Movies Of The Year: 1992

A new high this year, as I’ve seen 60 movies from 1992. For the record, I’m using IMDB’s list of the top 100 movies of the year by total votes to come up with the titles, no way would I remember all of these. This presents two difficulties. First, there are undoubtedly movies outside the top 100 vote getters that I have seen and/or are very good. Browsing around in other sections of 1992, for example, I found Simple Men and Indochine, one of which I’ve seen and is very good, the other I haven’t but have heard good things about it. Since I’m not going to carefully comb the 6000+ movie lists looking for each and every movie released that year, these lists are going to only be approximate. So, when I say I’ve seen 60 movies from 1992, really I’ve seen at least 60 movies from 1992.

The second problem is that I’m going by the years that IMDB assigns to various films. For example, IMDB says Les Amants Du Pont-Neuf is a 1991 film, even though it wasn’t released theatrically until 1999. Or Zhang Yimou’s Hero, which was released in the US in 2004, counts as a 2002 film on IMDB. This means that my lists won’t be directly comparable to the various awards for those years, or many critics end of the year Best Of lists, all of which use their own criteria for determining when a film came out. Frankly, it’s just easier to use IMDB as the definitive authority on this matter. So, on to the list:

60. The Distinguished Gentlemen
59. Freejack
58. Death Becomes Her
57. Hero
56. Shining Through
55. Kuffs
54. Unlawful Entry
53. Passenger 57
52. The Hand That Rocks The Cradle
51. Toys
50. Housesitter
49. Single White Female
48. Patriot Games
47. Of Mice And Men
46. Jennifer 8
45. Boomerang
44. Honeymoon In Vegas
43. Candyman
42. Lethal Weapon 3
41. The Cutting Edge
40. Scent Of A Woman
39. Mr. Saturday Night
38. Shadows And Fog
37. Noises Off
36. Peter’s Friends
35. My Cousin Vinny
34. Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me
33. Bad Lieutenant
32. Basic Instinct
31. Encino Man
30. Buffy The Vampire Slayer
29. A League Of Their Own
28. Supercop
27. Chaplin
26. A Midnight Clear
25. Aladdin
24. Alien 3
23. Batman Returns
22. Far And Away
21. Howards End
20. White Men Can’t Jump
19. Simple Men
18. Husbands And Wives
17. The Crying Game
16. El Mariachi

15. Malcolm X – Mostly remembered nowadays for Denzel Washington’s outstanding performance in the lead role, this deserves to be ranked with the best biopics of the last couple decades. Unfairly labeled, along with Spike Lee’s earlier film Do The Right Thing (and Lee and Malcolm X himself) as being anti-white, those who do so have clearly failed to watch the film or read the source material, Alex Haley’s The Autobiography of Malcolm X. The compelling thing about Malcolm X is not the fire and brimstone “chickens come home to roost: angry guy speeches, it’s the fact that he rejected all of that after realizing how corrupt and fake it really was. And then got killed for it.

14. Bram Stoker’s Dracula – A big, colorful, overthetop, bloody, messy masterpiece of over-indulgence. One of the all-time worst Keanu Reeves performances (“It tis the man himself!”). Fantastic scenery-chewing from Tom Waits, Gary Oldman, Winona Ryder, Anthony Hopkins, Richard E. Grant and Cary Elwes. You can even see Monica Bellucci as one of the devil-women that tortures poor Keanu.

13. Strictly Ballroom – OK, I know that as a straight man, I’m supposed to hate this movie about a renegade ballroom dancer who refuses to play by ‘their’ rules. But I can’t help it, I love it and the other two Baz Luhrmann movies (Romeo and Juliet and Mulin Rouge). I like movies that, in Francois Truffaut’s phrase, express “the joy of making cinema”. That’s the only thing Luhrmann is interested in doing. One of the sweatiest movies of all-time?

12. Sneakers – Often mentioned as an overlooked movie, which raises the question of whether a movie can be overlooked if everyone thinks it’s overlooked. The problem is that while it’s extremely well made and fun to watch, nothing really blows you away about it. It’s just a perfect little movie, which is different from being a perfect movie. The great cast includes Robert Redford, Ben Kingsley, Sidney Poitier, River Phoenix, Dan Ackroyd, Mary McDonnell, David Strathairn, Donal Logue, Stephen Tobolowsky, and James Earl Jones. Written and directed by Phil Alden Robinson, who also wrote and directed Field of Dreams.

