The 50 Best 90s Movies

This is nostalgia at its finest. From 'Pulp Fiction' and 'Jurassic Park' to 'Titanic' and 'Scream', relieve the nineties era with these 50 classic 90s movies.

best i tunes movie the sixth sense

Image via Getty/Spyglass Entertainment

best i tunes movie the sixth sense

There once was a time when kids armed themselves with Super Soakers, raced home to watch Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, entertain their Playstation game consoles rather than do homework, and cap it all off with karaoke sessions to the Spice Girls music when their parents were listening and The Chronic whenever they got their Kevin McCallister on. That's right, we're talking about the glorious, never-forget 1990s, when hip-hop favored the boom-bap and Michael Jordan ruled the NBA.

That awesomeness in quality also made its way into movie theaters during the decade— one that's encroaching on being thirty years behind us— blessing box offices with some of the biggest films ever made, like the multiple Oscar-winning TitanicStar Wars: Episode 1 - The Phantom Menace, and Jurassic Park. But what were the decade's greatest films, financial statistics not withstanding? Find out here as we count down the classics; these are the 50 best movies of the '90s. Tamagotchis not included.

50. Titanic (1997)

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Director: James Cameron

Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, Billy Zane, Bill Paxton, Gloria Stuart, Frances Fisher, Bernard Hill

Titanic is the ginormous elephant in the room, or rather, the entire 1990s. Film nerds are reluctant to put it on a "Best Of" list, but at the same time, you'd look like a pretentious asshole if you left it out entirely. But let's be honest, Titanic deserves a spot here, at the very least for its sheer magnitude. The impact of the film was overwhelming; you couldn't go a week without one of your peers mentioning they had seen it in theaters again, and cried just the same.

And let's not forget the careers it launched—Leo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet's—and the records it broke. Until Avatar, Titanic was the highest grossing movie in history, and history is a long damn time! If you haven't seen it, what the hell is wrong with you?! Not to worry though, the movie will be playing on some cable TV channel this weekend. —TA

49. Home Alone (1990)

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Director: Chris Columbus

Stars: Macaulay Culkin, Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern, Catherine O'Hara, John Heard

Kevin McAllister taught us how to dream, scheme, and turn our toys in weapons. The puny borderline-albino boy whose parents have too many other kids to keep track of to realize he's not on the plane to their vacation destination taught us that instead of not talking to creepy strangers, it's best to kick their ass. And man, how cool was it when he did? "Merry Christmas, you filthy animals!" —TA

48. Clueless (1995)

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Director: Amy Heckerling

Stars: Alicia Silverstone, Stacey Dash, Donald Faison, Breckin Meyer, Paul Rudd, Jeremy Sisto, Justin Walker, Dan Hedaya, Elisa Donovan

It's true, Amy Heckerling's 1995 hit about Beverly Hills do-gooder Cher Horowitz (Alicia Silverstone at her finest) and her entourage of privileged one-percenters isn't necessarily one you want to broadcast fanship of to all of your friends, but if you haven't caught this flick at least once in the million times it's been rerun on basic cable, you owe it to yourself to check out this edgy-for-its-time classic, pronto.

In addition to bold fashion and catchy lingo for your lady, there's Stacey Dash, endless quality one-liners, and the added bonus of a pre-Apatow Paul Rudd (and a plotline involving some weird stepbrotherly love) for you. Who doesn't win here? —MB

47. Independence Day (1996)

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Director: Roland Emmerich

Stars: Will Smith, Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, Vivica A. Fox, Judd Hirsch, Randy Quaid, Robert Loggia, Mary McDonnell, Harvey Fierstein

There's a time and a place for such things as plot, plausibility, and character development-blockbuster director Roland Emmerich has no fucking clue where that place is, nor when to arrive. Known for his loud, expensive, and ridiculous popcorn flicks (2012 being his most recent brain-number), Emmerich has bestowed several shit-sandwiches upon audiences, like the failed Godzillla reboot and The Day After Tomorrow; as far as we're concerned, though, he earned carte blanche in 1996 with the tremendously ludicrous yet undeniably awesome Independence Day.

The premise is your basic alien invasion set-up: Hostile E.T.'s bypass formalities and begin decimating all of Earth, prompting the military (including Will Smith), scientists, politicians, and everyday people to fight back and survive. Oh, and we can't forget about the dog that leaps out of the way of fireballs, or the gratuitous shot of Vivica A. Fox's rump in lingerie, or how shamelessly Emmerich blows up every major landmark in the U.S., especially the White House.

We could complain about how disappointing the aliens look and the movie's at times overdone "America, fuck yeah!" attitude, but that'd be missing the point. Emmerich made the flick for pure spectacle, and every self-respecting movie buff succumbs to cinematic junk food once in a while. Independence Day is a king-size Butterfinger bar. MB

46. The Sixth Sense (1999)

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Director: M. Night Shyamalan

Stars: Bruce Willis, Haley Joel Osment, Toni Collette, Olivia Williams, Donnie Wahlberg, Mischa Barton

Putting the words "movie" and "twist" next to each other quickly brings to mind M. Night Shyamalan's polarizing The Sixth Sense, an effective supernatural thriller that's been debated and criticized for its twist ending. Some feel it's a masterful and impeccably executed gotcha moment; others, however, feel it's overrated or contradictory, or both.

We, for our part, can't help but remember our reaction the first time we saw The Sixth Sense, which was thankfully before anyone could spoil the story's true colors. To give those who've yet to see Shyamalan's pre-suckage (i.e., before The Lady in the Water, The Happening). The Last Airbender, After Earth) classic of Twilight Zone-quality elegance and suspence the same chance at untainted enjoyment, we'll not elaborate any further on what's really driving The Sixth Sense.

