Monday, July 13, 2020

The 100 Project: The Top 10 Movies of 1999

1999 was an odd year in a lot of ways. For over 99% of the population, I'm assuming, this was the first time we were experiencing the uncertainty of leaving one century and entering another. It was also the end of the millennium. Throughout the year, we worked ourselves into a lather over the scary possibilities that would come with the striking of midnight on December 31st. So many of us believed everything electronic was going to shut down, all the nuclear weapons would launch, Jesus was coming back, Satan was taking over, The Rapture would happen, or we would all drop dead. What did many of us do? We hoarded toilet paper, water, and batteries. Huh. Some things never change.

Cinematically, it was a strong year. A number of films that only make honorable mentions for me are part of most peoples' top ten. Some of those are replaced by movies that have a more personal connection with me. And at the end of the day, isn't that what this is all about?

My Top 10 Movies of 1999

  • According to my Letterboxd account I've watched 71 movies released during 1999; my lowest total since 1994.
  • I saw 12 movies in theaters. 4 made my top 10. 2 are honorable mentions.
  • I've seen 3 of the 5 Best Picture nominees. None make my top 10 and only one is an honorable mention.
  • 2 of my top 10 have main characters who are members of the LGBTQ community.
  • For the first time, 2 foreign language movies make my top 10.
  • Another first: Spike Lee released a movie that did not make either my top 10 nor my honorable mentions.

10. Office Space
There are just so many quotable lines and memorable moments. The best part is that it unashamedly tells you what it's doing - taking the plot of another movie and applying it to its own. But that's not the point. The point is all those quotes, all those laughs. Have you seen my stapler?

9. Boys Don't Cry
The story of Brandon Teena gives us the most heart-breaking movie on this list. From the very start, there is an undercurrent of sadness and a sense of dread permeating the film. It's not a film you enjoy as much as you understand how good it is, and more importantly, you empathize with the protagonist. The performance by Hilary Swank goes a long way towards that.

8. All About My Mother
This is nearly as heart-wrenching as Boys Don't Cry combined with a twisty-turny plot, that's a technical term, that at times feels like pure insanity. Other times, it's pure melodrama. Somehow, it's always brilliant. I liked it after my first viewing, but didn't love it. My written review shows this. After my second viewing, I was able overcome some of the things that struck me as odd the first time and saw it for the masterpiece that it is.

7. Toy Story 2
My son was two years old, at the time. I have a couple of nieces that were a bit older. I piled them into the car and went to see the new adventures of Woody, Buzz, and the rest of the crew. I did not expect it to be nearly as good as the first. I didn't think it could possibly pack in as much emotion and still keep a sense of fun running throughout. The original did, but they couldn't possibly turn that trick twice, I thought. I'm so happy they proved me wrong.

6. Galaxy Quest
I grew up as a fan of the original Star Trek series. Still, full-blooded, convention-attending, cosplaying Trekkies confound me. This movie puts those people under the microscope, along with the actors who endure and/or enjoy them. And it's damn funny. Without even the tiniest bit of sarcasm I say this is arguably the best Star Trek movie ever made even though it's not at all part of the franchise.

5. Life
Underrated, underseen bromance starring Eddie Murphy, Martin Lawrence, and a host of Black comedians. The story works well enough, but the riffing these guys do is next level and tickles me in the right spot. And to this day, whenever there's cornbread in my house I loudly announce there will be "consequences and repercussions" if anyone touches mine and that "part two of my killing spree" will begin. See the movie, get the reference.

4. Audition
While watching this for the first time I was thinking, "This is pretty good, but not as good as people say." Then the third act got going. Oh my. It's a few long strides beyond insane. And gory. After it was over I started analyzing what I saw and discovered a film with more complexity and commentary than it's blood-soaked finale would have you believe.

3. Mystery Men
Back in 1999, superhero films hadn't quite taken over the world. Between the movies we already had and decades of comic books and superhero TV shows, there was more than enough material to spoof and this movie did it wonderfully. This is years before Deadpool and Kick-Ass did it, and it still works. How could it not with heroes like Spleen, The Shoveler, and The Bowler?

2. The Best Man
This is one of those movies where Mrs. Dell and I found a baby-sitter and went to see on a date night. It immediately became one of our favorites to watch together. Sure, it's a rom-com, not a genre I typically find faves from, but this one works for me. The story is enthralling and I get a ton of genuine laughs out of it. The fact I can enjoy it with my significant other definitely bumps it up a notch or two, and that's okay.

