The Thin Blue Line 1988
if there's a hell on earth it's dallas texas. i am a huge errol morris fan, it was hard to pick one, but this would have to be it. it feels like a piece of pulp noir. quietly, subtly pretty damn unnerving. just a couple of guys adrift in texas and their random evening at the drive-in gets weird and wrong and complicated. fantastically well made story of american crime and punishment. a great score from philip glass too.
This film had a massive impact on me - I was taking a film class in college and it must have just come out. I couldn't believe a story could be told in this way - which is the wrong subject and wrong verb for what Morris is doing. This was a hugely influential film, you see echoes of it in interview style, re-enactments, putting all the pieces of the puzzle on the table without quite solving it. I remember the final scene is just tape recorded. I've long thought of starting a "true crime" question so that I could give this as the answer.
it was definitely when we were in college. i remember going to see it at the old york square cinema in new haven with my buddy who was a big jim thompson fan and we freaked out about how much it felt like a thompson novel, those texas cops, the drifty guy and the shifty guy at the center of it all, the amazingly sketchy witnesses.... indeed it ends with a closeup of the reels of a small tape recorder. you're absolutely right, as usual, you see it's influence everywhere. yet it remains sui generis. it's amazingly entertaining.