Some films define the time they were made in. A film that defines a decade is that film that encapsulates the mentality of the era, the music, the clothes, or just the way society was at the time. A good example of a film that marks an era is Mike Nichol’s The Graduate (1967); that film is pure 60’s all the way, from the soundtrack by Simon and Garfunkel to the red 1967 Alfa Romeo that Dustin Hoffman drives throughout the movie . So, considering its 90’s month here on The Film Connoisseur, I decided to do a list of films that best captures what the 90’s were all about. I tried putting films on here that were about that grungy, angry, angst ridden youth. That angry mentality towards the proverbial system, and films that featured lots of alternative music! That’s one thing I loved the most about the 90’s, they were so very Rock and Roll, I mean, it was a lifestyle! Hell, the band CAKE even did a song describing it called “Rock and Roll Lifestyle”. Most films that capture an era have a strong soundtrack that’s representative of the time, so I took that in consideration as well. So, without further ado, I leave you guys with my Quintessential Films of the 90’s list, hope you like it. And if you enjoy this article, don’t forget to come back for Part II, which should be up at some point during the next couple of days, there are more Quintessentially 90’s movies where these came from.
Title: CONEHEADS (1993)
Comments: Coneheads is such a fun movie for me because not only is it a comedy, it’s a science fiction comedy, and a damn good one at that. On this film we meet Beldar and Prymatt two cone headed aliens who have crash landed on earth. Their original plan was to conquer earth, but their ship malfunctioned and the invasion was cancelled, so they were abandoned here on earth. Now they must learn to live amongst the “blunt skulls” until the time to overtake earth returns. In the mean time, Beldar gets a job as a taxi driver while Prymatt becomes a mother and a house wife. Little by little they begin to grow roots here on earth, but what happens when Connie their daughter becomes friends with the humans and doesn’t want her parents to conquer earth? Beldar and Prymatt must decide between obeying the ‘Remulak’ authorities or pleasing their daughter! This movie has many great things going for it, first, it was directed by Steve Barron, a director whose done a couple of films I like, for example he directed Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990) and Merlin (1998), a television mini-series that rocked the house, highly recommend checking it out. Also Coneheads is an interesting film because it unites Saturday Night Live cast members from the 70’s and 90’s which makes for an explosion of comedic talent. So you’ll get Dan Aykroyd, who by the way is positively hilarious as Beldar but you’ll also get Phil Hartman, Adam Sandler, David Spade and Chris Farley, like I said, a comedic explosion! There’s tons of cameos on this one, keep your eyes peeled! Most fun of all are all the visual gags, you haven’t lived until you seen a Conehead eating a foot long from Subway! Also, the way that the Coneheads talk will have you cracking up.
Rockin’ 90’s Soundtrack Includes: Red Hot Chili Peppers, R.E.M., Barenaked Ladies, Slash
Quote: “It’s as if you have grabbed me by the base of my snarglies!”
Title: WAYNES WORLD (1992) AND WAYNES WORLD 2 (1993)
Comments: This is like the apex of 90’s movies. If I had to choose a movie out of all of the ones on this list, these two would be the best quintessentially 90’s movies. I mean, they really do capture everything from the era, the clothes, that grungy love for all things rock and roll, that awesome soundtrack! Back then it was all about having long hair, wearing a t-shirt with the logo of your favorite band on it and wearing torn jeans. The 90’s were very, very rock and roll and this film captures what it means to live the proverbial rock and roll lifestyle, going to concerts, listening to cd’s on your car, having a favorite rock and roll dj, rocking out to a tune with your best buds and wanting that expensive guitar! Aside from being oh so very 90’s, the films have these two very endearing characters in the form of Wayne and Garth. They aren’t exactly losers (they have their own cable television show after all) but they haven’t quite “made it”. They want to really make it, big time. But are they willing to sell out in order to do it? Wayne’s World was one of the most popular SNL sketches from the 90’s and the best thing about both of these movies is how they fleshed out and brought these characters to life, unlike other unsuccessful SNL film adaptations which never could achieve this. Of course, a large part of success behind these films can be attributed to the genius of Dana Carvey and Mike Myers. You gotta admit when Mike Myers is on all cylinders, he really hits it out of the ballpark, as he did with both of these films. Both films are filled with cameos galore! Aerosmith! Alice Cooper! Even Christopher Walken is in one of these!
Rockin’ 90’s Soundtrack Includes: Ugly Kid Joe, Soundgarden, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Temple of the Dog, 4 None Blondes, Aerosmith, Dinosaur Jr.
Quote: “I say hurl. If you blow chunks and she comes back, she’s yours. But if you spew and she bolts, it was never meant to be.”
