10. Out of Sight (Steven Soderbergh)
Before Jennifer Lopez plagued pop culture with her mostly crappy music and mostly crappy movies, she was actually a promising actress, as evidenced by this film. Out of Sight is director Steven Soderbergh and screenwriter Scott Frank's wonderful adaptation of an Elmore Leonard novel (The 1990's were a great decade for Elmore Leonard adaptations). I would also consider this film as the start of the rise of George Clooney's film career after the debacle that was Batman & Robin. It's an excellent film: Twisty and darkly funny.
9. The Truman Show (Peter Weir)
With the glut of reality shows and people putting up videos of themselves in the internet these days, this film was quite prophetic. A man was adopted and raised and unknowingly put on television 24/7 where the entire world watches. Jim Carrey demonstrates that there's more to him than Ace Ventura and delivers a wonderful performance.
8. Ringu (Hideo Nakata)
I've already said my piece about this in my horror films blog so I'm gonna make this brief. This horror film kept me awake at night right after I saw it and helped spawn the glut of Asian ghost movies and American adaptations of Asian ghost movies.
7. The Big Lebowski (Joel Coen)
When this film was first released, it had a rather mixed reception from audience and critics, mostly due to the fact that the Coen Brothers were coming off their success with Fargo and delivering something that isn't Fargo. But time was kind to this film and it has since earned a strong cult following and is often considered one of the Coen Brothers' best films and rightfully so. It's a darkly wacky and hilarious tale of a bowling-loving slacker who just wants his rug replaced. It's a film which invites repeated viewings and rightfully so.
6. Happiness (Todd Solondz)
Speaking of repeated viewings, only a few people would ever want to do this with Happiness. Not because it is a bad film, but because of the themes and the content tackled within it. It's also a black comedy but one of the blackest comedies you will ever see. Pedophilia, phone sex, voyeurism are among the taboos broken by this film. Todd Solondz's filmography is made up of challenging, bizarre, dark films but this one, I feel, is his best.
5. Gods and Monsters (Bill Condon)
This is the film that chronicles the final days of filmmaker James Whale, director of such classic horror films as Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein. Ian McKellen of course brings to life a wonderful, colorful character which SHOULD have gotten him the Oscar. This is a must-see for any fan of the old classic films by its subject as well as people who are interested in a good picture.
4. Central Station (Walter Salles)
A lost young boy forms a friendship with a cynical old woman who makes her living writing letters for illiterate people to send to their relatives near the train station as she tries to reunite him with his father. It's a sweet, emotional film but never treacly and overly manipulative as most Hollywood version of this story would try to do. Fernanda Montenegro earned a Best Actress Oscar nomination as the old woman and should have won. This is probably the first Brazilian film I have seen and I have seen several since.
3. Eternity and a Day (Theo Angelopolous)
I've featured a big scene of this film on my The Great Scenes posts, I strongly suggest you check that out. For those of you not in the know, this is about a dying man who is haunted by memories of his already deceased wife while he forms a friendship with young refugee boy who drifts in and out of his life at certain points (What is with these old people/young kid friendship movies?). Despite winning the Palme d'Or at Cannes, it's a fairly underrated film which should be seen more. Director Theo Angelopolous recently passed away so there's no time like now.
2. The Thin Red Line (Terrence Malick)
I would like to start by saying #1 and #2 films on this list are virtual ties. These two films represent the two best films of 1998 for me. At a very close #2 was Terrence Malick's first film in 20 years. It's a war film and an adaptation of a novel by James Jones and it came at the heels of another World War II film, Steven Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan. I liked Saving Private Ryan more than The Thin Red Line when I first saw them but I have since rewatched them and my opinion on the former has diminished considerably while my opinion on the latter has increased almost exponentially. This is a beautiful meditative war film that juxtaposes the beauty of nature with the savagery of war but that's just one reading of it. Like many Malick films, this one needs pages and pages of critical analysis. You may hate it but you can't deny that it's something.
1. Rushmore (Wes Anderson)
This is yet another cliched choice to be sure, but goshdarnit, it's such a great, great film and single-handedly made me a fan of director Wes Anderson. An underachieving, obnoxious high school student falls in love with a teacher and ultimately gets into love triangle with his "mentor" (played by the outstanding Bill Murray). It's kind of frightening to think I can actually relate to the title character (Hell, we even look a little alike).
Runners-Up: There's Something About Mary (Peter Farrelly/Bobby Farrelly); A Bug's Life (John Lasseter/Andrew Stanton); Shakespeare in Love (John Madden); Pleasantville (Gary Ross); Life is Beautiful (Roberto Benigni).