Just prepare to utter "Oh, shit!" and want to re-watch the film to test its narrative tightness. (Spoiler: It holds up surprisingly well.) MB

45. Con Air (1997)

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Director: Simon West

Stars: Nicolas Cage, John Cusack, John Malkovich, Monica Potter, Ving Rhames, Mykelti Williamson, Nick Chinlund, Rachel Ticotin, Steve Buscemi

Poor, wrongly imprisoned Nic Cage gets released, then has the gosh-forsaken luck to be on a prisoner transport plane full of insane killers and Dave Chappelle-who then of course take over the plane. You name the creepy movie badass (John Malkovich, Steve Buscemi, Danny Trejo) and they're in it. A classic ensemble murderfest. —VC

44. Billy Madison (1995)

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Director: Tamra Davis

Stars: Adam Sandler, Darren McGavin, Bridgette Wilson, Bradley Whitford, Norm MacDonald

Like Nas with Illmatic, Adam Sandler's first project stands as his greatest work. Let's not cast such serious praise on Billy Madison, though; instead, let's acknowledge the quintessential "stupid" comedy for its unflinchingly juvenile humor, its barrage of sophomoric one-liners, and how it laid the groundwork for overgrown man-kid characters to come, like Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly in Step Brothers.

It doesn't get much funnier than Sandler threatening elementary school kids for their snack packs or smack-talking his way through spelling bees. Sandler's goofball schtick may have lost some of its punch today, but back in 1995, he was an infantile-minded powerhouse, and Billy Madison is his crown jewel of funny childishness. MB

43. Friday (1995)

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Director: F. Gary Gray

Stars: Ice Cube, Chris Tucker, Nia Long, Paula Jai Parker, John Witherspoon, Regina King, Faizon Love, Tommy Lister Jr.

Given that he had already made a top-notch hood flick (Boyz N the Hood), it could've been easy for Ice Cube to go the cheaper route and make a goofy Boyzs poof. Thankfully, he took the classier path. Much to the delight of street peeps and film critics alike, Cube assembled a tirelessly quotable comedy that didn't trivialize urban life in any way; the result was, and still is, the 'hood comedy to end all 'hood comedies.

Naturally, its success led to a couple of ho-hum sequels, but the crappiness of Friday After Next can't diminish the original's grandness. It's no coincidence that Chris Tucker isn't in the sequels. As the weed-loving sidekick to Cube's straightman, Tucker deserved a Best Supporting Actor nod; that is, if the Academy's headquarters were based in Compton. MB

42. Juice (1992)

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Director: Ernest Dickerson

Stars: Tupac Shakur, Omar Epps, Khalil Kain, Jermaine Hopkins

All "2Pac was a really good actor" talk starts with director, and Spike Lee protégé, Ernest Dickerson's underrated urban tragedy Juice. As the unstable loose cannon Bishop, Mr. Shakur hints at a Travis Bickle-like psychosis while forging a convincingly real friendship with his equally talented co-stars, namely a young Omar Epps.

The script, co-written by Dickerson, is also top-notch. Bishop and his boys watch James Cagney's gangster-ific White Heat and get inspired to do some crime; Bishop, the craziest of the bunch, buys a gun and orchestrates a half-assed bodega robbery. Which, in true cinematic form, goes awfully bad, and that's when bonds snap and blood spills.

With a superior, all-hip-hop soundtrack as its score, and arguably cinema's all-time best DJ battle sequence, Juice stands out amongst the hood-centric movies of the 1990s. On any given day, we might actually prefer it over Boyz N Da Hood. MB

41. The Last of the Mohicans (1992)

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Director: Michael Mann

Stars: Daniel Day-Lewis, Madeleine Stowe, Russell Means, Eric Schweig

Forget the bloodshed, burning homes and all out massacres in Michael Mann's rapturous historical drama, set during the French and Indian War. One particular waterfall scene alone between a British Colonel's daughter (Madeleine Stowe) and her protector Hawkeye (Daniel Day-Lewis) will have you feeling all lovey dovey for days. Ugh, is there anything more romantic than forbidden love? —TA

40. The Blair Witch Project (1999)

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Director: Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez

Stars: Heather Donahue, Michael C. Williams, Joshua Leonard

If, 20 years from now, you find yourself in the bind of having to explain how found footage became the technique in horror movies, you have to trace it back to the source, to the little indie that did, The Blair Witch Project

Released in 1999, the film wanted you to see it as non-fiction, the actual record of three students pursuing a local legend in Maryland. (Yes, this is also the film that has got you into countless arguments with dummies who think that recent incarnations of Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Paranormal Activity are based on true events.) Costing less than a million dollars, The Blair Witch Project went on to gross about 250 times that amount.

This is the model for countless films, and to be an informed, developed viewer of film, you have to go back to the blueprint. RS

39. Boyz N the Hood (1991)

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Director: John Singleton

Stars: Cuba Gooding, Jr., Ice Cube, Morris Chestnut, Laurence Fishburne, Nia Long

Before the then-23-year-old John Singleton emerged with the poignant Boyz n the Hood, filmmakers stayed clear of the urban black life.

For critics and moviegoers alike who'd only heard about ghetto hardships in rap songs, Boyz n the Hood exposed them to a real world where dreams don't seem attainable. A world where a promising, college-bound high school athlete gets needlessly gunned down; one where a charismatic and intelligent teenager choose drug-dealing over school because, well, school doesn't offer the same kinds of financial rewards.

