A Decade in Film: 1996


A chronological list of releases can be found here.

1) Best of 1996 or top five?

2) Most disappointing of 1996 (or bottom five if you want to go that route)?

3) Most underrated or underseen? (Example: “reviews weren’t great, but it’s genius because) OR (“No one saw it, but this is why they should…”)

4) Favorite performance(s) of the year?

5) Favorite scene/sequence of the year?

6) Most memorable (good or bad) theatergoing experience of the year?

7) Most influential film/performance/style/director?

Obviously feel free to answer only the questions you’re interested in or to write/respond to something else entirely. The lists themselves are just a starting point to foster discussion.


11 responses »

  1. I somehow saw 139 releases in 1996. I was working in a not particularly busy video store at the time and had a LOT of downtime.

    My first thought is that it was an extraordinary year for emerging talent: First features from Wes Anderson, Alexander Payne, Mary Herron and uh, Paul Anderson. Sophomore efforts from David O. Russell and Danny Boyle. The cinematic debuts of George Clooney (not counting some Z-grade cameos earlier in his career), Edward Norton, Charlize Theron and Geoffrey Rush.

    1) Best of 1996 or top five.
    Fargo, Happy Gilmore, The Birdcage, Flirting with Disaster, Trainspotting

    Also worthwhile, guilty pleasures included:
    Big Night, Black Sheep, Bottle Rocket, Broken Arrow, Citizen Ruth, Crash, Evita, Executive Decision, Independence Day, Jingle All The Way, Kids in the Hall: Brain Candy, Kingpin, Last Man Standing, The Long Kiss Goodnight, Mars Attacks!, Mission: Impossible, Palookaville, The People vs. Larry Flynt, The Rock, Scream, Secrets and Lies, Star Trek First Contact, Trainspotting, Trees Lounge, When We Were Kings

    2) Most disappointing of 1996:
    There were many, many bad films in 1996: but I paid money to see Hellraiser IV, which was essentially an unreleasable film.

    3) Most underrated or underseen? (Example: “reviews weren’t great, but it’s genius because) OR (“No one saw it, but this is why they should…”)
    Last Man Standing. I still hope that Walter Hill gets to put out a director’s cut one day. What New Line released was hacked to bits.
    The Phantom is a lot of fun
    The Cable Guy isn’t as bad as it’s rep.

    4) Favorite performance(s) of the year?
    Everyone in Fargo
    Everyone in The Birdcage
    Laura Dern in Citizen Ruth

    5) Favorite scene/sequence of the year?
    Steven Seagal dying 30 minutes into Executive Decision, saving the film
    Everything blows up: Independence Day
    Twister is a terrible, terrible film – but some of the storm scenes are still thrilling today.

    6) Most memorable (good or bad) theatergoing experience of the year?
    I won a radio contest and got to see Independence Day before release, which was really cool to me at the time.

    7) Most influential film/performance/style/director?
    Scream. In the late 90’s-early 00’s it’s probably easier to count the horror films that WEREN’T influenced by Scream rather than the direct ripoffs.

  2. A few more thoughts: most overrated: Jerry Maguire. I kind of hated that movie. Very Good: Secrets and Lies, Sling Blade, Lone Star, Kenneth Branagh’s Hamlet, When We Were Kings. As for The English Patient, which won the Oscar, I only saw it the one time, and I liked it okay. Can’t say it’s overrated. The writers of Seinfeld seemed to think so.

  3. I never saw Happy Gilmore, as I have stayed away from most Adam Sandler movies. Flirting with Disaster was not that good. Mars Attacks! was a trainwreck, easily Tim Burton’s worst film.

  4. I think Mars Attacks seemed worse at the time because he was coming off of the career high of Ed Wood. I watched it not very long ago and mostly enjoyed it. It needed to be a lot sharper than it is, the satire is pretty lazy in spots.

    Happy Gilmore is a rare Sandler movie that’s 1) actually funny 2) has aged just fine. I’m thankful he hasn’t tried to sequelize it.

    I never saw Jerry Maguire or The English Patient. I couldn’t remember if I watched all of Hamlet so I left it off the list.

    Re: Goodfellas – that’s interesting, I’ve encountered people who prefer Casino for some reason (which I also enjoy a great deal…but that opinion is madness). Agreed re: Pulp Fiction, I’d rank it just below Fargo and Goodfellas because of the Bruce Willis segment. It’s still good, but not as good as the other two parts of the film.

  5. I’d also put Evita under underrated/underseen. It’s a great film that never really caught on with audiences the way it should have. I think there was backlash re: Madonna’s casting, curious what it’s legacy would be if Michelle Pfeiffer had starred.

    Speaking of which: Pfeiffer’s demos for the film are on YouTube. They get, uh, a little rough.

  6. Looking over the films I’ve seen from this year, was genuinely surprised how good I found most of the films to be. Probably my favourite 90s film year apart from 1999.

    Favourite films: From Dusk Till Dawn, Star Trek First Contact (still my favourite ST movie), Scream

    *The Farrelly Brothers haven’t made a film as funny since Kingspin, certainly much better than their vastly overrated ‘There’s Something About Mary’.
    *The Nutty Professor is flawed but genuinely funny at times
    *The orginal was good but reckon ‘A Very Brady Sequel’ is more fun.
    *It’s a forgotten film today, but ‘I Shot Andy Warhol’ is impressively compelling considering the central character is so unlikable and loathsome

    Overrated: *I know I’m on my own on this one, but I thought ‘Fargo’ was a solid film, nothing more.

