Reflecting upon various years in cinema has always fascinated me. There are some truly magnificent years for movies, such as 1982, 1984, and 1994. However, following a challenge from a fellow writer at the site, I decided to look back to the year I was born: 1990. As the original arbiter of this challenge was also born in 1990, it was interesting to see that his list (found by clicking here) was completely different from mine. However, to avoid confusion, my list received the designation “part 2”.
1990 was the year the Hubble Space Telescope took flight, the year New York City got its first African American Mayor, Mikhail Gorbachev became president of the Soviet Union, and Tim Berners-Lee laid early groundwork for what would eventually become the worldwide web.
In terms of cinema, it was a surprisingly excellent year. Julia Roberts had her breakout performance in Pretty Woman, Macauley Culkin showed slight psychopathic tendencies in Home Alone, and Bruce Willis still cared as John McClane in Die Hard 2. However, when considering my five favorite films of the year, we find the following flicks.
When I was about 12 or 13 years old I watched a film called Eight Legged Freaks. It starred David Arquette, featured terrible CGI, and generally awful writing. A few years after that I heard of a movie starring Jeff Daniels called Arachnophobia. Apparently it was all about spiders, so I expected another cheesy monster movie. Boy was I wrong. This Frank Marshall directed horror flick features great pacing, practical effects, excellent acting, and is by and large one of the greatest horror movies of the 90’s. It might not be as flashy or as gory as some of its cohorts, but it always knows how to get under my skin.
It’s hard to explain the brilliance of Tremors to those that haven’t seen it. By any conventional sense, it shouldn’t work. They made four sequels that proved what an awful concept it really is. However, there’s something about this flick that just speaks to me. Maybe it’s Kevin Bacon’s southern accent, the clever use of practical effects on a shoestring budget, the playful way the movie seems to acknowledge just how ridiculous everything really is. Whatever it is, this is an eternal classic in my eyes that always puts a smile on my face.
3. Total Recall
Ah, Arnie. No list from the 90’s is complete without you! Beyond its punchline heavy leading actor, Paul Verhoeven’s stellar direction, and a three breasted lady, this film has shaped my tastes as a movie lover more than I ever thought it would. It made me appreciate the works of Verhoeven (RoboCop, Starship Troopers), Philip K. Dick (Blade Runner, Minority Report), and gave me a deeper appreciation of sci-fi as a genre.
2. The Rescuers Down Under
While I was always a bigger fan of Don Bluth’s output for Universal (An American Tail, The Land Before Time), this is one of my favorite Disney films of all time. It is also one of the few times Disney managed to make a sequel that was on par with its predecessor. The heartwarming story, terrific voice acting, excellent animation, and more all combine to make one of the most memorable movies of my childhood.
I guess most people might’ve seen this choice coming. An iconic film both for its writing, acting, and directorial style, this is a cinematic gem worthy of any “best of” list. However, more than simply being a great film, this is a movie that I have a personal love for due to its cinematography and direction. This is also the film, alongside Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket, that first made me aware of the importance of style in a film. It made me appreciate how much a director can influence the mood of a film, and for that it is my favorite film from the year of 1990.