Shawn’s 55 Favorite Films of the ’90s

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A few months back, filmmaker and film lover Edgar Wright curated a list of his 1,000 favorite films. That’s one thousand, with three zeroes! Catalogued chronologically, from the silent era to present day, it’s a treasure trove of wonderful movies, and a worthwhile list to explore. You’re sure to see lots of your own favorites, a few head scratchers, and several deep cuts that’ll make you ask, “How have I never heard of that one?” To which, your followup thought should be, “Let me rectify that ASAP.”

I don’t know how much time and effort went into culling the history of cinema down to any number, even one that large, because I could barely manage narrowing the movies of a single decade down to a top 50-something, never mind a top 20 or 10. But manage I did.

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THE CRITERIA
I limited this list to English-language, live-action features, which is why you won’t find foreign fare like Hard Boiled, Run Lola Run, and Delicatessen, or animated pictures like Toy Story, The Iron Giant, and Batman: Mask of the Phantasm in the mix. And really, there’s enough world cinema, ‘toons, and documentaries to necessitate their own lists.

Beyond that, the only self-imposed rule was not selecting more than two films per director. Meaning, additional flicks from the likes of the Coen Brothers, Kevin Smith, Tim Burton, and a few others may have been left out. That said, I’m not certain a third (or in some cases, fourth) movie by the respective filmmakers would’ve made the cut, as most were on the bubble.
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Not unlike Mr. Wright, I will also clarify that this list contains my favorite films of the 1990s, which doesn’t necessarily mean I think they are the 55 best films. These are works that have stuck with me more than others, ones that I come back to more often. And because of the arbitrary nature of my picks, I took another cue from the director of the Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy and did not attempt to actually rank them, opting instead to index them alphabetically, so as not to be perceived in a particular order.

Let’s get straight to the biscuits, shall we?
Displayed with their original theatrical one-sheet, year of release, and writer and director, here they are, my 55 favorite films from those freewheeling ’90s:

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(1995) - w: David & Janet Peoples | d: Terry Gilliam

