The 1990s: A Look Back

by robbiefreeling
March 24, 2009 2:47 AM
25 Comments
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Some say list-making is a waste of time. Some may think it a fool’s errand to narrow down an entire decade’s (let alone a century’s) output into a finely tuned selection of the greatest and dearest to our hearts. And with such a fecund period of quality filmmaking as the 1990s, it would seem nigh impossible to select, say, a mere one hundred films as “the best.” But here at Reverse Shot, we dug deep, and here are the results of a collaborative effort, culled together by a handful of our editors and writers from a highly selective, democratic, even scientific voting process. There will surely be titles that we have overlooked, and others whose inclusion that many of you will disagree with. Nevertheless, without shame or guile, we present our 100 Greatest Films of the 1990s.


1. Inventing the Abbots (O’Connor, 1997)
2. The Paper (Howard, 1994)
3. Wind (Ballard, 1992)
4. Johnny Mnemonic (Longo, 1995)
5. Nell (Apted, 1994)
6. Beautiful Girls (Demme, 1996)
7. The Pillow Book (Greenaway, 1996)
8. Sarafina! (Roodt, 1992)
9. Peter’s Friends (Branagh, 1992)
10. The Spitfire Grill (Zlotoff, 1996)




11. The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain (Monger, 1995)
12. White Squall (Scott, 1996)
13. Angels in the Outfield (Dear, 1994)
14. Mixed Nuts (Ephron, 1994)
15. Eye of the Beholder (Elliott, 1999)
16. How to Make an American Quilt (Moorhouse, 1995)
17. Supercop (American rerelease, Tong, 1992)
18. A Civil Action (Zaillian, 1998)
19. Consenting Adults (Pakula, 1992)
20. Love! Valour! Compassion! (Mantello, 1997)




21. Sommersby (Amiel, 1993)
22. (tie) 1492: Conquest of Paradise (Scott, 1992) /Christopher Columbus: the Discovery (Glen, 1992)
23. The First Wives Club (Wilson, 1996)
24. Sliver (Noyce, 1993)
25. Death Becomes Her (Zemeckis, 1992)
26. Kalifornia (Sena, 1993)
27. With Honors (Keshishian, 1994)
28. Diggstown (Ritchie, 1992)
29. Threesome (Fleming, 1994)
30. Last Action Hero (McTiernan, 1993)




31. Kiss Me Guido (Vitale, 1997)
32. The Public Eye (Franklin, 1992)
33. Jack the Bear (Herskovitz, 1991)
34. Milk Money (Benjamin, 1994)
35. Untamed Heart (Bill, 1993)
36. The Doctor (Haines, 1991)
37. Trapped in Paradise (Gallo, 1994)
38.The Story of Us (Reiner, 1999)
39. Wishmaster (Kurtzman, 1997)
40. Multiplicity (Ramis, 1996)




41. The Super (Daniel, 1991)
42. Judge Dredd (Cannon, 1995)
43. Body of Evidence (Edel, 1993)
44. City of Angels (Silberling, 1998)
45. Curly Sue (Hughes, 1991)
46. Quest for Camelot (Du Chau, 1998)
47. Daddy’s Dyin . . . Who’s Got the Will? (Fisk, 1990)
48. Daylight (Cohen, 1996)
49. The Shawshank Redemption (Darabont, 1994)
50. Dying Young (Schumacher, 1991)




51. Unstrung Heroes (Keaton, 1995)
52. Medicine Man (McTiernan, 1992)
53. EdTV (Howard, 1998)
54. First Knight (Zucker, 1995)
55. (tie) 2 Days in the Valley (Herzfeld, 1996) / 8 Heads in a Duffel Bag (Schulman, 1997)
56. Girl 6 (Lee, 1996)
57. Ulee’s Gold (Nunez, 1997)
58. The Perez Family (Nair, 1995)
59. Drop Dead Fred (de Jong, 1991)
60. Billy Bathgate (Benton, 1991)




61. The Air Up There (Glaser, 1994)
62. The Madness of King George (Hytner, 1994)
63. Singles (Crowe, 1992)
64. The Mirror Has Two Faces (Streisand, 1996)
65. Flawless (Schumacher, 1999)
66. 54 (Christopher, 1998)
67. Marvin’s Room (Zaks, 1996)
68. Gone Fishin’ (Cain, 1997)
69. Widows’ Peak (Irvin, 1994)
70. Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead (Fleder, 1995)




71. Mrs. Winterbourne (Benjamin, 1996)
72. Operation Dumbo Drop (Wincer, 1995)
73. Virtuosity (Leonard, 1995)
74. Disclosure (Levinson, 1994)
75. Being Human (Forsythe, 1993)
76. Once Upon a Crime (Levy, 1992)
77. Strictly Business (Hooks, 1991)
78. Congo (Marshall, 1995)
79. Surviving Picasso (Ivory, 1996)
80. Mr. Nanny (Gottlieb, 1993)




81. Dead Man on Campus (Cohn, 1998)
82. Anna and the King (Tennant, 1999)
83. Fled (Hooks, 1996)
84. Almost Heroes (Guest, 1999)
85. American Beauty (Mendes, 1999)
86. Batman Forever (Schumacher, 1995)
87. Last Dance (Beresford, 1996)
88. The Pompatus of Love (Schenckman, 1996)
89. The Big Green (Sloane, 1995)
90. Trial and Error (Lynn, 1997)




91. The Minus Man (Fancher, 1999)
92. White Man’s Burden (Nakano, 1995)
93. Malice (Becker, 1993)
94. Whore (Russell, 1991)
95. Universal Soldier (Emmerich, 1992)
96. Forget Paris (Crystal, 1995)
97. Dante’s Peak (Donaldson, 1997)
98. Something to Talk About (Hallstrom, 1995)
99. Powder (Salva, 1995)
100. Nothing but Trouble (Aykroyd, 1991)




Anything we left off? Let us know!

