(Updated on February 11, 2012)
1994 was an ok year for film, with a few incredible movies and a lot of mediocre ones. But some of the films from this year are a part of our pop culture like no others: Speed and Pulp Fiction. Both have placed an indelible mark on movies that we can still see to this day. Many will argue that it’s a travesty that I’m listing Pulp Fiction as the #10 movie of 1994. Unfortunately, I missed out on the buzz that was Pulp Fiction when it came out in 1994. I was young and just not open to this gritty and violent art film. I didn’t see the film until 2009 actually (sorry!!). And while I enjoyed it, the experience was less surprising and thrilling to me than for most when they saw it in the context of its time. As I watched Pulp Fiction, I remember seeing many things that rang familiar in other movies, which were clearly influenced by it. But because I saw those other films first, I didn’t quite appreciate their originality in Pulp Fiction. This provides a great lesson on the importance sometimes of watching a movie when it comes out. The Social Network (2010), for example, is a movie that is very much of its time and I’ll be curious to see how it holds up 5, 10 or 20 years from now. Will it feel as relevant? Are it’s stories really as old as time, as many have suggested? Or is it just another film that gets lost in the shuffle with other films “stealing” some of its glory. Thankfully I’ve seen The Social Network several times now and don’t have to worry about repeating my Pulp Fiction experience. And I intend to not fall so far behind again on current movies. But life doesn’t always provide what we want, when we want it. Regardless, I did enjoy Pulp Fiction and upon a second viewing, it might move up this list.
In terms of Speed…it was a highly charged, swiftly kinetic, low-budget “indie” film that showed what you can do with a simple idea if executed well. Not that this was a new concept to movies, really, but it felt fast and fresh at the time and it seems like there’s a few new movies every year that try to capture that same magic as Speed did on a public bus with a random group of strangers thrown together in a crisis. Speed was just a re-awakening of this concept.
And now for the Top 10 movies of 1994…
10. Pulp Fiction (3 stars)
9. The River Wild (4 stars)
8. True Lies (4 stars)
7. Disclosure (4 stars)
6. The Client (4.5 stars)
5. Speed (5 stars)
4. Stargate (5 stars)
3. The Shawshank Redemption (5 stars)
2. Clear and Present Danger (5 stars)
1. Legends of the Fall (5 stars)
Watching Legends of the Fall from it’s new blu-ray release recently, I’m reminded again of how classically epic this movie is, along the lines of Gone With The Wind (1939), Lawrence of Arabia (1962), Braveheart (1995), Dances With Wolves (1990), and Titanic (1997)….and I’m reminded of how few of this type of movie we get today. I’m not saying I want 20 epic films released each year, but a couple would be nice! The last great film I would categorize to be like Legends of the Fall is The Last Samurai (2003), ironically brought to us by the same director as Legends of the Fall, Edward Zwick. A classic epic film always has a love story and a conflicted but heroic male character at its core. There’s always incredible “landscape” cinematography, which happens to be on the sea in Titanic. There’s always an incredible score by a great music composer. And there’s always a great cast of characters that provide incredible support to the male lead. It’s not a very popular genre or style of filmmaking today, but its a genre that always stands the test of time. I hope to contribute to it myself as a filmmaker, and help bring a few of these films to the screen someday for myself and the rest of the fans for this type of film. In the meantime, revisit Legends of the Fall if you haven’t in awhile. And be reminded of why we love this kind of great movie.