20. The Celebration (1998) Dir. Thomas Vinterberg, 105 mins.
The film tells the story of a family gathering to celebrate their father’s 60th birthday. At the dinner, the eldest son publicly accuses his father of sexually abusing both him and his twin sister (who has recently killed herself).
19. La Haine (1995) Dir. Mathieu Kassovitz, 96 mins.
It is about three young friends and their struggle to live in the banlieues of Paris.
18. Histoire(s) du cinéma (1998) Dir. Jean-Luc Godard, 266 mins.
An 8-part video project begun by Godard in the late 1980s and completed in 1998, Histoire(s) du cinéma is an examination of the history of the concept of cinema and how it relates to the 20th century.
17. Fargo (1996) Dir. Joel & Ethan Coen, 98 mins.
Featuring some terrific dark humour, Fargo stars Frances McDormand as a pregnant Minnesota police chief investigating roadside homicides that ensue after a desperate car salesman (William H. Macy) hires two criminals (Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare) to kidnap his wife in order to extort a hefty ransom from his wealthy father-in-law (Harve Presnell).
16. Beau Travail (1999) Dir. Claire Denis, 93 mins.
The film follows a former French Foreign Legion officer, Galoup as he recalls his once happy existence with the Legion serving in Dijibouti. However, things sour with the arrival of a promising young recruit who induces feelings of Jealousy in Galoup. Poetic, exhilarating and totally unforgettable.
15. Fight Club (1999) Dir. David Fincher, 139 mins.
Edward Norton plays the unnamed protagonist, referred to as the narrator, who is discontented with his white-collar job. He forms a “fight club” with soap maker Tyler Durden, (Brad Pitt), and they are joined by men who also want to fight. The narrator becomes embroiled in a relationship with Durden and a dissolute woman, Marla Singer, (Helena Bonham Carter).
14. Three Colors: Red (1994) Dir. Krzysztof Kieslowski, 99 mins.
A beautiful model named Valentine crosses paths with a retired judge, whose dog she runs over with her car. The lonely judge, she discovers, amuses himself by eavesdropping on all of his neighbours’ phone conversations. Near Valentine’s apartment lives a young man who aspires to be a judge and loves a woman who will betray him.
13. The Big Lebowski (1998) Dir. Joel & Ethan Coen, 117 mins.
It stars Jeff Bridges as Jeffrey “The Dude” Lebowski, a Los Angeles slacker and avid bowler. He is assaulted as a result of mistaken identity, after which The Dude learns that a millionaire also named Jeffrey Lebowski was the intended victim. The millionaire Lebowski’s trophy wife is kidnapped, and he commissions The Dude to deliver the ransom to secure her release.
12. The Thin Red Line (1998) Dir. Terrence Malick, 170 mins.
Based on the novel by James Jones, it tells a fictionalised version of the Battle of Mount Austen, which was part of the Guadalcanal Campaign in the Pacific Theatre of World War II. It portrays soldiers of C Company, 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division, played by Sean Penn, Jim Caviezel, Nick Nolte, Elias Koteas and Ben Chaplin. It features Malick’s standard dose of stunning cinematography as well as a haunting soundtrack from Hans Zimmer.
11. Chungking Express (1994) Dir. Wong Kar-Wai, 98 mins.
The film consists of two stories told in sequence, each about a lovesick Hong Kong policeman mulling over his relationship with a woman. The first story stars Takeshi Kaneshiro as a cop obsessed with his breakup with a woman named May, and his encounter with a mysterious drug smuggler (Brigitte Lin). The second stars Tony Leung as a police officer roused from his gloom over the loss of his flight attendant girlfriend (Valerie Chow) by the attentions of a quirky snack bar worker (Faye Wong). It’s the relationship between Leung and Wong that really makes the film.