11. Red Rock West – Quentin Tarantino meets Luis Buñuel as Nicholas Cage plays a guy who just can’t get out of town. he shows up in a small Wyoming town looking for a job, gets mistaken by the sherriff for a hitman he had hired to kill his wife and soon the sherriff, the wife and the real hitman are all out to get him. Dennis Hopper, Lara Flynn Boyle and JT Walsh co-star. Ripped off by Oliver Stone for U-Turn, a much inferior film.

10. Bob Roberts – The first of two Tim Robbins films in this year’s top ten is also his directorial debut. Robbins plays a folk-singing fascist running for senator against Gore Vidal in this horrifying prescient pseudo-documentary. Giancarlo Esposito plays the liberal media reporter trying to bring him down. The large cast includes Alan Rickman, Susan Sarandon, James Spader, David Strathairn, Helen Hunt, Peter Galagher, Fred Ward, Jack Black, Fisher Stevens, Bob Balaban, Jeremy Piven and John Cusak. Much of the film is modeled after the great Dylan documentary Don’t Look Back, especially Jack Black’s scene.

9. Wayne’s World – I’ll admit I haven’t seen this in years, so I don’t really know how well it aged, but I don’t imagine there’d be any problems. Might be my generation’s Animal House. I saw my first Wayne’s World skit when I first saw Saturday Night Live in a hotel room in Seattle in 1989. Fine Young Cannibals was the musical guest and I believe Wayne Gretzky was the host. Earlier that day, I’d seen my first Mariners game, featuring rookie outfielder Ken Griffey, Jr. Director Penelope Spheeris went on to direct The Beverly Hillbillies, The Little Rascals and Black Sheep.

8. Singles – Speaking of Gen X classics. . . . I actually watched this again just a couple months ago and can confirm that it’s lost nothing over time. I recently called it the best Cameron Crowe movie ever and I stand by that. While it doesn’t have any scene as great as certain scenes in Almost Famous, Say Anything or Vanilla Sky, it’s the only one without a serious flaw or two. Plus, it taught me to always say ‘Gesundheit” when someone sneezes so that Bridget Fonda will fall in love with me.

7. The Player – Might be my favorite Robert Altman movie. Tim Robbins plays a movie producer who kills a writer (Vincent D’Onofrio) he thinks is stalking him, Whoopi Goldberg and Lyle Lovitt are the cops trying to hunt him down, Peter Gallagher’s trying to steal his job, he’s trying to sign the Coen Brothers to a long-term contract while rewriting Richard E. Grant’s script into a movie for Bruce Willis and Julia Roberts and he’s fallen in love with the dead guy’s Icelandic girlfriend (Greta Scacchi). Famous for the number of cameos as apparently everyone in Hollywood shows up at one time or another.

6. A Few Good Men – I’m a huge Aaron Sorkin fan. I think that what ABC did to Sports Night is a crime. I’ve seen every episode of The West Wing (well, except for this season’s premiere). I even liked Malice. This is a great movie, extremely well-written. But every time some says they’re going to “make an argument” my skin crawls. And they do say it. A lot. So, Mr. Sorkin, some friendly advice: people argue, they don’t make arguments. The passive voice sucks.

5. Hard-Boiled – The best pure action movie of all-time. At least for the last hour or so. Chow Yun-fat and Tony Leung star as two cops trying to take down a gang of gun dealers. Chow’s the cop on the outside, Leung’s undercover, though Chow doesn’t figure that out til halfway through the movie. Both actors, two of my favorites, are outstanding. the final 45 minutes of the film is famously a single action sequence as the cops and bad guys shoot up a hospital. This is John Woo’s most effective film, both visually and in terms of the limited thematic interests Woo has (namely the similarities between good guys and bad, which he also explores in The Killer and Face/Off). IMDB says the Chinese title literally translates as “Hot-Handed God Of Cops”.

4. Glengarry Glen Ross – Perhaps the most quotable movie of all-time. Vicious dark comedy and back-biting among real estate salesmen. Jack Lemmon, Al Pacino, Kevin Spacey, Ed Harris, Alan Arkin, Jonathon Pryce and Alec Baldwin are pretty much the entire cast. James Foley directs David Mamet’s script. Foley had previously directed Who’s That Girl? and the video for “Papa Don’t Preach”. Favorite lines: “You see this watch? This watch cost more than your car.” “Coffee is for closers.” “Fuck you. That’s my name. You know why, mister? ‘Cause you drove a Hyundai to get here tonight, I drove an eighty thousand dollar BMW. That’s my name.” “Who ever told you that you could work with men?. . . . You company man.”

