Monday, March 23, 2020

The 100 Project: The Top 10 Movies of 1993

1993 is one of those years where my favorites and what most people think are the best are really at odds. I'll definitely listen to the arguments for many of my honorable mentions as better films than the ones that made my top 10. However, the key is that this is MY top 10. While some other movies might be technically (even objectively) better, these are the 10 that most spoke to me.

My Top 10 Movies of 1993
  • According to my Letterboxd account, I watched 74 movies released in 1993. My highest total to this point.
  • I saw 7 movies in theaters, 3 made the list.
  • I've seen 2 of the 5 Best Picture Nominees. 1 made the list, the other is an honorable mention.
  • 4 movies on the list have a Black protagonist.
  • One female director made the list.
  • One director has two movies on the list.

10. True Romance
I didn't see this movie until at least 15 years after its release. By then, I was well acquainted with Quentin Tarantino's style. So even though he didn't direct this, Tony Scott did, I recognized all of QT's signature tropes, and I loved it. Gary Oldman's nearly-blackface performance is tolerable because he's so good and we're not supposed to like him.

9. Demolition Man
My brother and I went to see this on opening night and had a blast. I rented it the weekend it hit VHS, watched it with the rest of the fam, and had a blast. Several more times over the years, I've put it on and had a blast. Got it? And I still haven't figured out how to use the three seashells.

8. Carlito's Way
In a lot of ways, this felt like Brian De Palma giving us a more subdued version of his own Scarface. I feel that's why it doesn't get the respect it deserves. However, it's much more than that. Al Pacino gives one of his most underrated performances, but Sean Penn, Luis Guzman, and John Leguizamo all steal scenes from him to the film's benefit.

7. Schindler's List
This might be Steven Spielberg's true masterpiece. It's technically brilliant, wonderfully acted, and emotionally draining. That last trait is probably what keeps it from being higher for me. As great a movie as this is, I don't have it in me to revisit it that often. Sure, the end is somewhat happy, but getting there is tough sledding.

6. Rudy
I have often remarked that I don't cry over movies. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't real close watching the underdog story of a wannabe college football player. And I've seen it half a dozen times. Every time I get near the conclusion the knot in my throat swells up and I choke it down. I'm getting old and soft. I fear, one of these days, the dam is going to break.

5. Poetic Justice
A handful of movies have become family favorites around the Dell household. This is one of them. The truth and humor in John Singleton's writing, booming soundtrack, chemistry of the main cast, and Tupac's sheer magnetism make it a movie we revisit over and over again.

4. CB4
This is another movie I saw on opening night with my brother. Already being familiar with NWA, I ate it up as a great parody. It immediately became one of my favorite movies about hip-hop because I laughed all the way through. And yes, I quote it in real life.

3. What's Love Got to Do With It
The job of an actor is to disappear within the character. When two people do it as effectively as Angela Bassett and Laurence Fishburne in this movie, the result is a film that makes us feel every success, failure, arousal, and fear of its characters. Bassett makes us see through Tina Turner's eyes. Fishburne's Ike Turner is endlessly quotable, but above all, terrifying.

2. Menace II Society
I can't remember whose idea it was to rent this, but it came into our house and never left. At least a couple times a week for a year or so someone, usually one of my brothers was watching The Adventures of Kane & O-Dog. Often, when one of us started this movie, it would be a family gathering by the time it ended. After a while, we all knew every line of dialogue. We had debates about the ending. That turned into discussions about the whole movie. We agreed, disagreed, and everything else in between. Needless to say, it touched us all.

1. Jurassic Park
One of my biggest cinematic regrets is not getting to see this movie in theaters. Luckily, I was still living with Mama Dell, who had a huge projection screen television. Sixty-five inches, if I recall correctly. And that was at a time when most people had sets thirty-two inches or smaller. This is important because, to a degree, it preserved the spectacle needed to make my jaw drop when the first full shot of a majestic dinosaur happens. It looked, still looks, amazing. The story-telling is superb and is truly the first great creature feature since Jaws, another Spielberg special. The way Menace ran its course through my family, how much we all relate to and draw from it, would usually be enough to get it the top spot. Every once in a while, though, movie magic edges reality. This is one of those cases. I still have great conversations about Menace, but with my own kids I've returned to Jurassic Park many times over and never get tired of it.

