Based on the title of this article, I can hear you all already:
“You were born in 1993?”
“So you’re, what, 24?”
“Oh. Isn’t that a little young to be writing about movies?”
Yeah, maybe, but before you go pinching my cheeks and calling me a “whippersnapper” who’s too young to know anything about anything, know that I fully acknowledge my age. This list is entirely my opinion, hence why they’re my “favorite” films.
There are better movies than the ones I’m going to write about here. The Fugitive and Schindler’s List, for example, are two of the most critically acclaimed films of the decade. And though I love both of them, I felt that they would be the top two choices for most people when they conceived of a list like this. So I left them out.
The movies that are here are the ones which have had the most significant impact on my life, especially since I saw most of them in my formative years. With that out of the way, let’s get to it, shall we?
5. Mrs. Doubtfire
Okay, okay; I know what’s coming. “You didn’t put Schindler’s List on here, but you included Mrs. Doubtfire? What the hell is wrong with you?” And to that, I say, just hear me out, okay?
As with many other films on this list, I saw this when I was a kid. My appreciation for it didn’t go much deeper than thinking it was funny to see a guy in drag, pretending to be an old lady. Later, when I got older, I saw it on TV one day, and dismissed it as trash I had liked when I was younger, because I was a dumb kid. Whatever.
Then Robin Williams committed suicide.
It came on TV again last summer, and I watched it again. I cried through the entire movie. And, even more importantly, the loss of Williams, whose death felt to me like the loss of a family member, actually enabled me to better appreciate the brilliance of the man. His comedic timing was impeccable, but he was also a great dramatic actor, and he brings a lot of gravity to an otherwise goofy movie. His performance alone justifies the placement of Mrs. Doubtfire on this list. The sequel which had been in the works probably would have been terrible, but it’s tragic that I’ll never get to judge that for myself.
4. Jurassic Park
I’m a big Michael Crichton fan, and I think Jurassic Park is his best novel. (I am 100% willing to fight anyone who disagrees.) As such, this movie and I have a complicated relationship; I love Spielberg’s work, because I’d have to be an idiot not to, but as great as this movie is, I always felt like it was more interested in the spectacle of the dinosaurs than what they were intended to mean. Crichton’s novel is a cerebral examination of the consequences of chaos theory when man tries to play God. Spielberg’s movie is about a bunch people running away from a T-Rex, and later some Velociraptors.
Don’t get me wrong, the movie is awesome. There are few scarier scenes in movie history for me than the sequence with Tim and Lex trying to hide from the raptors in the kitchen. The use of reflections, the sound design with the clattering silverware and echoic screeching, the claustrophobia of the camera work in the tight little spaces between the counters… All of it is stunning.
I just think the film could have been even better if Spielberg had tried to pull more of that meaning from the text and put it in front of the camera.
3. The Nightmare Before Christmas
This entire movie could make it on this list solely because of its opening number. I will never forget watching this for the first time as a kid, the camera crawling through a graveyard as the silhouettes of monsters dance across the tombstones, singing that instantly distinct melody. The voices are almost off-key but not quite, they’re goofy but somehow also scary. The whole thing made my skin crawl.
All of which is to say nothing of the line “I am the who when you call ‘who’s there’?” I’ll be out walking my dog at night sometimes, or alone in my room in the dark, and that line will pop into my head. After all these years, it still gives me chills. As far as I’m concerned, the movie earned its place on this list with that one sentence.
Tim Burton’s strange masterpiece hasn’t aged beautifully, I’ll admit it, but the way the story manages to maintain that line between silliness and terror is seldom pulled off correctly elsewhere. And those movies which do pull it off, like Laika Entertainment’s incredible Coraline, wear their Nightmare DNA on their sleeves.
2. True Romance
One of the big takeaways from this film is that Quentin Tarantino’s dialogue sounds better when Tarantino himself is directing the movie. Nonetheless, it’s a testament to the guy’s writing that even when he isn’t behind the camera, his strange pop culture references and meandering soliloquies still work, for the most part. I say this as a Tarantino fan who loves Deathproof, so your mileage may vary, but ultimately I think True Romance is a good showcase for Tarantino’s storytelling and it’s probably my favorite outing from director (and little brother to Ridley) Tony Scott.
The finale in particular is where this movie really shines for me. There’s an almost Shakespearean way in which the pieces are assembled, with so many different moving parts converging on the suite at the Ambassador Hotel. This is one of the hallmarks of Tarantino’s work; a few different groups of people with conflicting interests are placed in the same contained space. They’re all armed to the teeth, eyeing each other closely, waiting for somebody else to make the first move. Tarantino assembles them like a man filling a room with a bunch of different types of explosives. Then he spills a little gasoline in the middle, and drops a match. This happens in literally almost every Tarantino film, but it doesn’t always does it work as well as it does here. The ensuing chaos is enthralling.
1. Army of Darkness
Yes, it’s an odd pick for number one. But it’s also one of the most insanely creative, bizarre movies I’ve ever seen, and I cannot help but respect that. To watch Army of Darkness, or anything else from the Evil Dead series (including the excellent Ash vs. Evil Dead on Starz), is to look directly into someone’s uncompromising creative vision. When Sam Raimi works on this series, he gets to do exactly what Sam Raimi wants. Which, in this case, is an Arthurian, medievalist tale interrupted by Ash Williams, complete with chainsaw limb and boomstick, to fight skeletons, decomposing pterodactyls, and himself.
The last part is less profound than it sounds, of course, which is part of the brilliance of the series. Ash is not a genius. He’s not a great leader. He’s not articulate or funny on purpose. He’s barely even competent. He’s a middle-of-the-road slacker who happens to be really good at killing… whatever a Deadite is supposed to be. Somehow this makes him more compelling, and more relatable. I go back and forth on whether I prefer this film to Evil Dead II, but either way, for me, Sam Raimi’s beautiful, strange, absurdist masterpiece, which you can’t explain to anyone who hasn’t seen it without sounding like a crazy person, is easily my favorite movie of 1993.