1. The Matrix
Believe it or not, this was also a date night movie for the Mrs. and I. However, this one wasn't for cuddling couples. Instead, it blew me away right from the opening scene. The concepts and themes are all intriguing and conversation worthy. The special fx were groundbreaking and instantly iconic. When I left the theater that night, I knew that the cinematic landscape changed during the two hours I spent watching it. I've had long discussions with friends, real ones not internet ones, revolving around this movie. I've spent hours analyzing and debating it in my own head. I've watched it numerous times and love it just as much each time. The bottom line is that even though I truly love movies two through ten on this list there was no contest for my top spot.

Honorable Mentions (alphabetically): American Beauty, American Pie, Any Given Sunday, Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, Being John Malkovich, Fight Club, The Hurricane, In Too Deep, Introducing Dorothy Dandridge, The Iron Giant, Payback, Superstar, The Wood


  1. Wow, from all of the films in your list and in your honorable mentions. I've seen all of them as 2 of the films in your top 10 are in my top ten based on my overall list. That was an incredible year in film. I'm surprised you have All About My Mother in the top 10 as that is my favorite Almodovar film. Having gone through his filmography (with the exception of his most recent film which I'll watch next month), I felt like that film was the culmination of everything he had done but mainly with his two previous features in 1995's The Flower of My Secret and 1997's Live Flesh as those 2 films marked a major change in what he was doing as a filmmaker. It wasn't just this newfound maturity into his work but also a need to rebel against some of the extravagance and outlandish tone of his films of the past. With All About My Mother, Almodovar I think became a top-tier filmmaker as his films were now events.

    1. All About My Mother is amazing. Thanks for the lesson on the other movies. I need to see those as I've loved everything else of his that I've seen. He's definitely top-tier.

  2. I need to check out Offic Space, I keep hearing how quotable it is. Was such a great cinematic year that a book was written about it: Best. Movie. Year. Ever.: How 1999 Blew Up the Big Screen by Brian Raftery

    1. I hope Office Space hasn't been ruined for you by the hype. Hope you see it soon, though. Thanks for the book recommendation.

  3. I've seen almost all of your Top-10 and most of your honorable mentions. Here are a few that I might consider:

    Man on the Moon--more evidence that comedic actors are great in dramas.
    The Cider House Rules--Pastoral and rather lovely.
    The Green Mile--One of the better Stephen King adaptations.
    Magnolia--controversial, especially because of the ending, but I think it's brilliant.
    Sleepy Hollow--I'm not a Tim Burton goober, but this is a good one.
    Dogma--I love that this is theologically correct.
    Stir of Echoes--The reason that The Sixth Sense is only the second-best movie from 1999 that starts with the letter "S" and features a kid who sees dead people.
    The Wind Will Carry Us--Everyone needs more Kiarostami in their life.
    Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai--I probably love this more than I should.
    The Straight Story--I know you're not a Lynch fan, but this is pretty great and worth seeing, and the furthest you can get from his typical movie.
    The Mummy--This is what should have rebooted the Universal monsters.
    Ravenous--Cannibal western. If you haven't seen this, you need it in your life.

    1. Lots of good stuff here. Man on the Moon is one of my daughter's all-time faves. I need to rewatch The Cider House Rules. I haven't seen it in a really long time, maybe since '99. The Green Mile is an interesting one for me. I like it, don't love it, but fully understand why others do. Same goes for Dogma.

      Ghost Dog...sigh. I like it okay, but Jarmusch's style just doesn't work for me. It leaves me cold and too much time passes where nothing happens. And I don't mean action. His plots seem to lurch forward at an excruciatingly slow pace.

      Speaking of directors that don't do it for me, let's talk Lynch. I haven't been completely fair to him. I really need to see more of his work, so I'm willing to give The Straight Story a shot.

      I do have a couple of blind spots here, though. Magnolia, Stir of Echoes, and Ravenous are the big ones.

  4. I remember all the hubbub about Y2K. Working in a bookstore at the time you wouldn’t believe the whole cottage industry of books dedicated to the event! I wasn’t particularly worried about it because we kept getting updates about preparedness and such. Plus once the clocks passed midnight in Australia and nothing happened we laughed about all the worry. My group of friends and I did do a big blowout party at the beach to celebrate though.

    Onto your list. We only match on one film but it’s an extremely fun one-Galaxy Quest. Trekkies and their ilk also mystify me but the movie never really makes fun of them. The whole thing is very sweet-natured and Alan Rickman is brilliant.

    Well I guess we really have two matches but Office Space is only a runner-up for me. I did like Mystery Men but once was enough.

    I’d never say I liked or enjoyed Boys Don’t Cry, it was an unsettling and unpleasant viewing experience but I appreciated the skill that went into it.

