100 Best Films of the 90s: Part 6 (#50-#41)

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 #50-#41. These will be weekly installments every Wednesday throughout the summer.

50. The Shawshank Redemption

1994 / USA / dir. Frank Darabont / 143 minutes

I mean, what can you even say about this movie that hasn’t been better said by a hundred thousand film critics, movie buffs and regular ass people for the past twenty-eight years? Rated #1 on IMDb, movies don’t get more wide-net crowd-pleasing than Frank Darabont’s sensitive but powerful adaptation of Stephen King‘s “novella.” This is also the movie that really began America’s love affair with Morgan Freeman. Sure, he was in several movies before this like Glory and Street Smart, but this introduced everyone to the thoughtful, kind, wise, monologizing Mr. Marchy Penguins who has been and still is imitated by millions of people worldwide. (Streaming on HBOMAX)

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49. Paris Is Burning

1990 / USA / dir. Jennie Livingston / 71 minutes

Before there was RuPaul’s Drag Race, there was Paris Is Burning, a fascinating and eye-opening documentary about the New York City drag scene in the late 80s. Running an incredibly slim 71 minutes, it manages to give you a full sense of what this world is and what it means to the artists that participate in it. At a time when people outside this subculture only had incredibly biased and misinformed mainstream news sources covering drag queens, this was like a holy grail of information. It still remains a fun, fascinating and inevitably heartbreaking portrait of drag. (Streaming on Criterion Channel)

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48. Miller’s Crossing

1990 / USA / dir. Joel Coen / 115 minutes

Definitely one of the Coen Brothers most underrated films, mostly because it was a gangster movie released the same year as the mack daddy of all gangster movies, GoodFellas. While Scorsese‘s film went for punch to the gut realness, The Coens are after something far more whimsical and archetypal. Set in the 1920s, the movie follows two feuding crime families, the Irish headed by a never cooler Albert Finney and the Italians headed by resident Coens loud-mouth character actor Jon Polito, never better. Caught in the middle are a well-respected button man (Gabriel Byrne), his duplicitous mistress/Albert Finney‘s wife (Marcia Gay Harden) and her scheming little weasel of a brother (brilliantly portrayed by John Turturro). There’s also a subtle gay romance between two gangsters played by J.E. Freeman and a very young Steve Buscemi. It’s not GoodFellas, but it’s an incredible and incredibly enjoyable piece of modern noir. (Streaming on STARZ)

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47. Rushmore

Bill Murray, left, and Jason Schwartzman in Wes Anderson’s “Rushmore” RUSHMORE, Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, 1998

1998 / USA / dir. Wes Anderson / 93 minutes

I remember my parents coming back from the theater where they saw this on a double date, annoyed and pissed off. “What an infuriatingly unfunny movie!”, they claimed, and “…how weird and eccentric for no reason.” “Bill Murray didn’t even do a gopher impression!” Regardless of my parents terrible taste in comedy back then, Rushmore holds up as one of the most interesting, funny and beautifully photographed comedies of the past 30 years. It introduced most of the world to the great Jason Schwartzman and sparked a semi-dramatic movie career in Bill Murray that eventually lead to an Oscar nomination. (Streaming on Cinemax)

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46. Groundhog Day

1993 / USA / dir. Harold Ramis / 101 minutes

My parents loved this Bill Murray vehicle however, a sweet and more importantly, very smart, romantic adventure piece about a guy given countless chances to fall in love with Andie McDowell. Sign me up! And while this lead to a saccharinely sweet moment of my step mom and dad singing “I Got You Babe” to each other in the front seat of their car while I choked back vomit in the backseat, I’m so glad this got made because it basically created a new subgenre of comedic adventure movies. The best being Palm Springs, now on HULU, and Russian Doll, now on NETFLIX. (Streaming on STARZ)

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45. Crumb

1994 / USA / dir. Terry Zwigoff / 119 minutes

Disturbing and fascinating in equal measure, this might be the single best documentary ever made about a somewhat famous pop culture figure. R. Crumb is a controversial comic book artist whose incredibly graphic, incredibly satirical, sometimes funny, sometimes racist, sometimes empowering, sometimes misogynistic work has led to endless heated debates about freedom of press and artist’s intent. Terry Zwigoff isn’t interested in framing Crumb within any certain moral stance, just revealing the facts as he gets them. The journey into Crumb‘s childhood and awkward and in some cases pedophilic siblings is jarring and yet you can’t look away. ($3.99 rental on Amazon)

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44. Perfect Blue

1997 / Japan / dir. Satoshi Kon / 81 minutes

Much like Christopher Nolan stole elements from Kon‘s Paprika for his wildly inferior film, Inception, Darren Aronofsky stole many elements from Kon‘s Perfect Blue for his wildly inferior film, Black Swan. Guess it’s easy to take shit from dead people – fucking pricks. This is a tremendously powerful and beautifully intricate psychological thriller about the dangers and societal pressures of being a young hot pop star transitioning into being a serious actress. That’s about all I’ll tell you about this twisty brain-boinker, which will keep you guessing days after finishing the movie. Rape trigger warnings in full effect. ($3.99 rental on Amazon)

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43. Unforgiven

1992 / USA / dir. Clint Eastwood / 130 minutes

One of the best westerns ever made, notable for its gritty portrayal of that gunslinger lyfe. In this world, there are no brave men. People don’t meet in the center of town for a fair shoot out, they sneak up behind you and blow your blains out. Unforgiven is about a gaggle of sex workers, led by the always great Frances Fisher, who hire Clint Eastwood and Morgan Freeman to kill the sheriff of their town, an outstanding Gene Hackman, because he won’t do anything about the two cowboys that violently disfigured one of them over a harmless small penis joke. (Streaming on SHOWTIME)

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42. The Age of Innocence

1993 / USA / dir. Martin Scorsese / 138 minutes

Described by Scorsese himself as his most violent movie, The Age of Innocence trades in murderous gangsters for New York rich WASP buttholes. What’s worse than Joe Pesci beating and stabbing you to death with an ice pick while screaming obscenities at you? I’ll tell you what – gossip! This is a story about the old wealthy families and their power structure games that built this country, for better or worse (way more than Gangs of New York was). Featuring excellent performances from Michelle Pfeiffer, Winona Ryder and Daniel Day-Lewis as crafty young social climber. ($3.99 rental on Amazon)

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41. The Celebration

1998 / Denmark / dir. Thomas Vinterberg / 105 minutes

Incredibly dark and uncomfortable Danish film about a family reunion where the patriarch is outed as pedophile whose abuse led to the eldest daughter’s suicide. It’s about as joyous as it sounds but features all natural lighting and exceptional performances from an all Dane cast. Good luck finding it, though. (Not Available Anywere – Write Your Local Congressman)

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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)

60. The Lion King (1994)

59. The Ice Storm (1997)

58. Election (1999)

57. Peppermint Candy (1999)

56. Office Space (1999)

55. Princess Mononoke (1997)

54. Quiz Show (1994)

53. Life Is Sweet (1990)

52. American Movie (1999)

51. Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse (1991)

50. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

49. Paris Is Burning (1990)

48. Miller’s Crossing (1990)

47. Rushmore (1998)

46. Groundhog Day (1993)

45. Crumb (1994)

44. Perfect Blue (1997)

43. Unforgiven (1992)

42. The Age of Innocence (1993)

41. The Celebration (1998)

See You Next Wednesday for #40-#31!

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