Title: PUMP UP THE VOLUME (1990)
Comments: As a result of inheriting the world they live in, the youth of the 90’s were angry and depressed and it’s an attitude that reflected itself in the music and films of that decade, for example, in Pump Up the Volume we meet ‘Hard Harry’ (Christian Slater) a hard hitting, no filters type of dj who runs an underground radio station where he tells things like they are! On Hard Harry’s show there’s no holding back, no censors, no lies, he is the angry voice of an angry generation. But nobody in school knows who he is! Where does he run the show from? Where is he located? Who knows, but some people would like to shut him up because he is criticizing everything and everyone! My favorite part of the film is when teenagers call in with their problems, and Harry’s trying to analyze them. What I love about this aspect of the film is the sincerity in the voice of these teens, the realism of the situations they complain about. Teenagers are often times completely ignored, so it’s cool to see a film where they are given a voice. This movie says teenagers have a lot to say, and they should be heard! Pump Up the Volume is a film where youth tells the old what is wrong with the world! What I enjoyed about this movie the most was Slater’s performance, the character of Hard Harry. He’s what you wish the media was really like. Hard Harry is truthful, honest and not interested in misdirecting the attention of the public, but actually giving importance and time to things that matter. In many ways he is the polar opposite of what we get in the media today, which is a bunch of bull. And this is yet another film of the 90’s with a rocking soundtrack that captures the times it was made in.
Rockin’ 90’s Sountrack Includes: Sonic Youth, The Pixies, Beasty Boys, Ice-T, Soundgarden, Concrete Blonde, Bad Brains
Quote: “Feeling screwed up at a screwed time in a screwed up place does not necessarily make you screwed up”
Title: ENCINO MAN (1992)
Comments: In Encino Man, Sean Astin plays a high school senior whose all anxious about pulling of a graduation party that everyone will remember, but mostly, he wants to pull off this party to impress the girl of his dreams. He’s plan is to have a pool in his backyard by the time graduation comes, so he can have a kickin’ pool party. So he starts digging. He’s so desperate he does it himself! One day, while digging in the mud, he uncovers a frozen caveman! Upon thawing him he realizes he has made an incredibly important discovery, but doesn’t want to tell anyone about it, so he keeps the caveman to himself. He and Stoney (his best friend played by Pauly Shore) decide to call him ‘Link’. They dress him up in 90’s fashion (which means all grungy) and they teach him 90’s lingo like calling girls “babes” and breasts “gozongas” and so forth. By the way, speaking about this films 90’s lingo, Pauly Shore practically created a language for his character, it’s quite entertaining. Encino Man was Pauly Shore’s short lived film career starting to take off, after this one he had a string of films each one made less money then the last. Well, at least he had his 15 minutes of fame. Ultimately, Encino Man’s a fish out of water story, they try and show the caveman how the modern world works, which includes taking him to a amusement parks, playing video games and hanging out at the mall. In many ways, the film has that same mentality seen in films like Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989) or television shows like Beavis and Butthead. You know, youngsters who grow up hanging out at the 7-eleven all day on a diet of ho-ho’s and slurpees. So if you’re interested in reliving that MTV 90’s generation thing (in my opinion when MTV was worth a damn and was at its peak) this films a good place to start.
Rocking 90’s Soundtrack Includes: Def Leppard, Right Said Fred, Crystal Waters, The Smithereens
Quote: “If you’re edged because I’m weazing on your grindage, just chill!”
Title: AIR HEADS (1994)
Comments: So is it just me, or was the 90’s generation a very musical one, a very rock and roll generation? Right now almost no one dresses up like a rocker trying to live that quintessential “rock and roll lifestyle”, but back in the 90’s? Rock and Roll was a way of life! You dressed like Rock and Roll, you had that Rock and Roll attitude! Nowadays kids have so many musical options with their I-pods that they don’t really adhere so much to one type of music. Not so in the 90’s! On Airheads we meet Chazz (Brendan Fraser) a dude who is dying to make it as a rock and roll legend! He wants’ to give his demo to some big time producers to see if they’ll bite. Unfortunately, he keeps getting rejected, so what’s Chazz and the rest of his band to do in order to garner some attention? Well hijack a radio station and force them to play their demo on the air of course! This is easier said than done; especially when the media gets a whiff of what’s going down, suddenly Chazz and the rest of his band become a media sensation! One of the best things this one has going for it is the amazing comedic cast, the best comedy films are those in which everybody involved is a good comedian, or at the very least understands comedy. Here we get the likes of Steve Buscemi, Brendan Fraser, Chris Farley, Adam Sandler, Michael McKean, Judd Nelson, Ernie Hudson, Michael Richards, David Arquette, Harold Ramis and Joe Mantegna to liven things up; I just love it when all these funny people come together in one film, the results are often times hilarious. So anyhow, this one has that ‘underdog wins’ type of scenario going for it. It all ends up on a big stage, with fireworks and amplifiers blasting away. You gotta respect this motley crew of musicians for risking it all in order to make it!