Singleton lets his characters act genuinely in the most challenging of situations, never leading them down sentimental paths in ways that lesser filmmakers very well could have. Boyz n the Hood works as a slice-of-life film that just so happens to take place in the mean streets of South Central Los Angeles, which, back in 1991, was a setting that had yet to get any mainstream attention from the movies. And the powers that be rewarded Singleton handsomely: He became both the youngest person ever and the first African-American filmmaker to be nominated for Best Director at the Oscars. MB

38. Princess Mononoke (1997)

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Director: Hayao Miyazaki

Stars: Billy Crudup, Claire Danes, Minnie Driver, Billy Bob Thornton, Gillian Anderson

Japan's genius Hayao Miyazaki has plenty of movies that kids of all ages can watch, like My Neighbor Totoro, Ponyo, and Spirited Away. Princess Mononokeisn't one of them. It's easily his scariest film-in one scene, for instance, a character's limbs get severed off, and also one of his best.

Japanese viewers of all ages quickly took to Princess Mononoke-it raked in 150 million during its seven-month theatrical run. The scope is epic: After his village gets rampaged upon by a wild boar, a prince named Ashitaka goes on a journey to find a deer god while combating against a wolf god's destruction of Earth's landscape.

That's right, Princess Mononoke is an eco-friendly message movie disguised as a young warrior's tale. Kids have enough trouble tossing soda cans into the proper recycling bins-they're definitely not ready for the wrath of the lycanthropic Moro. But consenting adults should seek it out immediately, as it's gorgeous, brutal, and unlike anything at the American multiplex. RS

37. Schindler's List (1993)

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Director: Steven Spielberg

Stars: Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Kingsley, Caroline Goodall, Embeth Davidtz

You'd have to be made of stone to not feel the dramatic force of Schindler's List, arguably Steven Spielberg's towering masterpiece. Centered in one of mankind's darkest events, the Steven Zallian-written film recounts the true story of a German businessman, Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson), who opens a cutlery factory, hires Jewish concentration camp prisoners for no pay, and ultimately saves upwards of 1,100 prisoners from certain death at the hands of the Nazis.

At nearly three-and-a-half-hours long, Schindler's List is a long haul, but one that's totally worth the patience and, more importantly, the mental anguish. Spielberg doesn't shy away from depicting the horrors of Nazi death camps; watching the black-and-white epic, it's impossible to not ponder the evil that men can do, and, really, what's sadder than the truths that spring from such questioning? MB

36. Out of Sight (1998)

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Director: Steven Soderbergh

Stars: George Clooney, Jennifer Lopez, Ving Rhames, Steve Zahn, Don Cheadle, Albert Brooks, Dennis Farina, Luis Guzman, Isaiah Washington, Nancy Allen, Catherine Keener

Out of Sight is, and isn't, the crime-based romantic comedy that you'd expect. Sure, the film was made with the intent to be your run-of-the mill, entertaining, thrilling and sexy blockbuster by casting the two most beautiful actors in Hollywood, George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez, as its leading actors. But the movie didn't even sell that well at the box-office.

On the other hand, Out of Sight received critical acclaim because it was able to balance comic Hollywood entertainment and unconventional characters, plot and dialogue all at the same time. It's really worth it just to watch its amazing cast kick ass and get their asses kicked. —JS

35. Thelma & Louise (1991)

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Director: Ridley Scott

Stars: Susan Sarandon, Geena Davis, Brad Pitt, Harvey Keitel, Michael Madsen, Christopher McDonald, Stephen Tobolowsky

You haven't seen bad-ass until you've seen Thelma & Louise. Sick of their hopeless marriages and dead-end jobs, a pair of Arkansas-based best friends decide to take a trip out of town. However, the mini vacation goes awry when Louise (Sarandon) shoots a rapist attacking Thelma (Davis). Thus begins the thrilling cross country adventure of two on-the-run fugitives booking it to Mexico to escape prison. Along the way, we not only fall in love with two of the most referenced female characters in movie history, but we're also introducedto one of today's biggest stars, Brad Pitt. —TA

34. Menace II Society (1993)

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Director: Allen and Albert Hughes

Stars: Tyrin Turner, Larenz Tate, MC Eiht, Samuel L. Jackson, Jada Pinkett

The debate will rage on forever between which is the all-time crowning achievement in "hood cinema": John Singleton's Boyz n the Hood or the Hughes Brothers' Menace II Society. Both films are quality films, but in very different ways. For instance, Menace is the tougher film, relentlessly bleak and devoid of sentiment.

This Watts-set debut from siblings Allen and Albert Hughes holds nothing back. The body-count is high, the characters (even the protagonist, actor Tyrin Turner's Caine) are equal parts sympathetic and terrifying, and the payoff is fearlessly tragic.

In the end, Menace II Society forces viewers to draw their own conclusions about who's right, who's wrong, and who the good guys are, if any even existed in the first place. For a couple of filmmaking novices, that's remarkable. MB

33. Edward Scissorhands (1990)

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Director: Tim Burton

Stars: Johnny Depp, Winona Ryder, Dianne Wiest, Anthony Michael Hall, Kathy Baker, Vincent Price, Alan Arkin

We can't blame haters for looking at this summer's Johnny Depp/Tim Burton collaboration Dark Shadows with middling expectations-neither guy has been at the top of his respective game as of late. And then there's Alice In Wonderland, the eccentric friends' last, and all-time worst, union.

