With a rise in independent film studios and notable developments in visual effects, the nineties brought a host of culturally significant and iconic films to our screens. It was the age of the Disney renaissance, the days where film utilised CGI rather than exploited it. Moreover, those ten years gave us some of our best actors…many of whom have gone on to bigger and brighter things since. We voted, you voted, and now the Culturefly writers reveal our collective top 20 films of the nineties!
20. Titanic (1997, Dir. James Cameron) – Natalie Xenos
Tagline: Nothing On Earth Could Come Between Them.
In a Nutshell: A fictional tale of the sinking of RMS Titanic and a great love that emerges amidst the tragedy.
Why I Love It: Although made over ten years ago, Titanic is an iconic film that never feels dated. It’s an epic tragedy that unfolds with award-winning performances from Kate and Leo. Cheesy but unforgettable.
Most memorable Moment: Forget Jack dying, the ‘I’m Flying’ scene with the instrumental My Heart Will Go On accompaniment is etched into every film-lovers memory. It’s a classic cinema moment!
Favourite Quote: “I’ll never let go, Jack. I promise.” Famous last words.
19. Face/Off (1997, Dir. John Woo) – Chris Parker
Tagline: In order to trap him, he must become him.
In a Nutshell: With doves and guns a-plenty, this John Woo action epic sees Wicker Man and treasure hunter Nicolas Cage swap faces with discotheque hitman John Travolta. Playing each other, the two engage in a gun fu battle of the wits and the result is an acting masterclass.
Why I Love It: Every scene promises another instantly quotable line and there’s enough hyper-real shootouts and Mexican stand offs to make this the perfect Sunday afternoon film for all the family.
Most Memorable Moment: The moment the face switch is revealed.
Favourite Quote: “Hey Sean, how’s your dead son?”
18. A Bug’s Life (1998, John Lasseter & Andrew Stanton) – Sue Sheard
Tagline: An epic of miniature proportions.
In a Nutshell: A Bug’s Life is a lesson in overcoming adversity when one small ant, Flick, inspires his colony to work in a new way, changing all their lives for the better.
Why I Love It: Superbly written & directed by John Lasseter and Andrew Stanton, it pokes fun at everyone from the bullying grasshoppers to the cheesy actors turned circus entertainers or “warriors”.
Most Memorable Moment: When the warriors arrive in the colony and realise they’ve been hired as hit men, not entertainers as they had imagined, panic breaks out on all sides.
Favourite Quote: Curtesy of Slim the stick insect – “Here! I’m the only stick with eyeballs!”
17. La Haine (1995, Dir. Mathieu Kassovitz) – Nathan Tompkins
Tagline: So far, so good…
In a Nutshell: Set in an impoverished district of the Parisian suburbs, La Haine (The Hate) follows three young friends and their struggles with the expectations of growing up, not to mention the burning issue of national police brutality.
Why I Love It: The use of film noir to highlight the beaten and unsettled state of the film’s setting, as well as its protagonists couldn’t be more exceptional than in the case of Kassovitz’s La Haine.
Most Memorable Moment: In contrast to its dark and often uncompromising backdrop, the transfer between the travelling rooftop shot with KRS One’s “Sound of da Police” booming from one of the high-rise flats down to a befuddled Vinz on street level, as he spots a stray cow lurking in a nearby alleyway makes for an unexpected, if not rather odd comic moment.
Favourite Quote: Hubert: “Bullshit! You pointed a gun at a cop! We coulda been killed!” [An old man flushes the toilet and walks out of the stall] Old Man: Nothing like a good shit! Do you believe in God? That’s the wrong question. Does God believe in us?”
16. Home Alone (1990, Dir. Chris Columbus) – Sushmita Paija Pun
Tagline: A Family Comedy Without The Family.
In a Nutshell: Home Alone is about a boy who, after an unfortunate fight with his brother, is sent to the third floor room and the day after is forgotten when his whole family rush to the airport on a trip to France – Kevin celebrates of course, except the celebration turns into a desperate and playful attempt to keep the house safe from two unexpected burglars…
Why I Love It: Home Alone defines every young child’s dream of being able to be their own hero and this movie displays this effectively, just without the cape, props and make-up.
