1994 was a stellar year.
Nelson Mandela was elected President of South Africa, O.J. Simpson basically invented reality television, Ross and Rachel started their “will they won’t they,” and I was born. That last one is important because it means I now get to have an opinion on films that came out while I was still trying to sit up. Here are my five favorite films from the year I was born.
I’m the only person I know who likes this movie. And I don’t say that in a hipster “hey look how unique I am” kind of way, I genuinely mean I haven’t met a single person who likes Maverick, probably because it’s not very good. It stars Mel Gibson as a gambler and con artist who is trying to win enough money to enter a high-stakes poker game but is consistently obstructed by Jodie Foster, James Garner, Alfred Molina, and a bunch of cameos. If you haven’t seen Maverick, but you’ve seen the Duelist Kingdom arc of Yu-Gi-Oh!, then you’re good, it’s essentially the same thing. Despite its shaky quality, Alfred Molina is in a class of his own, and I’m a sucker for high stakes gambling movies.
I haven’t seen The Mask in years. The last time I watched it, it was on a VHS tape if that helps date it. But what I do remember is my love-hate relationship with the titular character. Jim Carrey plays Stanley Ipkiss, a dull bank clerk who finds a mask that, upon adornment, turns him into The Mask, a cartoonish sort-of superhero. It also gives him the confidence to make out with Cameron Diaz (in her film debut!). The selling point for me as a kid was the ridiculously over the top antics, but looking back, it was ahead of its time. The Mask is satirical, 4th wall breaking, and features an anti-hero whose whole schtick is that he’s not like the boy-scout heroes of films prior. It’s the grandfather to Deadpool.
If you don’t like some aspect of this movie, you’re a liar. It has Tom Hanks, a defining soundtrack, historical jokes, drama, romance, comedy, and shrimp. It’s also annoyingly culturally relevant after 23 years. The worst part is its “how have you not seen this?!” quality that people jump down your throat over. And talk about commercialism, they opened a restaurant chain based on it, which is just exactly opposite of the point of the film. You know what, never mind, I hate that I love Forrest Gump. Except for Gary Sinise. Whatever happened to him?
This is a fantastic film, which at this point in our culture should be obvious. There’s a reason we got to know the name Tarantino. Pulp Fiction is a marvel, using unconventional storytelling and homage in a way that had never been done. It laid the groundwork for modern independent cinema. But the standout for me is Samuel L. Jackson as Jules Winnfield, in one of the most iconic performances ever. His famous biblical monolog is always a favorite, but for me, it’s the scene where Jules eats Brett’s burger. His delivery of “That is a tasty burger” might be one of the greatest quotes of all time.
The Lion King
I’m a Disneyphile, through and through. I live it, breathe it, over-analyze it. Their best, above all else, is The Lion King. It has a great balance of drama and comedy. It pairs the deeply intimate loss felt by a son with a live-in-the-moment philosophy from the supporting cast, all serving a recognizable ascension story. The performances are iconic to the point of being legendary: the rich timbre of James Earl Jones’ voice adds to both the kingly and godly quality of Mufasa, while Jeremy Irons’ stage experience shines through Scar’s melodramatic nature. The music is some of Disney’s most memorable, the animation is gorgeous. It’s brilliant. And most importantly, I learned to use the VCR player from watching this tape nonstop for most of the 90s.
What is your favorite film from 1994? Comment below.