    I think I’ve mentioned before my complete distaste for The Matrix. It’s another one I went into with all the buzz ringing in my ears and I fell asleep from boredom. I did give it another chance….for about 15 minutes and then got up and went to see the movie in the theatre next door. I couldn’t stand the first Toy Story so Toy Story 2 would be a no for me.

    I think this list has the highest number of movies I haven’t seen. All About My Mother has been on my list for years but somehow I’ve never gotten there. I’ve heard of both Life and The Best Man but neither really drew me in but I’m sure I’ll get around to them some day. Audition is new to me but doesn’t sound like my thing, gore and I are definitely not compatible.

    1. The Y2K scare was crazy. I love that you went to a celebration party after it passed, lol.

      Enjoyed is definitely not the write word for Boys Don't Cry.

      Yeah, I know the The Matrix didn't do it for you. Since you only got 15 minutes in, have you ever thought about giving it another go?

    2. That was the second go! I fell asleep the first time and so by the time those first 15 minutes had passed on the second try and I was squirming in my seat and moments away from starting to count the ceiling tiles I knew that I was never going to get what all the shouting was about and ducked out.

  5. As you said there were many good films this year which I think shows in the disparity of our lists.

    1. October Sky-Full of American can-do-ism this tells the story of how young Homer Hickam (Jack Gyllenhaal) and his friends Roy Lee, O’Dell and social outcast Quentin are inspired by seeing Sputnik streak across the sky to build rockets and find a way out of their dying West Virginia coal town. Encouraged by their teacher Miss Riley (Laura Dern) they refuse to be deterred by the jeers of others including Homer’s closeminded father (Chris Cooper). Gripping and brilliantly acted by all.

    2. The Cider House Rules-Homer Wells (Tobey Maguire) has been raised in an orphanage his entire life by the home’s director-Dr. Larch (a magnificent Michael Caine), who teaches him all he knows about medicine as he grows. Never having been anywhere else he leaves to see the greater world when a chance to do so is presented by Candy (Charlize Theron) and Wally (Paul Rudd). What he finds is bittersweet. Excellent adaptation of the John Irving novel.

    3. Tea with Mussolini-Young illegitimate Luca having just lost his mother and unwanted by his father is taken in by the his father’s secretary Mary (Joan Plowright) and watched over by her circle of friends including Lady Hester (Maggie Smith), Arabella (Judi Dench), Georgie (Lily Tomlin) and wealthy much married Elsa (Cher). As Italy falls under a Fascist regime they scramble to learn to live under the encroaching danger of WWII.

    4. The Mummy-When clumsy but endearing Egyptologist Evelyn’s (Rachel Weisz) shifty brother (John Hannah) appears with an ancient artifact that she is sure is the key to a mystery in the sands they rescue from the gallows and recruit adventurer Rick O’Connell (Brendan Fraser) to lead them to the site it was found. Competing with another group of fortune hunters they find the tomb but accidentally awaken a Mummy from a centuries old curse and have to stop him before he destroys the world. Rollicking good fun.

    5. Blast from the Past-In 60’s suburban Los Angeles nutty professor Calvin Webber and his pregnant wife Helen (a perfectly cast Christopher Walken and Sissy Spacek) believe the Cuban Missile Crisis is going to escalate into nuclear war and head into the bomb shelter built in their backyard. When a plane coincidentally crashes in their yard they seal themselves in and live there for 35 years raising the son Adam (Brendan Fraser as an adult) on 60’s ideals. When the locks open up Adam ventures out for supplies and finds a very different world which he’s guided through by Eve (Alicia Silverstone) a tough young woman he meets.

    1. It's just been too many years since I've seen The Cider House Rules. I need a rewatch. The Mummy is definitely a good bit of fun. Very nearly an honorable mention for me. I need to see the rest.

    2. October Sky is an essential! I've never met anyone who has liked it and I've recommended it an untold number of times.

    3. I have heard lots of good things about it.

  6. 6. The Sixth Sense-Young Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment) has a problem…he sees dead people. His overwhelmed mother Lynn (Toni Collette) and psychologist Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis) try and help.

    7. Galaxy Quest-The stars of a 1970s sci-fi show-think Star Trek-(Sigourney Weaver, Alan Rickman, Sam Rockwell and Tim Allen among others) are beamed aboard a spacecraft full of aliens who believing their onscreen heroics are historical documents of real-life adventures! Their hope is that the actors can help in their quest to overcome the evil regime in their solar system. Wacky and great fun.

