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Top 10 Films of the 1990s




There are plenty of highly regarded films from this decade that I haven’t seen, mainly because I was too young at the time. And looking at the finished list, there are certainly some notable omissions. I find Pulp Fiction to be one of Tarantino’s least successful efforts—too meandering in the middle portion. As much as I love the Golden Age of Disney (The Lion King, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast), I couldn’t find room for it. Same for Titanic, which I love in spite of (or perhaps because of) its complete and utter lack of subtlety. I adore Goodfellas—just not as much as these ten. And then there are the flicks I find overrated—American Beauty, Se7en, The Shawshank Redemption, and The Sixth Sense to name a few.

Below, however, are ten films that are nearly perfect, in my opinion. I’ve seen them all plenty of times and admire them more than I can really say. So enjoy the list, and let me know what you think!

10.) Unforgiven

Clint Eastwood’s first foray with Academy gold is a stunning achievement that breathed new life into a stale genre. It’s views of right and wrong are still fascinating to ponder, and Gene Hackman’s Little Bill is the very best kind of character—complicated on so many different levels.

9.) Terminator 2: Judgment Day

Didn’t care for the first film, but for this one James Cameron ups his game…big time. Turning the villain into the hero is a bold move for a franchise film like this, but it paid off in spades. Terminator 2 is fun, action-packed, and tremendously exciting.

8.) Schindler’s List

The only reason it’s not placed higher is because it’s such a tough slog. I’m not actually sure I love this film, but only because it’s so damn difficult to watch emotionally. I do admire the hell out of it, though. It’s as well-directed as any film I’ve ever seen.

7.) L.A. Confidential

Curtis Hansen’s film is a masterpiece of plot and pacing. It never reveals its cards too soon, which turns the potentially typical material into an engaging and surprising mystery. It helps, of course, to have one of the best, most-accomplished ensembles of any film that decade.

6.) Reservoir Dogs

The scene in which Mr. Blonde bites off a security guard’s ear while dancing to “Stuck in the Middle with You” is one of my all-time favorite sequences. Hard to believe a film this good could be the great Quentin Tarantino’s rookie effort.

5.) Jackie Brown

Tarantino’s finest hour by a nose. Why? It features real characters (Robert Forster and Pam Grier do just incredible work) to go along with the director’s signature bravado dialogue and brilliant twists of the plot.

4.) Magnolia

P.T. Anderson’s sprawling character study is very much in the vein of Robert Altman, though I’m not sure Altman had the balls to go where Anderson does in this film’s conclusion. Fine acting is found all over the place, but it’s the young director who stands out for his sheer gusto in clearly not sacrificing anything for the sake of commercial success.

3.) The Silence of the Lambs

The film doesn’t really say all that much, but boy is it well-acted. Hannibal Lector is the kind of character actors dream of portraying, and Anthony Hopkins makes the most of his opportunity. But the film is more than just that. It’s as edge-of-your-seat as thrillers get.

2.) The Matrix

Certainly one of the most influential films of its decade, it’s legacy has been tarnished somewhat by the shitty sequels. But I still can’t look away when I see it on cable, and it remains one of the most watched DVDs in my collection.

1.) Fargo

My review pretty much says it all. This film is basically flawless from start to finish. It takes a familiar plot and skews it in such a unique way. It’s the pinnacle of the Coen Brothers’ careers and the pinnacle of film in the 1990s.

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