Greetings, Glancers! We continue my new series of posts which will detail my favourite films of every year since 1950. Why 1950? Why 10? Why anything? Check out my original post here. As with most of these lists the numbering doesn’t really matter much, though in most cases the Number 1 will be my clear favourite. As I know there are plenty of Stats Nerds out there, I’ll add in some bonus crap at the bottom but the main purpose of these posts is to keep things short. So!
I start today with a few brief comments on some of my favourite films of 1992 which didn’t make the Top Ten cut. Alien 3 is an undoubtedly flawed pseudo-final entry to the Alien series. Notably marred by scripting and production problems, it’s perhaps a miracle the film turned out as good as it is. It has glaring problems and is not as entertaining or scary as the first two movies, but it remains a gripping and downbeat Ripley movie. Bad Lieutenant is as grim as grimy as movies get – hardly surprising given it’s an Abel Ferrara movie. Harvey Keitel is at the top of his game, but it’s not exactly the sort of movie you put on for an evening’s polite entertainment.
As grim as Bad Lieutenant is, Benny’s Video makes it look like Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. Michael Haneke isn’t known for holding back, and Benny’s Video is a shocking look at violence and how crimes can be perpetuated and hidden through time and by family. If you don’t mind matter of fact and upsetting explorations into subjects which mainstream entertainment avoids like the plague, there are few more impactful. You might want to follow it up with something lighter – Ferngully is one of the best non-Disney animated movies of the 90s, with a great voice cast, solid look, decent tunes, and important message.
Glengarry Glen Ross is one of those cult films which Film Nerds eventually find and wonder why no-one seems to talk about it. A superb cast and even better script, it’s essential viewing. Singles is another neat cult hit with a cast of up and comers and that indie vibe which was so prevalent in the early 90s. Unforgiven is maybe Clint Eastwood’s premier masterpiece, though as a director and actor he’s had more than a few. The Western was dead by the 90s – this rips its skeleton out of the closet, fires it with both barrels, and shoves it back in.
White Men Can’t Jump is just a hell of a lot of fun, with Snipes and Harrelson playing beautifully off each other. It’s bizarre that a film like this exists and was such a hit. Passenger 57 continues the Snipes love as the dude attempts to step into the macho man action movie space, exploiting the gaps left by Seagal and Van Damme. That’s not to say those guys were slouching at the start of the decade – Seagal getting his only genuine smash with Under Siege as he slaps Tommy Lee Jones about and avoids Erika Eleniak’s tits. Finally, why not take another descent into sickening violence and glee? Man Bites Dog is notorious, influential, and hard to stomach, while simultaneously being wildly engaging and dare I say, funny? It’s a film you need to see at least once.
And now, the top ten:
10: Aladdin (US) Disney
You all know it – Disney’s Renaissance well under way with a group of writers and performers swinging their mojo about the room, knocking pretenders off their ascent to the throne. It may be Robin Williams’ finest hour, it features one of Disney’s finest ballads, and it took the Company into a whole new world (really?) of culture and storytelling.
9: Universal Soldier (US) Roland Emmerich
What Arnie and Sly could do, Van Damme could try his hardest to emulate. Helmed by Roland ‘better than Michael Bay’ Emmerich, it pits Super Soldier against Super Soldier in a battle which starts in Vietnam and ends with tankers plummeting off the Grand Canyon. It’s big budget, big muscles, big ‘splosions fun.
8: Bram Stoker’s Dracula (US) Francis Ford Coppola
Coppola doing horror? Great. He had dipped his toes much earlier in his career, but he doubles down with this gorgeous, gothic retelling. Bringing together a mixture of youthful stars and beloved veterans, his version of Stoker’s vampiric tale nails the atmosphere of the text while focusing on obsession. It’s maybe the definitive movie adaptation.
7: Candyman (US) Bernard Rose
Bernard Rose is something of an enigma, starting out with music videos and TV before jumping between fantasy, horror, and historical epics, usually gaining critical recognition but not commercial success. Candyman brought both, even as it wasn’t a huge hit at the time, but it is as enigmatic and alluring as both its director and writer. Tony Todd and Virginia Madsen lead this noir horror love story, twisting an urban legend into reality and bringing a lyrical quality to a genre often maligned for being base and simplistic.
6: My Cousin Vinny (US) Jonathan Lynn
I’m not a fan of legal dramas or movies which are set in the courtroom; they almost always follow the same template and any drama is often negated by the unreality of the situation. Therefore it makes sense that a comedy set in the same world would be more up my alley if handled correctly. My Cousin Vinny doesn’t go down the route of satirizing the genre and instead is a weird, unique, not quite character study. It’s little more than an excuse to let Joe Pesci off the leash while almost being outshone by Marisa Tomei. It’s funny from start to finish, with Pesci and Tomei at their best, ably backed by Gwynne and Austin Pendleton. It’s also a hell of a lot more accurate than most legal dramas.
5: Wayne’s World (US) Penelope Spheeris
One of the more seminal movies of my childhood, by the time I saw this in the cinema I was already a Metalhead Alice Cooper worshipper. Over time more of the jokes have come to make sense to me, but that initial joy of finding a film which kind of got my love for an often ridiculed and ridiculous genre, while in turn gently poking fun at the genre itself, has never worn off. It’s stupid, quotable, and charming.
4: Braindead (NZ) Peter Jackson
This was one of those movies spoke of in hushed tones when I was a teenager. I knew of its legend, of how gory it was, and how difficult it was to come by. Then one of my mates got his hands on a VHS and it was spread around school, kicking off weeks of adolescent worship by our new coven of disciples of the most kickass of Lords. It’s Jackson’s finest non-LOTR work and rivals American Werewolf In London as the greatest Horror Comedy ever, even if it leans much more into the comedy than the horror. Jaw-droppingly bloody, it’s a bizarre sight to behold.
3: Reservoir Dogs (US) Quentin Tarantino
Lets get the elephant in the room out of the room – it’s a remake of City On Fire, no two ways about it. Even with the dialogue Tarantinoed, some of the exchanges from Ringo Lam’s movie remain in place, not to mention the overall plot and quite a few of the key scenes. That’s perfectly fine, but it’s important to mention given so many people are not aware of the fact and may not even be aware City On Fire exists. This is still my favourite Tarantino movie, it’s Tarantino in his most diluted form, obsessed with film and the spoken word, mixing pop culture, dialogue, music, and violence with a nerd-literate quality. Great cast, iconic moments and quotes, and the heralding of maybe the most influential Hollywood voice in the last thirty years.
2: Fire Walk With Me (US) David Lynch
It’s in my Top Movies Of The 90s list.
1: Hard Boiled (HK) John Woo
It’s in my Top Movies Of The 90s list.
Let us know in the comments your favourite movies of 1992!