Welcome to the second act of my three part decades series – the top 10 movies of the 90’s.
The 90’s had many classics that have come to define the landscape of film history. With the success of the newly-founded summer blockbuster, studio executives began to invest more and more into mega-budget films. The average cost was now roughly 53 million dollars contrasting from the 18 million dollar budget average of the decade prior.
Addressing this matter Tim Dirks of FilmSite.org hits the nail on the head: “There still existed an imbalanced emphasis on the opening weekend, with incessant reports of weekly box-office returns, and puffed-up reviews and critics’ ratings. The belief was sustained that expensive, high-budget films with expensive special effects (including shoot ’em-ups, stereotypical chase scenes, and graphic orchestrated violence) meant quality. However, the independently-distributed film movement was also proving that it could compete (both commercially and critically) with Hollywood’s costly output.”
With this rise of studios like Miramax erupted production and distribution of some of the most remembered and influential films of all time sparking the birth of the indie film movement. For those of us that were children in this decade, we were blessed with the continuing nostalgia factor of 80’s film-making, but the rise of future of visual effects, CGI and the beauty & grit of Guerilla film-making became more prominent.
So without futher ado here is my list of my 10 favorite films of the 90’s.
***Forest Gump will not be on this list. I hate Forest Gump. Sorry in advance.***
Never before had we been so fully immersed in the horrors of warfare than in storming of Omaha Beach in my 10th favorite film of the 90’s. Steven Spielberg redefined what a war movie could be, and what we know about the brotherhood among the American infantry in World War II. While filming Saving Private Ryan, Spielberg and Director of Photography Janusz Kaminski utilized some of the most iconic and innovative camera techniques to date to create what can only be described as a masterpiece.
“Maybe saving Private Ryan is the one decent thing we did in this war.”
Stylized and eccentric beyond belief, The Fifth Element combines modern socio-political satire with religious dogma to create one of the wildest rides through the cosmos on a quest for love. While the surface plot and screenplay can leave something to be desired, Luc Besson, as always, has done his homework developing a rich and lush universe reminiscent of 80’s favorite Blade Runner. Let’s also not forget the fact that he introduced many of us to our new childhood crush with the birth of Leeloo.
“LeeLoo Dallas multi-pass!”
Redefining everything we thought we knew, and all of the rules when it comes to filming an action sequence, The Matrix comes into the fight at number 8. Drawing inspiration from the likes of Alice in Wonderland, Akira, Doctor Who, Ghost in the Shell and multiple world religions, the Wachowski siblings designed the most relevant and original battle against artificial intelligence since James Cameron’s Terminator series.
“Unfortunately, no one can be told what The Matrix is. You’ll have to see it for yourself.”
Bringing yet another iconic performance of his 90’s renaissance, Robin Williams is still to thank for the completion of Good Will Hunting. Sure, Matty and Ben stole the hearts of women everywhere, but they both credit Williams as being the driving force to their legacy and writing debut. This crisp and original coming-of-age film was what many of us needed.
“You’re not perfect, sport, and let me save you the suspense: this girl you’ve met, she’s not perfect either. But the question is whether or not you’re perfect for each other.”
Welcome back, Mr. Spielberg. Coming in at number 6 is the movie that changed my life… Jurassic Park. No matter where you are, what’s going on, or who you’re with when you hear the opening of John Williams’ epic score, you’re transported to the summer of 1993. I immediately remember who we played in baseball, end of season shaving cream fights and of course every one of our six trips to see Jurassic Park. Nostalgia reigns when Jurassic Park comes on.
“But John, if the Pirates of the Caribbean breaks down the pirates don’t eat the tourists.”
Behind, nearly, every “normal” American family, there is a troubling truth behind closed doors. At number 5 we have Sam Mendes’ one of a kind look into suburban America. American Beauty captures the perfect balance of the atrocities committed against one another ignored on a daily basis through the rat race of life, and the simple and subtle beauties that we overlook in the search for happiness. This movie shows us that all that we want is right in front of us, but we are simply too self involved to see it.
“It’s a great thing when you realize you still have the ability to surprise yourself. Makes you wonder what else you can do that you’ve forgotten about.”
Continuing with his trend of making sequels superior to their predecessor, James Cameron’s apocalyptic countdown Terminator 2: Judgment Day comes to us at number 4. This film boasts the birth of realistic CGI that still holds its worth against modern mega-films like Avatar. However, Cameron’s T2 was more than just big explosions and catch phrases. The innocence and dynamic between John Conner and his protector is what modern blockbusters tend to overlook today.
“We got Skynet by the balls now don’t we.”
A hurricane of anarchy, self-discovery, corporate defrauding and all around mayhem … David Fincher’s Fight Club comes in as my 3rd favorite movie of the 90’s. Featuring a perfect blend of two completely contrasting stories, while using corporate sponsorship to protest corporate America, Fincher created the sexiest (and most convoluted) chaotic film conceived. This coupled with the successful acting portfolios of Brad Pitt, Helena Bonham Carter and Ed Norton, Fight Club is easily their most deranged iconic roles…well…maybe not Norton (American History X), but certainly for Pitt and Carter. Pitt’s portrayal of Tyler Durden was a style and substance role model of my youth.
“You are not your fucking khakis.”
Sex, drugs and Rock-n-Roll. My number 2 film, Pulp Fiction, can only be described as Cool. Tarantino’s masterpiece oozes everything that we love about both American pop culture and its grimy underbelly… the violence, the sex, the drugs and most of all the freedom. As a pioneer of the art of “puzzle-storytelling”, Tarantino is able to build rich and vivid worlds through his one of a kind attention to detail and his use of natural conversation. As a master of this art, QT constructs deep and complex characters making us care for individuals that we would normally never associate ourselves with and worlds that seem as real as our own. It is through heavy use of these techniques that Tarantino brings us along for the ride in a more personal way than ever before.
“That’s a pretty fucking good milkshake. I don’t know if it was worth five dollars but that’s pretty fucking good.”
For this post, I decided to re-watch The Shawshank Redemption from start to finish for the first time in a very, very long time. The ending coupled with the final monologue/narration by Morgan Freeman was the most emotionally moving piece of cinema that I’ve ever experienced. It’s incredible. Even knowing everything, having seen the movie, having studied the movie… seeing it now in its entirety far removed from when I first experienced it was riveting.
Director Frank Darabont captured lightening in a bottle the way few ever do showing us what it is to be human. Admittedly, I originally had this film at number three, but it got moved to number one after my re-watch. What the hell was the Academy thinking when they chose Forrest Gump as best picture over this masterpiece? I can only hope that they regret their decision.
“Remember Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”
Honorable Mention: The Big Lebowski, Reservoir Dogs, Mallrats, He Got Game, 12 Monkeys, Princess Mononoke
If you missed Act I of the 80’s, feel free to read it here: http://bit.ly/2jDHH1B.