Cinema in the 1990s was unlike any era of film. We’re talking about a decade of movie where accomplishments were achieved to never seen before boundaries that made movie to what they are today. Hollywood accomplished CGI special effects (Terminator 2, Jurassic Park, Toy Story, the Matrix), Ingenious Dialog that makes our character act like everyday people (Quentin Tarantino), new directors that make a new generation of movies (Tarantino, Kevin Smith, Richard Linklater), and the famous Disney Renaissance that made us proud to grow up in. At the same time, movie in the 1990’s are a bit of a lackluster for over doing CGI at the point where it aged terribly, stupid valley girl/teen pop flicks, and so many film makers that are obsessed with taking place in the 1960’s and 1970’s made this movie era inferior to the 1980’s movies (the best era of movies ever). No decade of movies are perfect, however I have a habit of trying to watch all the movies from the 1990s because I’m from this era and it still is just an experience that I can relive again. That’s the power of nostalgia and like how I did my Top 10 Video Games and Albums of each year of the 1990’s, I’m doing the same for movies. So let’s start with the year 1990.
Number 10. – Edward Scissorhands
A film this bizarre can only be conceived from the mind of Tim Burton. The character he creates, Edward(an invention that wasn’t finished and is left with scissors for hands), is original to a point, but it is still a character we have seen before. This is the Frankenstein, Pinocchio hybrid. Edward is a soft spoken young… whatever. He is kind as can be. He cuts the neighbors shrubs for them, and soon ends up cutting their pets hair and soon all of theirs. He’s a character that easily could find a place in some twisted slasher, but throwing a character like him into a film like this is what makes Tim Burton so interesting. Now, Edward Scissorhands is every bit the accomplishment I had heard it was. It’s got all the Burton staples. It has times of humor and sadness, and is grounded in fantasy, but the characters seem like they are from our world(Well, other than Edward). Then there’s the production value, which you always look for in a Burton film. Like usual, it’s off the charts. The shrubbery is amazing, and the way he twists the real world and Edwards world together is also very cool. There’s a great score from Danny Elfman, and a great performance from Johnny Depp; both of which are staples of a lot of Burton’s films. There are a lot of people out there that believe this is Burton’s finest film. I don’t believe that is true, but I can see where they are coming from. The film is really wonderful. It’s fantastic storytelling, combined with amazing filmmaking. The result is another terrific film from Burton. I would put Ed Wood, Beetlejuice, and Batman above it, but you still can’t go wrong with this one. It’s a beloved classic that will be loved by new generations for a long time to come. One of a kind.
Number 9. – Godfather Part III
After a break of more than 15 years, Francis Ford Coppola and Mario Puzo reunited for this: the long overdue final chapter of the saga of the Corleone crime family. And yes, while I agree that this is the weakest of the trilogy, it’s not a bad movie, and not nearly as awful as everyone regards it as being. Do I wish it were better? Of course. Do I understand why this didn’t match the others? Maybe. I mean, so much time passed between films that maybe it was inevitable that they’d hit a pot hole and stumble eventually. Saying that it sucks because third films have a reputation of being isn’t a good excuse. I’m just happy that we finally got a conclusion, and that, despite the flaws, it wasn’t worse. The plot mixes together an aging and bitter Michael reflecting on his life, trying to finally go legitimate in the face of an oncoming mob war with fictionalized portrayals of the death of Pope John Paul I and the Vatican Banking Scandal of the early 80s. To call this ambitious is a major understatement. I do like that it tried to weave in real events, especially ones that are so fascinating. The soap operaish elements are good to, but also where the problems are, mainly the oft-mentioned casting of Coppola’s daughter Sofia (before she became a director) as Michael’s daughter, and the rather underwhelming way things pan out. I do think the ending is rather fitting given the big picture, though. Sofia herself admits she’s a terrible actress, and was only there because Winona Ryder was unavailable. The character, I think, was supposed to be awkward, and that Coppola’s performance just happened to be so wooden and uninspired because her dad and Puzo were in a rut and couldn’t think of a way to do it better. At least Keaton and Pacino elevate things. It’s also good seeing Garcia appear in an interesting call back to the first film. The production values, cinematography, etc are top notch. This is a grand epic on a grand scale. Yeah, the writing (in some areas) is troubled, but I applaud the ambitiousness. The film has problems, but I refuse to call it a bad film, because, in all honesty, it really could have been far worse.
