Must-see movies of the 90s, from “Goodfellas” to “The Truman Show”
After tackling the essential films of the 1980s – and defining the criteria for those selections – the pivot to the 1990s seemed like a relative breeze.
Ultimately, however, the varied nature of the films this decade and the number of films that could serve roughly the same purpose made it particularly difficult to narrow the list down to 10.
Cheating a bit, the final picks combined a few movies that seemed to illustrate the same point: “Schindler’s List” and “Saving Private Ryan,” Steven Spielberg’s two heartbreaking WWII journeys, focusing 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 the Mickey Mouse empire.
After that, you won’t get a lot of arguments here from those asking about “The Usual Suspects”, “Pulp Fiction”, “The Sixth Sense”, “The Matrix”, “The Last of the Mohicans” , “Groundhog Day,” “Defending Your Life,” “Dazed and Confused,” or “The Big Lebowski,” although at least in the latter case the dude will hopefully comply.
For the reasons outlined below, however, here are ‘the gist’ of the ’90s, again presented in (mostly) chronological order:
Joe Pesci in “Goodfellas”
Director Martin Scorsese was at the peak of his talents in this bloody tale based on the true story of Henry Hill, featuring iconic performances by Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci.
Anthony Hopkins in “The Silence of the Lambs”
Anthony Hopkins turned Hannibal Lecter into a nightmare, 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’s book to an Oscar winner. which spawned several much less. tasty sequels and prequels.
Cuba Gooding Jr., Laurence Fishburne, Ice Cube in “Boyz n the Hood”
John Singleton’s groundbreaking film presented a thought-provoking take on gangs, drugs and friendship, which its then 23-year-old director described as a cinematic version of the alarms set off by rap groups over the conditions encountered. in south-central Los Angeles and similar communities.
It might have been a tale as old as time, but “Beauty and the Beast” marked the peak of Disney’s animated musicals and won the first Best Picture nomination for that genre. “Toy Story,” meanwhile, kicked off a quarter of a century of Pixar films defined by a level of consistency and quality that has brought families together in an increasingly rare way.
‘Save Private Ryan’
Spielberg’s WWII films can be viewed in concert, as the director channeled his skills as a blockbuster director into a flawless look at a heart-wrenching chapter in history. Each could earn their own slot, although if the pressure were to push “Schindler” is the one to keep, while “Private Ryan” – visceral as he is – stumbles a bit with his ending.
“The Redemption of Shawshank”
“Busy Live or Die” is just one of the quoted lines from Frank Darabont’s adaptation of Stephen King’s prison story, anchored by Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman. Notably, it was a film that only gradually received the appreciation it deserved, appearing to play in perpetual loop on cable, which, among other things, actually inspired people to turn “shawshank” into. an adjective and a verb.
Frances McDormand in “Fargo”
Nothing captures the Coen Brothers’ unique niche better than this violent and disarming version of a staged kidnapping that went very, very badly, with a stellar cast led by Frances McDormand, William H. Macy, and Steve Buscemi.
Kim Basinger and Guy Pearce in “LA Confidential”
Beautifully adapting James Ellroy’s novel, 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, almost any other year, should have been a winner for Best Picture, alas, collided with “Titanic.”
Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet in “Titanic”
The huge commercial success shouldn’t mask the epic achievement of director James Cameron, mixing the down-to-earth romance between Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet with a jaw-dropping show, set to music by James Horner and Celine Dion who continued, and so on. .
Jim Carrey in “The Truman Show”
Perhaps not the best movie of the ’90s, but perhaps the most prescient about anticipating the excesses of reality TV and media, with Jim Carrey’s wonderfully low-key performance as the poor guy who doesn’t know all about it. his life is a made for television show.