Saturday, October 20, 2012

Master List #25: The 101 Best Movies of the 1990s

When I think of the movies of the 1990s, I inevitably flash back to the person I was in my late 20s,  working in the programming department of Turner Network Television but also a part-timer at both the Plaza Theater (Atlanta's oldest movie house, still up and running) and at Videodrome (which remains, as of 2012, the only operating video store in the city). This list of movies, even having been detailed in the intervening years, still transports me back to a time where I was furthering my film education in adulthood, and inevitably uncovering an internal lament that the past was gone forever.   Unlike the rich previous decades, foreign films and documentaries--though these genres are repped on this compendium--were suffering from a lack of stateside distribution. Meanwhile, a bright set of indie voices had taken their place, some of them American (chief among them Tarantino, Payne, Linklater, Savoca, Wes Anderson and P.T. Anderson, as well as the in-their-prime Soderburgh and Coen Brothers) but many from other lands (the extraordinary Mike Leigh and Lars Von Trier, along with Kieslowski, Egoyan, Haneke, Zhang Yimou, Wong Kar-Wei, Takeashi Kitano, the American James Ivory--transplanted to the UK--and Abbas Kiarostami). But there were very few players from the past: occasionally we got a terrific entry from Eastwood, Altman, Chabrol, Heckerling, as well as the best from Spielberg and Scorsese (who unquestionably delivered the most influential movie of the entire decade, at its very beginning, just as he did in the 1980s with Raging Bull, and who also deepened his commitment to documentary filmmaking during this time). During the '90s, we were also greeted with sole, shining entries from Kubrick and Malick--a welcome gift. That more of the past masters weren't successful in their filmmaking attempts saddened me. But the decade marked a time for us to say goodbye to the past and move on to the future, for better or worse. I love all the movies on this list--and I don't mean to denigrate the new visionaries hailed here--but comparing these 101 films to the 101 films I've listed from all the other decades, I can't help but feel that something has been lost. At any rate, according to (1) personal affection, (2) historical influence, and (3) overall quality, here are my picks:

