Time has a way of rolling on doesn't it? The 1990s were a great hodge-podge of 1980s leftovers and a the future all rolled into one. So it stands to reason that some of the movies we got from that time, even though they were completed, sort of felt incomplete upon their release 20 years ago. In fact, it seems to take something like a 20th anniversary for certain films to be deemed important. It might lead one to ask if the 1990s had any classic or iconic movies?
It would be easy to write a lot of these films off. Lord knows many a critic did, however, when you take a solid look at this list, many of these films have stood the test of time. Some of have even become iconic movies. The mere fact that they are even on a list of this nature is a testament to this.
What made the 1990s the fun, semi-easy going decade it appeared to be? Was it really even that way at all? Lets be honest, many of the problems we faced then we still face today. The biggest issue is that most of them are bigger.
And that speaks to something else. We need the movies to give us respite from all this. Looking at this list, titles like Boogie Nights, Good Burger, the Star Wars Special Editions, all offer this brief reprieve in their own little ways. Yet, those films, and the rest of the movies on this list are very much "of" their time. However, classic movies are not a dime a dozen and that is what some of the films on this list are, which we've completely plundered thanks to IMDB.
1997. It seems hard to believe that it was 20 years ago. Even harder to believe is the way the motion picture industry has changed since then. The fact that some of the films on this list might not even get a theatrical release today is very telling. So, sit back, put on your favorite multi-colored button-up shirt and rolled up jeans, and enjoy 20 Films Turning 20 in 2017. Now some of these are not the best movies of 1997, but they were memorable for other reasons. You might laugh, you might cry, but you'll most certainly have memories!
This, in fact, was one of the best movies of 1997. Titanic is an iconic movie. It also falls into the category of being a classic movie. Was it 20 years ago that we all fell love with Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet? This tale of true love being met with tragedy aboard the R.M.S. Titanic was no easy feat for director James Cameron to pull off. There were some major health issues on the set that ultimately culminated with the director needing to take a siesta for a bit. Titanic is a big, bold film. It recalls such movies as Gone With the Wind and Wuthering Heights. And sadly, 1997 would mark the last year that such a film was released. Sure, there have been big movies since, but they were generally genre movies. The costs of making films has skyrocketed. It's ironic that the last guy to make a true cinema classic, is the guy leading the charge to create bigger genre films today. The 20th anniversary of this film is bound to be big indeed.
Men in Black
While not what most people would consider a seminal franchise, Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones sure did seem to be having a great time together, right? This tale of a police officer (Smith) being recruited by Tommy Lee Jones' special agent, really hit all the right notes. Also, the effects in this movie don't really seem like they've been marred by time. Sure, most sci-fi films with big budgets would probably look better than this but this was 20 years ago. This may not be an iconic movie but its subject matter is iconic... the men in black. They would go on to make two more films after this first one. The second one, Men In Black II was good, but these three films really do realize the point that the sequel is almost never as good as the original. They certainly wouldn't fall on someone's classic movies list. Still, Men In Black always works when you watch it, and that reason alone is enough to keep it on this list.
After being in cryofreeze since the 1960s, Austin Powers (Mike Myers) is thawed out and resumes battling those nefarious entities that wish to do the world harm. Truthfully, I so un-enjoyed this movie when I first watched it, that I literally forced myself to sleep in the movie theater. I did not think it was one of the best movies of 1997. It also didn't burn up the box office and seemed to be quickly forgotten. However, the 1990s was a very special time in filmmaking. Independents were making one film with a bolex, and then shooting for a studio on their follow-up. Austin Powers sort of died in theaters but it got resurrected on home video. Due to that, it spawned 2 more films and made nearly $700 million at the box office! In the era of streaming would that even be possible today? Here's hoping that the 20th anniversary of this film might give us something of an answer today.
This iconic movie from Nickelodeon Films essentially launched the careers of Kel Mitchell and Kenan Thompson. The fact that it featured such actors as Sinbad, Abe Vigoda and Shaquille O'Neal, has only bolstered its credibility throughout the years. Ultimately, Good Burger is a 1980s tale that found its way in the late 1990s. Kel and Kenan play two workers at (where else?) a burger shop. When their shop is threatened with going out of business, these slackers kick in to high gear to try and save the place. Good Burger is fun, light hearted, and the kind of film that Brian Robbins loves to make from the 1990s and beyond. That it's on this list, celebrating it's 20th anniversary only underscores how important this film was.