(1995) – w: David & Janet Peoples | d: Terry Gilliam

(1992) - w: Aaron Sorkin | d: Rob Reiner

(1992) – w: Aaron Sorkin | d: Rob Reiner

(1998) - w: Scott Smith | d: Sam Raimi

(1998) – w: Scott Smith | d: Sam Raimi

(1992) - w: Sam & Ivan Raimi | d: Sam Raimi

(1992) – w: Sam & Ivan Raimi | d: Sam Raimi

(1995) - w/ Richard Linklater & Kim Krizan | d/ Richard Linklater

(1995) – w: Richard Linklater & Kim Krizan | d: Richard Linklater

(1998) - w/d: Joel & Ethan Coen

(1998) – w/d: Joel & Ethan Coen

(1997) - w/d: Paul Thomas Anderson

(1997) – w/d: Paul Thomas Anderson

(1995) - w: Randall Wallace | d: Mel Gibson

(1995) – w: Randall Wallace | d: Mel Gibson

(1995) - w: Nicholas Pileggi & Martin Scorsese | d: Martin Scorsese

(1995) – w: Nicholas Pileggi & Martin Scorsese | d: Martin Scorsese

(1997) - w/d: Kevin Smith

(1997) – w/d: Kevin Smith

(1994) - w/d: Kevin Smith

(1994) – w/d: Kevin Smith

(1994) - w: David J. Schow & John Shirley | d: Alex Proyas

(1994) – w: David J. Schow & John Shirley | d: Alex Proyas

(1998) - w: Alex Proyas, Lem Dobbs, & David S. Goyer | d: Alex Proyas

(1998) – w: Alex Proyas, Lem Dobbs, & David S. Goyer | d: Alex Proyas

(1992) - w: Stephen Sinclair, Fran Walsh, & Peter Jackson | d: Peter Jackson

(1992) – w: Stephen Sinclair, Fran Walsh, & Peter Jackson | d: Peter Jackson

(1992) - w: James V. Hart | d: Francis Ford Coppola

(1992) – w: James V. Hart | d: Francis Ford Coppola

(1994) - w: Scott Alexander & Larry Karaszewski | d: Tim Burton

(1994) – w: Scott Alexander & Larry Karaszewski | d: Tim Burton

(1990) - w: Tim Burton & Caroline Thompson | d: Tim Burton

(1990) – w: Tim Burton & Caroline Thompson | d: Tim Burton

(1996) - w/d: Joel & Ethan Coen

(1996) – w/d: Joel & Ethan Coen

(1998) - w: Terry Gilliam & Tony Grisoni | d: Terry Gilliam

(1998) – w: Terry Gilliam & Tony Grisoni | d: Terry Gilliam

(1997) - w: Luc Besson & Robert Mark Kamen | d: Luc Besson

(1997) – w: Luc Besson & Robert Mark Kamen | d: Luc Besson

(1999) - w: Jim Uhls | d: David Fincher

(1999) – w: Jim Uhls | d: David Fincher

(1993) - w: Jeb Stuart & David Twohy | d: Andrew Davis

(1993) – w: Jeb Stuart & David Twohy | d: Andrew Davis

(1999) - w: David Howard & Robert Gordon | d: Dean Parisot

(1999) – w: David Howard & Robert Gordon | d: Dean Parisot

(1990) - w: Nicholas Pileggi & Martin Scorsese | d: Martin Scorsese

(1990) – w: Nicholas Pileggi & Martin Scorsese | d: Martin Scorsese

(1997) - w: Matt Damon & Ben Affleck | d: Gus Van Sant

(1997) – w: Matt Damon & Ben Affleck | d: Gus Van Sant

(1995) - w/d: Michael Mann

(1995) – w/d: Michael Mann

(1990) - w: Bruce Joel Rubin | d: Adrian Lyne

(1990) – w: Bruce Joel Rubin | d: Adrian Lyne

(1991) - w: Oliver Stone & Zachary Sklar | d: Oliver Stone

(1991) – w: Oliver Stone & Zachary Sklar | d: Oliver Stone

(1993) - w: Michael Crichton & David Koepp | d: Steven Spielberg

(1993) – w: Michael Crichton & David Koepp | d: Steven Spielberg

(1997) - w: Brian Helgeland & Curtis Hanson | d: Curtis Hanson

(1997) – w: Brian Helgeland & Curtis Hanson | d: Curtis Hanson

(1992) - w: Michael Mann & Christopher Crowe | d: Michael Mann

(1992) – w: Michael Mann & Christopher Crowe | d: Michael Mann

(1999) - w/d: Paul Thomas Anderson

(1999) – w/d: Paul Thomas Anderson

(1999) - w/d: Mike Judge

(1999) – w/d: Mike Judge

(1998) - w: Scott Frank | d: Steven Soderbergh

(1998) – w: Scott Frank | d: Steven Soderbergh

(1991) - w: W. Peter Iliff | d: Kathryn Bigelow

(1991) – w: W. Peter Iliff | d: Kathryn Bigelow

(1994) - w/d: Luc Besson

(1994) – w/d: Luc Besson

(1994) - w/d: Quentin Tarantino

(1994) – w/d: Quentin Tarantino

(1992) - w/d: Quentin Tarantino

(1992) – w/d: Quentin Tarantino

(1991) - w: Danny Bilson & Paul De Meo | d: Joe Johnston

(1991) – w: Danny Bilson & Paul De Meo | d: Joe Johnston

(1998) - w: David Levien & Brian Koppelman | d: John Dahl

(1998) – w: David Levien & Brian Koppelman | d: John Dahl

(1998) - w: Wes Anderson & Owen Wilson | d: Wes Anderson

(1998) – w: Wes Anderson & Owen Wilson | d: Wes Anderson

(1995) - w: Andrew Kevin Walker | d: David Fincher

(1995) – w: Andrew Kevin Walker | d: David Fincher

