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.

Best Movies S

10. The Truman Show (1998)

Truman Show

Reality television is such a behemoth in 2019 popular culture that it can be easy to forget the tangled paradox at the heart of it all. Even taking a moment to really contemplate the oxymoronic term “reality television” brings up some pretty big questions — namely, what even is “reality” when televised? What does it mean for the people being filmed? And for the people watching? Movies tackling “big questions” so often fall into the trap of getting overly pedagogical and preachy, but Peter Weir’s exploration of unknowing reality star Truman Burbank (Jim Carrey, making excellent use of both his comedic and dramatic range) always remembers to put story and character first. It’s easy for discussions of The Truman Show to get distracted by debating the degree to which it has (or hasn’t) proven “prophetic,” but at the end of the day, the film has aged as impeccably as Brad Pitt because it’s above all things a good story well told. With excellent performances all around, gorgeous cinematography from Peter Biziou, and a moving score from the one and only Philip Glass, The Truman Show is a premier example of a film that earns top marks as both art and entertainment, featuring profound depths for those interested in exploring them while maintaining that addictively watchable Hollywood sheen. (Ciara Wardlow)


9. Goodfellas (1990)

Goodfellas

“As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster.” The opening lines of Martin Scorsese’s mob drama never fail to reel me in like a fish, and the film doesn’t free me from its hook until the end credits roll. Goodfellas is a tragedy about a man who has been seduced by the life of crime from a young age because of all the luxuries it affords — riches, women, respect — only to discover the harsh reality of it later on. Does he deserve his fate? Absolutely. But Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) is a fascinating protagonist to spend two and a half hours with. He provides us with an unvarnished account of mob life that’s often humorous, but mostly horrific. No one makes wiseguy flicks like Scorsese, and this is by far the best movie ever made about these scoundrels. (Kieran Fisher)


8. Scream (1996)

Scream

Wes Craven’s Scream is the gift that keeps on giving. Each year, the definitive meta-horror movie becomes more pertinent in its villain’s winking assertion that “movies don’t create psychos, movies make psychos more creative.” Every part of Scream openly reads like a love letter to the great horror movies of decades past, yet the funny, frightening, and bold film still manages to find a voice of its own among the homage. Neve Campbell’s Sidney Prescott is a capable, down-to-earth slasher heroine who refuses to become a trope, while a memorable supporting cast helps keep the whodunnit fresh enough to garner three sequels and a reboot series. The blood-soaked climax, during which Matthew Lillard gives a galaxy-brain-level bonkers performance, deserves to be as famous as the suspenseful Drew Barrymore opener. (Valerie Ettenhofer)


7. The Matrix (1999)

The Matrix

“No one can be told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself.” These ominous words spoken over an acid green computer text crawl were the only hints as to what was in store for us with the teaser for the Wachowski’s 1999 sci-fi masterpiece. From the invention of Bullet Time to its innovative use of CGI, to its infinitely quotable script, The Matrix defined Action for years afterward and served as the perfect end to ‘90s optimism on the crest of disenchantment that would begin to define the ‘00s. (MG McIntire)


6. Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

Eyes Wide Shut

Toward the end of the ‘90s, Stanley Kubrick completed his final film, the dreamy and tense Eyes Wide Shut, starring then-married couple Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman. Kubrick tragically died six days after completing post-production, but the film’s legacy lives on and is now almost universally beloved by both critics and cinephiles. An adaptation of Arthur Schnitzler’s Traumnovelle but transported from Vienna to New York City, Kubrick meticulously creates a world of visual and thematic symmetries underscored by a sense of deep horror rooted in marital instability. Dr. Bill’s (Cruise) revelation that his wife Alice (Kidman) has a rich inner life that he has no access to sends him into a confused tailspin and a late-night walk somehow ends up at a ritualistic masquerade orgy, his presence at which leads to strange and tense consequences. One of the most beautifully shot and eerie films of the decade (featuring an incredible scene with Alan Cumming), Eyes Wide Shut may be Kubrick’s masterpiece. (Angela Morrison)


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