Get busy readin', then get busy watchin'
The '90s were a blast for movie fans of all persuasions. We got loads of new filmmakers (Tarantino, Anderson, Kelly, Shyamalan) delivering ground-breaking movies, films that pushed the limits of technology, a bunch of multi-award winning classics and, of course, the last act plot twist trend. In short, it was a decade that made an everlasting mark on cinema. Don't believe us? Just have a look at some of the movies that have missed out on our top 25 movies of the decade. Casualties include Titanic, Babe, American Beauty, Ringu, Princess Mononoke, Toy Story 2, Leon and Saving Private Ryan, to name but a few. What took their place? Read on to find out.
25. Speed (1994)
The movie: Action fans were spoilt for choice in the '90s. A vintage time for the genre delivering the likes of The Rock, Point Break and Con Air but, for my money, the best of the lot was Speed. One of the strongest examples of high-concept done right, it's got the simplest plot and yet manages to be a relentless thrill-ride throughout. The stunts are excellent, but it wouldn't work half as well without Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock's winning central pairing and Dennis Hopper's entertaining-as-hell maniacal villain. Just don't mention the sequel.
Most '90s moment: A bus flying over a huge gap in a highway, and in slow-motion to boot, was the height of tension.
24. LA Confidential (1999)
The movie: Slow-burning, throwback-inspired noir was a big thing in the '90s. Things To Do In Denver When You're Dead, Twilight, Red Rock West... and the one that tops the lot: Curtis Hanson's tightly-plotted riff on James Ellroy's L.A.-based novel. Its razor sharp script slowly unravels to reveal the rotten core of 1950s Hollywood, that's made all the more enchanting by its killer cast: Kim Basinger, Kevin Spacey, Guy Pearce and Russell Crowe all deliver stonking turns.
Most '90s moment: While the film is set during the '50s, its last act twist is an utterly '90s invention.
23. Scream (1996)
The movie: One of the definitive horrors of the modern era, Scream saw Wes Craven build on the meta elements of New Nightmare to redefine slasher films for a new audience. Scream's astonishing opening sequence would make a strong short movie on its own, but Craven has the audacity to keep up the high standard throughout. Kevin Williamson's script populates the movie with horror-knowledgeable characters and its genius comes from continually subverting their - and the audiences - expectations. Many have tried to replicate Scream, none have succeeded.
Most '90s moment: When Billy's having a cell phone is reason enough to arouse suspicion from the cops.
22. Groundhog Day (1993)
The movie: I bet that if awards voters could relive 1993 over again, they'd shower Groundhog Day with all the awards. Fittingly, its popularity has increased over the years as people rewatched it and realised that they were watching an all-time classic comedy. Building from its brilliant central premise, Groundhog Day is hilarious thanks to Bill Murray's performance as disgruntled weatherman Phil Conners, but also doesn't forget to muse thoughtfully on the consequences of living the same day over and over again.
Most '90s moment: Conners' pissy attitude towards Ned Ryerson - that's some '90s angst, right there.
21. The Sixth Sense (1999)
The movie: It's testament to the quality of The Sixth Sense that it even holds up when you know exactly what is coming. Just in case you haven't experienced its twist yet (and I can't imagine there are many who haven't), I won't do a cheap gag at its expense. Instead, I'll praise M. Night Shyamalan's masterful control of suspense and chills, and bemoan the fact that he's rarely managed to repeat it. Regarding its iconic ending, I will say that the moment the end credits roll, you'll dive straight back in to see just how you could have missed it.
Most '90s moment: It really is the ending. Seriously, the '90s were all about twists.
20. The Big Lebowski (1998)
The movie: One of the biggest cult movies of the 90s, what The Big Lebowski lacks in coherence, it more than makes up for with larger-than-life characters and endlessly quotable dialogue. Not to mention one of the finest ensembles of the decade. It's all led with consummate ease by Jeff Bridges whose The Dude remains cinema's most lovable slacker. The Big Lebowski will make you want to set up your own bowling team, just maybe don't try and get embroiled with mobsters when you do. And don't let them anywhere near your beloved rug.
