A while ago I did a series of Phenomenal 5 lists looking at the best movies from each year of the 1980’s. I’m not sure why it took me so long, but now it’s time to jump into the 90’s. Of course we begin with 1990, a year that typically doesn’t come to mind as a great for movies. Still there were several films that stood out and while I wouldn’t call this the definitive list, there’s no denying that these five movies are phenomenal.
#5 – “Total Recall”
On the surface it could be easy to dismiss “Total Recall” as another meat-headed action flick from Arnold Schwarzenegger. Actually Paul Verhoeven’s ultra-violent sci-fi romp plays with several meaningful themes and manages to subvert practically every expectation. It’s loaded with great special effects, good humor, a fun supporting cast and just enough satire to set it apart.
#4 – “Die Hard 2”
It’s quite the task the make a satisfying sequel to a movie that many consider to be one of the best action films of all-time. It’s another Christmas and another terrorist attack, this time at Washington’s Dulles International Airport. Thankfully Bruce Willis recaptures all of John McClane’s wit and attitude while several other fun familiar faces from the first film return. Certainly not as good as 1988’s “Die Hard”, but still a ton of fun.
#3 – “Goodfellas”
I can hear a lot of people already challenging me for not having this Martin Scorsese crime epic in the #1 slot. I completely understand because it truly is an amazing piece of cinema. Robert De Niro, Ray Liotta, and Joe Pesci wonderfully navigate several years of mob life – the ups, downs, the friendships, and the violence. Scorsese’s signature style and trademark characterizations make this one of the quintessential mob movies.
#2 – “Miller’s Crossing”
Speaking of gangster pictures, the third film from Joel and Ethan Coen happened to be one of my favorites from the brothers. “Miller’s Crossing” drips with neo-noir flavor, touches of dark comedy, and showcases some brilliant performances particularly from Albert Finney and Gabriel Byrne. It’s a movie armed with that rich sense of style both narratively and visually that the Coens have sense become known for. I love it.
#1 – “Dances with Wolves”
Kevin Costner’s Oscar-winning epic has taken its share of low blows. Nonsensical ‘white savior’ accusations and general discontent for it winning Best Picture over “Goodfellas” has soured many opinions. But “Dances with Wolves” deserves better. It’s a gorgeous, sprawling film teeming with classic filmmaking spirit and a grand artistry that captures both the beauty and ugliness of its subject. I’ll stand up for this film any day.
There you have my picks for the best films of 1990. What say you? Agree or disagree? Please hit the comments below and let me know what I got right and what I got wrong. Can’t wait to hear from you.