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Friday, March 23, 2012

The Movies that Defined the 1990's: 40-31

NSync and Britney Spears
courtesy of
Part two of our nostalgic look back at the films that defined the 90's as a decade. Again, this is a list of the 50 films that best defined the 1990's - this doesn't mean they are the best films of the decade. Keep in mind that these are all films commercially distributed in the United States - I lived a sheltered life back then. I didn't see all these movies when they first premiered, but I was aware of the cultural significance of them and the impact they made on society. So let's continue looking back with #40 - #31.

#40. Fargo (1996)

Another Coen brothers movie with one of the best female lead performances in recent history. Starring Frances McDormand, this crime drama soaked in Canadian border accents and mannerisms was an American film that felt more like a foreign one. Joel and Ethan Coen introduced audiences to a world up north that few could even believe existed. Jammed with brilliant performances from every cast member, it's the movie that proved that these directing brothers were a force to be reckoned with.

#39. The Crow (1994)

 Somehow, this strange story of a murdered man who comes back to life to avenge his and his fiancee's death found an audience. Starring Bruce Lee's son Brandon, the film's aggressive violence and goth-like themes only gathered steam, thanks to the horrific fate of its star. During filming, a shard of a bullet lodged in a prop gun shooting blanks hit Lee, taking his life. The tragedy certainly helped the film make its impact with fans the world around. Plus, it helped us invent a very painful way to jump off of a diving board - arms extended; back flat.

#38. Forrest Gump (1994)

The film that somehow muscled out two of the greatest films ever made for the Best Picture Oscar in 1994, Forrest Gump took a simple, broad story and touched people around the world. Anchored by a sweet, forever-watchable performance from Tom Hanks (that won him his second Oscar), this story of hope, kindness, and love in the face of hardship is a saccharine reminder of just how beautiful the world can be if just decided to look on the bright side and be good people. It's not a history lesson, but it sure does take us through a life that affected more than we could count on.

#37. Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997)

Mike Myers had already made a blip on movie screens with Wayne's World, but the world wasn't prepared for what he would unleash next. The first appearance of Austin Powers signaled a new comedic force was taking over. Grabbing the reins from other recent SNL alums like Adam Sandler and Chris Farley, Myers developed a grandiose, ridiculous James Bond parody that was laugh out loud funny and allowed him to play dual roles as both Powers and his nemesis, Dr. Evil. It gave Myers the freedom to do whatever he pleased, getting payed sums of money much more than one million dollars. He has since veered down the Eddie Murphy path a little, but that doesn't diminish the impact here.


#36. The Mighty Ducks (1992)

That's RIGHT. In the early 90's, a trend emerged that pointed toward types of PG versions of The Bad News Bears: sports movies that centered around kids. Scratch that - Disney sports movies that centered around kids. Leading the way was the Emilio Estevez vehicle The Mighty Ducks, a story of a lawyer forced to pay off his sentence by coaching pee wee hockey. Featuring a young Joshua Jackson, the film was funny, harmless, and taught us all what a triple deke was. Argue with me all you want, but there is a professional hockey team named after this movie - if that doesn't define cultural impact, I don't know what does.


#35. Waterworld (1995)

Yeah, I'm going there. You kids may not know this, but there was a time when Kevin Costner could whatever he wanted - direct and star in Westerns, make out with Whitney Houston, and play catch with his dead father. After winning the Oscar for Dances with Wolves in 1990, Costner had a string of pretty good roles until he starred in this overblown, dystopian epic. Widely viewed as one of the biggest movie flops of all time (though it wasn't technically a flop - it made enough money worldwide to recoup its spending), this neverending brunt of many a joke still stands as one of the most ridiculous attempts at moviemaking in recent memory.

 #34. Babe (1995)

I really hate when Hollywood makes live action films where animals can talk just to cash in on the children's market. Because they can't talk. Seriously. But, the exception that proves that rule in the 1995 Best Picture nominee Babe. The heartwarming, cute story about a pig who wants to be a sheepdog hits all the right notes - it's rare for a G-rated film to grab a nomination for the biggest Oscar of all, but this little piggy did it while style and grace. Baa Ram Ewe, after all. Baa Ram Ewe.

 #33. Trainspotting (1996)

The second film from British director Danny Boyle exposed the world to the Edinburgh drug scene and a young upstart actor named Ewan McGregor. Having no problems putting some ruthlessly stomach-turning images on screen, Boyle's film was the highlight of a trend of British neorealistic imports that gave viewers a dose of violence, a dose of comedy, and two parts psychological thriller. Trainspotting hit audiences where it hurts as it tried to expose what real drug use can do to a person.

#32. Fight Club (1999)

Now we're talking. Brad Pitt is back on the list (as is director David Fincher) with this existentially-themed adaptation of the Chuck Palahniuk novel by the same name. A film that never really lets the viewers behind the curtain, the lead performances from Edward Norton Jr. and Pitt (not to mention Helena Bonham Carter) only add more brilliance to the stunning camerawork, the wry script, and the fantastic twists and turns of the plot. What begins as therapy turns into anarchy, while men deal with the harsh realities of their impotent existence. Because I feel like I'm obligated - first rule of fight club: don't talk about fight club.

#31. Space Jam (1996)

What the hell am I thinking? Well, think about it. The Looney Tunes weren't terribly popular with the younger demographic in 1996. So, why don't we package them up with the greatest basketball player of all time, slap the brand name on everything from t-shirts to McDonald's cups, and get an up-and-coming R&B singing to put his voice to an overly cheesy, but forever memorable theme song? I believe I can fly, too, and all that makes Space Jam, a mostly tolerable film, if only because of this incredible exchange:

Michael Jordan: Listen. It's a man's game. You can't play.
Bill Murray: What if I try really hard? (pauses) It's because I'm white, isn't it.
Jordan: No...Larry's [Bird] white. So what?
Murray: Larry's not white. Larry's clear.

Almost halfway through - coming soon, #30 through #21.

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