Honorable mentions (alphabetically listed): Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, A Bronx Tale, Cool Runnings, The Fugitive, Groundhog Day, Iron Monkey, Posse, The Program, Rising Sun, Searching for Bobby Fischer, The Sandlot, Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit, Strapped, Sugar Hill, Tombstone


  1. CB4 is extremely underrated as it was the right film at the right time over the way it portrayed gangsta rap. In my list we share 3 films in our top 10 while all 10 films in your list made my final list. From your honorable mentions, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (only saw bits of it), Iron Monkey, and Strapped (I remember knowing about the film but I don't remember if I ever saw it) are the ones that I haven't seen in its entirety or at all.

    Glad to see Rudy in the top 10 as that was my dad's all-time favorite film. He's a sucker for good sports/underdog movies and this was the best one of them all.

    1. Oh yeah, I remember that Rudy is your dad's fave. I actually think about that every time it comes up. And CB4...yes!!!

  2. True Romance is such an amazing and underrated movie!

  3. Jurassic Park would've been my #1 for this year too. Schinder's List is also up there. I love Sister Act 2, so that would be on mine. I'd also probably go with A Nightmare Before Christmas, Mrs. Doubtfire, Hocus Pocus, Robin Hood Men in Tights, and What's Eating Gilbert Grape

    1. Believe it or not, I've never seen Robin Hood: Men in Tights (and I own that one) or What's Eating Gilbert Grape.

  4. This is a very good list. Mine would naturally have some differences, but we'd have some places of agreement as well.

    Cronos and Addams Family Values and possibly Searching for Bobby Fisher would almost certainly make my list--The Fugitive and Groundhog Day definitely would.

    Love the comments on What's Love Got to Do With It? The fact that Angela Bassett didn't win an Oscar for that still bothers me.

    1. I'm also bothered Bassett didn't win that Oscar. I still need to see Cronos.

  5. Great to see you posting. There can't be as many lists where the top one is a certainty like that. That bit with the jerseys at the end always gets me in Rudy.

    1. That's a fantastic scene. It's one case where adding a bit of fiction to fact pays off.

  6. First welcome back Dell! I wrote a note on the Joker post but I guess it never went through. Anyway glad to see you back! It’s been too long. And with a favorite feature of mine! Yea!!

    To start your header for the post made me wistful and thinking how very much I wish Clinton (any Clinton) was president now! How much better off we would all be. That said I hope you and yours are staying safe against the multiple scourges facing us all at the moment.

    Now on to your list! As always interesting choices but this time I’ve got a trio of blind spots-Menace II Society, Poetic Justice and CB4 (which I’ve never heard of before). Of those I have seen I liked them all too varying degrees except True Romance which I more or less hated.

    Even though I liked them all, and a few made my runner-up list, the only one I’ve ever watched more than once is Jurassic Park, though I’d watch Rudy again if I ran across it. It’s the one I’ve seen the most recently, it’s very endearing. Jurassic even with Laura Dern, she’s okay but I’ve never been the biggest fan, is a great thrill ride. The sequels have been increasing disappointing though.

    1. Thanks! We're holding up okay. I hope you and yours are also.

      Yeah, anyone other than you-know-who would be welcome.

      Of the ones you haven't seen, Menace II Society is the most "important," most universally lauded of the bunch.

  7. Here’s my top 10. Our main lineups are completely different but a couple of your main choices made my runner ups and vice versa.

    1-Dave-Amiable Dave Kovic (Kevin Kline), owner of a small town employment agency is a dead ringer for the current president of the United States. Recruited to double for the prez at a public event he’s pulled into standing in for him full time by Bob Alexander, the Machiavellian Chief of Staff (Frank Langella) when the man has a debilitating stroke without informing anyone including the First Lady (Sigourney Weaver). Honest Dave does his best and takes a stand when he finds out that Alexander has plans to usurp power. Irresistible comedy with Kline and Sigourney perfect in the leads.

    2-Six Degrees of Separation-Married art dealers Flan and Ouisa Kittredge (Donald Sutherland & Stockard Channing) are entertaining a client/friend (Ian McKellan) when Paul (Will Smith) a young man with a stab wound appears at their door claiming to be the stranded son of Sidney Poitier as well as a friend of their college age children. Wanting to help they take him in only to discover he has deceived them. As they tell the story they find that they are not alone within their circle of acquaintances of being taken in but Ouisa in particular feels a connection with the youth. Strong translation of the long running stage production that was based on a true incident. Smith is fine but Stockard Channing owns the film.