To reflect back on the days when the words Depp and Burton promised heart-tugging strangeness, look no further than 1990's Edward Scissorhands, a singularly touching fantasy production that marked their first time on a film set together. The scissor-man's look may be hokey to some, but Burton's film remains a haunting flip on the age-old outsider/Frankenstein allegory. MB

32. Starship Troopers (1997)

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Director: Paul Verhoeven

Stars: Casper Van Dien, Denise Richards, Neil Patrick Harris, Dina Meyer, Jake Busey, Clancy Brown, Michael Ironside, Patrick Muldoon

The first time we saw Paul Verhoeven's Starship Troopers, the sight of giant alien bugs being riddled with bullets as military fighters died by the dozens earned the instant thumbs-up. The battle scenes, of which there are many, pulsate with glee; Starship Troopers is our chance to watch the controversial Dutch filmmaker indulge in war-time anarchy with the giddiness of a kid playing with G.I. Joe action figures.

But with repeated viewings, you can't help but notice what Starship Troopers is: satire. Not exactly what you'd expect from a movie starring Casper Van Dien, Neil Patrick Harris, and Denise Richards. This movie is about fascism, plain and simple. MB

31. Scream (1996)

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Director: Wes Craven

Stars: Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, David Arquette, Matthew Lillard, Skeet Ulrich, Rose McGowan, Drew Barrymore, Jamie Kennedy

Last year's The Cabin In The Woods owes a lot to Wes Craven's Scream, which was, up until now and Cabin's debut, the only mainstream meta-horror film that mattered. For his genre targets of choice, the screenwriter opted for the then-dead slasher flick template, unleashing a masked killer onto a band of unsuspecting youngsters, all of whom are pin-up-level attractive.

Except, in Scream, the potential victims all knew a great deal about how slasher movies work, and Williamson's script deftly uses their consciousness to routinely subvert the audience's expectations. Eventually, the Scream franchise would devolve into passable flicks that focus too much on the comedy and hardly at all on the scares (see: 2011's sadly uneventful Scream 4). But we'll always have Craven's original to cherish. MB

30. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

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Director: James Cameron

Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Edward Furlong, Robert Patrick, Joe Morton, S. Epatha Merkerson

His holier-than-thou public persona might drive us up a wall, and Avatar is still an overrated cross-breed of Dances With Wolves and FernGully, but we've got to hand it to James Cameron: He's the king of sequels. Showing that his extraordinary sequel to Alien, 1986's Aliens (which we'll discuss in a few) was no fluke, Cameron followed up his own sci-fi standout The Terminator with a second round that's much more ostentatious and ultimately superior to its predecessor.

Arnold Schwarzenegger once again plays the mostly silent cyborg sent back from the future, though this time he's a good guy; the villain is a borg that's able to regenerate its human shell (dressed in a cop uniform and played with imposing menace by Robert Patrick) and hell-bent on killing young John Connor (Edward Furlong). Cameron didn't waste a penny of the film's reported $100 million budget (a staggering sum back in '91), packing the visceral T2 with a ridiculous amount of explosions, car wrecks, man-sized robots, and bodily transformations.

Just as audiences emitted collective gasps at the sight of Avatar's groundbreaking visual effects, ticket-buyers back then greeted the best sci-fi sequel ever made (yup, we said it) with similar astonishment. The main difference being that T2 still kicks tremendous amounts of behind 20 years after its release; we're expecting first-time viewers in 2029 to watch Avatarand say, "That shit was actually nominated for Best Picture?" —MB

29. Fight Club (1999)

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Director: David Fincher

Stars: Brad Pitt, Edward Norton, Helena Bonham Carter

Mishandled to the extreme when it came to the marketing approach, Fight Club fought an uphill battle before finding success in living rooms across America, a new classic once it hit DVD.

Based on the novel by Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club told the story of a man (Edward Norton) who sees little significance in modern life. Then he meets Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt), who understands his problem and has the solution: grown men hitting each other to feel things. Oh, it's hard to be a white man, isn't it?

Jokes aside, the movie is a technical tour de force, with impeccable cinematography and smoldering performances. It's become one of the defining films of the '90s, muddled message be damned. Turns out that ultimately nobody paid attention to to the golden rule: "You do not talk about Fight Club." RS

28. La Haine (1995)

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Director: Mathieu Kassovitz

Stars: Vincent Cassel, Hubert Kounde, Said Taghmaoui

Although urban cinema was born in the United States with classics like Boyz n the Hood and Juice, the French quickly caught up with its competition with Mathieu Kassovitz's La Haine. This black-and-white drama depicts 19 hours in the life of three young friends (Vincent Cassel, Hubert Koundé, and Saïd Taghmaoui) living in the Parisian banlieue.

The film perfectly balances between drama, comedy, suspense and what is a French film if it's not making some commentary on the state of France's social politics with mind-blowing cinematography. Hollywood may have taken over the world of cinema for nearly a century now, but the French still have that artistic and intellectual touch that nobody else can get close to. VC

27. The Thin Red Line (1998)

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Director: Terrence Malick

Stars: Jim Caviezel, Sean Penn, Nick Nolte, Dash Mihok, Elias Koteas, John C. Reilly, Adrien Brody, Woody Harrelson, John Cusack, Ben Chaplin, Mirando Otto, Jared Leto, John Travolta, Nick Stahl, Thomas Jane

Directed by Terrence Malick, The Thin Red Line is a hauntingly picturesque look at the Battle of Mount Austen in the Pacific Theater of World War II. A fictionalized account, the film puts a poetic spin on the tried and true war movie than makes the the themes of morality and mortality feel palpable. Not to mention, it boasts an impressively stacked cast of today's A-listers.  —TA

26. Wild at Heart (1990)

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Director: David Lynch

Stars: Nicolas Cage, Laura Dern, Willem Dafoe, Crispin Glover, Diane Ladd, Isabella Rossellini, Harry Dean Stanton

Though Diane Ladd's bonkers performance as Marietta Fortune in David Lynch's adorable Wild at Heart is a thing of beauty, Willem Dafoe's turn as Bobby Peru provides the movie with its real rotten core. Fortune angers viewers by keeping the film's lovers, Lula (Laura Dern) and Sailor (Nic "The Cage" Cage), apart, but Peru has the audience reaching for the vomit bags. Sporting the most fucked-up grill in cinematic history, Peru is the abject personified, a small-time gangster with a shitty stick-up plan that ensnares our couple.