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25 Comments

  • zik | April 1, 2009 11:15 AMReply

    It speaks to how overcooked and revisionist current film criticism is that I almost took this list to be serious for more than two seconds.

  • gjk | March 30, 2009 3:10 AMReply

    I've seen 32 of these, give or take a few, so I think I win...

    Glad "Shawshank Redemption" made the list, very underrated IMO. "The Paper" is an inspired choice at number two, that movie is to the 90s as "Citizen Kane" is to the 20th Century.

    Also, "Under Siege" perhaps should have been at number 1 (didn't make the list?!), in any case perfect double feature with Battleship Potomkin...

  • Bob Violence | March 27, 2009 11:52 AMReply

    Lots of good stuff in here, thanks for the reminders

  • robbiefreeling | March 27, 2009 5:48 AMReply

    You have my sympathies, Mark. Positive reviews from yours truly in the Chelmsford Independent included Independence Day and possibly Twister and Primal Fear. I excoriated The Spitfire Grill, though. Heh, The Spitfire Grill.

  • adt | March 27, 2009 5:22 AMReply

    The Shadow: Un film de Russell Mulcahy

  • Mark Asch | March 27, 2009 4:39 AMReply

    Fewer than you might think, because young, but a partial list of movies given rave reviews by yours truly in his middle school student newspaper would include Mad City, Wag the Dog and As Good As It Gets. I shudder at the memory, but luckily I instructed Dmitri Nabokov to burn all existing copies of it, so...

  • Joseph | March 27, 2009 4:36 AMReply

    I saw Nell 53 times, does that count?

  • seanmcavoy | March 27, 2009 3:34 AMReply

    Pillow Book/ The Doctor should've been 1 - 2

  • robbiefreeling | March 27, 2009 3:11 AMReply

    Surprisingly, I only came up with 53 that I had seen, Mark. And yourself?

    Oh, wait, you also said "genuinely enjoyed." I take that to the grave with me.... though I admit loathing American Beauty on opening night. And let that be my one immodest comment I will repeat again and again until the day I die.

  • Mark Asch | March 27, 2009 1:26 AMReply

    I think everyone ought to go down this list one by one and tally the number of movies we saw and genuinely enjoyed upon their release. In the spirit of total, brutal honesty.

    Also, eshman (if that's your real name), I cannot sit idly by while you defame the good (or perhaps notsogood) name of The Phantom, the most underrated movie of the 90s and a career peak for Billy Zane (if not Kristy Swanson). Better than Raiders of the Lost Ark, I am so not even kidding; I plan on making this case in greater depth in Reverse Shot 30: The Better-Than List (guest editor Armond White).

  • joe the movie guy | March 25, 2009 11:38 AMReply

    yeah, i'm an idiot if you didn't realize this yet

  • Joe the movie guy | March 25, 2009 11:37 AMReply

    I know this is a joke or a best of the worst or movies you cant help but watch when they're on tv in the middle of the night when you're lying awake, sick, with a 150 degree cold. And so here is the real best of 90's:
    The Shawshank Redemption
    The Silence of the Lambs
    Shindler's List
    Seven
    L.A. Confidential
    Pulp Fiction
    Fargo
    The Matrix
    Fight Club
    American Beauty
    Saving Private Ryan
    Goodfellas
    Casino
    Leon
    Trainspotting
    The Usual Suspects
    Reservoir Dogs
    The Sixth Sense
    Groundhog Day
    Twelve Monkeys
    Good Will Hunting
    The Big Lebowski

  • Joe the movie guy | March 25, 2009 11:27 AMReply

    Ok, so this is really a joke right? THis is the worst right? Right?

  • joel | March 25, 2009 9:27 AMReply

    April Fools Day is *NEXT* week

  • eshman | March 25, 2009 9:23 AMReply

    The presence of Simon Wincer's turdily suggestive OPERATION DUMBO DROP reminded me of the Aussie auteur's towering, steaming pile of Nineties output. Any of these could have cracked the top ten:

    Quigley Down Under (1990)
    Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man (1991)
    Free Willy (1993)
    Lightning Jack (1994)
    The Phantom (1996)

  • eshman | March 25, 2009 9:06 AMReply

    Each of the pictured posters makes a strong case for having our civilization burnt to cinders.

  • Nellie | March 25, 2009 8:38 AMReply

    Finally, a reverseblog post about movies I've actually seen.

  • mjr | March 25, 2009 8:04 AMReply

    Also -- The motherfucking Trigger Effect.

  • the rifleman | March 25, 2009 6:01 AMReply

    I can't say #94, but I think I'll just see it

  • brotherfromanother | March 25, 2009 5:16 AMReply

    Universal Soldier is way better than American Beauty. This list sucks.

  • Chris | March 25, 2009 5:12 AMReply

    I have seen 90% of this list.

  • robbiefreeling | March 25, 2009 4:01 AMReply

    Yes, Shining Through, along with two other Griffith titles, just barely made the cut: A Stranger Among Us and Two Much.

    Others that were thisclose include A Price Above Rubies, A Life Less Ordinary, and Blink.

  • Dave M | March 25, 2009 2:23 AMReply

    Man, you guys are cold. But in that spirit, I must point out that you forgot Flatliners (1990).

  • Keith Uhlich | March 25, 2009 2:02 AMReply

    "Nothing But Trouble" at 100?!! That's a best of the decade if ever there was one... if only for the Tupac cameo.

  • mjr | March 25, 2009 1:23 AMReply

    Shining the fuck Through.