    Worst films:
    *’The First Wives Club’ would be my nomination for the most smug, self-satisified film of the 90s.
    *I’d never seen Beavis And Butthead outside their film and clearly it just wasn’t for me.
    *That Lauren Bacall’s only Oscar nomination came from as laughably bad a film as ‘The Mirror Has Two Faces’ is one of the most astonishing and depressing Oscar facts I know.

    Best performances: George Clooney in ‘From Dusk Till Dawn’, absolutely magnetic right from the pre-credits scene

    Worst Performance: Jeff Bridges in ‘The Mirror Has Two Faces’

    Memorable cinema experience; When I went to see ‘Scream’ at the cinema and Henry Winkler pops up, somebody at the screening shouted “Hey, it’s the Fonz!”.

    My ratings for the films I’ve seen out of 10:

    From Dusk Till Dawn – 8

    Star Trek: First Contact – 8

    Scream – 8

    Citizen Ruth – 8

    I Shot Andy Warhol – 7

    Happy Gilmore – 6

    Before And After – 5.5 (1970s children’s section good, present day stuff a waste of time)

    The Birdcage – 6.5 (didn’t find it particularly funny, but an entertaining, well made film)

    Fargo – 7

    Primal Fear – 7.5 (a bit too TV in its style, but an effective drama with a great ending. If nothing else the perfect Richard Gere vehicle)

    The Truth About Cats And Dogs – 6

    The Craft – 7

    Mission Impossible – 7.5 (EDIT: upgraded my rating based on recalling it after reading others’ views of it in this thread. It’s a pretty fine film thinking about it)

    Spy Hard – 4 (one of Leslie Nielsen’s lousy mid-to-late 90s dud comedies, but does have a good Weird Al Yankovic credits song)

    The Cable Guy – 5 (I’ve heard so much talk over the past couple of decades about how underrated it is I think it’s become overrated)

    The Nutty Professor – 7

    Harriet The Spy – 6.5

    Kingpin – 7.5

    Matilda – 7.5 (great fun, perfectly suited to De Vito’s directorial style)

    A Very Brady Sequel – 7

    The First Wives Club – 3.5

    The Mirror Has Two Faces – 3

    Jerry Maguire – 6 (Entertaining enough, but the whole ethos of the film leaves a bad taste in one’s mouth)

    Mars Attacks – 6 (I liked it a bit more than JS did as it’s generally likable and charming, but it’s fatal flaw is that it isn’t funny. As Ebert noted, having Jack Nicholson in costume getups doesn’t automatically mean hilarity, let alone Tom Jones appearing as himself)

    My Fellow Americans – 5.5

    Michael – 5 (from the brief mid-90s period when any John Travolta film made money. Saw it not that long ago and yet can barely remember anything about it)

    The People Vs Larry Flynt – 7

    Beavis and Butt-Head Do America – 2.5

  7. GREAT
    The Rock
    Happy Gilmore
    Mystery Science Theatre 3000
    The Birdcage
    Star Trek: First Contact
    Beavis and Butt-head Do America
    The Arrival
    Broken Arrow
    Mission: Impossible
    Rumble in the Bronx
    The Long Kiss Goodnight

    The Ghost and the Darkness
    Black Sheep
    Kids in the Hall: Brain Candy
    The Cable Guy
    Independence Day
    The Frighteners
    Bottle Rocket
    Executive Decision
    Flirting with Disaster
    Down Periscope
    Tales from the Crypt Presents: Bordello of Blood
    The Phantom
    The Craft

    Chain Reaction
    Escape from L.A.
    The Nutty Professor
    Space Jam
    The Glimmer Man
    Mars Attacks
    Extreme Measures
    From Dusk Till Dawn

    Jing All the Way
    The Island of Dr. Moreau
    The Quest
    Lawnmower Man 2: Beyond Cyberspace
    First Kid
    The Truth About Cats & Dogs
    Mary Reilly
    Sgt. Bilko
    Spy Hard
    A Very Brady Sequel
    The Great White Hype
    The Associate
    Adrenalin: Fear the Rush
    The First Wives Club
    Celtic Pride
    Big Bully
    Mr. Wrong

    1) Best of 1996 or top five.
    The Rock, Happy Gilmore, Mystery Science Theatre 3000, The Birdcage, Star Trek: First Contact
    One of the best action films of the decade, Adam Sandler’s second best film, one of MST3K’s finest hours, possibly the funniest Robin Williams movie, and THE best Star Trek movie ever made.

    2) Most disappointing of 1996.
    Mars Attacks! – What could possibly look better to a twelve year-old? Expectations were sky high, and it sucked hard.
    Larger Than Life – I was big into Bill Murray at the time and this was one I could see in theaters and it sucked hard.

    3) Most underrated or underseen?
    The Long Kiss Goodnight – Boatloads of Shane Black fun in a highly entertaining, if flawed film.
    The Ghost and the Darkness – A very solid man Vs. animal thriller with charismatic, if somewhat self-indulgent, performances from Val Kilmer and Michael Douglas. It’s director Stephen Hopkins’ finest hour.

    4) Favorite performance(s) of the year?
    Nicolas Cage in The Rock. He tore up the rulebook and stole the movie.

    5) Favorite scene/sequence of the year?
    The drive-in twister in Twister.
    Checkmate in Independence Day.
    The train sequence in Mission: Impossible.
    The Safety Dance sequence in Bio-Dome.

    6) Most memorable (good or bad) theatergoing experience of the year?
    Mission: Impossible – Though I had to ask my dad questions, I still felt all sophisticated and grown up.

    7) Most influential film/performance/style/director?
    Scream bests Fargo.

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