In one scene, as a prelude to a pass at Lula, he asks her to take note of the "deep" sound he makes when urinating. In just a few minutes worth of dialogue he likens his sex game to that of a jackrabbit; inquires after the current moisture level of Lula's "pussy"; compares her genitals to a Christmas present; breathes on her heavily (obviously); and threatens to remove her heart, all while speaking largely in the third person and wearing a tasseled leather blazer. Again, this is just one scene. RS

25. Heavenly Creatures (1994)

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Director: Peter Jackson

Stars: Melanie Lynskey, Kate Winslet, Sarah Peirse, Diana Kent, Clive Merrison

Award-winning filmmaker Peter Jackson can hangout with Bilbo, Frodo, and all those other pint-sized Middle Earth dweebs all he wants, but studied cinephiles know what's up: Jackson's best movie remains Heavenly Creatures, a small, dark, emotionally devastating drama he made seven years before fucking with his boy J.R.R. Tolkien.

Melanie Lynskey (who later, unrecognizably, co-starred on Two and a Half Men as Charlie Sheen's obsessive neighbor) and a then-unknown Kate Winslet play a couple of New Zealand daydreamers who fantasize about a fictional land called Borovnia, get disturbingly close to one another, and, ultimately, get caught up in a murder.

There's a creepy sexual undercurrent alive throughout Heavenly Creatures, adding tons of uneasy subtext to the film's lavishly shot, hallucinogenic dream sequences. By playing the real-life-inspired subject matter as more fantasy than reality, Jackson blurs the line between innocence and psychosis. It's the anti-Frodo. MB

24. The Big Lebowski (1998)

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Director: Joel and Ethan Coen

Stars: Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Julianne Moore, Steve Buscemi, Philip Seymour Hoffman, John Turturro, Tara Reid, David Huddleston

Does The Big Lebowski make a great deal of sense? Not really. Is it so oddly original that its friggin' brilliant? You bet your ass. Jeff Bridges immortalized his slacker kingpin status as The Dude, a pothead bowler who mistakenly goes on a bender complete with kidnappings, goofy action, and run-ins with Tara Reid when she was still really hot. That's really the closest this Coen Brothers cult fave comes to having a streamlined plot.

Much like Raising Arizona, though, The Big Lebowski isn't about meticulously drawn-out narrative. It's simply an excuse to watch a bunch of prestigious actors (Bridges, Steve Buscemi, Julianne Moore, Philip Syemour Hoffman) act like buffoons for two hours under the control of the Coen Brothers in top form. MB

23. Rushmore (1998)

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Director: Wes Anderson

Stars: Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Olivia Williams, Seymour Cassel, Brian Cox, Mason Gamble, Connie Nielsen, Luke Wilson

Wes Anderson's films are an acquired taste. The critically hailed writer-director populates his well-manicured films with charming yet socially inept characters. The fixation on symmetry and consistently wry humor has been the source of scorn for later efforts like The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and The Darjeeling Limited. But Rushmore, thr first film to put Anderson on the map, is more than a collection of tics and quirks.

The film makes its hero an arrogant nerd (a spot-on Jason Schwartzman) who gets caught up in a love triangle with his academy's first grade teacher (Olivia Williams) and a strange millionaire (Bill Murray, in his resurrection role).

Whenever Schwartzman and Murray go toe-to-toe, Rushmore is sublimely hilarious; Anderson finds ways to make otherwise loathsome characters (a self-righteous 15-year-old geek, a rich prick) seem sympathetic. You'd probably want to knock Schwartzman's character out in real life, but, in Rushmore, you root for him. MB

22. Good Will Hunting (1997)

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Director: Gus Van Sant

Stars: Matt Damon, Robin Williams, Ben Affleck, Minnie Driver, Stellan Skarsgård

Known best as the film that landed Ben Affleck and Matt Damon the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, the plot of Good Will Hunting is part of the popular imagination: genius works as janitor but is great at math, talks about apples a lot. Jokes aside, the film remains a powerful piece of work about potential, inertia, friends, and the trauma of the past. —VC

21. Kids (1995)

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Director: Larry Clark

Stars: Leo Fitzpatrick, Justin Pierce, Chloe Sevigny, Rosario Dawson

L'enfant terrible Harmony Korine was 22 when he penned the screenplay for Kids at the behest of photographer-turned-filmmaker Larry Clark, whose work has always fixated on youth in the raw. They met in Washington Square Park, where Korine was skating.

The park appears in the film, when Telly and Casper, the main male characters, wander through for drugs, skateboarding, and a fight. Telly is 16 and HIV positive.

The film takes no stabs at analysis, it only documents the teens as they go about their business in Manhattan, getting high, having sex, talking, and in Telly's case, spreading HIV. The matter-of-fact attitude may be too cold for some (not to mention ethically questionable), but there's no question of the film's power, or of the comfort of Clark behind the camera. RS

20. The Matrix (1999)

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Directors: Andy and Lana Wachowski

Stars: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving, Joe Pantoliano, Marcus Chong

Every now and then, a movie comes along that's so bold, creative, and technically advanced that it leaves audiences in a state of oh-shit wonderment, saying to themselves, "Hollywood still has it like that?"

