Let's revisit this thread.
Are we still happy with our top ten list now that we're a little older? (Seriously.) Or does your best movies of the 90s list look different now? Maybe you've gone back and seen something which WAS on your list and don't love it quite as much anymore. Or you've seen something else since and gained a greater appreciation for it. I know I've seen Eyes Wide Shut since and it would make my list now but wouldn't have in 2000.
Such nostalgia. We always reference back to 1999 as one of the greatest years of American cinema in recent memory, don't we? It was right around the time I had my true cinematic awakening, so there's a lot of films from this year that are very special to me and much of the top half of my list is right around what my list probably would have been 15 years ago (though Fight Club would probably have been a lot higher back then.)
Here we go:
1. American Beauty
I still don't entirely understand the criticism this film has received in the years since, though I will admit it's lost a little of it's magic over the years and countless viewings. This was one of those films that really kicked down the door for me in terms of realizing what film could do, so it will forever have a special place in my heart because of that. Even as a spotty teenager I deeply empathized with Lester Burnham and his desire to live a life that made him happy, not a life that society told him he should... I don't know, I guess I still do.
The movie that introduced me to PTA, and consequently this website. I really didn't know what to expect going into it, and the experience was all the richer for it. Clearly, a film that set me on the cinephile path I continue to tread. Fucking frogs falling from the sky, Philip Seymour Hoffman, everything about it is amazing.
3. Cruel Intentions
The definitive film of my teenage years. Part guilty pleasure, part genius, I still love this film. It's actually been a few years since I last saw it. Time for a rewatch!
4. American Movie
Borrowed the DVD from the library at uni. It depressed me so much I had to stop it halfway through and resume it later. Wow. Such a powerful film. I've watched it dozens of times since then. There are only a handful of documentaries that have truly struck a cord with me. This is top of that list by a wide margin.
5. The Talented Mr. Ripley
Such a well-made film in every regard. Practically perfect. Again, this was one of those films that just arrived at the ideal moment for me to appreciate its combination of cinematic artistry and storytelling. Finally got around to reading the book and it's sequels a few years ago and Patricia Highsmith instantly became one of my favorite writers.
6. Fight Club
I'm not going to make the obvious joke (for once.) I remember catching the last 20 minutes of this on TV one night. A few nights later, I turned it on with about a hour left. Finally I watched it from the beginning. You know that marquee we have, "we like asshole movies but for different reasons?" This is the movie I always think of. Ever since then, I've always been interested in whatever Fincher put out, but this remains in my top three films of his.
7. The Straight Story
Bizarrely, this was my introduction to Lynch. All I knew was this was a film about a old guy who drives his mower across the country. I think I was curious as to how they could possibly make a compelling film out of that. Lynch once described the film as his "most experimental" - and it's absolutely true. Still one of his best, too.
8. South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut
I was so glad to see others include this in their lists as I scoured this thread. It's brilliant, isn't it? Hilarious songs, razor-sharp satire, and, y'know, an actual story tying the whole thing together. One of my favorite comedies of all time. And boy does it hold up.
9. The Iron Giant
The film on this list I saw for the first time most recently. It was either on HBO or Netflix, and I stuck it to watch with my kid one day. For a few months it was the only thing he wanted to watch. So we watched it a lot. And I enjoyed it so much I had to sit down and watch the entirely of it whenever I walked in the room and he had it on.
10. Eyes Wide Shut
I love Kubrick, but his movies aren't always the easiest/funnest to watch are they? Hence, EWS is a solid anchor to what I like to think is a fairly respectable (but definitely heartfelt) list rather than ranking any higher. Also, this feels long in a way that Magnolia never does. But there's so much going on here, it is captivating. I seem to recall the first time I watched it was on DVD early one summer holiday morning with a bowl full of cereal. My little sister (she must have been 14 at the time) came in about an hour in then sat and watched the entire rest with me.
Honorable mentions to The Sixth Sense and The Blair Witch Project, both of which were instant pop-culture touchstones for a generation.
The only films I know for certain I saw in the cinema are Cruel Intentions, South Park, and Blair Witch. Maybe Talented Mr. Ripley too, but I can't say for certain. Everything else was on a TV screen.