10. Deep Blue Sea dir. Renny Harlin
I cannot quit this movie. No matter how much I tried to put something else in this slot this movie crept back up and snagged me like I was making a valiant speech and it was a shark. Deep Blue Sea is not a particularly ambitious film and the science is a bit dubious but its is so much fun and the characters so vivid that you can’t help but go along for the ride. It also came along with a hilariously great theme song by LL Cool J and was the first notice I had of Thomas Jane who ended up starring in a couple of my favorite movies in the next decade.
9. The Mummy dir. Stephen Sommers
Remakes have plauged the cinema but here was an instance of someone taking an existing property and molding into an exciting adventure film. While I have some issues with the trampling of Egyptian history, this is a great thrill ride with wonderful production design. There’s often a stigma against popcorn films but movies like this one prove that when stories stay true to their essence great things can happen.
8. Toy Story 2 dir. John Lasseter, Ash Brannon, Lee Unkrich
While its not a rarity for sequels to top the original, how does a film top the instant classic that is the first Toy Story? Well it does that by adding dynamite new characters, stupendous animation and an even greater story than the first film. Toy Story 2 was a wonderfully fun film and will continue to delight till the end of time.
7. The Talented Mr. Ripley dir. Anthony Minghella
This movie is so sumptuous and deliciously twisted that it kind of sneaks up on you just how good the film is. Mighella and his cast of nubile actors at the height of their popularity really deliver a knockout film. Set against beautiful scenery, Mr. Ripley his into the concept of the American Dream and twists it into a vengeful, yet seductive tale. The technical aspects of the film are breathtaking and the acting, especially Matt Damon and Jude Law is wonderful.
6. Galaxy Quest dir. Dean Parisot
The late 90s/early 00s were a renaissance for parody films and this one is superb. Galaxy Quest will give you everything you need and never knew you wanted in its effort to send up films like Star Trek and Star Wars. It’s raucously funny and everyone in the cast is on their game. Tim Allen and Sigourney Weaver are the standouts and fully immerse themselves in these roles without hamming it up too much.
5. American Beauty dir. Sam Mendes
Though the movie loses some steam as it barrels towards it’s shocking climax, this film is still a wonderfully composed time capsule of suburban life in the 90s. It plays like a refined stage piece, much a tribute to Sam Mendes theater backgrounds and surprisingly restrained direction. The actors are all on fire, led by Benning, Spacey, and Chris Cooper, lending their considerable talents to such interesting characters. Alan Ball wrote the hell out of this screenplay, structuring the world with such suburban rigidity but allowing for the actors to break out and find the best character beats.
4. The Sixth Sense dir. M. Night Shyamalan
An extremely well done horror film and an utterly devastating drama, M. Night Shyamalan was firing on all cylinders here when he made this tale. The talk surrounding this film now is still geared towards that wonderful twist, but its amazing how great of a script this was that you never see that coming because of how engrossed you are with the story. All of the best horror films have some sort of dramatic element that binds them and this tale about a boy who can see dead people is frighteningly human. Haley Joel Osment stormed into public consciousness with this film and his line readings still chill to this day. Toni Collette is a revelation as the boy’s mother, that car scene gah. But the real star is M. Night Shyamalan, whose wonderful directorial eye and fantastic screenplay for this film stand the test of time.
3. American Pie dir. Chris and Paul Weitz
It’s by far one of the most brash and crude films I have ever seen, and simply brilliant. Coming at the height of MTV’s Spring Break programming and cultural zeitgeist, this movie presented this group of teens who were sexed crazed, eager to grow up, and just all around foolish, but imbued each with great heart that even the most annoying of the characters felt like people you’d want to know. Everyone in the cast is fantastic and perfectly acquitted to their roles. But the script, THAT SCRIPT! SO many one liners and outrageous situations should never be crammed into one film and yet they all work in this generational touchstone.
2. The Matrix dir. The Wachowskis
Completely revolutionizing the scifi genre, The Matrix burst forth out of the ether it seemed and planted itself firmly amongst the greatest sic-fi films ever made. I haven’t the slightest clue how The Wachowski siblings dreamed up this film but it takes some gall to create something this audacious and bold. Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Hugo Weaving and Carrie Ann Moss are all aces and deliver epic performances. The screenplay for this film is high concept enough to astound us but not enough to confound us and the visuals still dazzle all these years later. Also, this is the best edited and shot action film I’ve seen since Jurassic Park. The compositions are beautifully done, the fights incredibly stylistic but you’re never lost from one punch to the next quick cut.
1. Cruel Intentions dir. Roger Kumble
Yes, I know. But this film is so 90s, so instantly quotable, and so irresistibly bitchy that it had to top this list. This adaptation of Les Liaisons dangereuses set in the high scoiety of Manhattan’s Upper East Side has such fantastic script and all of the actors deliver. Speaking of actors, it seems that everyone who was someone in the 90s is in this movie. This movie starred (takes deep breath) Reese Witherspoon, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ryan Phillippe, Selma Blair, Sean Patrick Thomas, Joshua Jackson, Eric Maibus, Louise Fletcher, Christine Baranski, and Tara Reid. The standouts are far and away Sarah Michelle Gellar (at her bitchiest) and Ryan Phillippe (in perhaps his best role) as the Valmont siblings. While both have had varying degrees of success, these were roles of a lifetime and they both chewed the scenery. There are few things more fun to watch than pretty people doing bad things and we root for these characters to manipulate each other to the point of no return. That this movie is incredibly sexy as well is not lost on me, and it never once feels out of place. This is the world of the Upper East Side, and we’re just watching it.
For the superlatives go here