    8. Mansfield Park-Poor relation Fanny Price (Frances O’Connor) is sent to live with her wealthy uncle Sir Thomas Bertram and his family for a proper introduction to society. Treated shabbily by all but her cousin Edmund (Jonny Lee Miller) she still manages to make her way with common sense and practicality until the household is thrown into disarray by worldly visitors brother and sister Mary and Henry Crawford.

    9. Trick-What is intended as a quick hookup between aspiring young composer Gabriel (Christian Campbell) and go-go boy Mark (John Paul Pitoc) becomes a night of discovery as the pair’s search for a place to seal the deal is thwarted at every turn by roommates, troublesome friends (including Tori Spelling) and other obstacles. As the night wears on they find themselves developing an unexpected connection. Low budget and simply made film conveys the tenuous first blush of attraction beautifully.

    10. She's All That-High school king Zach Siler (Freddie Prinze Jr.) is thrown for a loop when his girlfriend Taylor (Jodi Lyn O’Keefe), a shallow but popular bitch, dumps him for lowlife reality star Brock Hudson (Matthew Lillard). With his standing as King Jock imperiled he accepts his friends challenge to turn hostile wallflower Laney Boggs (Rachael Leigh Cook) into a swan by prom in six weeks and have her crowned queen. Best part-when the prom suddenly turns into a Busby Berkeley dance number with perfectly synched moves

    Any Given Sunday, The Big Tease, Bowfinger, Double Jeopardy, Election, The Hurricane, An Ideal Husband, The Insider, Mumford, Office Space, Runaway Bride, Sleepy Hollow, The Talented Mr. Ripley and Varsity Blues

    1. I go back and forth on The Sixth Sense. At the time, it felt like a cheat because I saw something in the middle of the movie, or at least thought I saw, that seemed to make the big twist impossible. However, I do want to watch it again knowing the twist and seeing if that changes it for me. I'm not a fan of She's All That. I need to see the others on your actual list.

      Of your runner-ups, we share a couple. One that missed my hm's that I'm honestly surprised to see on yours is Varsity Blues. For some reason that's the one that sticks out to me as the least "Joel" movie, lol. The big misses for me are: Election and The Talented Mr. Ripley.

    2. You know it's funny, I'd rather walk on my lips than watch sports on TV (and usually in person as well excepting hockey) because if I can't be there what's the point? But I love almost all sports movies. Doesn't matter the sport-football, ice skating, roller derby....okay maybe not curling (and yes I've seen a curling movie-Men with Brooms) but you get the drift. Something about the competition component and the struggle to succeed sucks me in every time. Varsity Blues had all that.

    3. I hate sports and you made me laugh that you would rather walk on your lips than watch it..hahahhaaa. It’s funny but I hate boxing but I love The Hurricane probably because it rarely shows any actual boxing. I love Men With Brooms.. great Canuck film starring the wonderful Paul Gross and the great Leslie Nielsen. I will remember this line the next time someone asks me if I watch an6 sports

  7. Interestingly I had a hard time coming up with movies off the top of my head. Very little immediately came to mind as favorites. Did a little Google search and I understand why. Very few 1999 movies left their mark on me then or even now.

    1. That is interesting! If you're looking for something to stick...and you haven't seen it...check out Audition. It's pretty tough to forget.

  8. It's trippy to even realize these all come out of the same year. The Best Man works for me too - it's cute and has easy laughs, a rom-com you don't have to hate yourself for liking.

  9. I don’t like The Matrix and they should never have made any sequels as it was good just the one...if you like it. Love Office Space and I don’t have a red stapler. Love Galaxy Quest and that would be on my list as well. The film about my Mother is so good, funny and good. Let’s see, ...Introducing Dorothy Dandridge, Austin Powers, Galaxy Quest, The that film. October Sky, a must see, Bowfinger-brilliant, The Sixth Sense, The Cider House Rules, The Mummy and Double Jeopardy.

    1. Bowfinger is quite the underrated flick. As for Double Jeopardy, I like it well enough but don't love it.

  10. What a great year this was. Love that All About My Mother and Audition made the cut!

  11. American Beauty is definitely my #1 from this year. I'd probably throw American Pie in too just because as soon as I got my hands on that movie, I illegally downloaded the entire soundtrack on my computer, and that memory always sticks with me for some reason. I like Office Space, Mystery Men, Galaxy Quest and Audition from your list. 100% agree with the 3rd act of Audition really getting it going.

    Otherwise, i think mine would have Fight Club, 10 Things I Hate About You, Girl Interrupted, Never Been Kissed, Jawbreaker, and probably a bunch of other teen movies because that's what I liked back then.

    1. Both American Beauty and American Pie were really close to making my top 10. I really need to see Jawbreaker.