Most Memorable Moment: Kevin’s realisation that his parents and siblings have left him behind and that the house is under his rule. For once he will not be mistreated for being the youngest.
Favourite Quote: “This house is so full of people it makes me sick. When I grow up and get married, I’m living alone. Did you hear me?”
15. The Matrix (1999, Dir. Andy & Lana Wachowski) – Kim Evans
Tagline: Welcome to the Real World
In a Nutshell: Computer hacker Neo finds the truth of the artificial reality we recognise as our world, created by a race of machines that have imprisoned humans within it while they live off their bodies. He joins a group of rebels to fight against the agents of these machines.
Why I Love It: Creating action packed thriller, whilst at the same time putting forward philosophical points and questioning the nature of reality is a hard balance to pull off, and The Matrix is one of the very few films to do so.
Most Memorable Moment: The moment Neo has to choose between the blue pill and the red pill, between gaining full knowledge of the matrix or remaining oblivious, is more outstanding than any of the action sequences. Echoes of Adam and Eve and the apple, as well as Alice in Wonderland, as Morpheus references himself, make the scene easily one of the most significant of the film.
Favourite Quote: Spoon boy: Do not try and bend the spoon. That’s impossible. Instead… only try to realize the truth. Neo: What truth? Spoon Boy: There is no spoon. Neo: There is no Spoon? Spoon boy: Then you’ll see, that it is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself.
14. Clueless (1995, Dir. Amy Heckerling) – Sophie Devlin
Tagline: “Sex. Clothes. Popularity. Whatever.”
In a Nutshell: A retelling of Jane Austen’s Emma set in an American high school.
Why I Love It: Clueless is the Mean Girls of its day, with outlandish fashion, quotable dialogue, and a surprisingly effective translation of the coming-of-age themes of Austen’s novel into a very different environment.
Most Memorable Moment: Protagonist Cher Horowitz offers a hilarious diatribe on her male classmates’ clothing choices, complete with slow-motion montage, that encapsulates everything bizarre and wonderful about 90s American youth culture.
Favourite Quote: “I have direction!” “Yeah, towards the mall.”
13. Heavenly Creatures (1994, Dir. Peter Jackson) – Kim Evans
Tagline: Not all angels are innocent.
In a Nutshell: Pre – Lord of the Rings Peter Jackson directs this chilling true story of two teenage schoolgirls in 50s New Zealand, whose intense friendship and overactive imaginations have tragic consequences.
Why I Love It: The mixing of reality and the fantasy world that the girls create is perfectly balanced, and gives some insight into the importance the imagined world, and their own friendship, has for the girls.
Most Memorable Moment: After seeing one of his films, the girls start imagining they see Orson Welles stalking them in the street, and because of some great CGI, we see him too.
Favourite Quote: “All the best people have bad chests and bone diseases. It’s all frightfully romantic.”
12. The Silence of the Lambs (1991, Dir. Jonathan Demme) – James McAllister
Tagline: To enter the mind of a killer, she must challenge the mind of a madman.
In a Nutshell: The tale of how Clarice Starling became the object of affection for the psychopathic cannibal Dr. Hannibal Lecter, who Starling turns to for help catching a serial killer who skins his victims.
Why I Love It: Anthony Hopkins’s incredible performance, Ted Tally’s excellent script & Jonathan Demme’s haunting visuals go in to creating a chilling thriller that pulls you in and won’t let go.
Most Memorable Moment: An injured man being taken to hospital is revealed to be Dr. Lecter wearing a mask of the mans skin over his own in a moment that is terrifying no matter how many times you see it.
Favourite Quote: Dinner at Hannibal’s sounds nice: “I ate his liver with some fava beans & a nice Chianti” mmm…
11. The Truman Show (1998, Dir. Peter Weir) – Natalie Xenos
Tagline: On The Air. Unaware.
In a Nutshell: Jim Carrey stars as Truman Burbank, a man who slowly starts to discover that his ‘ordinary’ life is actually a television show, with the world watching his every move.