Back in 1999, that's exactly what the Wachowski brothers' sucker punch of a sci-fi revolution known as The Matrix did, enduring through some incoherent plot points with camerawork and effects that redefined the genre. Not to mention, the remarkable achievement of turning Keanu Reeves into something more than a vapid acting drone, if only momentarily.

n The Matrix, the Wachowski bro's influences are on front street: kung fu cinema, Japanese anime, Philip K. Dick ideology, cyberpunk. It's all there as computer hacker Neo (Reeves) fights his way through cyber-tyrants in an alternate dimension, a freedom mission that the directors stylize with filmmaking previously unseen, such as now-infamous, and often rehashed, bullet-time camera trickery. When reflecting upon the impact of The Matrix, it's wisest to completely disregard both of its ball-dropping sequels, which sadly proved that the Wachowskis were as overzealous as they were slightly overrated. MB

19. White Men Can't Jump (1992)

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Director: Ron Shelton

Stars: Wesley Snipes, Woody Harrelson, Rosie Perez, Kadeem Hardison, Tyra Ferrell

If you ever need lessons on trash talking, look no further than White Men Can't Jump, a source of infinite comical insults. Wesley Snipes and Woody Harelson star in this basket ball comedy that is so much more than a basketball comedy. It is not the first time we have seen a movie where sports are a tool to try to overcome racial boundaries; Remember the Titans and Glory Road are prime examples. But this movie is not nearly as emotional.

It is, however, frustrating to watch the two characters get caught in the cycle of gambling. But you get so distracted by the humorous dialogue that you forget that the characters are actually stuck in a serious, and slightly dangerous, situation. Although it would have been so much more hilarious to see Charlie Sheen, one of the other actors considered for the role, play the role of Billy Hoyle instead of Harrelson, the two leading actors have amazing chemistry on the court and on screen. VC

18. My Own Private Idaho (1991)

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Director: Gus Van Sant

Stars: River Phoenix, Keanu Reeves

It's pretty clear that the '90s were all about Keanu Reeves: The Matrix, The Devil's Advocate, Bram Stoker's Dracula, you name it. Yet again, he does not let anyone down in My Own Private Idaho alongside the very talented River Phonenix. Gus van Sant, another film icon of the '90s, tells the story of two teenagers on the road to self discovery and, because van Sant is merciless, they seem to never discover anything.

But like most of van Sant's projects, everything is up to interpretation. The film is not as confrontational as his other films, but that does not mean that it is the kind of movie you would want to watch on your first date, unless you're that kind of guy. My Own Private Idaho tries to grasp the feeling of change, or lack thereof, in a raw and symbolic way that makes you think about the movie for weeks after having watched it. —JS

17. Point Break (1991)

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Director: Kathryn Bigelow

Stars: Patrick Swayze, Keanu Reeves, Gary Busey, Lori Petty, John C. McGinley

Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow is now known for the contemporary military thrillers The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty, but those recent Academy Award darlings aren't the most interesting things about Ms. Bigelow. For genre fans, her diversified, unclassifiable earlier catalog is what'll forever endear her in their hearts. For horror lovers, there's Bigelow's underrated vampire flick Near Dark, and for action movie buffs, there's the immortal Point Break, the best movie to ever marry cop drama with surfer criminals and Richard Nixon masks.

As a look into the alternative lifestyle of Southern California surf culture, Point Break feels equal parts authentic and hammy, which is part of its sun-soaked charm. Fortunately, Bigelow had more on her mind than just hanging ten—at its core, Point Break is two hours' worth of bro-mantic, sharply edited, no-holds-barred cinematic adrenaline, with epic shootouts, high-concept heists, and Keanu Reeves kicking ass as a dude named Johnny Utah. Whoa, indeed. MB

16. Dumb & Dumber (1994)

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Director: Peter and Bobby Farrelly

Stars: Jim Carrey, Jeff Daniels, Lauren Holly, Karen Duffy

The title says it all. Dumb and Dumber is the ultimate moron comedy, a loosely connected series of doofus episodes and idiotic dialogues that, ironically, achieves a sort of genius aura.

Credit is absolutely due to Carrey and Daniels, two masters of comedic timing and line delivery. Their classic bits are innumerable: "soup du jour," the most annoying sound in the world, Aspen. The list goes on. Mentioning any of those scenes to a guy friend who can't recite them line for line is enough to terminate a friendship.

Women have Steel Magnolias, or whatever other weepy crap chicks love; us fellas have Dumb and Dumber, and, nope, we're not ashamed of it. MB

15. JFK (1991)

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Director: Oliver Stone

Stars: Kevin Costner, Kevin Bacon, Tommy Lee Jones, Joe Pesci, Laurie Metcalf, Gary Oldman, Michael Rooker, Sissy Spacek

Sticklers for historical accuracy may want to avoid Oliver Stone's JFK. No stranger to conspiracy theories, Stone fashions a 189-minute argument against the widely accepted notion that Lee Harvey Oswald—the man who killed President John F. Kennedy—acted alone. And because of that, JFKis, unsurprisingly, a polarizing film.

Whether you're invested in such political theories or not shouldn't affect the experience of spending three-plus hours living in Stone's version of 1960s courtroom hysteria. Despite its epic running time, JFK fires at a breakneck pace, powered by excellent performances (particularly from leading man Kevin Costner, playing New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison) and the same kind of mysterious intrigue that makes the best kinds of "based on true events" movies (like, say, Argo) thrilling despite the fact that we all already know the outcome. MB

14. The Usual Suspects (1995)

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Director: Bryan Singer

Stars: Gabriel Mann, Kevin Spacey, Kevin Pollack, Stephen Baldwin, Benicio Del Toro, Chazz Palmintieri, Pete Postlethwaite

On its surface, The Usual Suspects sounds like a hybrid of Reservoir Dogs and Rashomon, with its exploration of an elaborate criminalistic plot gone wrong, as recounted by its seemingly untrustworthy lone survivor. And, truth be told, that's exactly how director Bryan Singer's twisty thriller plays out. Except that, well, it's much more complicated than that.