Star Wars Special Editions
These classic movies were both loved and hated, and the reality was it had nothing to do with the story. Such is the fate of some iconic movies. Basically, George Lucas didn't have the effects he needed when episodes 4, 5 and 6 came to the movie theaters in the 1970s and 1980s. So he tinkered with them and in the 1990s we got these old films with new effects added. There were extra ships, added scenes with characters like Jabba the Hut, and a re-edit that shows how a guy named Greedo fired first (even if he didn't). 1997 is made an even more seminal year by these movies. They put Star Wars back in people's minds again. It got a whole new generation of kids ready for the prequel trilogy. And, who would've known that Disney would one day take this whole thing over and reboot the entire franchise into a wholly different galaxy far, far away?
Luc Besson's odd film is a perfect 1990s offering. It was one of the best movies of 1997, though, I don't think that many thought that at the time. It is a weird, visionary, bug budget mess. The story follows a cab driver (Bruce Willis) who ends up in a search for a weapon to stop some nefarious entities. Okay, does that seem oddball enough? Factor in that Gary Oldman plays one of the bad guys, Chris Tucker plays a flamboyant character who literally seems to be in this film to chew the scenery, and then there's Milla Jovovich who literally seems so gorgeous that nobody knows what to do with her. All of this is mixed together to great effect by the visionary filmmaker Luc Besson, and from it we get one of the classic movies of the 1990s. When you consider that this film went on to become a very important visual experience in the home theater world, and that it is also lauded on its 20th anniversary, that means something.
Okay, so Director Paul Verhoeven admits that this sci-fi opus was in fact (in part) inspired by the Nazi propaganda film Triumph of the Will. All I know is, it is good for Starship Troopers that it was released in 1997 and not 2017. Because if it had been and the director made those statements today, nobody would be talking about anything related to this film other than those comments. Starship Troopers is ultimately a classic movie about humans battling alien bugs in order to survive. A sci-fi tale cloaked in a history lesson about the vagaries of fascism. Verhoeven, despite what people want to say about him, is a very good filmmaker. Come on, the guy directed Robocop for crying out loud! Sure, he made Showgirls but he also made Basic Instinct and Total Recall. Also, Verhoeven just had Isabelle Huppert vie for the Academy Award in his film Elle. He is as vital today as his film Starship Troopers was 20 years ago.
Quentin Tarantino's follow-up to Pulp Fiction might be a 1990s ode to films of the 1970s, but this movie is very much of its time. In fact, its 20th anniversary only makes that more palpable. After Pulp Fiction, many people wanted Tarantino to keep making THAT film. Well, he would make films like it, but Jackie Brown clearly showed that he was a true iconoclast. So by proxy this pretty much makes Jackie Brown an iconic movie. How else to explain how this director who could work with ANYBODY, chose to work with Pam Grier in the title role. This isn't a dig at Grier but I think even she would admit she wasn't exactly bankable then. The story is fairly straight forward, a drug smuggling stewardess (Grier) suddenly finds herself in deep trouble when she gets pinched. Ahhhh, the 1990s were a forgiving time. This movie may not have connected like Pulp Fiction, but Tarantino was allowed to show the world he's every bit the director we thought he was. Can the same thing be said about new directors in 2017? And despite it not being Pulp Fiction, it was one of the best movies of 1997.
1997 felt special because of this movie. Paul Thomas Anderson had made a film before this that barely got released. Rather than just being a "straight-to-video" director, Anderson turned around and made one of the best films in decades. He made a classic movie. Boogie Nights is a fun, tragic, ultimately hopeful look at the Los Angeles porn industry in the 1970s. However, watching it 20 years later this movie never feels dated. In fact, it was vibrant, full of life, and the kind of rare art film that can be watched over and over. Here's hoping it's get the 20th anniversary treatment on home video. However, in the streaming world today is that even possible?
Good Will Hunting
Easily one of the best movies of 1997 as well as the 1990s. It has to be singled out on its 20th anniversary, and not just because it won an Oscar. However, it's really easy to look at the amazing success that Ben Affleck and Matt Damon have had, and then look at this film with a cynical viewpoint. Ben Affleck is Batman for crying out (I know, probably not for that much longer), and Matt Damon is one of the most bankable actors in the world (yes, even with Great Wall not being so great). This tale of a math savant (Damon) being saved by a psychologist (the late Robin Williams), is for the most part a really solid film. Filled with terrific dialogue and scenes that moved like wildfire, Good Will Hunting was really an action movie of words and ideas. Add the haunting Elliot Smith soundtrack to this, and Good Will Hunting is an iconic movie that is very 90s but very 2017, too.
