Best 100 Films of the 1990s Part 4

100-81   80-61   60-41   40-21   20-1

40. Being John Malkovich (1999) Dir. Spike Jonze, 112 mins.

The film follows a puppeteer who finds a portal that leads into Malkovich’s mind.

39. A Moment of Innocence (1996) Dir. Mohsen Makhmalbaf, 78 mins.

In Tehran, a former policeman in his forties gets in contact with the Iranian director Mohsen Makhmalbaf, reminding the filmmaker that he had promised him a part in his next movie. In fact, the two men had “met” 20 years earlier under rather dramatic circumstances: in 1975, the young Makhmalbaf, a dissident under the Shah’s regime, stabbed this policeman while trying to steal his revolver. Imprisoned, the future filmmaker was released during the height of the Revolution.

38. Happy Together (1997) Dir. Wong Kar-Wai, 96 mins.

Yiu-Fai and Po-Wing arrive in Argentina from Hong Kong and take to the road for a holiday. Something is wrong and their relationship goes adrift. A disillusioned Yiu-Fai starts working at a tango bar to save up for his trip home. When a beaten and bruised Po-Wing reappears, Yiu-Fai is empathetic but is unable to enter a more intimate relationship. Sometimes grim but never dull.

37. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) Dir. James Cameron, 137 mins.

Terminator 2 follows Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) and her ten-year-old son John (Edward Furlong) as they are pursued by a new, more advanced Terminator, the liquid metal, shapeshifting T-1000 (Robert Patrick), sent back in time to kill John and prevent him from becoming the leader of the human resistance. A second, less advanced Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is also sent back in time to protect John. James Cameron delivers with state of the art effects and an exciting narrative.

36. The Silence of the Lambs (1991) Dir. Jonathan Demme, 118 mins.

An adaptation of Thomas Harris’s best selling novel and the first horror film to win an Academy Award for Best Picture, The  Silence of the Lambs follows Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster), a young working class FBI recruit, who puts herself in physical and psychological danger by seeking the advice of the imprisoned former psychiatrist and cannibalistic murderer, Dr. Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) to apprehend another serial killer, known only as “Buffalo Bill” (Ted Levine) and rescue his latest victim. While lacking the atmospheric style of Michael Mann’s earlier Manhunter (also based on Harris’s novel), the film works thanks to tour de force performances by a memorably chilling Hopkins, a creepy Levine and the compelling Foster. The latter had to fight hard for what would be her second Oscar winning role (the part being originally earmarked for Michelle Pfeiffer), but her strong performance was somewhat overshadowed by a campaign to out her as gay that came after criticism of the film by LGBT groups for its portrayal of Buffalo Bill as bisexual and transsexual.

35. The Matrix (1999) Dir. The Wachowskis, 136 mins.

It depicts a dystopian future in which human life as perceived by most people is actually a simulated reality called “the Matrix”, created by sentient machines to subdue the human population, while their bodies’ heat and electrical activity are used as an energy source. Computer programmer Neo (Keanu Reeves) learns this truth and is drawn into a rebellion against the machines, which involves other people who have been freed from the “dream world.”

34. Toy Story (1995) Dir. John Lasseter, 81 mins.

The film follows a group of toys and focuses on Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks), a pull-string cowboy doll, and Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen), an astronaut action figure. A fantastic buddy pic that was a real breakthrough for Pixar.

33. All About My Mother (1999) Dir. Pedro Almodóvar, 104 mins.

A single mother in Madrid sees her only son die on his birthday as he runs to seek an actress’ autograph. Beside herself with grief, she returns to Barcelona where she hopes to find her son’s father, Lola, a transvestite she kept secret from the boy, just as she never told Lola they had a son.

32. American Beauty (1999) Dir. Sam Mendes, 122 mins.

Kevin Spacey stars as Lester Burnham, a 42-year-old advertising executive who has a midlife crisis when he becomes infatuated with his teenage daughter’s best friend, Angela (Mena Suvari).

31. Unforgiven (1992) Dir. Clint Eastwood, 131 mins.

Eastwood’s revisionist western portrays William Munny (Eastwood himself), an ageing outlaw and killer who takes on one more job years after he had turned to farming.

30. Princess Mononoke (1997) Dir. Hayao Miyazaki, 134 mins.

Princess Mononoke is set in the late Muromachi period (approximately 1336 to 1573) of Japan and includes fantasy elements. The story follows the young Emishi prince Ashitaka’s involvement in a struggle between the gods of a forest and the humans who consume its resources.

29. The Piano (1993) Dir. Jane Campion, 121 mins.

The film follows a mute piano player (Holly Hunter) and her daughter and is set during the mid-19th century in a rainy, muddy frontier backwater town on the west coast of New Zealand. It revolves around the musician’s passion for playing the piano and her efforts to regain her piano after it is sold.

28. Naked (1993) Dir. Mike Leigh, 131 mins.

A British black comedy-drama written and directed by Mike Leigh and starring David Thewlis as Johnny, a motor-mouthed intellectual and conspiracy theorist.

27. Underground (1995) Dir. Emir Kusturica, 170 mins.

The film uses the epic story of two friends to portray a Yugoslav history from the beginning of World War II until the beginning of the Yugoslav Wars.

26. Hoop Dreams (1994) Dir. Steve James, 170 mins.

It follows the story of two African-American high school students in Chicago and their dream of becoming professional basketball players. Watch

25. Three Colors: Blue (1993) Dir. Krzysztof Kieslowski, 98 mins.

Set in Paris, the film is about a woman whose husband and child are killed in a car accident. Suddenly set free from her familial bonds, she attempts to cut herself off from everything and live in isolation from her former ties, but finds that she can’t free herself from human connections.

24. Raise the Red Lantern (1991) Dir. Yimou Zhang, 125 mins.

Set in the 1920s, the film tells the story of a young woman who becomes one of the concubines of a wealthy man during the Warlord Era. Watch

23. Breaking the Waves (1996) Dir. Lars von Trier, 153 mins.

Set in the Scottish Highlands in the early 1970s, von Trier’s devastating drama is about an unusual young woman, Bess McNeill, and of the love she has for Jan, her husband, who asks her to have sex with other men when he becomes immobilised from a work accident. Watch

22. Lessons of Darkness (1992) Dir. Werner Herzog, 50 mins.

Shot in documentary style on 16mm film from the perspective of an almost alien observer, the film is an exploration of the ravaged oil fields of post-Gulf War Kuwait, decontextualised and characterised in such a way as to emphasise the terrain’s cataclysmic strangeness.

21. The Double Life of Veronique (1991) Dir. Krzysztof Kieslowski, 98 mins.

Written by Kieślowski and Krzysztof Piesiewicz, the film explores the themes of identity, love, and human intuition through the characters of Weronika, a Polish choir soprano, and her double, Véronique, a French music teacher. The two women do not know each other, and yet they share a mysterious and emotional bond that transcends language and geography.


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