Number 8. – Miller’s Crossroads
The plot, like a majority of films from the Coens is very complex and twisty, but it makes for some very rewarding multiple viewings. In fact, there’s so much detail and subtlety layered in this film that new stuff continues to creep out each time you watch it. It’s the sort of film that you don’t have to watch more than once to appreciate it, but you should, because you will appreciate it even more. Gabriel Byrne, JohnTurturro, John Polito, and Albert Finney all give superb performances. Carter Burwell’s score, and Barry Sonnenfeld’s camera work are brilliant. The Coens, always masters of the period piece, gangster, uninhibited violence types of films, have made a much more subtle, and more character driven film than they had previously attempted. Though there are many supporting characters with their own vendettas, political factions, and die hard approach to crime syndication, it’s the singular path of Tom Reagan (Gabriel Bryne) that interests the watcher of this film. It’s his actions that drive the rest of the film into fruition. The supporting cast is exceptional, beyond words or compare.To sum it all up: this is a brilliant film, and a nourish gangster masterpiece.
Number 7. – Home Alone
This has to be both one of my favorite Christmas movies and family movies to watch. This really is the last great John Hughes movie he ever released because like his earlier movies, Home Alone still connect the audience with young character that we really relate to and also blend it very well with light-hearted comedy. This sums up the entire Christmas experience as well as what it’s like to be a nine year old. While Kevin is by no means the nicest kid to ever live, he’s by far the most lovable one. He says everything and does everything you wanted to do at that age, including sledding off a flight of stairs and using a bee-bee gun. So what happens when his family mistakenly left him on a Christmas Vacation? You have all sorts of trouble when a child has a house all to himself and burglars who will try to rob family houses during the Christmas break. Heroically, Kevin fights off these pair of thieves out to steal Christmas with some of the most creative slap-sticks ever. I remember watching Harry and Marv getting some of the worst pain they’ve ever received that made me laugh so hard as kid. The movie is so re-watchable and well put together that I don’t see it ever becoming stale or old news. Macaulay Culkin’s child acting is unmatched, he’s both hilarious and genuine. No matter how gold you get, this movie still connect you with the christmas and child like spirit that makes life feel bigger than it really is.
Number 6. – Back to the Future Part III
For the longest time since I was a kid, I always thought that the third installment was certainly the worst because it wasn’t as imaginative as Part II being set in the west and Clara was my least favorite character of the whole series. Though the weakest one of the three, Back To The Future III is still a fun, adventurous ride with Marty McFly and Doc Brown. This third film is filled with an intriguing idea that has Marty and Doc Brown traveling to the Old West in 1885. After the events of part II, Marty McFly travels to a pioneering Hill Valley. For a third film, Back To The Future Part III is a good entry and there are things that could have been done better, but director Robert Zemeckis ends his time traveling saga on a high note. One thing that works well for the film is the change of pace and different atmosphere to the first two. The fact that the film is taking place during 1885 makes it very appealing now as an adult. You have brand new characters played by the same actors and it adds a lot more flavor to it’s story. The film has a good blend of comedy and action, everything you’d expect from a Back To The Future film is here, but it’s slightly toned down. The film is still a lot of fun and highly amusing, some people may not enjoy this third entry as much as I did, and it’s understandable. Like I’ve said many times while reviewing trilogies, by the third entry a film franchise can loose its fire. But thats definitely not the case with Back To The Future Part III. Robert Zemeckis has made a fine film thats very funny, action packed with all the usually wacky characters. A wonderful finish to one of the best trilogies in cinematic history.
