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Best 100 Films of the 1990s Part 5

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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…


Best 100 Films of the 1990s Part 4

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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.


Best 100 Films of the 1990s Part 3

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60. The Wind Will Carry Us (1999) Dir. Abbas Kiarostami, 118 mins.

This idiosyncratic drama from Iran begins as a jeep winds through the hills of Kurdistan, containing an engineer (Behzad Dourani) and his two assistants (whom we never see) as they search for a small village in the mountains. When they arrive, they are greeted by a young boy, who shows them a place they can stay and guides the engineer to the home of an old woman (also never seen) who seems to be dying. No one is sure what the engineer and his men are doing there; some locals think he’s keeping watch of the old woman and wants to purchase her land when she dies, while others think he could be an archaeologist searching for rare artifacts.

59. Through the Olive Trees (1994) Dir. Abbas Kiarostami, 103 mins.

Set in earthquake-ravaged Northern Iran, Hossein Rezai plays a local stonemason-turned-actor. Outside the set of a film in which he is acting, he makes a marriage proposal to his leading lady, a student named Tahereh, who was orphaned by an earthquake. Because he is poor and illiterate, the girl’s family finds his offer insulting and the girl avoids him as a result. She continues evading him even when they are filming, as she seems to have trouble grasping the difference between her role in the film and her real-life self.

58. Taste of Cherry (1997) Dir. Abbas Kiarostami, 95 mins.

Mr Badii (Homayoun Ershadi), a middle-aged man, drives through a city suburb looking for someone who can burying him after he commits suicide in return for a large amount of money. While Roger Ebert, in particular, hated the film others consider it hypnotic and profound. Buy

57. Ghost in the Shell (1995) Dir. Mamoru Oshii, 85 mins.

The plot follows Motoko Kusanagi, a public-security agent, who hunts the mysterious hacker known as the Puppet Master.

56. Secrets & Lies (1996) Dir. Mike Leigh, 142 mins.

Hortense, a black optometrist, discovers that her birth mother is a working class white woman.

55. Life, and Nothing More… (1992) Dir. Abbas Kiarostami, 95 mins.

The film is a semi-fictional work based on Kiarostami’s search for the stars of his previous film Where Is the Friend’s Home? after the 1990 earthquake in Iran that killed over 30,000 people. It was shot in a documentary-style following a director (played by Farhad Kheradmand) on this journey through the country in the aftermath of the earthquake.

54. Rushmore (1998) Dir. Wes Anderson, 93 mins.

Rushmore is a comedy-drama directed by Wes Anderson about an eccentric teenager named Max Fischer (Jason Schwartzman in his film debut), his friendship with rich industrialist Herman Blume (Bill Murray), and their mutual love for elementary school teacher Rosemary Cross (Olivia Williams).

53. The Truman Show (1998) Dir. Peter Weir, 103 mins.

The film stars Jim Carrey as Truman Burbank, adopted and raised by a corporation inside a simulated television show revolving around his life, until he discovers it and decides to escape. Weir’s media satire feels even more pertinent twenty years on than when it was released.

52. Life is Beautiful (1997) Dir. Roberto Benigni, 116 mins.

Benigni plays Guido Orefice, a Jewish Italian book shop owner, who employs his fertile imagination to shield his son from the horrors of internment in a Nazi concentration camp. Watch

51. Maborosi (1995) Dir. Hirokazu Kore-eda, 109 mins.

When her husband commits suicide for no apparent reason, a woman becomes deeply troubled by guilt. After spending years in solitude and then remarrying, she begins to find happiness again, but when she returns to her hometown, a flood of old memories haunts her.

50. Boogie Nights (1997) Dir. Paul Thomas Anderson, 156 mins.

Set in Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley, the film focuses on a young nightclub dishwasher who becomes a popular star of pornographic movies, chronicling his rise in the Golden Age of Porn of the 1970s through to his fall during the excesses of the 1980s.