Most '90s moment: Within the first five minutes there's a huge misunderstanding over someone's identity.
19. The Blair Witch Project (1999)
The movie: Given the state of the majority of found footage films these days, it's easy to forget just how effective they can be. The Blair Witch Project remains the definitive use of the format, utilising its handheld nature to create a genuinely terrifying cinematic experience. Whether it's the sound of children playing in the middle of the night or the nerve-jangling ending in a derelict house's basement, The Blair Witch Project delivers unforgettable imagery that will possibly put you off hiking for life. As with Speed though, maybe just forget the sequel exists.
Most '90s moment: Josh handles the serious B&W filming with a 16MM camera, as Heather embraces the cutting-edge tech of a bulky 8MM handicam.
18. Boyz n the Hood (1991)
The movie: At the tender age of 24, most of us are still figuring out life. John Singleton? He was writing and directing Boyz n The Hood. If that's not lit a fire under your butt, it should inspire you to watch his brilliant debut. The movie follows three friends, Tre Styles (Cuba Gooding, Jr.), and brothers Doughboy (Ice Cube) and Ricky Baker (Morris Chestnut) during their childhood in South Central Los Angeles. It's compelling stuff, made even more impressive by the fact that Singleton was Oscar-nominated for his efforts.
Most '90s moment: Ice Cube chugging down the St. Ides.
17. Reservoir Dogs (1992)
The movie: Quentin Tarantino's first - and, for some, still his best - feature introduced us to his world in brilliant fashion. From Mr. Pink's (Steve Buscemi) opinion on tipping and the cool-as-fuck opening titles to the unforgettable ear-slicing, it showed us exactly what to expect from a Tarantino effort. And those elements remain today in The Hateful Eight, even if his recent movies have lacked the narrative tightness of his debut. Perhaps the only surprising thing for some first-time viewings is how restrained the filmmaker is. Modern-day Tarantino may see Aldo Raine carve a swastika in someone's head but, back then, we didn't even see the ear sliced off.
Most '90s moment: Sure, it was twenty years old at the time but Stealers Wheel's Stuck In The Middle Of You became a massive '90s hit.
16. Jurassic Park (1993)
The movie: The original and still the best, Steven Spielberg's Jurassic Park retains its awe-inspiring wonder even in the wake of Jurassic World. Even if you haven't seen it (get it watched, now!), you will still know some of its most iconic beats as they've become ingrained in popular culture. A ripple in a glass of water has never been quite the same since we first watched it. Everything just works, from Stan Winston's animatronic beasts to John Williams' soaring score, creating a world you want to visit in spite of the danger. Welcome to Jurassic Park? I've never left.
Most '90s moment: Lex, totally losing her shit as she spies an interactive CD-ROM in one of the tour Jeeps.
15. Trainspotting (1996)
The movie: Following the (mis)adventures of heroin addicts doesn't sound like cinematic gold, yet in Danny Boyle's hands, it becomes the launch point for one of the best British films of all time. With an outstanding soundtrack and career-making turns from the likes of Ewan McGregor and Robert Carlyle, Trainspotting is an often-relentless dive into squalor but one that you won't be able to turn away from. More than Shallow Grave, it defined Boyle's inimitable style.
Most '90s moment: Ewan McGregor's Renton, legging it down a high street to the sound of Iggy Pop's Lust for Life.
14. The Matrix (1999)
The movie: Forget the dodgy sequels for a moment, and just remember how you felt when you first watched The Matrix. The Wachowskis created something that was unlike anything you'd seen before, stretching the limits of technology all in aid of making you lose your shit. Often-copied, never-bettered, bullet time resulted in some of the best action sequences of the decade including THAT lobby fight. Sure, it doesn't quite nail its attempt at bringing Baudrillard's concept of the hyperreal to the mainstream, but at least it doesn't get weighed down in it. It was, and still is, one of the most ambitious sci-fi movies ever made.
Most '90s moment: The first time Neo, Trinity and Morpheus all walk together in their ankle-flapping, wannabe-goth leather coats.