1) Goodfellas (Martin Scorsese, 90)
2) Breaking the Waves (Lars Von Trier, 96 (Denmark/UK))
3) The Sweet Hereafter (Atom Egoyan, 97 (Canada))
4) Crumb (Terry Zwigoff, 94)
5) Pulp Fiction (Quentin Tarantino, 94) 
6) Unforgiven (Clint Eastwood, 92)
7) Toy Story 2 (John Lasseter, 99)
8) Eyes Wide Shut (Stanley Kubrick, 99)
9) Barton Fink (Joel and Ethan Coen, 91)
10) Life is Sweet (Mike Leigh, 91 (UK)) 
11) Ed Wood (Tim Burton, 94) 
12) Time Indefinite (Ross McElwee, 93)
13) Three Colors: Blue (Krzysztof Kieslowski, 93 (France/Poland))
14) Schindler's List (Steven Spielberg, 93) 
15) The Remains of the Day (James Ivory, 93 (UK))
16) Sling Blade (Billy Bob Thornton, 96) 
17) Festen (Thomas Vinterberg, 98 (Denmark))
18) The Thin Red Line (Terrence Malick, 98)
19) Europa Europa (Agnieszka Holland, 90 (Germany/France/Poland))
20) Election (Alexander Payne, 99)
21) Toy Story (John Lasseter, 95)
22) The Big Lebowski (Joel and Ethan Coen, 98)
23) Dazed and Confused (Richard Linklater, 93)
24) The Age of Innocence (Martin Scorsese, 93)
25) Magnolia (Paul Thomas Anderson, 99)
26) Short Cuts (Robert Altman, 93)
27) Three Colors: Red (Krzysztof Kieslowski, 94 (France/Poland)) 
28) The Rapture (Michael Tolkin, 91)
29) To Live (Zhang Yimou, 94 (China))
30) The Shawshank Redemption (Frank DeBont, 94)
31) Seven (David Fincher, 95)
32) The Matrix (Andy and Larry Wachowski, 99)
33) The Ice Storm (Ang Lee, 97)
34) A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries (James Ivory, 98 (France/US))
35) Ponette (Jacques Doillon, 96 (France))
36) The Gods of Times Square (Richard Sandler, 99)
37) Topsy Turvy (Mike Leigh, 99 (UK))
38) The Insider (Michael Mann, 99)
39) Fargo (Joel and Ethan Coen, 96)
40) Naked (Mike Leigh, 93 (UK))
41) Rushmore (Wes Anderson, 98)
42) American Movie (Chris Smith, 99)
43) Leaving Las Vegas (Mike Figgis, 95)
44) All About My Mother (Pedro Almodovar, 99 (Spain))
45) A Single Girl (Benoit Jacoit, 95 France)) 
46) King of the Hill (Steven Soderburgh, 93)
47) Jackie Brown (Quentin Tarantino, 97)
48) Paradise Lost: The Child Killings at Robin Hood Hills (Joe Belinger and Bruce Sinofsky, 96)
49) Miller's Crossing (Joel and Ethan Coen, 90)
50) Safe (Todd Haynes, 95 (Canada))
51) Natural Born Killers (Oliver Stone, 94)
52) Saving Private Ryan (Steven Spielberg, 98)
53) The Iron Giant (Brad Bird, 99)
55) Secrets and Lies (Mike Leigh, 96 (UK))
56) Howards End (James Ivory, 92 (UK/US))
57) Flirting with Disaster (David O. Russell, 96)
58) Reservoir Dogs (Quentin Tarantino, 92)
59) Primary Colors (Mike Nichols, 98) 
60) Citizen Ruth (Alexander Paine, 96)
61) Silverlake Life: The View From Here (Peter Friedman and Tom Joslin, 93)
62) Clueless (Amy Heckerling, 95)
63) L.A. Confidential (Curtis Hanson, 97)
64) Office Space (Mike Judge, 99)
65) Men Don't Leave (Paul Brickman, 90)
66) The Hudsucker Proxy (Joel and Ethan Coen, 94)
67) Casino (Martin Scorsese, 96)
68) Funny Games (Michael Haneke, 97 (Germany/France))
69) Fight Club (David Fincher, 99)
70) The Long Day Closes (Terrence Davies, 92 (UK))
71) The Straight Story (David Lynch, 99)
72) La Ceremonie (Claude Chabrol, 95 France))
73) An Angel at My Table (Jane Campion, 90 (New Zealand/Australia/UK)
74) Mother and Son (Aleksandr Sokurov, 97 (Russia))  
75) Donnie Brasco (Mike Newell, 97)
76) Glengarry Glen Ross (James Foley, 92)
77) Schizopolis (Steven Soderburgh, 96)
78) Vanya on 42nd Street (Louis Malle, 94)
79) White Hunter Black Heart (Clint Eastwood, 90)
80) Dogfight (Nancy Savoca, 91)
81) Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (Terry Gilliam, 98)  
82) Ratcatcher (Lynne Ramsay, 99 (Scotland))
83) Leon (Luc Besson, 94 (France))
84) Three Kings (David O. Russell, 99)
85) Raise the Red Lantern (Zhang Yimou, 91 (China))
86) Babe (Chris Noonan, 95 (Australia/US))
87) Waco: The Rules of Engagement (William Gazecki, 97) 
88) The Grifters (Stephen Frears, 90)
89) Chungking Express (Wong Kar-Wei, 94 (Hong Kong))
90) Thelma and Louise (Ridley Scott, 91)
91) Fearless (Peter Weir, 93)
92) Hana-bi (Takeshi Katano, 97 (Japan))   
93) Europa (Lars Von Trier, 91 (Spain/Denmark/France/Germany/Switzerland))
94) Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (David Lynch, 92)
95) The Quiet Room (Rolf de Heer, 96 (Australia/Italy/France))
96) A Taste of Cherry (Abbas Kiarostami, 97 (Iran))
97) Menace II Society (Allen and Albert Hughes, 93)
98) After Life (Hirokazu Koreeda, 98 (Japan))
99) Ulee's Gold (Victor Nunez, 97)
100) Eve's Bayou (Kasi Lemmons, 97)  
101) Trees Lounge (Steve Buscemi, 96) 

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