Without divulging too much of the film's enigmatic pleasures, The Usual Suspects takes the traditional thieves-gone-wild premise and, like Tarantino's aforementioned Reservoir Dogs, totally subverts it with a large dose of Agatha Christie-level intrigue.

Who is Keyser Soze? Why would these loser deviants sign up for what's so clearly a suicide mission? And how in the hell were Singer and screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie able to pull the imaginary rug out from under viewers with a final reveal that should be obvious but is nonetheless a mind-scrambler? MB

13. The Lion King (1994)

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Director: Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff

Stars: Matthew Broderick, James Earl Jones, Jeremy Irons, Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Moira Kelly, Nathan Lane, Rowan Atkinson, Ernie Sabella, Robert Guillaume, Whoopi Goldberg, Cheech Marin

Normally, kids don't line up to see something that's a mash-up of Hamlet and the Biblical tales of Joseph and Moses, yet Disney succeeded in making that happen with The Lion King. Guess all it takes is Elton John. Props to the singer for letting Disney introduce kids to heavier topics, like a beloved father getting trampled by a stampede of wildebeests. (We're still not over it.)

The Lion King is one of the most heart-wrenching stories told through American animation, and a staple on the DVD shelves of families across the country. It broke new ground with its use of CGI animation, and went on to spawn one of the most popular (and stomach-able) Broadway musicals ever. It's the fifth longest-running show in The Great White Way's history and the highest grossing show of all time.—TA

12. Bad Lieutenant (1992)

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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

11. Saving Private Ryan (1998)

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Director: Steven Spielberg

Stars: Tom Hanks, Matt Damon, Tom Sizemore, Edward Burns, Barry Pepper, Adam Goldberg, Vin Diesel, Giovanni Ribisi, Jeremy Davies, Ted Danson

Saving Private Ryan, Steven Spielberg's hard-hitting account of World War II's pivotal D-Day, doesn't skimp on the sentiment. With a large ensemble of colorful characters, led by Tom Hanks' resilient army captain, Spielberg levels the viewer with a series of visceral battle sequences, but also intricate characterization. And the central story is a knockout: Matt Damon plays a missing soldier whose three brothers have been killed in action, inspiring Hanks to lead a search-and-rescue mission to save one man, even though many will be killed in the process.

The conflicts of "Should many die to help one?" provide sufficient emotion for Spielberg to milk, but the film's book-ending flashes to modern times are its ripest suppliers of visual waterworks: Damon's character, now an old man, brings his family to Hanks' grave, a powerful image strengthened by the sight of an American flag and an evocative score.

Sentiment aside, the opening is necessary viewing for film lovers, especially in light  of the recent fascination with ordeal movies that render painful experiences in minute detail, works like Amour and Hunger. —MB

10. Fargo (1996)

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Director: Joel Coen and Ethan Coen

Stars: Frances McDormand, William H. Macy, Steve Buscemi, Harve Presnell, Peter Stormare

The Coen brothers have always worked aspects from multiple genres into their films, with Fargo being a prime example. Some may see it as a simply a crime drama, but that would ignore the supremely deadpan humor that twists the movie into something far more unsettling.

A pregnant police chief (Francis McDormand) is investigating a series of murders around the town of Fargo, North Dakota, while also following the exploits of a man (William H. Macy) who's hired two criminals to kidnap his wife. Peter Stormare and Steve Buscemi play the hired help. They couldn't be any lousier at their jobs.

The tragic pair brings humor out of the mundane macabre, like in the scene where they bicker like a married couple over how to split their newly-stolen car. Buscemi nurses a gunshot wound the entire time. Should you feel guilty about laughing? The Coens remain stone-faced, daring you to react. JS

9. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

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Director: Frank Darabont

Stars: Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman, Bob Gunton, William Sadler, Clancy Brown, Gil Bellows

Clint Eastwood, Harrison Ford, Paul Newman and Robert Redford were all considered to play the role of the wise "Red" in The Shawshank Redepmtion but all paled in comparison to the magical, and incredibly honest, Morgan Freeman, who steals the spotlight from the true protagonist (Tim Robbins.)

Shawshank doesn't question whether or not the inmates Shawshank Prison are rightly imprisoned because they are more concerned with how they deal with the situation once they are sentenced for life. This heartwarming film teaches audiences that they should "get busy living, or get busy dying." If you haven't seen the movie, you should get busy watching.—VC

8. Heat (1995)

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Director: Michael Mann

Stars: Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Val Kilmer, Jon Voight, Tom Sizemore, Ashley Judd, Mykelti Williamson

Heat focuses on two men, one a thief (Robert De Niro) and the other a detective (Al Pacino). The two play a cat and mouse game where both know a heist is being plotted as each man keeps a close eye on the other.

Pacino. De Niro. Together at last. Michael Mann's Heat is more than just a caper film, it's a crime saga that not only explores the professional lives but also the personal relationships of men who know nothing beyond their occupation. Plus it features one of the best shoot out scenes we've ever seen. —VC

7. Se7en (1995)

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Director: David Fincher

Stars: Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kevin Spacey

Se7en transformed David Fincher from a simple music video director into a true visionary of cinema. The movie is about two detectives (played by Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman) who try to solve the case of a serial killer who seems to be knocking off his victims to the tune of the seven deadly sins. It's a gritty, realistic thriller that doesn't just get to us because of the violence, but because of the psychological aspects as well.