Why I Love It: It’s such an unusual concept and way ahead of its time with the idea of extreme reality TV. Jim Carrey gives one of his best performances as Truman, showing that he’s more than capable of being serious when he needs to be.
Most Memorable Moment: The moment that Truman finally finds the studio door, after braving the ‘rough seas’, and says goodbye to his fake life. It’s surprisingly heart wrenching.
Favourite Quote: “We accept the reality of the world with which we are presented.”
10. Reservoir Dogs (1992, Dir. Quentin Tarantino) – Kane Basterrechea
Tagline: Every Dog Has His Day
In a Nutshell: A group of colourful bank robbers reconvene in an abandoned warehouse after a heist gone wrong.
Why I Love It: In typical Tarantino fashion it oozes style and every line of dialogue sizzles.
Most Memorable Moment: Mr. Blonde torturing a captive police officer to the super sounds of the 70’s.
Favourite Quote: “Are you gonna bark all day, lil’ doggie, or are you gonna bite?”
9. The Usual Suspects (1995, Dir. Bryan Singer) – Sophie Devlin
Tagline: The truth is always in the last place you look.
In a Nutshell: After a massacre, the only survivor explains using a series of flashbacks how a seemingly random police line-up of five criminals started a chain of events leading up to the incident.
Why I Love It: The Usual Suspects is a rare combination of complex and gripping, a thriller with a real mystery at its heart, and Kevin Spacey gives an outstanding (and Oscar-winning) performance as Roger “Verbal” Kint.
Most Memorable Moment: The ending will take you completely by surprise, but it’s so brilliant that it would be a shame to spoil it.
Favourite Quote: “The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.”
8. American Beauty (1995, Dir. Sam Mendes) – Amy Salter
Tagline: … look closer
In a Nutshell: A stunning, darkly humorous and tragic film, American Beauty traces the life of one of the most dysfunctional families to hit the big screen – a suburban unit whose patriarch, Lester, matriarch, Carolyn, and moody soulful teen Jane are stripped down and revealed by director Sam Mendes in all their uncomfortable grotesqueness and stark splendour.
Why I Love It: American Beauty can be over-the-top, cheesy, and trite, but the film is so splendidly wry and has memorable scenes that are at times painful to view that it deserves its consideration as one of the best films of the 90s.
Most Memorable Moment: In the dinner scene where Lester flips out at the pestering Carolyn by smashing his plate against the wall, Spacey is wonderfully and malevolently composed throughout, suddenly but unflinchingly unveiling the repressed anger and resentment the character has been hiding.
Favourite Quote: “You don’t get to tell me what to do ever again.”
7. The Shawshank Redemption (1994, Dir. Frank Darabont) – Jason Noble
Tagline: Fear can hold you prisoner. Hope can set you free.
In a Nutshell: Andy Dufresne is wrongly convicted of his wife’s murder and must serve life in Shawshank prison where he meets the trusty Red and together get busy living or get busy dying.
Why I Love It: The Shawshank Redemption is one of the finest displays of short story adaptation where a profound story coupled with star performances by Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman make for both uplifting and heart-breaking viewing.
Most Memorable Moment: When Andy locks himself in the warden’s office and treats Shawshank inmates to some fine opera over the PA, the majesty of Frank Darabont’s film-making becomes apparent.
Favourite Quote: “Andy Dufresne…who crawled through a river of shit and came out clean on the other side.”
6. Goodfellas (1990, Dir. Martin Scorsese) – Chris Parker
Tagline: “As far back as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to be a gangster.” — Henry Hill, Brooklyn, N.Y. 1955.
In a Nutshell: Following the criminal career of Henry Hill (Ray Liotta), Scorsese’s classic gangster tale predates Casino and The Departed in applying a stylish camera to a taut, dark narrative.
Why I Love It: Pesci stands out most in a brilliant ensemble cast, with a performance seemingly unlimited by script or screen.
Most Memorable Moment: All of it. As the film finishes it’s difficult not to feel tempted by the unattractive glamour of a criminal life.
Favourite Quote: “What do you mean funny, funny how?”
