Listing Movies: ’90s Faves

Fabrizio del Wrongo writes:

As regular readers probably know, every now and then I like to put on my Movie Geek hat and make a semi-inane list of movies. I’m not sure why I do this. Perhaps it’s because I like to evaluate my aesthetic responses. Perhaps it’s because list making appeals to the organizer-historian side of my personality. Not only does pushing the titles of these movies up against each other generate a certain frisson, it helps me take stock of my tastes and preferences. What does it mean that I’ve chosen these particular movies? What do my choices say about me? What would have I have chosen 10 years ago? A week ago? Tomorrow?

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about the ’90s, which probably means I’ve clicked on one too many Buzzfeed links. But whatever. I think most would agree that the ’90s were not a great time for movies. And yet one could make a decent argument that they were better than — or at least fundamentally different from — the ’00s. Think about it: We were still getting sexy, adult-oriented pictures in the ’90s, and the meanings of those pictures seemed neither freeze-dried nor vetted by committee. Film had yet to be replaced by digits. CGI was still this new, only-used-here-and-there technique. And superhero films were still something of a rarity.  Seems like a different time, doesn’t it? Is it fair to say the ’90s saw the close (or death rattle?) of the era of traditional filmmaking? I wrote a little — and somewhat incoherently — on this topic back here. Let’s not go there again.

Without further yammering, I give you some of my favorite films of the ’90s. As usual I make no special claims for artistic greatness or for-the-ages noteworthiness. And I won’t be offended if you disagree with my choices. On the contrary, I’m interested in learning what your favorite ’90s flicks are.

The Last Bolshevik (Marker)
Vanya on 42nd Street (Malle)
Six Degrees of Separation (Schepisi)
Romance (Breillat)
Where the Heart Is (Boorman)
A Confucian Confusion (Yang)
A Brighter Summer Day (Yang)
Carlito’s Way (De Palma)
Haut/Bas/Fragile (Rivette)
Before Sunrise (Linklater)
The Matrix (Wachowski/Wachowski)
Irma Vep (Assayas)
Bitter Moon (Polanski)
All About My Mother (Almodovar)
Three Kings (Russell)
Mon Homme (Blier)
An Autumn Tale (Rohmer)
Un, Deux, Trois, Soleil (Blier)
Babe: Pig In the City (Miller)
Thirty-Two Short Films About Glenn Gould (Girard)

About Fabrizio del Wrongo

Recovering liberal arts major. Unrepentant movie nut. Aspiring boozehound.
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82 Responses to Listing Movies: ’90s Faves

  1. Will S. says:

    I don’t know where to begin; I loved so many movies back then, hard to pick favourites…

    I will say this: I loved Tarantino in the ’90s (Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs) when he wasn’t so PC / moralistic as he is now; didn’t really care for Kill Bill or Deathproof, and I refuse to see Inglourious Basterds or Django Unchained.


  2. agnostic says:

    The ’90s were one of those gear-shifting periods, like the ’30s. After about ’32 or ’33, there’s a fundamental shift from the Ragtime and Jazz Age / The Roaring Twenties into the more staid and anonymous Midcentury. Similar story with the ’90s, shifting from the Rock and New Wave Age into the bland and isolated Millennial era.

    There are ruins of the old style, and a fundamentally different species growing over top. Some of these palimpsests work, but usually the conflict between such opposite mindsets and approaches results in an uncanny valley.

    The ’40s and ’50s are more coherent than the mid-to-late ’30s, since the Midcentury is becoming purer, as the Jazz Age fades more and more into the distance. And the new millennium is more coherent than the mid-to-late ’90s, as the Eighties slip further and further out of popular awareness. For better or worse.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. agnostic says:

    Not much of a fan of the ’90s either, but here are some decent / good examples after the early ’90s (which were more like the twilight of the ’80s). Still looks like most of mine are the ’80s-esque holdovers, mostly from the mid-’90s.