49. 12 Monkeys (1995) Dir. Terry Gilliam, 129 mins.

Inspired by Chris Marker’s La Jetee, the film follows James Cole (Bruce Willis), a prisoner of the state in the year 2035 who can earn parole if he agrees to travel back in time and thwart a devastating plague. The virus has wiped out most of the Earth’s population and the remainder live underground because the air is poisonous. It’s a cerebral time travelling tale from Gilliam, with Willis at the peak of his powers. Watch

48. Eyes Wide Shut (1999) Dir. Stanley Kubrick, 159 mins.

Kubrick’s last film follows the sexually charged adventures of Dr. Bill Harford (Tom Cruise), who is shocked when his wife, Alice (Nicole Kidman), reveals that she had contemplated having an affair a year earlier. He embarks on a night-long adventure, during which he infiltrates a massive masked orgy of an unnamed secret society.

47. Leon (1994) Dir. Luc Besson, 110 mins.

Film about a French hitman (Jean Reno) who is befriended by a girl (Natalie Portman) who’s parents were killed by corrupt police officers. An engaging actioner with art house pretensions.

46. The Lion King (1994) Dir. Roger Allers, Rob Minkoff, 89 mins.

Based on Shakespeare’s Hamlet, The Lion King tells the story of Simba, a young lion who is to succeed his father, Mufasa, as King of the Pride Lands. However, after Simba’s uncle Scar (Mufasa’s jealous younger brother), murders Mufasa, Simba is manipulated into thinking he was responsible and flees into exile. He ends up living with two wastrels until he reaches adulthood, when he is given some valuable perspective from his childhood friend, Nala, and his shaman, Rafiki, before returning to challenge Scar to end his tyranny and take his place in the Circle of Life as the rightful King. Recognised as the peak of Disney’s renaissance, The Lion King is a stunningly animated and compelling film, further enhanced by the music of Elton John.

45. Les Amants du Pont-Neuf (1991) Dir. Leos Carax, 125 mins.

The film follows a love story between two young vagrants, a would be circus performer addicted to alcohol and sedatives and Michele, a painter with a disease that is slowly turning her blind.

44. The Quince Tree Sun (1992) Dir. Víctor Erice, 138 mins.

The film centers on Spanish painter Antonio López García and his attempt to paint the eponymous quince tree. López struggles to capture a perfect, fleeting moment of beauty on canvas, and the film meticulously chronicles his work.

43. The Puppetmaster (1993) Dir. Hsiao-hsien Hou, 142 mins.

Based on the memoirs of Li Tian-lu, Taiwan’s most celebrated puppeteer, this story covers the years from Li’s birth in 1909 to the end of Japan’s fifty-year occupation of Taiwan in 1945.

42. L.A. Confidential (1997) Dir. Curtis Hanson, 138 mins.

The film tells the story of a group of LAPD officers in 1953, and the intersection of police corruption and Hollywood celebrity.

41. Se7en (1995) Dir. David Fincher, 127 mins.

It tells the story of David Mills (Brad Pitt), a detective who partners with the retiring William Somerset (Morgan Freeman) to track down a serial killer (Kevin Spacey) who uses the seven deadly sins as a motif in his murders.


Best 100 Films of the 1990s Part 2

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80. Fallen Angels (1995) Dir. Wong Kar-Wai, 90 mins.

Sometimes frustrating but often visually exhilarating Wong Kar-Wai’s film expands on the themes and mood of Chungking Express while focusing more on style than the two loosely linked and minimal plot lines. Buy

79. The Remains of the Day (1993) Dir. James Ivory, 134 mins.

Anthony Hopkins plays Stevens, the “perfect” butler to a prosperous British household of the 1930s. He is so unswervingly devoted to serving his master, a well-meaning but callow British lord (James Fox), that he shuts himself off from all emotions and familial relationships. New housekeeper Miss Kenton (Emma Thompson) tries to warm him up and awaken his humanity. Watch

78. Mother and Son (1997) Dir. Aleksandr Sokurov, 73 mins.

It depicts the relationship between an old, dying mother and her young son.