    3-Sleepless in Seattle-Sam Baldwin (Tom Hanks) is a recently widowed architect with a young son, Jonah who has relocated to Seattle to try and start over. On Christmas Eve Jonah calls into a national radio self-help show and coaxes Sam onto the phone where he opens up about his loss and loneliness. He is heard by many but specifically newly engaged writer Annie (Meg Ryan) who lives in Baltimore but feels an immediate affinity and starts to wonder if she’s made the right choice. Their two stories run in parallel time frames but with the classic “An Affair to Remember” as a connecting thread.

    4-The Fugitive-Dr. Richard Kimble’s (Harrison Ford) wife is murdered by a one armed man while he is knocked unconscious. Unable to get anyone to believe him he is convicted for her murder and sent to prison but then there is a spectacular train wreck which hits the bus he is being transported in. Taking a chance he goes on the run pursued relentlessly by Deputy Samuel Gerard (Tommy Lee Jones). Ford and TLJ make great adversaries in this propulsive thrill ride of a film.

    5-Groundhog Day-TV weatherman Phil Connors (Bill Murray) goes grudgingly to Punxsutawney, PA to report on whether the groundhog sees his shadow. Trapped there by a freak storm he turns in only to wake up to find he is stuck repeating the previous day over and over again.

    1. Before settling on my final list, The Fugitive and Groundhog Day were both in & out of my top 10, so they were both close. I've not seen your top 2, strangely, because I've wanted to for years.

    2. Dave is fun. It's entertaining and sweet, and both Kevin Kline and Sigourney Weaver are absolutely adorable in it, but it's Ving Rhames who steals a lot of scenes.

      For the record, I hated Six Degrees of Separation.

  8. 6-Point of No Return-Maggie (Bridget Fonda), a burnt out junkie kills a cop during a robbery and is sentenced to die. Supposedly executed she wakes up in a secret government bunker where the mysterious Bob (Gabriel Byrne) offers her two choices-become a government assassin or a bullet in the brain. She chooses the former and after rigorous training (including etiquette under the seemingly benign but inwardly fierce Anne Bancroft) emerges a sleek slayer. At first she is efficient in her assignments but begins to realize she has changed and looks to get out, then a job goes wrong and she must take desperate measures to survive. All set to a fabulous Nina Simone score. Remake of La Femme Nikita.

    7-The Three Musketeers-Basically Young Swords with a Brat Pack cast (and a deliciously hammy Oliver Platt). Actiony, colorful if lightweight fun. Rebecca de Mornay makes an excellent Milady de Winter, she manages to be both malicious and somewhat sympathetic.

    8-The Advocate-Tired of the politics of 15th-century Paris lawyer Richard Courtois (Colin Firth) makes a move to the countryside as a public defender in search of a simpler life. What he gets is an odyssey of strange superstitions and a convoluted justice system as he takes on his first case defending a pig accused of murdering a Jewish boy.

    9-Three Colors: Blue-The first of Krzysztof Kieślowski famed trilogy tells the story of Julie (Juliette Binoche) haunted by her grief after surviving the auto wreck that claimed her composer husband and young daughter. Locking herself away in her Paris apartment she eventually meets by chance old friend Olivier (Benoît Régent), who tries to draw her back to reality. Binoche is brilliant.

    10-Much Ado About Nothing-Lively rendition of Shakespeare’s comedy with a dream cast-including Emma Thompson, Kenneth Branagh, Denzel Washington, Kate Beckinsale and a surprisingly agile Keanu Reeves. Light and breezy with Branagh doing double duty in the director’s chair.

    In the Line of Fire, The Joy Luck Club, Jurassic Park, Rudy, Schindler’s List, Searching for Bobby Fisher, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?, What’s Love Got to Do with It

    1. Point of No Return and The Three Musketeers were great fun. I've still not seen any of Three Colors movies. I also need to see The Joy Luck Club. I really like In the Line of Fire.

  9. Great picks! People don't talk about What's Love Got to Do With It enough anymore. That movie is such a bruiser. Biopics rarely go where that one did. I agree, Fishburne is utterly terrifying in that movie. I'll never forget the scene when Tina escapes to a hotel and they give her a room for free, and THEN she has to face Ike in court. My god.

  10. I haven't seen most of these, which doesn't surprise me considering I haven't seen a lot of movies from 1993, but I'm so glad to see True Romance made it. It is such a great and underrated film!