The 50 Best Movies of the '90s

12. Bad Lieutenant (1992)

Director: Abel Ferrara
Stars: Harvey Keitel, Victor Argo, Paul Calderon, Zoe Lund

Just because he's tasked with investigating the brutal rape of a local nun doesn't mean that Harvey Keitel's beyond-corrupt cop in Bad Lieutenant doesn't have time to smoke crack, snort coke, gamble, get busy with a hooker or two, and masturbate in front of a couple of teenagers. Some of which requires him to flaunt his member for all the world to see. (Harvey must've liked the way it looked in the spotlight, too, because he whipped it out again a year later for Jane Campion in The Piano.)

Is it all a bit over the top? Absolutely. Revolting at times, too. But scratch below the surface of all the shock value that has defined director Abel Ferrara's career and the message here is clear: Religion is the only thing that can kill one's personal demons.

Of course the road to redemption is not always clearly marked. In the case of Bad Lieutenant, it's the battered nun's lack of desire for vengeance that ultimately nudges The Lieutenant toward the side of the righteous. But he's got a long climb out of the hole he's already dug for himself. (It's also fun to point out the irony of another of Keitel's starring roles in the same year: mobster Vince LaRocca in the similarly divine Sister Act. Praise thy Keitel!) —JW

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