    The Fugitive
    Groundhog Day
    Falling Down
    The Sandlot
    Dazed and Confused
    Wes Craven’s New Nightmare
    Die Hard with a Vengeance
    12 Monkeys
    The Big Lebowski
    Lost Highway

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Tyler Darling says:

    Three Kings is amazing. One of my favorite war movies.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Mine are:

    Husbands and Wives (Allen)
    The Last Seduction (Dahl)
    Unforgiven (Eastwood)
    The Grifters (Frears)
    Clueless (Heckerling)
    The Hairdresser’s Husband (Leconte)
    Vanya on 42nd Street (Malle)
    Three Kings (Russell)
    Falling Down (Schumacher)
    The Limey (Soderbergh)
    Out of Sight (Soderbergh)
    Barcelona (Stillman)
    Metropolitan (Stillman)
    Basic Instinct (Verhoeven)
    The Matrix (Wachowski Bros.)

    Remember the big deal people made about Kiezlowski’s “Three Colors” trilogy? No one talks about them/it anymore.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Will S. says:

      I remember those! And the other one, the Double Life of Veronique. Back then, I liked anything with Irene Jacob in it, and anything by Kiezlowski; I esp. liked his Decalogue from the late 80s, which I saw with French subtitles on a French-language station; I showed one I taped to a friend, and had to translate for him, lol.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Fabrizio del Wrongo says:

      I love some of those as well. Especially “The Hairdresser’s Husband” and “The Last Seduction.”

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Will S. says:

    Here’s my favourite 20, of course there were many more that I also liked…

    Groundhog Day
    Falling Down
    Pulp Fiction
    Reservoir Dogs
    Sixth Sense
    Blair Witch Project
    The Last Days of Disco
    Forrest Gump
    Galaxy Quest
    The Big Lebowski
    O Brother, Where Art Thou?
    Europa, Europa
    Ride with the Devil
    Waking Ned Devine
    The Winslow Boy
    Le Dîner de Cons
    Last Night (Don McKellar)
    Highway 61 (Bruce MacDonald)

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Trying to come up with a response to this, and discovered that three of my favorite movies that I *thought* were from the ’90s were actually 1988-9: A Fish Called Wanda, Crimes and Misdemeanors, and Jesus of Montréal Unacknowledged mini-golden-age?


    • Will S. says:

      I was going to add Jesus of Montreal, and the Decline of the American Empire, too! Until I double-checked, and remembered they were late-80s movies, as well…

      Can we include 1988 and 1989 and 2000? 😉


  8. Fenster says:

    Wow you all turned up so many great films from that decade, and films that I kind of thought of as private pleasures since I often knew no one else who had seen them. Christ, I don’t think you can yet find Boorman’s Where the Heart Is on DVD, can you? Talk about neglected. And Bitter Moon, Vanya, Pig in the City, Limey, all of Stillman, Ride With the Devil, Winslow Boy. Hardly well known, all of them. Three Kings was at least well known, sort of, at the time. I agree it was/is marvelous. I retched when American Beauty took Best Picture.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Fenster says:

    And a few of my own:

    To Live
    Short Cuts
    Once Were Warriors
    Black Robe
    What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?

    Liked by 1 person

  10. peterike2 says:

    I love and hate these lists. Love because they clue me into a bunch of films I haven’t seen. Hate because they make me realize how many films I haven’t seen and how I’m never really going to get to most of them.

    I would highlight “Black Robe” and “Winslow Boy” from films mentioned above. All I can think to add is the glorious 1990 duo of films, “My Father’s Glory” and “My Mother’s Castle” based on the Marcel Pagnol memoir. Two gorgeous, life-affirming family films you could easily watch with a ten year old (if you can find one willing to read subtitles), yet firmly adult in their sensibility. And featuring the French lovely Nathalie Roussel.

    Oh, and just realized nobody has mentioned 1999’s “Topsy Turvy,” a brilliant, uncharacteristic Mike Leigh production.

    And my goodness, “The Dreamlife of Angels,” one of my favorite films ever. Criminally no longer available from NetFlix on DVD.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. peterike2 says:

    Also the lovely Brazilian film “Central Station” from 1998. And if we allow 2000, then the Mexican “Amores Perros.”


  12. peterike2 says:

    I really should do more research up front! The hilarious Australian film “Cosi” from 1997. Japanese film “After Life” from 1999. And dudes, “Chicken Run” from 2000!