Romy and Michele's High School Reunion
Other than the fact that this movie is 20 years old, it realistically wouldn't be on any list. Also, it co-stars Lisa Kudrow who is still riding fairly high off the TV show that centered around people liking one another. The other half of the bill features Mira Sorvino (hot off an Oscar win) as one part of a pair of not so bright ladies who attend a high school reunion, and plan to tell lies about their lives to impress people. Also, aside from being one of the first shows to foreshadow the 80s renaissance, Romy and Michele's High School Reunion isn't really special in any way. However, if you have ever attended a high school reunion, and lord knows that somebody reading this has, you'll be sure to find something to like here. A classic movie? No. Just a desire to return to a classic time.
Grosse Point Blank
With the exception of Highly Fidelity in 2000, Grosse Pointe Blank is John Cusack's finest movie since Say Anything. This tale of an assassin who returns home for work, and ends up attending his high school reunion is the gold from which comedy is spun. However, this oddball 90s film is smart, fun and filled with surprises. It features the kind of humor that is fairly dormant in 2017. The fact that Dan Aykroyd plays Cusack's antagonist only bolsters this films whimsical credibility. Grosse Point Blank also features Minnie Driver, Joan Cusack, Alan Arkin and Hank Azaria among others. Grosse Pointe Blank really feels like a film from a time gone bye. Which is what makes it one of the best movies of 1997. Ahh the 1990s, we hardly knew yee! This film deserves of 20th anniversary celebration of some sort!
Con Air - Sporting really bad, Michael Bolton-esque hair, Nicolas Cage plays the role of Cameron Poe in the 1990s action extravaganza. Poe is a good man who is put in a bad situation. He's been paroled and as he's being transported with a bunch of other prisoners, they take over the plane. What ensues is a lot of action, violence and comedy that only a film from 1997 called Con Air can provide. Aided in this mission by John Malkovich and John Cusack, they added the kind of credibility that (at the time) made this trifecta an all star cast. Today? The film industry has changed so much, it's doubtful that this movie would be released anywhere but Netflix. It isn't that the stars aren't bankable, it's just that the action genre has long been a ripe place for straight-to-video. Con-Air, for all it's faults, has become one of cinema's classic movies. It just isn't the kind of "classic" we're used to.
Scream 2 - Such a game changer was the first Scream that Scream 2 had to be a let down, right? Not at the box office. The first Scream is one of the best movies of the 1990s. Both of these films actually grossed close to the same amount of money in the US. And when you consider that this sequel was really inferior to the first film, that is saying something. Perhaps before the internet made everybody a critic (myself included!), movies actually had a chance to find an audience. Now, there's so many reviews, comments, likes and dislikes that what rises to the top seems to be more a function of current tastes than anything else. The first Scream was a deconstruction of the horror genre using other horror films to make that point. Scream 2 examined the aftermath of this and what happens when a new killer makes the scene. It also unleashed other 1990s classics like I Know What You Did Last Summer. Who would have thought that we would eventually long for these films after torture porn eventually took over?
I Know What You Did Last Summer
As we talked about above, this movie was essentially unleashed by the Scream franchise. While not as solidly put together as that film, I Know What You Did Last Summer is still highly enjoyable and a classic movie. In some ways, this teen romp is even considered an iconic movie. This film features such young hotties as Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ryan Phillippe, Freddie Prinze, Jr. and Jennifer Love Hewitt. They have an accident with someone on the road. Rather than do the right thing and seek help, they try and hide their crime. From there, a killer with a hook lets them know that they are not off the hook and he knows what they did. This movie features a lot of build up, a lot of tension, without any real scares or horror. As it moves along the story starts to unravel and suddenly everybody's life is potentially up for grabs. Not the most original film on this list, but at the least the horror films of the 1990s did their best to make their films seem like bigger deals. This film is having its 20th anniversary? Man, I feel old.
Would a movie that stars Jennifer Lopez, Ice Cube, Danny Trejo and Jon Voight even get a theatrical release in 2017? Is it what you would call an iconic movie? Did you ever think Anaconda would get a 20th anniversary nod in any kind of an article? Well, 20 years ago it grossed over $130 million dollars worldwide! The plot of this film is fairly simple. A film crew making a nature video find themselves taken hostage by an insane hunter. Does he want a lot of ransom money? No! Rather, he wants them to document him finding the deadliest snake in the world. Does this sound like one of the best movies of 1997? Let us also not forget the indie cred that this film has with people like Eric Stoltz and Owen Wilson also taking part in it. Say what you want about this movie, tell me you didn't jump when you saw the trailer for this film, and that big snake went between the actors legs as they waded through the water? That was scary in the trailer. It was scary in the film and it still holds up today.
