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TOP 7 Great 90s films to watch in isol


With cinemas closed and most of the new releases postponed, now seems to be the time to break out the classics. This week the Xpress Film & TV team are recommending some of the greats from the 90s, a time when independent filmmaking flourished and many of the great actors and filmmakers we know today first got their start. 
It’s once again time to grab the popcorn and let JOSHUA HALL HAINES, DAVID O’CONNELL, BETH CAVALLI-FORBES, and DAVID MORGAN-BROWN let you know which 90s favourites are worth revisiting, or checking out for the first time. With seven recommendations here, we thought we’d start with an appropriately titled film.  

1. SE7EN

A psychological slow burn, Se7en was praised by critics for the film’s dark style, brutality, and themes. The film tells the story of David Mills (Brad Pitt), a detective who partners with the retiring William Somerset (Morgan Freeman) to track down a serial killer who uses the seven deadly sins as a motif for murder. The movie also stars Gwyneth Paltrow, John C. McGinley and Kevin Spacey – who’s psychopathy is both unemotional, yet smug. The ace in the hole for this film is the acting prowess by Freeman (the mature, cerebral cop) and Pitt (the young, headstrong cop), as they fill out sketchy character profiles. Se7en has the strongest, and scariest, ending since The Vanishing; which stands as a complex and disturbing entry into the serial killer genre.

JOSHUA HALL HAINES

2. MILLER’S CROSSING

The 90s was an influential period for the Coen Brothers as they started to achieve both critical and commercial recognition with works such as Fargo and The Big Lebowski. The Coens started the decade off with a prohibition era gangster film, but like all their work, Miller’s Crossing is a piece that refuses to be confined to just one genre. It demonstrates the brothers’ mastery of tone, as it effortlessly shifts between comedy and a dark criminal thriller, through its complex underworld plot, filled with betrayal and underhanded schemes. Buoyed by standout performances by Gabrielle Byrne, Jon Polito and John Turturro, Miller’s Crossing is the Coens’ love letter to the classic gangster books and films of yore, nailing the period details and sharp-witted banter.

DAVID O’CONNELL

3. CLUELESS

Considered by many critics as one of the best teen films of all time, Clueless has developed a cult following and continuing legacy since 1995. A loose adaption of Jane Austen’s novel Emma, the movie follows Cher Horowitz (Alicia Silverstone), a rich and beautiful high school student in Beverly Hills, who befriends a new student Tai Frasier (Brittany Murphy) and decides to give her a makeover. Matters take a turn for the worse when Tai’s newfound popularity puts a strain on their relationship. Cher’s verbal style is marked by ironic contrasts between 90s slang and historical references, such as when she compares Tai to “those Botticelli chicks”. This makes the writing and characterisation as witty as it is absurd. The film was followed by a spin-off television sitcom, a series of books, and Paramount Studios has announced that they are producing a remake. Clueless is a staple of any 90s-baby childhood, and if you’re yet to watch it (as if!) there’s no better time than now.

JOSHUA HALL HAINES

4. NATURAL BORN KILLERS

An update of the Bonnie and Clyde tale, though firmly set in the 90s, Natural Born Killers shows how its amoral serial killers/lovers live in a highly saturated culture of news, entertainment, and, most importantly, sensationalism. Wildly directed and edited by Oliver Stone to replicate the hyper-frenzied techniques of the MTV generation, from a story by Quentin Tarantino, Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis play the completely liberated couple who are in love and on a killing spree, and couldn’t be any happier for it – how infamous they become in their culture is just the cherry on top. This is a truly one-of-a-kind film (despite all its inferior imitators) that is as potent with its love story and its social satire as ever – despite being a product of its time, it’ll likely never become outdated.

DAVID MORGAN-BROWN

5. THE GAME

David Fincher is one of the most talented contemporary directors of his generation, with works like Fight Club, the aforementioned Se7en, Zodiac and Gone Girl in his repertoire. Despite the success of his movies in popular culture, there is one film deprived of this acclaim. While its scale can feel ludicrous and excessive at times, The Game is a masterful psychological thriller, grand in its vision and execution. Its mounting chaos is believable in the sense that events can be believed in a nightmare. The film is thoroughly engaging from start to finish with innumerable twists and turns. Michael Douglas is superb when playing men of power reduced to desperation – his portrayal here of Nicolas Van Orton, an obsessive and detached businessman, is no exception.

BETH CAVALLI-FORBES

6. FALLING DOWN

Another film with a great leading performance from Michel Douglas, here he plays to brilliant precision the archetypal man who’s snapped under pressure and becomes increasingly unhinged. This may sound like a cheap exploitation film, though Falling Down (although darkly funny a lot of the time) takes its leading man and his woes in society seriously, inspecting how someone’s rage against injustices can lead them to create their own injustices (similarly to Joker). Falling Down is a scathing critique of modern life (whether in 1993 or 2020) that reveals the pain and temptations to evil an everyman can face, though it never loses its sharp sense of humour while doing so.

DAVID MORGAN-BROWN

7. THE MUMMY

This adaption of the 1932 Mummy film has become a pivotal blockbuster of the 90s that can be watched over and over again. The film follows Rick O’Connell (Brendan Fraser) as he travels to Hamunaptra, the city of the dead, with an Egyptologist (Rachel Weisz) and her brother (John Hannah), where they accidentally awaken Imhotep (Arnold Vosloo), a cursed high priest from the reign of the Pharaoh Seti I. Arguably the Indiana Jones for the 90s generation, this action-horror introduced audiences to intrepid archaeologists, and mysticism, whilst using dark humour as brevity to some jump scares, and “juicy” corpses. Weisz gives a standout performance as she balances the damsel in distress, and femme fatale archetypes with grace and wit. Whether you watch it as a fan of timeless horror movies, or for its comedic delivery, The Mummy helped change the game for many action movies that would come after.

JOSHUA HALL HAINES

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