5 Phenomenal Movies from 1990

movie_theatre - Phenom 5

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.

41 thoughts on “5 Phenomenal Movies from 1990

  1. All great movies. I agree with your assessment of Dances With Wolves. I absolutely love that movie and how it treats the plight of the native peoples. Plus the cinematography is gorgeous, as is the beautiful score by John Barry. Costner’s magnum opus and worthy winner in my view .

    • Obviously I’m with you. It’s a stunning and at times breathtaking film. I’ve seen it so many times. And you’re so right about Barry’s score. I remember buying it when it first became available. Love it.

  2. Not my favourite year for movies. I’d have Goodfellas as top but sometimes another movie connects with you more. Dances with Wolves certainly has the most gorgeous soundtrack and cinematography.

  3. Haven’t seen Millers Crossing so will have to look out for that, I like the others though. Loved Dances with Wolves, beautiful movie.
    Going to have to have a couple in my top 5, Pretty Woman for one (I know, I know, but pre-hubby took me to the pics to see this for my birthday then, and I cried a contact lens out onto the cinema floor which he helped me look for so many great memories attached. He also bought me a copy this year for my birthday too!)
    Also Tremors!! Brilliant nuttiness, fell in love with Kevin Bacon, and me and my little son watched it several times because he loved it so much. Hmm, seems it doesn’t matter to me how ‘good’ a movie is, just how it brings back great memories!! 🤣

  4. Yay! The year I was born in!

    I don’t like TOTAL RECALL nor DIE HARD 2. I like GOODFELLAS, but not that much. I find MILLER’S CROSSING to be average. I haven’t seen DANCES WITH WOLVES yet, but I’ve heard those white savior accusations. Why do you think they’re nonsensical?

    My favorite movie of this year was EDWARD SCISSORHANDS.

    • Oh, and as to the white savior stuff. I don’t want to say too much for fear of spoiling it, but he doesn’t save the Native Americans at all. It’s the story of a troubled soldier who has his eyes opened to the Native American’s plight. No savior issues at all.

  5. Great pick! I love Total Recall, I even wrote about it in the blog, and Scorsese of course! As for the rest, I prefer Die Hard With a Vengeance to Die Hard 2, and I think that I would put some Tarantino in the list, as well as Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Terry Gilloam and, of course, John Carpenter’s In the Mouth of Madness (or Vampires, your choice)!

    • Total Recall is really good. So many memorable scenes. And I am with you, I like Vengeance better than DH2. As for Tarantino, I don’t think he had a film in 1990.

      • Ouch, for some reasons I thought 90s, the s does make a difference! Then let me think…

        Tim Burton is there with Edward Scissorhands! And Misery by Rob Reiner is a great movie! There’s a lot of love for Jacob’s Ladder out there, but it didn’t impress me too much when I saw it…

        And Tremors, as so many people said already! Sam Raimi’s Darkman too… ah, there are too many!!!

  6. I’d put Goodfellas at number 1, my favorite and I think the best Scorsese movie. I saw Dances with Wolves in the theater, not since then, I liked it, but it has undergone some sort of reappraisal in my sub-conscious and I have no desire to watch it again, whatever that means. Die Hard was pretty great, started a whole string of movies with that general story line. Who knew you could find a list of movies by year, but Wikipedia does have such a thing, nothing really jumped out at me, maybe “White Hunter, Black Heart” could be on the list.

    • I think Goodfellas would probably top a lot of lists and I completely understand why. Dances had such an effect on me and still does to this day. I’m planning on showing it to my kids for the first time and I can’t wait.

  7. Dances with Wolves is…. DULL AS FUCK!!!!! Never liked it and any re-watches of that film won’t make me change my mind.

    Die Hard 2 was alright while the rest of your picks are essential. Here’s a few other films that should get some love from that year: Metropolitan, Close-Up, Edward Scissorhands, Wild at Heart, Days of Being Wild, Slacker, Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!, and The Hunt for Red October.

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