10. Close-Up (1990) Dir. Abbas Kiarostami, 90 mins.
The film tells the story of the real-life trial of a man who impersonated film-maker Mohsen Makhmalbaf, conning a family into believing they would star in his new film. Watch
9. Trainspotting (1996) Dir. Danny Boyle, 94 mins.
An adaptation of the novel by Irving Welsh, the film follows Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor), Spud (Ewan Bremner) and other heroin addicts in the late 1980s economically depressed area of Edinburgh. After quitting heroin, Renton struggles to adjust to the sober lifestyle he no longer remembers. Watch
8. The Shawshank Redemption (1994) Dir. Frank Darabont, 142 mins.
An adaptation of Stephen King’s prison drama that follows banker Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) who is sentenced to life in Shawshank State Penitentiary for the murder of his wife and her lover, despite his claims of innocence. Over the following two decades, he befriends a fellow prisoner, Ellis “Red” Redding (Morgan Freeman), and becomes instrumental in a money laundering operation led by the prison warden Samuel Norton (Bob Gunton). A film that struggled at the box office but grew in reputation thanks to word of mouth. Particularly notable are Freeman’s superb narration and Robbins compelling performance. More…
7. Miller’s Crossing (1990) Dir. Joel & Ethan Coen, 120 mins.
The plot concerns a power struggle between two rival gangs (led by Albert Finney and Jon Polito) and how the protagonist, Tom Reagan (Gabriel Byrne), plays both sides off against each other. Watch
6. Schindler’s List (1993) Dir. Steven Spielberg, 195 mins.
The film that finally earned Spielberg an Academy Award for best director, follows Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson), a German entrepreneur, who, during the Holocaust, finds himself developing a moral conscience while running an operation to supply the Nazi war effort. This leads to him unexpectedly saving the lives of more than a thousand mostly Polish-Jewish refugees. The film features stunning black and white photography, an emotive score and an almost unbearably brutal realism. Although accused by some as turning one of the most horrific episodes in human history into entertainment, the film also brought commercial titan Spielberg huge critical recognition and perhaps even helped to reconcile the long struggle between Hollywood’s artistic and moral aspirations and the need for box office success. It’s also notable for the tremendous and charismatic performance of Neeson that’s maybe even bettered by Ralph Fiennes’s chilling portrayal of the inhuman German camp commandant, Amon Goeth. More…
5. Reservoir Dogs (1992) Dir. Quentin Tarantino, 99 mins.
It features Harvey Keitel, Michael Madsen, Steve Buscemi, Chris Penn, Lawrence Tierney, Tim Roth, Tarantino, and criminal-turned-author Edward Bunker as members of a botched diamond heist. The film depicts the events before and after the attempted robbery. Watch
4. Satantango (1994) Dir. Bela Tarr, 450 mins.
This seven-hour European epic takes place in an abandoned Hungarian farm machinery plant. There live a small band of hobos who will do anything they can to leave the place. A series of events occurs, but the story presents those events from each of the different character’s viewpoints. Buy
3. Goodfellas (1990) Dir. Martin Scorsese, 146 mins.
The satirical film follows the rise and fall of three gangsters, spanning three decades. The protagonist Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) admits, “As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster.” Outstanding story telling from Scorsese and a great performance from Liotta that became something of an albatross for his career. Watch
2. A Brighter Summer Day (1991) Dir. Edward Yang, 237 mins.
Set in Taiwan during the year 1960, a talented but self-centred student refuses to compromise his moral standards with anyone, teachers, friends, parents or girlfriend. Watch
1. Pulp Fiction (1994) Dir. Quentin Tarantino, 154 mins.
Directed in a highly stylised manner and drawing on a mixture of cinematic sources (such as American B pictures and the French New Wave), Pulp Fiction joins the intersecting storylines of Los Angeles mobsters, fringe players, small-time criminals and a mysterious briefcase. The film reinvigorated the career of John Travolta and features a brilliant ensemble cast, particularly Samuel L. Jackson and Bruce Willis. Tarantino confidently deploys an ingenious structure, rapid fire rhetoric and graphic violence with a surprising playfullness and exceptional intelligence. More…