  13. maidrya says:

    Of the ones listed, I especially liked Dancer in the Dark, Groundhog Day, Black Robe, Clueless, Three Kings, Out of Sight.

    I’d add:
    The Opposite of Sex
    The Talented Mr. Ripley
    LA Confidential
    And, if we’re including 2000, You Can Count on Me

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Fake Herzog says:

    Oh my goodness, I love this stuff!

    So far, from the movies listed I would include (in no particular order):

    1) The Matrix;

    2) Three Kings;

    3) Winslow Boy (isn’t it crazy that Mamet wrote the screenplay and directed!);

    4) The Fugitive (so many great Chicago shots in that film!);

    5) Unforgiven;

    6) Metropolitan;

    7) Reservoir Dogs;

    8) Groundhog Day;

    9) Election;

    10) L.A. Confidential;

    11) What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?;

    12) Europa, Europa;

    13) Topsy Turvy;

    14) Secrets and Lies (this was my intro. to Mike Leigh and although I don’t share his left-wing politics, both this film and Topsy Turvy are such masterpieces and really aren’t political that I can overlook his liberalism for the sake of high art!)

    In addition, I would add a couple of John Woo films (his two 90s films that I like are “Hard Boiled”, his last Hong Kong action film and “Face/Off” which is peak classic Nic Cage). I would also add two Zhang Yimou films (these were before he started making martial arts movies): “Ju Dou” and “Raise the Red Lantern”. Finally, I’d add “The Legend of Drunken Master” with Jackie Chan (although it was technically released in the U.S. in 2000, it was made in Hong Kong in 1994). I’m a big fan of Chinese cinema.

    Now I’m excited to get some of the French films mentioned — I’m weak when it comes to older French films unless they had Depardieu or the lovely Emmanuelle Beart.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. As much as a I love noirs and neo-noirs (as my list shows), L.A. CONFIDENTIAL doesn’t make the cut for me b/c I think the ending ruins the movie. Everything after the shootout at the Victory Motel brings down the film. The scene of Exley explaining what happened? Completely unnecessary. You say the movie would be too confusing otherwise? William Faulkner, the man who gave us “The Sound and the Fury” and “As I Lay Dying,” couldn’t figure out what was happening in THE BIG SLEEP. Confusing noir plots emphasize the theme that the world is incomprehensible and has it in for you, that you have to go it alone by your own code.

    But the most egregious misstep is the final shot of Bud and Lynn driving away. Gah! As William Goldman pointed out, the movie has a great ending already — Bud dying in the hotel melee and Exley, the golden boy who always plays by the rules, shooting Dudley Smith in the back. Noirs are supposed to end with cynicism, world-weariness, and death, not with the heroes riding off into the sunset.


    • Tex says:

      L.A. Confidential is an odd duck of a movie. It has the elements of greatness yet I’ve never felt to urge to re-watch it. How Basinger won an Oscar for her mannequin performance is beyond me. I still enjoyed it, but I can’t remember much about it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • The Oscars have never been about rewarding “the best” (whatever that means). It’s about the Academy giving awards to its friends and films it deems “important.” We could be here all day listing Oscar winners no one cares about anymore or mediocre/bad films that won.


  16. Who’s gonna be the first brave soul to put TITANIC on their list?

    Liked by 1 person

  17. gubbler of the reformed church of chechenism says:

    My list of absolute top 10 of the 1990s in no particular order:

    Eyes Wide Shut
    Dazed and Confused
    Carlito’s Way
    Time Regained

    10 more

    Secret Defense
    Kids Return
    Last Days of Disco
    13th Warrior
    Jurassic Park
    Reservoir Dogs
    Saving Private Ryan(for action scenes, the greatest ever)
    Gohatto(aka Taboo)
    Chalk(Rob Nilsson)

    Liked by 1 person

  18. gubbler of the reformed church of chechenism says:

    eXistenZ, Wild Bill, Age of Innocence, Colonel Chabert, Daddy Nostalgia, Lady and the Duke, Underground, Black Cat White Cat, Shall We Dance, Waterworld, Felicia’s Journey, Boiling Point,
    Dr. Akagi, The General(Boorman), East is Red(starring Brigit Lin), Shanghai Triad, Blue Kite,
    Ride with the Devil, Gettysburg, Geronimo, Last Man Standing, Running Out of Time(Johnny To),
    Dreamlife of Angels, L’Enfer, The Color of Lie, La Ceremonie, Lovers on the Bridge, Luna Park
    Unforgettable Summer(Pintille), The Oak(Pintile), Farewell My Concubine, Bronx Tale, Manhattan Murder Mystery, Bodysnatchers, Flirting, Metropolitan, Alien3, L627.


