superstar Viva Auder Hoffmann and soap actor Anthony Herrera, played Ray's daughter Karin at age six. More recently, you may have seen her in Transparent or Girls.

25. The filming schedule for Field of Dreams was based on the height of the corn.

The corn had to be Kevin Costner's height (he's listed as 6'1") or taller when the voice first spoke to him. With a thumbs up from the state of Iowa, filmmakers dammed a nearby creek to make sure the corn had enough water. It worked almost too well; when Costner first hears "If you build it, he will come," he had to walk onto a foot-high platform. Just in case the creek damming failed, fake corn was on standby to be shipped in from Asia.

26. Field of Dreams’s corn-based schedule upset the powers-that-be on another Kevin Costner movie.

Production on Tony Scott's Revenge was repeatedly postponed while Costner and the cast and crew of Field of Dreams were working with the vegetation. A producer threatened to sue the actor, until it was agreed that Costner would start work on Revenge two days after Field of Dreams wrapped. Revenge ended up making less than $16 million at the box office, while Field of Dreams raked in more than $64 million.

27. Field of Dreams’s composer James Horner was moved to tears by a rough cut of the film.

A still from 'Field of Dreams' (1989)
Universal Pictures

Before composer James Horner, the musical maestro behind Titanic and Braveheart, agreed to score Field of Dreams, Robinson gave him a private test-screening. “He came to look at it at an early stage,” Robinson said on a DVD bonus feature. “We showed him the film and when the lights came up, he got up and left the room.” At first, Robinson was crestfallen, thinking Horner must’ve hated the film. But a few moments later, the Oscar-winning composer—who passed away in 2015—came back “very teary-eyed” and agreed to take the job.

28. Field of Dreams star Ray Liotta has never seen the movie.

Though Ray Liotta has been told that Field of Dreams is a great movie, he has yet to see it for himself. Liotta's mother was ill while they were filming the movie, which he mentally associates with the movie.

29. Ray Liotta thought the Field of Dreams script was "silly."

Frank Whaley and Ray Liotta in 'Field of Dreams' (1989)
Frank Whaley and Ray Liotta in Field of Dreams (1989).
Universal Pictures

It was only after the actor read the script a couple more times and read the book Shoeless Joe that it made more sense to him.

30. Former USC baseball coach Rod Dedeaux was a consultant on Field of Dreams.

The USC Trojans men’s baseball team claimed 11 national championships under Dedaux, who passed away in 2006. While Field of Dreams was in production, he and Don Buford (a major league veteran) helped the actors refine their playing skills. Some of them didn’t need much assistance: According to ESPN’s Jeff Merron, Dedeaux thought Costner “would’ve been good enough to play at USC.”

31. Ray Liotta couldn't hit left-handed well enough for Field of Dreams.

Shoeless Joe Jackson hit lefty and threw righty, but in the movie Liotta plays him as a right-handed batter. Liotta trained with professional baseball coaches for one month to hit left-handed like his character, but it wasn't good enough for the director Robinson. Liotta claimed Robinson said it was okay if the batting wasn't historically accurate, though to this day the actor regrets not finding a way to make it work.

32. Shoeless Joe Jackson and Ty Cobb were on friendly terms in real life.

Ty Cobb & Joe Jackson standing alongside each other, each holding bats
Ty Cobb and "Shoeless" Joe Jackson
Louis Van Oeyen, Library of Congress // Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Despite being one of the first inductees to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, Detroit Tigers legend Tyrus “Ty” Cobb never shows up at Ray’s magical park. “None of us could stand the son of a bitch when we were alive, so we told him to stick it,” Shoeless Joe says in the film. Yet the two players actually liked each other. Once, after they had both retired, Cobb told Shoeless Joe, “I’ll tell you how well I remember you … Whenever I thought I was a good hitter, I’d stop and take a good look at you. Then I knew I could stand some improvement.” By all accounts, Jackson was visibly touched.

33. W.P. Kinsella described watching Field of Dreams get made as “colossal boredom.”

Amy Madigan and Kevin Costner star as Annie and Ray Kinsella in 'Field of Dreams' (1989)
Amy Madigan and Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams (1989).
Universal Pictures

"Colossal boredom" was how Kinsella described Iowa in the summer of 1988. The author said his daughter had more fun, because she was involved in "a little romance" with Liotta.