13. Fargo (1996)
The movie: The Big Lebowski might be more quotable but really Fargo was peak Coen Brothers in the 90s. A black comedy masquerading as a crime thriller, its wholly original, often violent and brilliantly performed, especially Oscar-winning Frances McDormand's pregnant cop and Peter Stormare and Steve Buscemi's completely inept criminals. The recent TV series is undeniably excellent, yet the original remains the best. I guarantee you'll never look at a wood chipper the same way again. And, despite the jokey this is a true story opening title, some elements did actually happen in real life. Just kidding. The whole thing's fiction.
Most '90s moment: All those turtlenecks.
12. The Lion King (1994)
The movie: Whatever decade it would have been released in, The Lion King would rank as one of its greatest movies. Through the use of gorgeous (and ground-breaking, at the time) animation, it tells a story that is unmistakably Disney, capable of reducing even the hardiest soul to tears one minute and get them toe-tapping the next. Don't try to pretend that Hakuna Matata didn't become your life mantra after watching it, and the film's legacy continues on with the highest-grossing theatre show of all time. I still haven't forgiven Disney for the emotionally traumatic death of Mufasa, though.
Most '90s moment: Casting Jeremy Irons as the voice of the villainous Scar.
11. The Usual Suspects (1995)
The movie: A deceptively simple Reservoir Dogs-esque crime thriller becomes so much more in The Usual Suspects, thanks to Christopher McQuarrie's Oscar-winning script and Bryan Singer's direction. Framed by an interrogation of con man Roger Verbal Kint (Kevin Spacey, also a deserving Oscar winner), it captivates throughout thanks to a flawless ensemble and delivers an ending that will make you re-think everything you've been watching. Luckily, you'll want to re-watch it time and again. Oh, and sorry The Sixth Sense, The Usual Suspects delivered the best twist ending of the 90s.
Most '90s moment: (SPOILER ALERT!) Kevin Spacey being revealed as the bad guy right at the end.
10. Toy Story (1995)
The movie: Pixar arrived in some style with Toy Story in 1995, an instant classic with children and adults alike. The first feature-length computer-animated film was about so much more than its innovative technology, with its witty script also delivering on the emotion (just try not to sob when Buzz discovers he's a toy). It set a standard that few animations since have matched, except for maybe Pixar's further outings, and was the first chapter in one of cinema's greatest-ever trilogies. With Toy Story, we were made to feel that we had a friend in Pixar, and it's a friendship that endures to this day.
Most '90s moment: The toys rally together to have a plastic corrosion awareness meeting.
9. Seven (1995)
The movie: Seven is a grimy and intense crime thriller that's difficult to shake from your mind. Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman lead us into a series of murders inspired by the seven deadly sins, each one gorier than the last and responsible for one of the decade's more effective jump scares (hello, sloth victim!). But the murders pale in comparison to the shock that awaits us (courtesy, again, from Kevin Spacey) at the end as we discover just what's in the box. To this day, it remains one of cinema's darkest climaxes.
Most '90s moment: The fact that keeping Kevin Spacey uncredited and out of pre-release marketing would actually work to bolster the final act's sting. With set photos today, that would never happen.
8. Schindler's List (1993)
The movie: Steven Spielberg gives one of history's bleakest events the dramatic respect it warrants in the magnificent Schindler's List. Carried by an imperious Liam Neeson, the true story of Oskar Schindler is far from an easy watch, nor should it be. Spielberg doesn't hide from the horrors, even when he's offering a moment of respite such as in the shower scene, and delivers one of cinema's most haunting images with just a splash of red. You might decide that you don't want to watch it again, but everyone needs to see it at least once.
Most '90s moment: John Williams' undeniably haunting score.
7. Heat (1995)
The movie: Michael Mann's crime masterpiece more than lives up to the promise of bringing together two acting powerhouses on screen for the first time. Robert De Niro and Al Pacino don't share that many minutes together but it's electric when they do, with their restaurant scene as thrilling as any shootout in the movie. And what shootouts they are. Even recent sub-par Mann like Blackhat has had killer action sequences, and Heat showcases just how brilliant the director is at his prime. This is intelligent adult cinema done right. With no Heat, there'd likely be no Nolan Batman.