77. The Crying Game (1992) Dir. Neil Jordan, 112 mins.

The film is about the experiences of the main character, Fergus (Stephen Rea), a member of the IRA, his brief but meaningful encounter with a soldier, Jody (Forest Whitaker), who is held prisoner by the group, and his unexpected romantic relationship with Jody’s girlfriend, Dil (Jaye Davidson), whom Fergus promised Jody he would protect. However, unexpected events force Fergus to decide what he wants for the future, and ultimately what his nature dictates he must do. Putting to one side whether Whittaker works as a British soldier and the famous plot twist that almost overwhelms the rest of the film, The Crying Game is a gripping mystery that becomes an emotionally complex and haunting drama.

76. To Live (1994) Dir. Zhang Yimou, 132 mins.

In the 1940s, Xu Fugui (Ge You), a rich man’s son and compulsive gambler, and his wife Jiazhen (Gong Li), endure tumultuous events in China as their personal fortunes move from wealthy landownership to peasantry.

75. Magnolia (1999) Dir. Paul Thomas Anderson, 188 mins.

The film stars Jeremy Blackman, Tom Cruise, Melinda Dillon, Philip Baker Hall, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ricky Jay, William H. Macy, Alfred Molina, Julianne Moore, John C. Reilly, Jason Robards and Melora Walters, and is a mosaic of interrelated characters in search of happiness, forgiveness and meaning in the San Fernando Valley.

74. Short Cuts (1993) Dir. Robert Altman, 188 mins.

Perhaps Altman’s last masterpiece, Short Cuts traces the actions of 22 principal characters, both in parallel and at occasional loose points of connection.

73. Casino (1995) Dir. Martin Scorsese, 178 mins.

Based on a true story, Casino follows Sam “Ace” Rothstein (Robert De Niro), a Jewish American gambling handicapper who is called by the Italian Mob to oversee the day-to-day operations at the Tangiers Casino in Las Vegas.

72. Rosetta (1999) Dir. Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne, 93 mins.

The film follows a seventeen-year-old girl (Émilie Dequenne) who lives in a caravan park with her alcoholic mother. Trying to survive and to escape the caravan and her dysfunctional mother, she makes numerous attempts at securing a job.

71. Farewell, My Concubine (1993) Dir. Kaige Chen, 156 mins.

Farewell My Concubine explores the effect of China’s political turmoil during the mid-20th century on the lives of two male stars in a Peking opera troupe and the woman who comes between them. Financed with Taiwanese money, the film was the first from China to win the Palm d’Or at Cannes.

70. Before Sunrise (1995) Dir. Richard Linklater, 105 mins.

The film follows Jesse (Ethan Hawke), a young American man, and Céline (Julie Delpy), a young French woman, who meet on a train and disembark in Vienna, where they spend the night walking around the city and getting to know each other. Watch

69. Heat (1995) Dir. Michael Mann, 188 mins.

A surprisingly literate action film from the master of stylised drama, where Robert De Niro plays Neil McCauley, a professional thief, while Al Pacino plays Lt. Vincent Hanna, a LAPD robbery-homicide detective tracking down McCauley’s crew. It’s an influential and engrossing crime thriller that also provides insight into the psychology behind the actions of those on both sides of the law.

68. Eternity and a Day (1998) Dir. Theo Angelopoulos, 132 mins.

The film follows a celebrated writer, Alexandre, who has been diagnosed with a terminal illness. Just before going to hospital to receive treatment, and knowing he is unlikely to recover, he spends one last day wandering about town and reminiscing about his past, trying to capture one perfect moment of happiness from his memories.