34. W.P. Kinsella gave Field of Dreams four out of five stars.

It lost a potentially perfect rating because Kinsella didn't think Timothy Busfield's Mark was villainous enough, nor that Gaby Hoffmann looked like Ray and Annie's child.

35. A few months before he retired, Vin Scully read Terrence Mann’s iconic speech from Field of Dreams.

Scully started calling Brooklyn Dodgers games in 1950. For the next 67 years, the broadcaster stayed with the club, covering its relocation to Los Angeles, all six of the franchise’s World Series championships to date, and almost 10,000 games overall. On May 26, 2016—during his last season in the announcer’s booth—Scully tugged at fans’ heartstrings by reciting the classic “People will come” monologue from Field of Dreams in a viral MLB video.

36. In order to make the final scene in Field of Dreams work, the citizens of Dyersville, Iowa agreed to a town-wide blackout.

In order to film the movie's final scene, 3000 Iowa residents in 1500 cars agreed to take part. There was a forced blackout in the town of Dyersville, Iowa, which included other baseball games and the local train. The director's instructions were broadcast on a local radio station. One was for the drivers to flash their high beams off and on as they drove to make it look as if there was more movement than there actually was.

37. Dwier Brown, who played Kevin Costner’s father in Field of Dreams, worried he would drop the ball during their seminal game of catch.

The scene in which Ray plays catch with his father had to be shot during magic hour, 15 minutes after sunset, which gave little room for error for actor Dwier Brown, who was working with a rock-hard, vintage catcher's mitt. He is proud of the fact that he never dropped it.

38. Dwier Brown shot Field of Dreams right after his own father's funeral.

He got back in time to play catch with Costner. It helped him access the necessary emotions.

39. To celebrate Field of Dreams’s 25th anniversary, Kevin Costner and his sons played catch at the now-iconic field.

Costner tossed a ball around with his sons Hayes and Cayden on June 13, 2014. (At the times, the boys were ages 5 and 7, respectively.) This was part of a three-day festival which included an on-site screening of the film, a Q&A panel hosted by Bob Costas, and a concert featuring Costner’s own band, Modern West.

40. The owner of the farm featured in Field of Dreams proposed to his wife on the baseball field.

The 'Field of Dreams' baseball field
Universal Pictures

Don Lansing met his wife Becky on New Year's Eve 1995 when she made a pilgrimage to visit the baseball field from Field of Dreams. When he proposed marriage, he did so on first base.

41. The field still attracts approximately 100,000 visitors per year.

When Don and Becky Lansing put the property up for sale in 2010, it was purchased by Go the Distance Baseball, an organization that made the property even more accessible to visitors and fans of the movie with a regular roster of special events. Today, 30 years after the movie's original release, an estimated 100,000 people make the trek to visit the baseball field each year.

42. You can rent the Field of Dreams farmhouse—and baseball field.

James Earl Jones and Kevin Costner in 'Field of Dreams' (1989)
James Earl Jones and Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams (1989).
Universal Pictures

In 2018, Go the Distance Baseball partnered with Booking.com to make spending the night in the farmhouse featured in Field of Dreams a reality. Guests can book stays of one night or longer. And while they'll have to share the field with the tourists during the hours it's open to the public, you're welcome to have your own private picnic in centerfield once the crowds clear out.

43. The White Sox and Yankees will play one regular-season game near the “Field of Dreams” site in 2020.

Scheduled for August 13, 2020, this’ll be the first Major League Baseball game ever played in Iowa. For the big event, a temporary 8,000-seat stadium will go up next to the park where Field of Dreams was shot. The White Sox have been designated as the “home” team.

Hee-Haw: The Wild Ride of "Dominick the Donkey"—the Holiday Earworm You Love to Hate

Delpixart/iStock via Getty Images
Delpixart/iStock via Getty Images

Everyone loves Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. He’s got the whole underdog thing going for him, and when the fog is thick on Christmas Eve, he’s definitely the creature you want guiding Santa’s sleigh. But what happens when Saint Nick reaches Italy, and he’s faced with steep hills that no reindeer—magical or otherwise—can climb?