Rockin’ 90’s Soundtrack Includes: 4 Non Blondes, House of Pain, White Zombie, Anthrax, Candlebox, The Replacements, Primal Scream, Aerosmith, Primus
Quote: “Do you know what it’s like to be on the bill and to play for 15 minutes and the only people there to see you are their bands and their friends? Don’t talk to me about Rock and Roll! I’m out there on the clubs and on the streets and I’m living it!”
Title: EMPIRE RECORDS (1995)
Comments: Funny how two of the most 90’s films on this list where directed by the same guy! Director Allan Moyle directed both Pump Up the Volume and Empire Records. Empire Records works kind of like a John Hughes movie, but for the 90’s. John Hughes movies were always populated by a group of teens, each having to deal with their own dilemma, their own drama, I’m talking about films like Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club, the latter is the one that Empire Records resembles the most. True, the characters in Empire Records are not on detention like the kids from The Breakfast Club, but they do have to show up for work at a record store called Empire Records. And it kind of feels as if they were in detention because they can’t go anywhere, they gotta sell some records! This movie feels even more dated now that records stores are all but gone, I feel sad just typing that. Bummer. Thank you internet! So yeah, this movie takes place almost entirely inside of a Record Store, it reminds me of High Fidelity (2000) in that sense, a film that’s centered around a record store and the lives of its employees. On Empire Records, one employee has attempted and is contemplating committing suicide, one feels the pressures of having parents who want her to be successful, another is a thief paying for his crimes (which include stealing Whitney Houston albums!) another lives his life terribly aloof, another wants to be an artist and so on. By the end of the movie, they all join forces and prove that together they can achieve anything, even the impossible. Damn the man! Save the Empire!
Rockin’ 90’s Soundtrack Includes: The Cranberries, The Gin Blossoms, Cracker, Billy Idol, Dishwalla, Better Than Ezra, Toad the Wet Sprocket, Throwing Muses, GWAR, Sponge, The The, Suicidal Tendencies amongst others.
Quote: “Let me explain it to you, Mitchell’s the man, I’m the idiot, you’re the screw up and we’re all losers, welcome to music town.”
Title: OFFICE SPACE (1999)
Comments: This film, much like Fight Club also depicts the angry 90’s generation. It’s the kind of film where the blue collar worker gets angry for what his become. The guys in Office Space work in an office job they hate. Everyday is the same and these guys have just about had it. They hate their boss, they hate the photocopy machine and they hate their co-workers. There’s nothing left to do but go home, get drunk and high. The main character’s a guy named Peter Gibbons and his black hole of a life is sucking his will to go on. One of his co-workers suggests visiting a mystic who can supposedly suck these negative energies out of you. Turns out that Peter has so much pent up negative energy inside of him that the mystic ends up dying! After that event Peter feels like a new person, so he goes back to his job without a care, treating everyone, including his bosses, like crap. Then he plans a scheme to steal money from the company. What this movie does so well is capture that cubicle life style that so many people live; the boring, numbing sameness and then just makes complete fun of it. I mean, you’ll probably find an equivalent of all your co-workers on this movie, especially that hateful boss who asks you to come in and work extra hours on the weekend. Where it starts to gets funny is when the worker starts to lose it. For example when Peter’s boss tells him that they need to have a “little talk”, Peter tells him that he’s got no time to have “a little talk” that it will have to be some other time. Ha! Hilarious.
Hip-Hopin' 90’s Soundtrack Includes: Ice T, Scarface, Geto Boys
Quote: “The thing is Bob, it’s not that I’m lazy, it’s that I don’t care.”
