I was born in the back half of 1989, which means I have spent almost 28 years on Earth (before that, who can say?). Those 28 years have produced some truly outstanding films, a few of which I’ve actually seen.
A few days ago I saw on article on the AV Club asking, “What does your favorite movie from every year since you were born say about you?” I wasn’t sure I could answer that question, but I knew I could probably come up with a list of movies, mostly because I love making lists. What were my favorite movies of the last 28 years? This should be fun!
I threw together my list in about ten minutes, posted it on Facebook (which often feels like shouting into the void), then moved on to my grading. Not long after, a few friends picked up the idea, and before I knew it a bunch of people were making lists that they seemed to be taking quite a bit more seriously than I had. I am not used to feeling outdone when it comes to list-making — so I’ve decided to try again, and take it a bit slower this time.
I’m going to make a blog post for ever five years over the course of the next few days. Each year will have three categories: “My Favorite Film of [x],” which will get a short write-up; “Runner-Up,” which is my second favorite of the year and will also get a write-up; and “Contenders,” a few other movies that I also liked but didn’t quite make the top two. So, without further ado, let’s give a more serious attempt at this a shot.
First, late 80s and 90s.
Back to the Future Part II, Dir. Robert Zemeckis
Batman, Dir. Tim Burton
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Dir. Steven Spielberg
Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland, Dir. Masami Hata and William T. Hurtz
My Left Foot, Dir. Jim Sheridan
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, Dir. Jeremiah S. Chechick
Crimes and Misdemeanors, Dir. Woody Allen — This was my pick on the original list, before I started taking a closer look at the years. I am not the world’s biggest Woody Allen fan, but Crimes and Misdemeanors is a great morality play with a complicated and dark center. Martin Landau is fabulous.
My Favorite Film of 1989
The ‘Burbs, dir. Joe Dante — Going with my gut and my heart, not my brain! The ‘Burbs is a delightfully oddball dark comedy, and I can probably attribute much of my sense of humor today to scenes like this one, and my love of horror to scenes like this one. To this day I probably watch The ‘Burbs about once a year.
Arachnophobia, Dir. Frank Marshall
Dances With Wolves, Dir. Kevin Costner (fight me m8!)
Gremlins 2: The New Batch, Dir Joe Dante
Miller’s Crossing, Dir. Joel Coen and Ethan Coen
Misery, Dir. Rob Reiner
Nightbreed, Dir. Clive Barker
Tremors, Dir. Ron Underwood
Edward Scissorhands, Dir. Tim Burton — Burton’s luminous, dark fairy tale still enchants to this day, and remains one of my favorite of his many classic films.
My Favorite Film of 1990
Total Recall, dir. Paul Verhoeven — I have a confession to make: I love trashy Arnold Schwarzenegger movies, and I love many of Paul Verhoeven’s films, as well (Starship Troopers would handily win 1997 if my favorite film of all time hadn’t been released that year). Total Recall is a deft combination of both, delivering great action, some of Arnold’s best one-liners (“Consider that a divorce!”), and plenty of surreal touches, the latter of which helps set it apart from your run-of-the-mill action movie.
The Addams Family, Dir. Barry Sonnenfeld
The Double Life of Veronique, Dir. Krzysztof Kieslowski
Fried Green Tomatoes, Dir Jon Avnet
Hook, Dir. Steven Spielberg
Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Dir. James Cameron
The Silence of the Lambs, Dir. Jonathan Demme — A psychologically twisted exploration of madness and identity; Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins are both terrific.
My Favorite Film of 1991
A Brighter Summer Day, Dir. Edward Yang — I’ve written about this film before here. Suffice to say I adore it; if it were released in almost any other year, it would take the top spot there, too. It’s four hours long, but an absolute masterpiece. You have to be in a particular mood to enjoy it, I think, but despite that I can’t recommend it highly enough.
Alien 3, Dir. David Fincher
Army of Darkness, Dir. David Fincher
Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Dir. Francis Ford Coppola
Candyman, Dir. Bernard Rose
Dead Alive, Dir. Peter Jackson
The Muppet Christmas Carol, Dir.
Reservoir Dogs, Dir. Quentin Tarantino
Unforgiven, Dir. Clint Eastwood
Batman Returns, Dir. Tim Burton — This might actually be my favorite comic book movie, for one big reason: Michelle. Pfeiffer. Catwoman is a great villain, but Selina Kyle is just as interesting — and when the two halves of her character get to play off one another, as they do in this standout scene, magic happens. The only reason this isn’t #1 is that the rest of the film doesn’t quite live up to what Pfeiffer is doing here.
My Favorite Film of 1992
Death Becomes Her, Dir. Robert Zemeckis — A bitingly funny, unrepentantly nasty piece of dark comedy with pitch-perfect performances by Bruce Willis (playing way against type), Meryl Streep, and Goldie Hawn. Admittedly I haven’t seen this one in a while so it may not hold up, but come on — scenes like this are comedy gold!
Note: Wow, I did not realize how crazy packed this year was when I made my list the first time.
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, Dir. Bruce Tim and Eric Radomski
Cronos, Dir. Guillermo del Toro
Hocus Pocus, Dir. Kenny Ortega
Jurassic Park, Dir. Steven Spielberg
The Nightmare Before Christmas, Dir. Henry Selick
Schindler’s List, Dir. Steven Spielberg
Dazed and Confused, Dir. Richard Linklater — I dearly love this film and wrote about it here. It was an absolute dead heat for #1.
My Favorite Film of 1993
Addams Family Values, Dir. Barry Sonnenfeld — Again, heart over head: this is a film I’ve watched probably over a dozen times, and it never gets old. It’s an absolute joy, nailing the gothic aesthetic of the Addams Family and with two killer performances from Christina Ricci, as the demented Wednesday Addams, and Joan Cusack, as the possibly even more demented Debbie.
The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, Dir. Stpehan Elliot
Hoop Dreams, Dir. Steve James
Interview With the Vampire, Dir. Neil Jordan
Leon: The Professional, Dir. Luc Besson
Pulp Fiction, Dir. Quentin Tarantino
Ed Wood, Dir. Tim Burton — I have a deep and unironic love for Plan 9 From Outer Space. Ed Wood was a terrible filmmaker, but an incredibly passionate one as well. Burton’s sensitive, funny, and thought-provoking homage portrays this beautifully. Also, Martin Landau gives a performance for the ages as Bela Lugosi.
My Favorite Film of 1994
Chungking Express, Dir. Wong kar-Wai — A beautiful, fragmentary journey to a specific time and place, filled with unforgettable images, performances, and characters. Achingly romantic and defiantly complicated.
And that’s it for this set. I’ll be back tomorrow with the next five to finish out the 90s.