(1994) - w/d: Frank Darabont

(1994) – w/d: Frank Darabont

(1997) - w: Edward Neumeier | d: Paul Verhoeven

(1997) – w: Edward Neumeier | d: Paul Verhoeven

(1991) - w: Nicholas Meyer & Denny Martin Flinn | d: Nicholas Meyer

(1991) – w: Nicholas Meyer & Denny Martin Flinn | d: Nicholas Meyer

(1996) - w: Jon Favreau | d: Doug Liman

(1996) – w: Jon Favreau | d: Doug Liman

(1990) - w: Todd W. Langen & Bobby Herbeck | d: Steve Barron

(1990) – w: Todd W. Langen & Bobby Herbeck | d: Steve Barron

(1991) - w: James Cameron & William Wisher | d: James Cameron

(1991) – w: James Cameron & William Wisher | d: James Cameron

(1996) - w/d: Tom Hanks

(1996) – w/d: Tom Hanks

(1999) - w/d: David O. Russell

(1999) – w/d: David O. Russell

(1993) - w: Kevin Jarre | d: George P. Cosmatos

(1993) – w: Kevin Jarre | d: George P. Cosmatos

(1990) - w: Ronald Shusett & Dan O'Bannon | d: Paul Verhoeven

(1990) – w: Ronald Shusett & Dan O’Bannon | d: Paul Verhoeven

(1996) - w: John Hodge | d: Danny Boyle

(1996) – w: John Hodge | d: Danny Boyle

(1990) - w: S.S. Wilson & Brent Maddock | d: Ron Underwood

(1990) – w: S.S. Wilson & Brent Maddock | d: Ron Underwood

(1993) - w: Quentin Tarantino | d: Tony Scott

(1993) – w: Quentin Tarantino | d: Tony Scott

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There you have it, my fav’ 55. The ’90s were certainly my formative years, and many of these movies were instrumental in my film awakening. Again, this is a compilation of ones that are, for varying reasons, near and dear to me, so it’s not an indictment on the quality of dozens and dozens of good-to-great flicks that were left out. About said omissions, here’s a truckload that were considered, but did not make the final cut:

A League of Their Own | American Beauty | American History X | Amistad | Apollo 13 | Arlington Road | Barton Fink | Being John Malkovich | The Blair Witch Project | Boyz n the Hood | Bulworth | Cape Fear | Clueless | The Commitments | Conspiracy Theory | Contact | Crimson Tide | Darkman | Dazed and Confused | Desperado | The Devil’s Advocate | Dick Tracy | Dogma | Election | Event Horizon | Eyes Wide Shut | The Fisher King | Forrest Gump | From Dusk Till Dawn | The Game | Gattaca | Get Shorty | Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai | Glengarry Glen Ross | Goldeneye | The Green Mile | Gremlins 2: The New Batch | Groundhog Day | Hard Eight | The Hudsucker Proxy | The Hunt for Red October | The Insider | In the Line of Fire | In the Mouth of Madness | Jackie Brown | Jerry Maguire | The Limey | Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels | Malcolm X | Mallrats | The Man in the Iron Mask | Mars Attacks | The Mask of Zorro | The Matrix | Maverick | Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil |Miller’s Crossing | Mission: Impossible | My Cousin Vinny | Natural Born Killers | Pi | The Player | Pleasantville | Reality Bites | Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves | Rob Roy | The Rock | The Sandlot | Saving Private Ryan | Schindler’s List | Scream | The Shadow | Shakespeare in Love | The Silence of the Lambs | Singles | The Sixth Sense | Stargate | Star Trek: First Contact | Strange Days | The Sweet Hereafter | The Talented Mr. Ripley | The Thin Red Line | Titanic | Tommy Boy | True Lies | The Truman Show | Unforgiven | The Usual Suspects | Wayne’s World

Yep. I’m realizing in hindsight that I probably wasn’t fair enough to straight-up comedies. Like, My Cousin Vinny and Wayne’s World may have gotten hosed, but overall, I’m pretty good with my picks. At no point did I think to throw in a movie that would give me some kind of cred with film snobs. I mean, Point Break made my list, for Bodhizafa’s sake.
“Name’s Johhny Utah.”
“I AM AN F-B-I AGENT!!”

Ahem. Erm. Alright, enough of this hooey.

Thanks for making it through this lengthy list. Did I miss anything? Might I have sparked an interest in revisiting a film or two you don’t remember all that well? Am I crazy for not loving Forrest Gump as much as the rest of America?

Till next time, gang…

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