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The 100 Best Films of the 1990s

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The 100 Best Films of the 1990s

By the current timetable of cultural recycling, pop artifacts tend to look their most dated—no longer fresh and new, but also not yet easily filed as products of their time—roughly 15 to 20 years following their initial conception. That became painfully clear when, and this isn’t to speak for the rest of the Slant writers, I set about the task of re-watching some of the ’90s movies I’ve long considered favorites, and even more so as I finally set about to catch up with some of the other movies my colleagues were endorsing. Beyond the leftover ’80s-hangover effect, there’s also the fact that some of the most beloved and influential ’90s movies helped kick off trends that have, in the years since, curdled into cliché and downright annoyance. Hence, over-familiarity and premature antiquity form a minefield that makes determining the last analog decade’s best films uniquely tricky.

Still, the further one sifts through the decade’s offerings, the more surprising its highlights seem. This is, after all, the decade during which Terrence Malick broke his two-decade-long sabbatical from filmmaking, a fugue only Stanley Kubrick came close to rivaling, both creating masterworks well worth the wait. The decade when all sorts of Eastern cinema broke through, from sensual Hong Kong mixtapes to cerebral Iranian puzzle boxes. The decade where Robert Altman, Brian De Palma, Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen, David Cronenberg, Steven Spielberg, and others who made their names during the American New Wave of the ’70s all broadened their horizons and confirmed their artistry, even with next-generation filmmakers like Gus Van Sant, David Fincher, Todd Haynes, and Quentin Tarantino all nipping at their heels. The decade where a commercial tie-in to a hit TV show could also be perhaps the strangest, most confounding wide-release film of its era (which should’ve surprised no one, given David Lynch’s involvement). The decade that saw a talking pig (Babe) competing against another one (Mel Gibson) for the Best Picture Oscar. The ’90s were all that and still found room for Aleksandr Sokurov holding a landscape shot for 40 minutes, James Cameron breaking the $100-million-budget ceiling, Chantal Akerman people-watching, and at least two anarchic, if not downright Marxist, sequels to hit children’s movies. Dated? This decade is daft punk.

See below for the films that ranked 101-200, and click here for the list.

101. Raise the Red Lantern
102. Dangerous Game
103. The Bridges of Madison County
104. From the Journals of Jean Seberg
105. La Promesse
106. JFK
107. Red Hollywood
108. Poison
109. Total Recall
110. Face/Off
111. Fallen Angels
112. The Hole
113. Casino
114. Wild at Heart
115. Happiness
116. JLG/JLG
117. Kicking and Screaming
118. Secrets & Lies
119. All About My Mother
120. Center Stage (Actress)
121. To Sleep with Anger
122. Days of Being Wild
123. Sicilia!
124. Maborosi
125. Buffalo 66
126. King of New York
127. The Blair Witch Project
128. God’s Comedy
129. Election
130. The Silence of the Lambs
131. Three Lives and One Death
132. Ratcatcher
133. Reservoir Dogs
134. Portrait of a Young Girl at the End of the 1960s in Brussels
135. The Mission
136. Run Lola Run
137. The Age of Innocence
138. Slacker
139. Saving Private Ryan
140. Rock Hudson’s Home Movies
141. The Double Life of Veronique
142. Casa de Lava
143. The Eel
144. Jungle Fever
145. Public Housing
146. Cold Water
147. The Rapture
148. Jurassic Park
149. The Limey
150. Salaam Cinema
151. Henry Fool
152. The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover
153. Titanic
154. My Sex Life…or How I Got Into an Argument
155. Ossos
156. I Can No Longer Hear the Guitar
157. What Happened Was…
158. Beloved
159. The Blue Kite
160. Late August, Early September
161. The Killer
162. Welcome to the Dollhouse
163. Leaving Las Vegas
164. The Insider
165. Chameleon Street
166. Barcelona
167. Secret Defense
168. Edward Scissorhands
169. The Neon Bible
170. Twelve Monkeys
171. Breakdown
172. The Match Factory Girl
173. Fast Cheap and Out of Control
174. Pola X
175. Defending Your Life
176. The Funeral
177. Miami Blues
178. Natural Born Killers
179. Bottle Rocket
180. Matinee
181. In the Heat of the Sun
182. The Matrix
183. Sombre
184. After Dark, My Sweet
185. Toy Story 2
186. Ed Wood
187. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
188. Clean, Shaven
189. Ladybird, Ladybird
190. Jacob’s Ladder
191. The Mirror
192. Cyclo
193. The Oak
194. White
195. South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut
196. Deseret
197. Cape Fear
198. Lone Star
199. The Piano
200. American Movie