The Most Memorable Movies of All Time – Part 5: the 90s and 00s

Today I continue my series on memorable movies by looking at the movies of the 90s and 00s.  In particular, I think it is interesting to compare the most memorable movies with the movie selected as the best picture of the year.   At the end of this list I pick the most memorable movie of this time period.  In my last segment, I will pick the most memorable movie of all time using the finalist from each time period.  Of course, any list compilation is made to be disagreed with so I welcome other views on these movies.

To recap, here are the criteria for choosing the most memorable movie from each year:

  • Memorable movies become part of our culture.  They may directly become part of our culture, showcase stars who become part of our culture, or launch a genre that becomes part of our culture.
  • Sequels of memorable movies are not eligible.

To update my comparison of memorable movies versus Oscar winners, in the nineties and zeroes four of the twenty Oscar winners I named as the most memorable movie of the year.  An additional six were on my honorable mention list.  In total,of the 80 years I have examined so far, only nine of the Academy Award winners made my list as the most memorable movie of the year.  An additional twenty-two made my honorable mention list.  So 49 of the 80 Oscar winning movies during this period did not meet my criteria for being memorable.

In my next segment I will look at the most memorable movies of each twenty year time segment and give my choice for the most memorable movie of all time.

1990 – Ghost (Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore, Whoopi Goldberg)

Non-Quotes – Sultry Pottery Scene

Comments – I was wavering back and forth here between Pretty Women, Goodfellas, and Ghost.  Then I thought about which quote or scene I would choose from each of the movies.  That was the tie breaker.

Honorable Mention – Home Alone | Pretty Woman | Misery |Goodfellas | Dances with Wolves

Best Picture – Dances with Wolves

1991 – The Silence of the Lambs (Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins)

Quotes I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti.” 

Comments – There are some movies that I just assumed would unquestionably be the most memorable movie of whatever year they came out in.  I assumed that Beauty and the Beast, arguably the best movie ever made using conventional animation, would definitely be the most memorable movie of its year.  That was before I realized it debuted in the same year as The Silence of the Lambs.  Anthony Hopkins’ Hannibal Lecter was a character for the ages.  Recently Silence! The Musical appeared Off Broadway and the prequel television show Hannibal is still on the air.

Honorable Mention – Beauty and the Beast | City Slickers

Best Picture – Silence of the Lambs

1992 – Basic Instinct (Michael Douglas, Sharon Stone)

Non-Quote Sharon Stone Crossing Her Legs during Interrogation

Comments – Sharon Stone’s performance as a sultry suspect made Basic Instinct a sexy thriller for the ages.

Honorable Mention – Aladdin | A Few Good Men | Sister Act | Buffy the Vampire Slayer | A League of their Own  | Scent of a Woman | Sister Act

Best Picture – Unforgiven

1993 – Schindler’s List (Liam Neeson)

Non-Quote Whoever save’s one life, saves the world entire.

Comments – In 1993 we had a fascinating face-off for most memorable movie.  You can still ride the Jurassic Park theme ride at Universal Studios.  Jurassic Park was not only an action adventure movie that nobody forgets, it also the trailblazer in realistic computer animation.  Schindler’s List, however, is an incredibly powerful movie.  Many people will say it had more impact on them than any other movie in their life.  As a side note, I would not have thought to put The Sandlot on this list, but I have heard younger people tell me that this is the most quoted movie they know,

Honorable Mention – Jurassic Park | Mrs. Doubtfire | The Firm | Incecent Proposal | Sleepless in Seattle | Free Willy | Groundhog Day | Rudy | The Sandlot

Best Picture – Schindler’s List

1994 – Forrest Gump (Tom Hanks)

Non-Quote Life is like a box of chocolates.  You never know what you are going to get.

Comments – Forrest Gump is one of my favorite movies ever.  I liked the movie so much that afterwards I read the book it was based on.  The book was one of the worst books I ever read in my life.  For example, in the book Forrest becomes an astronaut who goes into space with an ape.  The spaceship crashes and he is on an island with cannibals.  Although Forrest is an idiot, he is also a chess genius.  Every day he has to play the cannibal king in chess and if he loses the game the king will eat him.  From this mess they sifted out a great idea to make one of the most memorable movies ever.

Honorable Mention – The Lion King | The Mask | Dumb and Dumber | Four Weddings and a Funeral | Ace Ventura: Pet Detective | Speed

Best Picture – Forrest Gump

1995 – Toy Story (Tom Hanks, Tim Allen)

Quote To Infinity and Beyond

Comments – Toy Story would be the most memorable movie in almost any year, both in its own right as a beloved and delightful move and by its historical, groundbreaking technical achievements as the first fully computer animated movie.

