Movies have the incredible power to move us, influence us, challenge our thinking, and entertain us. Keith Mullet’s recent list of 15 must-see 80s movies showcased a number of such films.
The problem is that it’s very easy to miss good movies because a lot of them fly under the radar, especially those that lack the huge production and distribution of big-budget studio movies.
This bugs me because a lot of well-deserving writers and directors don’t initially get the audience they deserve.
The age of the internet, though, has increased the availability of indie movies, which is why some of the best indie directors are now some of the most well-known and beloved directors today.
The 90s was definitely an interesting decade for movies. You probably saw the most popular and most talked about movies, so I would like to share some of my favorites from the decade that you may have missed.
1. Pi (1998)
Darren Aronfsky’s debut film about a genius mathematician who drives himself insane looking for an universal pattern in Nature had a budget of $60,000 (funded by Aronfsky’s family and friends) and was shot in black and white with a hand camera and without any shooting permits.
And yet it’s a masterpiece.
Pi is one of the smartest movies to come out of the 90s. It demonstrates Aronfsky’s talent at working with small budgets, something he’s done throughout his film career with movies like The Wrestler and Black Swan.
Sean Guellette’s performance in this film is also mesmerizing. Guellette is in virtually every scene and plays his character with stunning dedication and effectiveness.
Pi is a perfect example of how a great story, great acting, and great directing can overcome a meager budget.
2. Delicatessen (1991)
Delicatessen follows the plight of Louison, once a clown who had to quit after his partner was “eaten,” who lands a new job at an apartment complex owned by a butcher who kills some of the tenants to use as meat for his shop.
Delicatessen was French director Jean-Pierre-Jenut’s (also the director of the better-known Amelie) first major film, and does the impossible of making a world filled with murder and cannibalism humorous.
Trouble brews when Louison falls for the butcher’s daughter, Julie. Insanity ensues as each tenant is affected by the butcher’s increasing rage over the romance.
Delicatessen is an art film at its finest. The backdrops, atmosphere, and set all contribute to a very drab feeling, but one that’s countered by the lively cinematography and dark humor of the film.
You’re not going to get the typical movie formula form Delicatessen, but you will get an unique and original experience, and that alone is worth a watch.
3. Funny Games (1997)
Michael Haneke’s controversial film about a family being terrorized in their own home by two yuppie, smart, indifferent, and sadistic young males sounds like your typical horror film, but Funny Games is far from that.
The first time I watched this film I was mesmerized by the shear brutality and honesty of the violence. It really does make your stomach sick. Haneke’s goal in this movie is to upset the viewer not sadistically but morally. He does this by attacking the inhumanity of most violent movies, as the majority of the violent movies kill their characters off as if they were animals.
4. The Thin Red Line (1998)
Saving Private Ryan really stole most of (if not all) the buzz in the late 90s and was labeled as one of the best war movies of recent times. However, there was another World War II movie that was released in 1998 that did earn a handful of Oscar nominations and even did well in the box office but has since been mostly forgotten.
Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line follows a group of American soldiers in the Battle of Guadalcanal in the Panama Islands. But instead of focusing the plot on the actual battle, Malick opts for a look into the minds of the soldiers, which are often riddled with doubt, fear, and a strong desire for survival and love.
The Thin Red Line is a very emotional and powerful film that tries to find the humanity in war, while showing what war is really like: hell and chaos.
Say what you want to say about Saving Private Ryan’s entertainment value, but The Thin Red Line is a far superior film that should be watched by everyone.
5. Trainspotting (1996)
Danny Boyle’s 1996 movie, based off the great book by Irvine Welsh, has become a cult classic since its release, and for good reason.
It’s bold, funny, crazy, and mostly just one hell of an entertaining movie. There isn’t a dull moment in this film, and it’s largely due to the great source material and the actors who play their role to perfection.
This film is very underrated and often misunderstood as a film supporting drugs.
Also, it has one of the best movie scenes ever about drug withdrawal. You’ll know it when you see it.
6. After Life (1998)
If you only had one memory to keep for eternity once you died, which one would it be? This is the exact scenario characters in the Japanese film After Life face.
It doesn’t matter what kind of person you were in your time in Earth, whether good or bad, everyone gets the same treatment. You get some time to decide and then a group of “mentors” help you recreate the scene. Eternity ensues.
It’s a simple and sweet film, but that’s what makes it so effective.
Our collected memories and stories are the most important things we can hang onto in life. Money and people all come and go, but we can keep our stories. In essence, I think this movie speaks to that notion and does it with charm.
It also has one of the best movie lines: “At the time, I searched desperately inside myself for any memory of happiness. Now, fifty years later, I’ve learned I was part of someone else’s happiness. What a wonderful discovery. You too… someday will find this.”
7. Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels (1998)
Guy Ritchie is pretty much the master of directing fast-paced, fun, and funny action films. Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels was his first major film, and I think it is his best.
It’s the basic gang movie where money is needed to be repaid or else there will be hell to pay, but the interesting and well-developed characters makes this film more than just an action movie.
One can’t escape the humor that co-exists with the violence in this movie. It’s so perfectly done that you’re laughing one second and then on the edge of your seat the next second.
Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels is what every crime comedy movie should be like.
8. Following (1998)
Christopher Nolan is basically a household name by now, and so are most of his films, but his first major film Following has always been overshadowed by Memento, Inception, and the Batman movies.
Jeremy Theobald plays a a writer who, desperate for material, follows strangers. He befriends a burglar and the two raid houses. The excitement of doing something illegal excites the writer, but good things only last so long.
With a meager budget of $6,000, Nolan creates a very effective noir film that is very engrossing and tense. Following was definitely a sign of things to come from Nolan. Be sure to check this one out.
Are there any other 90s movies that you think were underrated and that everyone should see? List them below.