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The 50 Best Movies of the 1990s

’90s Week on FSR continues with a countdown of our team’s list of the best movies of the 1990s.
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By  · Published on August 17th, 2019

15. Jackie Brown (1997)

Jackie Brown

Quentin Tarantino once described revisiting Jackie Brown as being akin to seeing his friends again. I don’t know if Tarantino’s buddies are drug pushers, ex-cons, FBI agents, surfers, and bail bondsmen, but I understand his sentiment. Jackie Brown is a great hangout movie and one that’s populated with characters the director clearly has a strong affection for. Despite their outlandish qualities, these are still characters we can relate to, for the most part. They have regular worries, fears, and regrets. They all yearn for something better. Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction showed that Tarantino’s movies had style in abundance, but Jackie Brown showed that, sometimes, they had a heart as well. (Kieran Fisher)

14. Being John Malkovich (1999)

Being John Malkovich

While 1999 was full of groundbreaking releases, you’d be hard-pressed to find one that’s wilder than Charlie Kaufman and Spike Jonze’s feature debut. Just take a look at its premise for proof: a luckless puppeteer (played by a bedraggled John Cusack) discovers a hole-in-the-wall portal that gives you 15 minutes inside the mind of character actor John Malkovich before you’re yeeted into a ditch alongside the New Jersey Turnpike. As is to be expected from this creative team, what follows is a harrowing, hilarious ride that challenges its audience with existential questions about spectatorship, sexuality, and selfhood. It’s also quite brave as far as the real Malkovich is concerned; after all, it’s one thing for an actor to play a caricature of themselves, but it’s another to willingly step into a fever dream in which everyone’s wearing your face and babbling your name over and over again. He was great in that movie where he played the jewel thief, too. (Christina Smith)

13. Heat (1995)


Cat and mouse stories about cops and robbers are as old as cinema itself, but it’s rare to see a film that heavily focuses on the mutual respect between both sides. Heat, directed by the cinematic art form that is Michael Mann, depicts the criminal, Neil (Robert De Niro), and the detective, Vincent (Al Pacino), as masters of their respective crafts who, despite operating on the opposite ends of the law, aren’t all that different. But what makes Heat so compelling is its attention to detail; the heist scenes were mined from reality and so expertly staged that they inspired real criminals to recreate them. Throw in a cast that includes Pacino and De Niro at the top of their game, and what you have is a titan of a movie that represents crime cinema at its very best. (Kieran Fisher)

12. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)


Not only does every subsequent Terminator sequel aim to be Judgement Day, but arguably every action film since has attempted to reach the same highs of James Cameron’s masterfully executed, operatic moments. And while T2’s grand scale is diametrically different than The Terminator, the original’s tone, a stylish brooding sci-fi slasher, is still represented in these action sequences. The muffling of the sound design when the action beat drops, the languid shots of shadows bleeding down hallways, even the 18-wheeler bursting into the culvert is a beautifully crafted example of adrenaline-fueled shock. Cameron contrasts these darker overtones with full-throttled energy, which itself feels like a fair summation of the ‘90s. It’s a film steeped in foreboding doom for things to come but lacquered with enough style and exuberance that it’s easy to overlook the apocalyptic nightmare that could be waiting around the corner. Instead, T2 leaves you revitalized and pumped. Pumped to fuck up some hypothetical killer robots from the future. (Jacob Trussell)

11. True Romance (1993)

True Romance

You’re so cool, True Romance, with your Badlands-inspired narration and score. You’re so cool, with your early Quentin Tarantino screenplay mixed with peak Tony Scott aesthetic. You’re so cool, with your cornucopia of character actors on parade. You’re so cool, with your imaginary friend Elvis. You’re so cool, with your young stoner Brad Pitt. You’re so cool, with your Big Don eating every motherfuckin’ thing. You’re so cool, with your Doctor Zhivago. You’re so cool, with your hundred-percent monogamy. You’re so cool, with your ballsy peace of mind payoff. You’re so cool, with your corkscrew, shampoo, toilet lid, hairspray flamethrower, corkscrew again, and shotgun combo. You’re so cool, with your Little Eyed Joe to damned if I know. You’re so cool, with your hotel suite Mexican standoff. And you’re so cool, with your happy ending. Naw, I gotta hand it to you, True Romance, you’re cooler than cool. (Christopher Campbell)

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