3. Last Of The Mohicans – An unjustly forgotten classic. MIchael Mann took James Fenimore Cooper’s by all accounts extremely boring novel and turned it into a beautiful romantic action drama. If the movie came out now instead of in 1992, it’d get a lot more critical praise than it has, now that Mann’s distinguished himself with Heat and The Insider and is no longer known only as the guy who created Miami Vice. Daniel Day-Lewis is great as Nathaniel, the many-named hero of Cooper’s novels. Russell Means, Madeline Stowe and especially Wes Studi are outstanding as well. One of the best looking movies of all-time. The score’s really good as well. Apparently the only available DVD release is also the Director’s Cut, which I haven’t seen. But soon, I will.

2. Reservoir Dogs – Quentin Tarantino’s debut film is justly praised as a step-forward in the pulp movie genre. It’s most direct ancestor is probably Martin Scorsese’s Mean Streets, at least in dialogue and attitude. It, of course, borrows plot elements from a whole host of films, from John Huston’s The Asphalt Jungle to Ringo Lam’s City On Fire. But it’s Tarantino’s unique combination of those influences that makes this film great. Tarantino is far from the most original director out there, his genius is for synthesis instead. And dialogue. Not just the famous pop culture discussions, but every line in the film has a unique rhythm that fits just perfectly. He’s the only contemporary writer I can think of in Mamet’s class as far as that kind of words for the sake of words dialogue.

1. Unforgiven – The western to end all westerns. Clint Eastwood’s masterpiece strips the western genre down to it’s essence and examines the brutal and senseless nature of the violence at its core. It’s been argued that there is nowhere else for the genre to go after Unforgiven. We had classical westerns (Stagecoach, Red River, Silverado) and there are revisionist Westerns (The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence, The Outlaw Josey Wales, Dances With Wolves) and we had classical westerns told in a revisionist style (the spaghetti westerns). Unforgiven is the deconstruction of the western. Its a dead end. Much like Touch Of Evil signaled the end of film noir. All that we can have now are neo-classical or neo-revisionist westerns. There is no new terrain to explore, all the genre has to say has been said. I don’t know how much I buy that argument, in particular I wonder how the HBO series Deadwood fits into the sceme. It seems to accept the brutal senselessness of Unforgiven yet still demonstrates the community building necessity that permeates both classical and revisionist westerns. Regardless of it’s genre implications, it’s a great movie. One of the most depressing films that I actually like.

Despite seeing so many movies this year, there are still some with great reputations that I’ve managed to miss. And a lot of really bad ones too. The Unseen:

Indochine
The Mambo Kings
Lorenzo’s Oil
Baraka
Romper Stomper
Dead Alive
Shakes The Clown
Porco Rosso
Man Bites Dog
Damage
Belle Epoque
Poison Ivy
Radio Flyer
Hoffa
Leap Of Faith
Captain Ron
Thunderheart
Memoirs Of An Invisible Man
Newsies

Honey, I Blew Up The Kid
School Ties
Like Water For Chocolate
Cool World
Beethoven
Medicine Man
The Mighty Ducks
Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot
The Lawnmower Man
Universal Soldier
Forever Young
A River Runs Through It
Under Siege
Sister Act
The Bodyguard
Home Alone 2: Lost In New York
Un Coeur En Hiver
Enchanted April

2 thoughts on “Movies Of The Year: 1992

  1. You make a statement about IMDB in your intro on this post that I'd like to address. While using IMDB as a definitive source for when a movie came out is not (in my mind) a bad idea, I am hoping that you don't just go from the year that IMDB states inside the parentheses next to the movie title. As you can tell from this example, which is not the only time I've seen this occur on the IMDB site, they sometimes state the wrong year in the parenthese. The Usual Suspects was released on August 16th 1995 but the year in the parentheses is 1994. I've checked other different statements of the movie's release date and the cooroboration seems to be that the release year was indeed 1995.

    Again, my point here is not to criticize but to help you out. I hope I do indeed help you out and that you are able to correctly display your information on your site.

    Like

  2. Well, The Usual Suspects actually first played at a film festival in Italy in October of 1994, which is why imdb dates it to that year. They're not wrong, they just use a different criteria than some people (they count festival screenings, and they count premieres outside the US). Whether they're right or not is really immaterial (it's important to realize that the years really don't matter that much: it's a necessarily arbitrary method of organization).

    That said, if you'll check my list, you'll see I have The Usual Suspects listed under 1995. That's not because I'm ignoring imdb, but because when I first made the list for 1995 several years ago, that's the date imdb had for it. Their dates change over time, as they acquire new information. I don't have anyway to know when they change their dates, so I just have to somehow come across it randomly. So thanks for the info, I'll move The Usual Suspects to 1994, if only to remain as consistent as possible.

    Like

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