Note: Defining the most influential movie of the 90’s is not a science. It is just opinion. The only criteria I came up with was that the movie could have influenced the decade, or beyond, or both. The influence could be defined in a number of ways and could be as obvious as ripping off ideas, dialogue or setups; or it could something less significant as influencing the “feel” or “look” of other movies. Regardless, I just wanted to highlight the 90’s, which were very important for movies and movie fandom.
The first time I ever stuck around to learn the name of a screenwriter was after watching Se7en and while the credits rolled I kept asking myself: Why? Why, in the name of all that is right and holy in this world, would you write a movie like that Andrew Kevin Walker? The final five minutes of the movie hits the viewer in a way that, to be honest, shouldn’t have come as that big of a surprise considering what came before. But it packed a whallop and provided the kind of twist ending that the Sixth Sense got more credit for four years later. It was simply devastating.
But, more importantly, the movie established a pattern that has been aped numerous times.
It brought the “procedural” into the minds of modern moviegoers and TV watchers in a way that was new. The movie not only provided a blow by blow account of two detectives struggling through the investigation of ghastly crimes, but it did so in a way that was devoid of hope and no one, not even our hero detectives, had the sense that everything was going to be okay in the end. Gwyneth Paltrow was the only one who knew what time it was.
Silence of the Lambs explored similar territory but allowed you into the mind of the killer via Lector. Here, the detectives have no such luck, and like them, the viewer is forced to slog through the depravity and grime as they tumble toward the inevitable conclusion.
Morgan Freeman would go on to play a host of wise, older guys that mentor or lead the brash, young white guys. And the setting, a non-descript, dingy city plagued with constant rain and rampant crime, has become a mainstay in these kinds of flicks ever since. But in the fall of 95, it was new and crazy.The Phantom Menace, 1999
I know, I know, I know. But if we’re honest with ourselves, then we can admit there would be no Ceasar in the new Apes, no Gollum in the Rings and damn sure no Navi on Pandora without Jar Jar, which, as far as I can remember, was the very first fully integrated main character that was entirely CGI. The movie is flawed, obviously, but I think George’s only real mistake was making Jar-Jar into a buffoon. If the character had been conceived differently, I think the movie isn’t as hated as it is.T2 1991/Jurassic Park 1993
Two movies that not only pushed the envelope of visual effects, but literally made you say “Damn! How did they do that?” It also helped they were exciting, fun, well written, acted and begged for repeat business.
Pulp Fiction – 1994
Believe it or not, there was a time, long ago, when gangsters didn’t spout pop culture references and have cool dialogue, or have their deeds play out in a non-linear way that confused and excited the viewer. Then Pulp came along and every other damn crime movie had to do something like it, from hip dialogue to intersecting storylines and it burned out pretty much by the end of the decade. Honestly, I didn’t think Tarantino would write anything better than Pulp, but Inglorious Basterds is not only the best things he’s written, he turned the Pulp formula on its head by incorporating different languages into his dialogue and real world events. Udaman, QT.The Lion King – 1994
Realistically, The Lion King took just the Disney formula established by Beauty and the Beast, released earlier in the decade, and made it soar. The story was pretty straight forward, but the combination of the right celebrity voices, the right song writing team of Elton John and Tim Rice and the right timing for a Disney resurgence just took it over the top and made it the last truly great hand drawn piece from the studio. The studio would try to recapture the same magic again and again through the rest of the decade, but Pocohontas, Hurcules, Tarzan and Hunchback of Notre Dame could never live up to Simba’s quest to get his hakunafuckingmatata on.Toy Story – 1995
The passing of Steve Jobs reminded me how integral he was in the development of Pixar and without the success of the first Toy Story, we likely wouldn’t be praising these people once a year for the last decade or so. It’s obvious why Toy Story was influential, the story they told was so damn good, showing that CGI animation was more than just something cool to look at. Watch Toy Story, then watch the opening of Up, or WALL-E in succession, and I think you’ll be amazed. The company has come so far as storytellers in such a short period of time, its really astonishing, considering the point at which they started. Up will make you fucking cry if you haven’t seen it.