That’s when Santa apparently calls upon Dominick the Donkey, the holiday hero immortalized in the 1960 song of the same name. Recorded by Lou Monte, “Dominick The Donkey” is a novelty song even by Christmas music standards. The opening line finds Monte—or someone else, or heck, maybe a real donkey—singing “hee-haw, hee-haw” as sleigh bells jingle in the background. A mere 12 seconds into the tune, it’s clear you’re in for a wild ride.

 

Over the next two minutes and 30 seconds, Monte shares some fun facts about Dominick: He’s a nice donkey who never kicks but loves to dance. When ol’ Dom starts shaking his tail, the old folks—cummares and cumpares, or godmothers and godfathers—join the fun and "dance a tarentell," an abbreviation of la tarantella, a traditional Italian folk dance. Most importantly, Dominick negotiates Italy’s hills on Christmas Eve, helping Santa distribute presents to boys and girls across the country.

And not just any presents: Dominick delivers shoes and dresses “made in Brook-a-lyn,” which Monte somehow rhymes with “Josephine.” Oh yeah, and while the donkey’s doing all this, he’s wearing the mayor’s derby hat, because you’ve got to look sharp. It’s a silly story made even sillier by that incessant “hee-haw, hee-haw,” which cuts in every 30 seconds like a squeaky door hinge.

There may have actually been some historical basis for “Dominick.”

“Travelling by donkey was universal in southern Italy, as it was in Greece,” Dominic DiFrisco, president emeritus of the joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans, said in a 2012 interview with the Chicago Sun-Times. “[Monte’s] playing easy with history, but it’s a cute song, and Monte was at that time one of the hottest singers in America.”

Rumored to have been financed by the Gambino crime family, “Dominick the Donkey” somehow failed to make the Billboard Hot 100 in 1960. But it’s become a cult classic in the nearly 70 years since, especially in Italian American households. In 2014, the song reached #69 on Billboard’s Holiday 100 and #23 on the Holiday Digital Song Sales chart. In 2018, “Dominick” hit #1 on the Comedy Digital Track Sales tally. As of December 2019, the Christmas curio had surpassed 21 million Spotify streams.

“Dominick the Donkey” made international headlines in 2011, when popular BBC DJ Chris Moyles launched a campaign to push the song onto the UK singles chart. “If we leave Britain one thing, it would be that each Christmas kids would listen to 'Dominick the Donkey,’” Moyles said. While his noble efforts didn’t yield a coveted Christmas #1, “Dominick” peaked at a very respectable #3.

 

As with a lot of Christmas songs, there’s a certain kitschy, ironic appeal to “Dominick the Donkey.” Many listeners enjoy the song because, on some level, they’re amazed it exists. But there’s a deeper meaning that becomes apparent the more you know about Lou Monte.

Born Luigi Scaglione in New York City, Monte began his career as a singer and comedian shortly before he served in World War II. Based in New Jersey, Monte subsequently became known as “The Godfather of Italian Humor” and “The King of Italian-American Music.” His specialty was Italian-themed novelty songs like “Pepino the Italian Mouse,” his first and only Top 10 hit. “Pepino” reached #5 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1963, the year before The Beatles broke America.

“Pepino” was penned by Ray Allen and Wandra Merrell, the duo that teamed up with Sam Saltzberg to write “Dominick the Donkey.” That same trio of songwriters was also responsible for “What Did Washington Say (When He Crossed the Delaware),” the B-side of “Pepino.” In that song, George Washington declares, “Fa un’fridd,” or ‘It’s cold!” while making his famous 1776 boat ride.

With his mix of English and Italian dialect, Monte made inside jokes for Italian Americans while sharing their culture with the rest of the country. His riffs on American history (“What Did Washington Say,” “Paul Revere’s Horse (Ba-cha-ca-loop),” “Please, Mr. Columbus”) gave the nation’s foundational stories a dash of Italian flavor. This was important at a time when Italians were still considered outsiders.

According to the 1993 book Italian Americans and Their Public and Private Life, Monte’s songs appealed to “a broad spectrum ranging from working class to professional middle-class Italian Americans.” Monte sold millions of records, played nightclubs across America, and appeared on TV programs like The Perry Como Show and The Ernie Kovacs Show. He died in Pompano Beach, Florida, in 1989. He was 72.