5. Pulp Fiction (1994, Dir. Quentin Tarantino) – Nathan Tompkins
Tagline: You won’t know the facts until you’ve seen the fiction.
In a Nutshell: Two hit men, a boxer, a gangster’s wife and a pair of bandits intertwine in a story of violence and redemption.
Why I Love It: Tarrantino’s gift to postmodernism – his typical show of interest for the lives of gangsters, bandits, squirmy innocents and so forth proves even more compelling when shot in extra unconventional and heavily stylised form. It’s also mega cool.
Most Memorable Moment: The scene in which Jules and Vince are sent to retrieve a certain briefcase from a guy called Brett with the knowledge that he has betrayed their mobster boss.
Favourite Quote: “That gives us exactly… forty minutes to get the fuck out of Dodge. Which, if you do what I say when I say it, should be plenty. Now, you’ve got a corpse in a car, minus a head, in a garage. Take me to it.”
4. Se7en (1995, Dir. David Fincher) – Kane Basterrechea
Tagline: Seven deadly sins. Seven ways to die.
In a Nutshell: Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman chase down a serial killer who themes his murders on the seven deadly sins.
Why I Love It: The sense of hopeless decay in this gruesome police procedural is so palpable that I want to take shower after watching it.
Most Memorable Moment: The stomach churning climax.
Favourite Quote: “What’s in the box?!?”
3. The Lion King (1994, Dir. Roger Allers & Rob Minkoff) – James McAllister
Tagline: Life’s greatest adventure is finding your place in the Circle of Life
In a Nutshell: Hamlet with lions, Disney’s smash-hit follows cub Simba, who is tricked into thinking he killed his father and runs away to find courage and redemption.
Why I Love It: Funny, exciting and heartbreaking, The Lion King is a pinnacle piece of Disney’s heritage. Elton John’s Oscar winning soundtrack and the sumptuous hand-drawn animation creating a story that is rich in every way and loved by children & adults alike.
Most Memorable Moment: Mufasa’s death may be an obvious pick, but its significance is unquestionable; it brings the subject of death to a young audience in a poignant and effective way that lingers long in the memory.
Favourite Quote: They don’t call him Pumbaa… “THEY CALL ME MR. PIG! AHHHH!”
2. Jurassic Park (1993, Dir. Steven Spielberg) – Natalie Xenos
Tagline: The most phenomenal discovery of our time… becomes the greatest adventure of all time.
In a Nutshell: Steven Spielberg’s adventure masterpiece about a wildlife park with a difference – featuring cloned dinosaurs and a stellar cast including Sam Neill (pre bad TV show days) and the legend that is Richard Attenborough.
Why I Love It: What’s not to love about Jurassic Park? It has dinosaurs aplenty, with the mighty T-Rex and the terrifying Raptors making regular appearances. The visuals are top-notch, with scenes that will have you at the edge of your seat even after all these years. Jurassic Park is quite simply in a league of its own.
Most Memorable Moment: Putting aside the Raptor hide and seek kitchen scene and the moment where Donald Gennaro bites the dust on the toilet, the most memorable moment in JP is the epic T-Rex rescue near the end. Those Raptors never saw Rexy coming!
Favourite Quote: John Hammond: “All major theme parks have delays. When they opened Disneyland in 1956, nothing worked!” Dr. Ian Malcolm: “Yeah, but John, if The Pirates of the Caribbean breaks down, the pirates don’t eat the tourists.” Goldblum is priceless.
1. Toy Story (1995, Dir. John Lasseter) – Jason Noble
Tagline: Watch out for little green men.
In a Nutshell: The first feature length Pixar film about a misfit band of toys who have to learn to live with each other and make it back to their beloved owner Andy after losing their way.
Why I Love It: Toy Story pushed the boundaries of animated film making and made compelling characters in Buzz and Woody that could be enjoyed by adults and children alike.
Most Memorable Moment: Possibly the most memorable moment is the epic finale in which Buzz and Woody strapped to a rocket attempt to reunite with the other toys in the removal van.
Favourite Quote: All together now… ‘To infinity, and beyond!”