Each murder scene is modeled after one of the sins from the Bible, with the most disturbing being "lust" and "sloth." It's an intense piece of filmmaking that is so raw and unnerving that it tends to stick with you well after it's over, and with good reason. The final 10 minutes of the picture features one of the most shocking and, frankly, nauseating scenes of the past few decades of American film. We'll guarantee that you'll never open a box without this scene flashing through your mind ever again. JS

6. Jurassic Park (1993)

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Director: Steven Spielberg

Stars: Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Richard Attenborough, Jeff Goldblum, Joseph Mazzello, Ariana Richards, Samuel L. Jackson, Wayne Knight, Bob Peck

To dudes who grew up loving dinosaurs, Jurassic Park tickled their fancies like none other. Adapted from a Michael Crichton novel, Steven Spielberg's dinos-are-back adventure benefited greatly from the late visual effects giant Stan Winston's awe-inspiring dinosaur animation, life-sized creations that looked scary as hell and moved with convincing agility.

As in Crichton's book, the prehistoric beasties are reincarnated through scientists' experiments with fossilized dino-DNA; designed as an expensive, private island attraction, Jurassic Park quickly becomes the stomping grounds for angry velociraptors, a hungry T-Rex, and acid-spitting creatures.

The magic of Jurassic Park, like the best of Spielberg's films, lies in its ability to make the fantastical seem tangible; from the first time we see a brontosaurus munching on leaves to the vicious Tyrannosaurus Rex's frightening introduction, the dinosaurs more than earn eye-rubbing disbelief. Well, at least they did when we were still in elementary school. MB

5. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

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Director: Jonathan Demme

Stars: Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, Scott Glenn, Ted Levine

A horror movie winning the Academy Award for Best Picture? That seems like an impossibility, yet The Silence of the Lambs managed to sweep all five of the main Oscar categories (including Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay) back when it was first released. An anomaly? Sure, but it was also a matter of undeniable quality—The Silence of the Lambs is a gruesome, no-punches-pulled masterpiece of suspense.

Playing the now-iconic serial killer Hannibal Lecter, Anthony Hopkins took a character from author Thomas Harris' same-named novel (released in 1988) and turned it into the world's most charismatic flesh-eater. Sure, Lecter feasts on human coverings and insides with the class of a rich man snacking on caviar, but he's someone who'll simultaneously drink high-priced Chardonnay. With intelligent discourse and a velvety smooth pitch, Lecter is the most dangerous kind of villain: A brilliant charmer who's also a skin-devouring baddie. Your mother would be defenseless. MB

4. Toy Story (1995)

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Director: John Lasseter

Stars: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Don Rickles, Jim Varney, Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger, Annie Potts, John Morris

In addition to the fact that Pixar's first feature opened the door for other classic movies from the brilliant studio (such as Up and Monster's Inc.), Toy Story's witty script and groundbreaking images prompted many critics to call it the greatest animated film ever made. And not without reason—27 animators worked diligently on the film, illustrating every detail, down to each blade of grass, to tell the story of the misadventures of two lost toys trying to find their way home.

However, Toy Story's greatest achievement is its balance of nostalgia, childhood wonder, and misty-eyed adult humor. That's the blend every kid's movie aspires to. TA

3. Boogie Nights (1997)

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Director: Paul Thomas Anderson

Stars: Mark Wahlberg, Julianne Moore, Don Cheadle, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Burt Reynolds, William H. Macy, John C. Reilly, Heather Graham

Don't worry, you don't have to watch this at 1 a.m. with the volume down low. It's a movie about the porn industry, but it doesn't play into the smuttier areas as much as you'd think. Boogie Nights follows one man's up and coming (pun) career in the porn industry and the people he meets there. That includes a vet (Julianne Moore), a tycoon (Burt Reynolds), and Rollergirl (Heather Graham) who never takes her skates off, not even when performing.

The movie's greatest surprise (besides the size of the main character's penis) was Marky Mark, Mr. Calvin Klein Undies himself, in the starring role as famed fucker Dirk Diggler. Wahlberg brought a grounding all-American appeal (with a dash of innocence) to the what would otherwise be a risky sell to the general public.

If you've ever wondered what the Golden Age of Porn must've been like, slap this on your Netflix queue.—TA

2. Goodfellas (1990)

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Director: Martin Scorsese

Stars: Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Lorraine Bracco, Paul Sorvino

It's a bold statement, but one that's easily justified by the movie itself: Goodfellas is Martin Scorsese's best movie. And, yes, that's weighed against films like Taxi Driver and Raging Bull. Just try not to watch Goodfellas every time it's on television, or try not to act like Henry Hill's (played by Ray Liotta) first piece of dialogue ("As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster") isn't one of cinema's best opening lines.

Or attempt to call anything else the greatest gangster movie ever made. Quickly paced, deeply characterized, and exceptionally acted, Goodfellas accomplishes the ballsy and admirable balancing act of portraying organized crime as both desirable and devious. Like Hill, you're mesmerized by its dangerous allure, and just as he descends into a world of shit, you, too, feel the mafia world's oppressive, no-way-out stranglehold.

One last challenge: Twenty-three years after the fact, try to not yelling "Bullshit!" about Dances with Wolves beating Goodfellas out for both Best Picture and Best director at the Academy Awards. Notice how Kevin Costner's Civil War drama is nowhere to be found within this countdown. Not that we're bitter. MB

1. Pulp Fiction (1994)

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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

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

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