Honorable Mention – Apollo 13 | Braveheart | Clueless | Babe

Best Picture – Braveheart

1996 – Jerry Maguire (Tom Cruise)

Quote You had me at Hello.

Comments – In a light year for memorable movies, Jerry Maguire edges out Fargo.  It is both a classic love story and a biting commentary on sports and sports agents.

Honorable Mention – Twister | Scream | Fargo | Mission: Impossible

Best Picture – The English Patient

1997 – Titanic (Kate Winslet, Leonardo DiCaprio)

QuoteI’m the King of the World

Comments – Prior to Titanic’s release. I had decided that I had no desire to see it, that it would be too depressing.  After its release, with all of the buzz, I changed my mind and saw it, then saw it again, and saw it again, along with everybody else in the world.  Titanic became at the time the biggest hit ever by excelling both as a big budget disaster spectacular and a classic romance.

Honorable Mention – Men in Black | The Full Monty | Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery

Best Picture – Titanic

1998 – Saving Private Ryan (Kate Winslet, Tom Hanks)

Non QuoteOmaha Beach Scene

Comments – In my opinion, Saving private Ryan is memorable not for the heart of the movie itself but for the opening sequence showing the D-Day invasion of Omaha Beach that is the greatest war sequence ever depicted in a movie.

Honorable Mention – Shakespeare in Love | There’s Something About Mary | The Truman Show | The Big Lebowski

Best Picture – Shakespeare in Love

1999 – The Sixth Sense (Bruce Willis, Haley Joel Osment)

Quote– I see dead people.

Comments – The Sixth Sense is remembered both for Haley Joel Osment’s classic line and for what I would deem as the best surprise ending in movie history.  Star Wars: The Phantom Menace is not eligible as sequel (well prequel) but Jar Jar Binks deserves special distinction as the most ridiculed movie character in history.

Honorable Mention – The Matrix | American Pie | The Blair Witch Project

Best Picture – American Beauty

2000 – Cast Away (Tom Hanks)

Quote– Wilson!

Comments – Cast Away gained eternal fame for its searing portrayal of the friendship between a man and a volleyball.

Honorable Mention – Gladiator | Meet the Parents |The Perfect Storm | X-Men | American Psycho |Scary Movie

Best Picture – Gladiator

2001 – Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (Daniel Radcliffe)

Quote– Wingardium Leviosa

Comments –This was another great year for memorable movies.  The Lord of the Rings or Shrek would have been the most memorable movie in almost any other year.  Both of them however fall short of the impact made by the boy wizard with the lightning shaped scar.  When a memorable movie is an adaptation of a highly memorable book or play, it can be difficult to separate how much of the memory stems from the original source and how much stems from the movie.  I think that the movie is memorable if  when people think of the book, they visualize the movie.  For example, Gone With the Wind was one of the best selling books of all time, but when people think of Scarlett and Rhett they think of Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable.   In contrast, there was a 1970’s animated adaptation of Lord of The Rings that nobody remembers, at least not fondly.  Now when we think of Gollum, we think of the CGI-Andy Serkis Gollum from the 2001 movie and its sequels.  Likewise, Harry Potter will always look like Daniel Radcliffe.

Honorable Mention – The Lord of the Rings:  The Fellowship of the Ring | Shrek | Monsters, Inc. | A Beautiful Mind | Bridget Jones Diary | Legally Blonde | Zoolander

Best Picture – A Beautiful Mind

2002 – Spider-Man (Tobey Maguire)

Quote– With great power comes great responsibility.

Comments – Tobey Maguire perfectly captured the angst of a normal person who gains extraordinary abilities.  Spider-man’s extraordinary success was the true catapult for the wave of Marvel super hero movies to follow.

Honorable Mention – My Big Fat Greek Wedding | Chicago

Best Picture – Chicago

2003 – Pirates of the Caribbean:  The Curse of the Black Pearl (Johnny Depp)

Quote– The code is more what you’d call “guidelines” than actual rules.

Comments – Johny Depp’s creation of Captain Jack Sparrow turned an ordinary movie into a memorable movie.  In my opinion, Depp has tried since this movie to make more memorable quirky characters such as Willy Wonka and the Mad Hatter but he has never come close to repeating his magic from the original Pirates of the Caribbean movie.  As a side note, the Academy Awardsd got it right this year by giving the best picture to The Return of The King.  Unfortunately by my rules this movie is ineligible as a sequel for the title of most memorable movie. Fortunately, from his perspective,  I don’t think Peter Jackson cares.

Also, I talked in the 2001 section about how a memorable movie based upon a memorable book makes people think of the movie whenever they picture the book.  The 2003 dud Cat in the Hat is a good example showing the contrary.  Everybody knows about the Cat in the Hat.  Nobody envisions Mike Myers as Cat in the Hat.

