The 90s was the dawn of heavily usage of CGI in films, bloated budgets and digital sound in movie theaters. Batman Returns was the first film to include Dolby Digital in its soundtrack and Jurassic Park was the first film to have used DTS soundtrack. I saw those two films in theater and that’s when I fell in love with digital sound, I thought I was going to go deaf when the T-Rex roared in Jurassic Park, it was that loud and I love every second of it.
The 90s also gave us some great films so it was very difficult to just pick 10 from the decade. I won’t go into plot details of each film because I think people have seen most if not all of them.
Here are my top ten best films of the 90s, in no particular order:
1. Pulp Fiction (1994)
Tarantino’s second film after Reservoir Dogs and it was a masterpiece. To be honest, I first saw this film in theater and didn’t care for it. A year later when it came out on VHS, I rented it and was blown by it. I think I’ve watched this film at least 50 times and still waiting for it to come out on Blu-Ray.
2. Goodfellas (1990)
I saw this film a couple of years after it came out in theater and afterwards I was scared shitless of the mobsters. The first 40 minutes of this film was probably one of the best camera techniques I’ve ever witnessed on film, guess that’s what makes Scorsese so great. And oh yeah the rest of the film was pretty good too. This film didn’t win the best picture of the year was a travesty, I don’t know what the Oscar voters were thinking when they gave the best picture nod to Dances with Wolves. I wonder if the box office number has something to do with it, Goodfellas barely made $50mil while Dances with Wolves made close to $200 mil.
It didn’t win best picture was bad enough but when the Oscar voters gave the best directing effort to Kevin Costner instead of Scorsese, that was even more of a travesty. Don’t get me wrong, I thought Dances with Wolves was a good film but I don’t know how Costner won over Scorsese for directing. Yes some of you will probably remember that Costner was the golden boy back at that time, everything he touches back then turned to gold.
3. The Thin Red Line (1998)
I love everything about this film, from the amazing cinematography to the haunting music by Hans Zimmer. But nothing will top the way Malick directed this war epic as told from the point of view of the soldiers. Now I know that most people prefer Saving Private Ryan over this film and I won’t disagree with them because I thought both films were great but I just like this one better. I remember when Malick announced that he’s coming back to Hollywood and make a new film, seemed like every big name actors wanted to be in it. This was Malick’s first film since he directed Days of Heaven (one of my all-time favorite films), back in 1978.
Check out this clip of Roger Ebert and Martin Scorsese revealing their favorite films from the 90s. Why? Because the master Scorsese named The Thin Red Line as one of his favorite films from the decade too:
4. Heat (1995)
Michael Mann made three great films in the 90s, The Last of the Mohican, Heat and The Insider. I love all three but I have to go with Heat as the best one. To me Heat is timeless, I have it on Blu-ray and every time I watch it, it doesn’t feel like it’s from the mid-90s. One minor complaint I have with the film it’s a bit too long, a few scenes could’ve been cut out and it still would’ve been a great film. The theme music my Elliot Goldenthal is one of the best I’ve ever heard, can’t believe he’s the same person who composed Batman Forever and Batman & Robin, probably two of the worst comic book based films ever and the soundtrack by Goldenthal was equally awful. He came back and worked with Mann again in 2009’s Public Enemies.
A little known fact about the cast, Keanu Reeves was cast in the Val Kilmer’s role but dropped out the last minute to do Speed and Kilmer stepped in.
The trailer still gives me goose bumps:
5. Unforgiven (1992)
Clint Eastwood’s last western film and arguably was his best one, I know some will say that The Outlaw Josey Wales was better but I prefer this one. I feel that this film was in some ways a closure to the man with no name trilogy, not the awful Pale Rider. Gene Hackman won an Oscar for his role for the bad ass Little Bill and he truly deserved it. It also has great supporting roles by Morgan Freeman and Richard Harris.
6. Se7en (1995)
After the disastrous Alien 3, David Fincher was black listed by the Hollywood folks (read more about it here). He got all the blames for that film’s failure and it wasn’t even his fault. So when Arnold Koppleson was looking for a director for Se7en, most of the well known directors at the time all turned him down, they thought that Se7en will ruin their career. So Koppleson offered the job to Fincher and as they say the rest is history.
The film got rave reviews and was a box office hit and of course it catapulted Fincher into an A-list director. To those who’ve never seen the movie, I won’t say anything about it. Just see it and be amaze by it. Warning though, the film starts out dark and ends even darker.
Check out the trailer:
7. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
T2 was the first film I saw in 70mm screen, for those who don’t know what a 70mm screen is and wanted to know more about it, please read here. Basically it’s similar to IMAX today; films shot in 35mm were up-converted so it can be projected on the 70mm screen. I was blown away by the huge wide screen and the six channels surround sound. The film was the first to actually cost over $100mil to produce, seems like every film Cameron makes the budget gets higher and higher.
I can’t say enough how much I love this movie, I bought a VHS copy when it came out on home video, then when DVD took over, I bought the DVD . Then when Blu-ray came out, I bought the Blu-ray version. Unfortunately none of the home video releases captured what I saw in that big 70mm screen back in the summer of 1991.
8. Fargo (1996)
I didn’t see Fargo until probably 2004 or 2005, why? Well back in 1996 I was working at Video Update, remember them? They’re no longer in business anymore. Anyhoo, when Fargo came out on home video, our store only has four copies and people were mad that we didn’t have more in stock. Customers would yell at me and asked why the hell do we have 80 copies of Mission: Impossible but only 4 of Fargo? Well I told them, Mission Impossible made over $180 mil at box office and Fargo barely made $20 mil and they still yelled at me. Anyways, after dealing with angry customers daily back at the video store, I decided to not see Fargo because it reminded me of people yelling at me.
So in mid 2000s, I burrowed a DVD copy of Fargo from a friend and watched it. I automatically fell in love with the film and couldn’t believe I’ve waited so long to see it. The Coen Bros. captured everything right about MN, well maybe the accent was a bit overdone but every else was pitched perfect. The cold weather and the dark days of winter were there on the screen.
9. Carlito’s Way (1993)
This film came out in the fall of 1993 and somehow it was ignored by the audience and critics alike. Maybe people were sick of Pacino around this time, he’d just won an Oscar a year earlier and people were still mad at him for doing The Godfather Part 3, again I’m assuming here. Whatever the reasons were, they missed out on a great gangster flick, also starring Sean Penn as the sleazy lawyer who was unrecognizable in the role. In my opinion this is Brian De Palma’s best film, he hasn’t done any good film since.
The film has one of the best foot chase and shoot out scenes ever, trust me you’ll love that sequence when you see the movie. If you’ve never seen it, do yourself a favor and give it a rent, you won’t be disappointed.
10. Enemy of the States (1998)
I love this movie and have seen it countless times, it’s a throwback to the 70s espionage genre mixed in with 90s action style. They even brought in Gene Hackman to reprise his role from The Conversation, yeah I know it’s not official that he’s playing the same character but if you’ve seen the 1974 film then you know he’s playing the same person. To date this is Will Smith’s best film and Tony Scott’s last great action film.
A little history behind this film, it was supposed to star Tom Cruise, reuniting him with Jerry Bruckheimer and Tony Scott, they did Top Gun and Days of Thunder together. But Cruise was stuck doing Eyes Wide Shut he was committed to shooting M: I-2 right after so he couldn’t be in this movie. Will Smith was cast instead and it did a decent number at the box office.
Well those are my ten best films from the 90s. Agree or disagree? Let me know and feel free to list your own favorites from that era.