Most '90s moment: Pitting major league heavyweights like Pacino and De Niro against one another; and having it be the main crux of the marketing.
6. Fight Club (1999)
The movie: Few would have predicted Fight Club's long-lasting appeal back in 1999. Notoriously an under-performer both critically and commercially, David Fincher's brutal and provocative drama isn't for the faint-hearted (poor Angel Face) yet deservedly enjoyed a new life on DVD. Ironically, its success was down to people breaking the first rule of Fight Club and talking about it. Maybe they just noticed that behind the violence, there lies a movie that's as well crafted as any during the 90s. And continuing the decade's penchant for twist endings, it has a hell of a kicker.
Most '90s moment: Practically every pithy one-liner Tyler delivers is a finger to the man ("Our great war is the spiritual war, our great depression is our lives...") a massive sign of '90s disillusionment.
5. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
The movie: Being one of only three movies to win the Big Five Oscars is an achievement in itself, but to do it as a horror movie? Thats downright remarkable. Yet, that's just what The Silence of the Lambs did and no-one could refuse it the honour. A terrifying, suspenseful and bloody thriller, it delivers not one, but two iconic villains in Hannibal Lecter and Buffalo Bill and a whole host of unshakeably creepy moments. Be honest, you were put off lotion and chianti for a few months after watching it for the first time, right?
Most '90s moment: It's the hair. Catherine Martin's big poofy hairdo.
4. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
The movie: He came back. And in some style. James Cameron repeated his Aliens trick, except this time he was following up his own movie and changing the genre. Where The Terminator was a contained chase thriller, Terminator 2: Judgment Day is epic action sci-fi with massive set pieces that even Michael Bay might deem excessive. But, crucially, we still cared for the characters. It's telling that one of the most lingering moments isn't a LIQUID METAL machine, it's a simple thumbs up.
Most '90s moment: John Connor, and his seriously mulleted best friend, speeding to the mall on dirtbikes with a huge boombox blasting Guns N' Roses. So. Much. '90s.
3. Goodfellas (1990)
The movie:The definitive gangster movie (sorry, The Godfather), Goodfellas remains Martin Scorsese's masterpiece. Eminently quotable, super stylish and impeccably performed by all (with a special shout-out to Joe Pesci's unpredictable Tommy DeVito), its two-and-a-half hour running time flies by. No sooner have you heard "As far back as I can remember..." and the end credits are rolling due to how fully immersed you are in the crime world. Somehow, Dances With Wolves beat it to Best Picture and Best Director at the Oscars. Yeah, I don't get it either.
Most '90s moment: That utterly glorious and uninterrupted Steadicam shot as Henry and Karen make their way into the restaurant.
2. Pulp Fiction (1994)
The movie: If Reservoir Dogs set out Quentin Tarantino's trademark features, then Pulp Fiction saw the maverick filmmaker let loose. A relentless barrage of pop culture references, ultra-violence and non-linear storytelling, it redefined independent cinema and remains as influential today as it did in 1994. Pulp Fiction inspired a whole new generation of independent directors and many have since tried to replicate its genius. No one has succeeded, but that's because no one else is Tarantino. Now, where can I get a Royale with cheese?
Most '90s moment: Eric Stoltz, Rosanna Arquette and John Travolta hovering over Uma Thurman's overdosing body.
1. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
The movie: Like Fight Club, The Shawshank Redemption is a movie that enjoyed its biggest success outside of cinemas. One of the best Stephen King adaptations, it's possibly the most uplifting movie ever. You have to endure some hardships to get there, but just try and find someone who didn't punch the air and get a bit teary when Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) escapes. Add in Morgan Freeman's silky-smooth, comforting storytelling and performance, and you have a movie that is difficult to resist and completely easy to fall in love with. I'll get busy living when I've finished watching it again.
Most '90s moment: Freeman's inimitable voiceover.