The 50 Best Movies of the 1990s

35. Notting Hill (1999)

Full stop, this is a top-five romantic comedy, and it’s due in part to the rare occurrence of both the romance and comedy working beautifully in unison to create something truly special. Hugh Grant is at his best and his hair at its most foppish. Julia Roberts is at her peak with wit, power, and beauty on full display. And the supporting cast of characters entertains with their own moments of laughter, heart, and humanity. It’s a smart, fast-moving tale with lively, creative camerawork — yes, the changing of the seasons to “Ain’t No Sunshine” remains a terrifically crafted set-piece — and it’s a perfect balance of laughs and love. Great, crowd-pleasing rom-coms are hard to come by these days, but happily, we can always rewatch one of the best. (Rob Hunter)


34. Magnolia (1999)

Paul Thomas Anderson once proclaimed that Nashville is the ultimate ensemble film, yet his epic Magnolia certainly gives Robert Altman a run for his money. Magnolia is long and sprawling, its 188-minute running time entirely fueled by emotions. Storylines intersect and crisscross as characters face difficult truths about loneliness, loss, and the inability to truly know another person. Julianne Moore, Tom Cruise, William H. Macy, and Philip Seymour Hoffman give some of the most beautiful, tragic, layered performances of their careers. PTA may have lost the Oscar for Original Screenplay, but Magnolia remains one of his most unforgettable films. (Angela Morrison)


33. Mulan (1998)

Disney Princesses spent a long time languishing in “meeting Prince Charming and living happily ever after” drudgery (who am I kidding, I sing along to “Part of Your World” every time). Luckily, the Mouse House’s entertainment monolith had some small finger on the pulse of changing gender dynamics and gradually allowed their princesses more agency. After letting that slow burn carry them through the early ‘90s, Mulan served up a firework explosion of sword-wielding, horseback-riding, and ass-kicking heroine. A story about family love and honor over romance, Mulan also brought us Eddie Murphy as her ineffectual but well-meaning dragon guardian and the best pump-up song of all time (“I’ll Make a Man Out of You”). It is a feel-good classic that encourages kids to believe in themselves, even when that means bucking the status quo. (Samantha Olthof)


32. Sneakers (1992)

Phil Alden Robinson’s follow-up to the beloved Field of Dreams made more money at the box office worldwide but doesn’t quite have the same foothold in people’s hearts and memories, and that’s a damn shame. There are numerous action-comedies that delight and entertain, but few can be described as being “feel-good” movies that leave viewers smiling at the humor, shenanigans, and friendships on display. This is that movie, and with a cast that includes Robert Redford, River Phoenix, Sidney Poitier, David Strathairn, and Dan Aykroyd as the tight group of friends and security experts drawn into a conspiracy, it’s one filled with talent and charisma. It’s a smart film, too, with a twisty plot and some fun spy-like antics. It’s one you should probably seek out soon. (Rob Hunter)


31. Boogie Nights (1997)

“How does Forrest Gump have sex?” a young Paul Thomas Anderson once mused in a 1998 interview with Film Four. And then, more seriously: “But really, what could be more, sort of… human, or what could be more of a revelation of a character, than watching them have sex. I mean, that says a lot about someone, I think, is how they sort of touch another person in bed.” These are the questions that rattled around Anderson’s mind when he set out to make Boogie Nights, his epic about the golden age of porn. The film is an expansion on a short mockumentary Anderson made in his teens, and the final product is both sweeping and gorgeous. Boogie Nights is about Dirk Diggler, a 17-year-old up-and-coming porn star, who, in a touch of impeccable casting, is played by a baby-faced Marky Mark. In the first scene of the film, Dirk meets and falls in with director Jack Horner (Burt Reynolds) and his make-shift porn-industry family. Here Dirk will meet Heather Graham’s Rollergirl, a starlet who never takes off her roller-skates, John C. Reilly’s Reed Rothchild, one of her gloriously dorky co-stars, Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Scotty J, a tragic boom-mic operator with an unrequited crush, Don Cheadle’s Buck Swope, a man eternally trying to perfect his personal brand, and of course, Julianne Moore’s Amber Waves, “a mother to all those who need love.” Boogie Nights, which I believe still stands — yes, even after Phantom Thread — as Anderson’s most beautiful and personal film, is a hilarious, heartbreaking, life-affirming and entirely coke-fueled love letter to filmmaking, cinema, and the families we create for ourselves. (Madison Brek)


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