1. 1999 American Beauty, Sam Mendes

Spell binding, funny, tragic; it’s all of these things that came together to make one last great film of the 1990’s. What a way to end a millennium! Again, here is another movie I could watch anytime rain or shine.

Never before have all the perfect ingredients come together to brew such a delicious concoction of whimsy, humor and midlife crisis.

Kevin Spacey plays Lester Burnam, a suburbanite fed up with his life and all those in it. He finds salvation in his daughter’s friend Angela who shakes him out of his lethargy and the new neighbor’s son Ricky who reintroduces him to the substance of his youth.

The tagline “look closer” is too true for this examination of the desensitized life only the suburbs can bring. Lester rebels against his wife’s crazed materialism and the fascist regime that is his magazine job and it’s all brought down in the forewarned conclusion.

It was a triumph for all those involved and an incredible way to end an earth-shaking decade.

2. 1993 Schindler’s List, Steven Spielberg

Did I say Saving Private Ryan could be hard to watch? Well it’s got nothing on Spielberg’s previous WWII venture. Schindler’s List was simply breathtaking, tackling the monumental task of representing the Holocaust through the efforts of German industrialist Oskar Schindler impeccably played by Liam Neeson.

Not only did Spielberg recreate the Jewish extermination from its rapid beginning to its blessed end, but he gave us Liam Neeson’s greatest performance ever. I’m talking about the pivotal scene where he finally collapsed and through his tears cried, “I could’ve saved one more.”

It gets me every time.

3. 1998 Saving Private Ryan, Steven Spielberg

Eye opening, heart-wrenching, tear jerking. Must I go on? Saving Private Ryan speaks for itself. Spielberg managed to present World War II in the most visceral and unrelenting way possible-by showing us how it really was. The unspeakable horrors the men went through, the honor and duty that was rooted so deep in their hearts and minds.

Every World War II film that came before it, with very few exceptions, glossed over the brutality and didn’t do the harsh reality justice. Watch the opening D-day landing sequence and you’ll see what I’m talking about, hard to watch as it may be.

4. 1994 Pulp Fiction, Quentin Tarantino

Holy mackerel 94 was a busy year for movies. But as you can see only three beat out Tarantino’s radically different masterpiece, Pulp Fiction. Here, the actors are of course great, Sam Jackson giving the performance of a lifetime and the rest being just ridiculous badasses throughout. But it’s the writing that gives Pulp that extra kick, that je ne sais quoi.

The script is fantastic! I hang on to every word and every action no matter how many times I’ve seen it! How Tarantino came up with some of that shit is beyond me; he truly was the genius of the 90’s.

5. 1994 Clerks, Kevin Smith & Shawshank Redemption, Frank Darabont

That’s right folks, a tie. I realized I had too many movies I wanted to put on the list so thought why not make one a tie so I can talk about them all?

First, Clerks. A day in the life comedy that went above and beyond mere laughs and jokes. It was a movie that, much in the way music of the 90s did, captured the spirit of youth in a time where being a twenty-something may not have been all it’s cracked up to be. Writer/director Kevin Smith is a daft hand at addressing the real-life and relatable problems of the main character Dante-your average convenience store clerk who’s fed up with his lot in life but lacks the drive to change it much to the chagrin of his many friends. And I can’t forget that it introduced us to the sagely Jay and Silent Bob.

And then, on the opposite side of the spectrum, Shawshank. One of those movies I’ll always be in the mood to watch.

Morgan Freeman=stupendous, Tim Robbins=magnificent. A prison movie where the prisoners have more scruples than the guards that imprison them. I shall say no more except if you haven’t seen it by now, then get to the hospital immediately because there is something wrong with your head.

6. 1994 Forrest Gump, Robert Zemeckis

I’ll admit it, I watch it every time it’s on TNT, and that’s a lot. But they always freaking edit it for time and content and that sucks because it’s a great movie that shouldn’t be cut to ribbons!

Anyways I’m babbling. Forrest Gump wasn’t just another period piece. It told a story the likes of which had never been seen before: history through the eyes of a man with diminished intelligence while still holding the capacity for true emotions and feelings. As Forrest said to Jenny, “I may not be a smart man, but I know what love is.”

In a way, Forrest was driven by his undying love for those closest to him, his mother, Jenny, Bubba. He was unaffected by the conventions of society and the ill will of other and looking at history through such a lens gives an ultimately unique perspective.

 

7. 1995 Toy Story, John Lasseter

Just goes to show you don’t need set pieces, props or even real people to make a truly marvelous film that can put a smile on anyone’s face no matter their age. Pixar’s first feature length picture was an awe-inspiring piece of full-on computer graphics that revolutionized the way we thought about animated adventures. Never before had we seen anything so artificial feel so real nor characters that could move us the way Woody, Buzz and the rest of Andy’s toys did.

And naturally, it goes without saying that the voice talents and innate humor of Tom Hanks and Tim Allen only amplified the laughs. But the real treat of this movie was how it transcended age boundaries and opened the flood gates for countless CG animations to capture the hearts and imaginations of people young and old. I still go to the theater to see what Pixar will do next.

8. 1993 Jurassic Park, Steven Spielberg

Essentially groundbreaking. What made more than just a run-of-the-mill action flick was Spielberg’s outstanding dedicati0n to realistic and ahead-of-the-times computer graphics. Jurassic Park easily flies by any and all competition, even films that came out years after when CG became standard. It definitely beats out television graphics by a significant amount.

Of course the science is flawed-Michael Crichton’s fault-and it changed a butt-load of plot points and story arcs-also Michael Crichton’s fault-but they made it tons more movie friendly in the process as well as creating one hell of a spectacle.

9. 1998 The Big Lebowski, The Coen Brothers

Talk about the most hilarious, ridiculous and amazing case of mistaken identity. The Coen Brothers have a knack for developing unique films that, over the years, have spanned the many genres from comedy to thriller to mystery. Four years previous to Lebowski they released Fargo, another 90’s classic, and to choose between them is a practice in futility. So hopefully I can give them both their dues in one fell swoop.

It certainly wasn’t Jeff Bridges’, John Goodman’s or really anyone’s finest moment in film-Bridges spending a majority of his screen time in a well-worn bathrobe-but it certainly could be their funniest. For god’s sake it’s one-liners galore-“Donny you’re out of your element!”-the kind of writing that sticks with you after the movie’s over and leaves you saying “damn, I don’t know what just happened but that was really freakin’ funny.”

10. 1999 Fight Club, David Fincher

Let’s move on to movies shall we? Where to begin with Fight Club…Where indeed. Why not the beginning with the 1996 novel by Chuck Palaniuk? The movie stayed pretty loyal to the book in this case, holding true to the wit and voice of its author which trounced society for its materialism, hailed bare knuckle boxing as the best means for male therapy and aptly created a twisted psychological thriller for a new age.

Fincher’s take on the novel brought a gritty surrealism to Palaniuk’s proceedings. With the help of Brad Pitt and Edward Norton as the charismatic Tyler Durden and gloomy narrator, respectively, as well as the dynamite screenplay and chemistry of all involved, Fight Club shot up in popularity for going where no one had gone before.