In 1990 I was 15 years old, and in 1994 I was 19. For most of this time period I was a miserable high school student, and during 1994 I was a recent graduate, jobless and uncertain as to what future path my life might take. It was, in other words, not the best of times for me, though I do cherish some memories of friends and family from that time.
1990-1994 was the era of George Bush Sr. and Bill Clinton, it was the era in which glam metal gave way to grunge, and it was the era in which my hometown, Seattle, became synonymous with everything fashionable. The Sega Genesis had replaced the Sega Master System, and the Super Nintendo had replaced the NES. The Internet was becoming a fact of daily life, and dot-com companies were on their way up... and up... and up... until...
Biggest Movies of 1990: Ghost, Home Alone, Pretty Woman, Dances with Wolves, Total Recall, Back to the Future Part III, Die Hard 2: Die Harder, Presumed Innocent, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Kindergarten Cop
Ghost. Man, I despised that movie. Girls liked it though, and I suppose if I had been old enough to really date I would have been dragged into a movie theater to see it. As bad as it was, however, it wasn't as bad as the Home Alone movies, which grew more insipid with each installment.
Back to the Future III was forgettable, as were Die Hard 2, Presumed Innocent, and the first live action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Dances with Wolves and Totall Recall were good movies from that year. Kevin Costner won many awards for Dances with Wolves, and Total Recall was one of Schwarzenegger's best films.
Schwarzenegger's Kindergarten Cop, which came out the same year, was (like the Goonies) set in Astoria, Oregon, where I spent time growing up. I watched it again yesterday, and even though I'd have to say that it's NOT a good movie, I still enjoyed the exterior shots of Astoria.
Honorable Mentions: Misery, Goodfellas, Wild at Heart, Nightbreed, Lord of the Flies, The Adventures of Ford Fairlane, Navy Seals, The Exorcist III, Darkman, King of New York, Avalon
Both the book and the movie of Misery were good. I say this as someone who is not a big fan of Stephen King. The movie adaptation of Lord of the Flies was also equal to the beloved novel.
Goodfellas is one of the classic mob movies. It's also a classic guy film. Equally violent was David Lynch's Wild at Heart, which was one of the best films from that year. Anyone who likes Goodfellas will probably also like King of New York, featuring Christopher Walken in the lead role and Laurence Fishburne and Wesley Snipes in very early performances. Avalon is another great drama from 1990, though it's not violent like the films mentioned above.
Nightbreed, Exorcist III, and Darkman were great horror offerings from the same year. Sam Raimi created Darkman after failing to secure the rights for The Shadow. Exorcist III was genuinely scary, and helped people forget Exorcist II. Nightbreed shows Clive Barker in his prime, the cult favorite who also gave us Hellraiser and the underrated Rawhead Rex.
Ford Fairlane and Navy Seals are not especially good films, but I remember them being popular among guys my age. The guys in my high school German class talked about Ford Fairlane endlessly, and Michael Biehn had another brush with fame in Navy Seals.
Biggest Movies of 1991: Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Beauty and the Beast, Hook, The Silence of the Lambs, JFK, The Addams Family, Cape Fear, Hot Shots!, City Slickers
I can remember seeing Terminator 2 in the theater on the first day it came out. That theater was jam packed full of people.
I liked JFK and City Slickers, and Silence of the Lambs was great. Cape Fear was possibly my favorite movie of that year. The other hit movies of 1991 are probably better forgotten. Both Robin Hood and Hot Shots! could be considered missteps in otherwise fruitful careers.
Honorable Mentions: Barton Fink, The Fisher King, Thelma and Louise, The Doors, New Jack City, Backdraft, The Rocketeer, Boyz n the Hood, Point Break, Little Man Tate, Rush, Once Upon a Time in China, Raise the Red Lantern
Of the movies listed above, The Doors and Rush are my favorites. I'm not even sure why I like Rush so much. Jason Patric was amazing in it. That guy never got as much attention as he deserved.
Anyone who liked Captain America: The First Avenger will undoubtedly find a lot to like in The Rocketeer. The two movies are similar in many respects, and they share the same director!
Raise the Red Lantern, a Chinese film, marked the emergence of China's film industry from the shadow of Hong Kong. The beautiful Gong Li is the star of this film. Once Upon a Time in China, which is really more of a Hong Kong production, was one of Jet Li's early hits.
Biggest Movies of 1992: Aladdin, The Bodyguard, Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, Basic Instinct, Lethal Weapon 3, Batman Returns, A Few Good Men, Sister Act, Bram Stoker's Dracula, Wayne's World
God, another Home Alone. The Bodyguard, Lethal Weapon 3, Sister Act, and Wayne's World were also terrible. Just about anything featuring Whoopi Goldberg should be avoided.