67. La Belle Noiseuse (1991) Dir. Jacques Rivette, 237 mins.

A reclusive famous painter, Frenhofer (Michel Piccoli), lives quietly with his wife and former model (Jane Birkin) in a rambling château in rural Languedoc-Roussillon. When a young artist visits him with his girlfriend, Marianne (Emmanuelle Béart), Frenhofer is inspired to commence work once more on a painting he long ago abandoned, La Belle Noiseuse, using Marianne as his model.

66. Forrest Gump (1994) Dir. Robert Zemeckis, 142 mins.

The story depicts several decades in the life of its titular character (Tom Hanks), a slow-witted but kind-hearted, good-natured and athletically prodigious man from Alabama.

65. Paris Is Burning (1990) Dir. Jennie Livingston, 78 mins.

Filmed in the mid-to-late 1980s, it chronicles the ball culture of New York City and the African-American, Latino, gay, and transgender communities involved in it.

64. Dead Man (1995) Dir. Jim Jarmusch, 121 mins.

A western black comedy, shot in black and white, about a city slicker clerk (Johnny Depp) who goes to a wild west town to take an accountancy job and, after accidentally killing a man, ends up a gunfighter on the run with an enigmatic Indian buddy in the Northwest wilderness. It’s as odd as one would expect from Jarmush, but there are some memorable sequences and an interesting and well used supporting cast that includes Robert Mitchum, John Hurt, Gabriel Byrne and Iggy Pop.

63. Baraka (1992) Dir. Ron Fricke, 97 mins.

Featuring no conventional narrative, the film presents footage of people, places and things from around the world.

62. Crumb (1994) Dir. Terry Zwigoff, 119 mins.

A documentary about the noted underground cartoonist Robert Crumb and his family, particularly his brothers, Maxon and Charles, as well as Robert’s wife Aline Kominsky-Crumb and his children. Making the connection between Crumb’s creativity and his eccentricity or perhaps craziness, the film is troubling and disarming with some haunting images. Watch

61. After Life (1998) Dir. Hirokazu Kore-eda, 118 mins.

In this acclaimed Japanese film, a group of people who have recently died find themselves in a limbo realm resembling a relatively mundane building. Counselors, including Takashi (Arata) and Shiori (Erika Oda), are on hand to help new arrivals pick one memory from their lives to bring with them into eternity.


Best 100 Films of the 1990s Part 1

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100. Ratcatcher (1999) Dir. Lynne Ramsay, 94 mins.

Set during Scotland’s national garbage strike of the mid-1970s, Ratcatcher explores the experiences of a poor 12 year old boy as he struggles to reconcile his dreams and his guilt with the abjection that surrounds him.

99. Kikujiro (1999) Dir. Takeshi Kitano, 121 mins.

Kikujiro tells the story of a young boy searching for his mother during his summer vacation.

98. The Usual Suspects (1995) Dir. Bryan Singer, 106 mins.

The plot follows the interrogation of Roger “Verbal” Kint, a small-time con man who is one of only two survivors of a massacre and fire on a ship docked at the Port of Los Angeles. He tells an interrogator a convoluted story about events that led him and his partners in crime to the boat, and about a mysterious mob boss known as Keyser Söze who commissioned their work.

97. American History X (1998) Dir. Tony Kaye, 119 mins.

The film tells the story of two brothers from Venice, Los Angeles who become involved in the neo-Nazi movement. The older brother (Edward Norton) serves three years in prison for voluntary manslaughter, changes his beliefs and tries to prevent his younger brother (Edward Furlong) from going down the same path. A flawed film maybe, but one that has plenty of power and a stunning Academy Award nominated performance from Norton.

96. The Player (1992) Dir. Robert Altman, 124 mins.

The film stars Tim Robbins as a Hollywood film studio executive who murders an aspiring screenwriter he believes is sending him death threats.

