Top Ten Films of the 90s – by Ted Saydalavong

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Love90sThe 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.


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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.

Question of the Week: What’s your favorite sophomore directorial films?

Since I just posted a review of Ralph Fiennes’ second film that he directed, The Invisible Woman, I thought I’d turn the focus on other sophomore directorial efforts over the years.

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Interestingly, as I was working on this post, I came across this article that talks about the slump of directorial sophomore efforts in 2013. The article argues that a lot of the second films released this year didn’t live up to the director’s debut. The first thing that came to mind for me was Neill Blomkamp’s Elysium, which I thought was just ok, but a downgrade from the excellent District 9. On that list, the writer listed some less-than-stellar second films, but one thing that surely is even better than his first (The Company Men, which I actually like) is John Well’s August, Osage County. Another sophomore film that’s released this year is Oblivion, now I think the sci-fi actioner slightly better than Joseph Kosinski’s sleek–but–disappointing debut TRON: Legacy.

Now, over the years, there have been a ton of great sophomore films that not only beat the director’s first film, but has become a classic in its respective genres. Many of the films pictured above fit that category, some have become my personal favorites. It astounds me what those filmmakers have achieved with their second film, as the level of proficiency makes it seem as though these directors have been making movies for years! Some of these films also launched the filmmakers’ career, proving that they’re a force to be reckoned with. In fact, the likes of Tarantino, Fincher, Cameron, Nolan, etc. have now become cinematic icons in their own right. Now, I don’t know much about sophomore efforts from classic directors, so perhaps you can enlighten me of some of those I should check out?


So folks, I’d love to know which sophomore directorial films are YOUR favorites? Surely you have more than one, so feel free to make a list if you’re so inclined.

Guest Post: Ted ranks his favorite Quentin Tarantino films

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[rtm’s note: With the recent casting of Jamie Foxx in Tarantino’s upcoming film Django Unchained, Ted looks back on some of his favorite films from the Tennessee-born director. Also check out Ted’s review of Django Unchained script.]

QT is one of my favorite directors working in Hollywood today and yes I do think he’s a hack but he’s a damn good hack. He’s able to combine his favorite genre films from the 60s and 70s and put in own spin on them. With the news that he’s going to make a western, I thought I should list my favorite films of his. I’ll only list films that he was the sole director, I’m not going to list films or TV shows that he co-directed, co-wrote or starred in. Also, I won’t go into the plot of each film since readers of this site probably know QT’s films pretty well. In order, below are the films:

1. Pulp Fiction
I actually didn’t care for this film the first time I saw it. I thought it was weird and well just plain sucked. So a couple of years later, I decided to give it another shot since it got nominated for so many Oscars. I was surprised how much I enjoyed it the second time around and it’s now one of the few films I’d call a masterpiece. I have seen this film countless times now and I’m still waiting for it to come out on Blu-ray. Highly recommended if you’ve never seen it.


2. Inglourious Basterds
Tarantino spent over ten years writing the script of this film and I think it was well worth it. I love this movie, all the performances were great, especially Christoph Waltz as the sinister Col. Landa. QT said when he first wrote the script, he wanted to cast big named stars in the movie. He wanted Sly Stallone as the Basterds leader then Jim Carrey, Eddie Murphy, Bruce Willis and Adam Sandler will play the Basterds. He wanted Arnold Schwarzenegger as Landa and the film was going to be more action oriented. Of course around this time, those actors were still making $20mil per movie so he figured there’s no way he can cast them all so he decided to re-write it. When he finally was ready to shoot the movie, he met with Leo DiCaprio and offered him the Landa role but Leo told him to cast an actual German for the role instead. We have to thank Leo for that suggestion.


3. Kill Bill
I know there are two films but I count them as one because originally the film was supposed to be released as one movie.  After The Weinstein Bros. saw the film, they told QT to cut it into two so they could make more money from it. Great move since both films earned around $70mil each, had they released it as one, they’d only make $70mil. QT’s take on the kung-fu and spaghetti western was just awesome; he even played homage to Bruce Lee’s Game of Death and Sergio Leone’s For A Few Dollars More.

I thought Uma Thurman got robbed for not getting an Oscar nomination for her role as The Bride. A little tidbit about the second film’s ending, in the script there’s a big fight scene between The Bride and Bill. The scene would’ve taken place right after their conversation near the end of the film. The fight was going to be on the beach and Bill’s demise was quite brutal, I think that’s a correct word for it. Rumors been going around that QT actually shot the scene but he didn’t like it and decided to not use it. Of course he never confirmed or denied those rumors. So hopefully we’ll get to see it in the near future.

4. Reservoir Dogs
I didn’t see this film until after I saw Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown, by then I was in the QT fan club and wanted to see all of his work. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started watching this film but was quite surprised of how much I enjoyed it. The film has very intense torture scene, I still having a hard time sitting through it even if I watch it today. But I thought the way the scene ended was quite ingenious; I definitely didn’t see it coming.

5. Jackie Brown
QT’s take on the Blaxploitation genre was very good but it wasn’t well received by the critics or audiences. I think many people were expecting another version of Pulp Fiction even though he kept telling people that isn’t. I remember a guy I used to work with at a video store, he was so excited to see this movie and I kept telling him it won’t be like Pulp Fiction and he said he knew that going in. Well after he saw it, he told me it sucked because it wasn’t anything like Pulp Fiction. I thought it was funny and just laughed at him. I’ve only seen this movie once; it’s definitely one of my least favorite films of QT. I’ll see it again once it comes out on Blu-ray.

6. Death Proof (part of Grindhouse)
I enjoyed this film but can’t say it’s good because the film was pointless and didn’t have any plot whatsoever. Going into this film, I expected to see his version of Halloween or Friday the 13th, but what I got was a movie about pretty girls talking nonsense and they kept talking and talking and talking. Although I thought the chase scene at end was awesome and the little twist was pretty cool too. I can’t recommend the film to anyone unless you’re a huge die-hard fan of QT like I am.


Well those are my ranking of QT’s films, from best to worst. What do you think? If you’re a fan of QT, how would you rank his films?