Monte lives on thanks to Dominick—a character too iconic to die. In 2016, author Shirley Alarie released A New Home for Dominick and A New Family for Dominick, a two-part children’s book series about the beloved jackass. In 2018, Jersey native Joe Baccan dropped “Dominooch,” a sequel to “Dominick.” The song tells the tale of how Dominick’s son takes over for his aging padre. Fittingly, “Dominooch” was written by composer Nancy Triggiani, who worked with Monte’s son, Ray, at her recording studio.

Speaking with NorthJersey.com in 2016, Ray Monte had a simple explanation for why Dominick’s hee-haw has echoed through the generations. “It was a funny novelty song,” he said, noting that his father “had a niche for novelty.”

The 11 Best Movies on Netflix Right Now

Laura Dern and Scarlett Johansson in Marriage Story (2019).
Laura Dern and Scarlett Johansson in Marriage Story (2019).
Wilson Webb/Netflix

With thousands of titles available, browsing your Netflix menu can feel like a full-time job. If you're feeling a little overwhelmed, take a look at our picks for the 11 best movies on Netflix right now.

1. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)

Spider-Man may be in the middle of a Disney and Sony power struggle, but that didn't stop this ambitious animated film from winning the Oscar for Best Animated Feature at the 2019 Academy Awards. Using a variety of visual style choices, the film tracks the adventures of Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), who discovers he's not the only Spider-Man in town.

2. Hell or High Water (2016)

Taylor Sheridan's Oscar-nominated Hell or High Water follows two brothers (Chris Pine and Ben Foster) who take to bank robberies in an effort to save their family ranch from foreclosure; Jeff Bridges is the drawling, laconic lawman on their tail.

3. Raging Bull (1980)

Robert De Niro takes on the life of pugilist Jake LaMotta in a landmark and Oscar-winning film from Martin Scorsese that frames LaMotta's violent career in stark black and white. Joe Pesci co-stars.

4. Marriage Story (2019)

Director Noah Bambauch drew raves for this deeply emotional drama about a couple (Adam Driver, Scarlett Johansson) whose uncoupling takes a heavy emotional and psychological toll on their family.

5. Dolemite Is My Name (2019)

Eddie Murphy ended a brief sabbatical from filmmaking following a mixed reception to 2016's Mr. Church with this winning biopic about Rudy Ray Moore, a flailing comedian who finds success when he reinvents himself as Dolemite, a wisecracking pimp. When the character takes off, Moore produces a big-screen feature with a crew of inept collaborators.

6. The Lobster (2015)

Colin Farrell stars in this black comedy that feels reminiscent of screenwriter Charlie Kaufman's work: A slump-shouldered loner (Farrell) has just 45 days to find a life partner before he's turned into an animal. Can he make it work with Rachel Weisz, or is he doomed to a life on all fours? By turns absurd and provocative, The Lobster isn't a conventional date movie, but it might have more to say about relationships than a pile of Nicholas Sparks paperbacks.

7. Flash of Genius (2008)

Greg Kinnear stars in this drama based on a true story about inventor Robert Kearns, who revolutionized automobiles with his intermittent windshield wiper. Instead of getting rich, Kearns is ripped off by the automotive industry and engages in a years-long battle for recognition.

8. Locke (2013)

The camera rarely wavers from Tom Hardy in this existential thriller, which takes place entirely in Hardy's vehicle. A construction foreman trying to make sure an important job is executed well, Hardy's Ivan Locke grapples with some surprising news from a mistress and the demands of his family. It's a one-act, one-man play, with Hardy making the repeated act of conversing on his cell phone as tense and compelling as if he were driving with a bomb in the trunk.

9. Cop Car (2015)

When two kids decide to take a police cruiser for a joyride, the driver (Kevin Bacon) begins a dogged pursuit. No good cop, he's got plenty to hide.

10. Taxi Driver (1976)

Another De Niro and Scorsese collaboration hits the mark, as Taxi Driver is regularly cited as one of the greatest American films ever made. De Niro is a potently single-minded Travis Bickle, a cabbie in a seedy '70s New York who wants to be an avenging angel for victims of crime. The mercurial Bickle, however, is just as unhinged as those he targets.

11. Sweet Virginia (2017)

Jon Bernthal lumbers through this thriller as a former rodeo star whose career has left him physically broken. Now managing a hotel in small-town Alaska, he stumbles onto a plot involving a murderer-for-hire (Christopher Abbott), upending his quiet existence and forcing him to take action.

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