11 MOST BRILLIANT FILMS FROM THE 1990s
The superb ’90s was chockfull of great films. We, the people growing up during that amazing decade, had the good fortune to see some classic films and the rise of many superstars in the industry who continue to rock our world, including Brad Pitt, Guy Richie, and Johnny Depp, and witness the birth of the modern American indie film movement, led by Steven Soderbergh and Richard Linklater.
Of course many of you will be disappointed that your favorite movie may have not made the cut, but narrowing down a list to just eleven films from such an artistic and productive decade wasn’t easy. So what follows is a very unscientific and probably biased list of what we here at TCmag consider the best movies of the 1990s.
Written By @TheodorosII For TCmag
THE USUAL SUSPECTS
This amazing film managed to shock and surprise even the most hard-core movie fans with its twisted ending, although it was based on a very simple story. One of only two survivors of a ship explosion (Kevin Spacey) tells a story to the police detective in charge of the case about how five career criminals—the “usual suspects”—met in a lineup and wound up working for the man whose name strikes terror into the hearts of men—Keyser Soze. The greatest trick the devil ever played was convincing the world he didn’t exist. . . . And then he’s gone.
THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS
The Silence of the Lambs, having accomplished the rare feat of winning all five of the major Academy Awards, is a remarkable achievement in filmmaking. Gruesome, pulpish material was transformed by dedicated participants at all levels of production, and a film that would have failed in the hands of many others wound up becoming a modern masterpiece. Taut direction and a superb screenplay might be the best arguments for the film’s power, but the flashiest are certainly delivered in the bravura performances of Hopkins and Foster. Their interplay—and remember, they only share a handful of scenes together—is nothing short of riveting.
LEON THE PROFESSIONAL
This is arguably one of the best action movies in history and easily the best Luc Besson ever made. Keep in mind that this is the film that MADE Natalie Portman the star she is today, established Jean Reno as a Hollywood star, and allowed us to enjoy one of the greatest performances of the ’90s; we are of course referring to Gary Oldman’s “crazy cop” role. This movie is undoubtedly a treasure of action and drama; so go watch it if you haven’t already.
Trainspotting is very gritty and dirty, just like the UK in the ‘90s. At the same time it’s a very smart movie, focusing on hard subjects in a very peculiar way, which makes it both entertaining and disturbing. The film has great writing, camera angles, photography, art direction, and it is very well directed. Its subject matter may be disturbing most of the times, but this was the plain truth when it came to wild youth, drugs, parties, and violence. Unarguably the very best film Danny Boyle ever made.
Goodfellas may be the most important film of the 1990s for the simple fact that its incredible success led to some of the other great movies of the decade. Films like The Silence of the Lambs, The Crying Game, Pulp Fiction, The Usual Suspects, and L.A. Confidential would have likely never been made as well as they were without the influence of Scorsese’s critical masterpiece. The film is an intense study of a Mafia family over a thirty-year stretch. This is probably the definitive film in a decade that produced many film noir-style classics.
LOCK, STOCK AND TWO SMOKING BARRELS
Guy Ritchie's hip, highly stylized Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels is a truly remarkable film, not only for its appropriately pyrotechnic camera work, but also for its seemingly flawless, puzzle-perfect screenplay. While the picture’s main focus is on a group of dudes who invest money in a high-stakes, rigged card game and lose, the broader story concerns approximately eight different groups of criminals whose paths cross during various illegal pursuits involving money, guns, drugs, even revenge.
Simply put, London never looked so “ghetto” in a film before Ritchie went to work on it.
THE SIXTH SENSE
This film was perhaps the most pleasant surprise of the decade. The reasons are too numerous to go into in such a brief critique. Surely there were many films that could take you through the same range of emotions that The Sixth Sense does. The primal emotion of fear is a difficult one to generate in a modern audience that has seen it all before and then some, but this film succeeds where others fail, preying on your imagination and generating suspense from subtle devices rather than blatant horror.
RUN LOLA RUN
This is one of those rare cinematic events that is entertaining, satisfying, and absorbing, as well as flawlessly acted, staged, edited, produced, and directed. The concept is simple but the result is magical. How do our actions affect our lives, as well as those whom we touch? What part do chance and random events play in determining an outcome? Can we select a different result by making different choices? In short, what is reality? Well, maybe it isn't all that simple, but while others have plowed these same fertile fields, no film has dealt with such cosmic existential questions with more brilliant originality, fast-paced action, and a pulsing score than this German masterpiece.
In a compact ninety minutes, combining snips of animation, cinema verité, quirky characters, situations, and dialogue, and a pace that makes most music videos look like they’ve been filmed in slow motion, three versions of the same story sequence unfold, and each time conclude with a jolting finish that defies convention and keeps the viewer guessing until the final frame.
You walk into this film not knowing what the Matrix is. You take your seat and watch the trailers. The green Warner Brothers trademark comes up, and without warning you are thrust into the Wachowski brothers’ grand vision. Two hours of excitement later, you stumble out of the theater knowing what the Matrix is. This is one great movie in which Keanu Reeves finally portrays a cool character, Neo. The Wachowski brothers’ skillful direction is brilliant, while the special effects sequences will blow you away. The film starts off with a “what is real?” first half, and then the first kung-fu sequence makes way for an action-packed, John Wooesque second half full of slow-motion moments and style cranked all the way to the top.
As you’ve probably noticed I still haven’t revealed what the Matrix is in case some members of the younger generation haven’t seen the film yet. Like the trailer says,
“You have to see it for yourself.”
The sinking of the Titanic is actually quite interesting, as anyone who has read a well-written account of the event can tell you. This film tosses away that story and replaces it with a cornball young adult love story that makes you want to puke, all the while slandering historical figures and some others unfortunate enough to be a target of Cameron’s biases. You’re probably asking why it’s included on this list, right? Well, simply because this was the first time Cameron managed to deceive millions of people around the world to make him a few millions richer. The second time was with those blue people a few years ago—can you say Na’vis?
Pulp Fiction is amazing from the beginning definition of pulp to the end credits and boasts one of the best casts ever assembled (in the ’90s) with Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, John Travolta, Uma Thurman, Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, and Christopher Walken. The dialogue is surprisingly humorous for this type of film, and I think that’s what has made it so successful. Wrongfully denied the many Oscars it was nominated for, Pulp Fiction is one of the best films of the decade and no Tarantino film has surpassed it in quality.