Must-see movies of the 90s, from ‘Goodfellas’ to ‘The Truman Show’



After touching on the essential films of the 1980s — and laying out the criteria for these selections — pivoting to the 1990s seemed like a relative breeze.

Ultimately, however, the varied nature of films from this decade and the number of films that could serve roughly the same purpose made it particularly difficult to narrow down the list to about 10.

Cheating a bit, the final choices combined a few movies that seemed to illustrate the same point: “Schindler’s List” and “Saving Private Ryan,” Steven Spielberg’s twin harrowing journeys in World War II, focused on the Holocaust and D-Day; and “Beauty and the Beast” and “Toy Story,” which ushered in the golden age of modern animation for Disney and Pixar, respectively, before the latter became part of Mickey Mouse’s empire.

After that, you won’t get much argument here from those asking about “The Usual Suspects”, “Pulp Fiction”, “The Sixth Sense”, “The Matrix”, “Last of the Mohicans” , “Groundhog Day”, “Defending Your Life”, “Dazed and Confused” or “The Big Lebowski”, although at least in the latter case the guy will hopefully comply.

For the reasons described below, however, here are the “essentials” of the 90s, again presented in (mostly) chronological order:

Director Martin Scorsese was at the peak of his talents in this gory mob tale based on the true story of Henry Hill, with iconic performances from Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci.

Anthony Hopkins in

Anthony Hopkins turned Hannibal Lecter into nightmares, but it was his cat-and-mouse game with the young FBI agent played by Jodie Foster that elevated director Jonathan Demme’s adaptation of Thomas Harris’ book into a winner. an Oscar that spawned far fewer. tasty sequels and prequels.

Cuba Gooding Jr., Laurence Fishburne, Ice Cube in

John Singleton’s groundbreaking film presented a sobering take on gangs, drugs and friendship, which its then 23-year-old director described as a cinematic version of the alarms raised by rap groups over conditions encountered in South Central Los Angeles and similar communities.

'toy story'

It may have been a tale as old as time, but “Beauty and the Beast” marked the pinnacle of Disney animated musicals and earned the genre’s first Best Picture nomination. “Toy Story,” meanwhile, launched a quarter century of Pixar films defined by a level of consistency and quality that brought families together in ways that are increasingly rare.

'Saving Private Ryan'

Spielberg’s WWII films can be viewed together, as the director channeled his blockbuster directing skills into unflinching looks at a harrowing chapter in history. Each could earn their own spot, though if things get rough, ‘Schindler’ is the one to keep, while ‘Private Ryan’ – as visceral as it is – stumbles a bit with its ending.

“Busy living or busy dying” is just one of the quotes from Frank Darabont’s adaptation of this Stephen King prison story, anchored by Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman. Notably, it was a film that only gradually received the appreciation it deserved, seeming to play on a perpetual loop on cable, which, among other things, actually inspired people to turn “shawshank” into a adjective and a verb.

Frances McDormand in

Nothing captures the Coen Brothers’ unique niche better than this comically disarmingly violent version of a staged kidnapping gone very, very wrong, with a stellar cast led by Frances McDormand, William H. Macy and Steve Buscemi.

Kim Basinger and Guy Pearce in

Adapting James Ellroy’s novel beautifully, director Curtis Hanson captured police corruption in the 1950s, winning an Oscar for Kim Basinger and launching the careers of Russell Crowe and Guy Pearce. What in almost any other year should have been a Best Picture winner, alas, collided with “Titanic.”

Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet in

The huge commercial success shouldn’t overshadow director James Cameron’s epic feat, blending the romance between Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet with a jaw-dropping spectacle, set to music by James Horner and Celine Dion that went on and on.

Jim Carrey in

Perhaps not the best film of the 90s, but perhaps the most prescient in anticipating the excesses of reality TV and the media, with Jim Carrey’s wonderfully understated performance as the poor guy who doesn’t know that his whole life is made for television. spectacle.

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