95. Malcolm X (1992) Dir. Spike Lee, 201 mins.

The film dramatizes key events in Malcolm X’s life: his criminal career, his incarceration, his conversion to Islam, his ministry as a member of the Nation of Islam and his later falling out with the organization, his marriage to Betty X, his pilgrimage to Mecca and reevaluation of his views concerning whites, and his assassination on February 21, 1965. Defining childhood incidents, including his father’s death, his mother’s mental illness, and his experiences with racism are dramatized in flashbacks.

94. The Long Day Closes (1992) Dir. Terence Davies, 85 mins.

Bud is a lonely and quiet child whose moments of solace occur when he sits in rapture at the local cinema, watching towering and iconic figures on the movie screen. The movies give Bud the strength to get through another day as he deals with his oppressive school environment and his burgeoning homosexuality.

93. An Angel at My Table (1990) Dir. Jane Campion, 158 mins.

An account of the dramatic childhood and early adulthood of New Zealand writer Janet Frame.

92. Carlito’s Way (1993) Dir. Brian De Palma, 141 mins.

The film stars Al Pacino as Carlito Brigante, a fictional Puerto Rican drug dealer, who after spending five years in prison (released early due to a technicality), vows to go straight and to retire to the Caribbean with his girlfriend. However, his criminal past proves difficult to escape, and he unwittingly ends up being dragged into the same activities that got him imprisoned in the first place. Masterful direction by De Palma and a fine performance by Pacino that is matched by Sean Penn as Carlito’s sleazy lawyer.

91. Ju Dou (1990) Dir. Fengliang Yang, Yimou Zhang, 95 mins.

Notable as the first Chinese production nominated for best foreign language film at the Academy Awards (although it was made with Japanese funding), this visually splendid tragedy focuses on a beautiful young woman (dynamically played by Gong Li) who has been sold as a wife to Jinshan (Li Wei), an old cloth dyer sometime in the 1920s. With assured direction and a superb use of colour it’s not hard to see why Zhang’s tale of illicit passion is considered by many to be his masterpiece.

90. The Straight Story (1999) Dir. David Lynch, 112 mins.

The film is based on the true story of Alvin Straight’s 1994 journey across Iowa and Wisconsin on a lawn mower to visit his estranged brother Lyle, who has suffered a stroke, and hopefully make amends before he dies. The slow pace may well bore younger viewers but The Straight Story is a lyrically profound work that features a perfect performance by Richard Farnsworth.

89. Beauty and the Beast (1991) Dir. Gary Trousdale, Kirk Wise, 84 mins.

With music and songs by Alan Menken and lyrics by Howard Ashman, Beauty and the Beast focuses on the relationship between the Beast (voiced by Robby Benson), a prince who is magically transformed into a monster (while his servants are turned into household objects) as punishment for his arrogance, and Belle (voiced by Paige O’Hara), a young woman whom he imprisons in his castle. To become a prince again, Beast must learn to love Belle and earn her love in return before the last petal from the enchanted rose that the enchantress who cursed the Beast had offered falls, or else the Beast will remain a monster forever. Beautifully crafted animation fairy-tale that was nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars.

88. Central Station (1998) Dir. Walter Salles, 113 mins.

It tells the story of a nine year old orphan boy, Josue (Vinicius de Oliveira) and his friendship with a jaded middle-aged former school teacher, Dora (an Oscar nominated performance by Fernanda Montenegro). Salles delivers a beautiful haunting tale that never slips into cheap sentimentality and offers real insight into the human condition.

87. Van Gogh (1991) Dir. Maurice Pialat, 158 mins.

Set in 1890, the film follows the last 67 days of Van Gogh’s life and explores his relationships with his brother Theo, his physician Paul Gachet (most famous as the subject of Van Gogh’s painting Portrait of Dr. Gachet), and the women in his life, including Gachet’s daughter, Marguerite.

