1. Pulp Fiction (1994)
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Stars: John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Uma Thurman, Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Amanda Plummer, Maria de Medeiros, Ving Rhames, Eric Stoltz, Christopher Walken, Christopher Walken
Has any other film in recent memory spawned more imitators than Quentin Tarantino's breakout smash? And not just crime movies. Everything from Donnie Darko to Juno has borrowed from Pulp Fiction'ssmart synthesis of pop culture detritus. What separates the originator from the pale imitations though, is the sense of real stakes.
Ultimately, the movie isn't punch-line after punch-line. You remember the humor, the talk of foot massages and brain matter, but it all serves a serious end. The final scene in Tarantino's most celebrated work, where the hitman Jules (Samuel L. Jackson) explains his philosophy on life resonates in a way that goes beyond references to '70s cult TV. —JS