100 Favorite Films To Recommend Part 8: The 1990s

Luis A. Mendez

Luis A. Mendez

Published Author Of Both Fiction And Non-Fiction, Passionate Cinephile, And Psephology Enthusiast

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40 Responses

  1. Avatar Kazzy
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    No mention of Jurassic Park? Maybe it is because I was 10 when it came out, but that seems like a pretty seminal movie for this time period. Not just because it was fun and awesome and whatever, but it seemed to really change the game and set the bar for visual effects. A major life regret is not seeing this movie in theaters, but the power of the scene when the team first sees the dinos still gives me tingles. There are a number of fantastic scenes and it shows what can be done when you have elite talents in so many phases of the film (directing, music, effects).Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Kazzy
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      What’s most amusing to me about JP is how everyone talks about the CGI and then points to sock puppets and rubber costumes as examples…

      this is not to detract from the FX achievements, it’s to point out how this kicked off a “CGI in EVERYTHING” boom based on people thinking that the wrong things were CGI!Report

  2. Avatar Kristin Devine
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    Wow this is the first list of yours where I really strongly disagree with some of your choices. (I get that it’s a list of faves so I don’t mean “disagree”, just that I don’t think some of these movies are worthy of you LOL)

    IMO Independence Day ruined movies for the next 25 years and we’re only just now coming out of it.Report

    • Avatar Slade the Leveller in reply to Kristin Devine
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      From what I can infer, this is the decade when the writer first experienced films in real time. Naturally, they’re going to gravitate to more kid stuff.

      That said, I was a little surprised at first by the lightweight material, until I had that epiphany.Report

  3. Avatar Michael Cain
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    Good to see Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin on the list. It was a real joy when Disney rediscovered animated musicals, something they’ve pretty much always done better than anyone else.Report

  4. Avatar gabriel conroy
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    I really liked Pulp Fiction and Before Sunrise. I might have added to the list Dumb and Dumber (though I think it conflicts with Pulp Fiction…I’m too lazy to look up the year). It’s not a “good” movie by almost any definition good, but I loved it.

    I’m sure The Nightmare Before Christmas is a fine film, but I just can’t bring myself to watch it.

    Green Mile is one of those movies I re-watch every once in a while.Report

  5. Avatar Chas M
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    ‘The Big Lebowski” came out in 1998, the year your second pick after ‘The Prince of Egypt’ is ‘Mulan’. I think many readers may find your devotion to animated films a little excessive.Report

  6. Avatar Slade the Leveller
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    My list:

    1990 – The Freshman A great running gag about how much Marlon Brando’s character looks like Marlon Brando.

    1991 – Terminator 2: Judgment Day Who doesn’t love a good Ahnold romp?

    1992 – Glengarry Glen Ross As dark a film as you’ll ever see.

    1993 – Grumpy Old Men The last great Lemmon/Matthau film. Burgess Meredith is great in a supporting role.

    1994 – Crooklyn A sweet tale from Spike Lee.

    1995 – Get Shorty Dennis Farina making some brilliant threats.

    1996 – Trainspotting Based on the wonderful Irvine Welsh novel.

    1997 – The Fifth Element Bruce Willis is a good actor. Gary Oldman is a great actor.

    1998 – Saving Private Ryan There are not enough good things to say about this movie.

    1999 – The Matrix The Wachowski Bros. (at the time) paint a horrific picture of the future. Hugo Weaving steals the show. Brilliant, ground breaking special effects.Report

  7. Avatar Chas M
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    Some great great films durting the 90’s, and so many years with tough calls on my faves.
    1990: Goodfellas; 1991: Silence of the Lambs; 1992: Army of Darkness; 1993: Groundhog Day; 1994: Pulp Fiction; 1995: Toy Story; 1996: Fargo; 1997: The Fifth Element; 1998: The Big Lebowski; 1999: Tie – The Matrix and Office SpaceReport

  8. Avatar Slade the Leveller
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    I was going through the lists of ’90s films in Wikipedia, and I was taken aback by how easy it was to pick a favorite from most years. That decade was a little lackluster in terms of filmmaking.Report

    • Avatar InMD in reply to Slade the Leveller
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      In retrospect I would call the decade the zenith of the event-blockbuster movie. The result is a lot of stuff that was cutting edge for its time but hasn’t held up very well for a host of reasons.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to InMD
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        Which ones do you feel don’t hold up?Report

        • Avatar InMD in reply to Kazzy
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          From the list or more generally?Report

          • Avatar Kazzy in reply to InMD
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            More generally. Curious to hear more on your perspective.Report

            • Avatar InMD in reply to Kazzy
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              It’d probably take my own essay to get into it with any depth and of course there are exceptions (I’d cosign most of Slade’s list as cream of the crop). Here are some things that I think illustrate the weakness I associate with the decade:

              -Really high end production value including consistently good cinematography, really cheap emotional resonance. You could put basically anything with or involving Kevin Costner at the beginning of the decade in this category and Titanic at the end. Tombstone suffers from this somewhat as well as the Batman sequels. Like try to watch some of these now with a straight face but remember how huge they were.

