Five Great Films of the 1990s You Should See

Away from the bombardment of 80s high school romps, the 1990s was a great decade for film. From instant crime classics to a bevvy of exciting new directors, here are just a few of the good'uns.
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Away from the bombardment of 80s high school romps, the 1990s was a great decade for film. From instant crime classics to a bevvy of exciting new directors, here are just a few of the good'uns.

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Forget Basic Instinct, this is Sharon Stone at her best

The Grifters (1990) There are films like 1989’s Family Business starring Sean Connery and Dustin Hoffman which don’t help themselves right from the off. Hoffman is only seven years younger than Connery, is supposed to be Italian and also Connery’s son. It’s fucking mad. In The Grifters it’s not as marked but Angelica Houston would've had to have been 13 when she conceived Cusack.  Granted it’s not as bad as Dick Van Dyke actually being older than Lionel Jeffries in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, but hey ho it’s acting, it’s not real Simon, wake up.  The Grifters is the only film I’ve ever seen where it shows someone getting jabbed in the gut with a bat and nearly dying. Most films will have you believe that you can hit people over the head with chairs or throw them at a bar full of glass bottles and the bounce back up and hit you in the mouth, which also does not hurt.  It’s obviously more than that and the reason I’ve chosen it, is that it deals with the question of how much you owe your mother simply for being your mother?  If they have done nothing else other than give birth to you what do you owe them?

The Limey (1999) – Terrence Stamp is great isn’t he?  From the dashing bastard, Sergeant Troy in Far from the Madding Crowd, to stealing scenes in Superman II and Wall Street, the man has screen presence.  An early Steven Soderburgh effort The Limey is pretty much a tweaked Get Carter storyline with Carter now Wilson and Newcastle now LA.  It’s a decent movie and Luis Guzman plays the pliable Hispanic sidekick as well as he does in other movies, Peter Fonda does creepy movie producer pretty well too but it has one of those “hold on, rewind” moments.  If you are of a certain vintage you will find yourself, as I did, saying “shit did I just see Petrocelli” and the answer once rewound and researched on IMDB would be “yes, you most certainly did”.  The great Barry Newman of unfinished house in the desert fame was indeed Fonda’s chief security heavy.  One question I still can’t answer though.  Did Petrocelli’s missus leave him for Ray Krebbs off Dallas because the house never got built?  I suspect she did.

Twenty Four Seven – 24:7 (1997) – I don’t always enjoy Shane Meadows' work as I think the improvisation can appear amateurish. But, when he uses capable actors, it all changes and I think he has produced some of the best British cinema in recent years. Witness the performances of Stephen Graham  in This is England and both Paddy Considine and Toby Kebbell in Dead Man’s shoes and you will see what I mean.  In 24:7 two actors stand out.  Bob Hoskins (Darcy) as the reformed drunk, setting up the boxing club and hoping to give the local youth something to focus on, and Bruce Jones as the violent and bitter father of one of the local lads. Both give towering performances, as does Sam Dingle off Emmerdale...sorry, actor James Hooton.  Meadows has used two Dingles in his films, Eli (Joe Gilgun) played Woody in This is England and did a fine job. If only we could have had Zak and Marlon in “Once upon a Time in the Midlands”, it might have been watchable.

Deep Cover (1992) – Jeff Goldblum has probably allowed himself to be typecast as the affable, wise-cracking dude in recent years but he has some good stuff under his belt.  He shares top billing here with Laurence Fishburne. We are not talking about the fat beardless Fishburne we see today, but the rangy bearded one from Boyz n the Hood. Fishburne’s character is a rookie undercover drug squad officer and Goldblum is a small time party drug dealer called David Jason (lovely jubbly) with ambitions of one big pay off deal. They share a common aim to bring down a top drug baron. One, because it's his job and the other, because he wants to make some serious green. Both actors put in storming performances. Unlike most other cop thrillers, it shows you there are consequences to actions and that it’s not easy to do the right thing.

Casino (1995) – Of all the mob movies of this era I think this was the best.  There are stand out moments in films that I think make them classics and there’s plenty of them in this. DeNiro’s Sam Rothstein insisting that the blueberry muffins have an equal amount of blueberries in them, the fiery dashboard as he escapes a car bomb and the horrific scene in the corn field with the aluminium baseball bats (if you’ve seen it, you know what I mean.) If classics are also made by the quality of leading lady, then Sharon Stone has never looked better than in this film. She’s stunningly beautiful as the flawed Ginger and plays a blinding role.  The sub-plot between her, Rothstein and James Woods’ Lester Diamond really adds to the drama. And no mob film is complete it seems without a psychotic Joe Pesci and/or Frank Vincent and they’re here too along with a personal favourite of mine Alan King (see Memories of Me with Billy Crystal for him at his best.)

and the ones that nearly made the final 5...

The Straight Story (1999) – Gentle tale of stubborn old man wanting to make up with his brother “Lyle?  Lyle”

Mo Better Blues (1990) – Stylish Spike Lee number with trumpets, shagging and lots of great music.

Internal Affairs (1990) – Richard Gere does bad cop well.  Whoda thunk it?

Boyz n the Hood (1991) – If only for Ice Cube’s Doughboy and The Five Stairsteps “Ooh child” on the soundtrack.

True Romance (1993) – Walken, Hopper and Gandolfini.  Say no more.  Plus Patricia Arquette is gorgeous in this.

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