Title: TANK GIRL (1995)
Comments: On this one we have Tank Girl (Lori Petty) trying to survive in a world dominated by a ruthless dictator who wants to control all the water supply in the world. Tank Girl forms a part of a gang of rebels that are trying to balance things out again for the world. Oh yeah, some of the rebels are half kangaroo, half humans! Now here’s a film that was in development hell for a long time, at one point even Steven Spielberg and James Cameron were interested in directing! Ultimately, it was Rachel Talalay (Freddys Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991)) who ended up directing; in a way, it is fitting that a woman ended up directing a film called Tank Girl. The film is extremely similar to George Orwell’s 1984 because it’s a film in which the government takes the rebel and tries to physically and psychologically make them pay for their rebellion. Unfortunately, Tank Girl and her sidekick Jet Girl have more than one trick up their sleeves, namely Tank Girl has her tank and Jet Girl has her Jet! Most amusing for me was seeing Naomi Watt’s playing Jet Girl. Watt’s has gone on to say that she’s ashamed of this movie, but if you ask me, she shouldn’t be. The film is a cult favorite, and it’s a well directed and produced film, it has cool make up effects, miniature work and lot’s of old school effects. Sure the film is not perfect (those animated scenes stink of an incomplete film) but it’s nothing to be ashamed of in my book. Lori Petty is pitch perfect as Tank Girl! She’s a cool character, her wardrobe is so grungy, a reflection of the styles of 90’s. To round things off, Ice-T plays one of the kangaroos, and Malcolm McDowell plays the dictator! This is a post-apocalyptic comedy, with a chick with an attitude as the lead character.
Rockin’ 90’s Soundtrack Includes: Bjork, Veruca Salt, Ice-T, Bush, Hole, Portis Head, Belly
Quote: “To the Bat-Tank!”
Title: THE CROW (1994)
Comments: Watching The Crow in theaters back in ’94 was a special experience for me. Here was a movie that I found perfect in every way and form, in my opinion, this film is perfect! Leading the good qualities of this movie was a knock out performance by Brandon Lee. One look at his performance and there’s no doubt that this would’ve been the film to send his career through the roof, sadly, he died while making the film. His legacy, his most memorable role, will forever be this amazing film. The film had that dark, dreadful atmosphere to it, there’s rarely a scene that doesn’t take place during the night. The film is shrouded in darkness for most of its running time. There’s just something really gothic that I love about the movie. Plus, there’s that soundtrack which by the way is composed of music that James O’Barr, the creator of The Crow would listen to as he was drawing the graphic novel. It’s so damn industrial, so serious, so sad, a fitting soundtrack for such a somber film. But of course, at the root of this revenge tale lies Eric Draven’s desire to reunite with the love of his life, so at least all the violence is for a good cause, it’s all for love. Once again, this is a film from the 90’s that truly exudes that Rock and Roll vibe. The main character in the film, Eric Draven, was a member of a rock band when he was alive, so when he returns, he dresses in black trench coats and carries his guitar around with him, like I said, very Rock and Roll.
Rockin’ 90’s Soundtrack Includes: Nine Inch Nails, Machines of Loving Grace, Stone Temple Pilots, The Cure, Violent Femmes, Rage Against the Machine, The Jesus and Mary Chain, My Life with the Thrill Kill Cult, Rollins Band, Helmet, Pantera
Quote: “I knew I knew you, I knew I knew you! But you aint you, you can’t be you! We put you through the window! There aint no coming back! We killed you dead, there aint no coming back!”
Title: FIGHT CLUB (1999)
Comments: A fitting film to end the 90’s. David Fincher’s Fight Club gathers all that angst, hatred, depression and dissatisfaction that the 90’s generation was so known for and wallows in it’s in pain. Chuck Palahniuk’s novel truly did gather all the frustrations of a generation and put them in one place, in one story for all to analyze. Here is a story about a guy who hates his redundant, empty life. He lives a lonely life in an apartment filled with things. But where’s the love, where’s what’s real? Where are the things that really make life worth living? I love how the film showcases all these frustrations to make us, the generation it’s reflecting, face them. You don’t want to work in a convenience store? Then go to freaking college! You wan’t to feel alive? Then change the status quo! Do something that will make you feel alive and breathing! In the film the main character finds passion for life by gathering in basements to kick the living daylights out of other dudes! Jack is so numb that it’s only through pain that he can feel truly alive! David Fincher directed a film that defined a generation, much like Mike Nichol’s The Graduate did back in the 60’s. Funny how both films represent youths that are dissatisfied with society the way it is. Both films take a look on society and spit on it. True, there’s no denying that Fight Club is one somber, psychotic affair but there’s no denying its truthfulness.
Rockin’ 90’s Soundtrack Includes: The Pixies’ ‘Where is my Mind?’
Quote: “I say never be complete, I say stop being perfect. I say let’s evolve, let the chips fall where they may. ”
DON'T FORGET TO COME BACK FOR PART II OF MY ARTICLE ON
QUINTESSENTIAL 90'S FILMS! IT'S GONNA BE AWESOME!
QUINTESSENTIAL 90'S FILMS! IT'S GONNA BE AWESOME!