The Best Movies of the 1990s Part 5
My Subjective List of the Best Films of 1994
When It comes to pop culture highlights, 1994 had plenty of big moments. It was the year Friends premiered on NBC capturing the optimism and aspirations of young Americans everywhere and the year Everett Peck created one of the greatest adult-oriented cartoons Duckman while Winnie Holzman debuted her critically acclaimed but short-lived My So-Called Life which introduced the world to Angela Chase and Jordan Catalano. Hulk Hogan left WWE for WCW; the nWo was born, and Madonna made headlines for going on a profanity-laden tirade when she appeared on CBS’s Late Show with David Letterman. An estimated 350,000 showed up at Woodstock ’94 (which proved to be a complete nightmare for most); River Phoenix committed suicide; beloved Comedian John Candy passed away; Kurt Cobain was found dead in his greenhouse from a shotgun blast to the head, and Britpop took over the airwaves peaking with the release of Oasis’s Definitely Maybe and Blur’s Parklife. It was the year my friends and I spent most of our free time playing Super Metroid, Earthbound, and Donkey Kong Country, and later that year, we got our hands on the original Playstation which launched just before Christmas.
1994 is also cited as one of the greatest years for movies thanks to the booming American independent filmmaking scene and the number of high-quality movies made within the Hollywood studio system. Quentin Tarantino burst into the mainstream with his crime epic Pulp Fiction; Kevin Smith had college kids reciting every line from Clerks and Hollywood mainstays like Robert Zemeckis, Robert Redford, and Tim Burton earned both critical acclaim and box office success for Forrest Gump, Ed Wood, and Quiz Show. Just in October alone, Jurassic Park, Pulp Fiction, The Shawshank Redemption, The Lion King, and Forrest Gump, were all in theaters at the same time. Just think about that. To say 1994 was a good year for movies would be an understatement— it was an amazing year. Pulp Fiction won the Palme d’Or, Jim Carey became the world’s biggest actor thanks to the success of both The Mask and Dumb and Dumber and The Lion King became the highest-grossing Walt Disney Feature Animation film of all-time. 1994 was such a great year for film that it took me forever to decide what to include in the following list. After much consideration, I have narrowed it down to 45 picks— 45 movies that left a big impression with me way back when…
A few quick notes before moving ahead:
As with all lists, the choices here are obviously subjective.
Normally, in the past, I would write one capsule review for each film but since I plan on releasing a list for every other year in the decade, I’ve instead decided to simply include one screenshot along with the official plot synopsis courtesy of IMDB.com. Sorry guys, but these lists are time-consuming, and I’ve quickly come to learn that most people don’t bother reading every capsule review either way— so why bother?
That out of the way, here are the 30 best movies of 1993, each represented by one perfect screenshot. You can find my list of the best films of 1994 here.
45 Perfect Screenshots from the Best Movies of 1994
45. Serial Mom
Director: John Waters
Every Mom Wants to Be Wanted, But Not For Murder One!
A sweet mother finds herself participating in homicidal activities when she sees the occasion call for it.
44. The Glass Shield
Director: Charles Burnett
In a world filled with violence… his only weapon is the truth!
Two cops become compelled to act against corruption and discrimination within their police precinct.
43. Killing Zoe
Director: Roger Avary
We go in. We get what we want. We come out.
The cab driver sets American Zed up with Zoe in his Paris hotel. Despite FFR1000 charged, she’s an art student with day jobs e.g. bank. Safecracker Zed meets his junkie friend after 11 years to rob a bank.
42. The Crow
Director: Alex Proyas
In a world without justice, one man was chosen to protect the innocent.
A man brutally murdered comes back to life as an undead avenger of his and his fiancée’s murder.
41. Wes Craven’s New Nightmare
Director: Wes Craven
This time the terror doesn’t stop at the screen.
A demonic force has chosen Freddy Krueger as its portal to the real world. Can Heather Langenkamp play the part of Nancy one last time and trap the evil trying to enter our world?
40. Interview with the Vampire
Director: Neil Jordan
Drink From Me And Live Forever
A vampire tells his epic life story: love, betrayal, loneliness, and hunger.
39. Bullets Over Broadway
Director: Woody Allen
A killer comedy!
In New York in 1928, a struggling playwright is forced to cast a mobster’s talentless girlfriend in his latest drama in order to get it produced.
