My TEN Favourite 1990s CRITERION Films

Have you entered my contest to win a $50 Criterion gift certificate? And if you haven’t; why in the hell not? For rules and to enter click here. In keeping with my 90s theme here are my ten favourite Criterion films from the 1990s. This is a rotten cheat of a post; it really is just an elaborate excuse to remind you about my contest and whore out some of my previous lists.

1990s Criterion films Shortlisted but not making the final cut were: Hoop Dreams (1994), Insomnia (1997), Three Colors: White (1994), Three Colors: Blue (1993), The Silence of the Lambs (1991), Short Cuts (1993), Ratcatcher (1999), Cronos (1993), Clean, Shaven (1993).

The following list is in no particular order; every single one of these titles received a 5/5 from me…

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Being John Malkovich (1999)

being john malkovich

Blurb from Criterion

Have you ever wanted to be someone else? Or, more specifically, have you ever wanted to crawl through a portal hidden in an anonymous office building and thereby enter the cerebral cortex of John Malkovich for fifteen minutes, before being spat out on the side of the New Jersey Turnpike? Then director Spike Jonze and writer Charlie Kaufman have the movie for you. Melancholy marionettes, office drudgery, a frizzy-haired Cameron Diaz—but that’s not all! Surrealism, possession, John Cusack, a domesticated primate, Freud, Catherine Keener, non sequiturs, and absolutely no romance! But wait: get your Being John Malkovich now and we’ll throw in emasculation, slapstick, Abelard and Heloise, and extra Malkovich, Malkovich, Malkovich!

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Crumb (1994)

Here is a video I posted from the soundtrack for Crumb: Cocaine – Dick Justice – Music from Crumb: A Terry Zwigoff Film…

Blurb from Criterion

Terry Zwigoff’s landmark 1995 film is an intimate documentary portrait of the underground artist Robert Crumb, whose unique drawing style and sexually and racially provocative subject matter have made him a household name in popular American art. Zwigoff candidly and colorfully delves into the details of Crumb’s incredible career and life, including his family of reclusive eccentrics, some of the most remarkable people you’ll ever see on-screen. At once a profound biographical portrait, a riotous examination of a man’s controversial art, and a devastating look at a troubled family, Crumb is a genuine American original.

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Europa (1991)

europa

I recently posted my 50 favourite directors and Lars Von Trier was number 18.

Blurb from Criterion

“You will now listen to my voice . . . On the count of ten you will be in Europa . . .” So begins Max von Sydow’s opening narration to Lars von Trier’s hypnotic Europa (known in the U.S. as Zentropa), a fever dream in which American pacifist Leopold Kessler (Jean-Marc Barr) stumbles into a job as a sleeping-car conductor for the Zentropa railways in a Kafkaesque 1945 postwar Frankfurt. With its gorgeous black-and-white and color imagery and meticulously recreated (if then nightmarishly deconstructed) costumes and sets, Europa is one of the great Danish filmmaker’s weirdest and most wonderful works, a runaway-train ride to an oddly futuristic past.

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Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)

fear and loathing in las vegas

Terry Gilliam is another favourite director featured on my list of 50; he is number 20.

Blurb from Criterion

It is 1971, and journalist Raoul Duke barrels toward Las Vegas—accompanied by a trunkful of contraband and his slightly unhinged Samoan attorney, Dr. Gonzo—to cover a motorcycle race. What should be a cut-and-dried journalistic assignment quickly descends into a feverish psychedelic odyssey. Director Terry Gilliam and an all-star cast headlined by Johnny Depp and Benicio Del Toro show no mercy in bringing Hunter S. Thompson’s excoriating dissection of the American way of life to the screen, creating a film both hilarious and savage.

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La haine (1995)

la haine

Did you know I have a list of my favourite non-horror films from the 1990s on this blog? I do! Here it is.

Blurb from Criterion

Mathieu Kassovitz took the film world by storm with La haine, a gritty, unsettling, and visually explosive look at the racial and cultural volatility in modern-day France, specifically the low-income banlieue districts on Paris’s outskirts. Aimlessly passing their days in the concrete environs of their dead-end suburbia, Vinz (Vincent Cassel), Hubert (Hubert Koundé), and Saïd (Saïd Taghmaoui)—a Jew, an African, and an Arab—give human faces to France’s immigrant populations, their bristling resentment at their marginalization slowly simmering until it reaches a climactic boiling point. A work of tough beauty, La haine is a landmark of contemporary French cinema and a gripping reflection of its country’s ongoing identity crisis.

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Hard Boiled (1992)

hard boiled

Sadly, Hard Boiled has been discontinued from Criterion’s library. It is well worth seeking out just the same!

Blurb from Criterion

Violence as poetry, rendered by a master—brilliant and passionate, John Woo’s Hard Boiled tells the story of jaded detective “Tequila” Yuen (played with controlled fury by Chow Yun-fat). Woo’s dizzying odyssey through the world of Hong Kong Triads, undercover agents, and frenzied police raids culminates unforgettably in the breathless hospital sequence. More than a cops-and-bad-guys story, Hard Boiled continually startles with its originality and dark humor.

