Thursday, January 28, 2010

Top 100 movies of the '90s: 30-21

30. Three Colors: Red, 1994
Dir: Krzysztof Kieslowski
Cast: Irene Jacob

Perhaps one of the most underrated directors to have ever lived, Kieslowski's film Red marks one of the very few foreign films on this list. Regrettably, I have not seen very many foreign films in this decade, but of the ones I saw, this one really struck a chord with me. Just the way the movie takes you on this unpredictable ride where characters who otherwise had nothing to do with each other suddenly meet. Red was Kieslowski's final film - I'm sure there are many directors who would love to end their career making such a brilliant film, very few are able to do so.

29. Good Will Hunting, 1997
Dir: Gus Van Sant
Cast: Robin Williams, Matt Damon

The film that proved that Gus Van Sant could be a commercially successful director; the film that thrust Matt Damon and Ben Affleck into movie superstardom; the film that once again proved that Robin Williams is one hell of a dramatic actor. When I look back at films and rank them retrospectively, I often think of how much of the film I can still remember regardless of how long ago I've seen it last. I have seen this movie a handful of times and each scene in this movie is so memorable that I feel like I'm listening to a band's greatest hits album when I watch this movie.

28. Three Kings, 1999
Dir: David O. Russell
Cast: George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg

I remember Roger Ebert calling this movie a "weird masterpiece" or something along those lines. He is correct on that assessment. This film really showed just how brilliant David O. Russell can be. Technically, the movie is masterful. Great performances by Clooney, Ice Cube, and Mark Wahlberg. Considering how heated things were during the production of this movie, it's surprising just how good this movie turned out.

27. Miller's Crossing, 1990
Dir: The Coen Brothers
Cast: Gabriel Byrne, John Turturro

Perhaps overlooked at the time for being released during the same year as Goodfellas and The Godfather, part III, Coen Bros' Miller's Crossing is an underrated classic. Beautifully shot by Barry Sonnenfeld, this film features a very cold, dark performance from J. E. Freeman who is not unlike Anton Chigurh from No Country For Old Men. Like most Coen Brothers' movies, this isn't a typical mob movie. This is a Coen Brothers' mob movie which should mean it's in its own category.

26. Se7en, 1995
Dir: David Fincher
Cast: Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman

Very smart, sophisticated film by David Fincher; it really should be considered his first film since his "first" film was Alien 3. Zodiac proved that David Fincher knows how to make cop dramas and Se7en was his first crack at the subgenre. It should come as no surprise that those are two of his best movies. Se7en works in a similar way as Zodiac as the whole of the crimes are larger than the sum. The cops involved (Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman) in the case all feel legitimately sickened by the crimes and it all comes to a shocking, personal conclusion that has since received mixed reactions by many people. I, however, happen to be on the positive side of that reaction and think that this film hardly misfires throughout.

25. American Beauty, 1999
Dir: Sam Mendes
Cast: Kevin Spacey, Annette Bening

It came as a surprise to me when I found out that one of the all-time great directors, Robert Altman, trashed this film and lumped this with "Titanic" as one of the best picture Oscar winners that he considered to be the "worst ever." Well, I'll respectfully disagree with the late, great director's opinion because I feel this film is a near-masterpiece. By the way, I'm sorry if I use to word "masterpiece" from here on out, I've reached the top 25 after all. But, nevertheless, this film is fantastic----from the acting, the cinematography, and a story about the disillusionment with suburban life in America, whether from the perspective of a father going through a mid-life crisis or a rebellious teenage girl... this film hits all the right notes at all the right times and seemingly struck a chord with the country as it was very successful at the time of its release both critically and commercially.

24. Hard Boiled, 1992
Dir: John Woo
Cast: Chow Yun-Fat, Tony Leung

Highly stylized, brilliant, John Woo Hong Kong action film. Featuring two of Hong Kong's most legendary actors, this shoot 'em up features some great action scenes and is considered the last truly great film from John Woo. Since then, he has unfortunately decided to make some pedestrian Hollywood films, but in 1992 this was John Woo at his undeniable best.

23. Malcolm X, 1992
Dir: Spike Lee
Cast: Denzel Washington

Many consider Do the Right Thing to be Spike Lee's masterpiece, but I find it hard to believe that after going through the three and a half hour behemoth that is Malcolm X. Carried by an unbelievably convincing performance by Denzel Washington, a performance he's never been able to top, add that with impeccable direction by Spike Lee... and you have yourself one of cinema's all-time great biopics.

22. Saving Private Ryan, 1998
Dir: Steven Spielberg
Cast: Tom Hanks, Matt Damon

When you ask the average film fan what their favorite war movie is, they will probably say "Saving Private Ryan." And while that's the typical, popular pick, anybody who dismisses this film as such is severely underrating the film. I have very little complaints about this film. What surprises me is how Steven Spielberg can make these big budget Hollywood films such as Jurassic Park and Indiana Jones and yet manage to make a film like Saving Private Ryan that is both commercially and critically pleasing and really goes into the depths of artistic filmmaking. You can call Spielberg a populist filmmaker if you want, you'd probably be right in that assessment. But he has shown time and time again that he can tackle more serious subjects that utilizes his artistic side and still winds up commercially successful. If all of his films happen to do well in the box office, does that make him any less of a director? Absolutely not.

21. Terminator 2, 1991
Dir: James Cameron
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton

Most people generally consider The Godfather, part II to be the greatest sequel of all-time and I would be inclined to agree... but with Terminator 2, James Cameron totally revolutionizes everything we think a sequel could be. Let's face it, this movie has all the goods. A great, tough performance by Linda Hamilton, Arnold Schwarzenegger is his usual badass Terminator self, and even the young kid Edward Furlong managed not to be annoying... and that's hard to accomplish. Some of the action sequences in this film are still impressive. They were groundbreaking back in 1991 and they are groundbreaking still. James Cameron has made two of the highest grossing films of all-time, but this is by far his best.

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