Why doesn't the fact that Michael Jai White (an African American actor) played Spawn seem to not get as much notice as it should? Well, lets be honest, this film was sort of hurt by being made when it was made. It was 1997 it doesn't seem like Spawn had as much access to effects as say the aforementioned Star Wars sequels. At the same time, it deserves credit for attempting to break ground the way that it did. Based on a comic book from the esteemed Todd McFarlane, this film chronicles a man who is killed and is ultimately sent back to earth to do the devil's bidding. Filled with cool visuals, this film lacks a really engrossing story. That is probably the biggest 20 year contrast between Spawn and a film like Captain America: Civil War. We actually care about the characters in the 2017 film. In Spawn, we care about Al Simmons (White) and that is about it. So you can take an iconic property and put it on screen, but that doesn't mean it will be an iconic movie.
Howard Stern's Private Parts
It is a testament to the power of both Howard Stern and the 1990s that he would get bigger and bigger after this movie. Which is actually what adds to this film's cachet as one of the best movies of 1997. This movie is an artfully done tale showing how Stern managed to become "the king of all media." Stern stars as himself, Robin Quivers plays herself, and darn it if this movie isn't the best one of this list. Add to that that Paul Giamatti plays a the bee in Stern's radio bonnet (and a bunch of the people on show are also in the movie), and Private Parts really plays as a hybrid documentary/docudrama that hits all the right notes. Again, the movie business has changed. However, it is a pretty cool that as superhero movies were starting to show themselves, Howard Stern would be his own tentpole of multiple productions. Iconic movies like this would simply be the start for him. And on it's 20th Anniversary, Private Parts seems to have gotten even better.
Beverly Hills Ninja
Kung Fool! Remember that tagline when this movie was released? It was so big that it actually looked like the movie was called "Kung Fool" starring the Beverly Hills Ninja. I could talk about the plot but what's the point? Chris Farley playing a ninja is enough of a reason for you to show up. The fact that Nicolette Sheridan is also in this film only serves to make it that much more memorable. This movie is Chris Farley doing what Chris Farley does. Is it the best ever? Is it even Farley's best film ever? Is it even one of the best movies of 1997? Hardly. However, the 1990s were, if nothing else, a really good time and Beverly Hills Ninja only serves to bolster that point. This may not be a classic movie but it's one of Chris Farley's classic movies.
Man, Jim Carrey really took off after Ace Ventura, didn't he? In fact, when you think of comedy in the 1980s (not wink-wink, mugging comedy), is there another comedic actor that comes to mind besides Jim Carrey. Sure, he has had his share of missteps, and in 2017 nobody really seems to know what to do with him. However, this tale of a lawyer who can't lie for 24 hours is some of the best slapstick, physical comedy since the films of Frank Capra. Sure, this is kind of a schmaltzy film (due to the whole subplot about Carrey not lying for the benefit of his son), but Liar Liar still holds up today. In fact, when you watch it in no way does it seem like this movie is from another time. And it certainly would be one of Jim Carrey's iconic movies.
A boy befriends a dog that has mad basketball skills. Realistically, how much can one say about Air Bud? The 1990s were truly a time of exploration. In many ways, they mirrored the decade of he 1970s. They pushed innovation, there was a fair degree of experimentation, and the idea that one indie film could catapault someone into the mainstream was always on everybody's mind. Air Bud really wasn't one of those films. At the same time, what could've been a run of the mill kids film really has heart. With strong performances by the entire cast, Air Bud is, if nothing else, a feel good film about friendship, family and the need for acceptance. The fact that this movie would spawn 5 other spin-off films is also testament to the "pedigree" of this franchise. How can it not be a classic movie?
Turbo: A Power Rangers Movie
This film most likely won't be anyone's best movies of 1997 lists, however, it seems poised for some context. And with a new Power Rangers film about to grace screens on March 24, it seemed fitting that this movie would be on this list. In this 1990s offering, we see the Power Rangers pitted against the nefarious Divatox. His wants to unleash the evil Maligore on the world. Remember what I said about special effects really coming into their own around this time? Afterall, how do you think we got the re-release of the 4th, 5th and 6th Star Wars films? Well, it seems like those same effects houses that re-did the Star Wars films might've missed the call from Saban Entertainment (the company behind Power Rangers). However, this Power Rangers movie isn't a bad film. It is earnest in its attempt to put across these characters. The Red, Green, Pink, Blue and Yellow (did I leave any out?) Turbo Power Rangers are all present and accounted for. Sadly, this film just seems too ahead of its time to be an iconic movie.