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Man Bites Dog (1992)

man bites dog

Man Bites Dog was my number three pick for my top 10 favourite horror films from 1992. To read it click here.

Blurb from Criterion

Documentary filmmakers André and Rémy have found an ideal subject in Ben. He is witty, sophisticated, intelligent, well liked—and a serial killer. As André and Rémy document Ben’s routines, they become increasingly entwined in his vicious program, sacrificing their objectivity and their morality. Controversial winner of the International Critics’ Prize at the 1992 Cannes Film Festival, Man Bites Dog stunned audiences worldwide with its unflinching imagery and biting satire of media violence.

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Naked Lunch (1991)

naked lunch

Naked Lunch was my number one pick for favourite horror film from 1991! To read it click here. A full review for this one will be forthcoming before months end!

Blurb from Criterion

In this adaptation of William S. Burroughs’s hallucinatory, once-thought-unfilmable novel Naked Lunch, directed by David Cronenberg, a part-time exterminator and full-time drug addict named Bill Lee (Peter Weller) plunges into the nightmarish Interzone, a netherworld of sinister cabals and giant talking bugs. Alternately humorous and grotesque—and always surreal—the film mingles aspects of Burroughs’s novel with incidents from the writer’s own life, resulting in an evocative paranoid fantasy and a self-reflexive investigation into the mysteries of the creative process.

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Night on Earth (1991)

night on earth

Jim Jarmusch is number 31 on my 50 favourite directors list.

Blurb from Criterion

Five cities. Five taxicabs. A multitude of strangers in the night. Jim Jarmusch assembled an extraordinary international cast of actors (including Gena Rowlands, Winona Ryder, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Beatrice Dalle, and Roberto Benigni) for this hilarious quintet of tales of urban displacement and existential angst, spanning time zones, continents, and languages. Jarmusch’s lovingly askew view of humanity from the passenger seat makes for one of his most charming and beloved films.

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Shallow Grave (1994)

shallow grave

Blurb from Criterion

The diabolical thriller Shallow Grave was the first film from director Danny Boyle, producer Andrew Macdonald, and screenwriter John Hodge (the smashing team behind Trainspotting). In it, three self-involved Edinburgh roommates—played by Kerry Fox, Christopher Eccleston, and Ewan McGregor, in his first starring role—take in a brooding boarder, and when he dies of an overdose, leaving a suitcase full of money, the trio embark on a series of very bad decisions, with extraordinarily grim consequences for all. Macabre but with a streak of offbeat humor, this stylistically influential tale of guilt and derangement is a full-throttle bit of Hitchcockian nastiness.

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22 Responses to “My TEN Favourite 1990s CRITERION Films”

  1. No doubt about it, those are ten great movies, each in their own bizarre way. Woo stole the follow-the-protagonists-as-they-go-up-in-an-elevator trick from Touch of Evil, but threw in a running gun battle on each floor! Not sure von Trier has ever topped Europa. Haven’t been to the Criterion website in quite a while, but you used to be able to view clips from scads of their movies; the Night of the Hunter clip was sweet.

  2. Ah, great list. I really need to rent Europa from my local library because it is good! Hard Boiled is John Woo’s best film by a long shot! Tequila and the baby make a great duo!

    • I really dig Woo’s older stuff…I love The Killer and A Better Tomorrow also. I absolutely detest Broken Arrow and Face/off…they both cause a stabbing pain in my third eye.

  3. Man, I haven’t watched Man Bites Dog since it first came out on VHS, and I STILL remember it well! The eight films I have seen on here are all excellent. I still badly need to see, and have been wanting to see both Europa and La Haine. Great stuff!

    “Cinema! CINEMA!”: http://youtu.be/hVcjeAByzaQ

  4. Darn impressive list! I need to watch these again!

    • P.S Happy Valentine’s Day(or in my case, Single Awareness Day)! I think I will watch My Bloody Valentine later. The original,not the remake! : )

      • Happy Hallmark Holiday to you sir! My Bloody Valentine is a classic (and Canadian no less)! I know you aren’t much for new horror…but have you seen The Loved Ones? I think it would be a delightful V-Day evening watching choice! Australian flick full of spunk…and love…sort of! Great fun!

        • I haven’t seen The Loved Ones,so I will for sure give it a watch! I enjoy the heck out of My Bloody Valentine,and love the song at the end!

    • These are all worth watching over and over again! I re-watched Europa recently…so bloody good it almost brings a wee tear to my eye!

  5. Great list! And a few I still need to see. Naked Lunch might be the only Cronenberg I’ve never seen.

    • You must see it now…I mean right freaking NOW! Such an under appreciated gem in Cronenberg’s resume! Nelson was correct in his assessment of its title though…but it is brilliant nonetheless. Nelson afterall is not always right.

  6. Crikey, just found out Hulu is showing all their Criterion titles for free on Valentine’s weekend!

    • That is so spectacular…but unfortunately I can not access Hulu from Canada…I know there is a way to cheat by changing my IP but I haven’t tried it yet.

  7. I interviewed Lars Von Trier at the Cannes Film Festival when “Dancer In The Dark” was there…I love ALL of his films, even when they are more difficult to embrace…singular unique vision of the world, and that’s what you don’t see much any more…

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