  19. Will S. says:

    I almost forgot: Delicatessen! I missed Jeunet’s later Amelie and A Very Long Engagement, but I did like Micmacs, among his later work.


  20. Fake Herzog says:

    I love you Will S.

    I almost forgot my favorite Jeunet (with Marc Caro) — “The City of Lost Children”. One of my all time favorites (I have it on laserdisc!!!) Not only are the special effects fun, the story intriguing (with some neat sci-fi elements) but it has the always awesome Ron Perlman. Plus, the young actress who stars in the film, Judith Vittet, was delightful.

    gubbler’s list is a bit too scatter-shot for me, but he did remind me of the excellent Mamet film, “Homicide”.

    Finally, Blowhard’s comments about L.A. Confidential are very smart and wise, but I still love the film, probably because Exley does shoot Smith in the back — that scene is so awesome I can forgive the later nonsense.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. agnostic says:

    How is The Spanish Prisoner? Only Mamet movie I’ve seen is House of Games, but if it’s got Steve Martin, I’d be up for something of his from the otherwise bone-dry late ’90s.


  22. Tex says:

    * The Hot Spot – very underrated film noir. The only bright spot in Don Johnson’s miserable career.
    * Three Kings
    * Pulp Fiction
    * Heat – The king kong of Cops n’ Robbers movies, even with Pacino’s endless hamming.
    * The Insider – my pick for best film of the 90s and Mann’s best
    * Primary Colors
    * Ronin
    * The Thin Red Line – a narrative disaster, but the stunning imagery made it for me
    * The Fugitive – attention Michael Bay: this is how you make kick-ass blockbuster entertainment
    * The Hunt For Red October – see above comment
    * Miami Blues
    * Total Recall – stupid sci-fi at its finest
    * Goodfellas
    * The Silence of the Lambs – One of the very few ‘best picture’ Oscar winners that actually deserved it.
    * JFK – Historically absurd, but a masterpiece of film assembly
    * Soapdish – I generally don’t like comedies, but I nearly busted a lung at part of this one
    * Unforgiven
    * Candyman – A horror movie real a real script, good actors and great production values. Wut?
    * Wolf – See “Candyman”. A strangely affecting performance from Nicholson
    * Se7en – which sadly helped usher in an era of appalling serial-killer torture-porn. Kyle Cooper’s opening credit sequence also changed cinema history.
    * Richard III
    * Devil in a Blue Dress
    * The Usual Suspects
    * War of the Roses
    * Jerry Maguire
    * Jackie Brown – Tarantino’s best narrative effort, and the first time I ever heard about Roscoe’s & Chicken & Waffles
    * X-Files – I wasn’t even a fan of the show, yet I loved the movie. Very-well crafted and restrained.
    * American Beauty
    * Election
    * Go

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Tex says:

    There are three great mysteries in this world:
    1- How did the universe begin?
    2- How will it end?
    3- How is it possible that I have not seen Irma Vep – a film that has been around for 18 years and features Maggue Cheung wearing a catsuit?

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Not saying these are “the best” (in fact, looking them over they’re pretty conventional picks), but here are ten that I loved and have re-watched:

    The Usual Suspects
    Apollo 13 (A historical drama whose ending was known to pretty much everyone, and yet still managed to create genuine suspense.)
    Sense and Sensibility
    Richard III
    Shakespeare In Love
    Toy Story
    Best In Show (Holy cats this makes me crack up EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.)
    The Silence Of The Lambs
    Dick (WHY is this movie so little-known? Clever historical revisionism, hilarious dialogue, pitch-perfect performance by Dan Hedaya as Richard Nixon, Woodward and Bernstein depicted as hapless bumblers, plus young ‘n adorable Michelle Williams and Kirsten Dunst.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Tex says:

      Fred Willard in ‘Best in Show’ was one of the greatest comedic performances ever.