86. Edward Scissorhands (1990) Dir. Tim Burton, 105 mins.

Burton’s modern fairy tale stars Johnny Depp (in their first collaboration) as an artificial young man named Edward who is built, but unfinished, by an eccentric inventor (Vincent Price). When his maker dies, Edward is left with scissor blades instead of hands, but is eventually taken in by a suburban family and falls in love with their teenage daughter Kim (Winona Ryder). A delightfully quirky and charming film that is also a visual treat.

85. Vive L’Amour (1994) Dir. Tsai Ming-liang, 118  mins.

The film is about three people who unknowingly share an apartment in Taipei.

84. Glengarry Glen Ross (1992) Dir. James Foley, 100 mins.

It depicts two days in the lives of four real estate salesmen and how they become desperate when the corporate office sends a trainer to “motivate” them by announcing that, in one week, all except the top two salesmen will be fired.

83. Days of Being Wild (1990) Dir. Wong Kar-Wai, 94 mins.

Although a box office flop domestically, Wong Kar-Wai’s second feature maintained his reputation as one of the best up and coming art house directors on the international scene. Set in 1960, the stylish drama centres on the young, boyishly handsome rebel, Yuddy (Leslie Cheung), who learns from the drunken ex-prostitute who raised him that she is not his real mother. Deciding to trace the Filipino who gave birth to him, he leaves behind, with heartless disregard, two woman (Maggie Cheung and Carina Lau) who have fallen for him. With an intricately structured narrative and striking cinematography by Christopher Doyle, Days of Being Wild is probably Wong’s most underrated film.

82. Saving Private Ryan (1998) Dir. Steven Spielberg, 170 mins.

It follows United States Army Rangers Captain John H. Miller (Tom Hanks) and his squad as they search for a paratrooper, Private First Class James Francis Ryan (Matt Damon), who is the last-surviving brother of four servicemen.

81. Dreams (1990) Dir. Akira Kurosawa, 119 mins.

Inspired by actual dreams that Kurosawa claimed to have had repeatedly, Dreams is a magical realist film of eight vignettes addressing themes such as childhood, spirituality, art, death, and mistakes and transgressions made by humans against nature.


The Shining (1980)

Director: Stanley Kubrick Cinematographer: John Alcott
 The Shining (1980) on IMDb

An adaptation of Stephen King’s horror novel, The Shining is about Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson), an aspiring but frustrated writer and recovering alcoholic, who accepts a position as the off-season caretaker of the remote mountainside historic Overlook Hotel in the Colorado Rockies. Wintering over with Jack is his wife Wendy Torrance (Shelley Duvall) and young son Danny Torrance (Danny Lloyd), who possesses “the shining”, an array of psychic abilities that allow Danny to see the hotel’s horrific past. The film was deemed a slowly paced and thrilless disappointment among many critics at the time of release but is now acclaimed for its technical brilliance, visual strength and Nicholson’s unforgettable performance. While Kubrick’s use of dark humour might suggest a certain disregard for the worthiness of the horror genre, he does offer an ambiguously astute, and richly symbolic, look at the mental deterioration of an individual and how that impacts their family.

NME’s 9 Best Films Of The 90s

In May 2012 NME, remembering how cool the 90s were, published a list of the 9 best films of that decade. Unsurprisingly these are all English language films and remarkably Pulp Fiction is not top, which is taken by the Coen Brothers’ The Big Lebowski.

  • 9 Groundhog Day
  • 8 Jurassic Park
  • 7 The Shawshank Redemption
  • 6 Pulp Fiction
  • 5 Leon
  • 4 Seven
  • 3 The Usual Suspects
  • 2 L.A. Confidential
  • 1 The Big Lebowski

See Also – 

The 90 Best Movies of the 1990s

In July 2012 Paste Magazine produced a list of the 90 best movies of the 1990s. The results apparently come from both the opinions of the magazines editors and the results of film critics best lists of the 1990s. There are inclusions of some foreign language films but the top positions are mostly filled by American films.

