Director: Rian Johnson
Stars: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Nora Zehetner, Lukas Haas, Noah Fleiss, Emilie de Ravin, Noah Segan, Matt O'Leary, Meagan Good
Lesson Learned: No matter how hard we all try, you just can't trust a dame.

Arguably the most experimental film on this list, writer-director Rian Johnson's debut Brick owes its existence to the films of Humphrey Bogart and the hard-boiled, pulpy crime novels of the 1950s, and that's in no way a slight. Set in a familiar-looking high school, Johnson's murder mystery subverts its modern-day setting with a predominantly noir vibe, presenting Joseph Gordon-Levitt's lead character as a tortured, old-school gumshoe running up against sinister heavies and seductive dames.

If none of that made any sense to you, it's about time you rent 1946's The Big Sleep, or read a Raymond Chandler novel. Clearly, Johnson has done both, quite often. What makes Brick so effective isn't its surface-level gimmick, though—it's how efficiently all involved sell the flick as legitimately inventive storytelling, not hokey karaoke.