While it’s great for a movie to make a critic or cinephile’s end of year Top 10 list, the true judge of a film’s greatness is whether a particular movie can hold its reputation over time and impress future movie fans for years to come. 1994 was quite the year for films, giving us a large array of modern classics and cult favorites. We at AmateurCinephile thought it would be fun to create a combined post, with each of us each listing their own retrospective Top 10 list of the movies that continue to impress and entertain 20 years later. Interestingly, there wound up being only one film that was selected on all three lists, and I bet it wouldn’t be your first or second guess. So, have fun reminiscing about these blasts from the past, and be sure to share some of your personal favorites in the comment section…
JARRETT LEAHY’S 1994 TOP 10 LIST:
10. Reality Bites: It was difficult to pass on Danny Boyle’s Shallow Grave, but this Ben Stiller directed dramatic comedy has been a film that continues to stick with me over the years. While admittedly a bit dated thanks to the Real World style references, Reality Bites impressive young cast (Winona Ryder, Ethan Hawke, Ben Stiller, Janeane Garofalo, Steve Zahn) and telling message about the struggles that come after graduation feel just as poignant in today’s ever-changing job landscape as it did back in 1994.
9. Hoop Dreams: Steve James’ fascinating documentary about two inner-city Chicago basketball prep stars is a provoking time capsule that examines the questionable practices of amateur high school athletics and the daunting task of trying to become a professional basketball player. You’d be hard pressed to find a documentary that’s much better.
8. Leon: The Professional: The film that introduced us to a very young Natalie Portman, Luc Besson’s hit-man thriller continues to impress action film fans of all ages. Twenty years later, Leon: The Professional remains Besson’s biggest contribution to the world of movies.
7. Legends of the Fall: A rousing and emotional family melodrama, a beautifully sweeping western, a stirringly painful war drama, Legends of the Fall offers one of the most epic period pieces of the last twenty years. Legends of the Fall is a film that continues to grow in stature for me with each viewing. A quintessential saga.
6. The Lion King: Based on Shakespeare’s Hamlet, The Lion King remains one of the most successful Disney animated features of all time. Twenty years later, I still enjoy jamming to the film’s soundtrack, Hakuna Matata 😉
5. Natural Born Killers: Based on a script originally penned by Quentin Tarantino, Oliver Stone’s scathing satire about our media driven infatuation for serial killers continues to look more and more prescient. Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis are perfectly cast as Mickey and Mallory Knox and Robert Downey Jr. gives one of his most unrestrained performances.
4. Clerks.: Written and directed by Kevin Smith, Smith raised the film’s $27,000 budget for this raunchy black & white indie gem by maxing out his credit cards, selling his comic book collection, and borrowing money from his family. While Smith’s career may have fallen off recently, the impact of Clerks. on the indie movie world can never be diminished. (F.Y.I. There is a Clerks 3 in the works for those diehard fans of Dante and Randal)
3. Forrest Gump: Some of my fellow cinephiles have tried to diminish the greatness of the 1994 Best Picture winner. While I do wish Pulp Fiction had won the top award, I don’t hold that against Forrest Gump. A beloved modern classic in its own right, Gump remains a personal favorite twenty years later.
2. The Shawshank Redemption: The little film that could, Shawshank’s box office bomb status has long been forgotten thanks the giant loyal fan base it built over these last twenty years thanks in large part to what seems like monthly showings on TBS. “You either get busy living, or get busy dying.” You’re darn right Red.
1. Pulp Fiction: Tarantino’s Los Angeles crime opus remains one of the most beloved and revered films from not just 1994, but the 90’s decade. A true masterpiece, no other film could have topped my list, after all, Pulp Fiction was an inaugural member of the AmateurCinephile.com 2014 Hall of Fame Class (article).
JASON CHANDLER’S 1994 LIST:
10. The Shawshank Redemption: As Jarrett well knows, I hold a small grudge against Shawshank (yes, this is very true). The fact that voters stubbornly rank it #1 on the IMDb Top 250 list, as well as ranking it above Pulp Fiction on Flickchart sticks in my movie craw. But in all fairness, it is an outstanding movie and deserves a spot on this list…despite being shown on TBS 2, 547 times in the last twenty years.
9. Clear and Present Danger: Although I prefer Patriot Games in the Harrison Ford-as-Jack Ryan catalog, this Tom Clancy spy thriller provides enough intrigue, action and political doublecrosses to hold up over the the years.