  • 90. True Romance (Tony Scott, 1993)
  • 89. American Beauty (Sam Mendes, 1999)
  • 88. Forrest Gump (Robert Zemeckis, 1994)
  • 87. Barton Fink (Joel and Ethan Coen, 1991)
  • 86. The Truman Show (Peter Weir, 1998)
  • 85. Waking Ned Devine (Kirk Jones, 1998)
  • 84. A Bronx Tale (Robert De Niro, 1993)
  • 83. Burnt By The Sun (Nikita Mikhalkov, 1994)
  • 82. Quiz Show (Robert Redford, 1994)
  • 81. Braveheart (Mel Gibson, 1995)
  • 80. Bound (The Wachowskis, 1996)
  • 79. The Battle Over Citizen Kane (Thomas Lennon, Michael Epstein, 1996)
  • 78. Boys Don’t Cry (Kimberly Peirce, 1999)
  • 77. The Wrong Trousers (Nick Park, 1993)
  • 76. Apollo 13 (Ron Howard, 1995)
  • 75. Thelma & Louise (Ridley Scott, 1991)
  • 74. As Good As It Gets (James L. Brooks, 1997)
  • 73. Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (Jay Roach, 1999)
  • 72. A Taste of Cherry (Abbas Kiarostami, 1997)
  • 71. Sweet and Lowdown (Woody Allen, 1999)
  • 70. The Sixth Sense (M. Night Shyamalan, 1999)
  • 69. The Game (David Fincher, 1997)
  • 68. Princess Mononoke (Hiyao Miyazaki, 1997)
  • 67. American History X (Tony Kaye, 1998)
  • 66. After Life (Hirokazu Koreeda, 1998)
  • 65. The Iron Giant (Brad Bird, 1999)
  • 64. Clueless (Amy Heckerling, 1995)
  • 63. Election (Alexander Payne, 1999)
  • 62. Beauty and The Beast (Gary Trousdale & Kirk Wise, 1991)
  • 61. Terminator 2: Judgement Day (James Cameron, 1991)
  • 60. The Professional (Luc Besson, 1994)
  • 59. Good Will Hunting (Gus Van Sant, 1997)
  • 58. JFK (Oliver Stone, 1991)
  • 57. Eyes Wide Shut (Stanley Kubrick, 1999)
  • 56. Heavenly Creatures (Peter Jackson, 1994)
  • 55. Groundhog Day (Harold Ramis, 1995)
  • 54. Exotica (Atom Egoyan, 1994)
  • 53. The Remains of The Day (James Ivory, 1993)
  • 52. The Talented Mr. Ripley (Anthony Minghella, 1999)
  • 51. The Lion King (Roger Allers, Rob Minkoff, 1994)
  • 50. Casino (Martin Scorsese, 1995)
  • 49. Miller’s Crossing (Joel & Ethan Coen, 1990)
  • 48. Metropolitan (Whit Stillman, 1990)
  • 47. Heat (Michael Mann, 1995)
  • 46. Three Kings (David O. Russell, 1999)
  • 45. The Ice Storm (Ang Lee, 1997)
  • 44. Se7en (David Fincher, 1997)
  • 43. The Player (Robert Altman, 1992)
  • 42. Bringing Out The Dead (Martin Scorsese, 1999)
  • 41. L.A. Confidential (Curtis Hanson, 1997)
  • 40. Short Cuts (Robert Altman, 1993)
  • 39. The Matrix (Andy & Lana Wachowski, 1999)
  • 38. Office Space (Mike Judge, 1999)
  • 37. Boyz N the Hood (John Singleton, 1991)
  • 36. The Double Life of Veronique (Krzysztof Kie?lowski, 1991)
  • 35. Glengarry Glen Ross (James Foley, 1992)
  • 34. Out of Sight (Steven Soderbergh, 1998)
  • 33. Malcolm X (Spike Lee, 1992)
  • 32. Trainspotting (Danny Boyle, 1996)
  • 31. The Silence of the Lambs (Jonathan Demme, 1991)
  • 30. Toy Story (John Lasseter, 1995)
  • 29. The Sweet Hereafter (Atom Egoyan, 1997)
  • 28. The Thin Red Line (Terrence Malick, 1998)
  • 27. Saving Private Ryan (Steven Spielberg, 1998)
  • 26. Before Sunrise (Richard Linklater, 1995)
  • 25. Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control (Errol Morris, 1997)
  • 24. Reservoir Dogs (Quentin Tarantino, 1992)
  • 23. Unforgiven (Clint Eastwood, 1992)
  • 22. Chungking Express (Wong Kar-wai, 1994)
  • 21. Bottle Rocket (Wes Anderson, 1996)
  • 20. Boogie Nights (Paul Thomas Anderson, 1997)
  • 19. Jackie Brown (Quentin Tarantino, 1997)
  • 18. Crumb (Terry Zwigoff, 1994)
  • 17. Being John Malkovich (Spike Jonze, 1999)
  • 16. Sling Blade (Billy Bob Thornton, 1996)
  • 15. Toy Story 2 (John Lasseter, Ash Brannon, Lee Unkrich, 1999)
  • 14. The Usual Suspects (Bryan Singer, 1995)
  • 13. Dead Man Walking (Tim Robbins, 1995)
  • 12. The Big Lebowski (Joel Coen, 1998)
  • 11. Fight Club (David Fincher, 1999)
  • 10. The Apostle (Robert Duvall, 1997)
  • 9. Rushmore (Wes Anderson, 1998)
  • 8. Hoop Dreams (Steve James, 1994)
  • 7. Goodfellas (Martin Scorsese, 1990)
  • 6. Fargo (Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, 1996)
  • 5. The Shawshank Redemption (Frank Darabont, 1994)
  • 4. Three Colors Trilogy (Krzysztof Kie?lowski, 1993-94)
  • 3. Magnolia (Paul Thomas Anderson, 1999)
  • 2. Schindler’s List (Steven Spielberg, 1993)
  • 1. Pulp Fiction (Quentin Tarantino, 1994)