38. The Hudsucker Proxy
Directors: Joel and Ethan Coen
A Comedy of Invention.
A naive business graduate is installed as president of a manufacturing company as part of a stock scam.
37. Casa de Lava
Director: Pedro Costa
The film tells a story of Mariana, a nurse who leaves Lisbon to accompany an immigrant worker in a comatose sleep on his trip home to Cape Verde. The devoted Portuguese nurse took a journey only to find herself lost in abstract drama.
36. Love and a .45
Director: C.M. Talkington
This is one jagged twisting ride you’ll never forget.
A small time crook flees to Mexico to evade the authorities, loan sharks, and his murderous ex-partner with only his fiancé and a trusted Colt .45.
35. Eat Drink Man Woman
Director: Ang Lee
A comedy to arouse your appetite.
A senior chef lives with his three grown daughters; the middle one finds her future plans affected by unexpected events and the life changes of the other household members.
Director: Ole Bornedal
A law student starts working as nightwatchman at Department of Forensic Medicine in Copenhagen. His mad friend gets him on a game of dare that escalates. As a serial-killer’s victims start piling up at work, he becomes a suspect.
Director: Kevin Smith
A very funny look at the over-the-counter culture.
A day in the lives of two convenience clerks named Dante and Randal as they annoy customers, discuss movies, and play hockey on the store roof.
32. Ashes of Time
Director: Won Kar-Wai
A broken-hearted hit man moves to the desert where he finds skilled swordsmen to carry out his contract killings.
31. Natural Born Killers
Director: Oliver Stone
The Media Made Them Superstars.
Two victims of traumatized childhoods become lovers and psychopathic serial murderers irresponsibly glorified by the mass media.
30. What Happened Was…
Director: Tom Noonan
Jackie is an executive assistant. Michael is a paralegal. By day, they work together at the same law firm, but tonight they’re on their first date. He’s a tall man with an intense look that some would find intimidating, but she is intrigued by him, and the two spend an evening in deep discussion, each performing the necessary verbal footwork to find out as much about the other as possible. As they dig deeper into each other’s pasts, they make startling discoveries.
29. Ladybird Ladybird
Director: Ken Loach
Herself a victim of an abusive and poverty-stricken childhood, Maggie has proved to be an unfit mother, her four children having all been taken from her by governmental social workers and placed into foster homes. Her new relationship with the patient and kindhearted Jorge (Vladimir Vega) brings a newfound stability to Maggie’s life despite her self-defeating behaviors, and when she learns that she is pregnant again, the couple decide to fight to keep their baby.
28. Fist of Legend
Director: Gordon Chan
To avenge his masters death, He’ll fight like never before!
In 1937, a Chinese martial artist returns to Shanghai to find his teacher dead and his school harassed by the Japanese.
27. In the Mouth of Madness
Director: John Carpenter
Lived Any Good Books Lately?
An insurance investigator begins discovering that the impact a horror writer’s books have on his fans is more than inspirational.
26. Cemetery Men
Director: Michele Soavi
Zombies, guns, and sex, OH MY!!!
A cemetery man must kill the dead a second time when they become zombies.
Director: Spike Lee
Spike Lee’s vibrant semi-autobiographical portrait of a school teacher, her stubborn jazz musician husband and their five kids living in Brooklyn in 1973.
24. Three Colours: White
Director: Krzysztof Kieslowski
After his wife divorces him, a Polish immigrant plots to get even with her.
Director: Atom Egoyan
In a world of temptation, obsession is the deadliest desire.
A man plagued by neuroses frequents the club Exotica in an attempt to find solace, but even there his past is never far away.
Director: Whit Stillman
Americans. Anti Americans. In Love
During the 1980s, uptight Ted Boynton (Taylor Nichols) is a salesman working in the Barcelona office of a Chicago-based company. He receives an unexpected visit from his cousin Fred, a naval officer who has come to Spain on a public relations mission for a U.S. fleet. Not exactly friends in the past, Ted and Fred strike up relationships with women in the Spanish city and experience conflicts — Ted with his employer, and Fred with the Barcelona community.
21. Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
Director: Stephan Elliott
She’s back… Looking as gorgeous and outrageous as ever in a brand new frock
Two drag performers and a transgender woman travel across the desert to perform their unique style of cabaret.
