James Page looks at three films from the ICONIC film era of the 90s that came out some time ago but still pack a punch.
The Silence of the Lambs (1991). Dir. Jonathan Demme.
Yes. Of course. Obviously. If you’re into any sort of thriller and you haven’t seen this film then I suggest you get onto it. I’ve started out in the early 90s here with a psychological thriller that sets the precedent for a triumphant decade in the film industry.
Jodie Foster, yes, Jodie Foster, plays young FBI cadet Clarice Starling who must bravely reach out to cannibalistic killer Hannibal Lecter (played by Anthony Hopkins) and get his help in order to catch another serial killer. There’s a lot of serial killing. And I know that’s not necessarily going to sell it but I can promise you it’s not like any other thriller.
It’s a film whereby narrative is seemingly thrown out the window and into the abyss. At every point where you believe there may be some sort of resolution or conflict - it’ll give you the opposite. Whenever you think things are fine, they’re not. It’s so eerie. It’s so creepy. It’s a film that focuses so much on emotional and psychological manipulation and it’s so, so cleverly written. It’s not easy to maintain a tone like that in a thriller, but Lambs does it so effortlessly.
The politics of a female hero is worth mentioning. It drives the film forward. For the 90s, that’s rare. But it works so well. She’s a woman in a man’s world but handles the situation with elegance and ease - simultaneously dealing with two serial killers at the same time. It makes for such a gripping viewing. Go Jodie!
For awards fanatics, The Silence of the Lambs notched up seven nominations at the Academy Awards in 1992, winning the ‘big five’ - Best Picture, Director, Actress, Actor and Adapted Screenplay. Not a bad feat.
Good Will Hunting (1997). Dir. Gus Van Sant.
This is more of a feel-good film, depending on what you’re into. It’s kind of sad. On the surface, Good Will Hunting seems to be a very slow-moving narrative about a young boy who comes of age and goes on a big character arc. Sounds cliche? It kind of is. But this film is unique in so many ways and it’s all in the Oscar-winning original screenplay.
Matt Damon (who also stars in this film as Will Hunting) and Ben Affleck (who plays Will’s brother) co-wrote the film in their mid-twenties. It’s what set up their careers. Damon plays a janitor at MIT in Boston. He’s got a wicked mind for mathematics but is insanely troubled due to a difficult upbringing. In order for him to find direction in his life, he receives help from a renowned psychologist played by Robin Williams.
The cleverest thing about this film is the theme of brute intelligence and the control one has with it. It’s so soft, caring and loving. But it turns out combining love and intellect can create something really quite extraordinary. This theme of love also shines through really bright. Will must learn to love. With the combination of his intelligence and a bit of education (in the form of said love) he can go a long way with his life and develop into someone worth loving.
It’s one of my favourite films of all-time and I highly recommend you check it out. Also, a mention to the late Robin Williams in one of his most iconic roles, for which he won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. A truly beautiful performance.
10 Things I Hate About You (1999). Dir. Gil Junger.
Again, yeah! Obviously. Duh! The underrated film of the decade. The Mean Girls of the 90s. The acclaimed high school movie we never knew we needed. Heath. Ledger.
I could go on, but this film is quite simply the best way to end a decade that rocked. It just works. Probably because it’s based off The Taming of the Shrew by some playwright named William Shakespeare… but back to the movie! Basically, a popular teenager (who isn’t even the main character for once) can’t go on a date until her totally-too-good-for-boys older sister (the main character) goes on one. Cue a cunning plan from said little sister which may or may not include a young Heath Ledger.
It’s just so sweet. It’s funny, moving and poignant. It’s very on the nose and at times extremely predictable but that’s okay because it’s a teen romance movie. No one makes teen romance movies too complicated. It packs a lot of punch into an hour and a half and it’s just one of those films that you never forget. It gives you that really fuzzy feeling. Every scene is delightfully written and cleverly executed. The main idea being the power of love is enough to make you swoon.
Again, a mention to the late Heath Ledger as well for playing a role that perhaps not everyone is aware that he played. A small one, but one that won’t be forgotten in a while.