100 Best Films of the 90s – Part 4 (#70-#61)

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 movies this decade, but here are my top 100, continuing with #70-#61. These will be weekly installments every Wednesday throughout the summer.

70. South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut

1999 / USA / dir. Trey Parker / 81 minutes

This asshole who used to be my dad’s office receptionist begged my parents not to take me, the biggest South Park fan ever in 4th grade, to see this in theaters. After explaining what she had heard on the radio, my parents were in agreement. They would not take me to see the South Park movie in theaters. What a bitch. This coming from a woman, who just a year later, got drunk and flashed my dad’s dental hygienist’s husband at a Christmas party. The moral of the story here is that some people are just too shitty to appreciate how hilarious this movie was and still is. Far superior to the much more successful 1999 summer comedy, American Pie, which is basically just sexual assault Cliffs notes. ($3.99 rental on Amazon)

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69. Dead Alive

1992 / New Zealand / dir. Peter Jackson / 103 minutes

Speaking of hilarious, Peter Jackson‘s breakout zombie comedy is essentially everything Shaun of the Dead wishes it was. Insanely over-the-top gore with irreverent, and sometimes just goofy for goofy’s sake, humor and a band of ridiculous characters including a priest that kicks ass for the Lord. All pale in comparison to the messy and maybe adorable baby gif’d above, who vomits, farts, craps and in one scene, tears a lady’s head right down the middle and peek-a-boo’s through the back of it. This is nutty stuff, but due to the obviously fake and non-realistic looking gore, should be ok for just about any teenager. If you can find it. (Not Available Anywhere – Write Your Congressman)

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68. The Truman Show

1998 / USA / dir. Peter Weir / 103 minutes

It’s a real coin toss between this and Milos Forman‘s Man on the Moon for which contains the best Jim Carrey performance. He might be better in Man on the Moon, but Peter Weir‘s The Truman Show is hands down the better film. Like a funny Black Mirror episode, The Truman Show tackled the current fears and problems within our country at the time, in 1998 being the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal, the overall tabloid nature of news reporting on that event and the ever growing trend of reality tv that brought with it a slew of ethical dilemmas. It’s also about the always present paranoia of not being in control of your life. The Truman Show follows a man who slowly figures out his entire life is just a shitty TV program run by Ed Harris. What a nightmare. (Streaming on Paramount+)

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67. Trainspotting

1996 / UK / dir. Danny Boyle / 94 minutes

I remember seeing this movie for the first time in third grade. Don’t everyone judge my parents at once, they had no idea I’d be sneaking around the house at 2am with the IFC channel on. My friend, John, had recommended it to me, said it was about these heroin addicts stuck on an island (Scotland – was expecting something more tropical tbh) climbing through toilets, getting high and fucking each other. What I got was something I instantly loved but could appreciate more fully the older I became. The visuals in this are so perfectly odd, matched only by the near perfect soundtrack and the uniformly dynamite performances from a cast including Ewan McGregor, Jonny Lee Miller, Kelly MacDonald, Robert Carlyle, Rome‘s Kevin McKidd, Ewen Bremner and more. (Streaming on Paramount+)

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66. One False Move

1992 / USA / dir. Carl Franklin / 105 minutes

Criminally under-seen early 90s crime caper about a small town sheriff (Bill Paxton – in his best, most touching performance) chasing two brutal criminals (Billy Bob Thorton, Michael Beach) and one kind of mixed up with the bad crowd (Cynda Williams), who the sheriff used to date. Named the best film of 1992 by film critic Gene Siskel and equally well-received by his partner Roger Ebert, One False Move is one of those rare, brilliant straight-to-VHS low budget thrillers that inexplicably never went for a theatrical run in theaters. (Streaming on STARZ)

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65. Nixon

1995 / USA / dir. Oliver Stone / 192 minutes

Basically Shakespeare in the White House, with Stone and Sir Hopkins creating this massive tragic figure out of Nixon. Which is not to say they excuse any of his behavior, they are simply trying to understand it. Nervously sniveling about how he’s acting like a bad boy his Quaker mommy would be ashamed of, but in the same breath, commissioning missile strikes and referring to his enemies as “c*cksuckers”, Richard Milhous Nixon is to be feared and pitied in equal measure. He’s even surrounded by sociopaths that egg on bad behavior like Henry Kissinger (Paul Sorvino), H.R. Haldeman (James Woods), the notorious J. Edgar Hoover (Bob Hoskins), rumored Kennedy gunman E. Howard Hunt (Ed Harris) and John Erlichman (J.T. Walsh). The only decent human being in his orbit seems to be his wife, Pat (Joan Allen, in arguably the finest performance of the film) but as Tricky Dick drifts deeper into his presidency and all the cover-ups mount up, his bond with her weakens. Running a massive 192 minutes with an arguably superior Director’s Cut running 212 minutes, this is a massive undertaking that is best digested in two sittings. ($3.99 rental on Amazon)

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64. The Usual Suspects

1995 / USA / dir. Bryan Singer / 106 minutes

Tarnished today by the participation of Bryan Singer and Kevin Spacey, The Usual Suspects still stands as a great mystery-thriller despite everything. Featuring one of the most beautifully executed twist endings of any movie (courtesy of writer and future Mission: Impossible 5 & 6 director Christopher McQuarrie) and a stellar supporting cast including Gabriel Byrne, Kevin Pollak and Benicio Del Toro, among others. Literally so much has been written about this movie, I don’t know what else to say. ($3.99 rental on VUDU)

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63. Hamlet

1996 / UK / USA / dir. Kenneth Branagh / 242 minutes

Remains the best Hamlet adaptation I’ve seen, mostly because not a single word is edited out. Best viewed in two or three chunks, Kenneth Branagh‘s adaptation jams so much excellent character work in its 4 hour runtime, due to an amazing cast that features Jack Lemmon, Julie Christie, Derek Jacobi, Robin Williams, Billy Crystal and an Oscar-worthy Kate Winslet as Ophelia. Sure, Kenny was a bit too old to be playing the title role, but I loved how he’s the screen actor I’ve seen play Hamlet as a moody, would-be Goth teenager. The angst is real. ($2.99 rental on Amazon)

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62. Fallen Angels

1995 / Hong Kong / dir. Wong Kar-wai / 98 minutes

Underrated Wong Kar-wai ensemble mosaic that is always overshadowed by his other, similar film, Chungking Express. However, I think Fallen Angels is the better movie, inhabited by more interesting and in some cases, less grating characters (looking at the waitress character from Chungking) and you don’t have to listen to California Dreaming a hundred and twenty-seven times. (Streaming on Criterion Channel)

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61. The Piano

1993 / New Zealand / Australia / France / dir. Jane Campion / 116 minutes

Holly Hunter and Anna Paquin deliver blistering, Oscar-winning turns as an electively mute Scotswoman and her daughter, the former of which is sold into marriage by her father to an uptight Sam Neill. Basically living life as a romantic prisoner, the mother seeks refuge in her piano and a sensual affair with a retired sailor (Harvey Keitel). This is a gorgeously shot but undeniably depressing romance with a lot of symbolism and Harvey Keitel‘s penis. ($3.99 rental on Amazon)

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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)

70. South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut (1999)

69. Dead Alive (1992)

68. The Truman Show (1998)

67. Trainspotting (1996)

66. One False Move (1992)

65. Nixon (1995)

64. The Usual Suspects (1995)

63. Hamlet (1996)

62. Fallen Angels (1995)

61. The Piano (1993)

See you Next Wednesday for #60-#51

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