              -Everything wants to be Terminator 2 but not every director has the talent of James Cameron or willingness to take a hard R rating. From this list Independence Day is a great example but you also see it in the first run of Jurassic Park sequels. Before we had super hero franchises (which I’m no fan of either) we had the truly perfected blockbuster of the 90s as marketing machine around mostly so-so concepts.

              -Tarantino imitations, so many Tarantino imitations. Granted I think the only Tarantino movie that really transcends his schtick is Jackie Brown, probably because it’s based on a book not something he wrote.

              This is all just my opinion and there are plenty of movies I like from the 90s and plenty of crap from other decades. I’m sure you could also come up with plenty of indie fare that doesn’t have these issue. I don’t think it’s one of the important ones for the art (especially compared to the 50s or 70s).Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to InMD
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                This makes sense and I think why I was so curious to hear your points here was because, as someone who was largely a child of the 90s (born in 1983), I simply didn’t really have that experience with these films. But I saw most of them during a different stage in life (unless of course, I’m misremembering/making wrong assumptions about your age) and they “mean” something different as a result. If I reflect back on these movies thinking through this lens, I can see your point. It’s just not where I go instinctively when I watch/think of them. Thanks!Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Kazzy
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                Yeah, I was thinking as I read this particular list “I saw most of these in the theater!”

                The list from the 80’s had but three: Raiders, Ferris, and Batman. Now, I did see others on the 80’s list… but on HBO or TBS or from Blockbuster.

                This was the first list that entirely took place during a period in which I had a car and a job.

                So I look at these movies and think about the theaters, many since closed, where I saw these.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Jaybird
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                How old are you, JB?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Kazzy
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                Lemme check.

                That can’t be right.

                It says “47ish”.Report

              • Avatar InMD in reply to Kazzy
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                Nah me and you are close in age and we probably experienced the decade mostly the same way. My dad is a huge cinephile so maybe I ended up being exposed to more than usual including some more adult fare through my childhood. I was also kind of a latchkey kid and am considerably older than my brothers. Between my parents working and the distractions of younger children my viewing wasn’t policed at all, either at home or at friends houses.

                I’m also happy to sit and watch pretty much anything no matter how weird or bad as long as I haven’t seen it before. I end up re-seeing things as an adult or things I haven’t seen but have vague memories of the preview on a blockbuster tape. I’m sure others could give a much more nuanced take with more personal perspective but I’m pretty confident nothing came out in the 90s that will be considered seminal in the way something like The Searchers is.Report

    • Avatar Pinky in reply to Slade the Leveller
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      I looked over some movies sites while awaiting this article, and I couldn’t find anything for 1991. (Note: I’ve never seen Silence of the Lambs.) L.A. Story has good moments but isn’t a good movie. The Doors features one great portrayal, but the movie doesn’t go anywhere. The Commitments is a great soundtrack. Barton Fink is the Coen Brothers at their most navel-gazing, and John Goodman knocks it out of the park, but of course he does.Report

  9. Avatar Mike Schilling
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    But then came this film based on the real-life rise and fall of Henry Hill,

    Quibble: It’s based on the stories Henry Hill told about his life, and Hill was a born liar.

    Great film, though. Also a good book.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Mike Schilling
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      But 1990 is an impossible choice between Goodfellas and Miller’s Crossing, one of my all-time favorite gangster films. The Coens start with Hammett’s The Glass Key, about the friendship between a gambler and a gangster/political boss, and turn it up to 11.Report

      • Avatar Pinky in reply to Mike Schilling
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        I don’t think either film was successful storytelling, though. Goodfellas mirrored the state of mind of the protagonist, which was sloppy and coke-addled in the last quarter. I understand what it was going for, but it didn’t carry the narrative through the way, say, De Palma’s Scarface did. I almost love Miller’s Crossing, and there was one time I actually think I understood the story for a few minutes, but that was after a few watchings and I might have been mistaken.

        The Coen Brothers’ cinematographer / director of photography, Roger Deakins, also did The Shawshank Redemption, Dead Man Walking, A Beautiful Mind, and The Village. I think maybe a lot of Hollywood directors have ridden his coattails to success. The same might be true of Scorsese’s guy Michael Balhaus, who also did Air Force One, Quiz Show, and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (remember those beautiful outdoor shots?).Report

  10. Avatar Mike Schilling
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    says:

    Coincidentally, I watched The Black Cauldron for the first time last night. It’s not underrated; it’s awful. Though it might take someone who grew up with the Prydain books to appreciate how thoroughly they removed everything that made them great before mixing in generic teenaged hero, personality-free Disney princess, and look-at-how-evil-I-am villain to create a film with no strengths.Report

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