Director: Terry Zwigoff
Weird sex · Obsession · Comic books
An intimate portrait of controversial cartoonist Robert Crumb and his traumatized family.
19. True Lies
Director: James Cameron
When he said I do, he never said what he did.
A fearless, globe-trotting, terrorist-battling secret agent has his life turned upside down when he discovers his wife might be having an affair with a used-car salesman while terrorists smuggle nuclear war heads into the United States.
18. Forrest Gump
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Life is like a box of chocolates…you never know what you’re gonna get.
The presidencies of Kennedy and Johnson, the events of Vietnam, Watergate and other historical events unfold through the perspective of an Alabama man with an IQ of 75, whose only desire is to be reunited with his childhood sweetheart.
17. The Last Seduction
Director: John Dahl
Most People Have a Dark Side. She Had Nothing Else.
A devious sexpot steals her husband’s drug money and hides out in a small town where she meets the perfect dupe for her next scheme.
Director: Jan de Bont
Get ready for rush hour.
A young police officer must prevent a bomb exploding aboard a city bus by keeping its speed above 50 mph.
Director: Boaz Yakin
A thriller unlike anything you’ve seen before.
Death and violence anger a twelve-year-old drug courier, who sets his employers against each other.
14. Ed Wood
Director: Tim Burton
When it came to making bad movies, Ed Wood was the best.
Ambitious but troubled movie director Edward D. Wood Jr. tries his best to fulfill his dreams, despite his lack of talent.
13. Drunken Master 2
Directors: Chia-Liang Liu, Jackie Chan
Old wine in a new bottle
A young martial artist is caught between respecting his pacifist father’s wishes or stopping a group of disrespectful foreigners from stealing precious artifacts.
12. The Lion King
Directors: Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff
The Circle of Life
A Lion cub crown prince is tricked by a treacherous uncle into thinking he caused his father’s death and flees into exile in despair, only to learn in adulthood his identity and his responsibilities.
11. Léon: The Professional
Director: Luc Besson
He moves without sound. Kills without emotion. Disappears without trace.
Mathilda, a 12-year-old girl, is reluctantly taken in by Léon, a professional assassin, after her family is murdered. An unusual relationship forms as she becomes his protégée and learns the assassin’s trade.
10. Heavenly Creatures
Director: Peter Jackson
The true story of a crime that shocked a nation.
Two teenage girls share a unique bond; their parents, concerned that the friendship is too intense, separate them, and the girls take revenge.
9. Through the Olive Trees
Director: Abbas Kiarostami
A depiction of the off-screen relationship between the actors who play the newlyweds in the film Zendegi va digar hich (1992).
8. Cold Water
Director: Olivier Assayas
When the girl of a rebelious teenage couple finds out she is being sent away, they both believe escaping the rigid order suffocating them is the only way to be free. But is it?
7. The Shawshank Redemption
Director: Frank Darabont
Fear can hold you prisoner. Hope can set you free.
Two imprisoned men bond over a number of years, finding solace and eventual redemption through acts of common decency.
6. Shallow Grave
Director: Danny Boyle
What’s a little murder among friends?
Three friends discover their new flatmate dead but loaded with cash.
5. Hoop Dreams
Director: Steve James
An Extraordinary True Story.
A film following the lives of two inner-city Chicago boys who struggle to become college basketball players on the road to going professional.
4. Three Colours: Red
Director: Krzysztof Kieslowski
A model discovers a retired judge is keen on invading people’s privacy.
Director: Bela Tarr
Plotting on a payment they are about to receive, residents of a collapsing collective farm see their plans turn into desolation when they discover that Irimiás, a former co-worker who they thought was dead, is coming back to the village.
2. Chungking Express
Director: Won Kar Wai
If my memory of her has an expiration date, let it be 10,000 years…
Two melancholy Hong Kong policemen fall in love: one with a mysterious female underworld figure, the other with a beautiful and ethereal server at a late-night restaurant he frequents.
1. Pulp Fiction
Director: Quentin Tarantino
You won’t know the facts until you’ve seen the fiction.
The lives of two mob hitmen, a boxer, a gangster and his wife, and a pair of diner bandits intertwine in four tales of violence and redemption.
This article is part of an ongoing series.