See Also – 


The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

Director: Frank Darabont Cinematographer: Roger Deakins
 The Shawshank Redemption (1994) on IMDb

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.

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A Woman Under the Influence (1974)

Director: John Cassavetes Cinematographer: Mitch Breit, Al Ruban
 A Woman Under the Influence (1974) on IMDb

After an uncomfortable and generally unsuccessful period of directing Hollywood films in the early 70s, Cassavattes returned to his unorthodox mode of independent production and self distribution with the challenging, A Woman Under the Influence. It focuses on a housewife (Cassavetes’s wife Gena Rowlands) who is misunderstood, finds life difficult and is heading for a nervous breakdown. Her seemingly unusual and unpredictable behaviour leads her husband (Peter Falk) to commit her for psychiatric treatment putting much strain on him and their three children. Cassavetes’s keeps things ambiguous and it’s often oddly moving but it’s still Rowland who makes the biggest impression, improvising much of her characters descent into madness and earning herself an Oscar nomination.

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  • Gena Rowlands as Mabel Longhetti
  • Peter Falk as Nick Longhetti
  • Fred Draper as George Mortensen
  • Lady Rowlands as Martha Mortensen
  • Katherine Cassavetes as Margaret Longhetti
  • Matthew Laborteaux as Angelo Longhetti
  • Matthew Cassel as Tony Longhetti
  • Christina Grisanti as Maria Longhetti

Directed by John Cassavetes
Produced by Sam Shaw
Screenplay by John Cassavetes
Music by Bo Harwood
Cinematography Mitch Breit, Al Ruban
Edited by David Armstrong, Sheila Viseltear, Beth Bergeron
Running time 155 minutes
Country United States
Language English

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