    • I’m not much of an Ang Lee fan, but I like “Sense & Sensibility” a lot. Given the story, setting, costumes, Winslet, and Thompson, it would be really hard for a director to screw that up for me. Fun fact: Whit Stillman was approached to direct on the basis of “Metropolitan.” I read somewhere that he’s still trying to get an Austen adaptation done.

      Paleo Retiree gave me a bag full of DVDs when I was in NYC and “Dick” was one of them. Never seen it, will watch it soon.


      • I think “Dick” was probably seen as a teen movie by adults, and the Watergate history-minutiae went over the head of the teens. Hence it never found an audience, which is a crying shame because it’s damn funny. Also contains my favorite Will Ferrell performance (I’m not a fan, so that isn’t really saying much), and did I mention scantily-clad Kirsten and Michelle?


      • Fabrizio del Wrongo says:

        “Dick” is a good, sweet-spirited little movie. You might say that I like “Dick.”

        Screw Ang Lee. But I agree that “S&S” is pretty good. The screenplay is really sharp.

        Liked by 1 person

  25. Tex says:

    Shit, I forgot one of my favourites: OFFICE SPACE

    Liked by 2 people

  26. Fake Herzog says:

    “Office Space” would be in my top ten. I still quote it with friends (we all try and do Lumbergh) and it has one of my favorite Jennifer Anniston performances.

    Why all the Ang Lee hate? I love his Chinese films, although I refuse to see gay cowboys on principle 🙂

    Oh and one more thing — “The Hot Spot” has one of the best Jennifer Connelly nude scenes ever (and really, all sorts of good nude scenes). I actually try and live a good Catholic life these days, but hanging around you degenerates makes me long for the days when I used to watch…less than wholesome family fare. Let’s just leave it at that!

    Liked by 1 person

  27. (Furiously scribbling down a list of ’90s movies I haven’t yet watched …)

    Liked by 1 person

  28. Am I the only of us who isn’t a big David O. Russell fan? For some reason I watch his movies feeling no interest whatsoever. And put me down too as the rare movie buff who isn’t wild about “Before Sunrise,” though I often like Linklater. On the other hand, I’ll pitch in enthusiastic votes for “Soapdish,” “Devil in a Blue Dress” and “Candyman” among the less-mentioned movies here.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. Might be time for a list of favorites from the 2000s, too.


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  31. Warren Sikes says:

    Excellent list (although the appeal of The Matrix continues to allude me)…

    Some movies that would appear on my own list:

    Boogie Nights
    Beavis and Butthead do America
    One False Move
    Twin Peaks Fire Walk with Me
    The Professional
    Showgirls – Yes, Showgirls
    12 Monkeys
    Sling Blade
    Beyond Rangoon

    And, here’s a list of “pretty good” but not great movies from the 90’s…some people (not me) might refer to these as guilty pleasures…

    Last Man Standing
    The Island of Dr. Moreau
    13th Warrior
    Sudden Death – Ridiculous and entertaining Peter Hyams/Van Damme Die Hard ripoff about a gang of elite terrorists lead by Powers Booth taking over the Stanley Cup finals.
    The Perfect Weapon
    Wild Bill
    The Rage: Carrie 2
    Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey
    Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man
    Mom and Dad Save the World
    Raising Cain – Love this movie, and the recut version floating around on the internet, which rearranges the chronology back to what Brian De Palma originally intended, is even better.
    The Stoned Age
    True Romance
    Don’t Be a Menace…
    Deuce Bigalow Male Gigolo
    Any Given Sunday

    And, for the hell of it, best “Skinemax” movie of 90’s:

    Playtime – I’ve heard this referred to as “the Citizen Kane” of late night soft core movies. I wouldn’t go that far, but the leads have chemistry, there’s an actual story, and in spite of the low budget and short shooting schedule, some care, creativity and skill went into the film-making.

    Runner up: Bikini Drive In – likable in a dopey kind of way; Joe Dante-esque.

    Liked by 1 person

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