The Sayles movies to start with

Try these four essentials to get with the director's signature vibe.

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  • Return of the Secaucus 7

    Return of the Secaucus 7 (1980)
    Sayles's directorial debut---about a group of old friends reuniting---is the kind of lovely, keenly observed psychodrama that should have launched a more robust commercial career. Sayles had to settle for the film becoming a huge (if unacknowledged) inspiration on The Big Chill.

  • Matewan

    Matewan (1987)
    A textbook example of this writer-director's commitment to dramatizing the political, Sayles's masterpiece depicts a real-life 1920 coal miners' strike beset by abusive company operatives. Enlivening and complicating the issues are Chris Cooper, Mary McDonnell and the mighty James Earl Jones.

  • Eight Men Out

    Eight Men Out (1988)
    The furthest thing from a pie-eyed baseball fantasy, this cynical drama concerns the 1919 Chicago "Black Sox," who intentionally lost the World Series in collaboration with gamblers. The scandal absorbs even the innocent, like John Cusack's third baseman Buck Weaver, whose career was ruined for not ratting out his team.

  • Lone Star

    Lone Star (1996)
    If Sayles ever flirted with the mainstream, it was in this Texas murder mystery, still his highest grosser. Director-favorite Chris Cooper plays a sheriff investigating the disappearance of the town's earlier lawman (Kris Kristofferson), whose remains open a can of worms among the townsfolk.

Return of the Secaucus 7

Return of the Secaucus 7 (1980)
Sayles's directorial debut---about a group of old friends reuniting---is the kind of lovely, keenly observed psychodrama that should have launched a more robust commercial career. Sayles had to settle for the film becoming a huge (if unacknowledged) inspiration on The Big Chill.

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