Honorable Mention – Finding Nemo | Bruce Almighty  | Seabiscuit | Kill Bill Vol. 1

Best Picture – The Lord of the Rings:  The Return of the King

2004 – Mean Girls (Lindsay Lohan)

Quote– She made out with a hot dog.

Comments – The year 2004 was the year of the sequel with Shrek 2, Harry Potter 3, Spider-Man 2, Meet the Parents 2, and Oceans 11 2 (some actual names slightly different) ruling the box office.   Of the original movies, Mean Girls stood out.  It took a cliche and became the cliche.  Now when people think of vicious high school girls, they think of this movie.  It was funny and original.  It was grool.

Personally, The Incredibles is one of my favorite all-time movies and one that I think should rank with the most memorable movies.  The fact, however, that it seems that nobody but me ever talks about it unfortunately makes it not make this list.

Honorable Mention – Napoleon Dynamite | The Passion of the Christ

Best Picture – Million Dollar Baby

2005 – Batman Begins (Christian Bale)

Quote It’s not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me.

Comments –Batman Begins is eligible.  It is a reboot, not a sequel.  Christian Bale’s powerful performance at Batman made the character relevant to a new generation.

Honorable Mention – Madagascar | Brokeback Mountain | The 40-Year Old Virgin

Best Picture – Crash

2006 – The Devil Wears Prada (Anne Hathaway, Meryl Streep)

QuoteYou have no style or sense of fashion.

Comments – Conspicuously absent from this list is Casino Royale, the Daniel Craig reboot of James Bond.  As a reboot and not a sequel, it is technically eligible and my first inclination was to rank it as a memorable movie.  After contemplation, I decided it just wasn’t that memorable.  Even though it was technically a reboot, actually it was just another James Bond movie that wasn’t that distinguishable from the other James Bond movies.  This contrasts to the 2005 movie Batman Begins which I believe was memorable in its own right.

In The Devil Wears Prada, Meryl Streep’s performance as Miranda Priestly forever defines the boss from hell.  All future bosses from hell will be forever compared to Miranda.

On the continuing theme of memorable book vs. memorable movie, although The Da Vinci Code did very well at the box office, I  think that it was quite forgettable.  The book will be remembered; the movie will not.

Honorable Mention – (none)

Best Picture – The Departed

2007 – 300 (Gerald Butler)

Quote– This is Sparta

Comments – This truly was a miserable year for memorable movies as once again sequels ruled the box office.  One movie that did stand out was 300, a stylized comic book retelling of the historical battle between Sparta and Persia.  It has become a symbol of heroism against impossible odds.

Honorable Mention – Transformers

Best Picture – No Country for Old Men

2008 – Twilight (Kristin Stewart, Robert Pattinson)

Quote– I’m on a special diet.

Comments – It seemed that the biggest debate in 2008 was not Obama vs. McCain; it was Team Edward vs. Team Jacob.

Honorable Mention – Iron Man | WALL-E

Best Picture – Slumdog Millionaire

2009 – Avatar (Sam Worthington)

Quote– (absolutely none)

Comments – I hated Avatar.  The plot was Dances With Wolves in space.  The characters were unappealing.  So why then did I see it twice?  This otherwise terrible movie had the greatest special effects in any movie ever.  It provided a breakthrough in 3D technology that is still being felt today.   For special effects alone, it became the top grossing movie of all time.  For every other most memorable movie in this list I provided either a famous quote or a famous scene.  Showing the special effects from Avatar on a small computer screen would not do it justice, and nothing else is worth showing.

Honorable Mention – Star Trek | The Hangover | The Blind Side

Best Picture – The Hurt Locker

1990-2009 – Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Post 2009 

In baseball, a person is not eligible for the hall of fame until five years after their retirement.  I believe the same rule should hold for memorable movies.  I have had favorite movies (The Incredibles) that I would have been sure at the time would be memorable that weren’t.  There have been other movies (The Rocky Horror Picture Show) that I could not have imagined anybody would remember that became part of our culture.  With this in mind, these are my quick picks for the most memorable movies from 2010-2014.  In five years we can see if anybody remembers them:

2010 – Despicable Me

2011 – The Help

2012 – The Hunger Games

2013 – Frozen

2014 – Guardians of the Galaxy

2 thoughts on “The Most Memorable Movies of All Time – Part 5: the 90s and 00s

  1. Pingback: The Most Memorable Movies of All Time – Part 5: the 90s and 00s – link | Ralph Koppel

  2. Pingback: The Most Memorable Movies of All Time – Part 6: The Greatest Movie of All Time | Ralph Koppel

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