Basic Instinct and Batman Returns were decent movies, but far from spectacular.
A Few Good Men and Bram Stoker's Dracula were two good films from that year. A Few Good Men featured Tom Cruise and Demi Moore, and Gary Oldman shined in Dracula. That movie was so much better than the vastly overrated novel.
Honorable Mentions: Scent of a Woman, Unforgiven, Chaplin, American Me, The Cutting Edge, Thunderheart, Deep Cover, Boomerang, A League of Their Own, Honeymoon in Vegas, Pet Sematary 2, School Ties, The Last of the Mohicans, Hero, Of Mice and Men, A River Runs Through It, Candyman, Reservoir Dogs, Malcolm X, Bad Lieutenant, A Few Good Men, The Crying Game, Day of Atonement, Hard Boiled, Orlando, Romper Stomper
Unforgiven - hell yes! One of Clint Eastwood's best. I have seen that move more times than I can recall.
Robert Downey Jr. almost experienced a renaissance with Chaplin, but unfortunately his substance abuse put a quick end to that. He wouldn't really break into the big time until sobriety and Iron Man. A late bloomer for sure.
The Cutting Edge is not a good movie, but that actress who plays the ice skater is so freaking hot. What was her name? It's escaping me at the moment.
If you squint your eyes while watching School Ties you can just make out Ben Affleck and Matt Damon as Brendan Fraser's classmates.
The Last of the Mohicans was a fantastic movie, and it was as good as the novel. It wasn't Daniel Day-Lewis' best performance (I would bestow that honor upon Let There Be Blood), but it was up there.
Malcolm X was an excellent historical drama, and Bad Lieutenant was probably Harvey Keitel's best film. The remake with Nicholas Cage was also good.
Thunderheart, Deep Cover, Day of Atonement, and Orlando are overlooked films from that year. Anyone who likes gangster films ought to like the Jewish take on the genre found in Day of Atonement.
Biggest Movies of 1993: Jurassic Park, Mrs. Doubtfire, The Fugitive, Schindler's List, The Firm, Indecent Proposal, Cliffhanger, Sleepless in Seattle, Philadelphia, The Pelican Brief
I have never understood why Mrs. Doubtfire was popular.
Schindler's List and Philadelphia were undoubtedly the best hits from this year. In Schindler's List Spielberg tackles the Holocaust, and in Philadelphia Tom Hanks turns in a strong performance as an AIDS patient.
Cliffhanger was one of those movies you had to see in the theater. It doesn't look half as cool on a small screen.
Honorable Mentions: The Piano, What's Love Got to Do with It, Groundhog Day, Farewell My Concubine, The Wedding Banquet, Dave, Rising Sun, The Man Without a Face, Kalifornia, True Romance, Demolition Man, Fearless, The Remains of the Day, Carlito's Way, Tombstone, Boxing Helena, A Bronx Tale, The Crush, Falling Down, In the Name of the Father, Menace II Society, Ninja Scroll, The Saint of Fort Washington, Sommersby, Stalingrad, Wide Sargasso Sea
Michael Douglas is awesome in Falling Down. That movie is classic.
The Saint of Fort Washington is another movie that is sadly overlooked. Both Danny Glover and Matt Dillon turned in great performances.
The German movie Stalingrad is grim, but like Das Boot it is one of the great WWII movies.
I realize that Quentin Tarantion only wrote True Romance, but it is still one of my favorite Tarantino films. The critics might love his most recent films, but I haven't liked a Tarantino movie since Kill Bill Vol. 2.
Groundhog Day and The Man Without a Face are two movies from this year that I have watched more times than I can count.
Biggest Movies of 1994: The Lion King, Forrest Gump, True Lies, The Mask, Speed, The Flintstones, Dumb and Dumber, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Interview with a Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles, Clear and Present Danger
Damn Forrest Gump got annoying. It was good, but it wasn't that good. My favorite of this year's hits would be Interview with a Vampire. I can remember reading a lot of Anne Rice at the time.
Honorable Mentions: Pulp Fiction, Quiz Show, The Hudsucker Proxy, The Ref, The Paper, Surviving the Game, The Crow, Maverick, Little Buddha, Wyatt Earp, Natural Born Killers, The Shawshank Redemption, Stargate, The Professional, Clerks, Crumb, Immortal Beloved, Priest, Wolf
Pulp Fiction, Natural Born Killers, The Shawshank Redemption, The Professional, and Clerks were excellent movies from 1994. Gary Oldman was even better in The Professional than he was in Bram Stoker's Dracula. Clerks was the first and only reason to watch a Kevin Smith movie. That guy really got lost in his desire for attention.
Crumb is a documentary about the comic strip (comic book?) artist. It is an interesting documentary.