Number 5. – Ghost
“Ghost” is one of those films that is filmmaking at its most effective: It is uncomplicated, entertaining and engrossing with surprisingly good performances. And while many may scoff at the film as pure fluff, their scoffs unfairly overlook “Ghost”‘s amazing balance of drama, comedy, thriller and romance – a feat that is very hard to achieve in films. It’s a very romantic fantasy movie that captivates the audience to boundaries that never been seen in the ghost genre. Ghost is smart enough to work off a very uncomplicated script. The plot is very basic and doesn’t try to fool you with too many twists and turns – keeping the twists to just one very effective one at the film’s climax. This allows the viewer to just engross themselves into the lives of the characters without having too much to figure out. You become invested in the central relationship of Molly and Sam as he tries to protect Molly in the afterlife without knowing how to be seen and how the rules of being a ghost really is like. What’s most surprising is that Whoopy Goldberg was in this film as a fortuneteller that Sam can communicate because of her psychic powers. But you can really see that the relationship between Sam and Molly is a real chemistry as he suffers not knowing how to control the physical world in order to reach that goal of stopping the ones plotting to kill Molly and also watch her suffer her loneliness. Those romantic aspects really is the best part of the whole film and if you’re a romantic buff like I am, this is just pure magic. Ghost is an underrated gem. Not the most substantive film, but so what? It’s funny, it’s sad, it’s romantic, it’s thrilling. Just what a pure Hollywood film needs to be. Nothing more, nothing less.
Number 4. – Total Recall
How on Earth can you top Robocop? Easy, make it big and more imaginative than the previous film. While not the classic that some have coined it, Total Recall is an entertaining and thought-provoking science fiction film with Paul Verhoeven’s signature gory style adding an element of surprise and distinction among the genre. The story twists and turns its way around until finally leaving you with an ambiguous ending (similar to Inception’s ending) that makes for a good conversation with someone when done viewing. The added element of the gory and creepy visuals that are a product of their time just add to the fun. These effects would not have been the same if CGI was used and would not have been as creepy, like seeing people’s eyes pop out of their heads on Mars. The acting is enjoyable and humorous at times, with the cheekiness usually prevalent in Arnold’s older films. A great story, solid action, and fantastic visuals add up to a film that any science fiction film can appreciate on different levels, whether it be the thought-provoking premise, or the masterful effects that still is wonderful to watch, still to this day.
Number 3. – Goodfellas
Career criminal Henry Hill reminisces upon his life of crime in this true life story based on an actual FBI case. It has the perfect blend of drama, gritty violence and humour as we see the dark side of the American dream played out over 25 years of a wise guy’s life. The people depicted here do not play by society’s rules and have their own set of laws and conventions revolving around the pure pursuit of profit in this, the logical conclusion of capitalism. The livelihoods and lives of others are commodities to be used up and tossed away and life is cheap to these mobsters whose stated obsession with loyalty and family is also soon forgotten for the “big score”, leading to total anarchy. The combination of DeNiro, Liotta and Pesci makes for a brilliant triple act and there are so many classic scenes it’s easy to lose count. The idea to tell the story in a “Wonder Years” format using one of the best soundtracks ever compiled was a stroke of genius and the post modern conclusion the perfect way to end the story. This is just brilliant cinema in general. The story is fully realized, the direction and camera work are flawless, there are some incredibly well done sequences, and it’s just an all around satisfying film to experience. I love all the attention to detail, and just all the details that are given about the ins and outs of the mob world. You really get a great sense of the world these people live in, the culture they’re apart of, and how it affects them. And not to mention the great casting and flawless performances. Nobody sticks out in a negative way here. They’re all at the top of their games, especially the scene stealing Joe Pesci who rightly earned an Oscar for his efforts.
