100 Best Films of the 90s – Part 3 (#80-#71)

The 90s was one of my favorite decades for film, with the emergence of Quentin Tarantino, Richard Linklater, David Fincher, John Singleton, Paul Thomas Anderson and other less famous artists. It was a Renaissance for crime dramas as well, all seeming to stem from the success of GoodFellas and Pulp Fiction, and veteran blockbuster filmmaker Steven Spielberg proved to be one of the best directors of not just action, but high drama with his incredible work on Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan.

This was also a great decade for raw, in-your-fucking-face documentaries with the sad but hopeful Hoop Dreams and the absolutely devastating Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills, not to mention Jennie Livingston‘s thrilling, hilarious and extremely emotional look at NYC drag queen balls, Paris is Burning.

I’ve seen roughly 800 films from this decade, but here are my top 100, continuing with #80-#71. These will be weekly installments every Wednesday throughout the summer.

80. Point Break

1991 / USA / dir. Kathryn Bigelow / 122 minutes

Stupid, ridiculous and a totally mindless good time, Point Break is elevated by the deft action directing skills of filmmaker Kathryn Bigelow. It also features maybe the ultimate Keanu Reeves-y Keanu Reeves performance and a dependably cool, calm and collected Patrick Swayze as star-crossed besties, cat and mousing each other at every turn. (Streaming on HBOMAX)

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79. The Birdcage

1996 / USA / dir. Mike Nichols / 117 minutes

Nathan Lane should have received an Oscar nomination for his hilarious and heartfelt portrayal that walks the thin line between camp and stereotype. This is a wonderfully entertaining and funny feel-good movie with a positive message about accepting yourself and the healing powers of drag. Fun note, the guy that plays Robin Williams‘ son (Dan Futterman) went on to write the movie Capote. ($3.99 rental on Amazon)

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78. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm

1993 / USA / dir. Bruce Timm, Eric Radomski / 76 minutes

I’m a huge fan of Batman: The Animated Series and this is pretty much just an extended three parter episode they released in theaters. But, what an episode it is! A fantastic mystery draped over an emotionally moving story that’s gorgeously captured in their signature art deco animation style. This remains of the best Batman movies ever to grace the silver screen, and it’s animated. (Streaming on HBOMAX)

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77. Misery

1990 / USA / dir. Rob Reiner / 107 minutes

Kathy Bates gets all the credit for this Stephen King early 90s sleeper, but while she is indeed the finest element of the production, there’s a lot more to love here. This is a fantastically paced thriller that takes the time to develop its characters before throwing them into a chaotic meat grinder of ass numbing tension. James Caan is perfectly relatable as the audience’s window into the story and Kathy Bates creates one of the most iconic movie monsters of all time. She’s angry, violent, irrational, but she’s never scarier than when she’s nice. Watching her dote over James Caan moments after viciously abusing him, like nothing ever happened, is just pure nightmare fuel. (Streaming HBOMAX)

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76. Speed

1994 / USA / dir. Jan de Bont / 116 minutes

Pop quiz, hot shot! What’s one of the most balls-to-the-walls, entertaining 90s action movies that holds up to endless repeat viewings? Jan de Bont‘s Speed of course, a high-octane thrill ride that never stops being a fun time because it wisely never crosses over into nihilism territory. Commendable feat for a movie about a disgruntled terrorist who rigs a public bus to explode if it ever slows down. The performances are all lovingly over-the-top with a never better Sandra Bullock, but the film’s secret weapon might be the screenplay by Graham Yost, who would go on to create FX’s Justified a decade and a half later. (Streaming on HBOMAX)

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75. Dumb & Dumber

1994 / USA / dir. Peter Farrelly / 107 minutes

It’s a shame the Academy would never even consider considering Jeff Daniels‘ crowning jewel of a comedic performance as Harry Dunne in Dumb & Dumber, the best and funniest movie the Farrelly Brothers have ever made. This is stupid done smart, and after all these years can still make me belly laugh. (Streaming on HBOMAX)

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74. Big Night

1996 / USA / dir. Stanley Tucci, Campbell Scott / 107 minutes

If there’s been a better movie about food and joys of cooking, I’ve never seen it. Stanley Tucci and Campbell Scott‘s darling little indie comedy about two bickering brothers (Tucci, Tony Shalhoub), who own a struggling Italian restaurant in the 1950s, might not be packed with belly laughs, but it more than makes up for it with charm and likeable, but never inauthentic, characters. Isabella Rossellini, Minnie Driver, Allison Janney, Marc Anthony, an intimidating Ian Holm and a very young Liev Schrieber round out the cast. (Streaming on Amazon Prime and Paramount+)

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73. Face/Off

1997 / USA / dir. John Woo / 135 minutes

There’s three great comedies in this section of my list, but perhaps none make me laugh as hard as John Woo‘s hyperactive catapult into utter insanity that is Face/Off. For 135 minutes, it never lets up and we’re treated to gloriously over-the-top but brilliantly staged action and some of the most bizarre acting choices ever known to man. It’s basically John Travolta doing a Nicolas Cage impression and Nicolas Cage doing a Nicolas Cage impression for well over two hours. It’s glorious. (Streaming on Amazon Prime)

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72. La Haine

1995 / France / dir. Matthieu Kassovitz / 98 minutes

Powerful and extremely relevant first film from actor turned filmmaker Matthieu Kassovitz (Amelie, Munich) about the police brutality protests in France. Following three teenagers from diverse cultural background – Vinz (Vincent Cassell), Hubert (Hubert Kounde) and Said (Said Taghmaoui) – as they struggle to get by on the streets. Trigger warnings in full effect for its unflinching depiction of police brutality, but what keeps us from retreating from all of the horrible imagery is the strength and relatability of our three protagonists. ($3.99 Rental on Amazon)

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71. Glengarry Glen Ross

1992 / USA / dir. James Foley / 100 minutes

Do you like men screaming? Well, I got the movie for you. Based on David Mamet‘s popular stage production, Glengarry Glen Ross is an extremely shouty tale about a group of desperate and in most cases, sociopathic, real estate salesmen trying to close deals to save their job. They only have one night, so you know the f-word is gonna fly. Featuring an all star cast including Al Pacino, Ed Harris, Alec Baldwin, Kevin Spacey, Alan Arkin and a riveting Jack Lemmon, Glengarry Glen Ross is worth watching for the masterclass in film acting alone. (Watch Now with Sling!)

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The List So Far…

100. Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion (1997)

99. Jurassic Park (1993)

98. Batman Returns (1992)

97. Strange Days (1995)

96. Scream (1996)

95. To Sleep with Anger (1990)

94. My Cousin Vinny (1992)

93. Hard Eight (1996)

92. The Sandlot (1993)

91. Con Air (1997)

90. Home Alone (1990)

89. Wild at Heart (1990)

88. The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994)

87. Mrs. Doubtfire (1993)

86. Man Bites Dog (1992)

85. Total Recall (1990)

84. Metropolitan (1990)

83. Out of Sight (1998)

82. The Fugitive (1993)

81. Heavyweights (1995)

80. Point Break (1991)

79. The Birdcage (1996)

78. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993)

77. Misery (1990)

76. Speed (1994)

75. Dumb & Dumber (1994)

74. Big Night (1996)

73. Face/Off (1997)

72. La Haine (1995)

71. Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)

…Part 4 (#70-#61) coming Next Wednesday!

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