8. Leon: The Professional: Luc Besson’s masterpiece is a slice of classic European filmmaking set amongst a New York backdrop. In the realm of the “hitman” movies, Reno and Portman combine to make this a one of a kind film.
7. The Getaway: I have a soft spot for Roger Donaldson thrillers and this one is among my favorites. Besides the slick action scenes, this Peckinpah re-make boasts a great cast in Baldwin,Woods, Basinger and Madsen (not to mention a young Phillip Seymour Hoffman).
6. Nobody’s Fool: Paul Newman proved yet again that he could light up a screen in this funny, endearing film about growing old, making amends, and the value of family.
5. True Lies: This over the top actioner has all the cheesy “Arnold-isms” you could ever ask for. But True Lies never takes itself seriously and the action sequences are top-notch. Its a fun ride even 20 years later.
4. Dumb and Dumber: I literally fell out of my seat from laughing while watching this movie in the theater as a teenager. Perhaps the most quoted movie of the Nineties’s by anyone now in their 30’s and 40’s.
3. Wyatt Earp: A favorite amongst western fans, Costner’s portrayal of the legendary lawman would have no doubt been a greater success had it not been preceded by “Tombstone” a year earlier.
2. Legends of the Fall: If you enjoy epic-style period films, this one has you covered from all angles. Huge western landscapes, romance, family drama, war, politics, love and loss, and of course Brad Pitt’s hair.
1. Pulp Fiction: Easily my favorite of the class of 1994. Changed the course of movie history and remains Tarantino’s calling card. ROYALE WITH CHEESE!
MICHELLE ZENOR’S 1994 TOP 10 LIST:
(Unable to select which one deserved her #1 spot, Michelle kept her list alphabetized)
1. Forrest Gump: I’m still in awe at the way this fictional character taught me as much about 20th century American history as any history professor–and he did it with honesty, sympathy, and common sense.
2. Four Weddings and a Funeral: Who can forget Andie MacDowell’s Carrie explaining an ex’s shortcomings with the flick of her little finger? Boy meets girl is as classic as it gets, and when the boy is Hugh Grant at his quintessential nice-guy best, this anglophile chick-flick fan is ready for her popcorn.
3. Interview with the Vampire: Anne Rice took out a full-page ad in Daily Variety recanting her comments criticizing the decision to cast Tom Cruise as Lestat after she saw his performance. She said it best: “He has the immense physical and moral presence; he was defiant and yet never without conscience; he was beautiful beyond description yet compelled to do cruel things. The sheer beauty of Tom was dazzling, but the polish of his acting, his flawless plunge into the Lestat persona, his ability to speak rather boldly poetic lines, and speak them with seeming ease and conviction were exhilarating and uplifting. The guy is great.”
4. Legends of the Fall: This sweeping saga addresses themes and conflicts as large as the Montana setting. Is there anything more destructive than the love of a good woman?
5. The Lion King: It’s a musical; it’s a fable; it’s a tragedy; it’s a Disney feature; it’s a retelling of Hamlet; it’s a beloved modern classic.
6. The Madness of King George: Nigel Hawthorne creates a character victimized by mental illness, medical (mal)practices, political intrigues, and destiny. Still, the costumes, cinematography, and humor turn a tragic story into an film infused with comedy and sympathy.
7. Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle: What impresses me about this movie is the way the filmmaker, Alan Rudolph, captures the tone of Dorothy Parker’s poetry. The Algonquin Round Table is a storied element of America literary history, and this film tells the story well.
8. Muriel’s Wedding: I admit this is an unusual choice, but every girl who has ever sat alone in her room listening to music and dreaming of starring in a different life can relate. Whether you’re a Dancing Queen or an ugly duckling, Toni Collette’s Muriel will tug at your heart.
9. The Secret of Roan Inish: Ireland is a harsh, beautiful land inhabited by imaginative storytellers and colored by their legends passed from generation to generation. This movie captures the spirit of the Irish with haunting imagery and improbable possibilities.
10. Tom & Viv: Literary scholars debate whether or not an author’s biography should be considered along with his writing. This biopic of T.S. Eliot and his wife Viv suggests that Eliot’s life–and wife–may be key to understanding his work. Even if you have no interest in reading “The Waste Land,” this pretty, bittersweet, period piece has Oscar-nominated performances from Miranda Richardson, portraying Viv’s fateful emotional and physical struggles, and Rosemary Harris, as Viv’s mother.