Number 2. – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
This movie is some of the most impressive movies I’ve ever seen, and I’m not saying that because I’m still a Turtles fan, it’s because it has the best suits really felt like they are real, all of the characters are deep and relatable (it combines the story from the comics and cartoon) and action is still very entertaining. At the time, the Ninja Turtles were fucking everywhere and you couldn’t go outside without hearing of the franchise. As a kid, this was the world that I was living in and it was some of the happiest times of my life. The plot is an origins plot obviously, telling the story of how the Turtles come to meet ‘April’ and ‘Casey’, how they came into existence and their first battle with ‘Shredder’ and his Foot Clan. What is good about this film is the fact they incorporated elements from both the original comic book and the popular cartoon. At the same time the film was also quite dark in places and with a lot so called bad influential material such as kids being taught the ways of crime, stealing, lying, general delinquency and of course weapon based fighting. But really parents! what did you expect? This made possible in my opinion by a few factors. Firstly the entire film has a darkish gritty look about it, the picture quality isn’t polished and shiny like some big franchises, this could be down to the fact the film was an independent film. I don’t think this was intended, its just one of those happy/lucky mistakes, although the lighting is dim throughout. Secondly the Turtle suits are very good and very different from the later more kiddie friendly suits. The colour scheme is darker, the eyes are smaller, in general the faces/masks just looks slightly meaner. I was very surprised to see that the actors wearing the suits were able to do martial arts without ruining the suits, not even Michael Keaton’s Batman could do all of that. Lastly, there was a beautiful sense of magic to the film where it feels like Japanese film making, and the Shredder… he’s one of the best villains I ever seen in a movie. Most of all, it’s just the biblical dialog that stick with many of us who grew up with the movie like “All Fathers Care for their sons” and “You are here because the outside world rejects you” that gives me goosebumps every single time. Its hard to say but this film is a bit of a classic now, a cult classic. The first and easily the best Turtles film but also a film that played out well for adults too, a film with giant rubber ninja turtle suits!. It helps that Jim Henson was the creative team behind the suits. A great movie that almost perfectly captures the tone of the comics. It is way more dark than the cartoon series and has a better feel for the characters. The effects look amazing, even today. They really brought the turtles to life. It is a great story and a lot more in depth than one might expect. I really wish that there could be another movie out there that do the same like Ninja Turtles, but it’s a shame because we’re in a world where CGI is all the effect Hollywood offers and people don’t appreciate suits, puppeteering, and practical effects no more.
Number 1. – The Little Mermaid
Okay, I’m a little cheating here because this film did come out in 1989, but it was very late in that year that we spent more time with this film in 1990. This is the very film that started what is now called the Disney Renaissance that lasted throughout the 1990s. Sure there were big Disney hits before Little Mermaid like Oliver and Company and the Great Mouse Detective, but this is the film that changed Disney from the studio that made good films to the studio that made animated features that are as good, if not better than the original Disney classics! The stories and characters have been better than they’ve been in years that it made a substandard philosophy change to how are these films are approached, high animation quality, memorable songs, and even qualitative storytelling that can never be compared or match from any other animated movie. All of these qualities have changed to a much higher level, and it’s all thanks to The Little Mermaid! The protagonist is a teenage mermaid who wants to explore the world, not just the world that her father keeps her in. She wants to explore the world that her father exclude her from. Ariel is a good person with a good heart and she always see the good in the humans, who she’s been obsessed over, no matter how many times it’s been drilled into her that they are evil. Everyone tries so hard to keep her in the world under the sea though none of them know anything about the human world other than the dangers it poses. But Ariel has a mind of her own and as she collects objects from above the sea, it makes her more a part of it. The most amazing dilemma about Ariel is that it hits on something that everyone can relate to (especially children); she wants to be part of another world. You might think it ridiculous to see why a mermaid that can swim across under the sea would even consider to just walk on land, but we all been there and we can all feel what Ariel is going through. We all feel like we want to break free from the mundane and be part of something better. She would go far as to exchanging her own voice for a pair of legs and feet just to fall in love to the charming Prince Eric. She saved his life then disappeared back into the sea only to have him only recognize the sound of her voice. The experience was so profound that it convinced that he loved her and would do anything to find her. It’s a unique way to bring two characters together because it’s all very honest and pure. If you grew up with this film or loved it as long as it has been around, you probably have a fond association with it, but that’s part of growing up with Disney. All of the substance and animation qualities is what gives this film a soul. As stated, this is the film that kicked off the Disney Renaissance and if you’re trying to return your brand to a state of eminence, it helps to kick things off with a good film. But when beginning the Disney Renaissance, they’ve began with a masterpiece!