List created and owned by John McGinn
The 1990’s truly had a lot of really good, great, and a few excellent films like the Toy Story films, Braveheart, Good Will Hunting, Jurassic Park, Hard Boiled and more. In fact there I had over 200 films on my first draft that I at least considered adding to this list. I did think about making the list of the top 75 films of the 1990’s, but I didn’t want to delude my list with films that truly weren’t great or excellent, so I made the cut off at 50. I’m sure some people won’t agree with the films I left off my list like Total Recall, Goodfellas, Forrest Gump, and Saving Private Ryan, but I’ll get to those in a little while.
As for the 1990’s they really didn’t introduce any great trend in film making until near the end with the Matrix, but the 1990’s gave us some of the best and most memorable endings/climaxes in film history with The Sixth Sense, Fight Club, Seven, The Usual Suspects, Dark City, and more. I do miss the days when studios/writers, and directors truly would try to surprise audiences, but it seems like those days are long gone.
As for my list it was easy coming up with the top 15 films, but hard to come down to what I truly believe is the best film of the 1990’s. It came down to Schindler’s List, L.A. Confidential, and Unforgiven. It was really hard to make a decision concerning which of those three films was better, but I ended up on Schindler’s List because of the films, setting, the emotional and moving story, music, acting, and directing by Steven Speilberg. All right let’s get started with the 50 Best Films of the 1990’s.
48. Dark City
46. The Piano
45. Batman Returns
44. Wayne’s World
43. Reservoir Dogs: I have stated this before, but I’m not a big fan of Quentin Tarantino, and in fact think he and many of his films are overrated especially Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown, and Kill Bill. Yes Tarantino definitely has a unique style of film making, but that does not make a good film. His three best films are Inglourious Basterds, Reservoir Dogs, and Django Unchained, but those are the only three films of his that truly stand out as great films.
41. The Crying Game
40. In the Line of Fire
39. Toy Story 2
38. Jurassic Park
37. Star Trek VI The Undiscovered Country: Undiscovered Country is my favorite all time Star Trek film. There were many great things about the film from the effects, well written story for a Star Trek film, and even the acting, but for me perhaps the best thing about the film or at least what made it reach greatness was Christopher Plummer as General Chang. Plummer gave an outstanding performance bring the Klingon general to life, and then there was the climax with Chang endlessly quoting Shakespeare, and McCoy wishing he would just shut up.
36. Terminator 2: Judgement Day
35. Courage Under FIre
33. Dances with Wolves: Ah the 1990’s when Kevin Costner reached the height of career. Off the success of Bull Durham, The Untouchables, and Field of Dreams in the late 1990’s Kevin Costner would find critical and finical success in the early and mid 1990’s with Tin Cup, JFK, The Bodyguard, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, A Perfect World, and his best film Dances with Wolves.
32. Lone Star
31. The Lion King
30. The Iron Giant
29. The Last of the Mochicans
28. Ninja Scroll
27. Fight Club
26. Apollo 13
25. The Matrix: Why did the Wachowski Brothers have to make a mediocre and bad sequels that hurt the legacy of The Matrix which was a near perfect blend of science fiction and action storytelling, and at the time one of the most original films around.
24. 12 Monkeys
23. Gods and Monsters
22. Toy Story
21. The Professional
20. Hard Boiled
19. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm: Before Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight came out Warner Brothers animated film Batman: Mask of the Phantasm was in my opinion by far the best Batman film to date. Writer Paul Dini has made a career out of writing for Batman whether it be in comics or in animated films he seems to find a way to capture the essence of who both Bruce Wayne and Batman are so perfectly. The rich story, about the early days about Bruce Wayne is added by an outstanding voice acting cast that included Dana Delany, Mark Hamill, Kevin Conroy, and Stacy Keach. I can understand why many Batman fans would consider Mast of the Phantasm to be the best Batman film to date, and for me it is basically in a virtual tie with The Dark Knight.
18. Quiz Show
17. Silence of the Lambs: Still to this day Silence of the Lambs is one of the most terrifying films I have seen with writer Ted Tally and director Jonathan Demme masterfully mixing elements of horror and suspense to create a truly thrilling film that was added by two great performances by Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster.
16. The Shawshank Redemption
11. The Usual Suspects: One of the best endings in film history, and a truly masterfully written, directed and acted film, so much so that even with knowing the ending to the film I can easily watch The Usual Suspects over and over again.
10. Three Kings
9. Princess Mononoke: Admittedly I am not a huge fan of Hayao Miyazaki films. I have respect, and appreciation for Miyazaki films, but they just didn’t wow me with in my opinion Princess Mononoke being his best film of his career. With Princess Mononoke Miyazaki is obviously concerned with the environment, but unlike other directors and writers he doesn’t shove it down our throats. Instead Miyazaki created a vibrant world and story with compelling characters, masterfully done, lush and vibrant animation that draws you into the film and it’s themes about the environment.
8. The Insider
6. Good Will Hunting
5. The Thin Red Line: Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line is one of the most overlooked films and unappreciated films around with the main reason it came out later in the same year as the lesser, and overrated war film Saving Private Ryan. Malick is a visionary when comes to his filming technique and directing using the cinematography to tell a story just as much as he uses the actors, writing, and action. Instead focusing on finding some lost brother behind enemy lines Malick’s The Thin Red Line is a deeper film with more meaning about life, war, and death, that is added by an all star cast, a great script, and an outstanding score by Hans Zimmer puts The Thin Red Line at number 5 on this list.
4. Beauty and the Beast: I’m a fan of The Lion King, Toy Story 1 and 2, but the best animated film of the 1990’s is Disney’s classic Beauty and the Beast. Even after 24 years since the films release the animation still holds up great, the romance is beautifully written, and Alan Menken songs and musical score is still one of the best of all time for an animated or musical film.
3. L.A. Confidential
2. Unforgiven: Unforgiven is the best western ever made, and one of the best films ever. In Unforgiven the legendary Clint Eastwood gives his best acting and directing performance as William Munny an ex-bandit and murderer who reluctantly agrees to help a young gunman capture a couple of bandits who disfigured a prostitute. The story was dark filled with moral ambiguity in it’s characters yet neither the less Unforgiven is a masterpiece in acting, writing, directing, and film making.
1. Schindler’s List
Honorable Mentions: Ghost, Misery, A Few Good Men, Philadelphia, A Perfect World, The Basketball Diaries, Ransom, American Beauty and The Talented Mr. Ripley to name a few.
The Most overrated films of the 1990’s: Pretty Woman, Total Recall, Goodfellas, Hook, My Cousin Vinny, Mrs. Doubtfire, Falling Down, Forrest Gump, True Lies, Natural Born Killers, The English Patient, Fargo, Titanic, Saving Private Ryan, and Life is Beautiful.