Having grown up in the nineties, this decade will always hold a special place in my heart. Not only was this the time I did important things like have my first kiss and try my first beer, but it was also the time I fully realized film and I had much more than a casual love affair.
I’m not suggesting that the nineties were any sort of golden age, but besides my nostalgic attachment to the period, it is pretty hard to argue that nineties cinema didn’t have some damn good moments. Quentin Tarantino and Kevin Smith made their first films, Susan Sarandon was in every other film out there and Leo and Johnny first made us ladies swoon… and continue to do so today. In ode to the decade, here are my top ten films from the nineties:
1. Pulp Fiction (1994) The soundtrack. The dancing scene. The gimp scene. Resevoir Dogs is an brilliant debut, but this is the film that really set off the career of one of the most important American directors in recent history. This film has become a staple of pop culture history, and it would be incomprehensible for it not to be on this list. Oh yeah, it’s pretty good too.
2. Gattaca (1997) Back when Ethan Hawke’s hipster pseudo-intellectual bravado was still sexy, he made this science fiction film about people being genetically engeneered from birth to be perfect. As with any Ethan Hawke movie from the nineties, the film has some eye rolling moments of melodrama. The cinematography, though, more than makes up for the weaker moments. Before he went and got all douchey, Jude Law also has a great supporting role as Hawke’s confidant.
3. Girl, Interrupted (1999) This female driven drama about life at a nut house is all about the breakout performance of Angelina Jolie. How can anyone else, even nineties indie darling Wionna Ryder and future Mad Men star Elizabeth Moss, possibly expect to catch any of the spotlight with Jolie’s Lisa standing next to them? It was a loud, brave performance that rightly earned her an Oscar and showed the world just what a force she was to be reckoned with.
Before there was that little film about a sinking boat, I wore out my VHS copy of this film oogling the teen heartthrob that was Leonardo Dicaprio. Unlike some of my other teen heartthrob crushes (whatever did happen to you, Johnathan Taylor Thomas?), Dicaprio has gone on to prove himself to be a completely talented actor. I admit at times it’s hard to really judge any of the performaces in this film which sometimes feels like a speed addict’s dream, but it will always be in my film collection for its inventive take on Shakespeare.
5. Clerks (1994) One of the best first time films from a director; simple yet throughly affective about the day in the life of a couple of clerks. Kevin Smith may have had a hard time moving on from low lifes in New Jersey, but with this one he got it completely right. Clerks continues to be one of my most quoted films.
6. Fight Club (1999) Brad Pitt shirtless? Yes please. More than that lovely sight, this film about men who start an underground fight club to combat their mundane lives is a brilliant comment on our materialistic society. Ed Norton and Brad Pitt have a delightfully understated bromance throughout the film and it’s directed by David Fincher, who over the years has become one of my favorite directors.
7. What’s eating Gilbert Grape (1993) Read my full length review of why I believe this film deserves to be on the list.
8. The Big Lebowski (1998) If you don’t already know why this film is on my list then read my review from last week.
9. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998) Just like the writing of Hunter S. Thompson, this film is strange, psychotic… and completely captivating. After years of continued debate, a good friend of mine and I still don’t agree on who made a better Thompson. While I throughly admire the work of Mr. Bill Murray, in this case he just doesn’t come close to competing with the brilliance of Johnny Depp’s performance in this film. That performance is what makes me come back. Well that and it’s a good film to get “high” on…
10. Cider House Rules (1999) My feel good film on the list. Sure, its subject matter includes abortion, drug abuse and incest… but I dare you not to be moved by it and even feel all warm and tingly by the end of it. Michael Caine steals show as the head doctor of a Maine orphanage, and Tobey Maguire is adorable as his conflicted protege. Ladies, wanna convince your man to check this film out with you? Perhaps the promise of Charlize Theron nudity will do the trick.
On a personal note, readers of this column know that this is the time of year when I usually take time off to go work for the Toronto International Film Festival. This year instead of a month without the column, my old Avenue Video co-worker Thomas will be taking over Friday Film Review for a couple of weeks to bring you film commentary from a different perspective. See you in October!