It’s hard to believe 1994 was 25 years ago! Having been a 90s kid many of my favorite films were released during that decade as 1994 did, indeed offer some truly mesmerizing and groundbreaking features that have stood the test of time. It was a year when Disney released one of its most iconic animated films ever, Jim Carrey broke into superstardom with three iconic comedies, Quentin Tarantino released one of his most beloved films that earned him an Oscar, a man named Gump took us on a journey through American history and Andy Dufresne found his redemption. As a new year begins I wanted to look back at those silver anniversary films that continue to entertain and amaze us even 25 years after their release. These are my picks for the Top 10 Films Turning 25 in 2019.
For this list I basically looked at all the theatrically released movies from 25 years ago in 1994 and picked out ten that I felt have left the biggest legacies and impact since their debut. For some of these films they may have aged like a fine wine despite being underappreciated in their time. For others they made an immediate impact and became an unquestionable part of the cinema zeitgeist of the 90s. Even still some have earned cult followings that have kept them relevant even when many thought they would have been long forgotten.
This list is a celebration of some of the most iconic 90s treasures in one of the best years of film in the last 30 years. They have become personal favorites of mine, but I want to hear from you. What is your favorite film celebrating its 25th anniversary? Let me know in the comments below! Here we go!
10. “The Crow”
As infamous as it is beloved, “The Crow” was a minor box office success in 1994 continuing the darker, grittier comic book adaptations that started with 1989’s “Batman”. Well-received by critics and today considered among the best comic book adaptations in many circles “The Crow” brought its titular hero to life in epic fashion capturing the macabre and dark nature of its source material with conviction. However it’s possibly more famous for the death of its lead actor, Brandon Lee, who passed away after an incident with a prop gun during production. “The Crow” has remained a legendary cult classic and has maintain iconic status as a 90s must-see both for its quality and out of respect for its star. Over the years a few sequels and a television series have tried to continue “The Crow’s” story and a reboot is even reportedly in the works, but it’s doubtful anything will ever match the popularity or legacy of this 1994 sleeper hit.
9. “Four Weddings and a Funeral”
While not many people probably think of this film first over any other movie from 1994, “Four Weddings and A Funeral” made its mark as one of the biggest hits of that year grossing over $245.7 million worldwide. It dominated the British Film Awards and won Hugh Grant a Golden Globe making him a household name and essentially jump-starting his international career. Considered one of the greatest British films ever and becoming the highest grossing British film of all time upon its completed run “Four Weddings and a Funeral” sports a strong legacy as not only a surprise and unexpected box office sensation but an iconic piece of British cinema. Respect for the film has led to a planned reunion as the surviving cast, director Mike Newell and screenwriter Richard Curtis will come together this March for a UK airing of a Comic Relief short called “One Red Nose Day and a Wedding” to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the film.
8. “True Lies”
The third highest grossing film worldwide of 1994, “True Lies” continued James Cameron’s rise into cinema superstardom after hits like “Terminator”, “Terminator 2”, “Aliens” and “The Abyss” made him a household name as a director. “True Lies” became an instant classic eventually earning numerous Saturn nominations and a Golden Globe for Jamie Lee Curtis as well as helping solidify Arnold Swarzenegger’s staying power in the 90s. It has since remained one of the most notable hits for nearly everyone involved while the visual effects, although dated today, were considered somewhat revolutionary for the action genre at the time. Eventually “True Lies” was even considered for a sequel which was canned after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. However, the idea of a sequel did become the subject of the 2005 comedy “The Kid & I” and “True Lies” itself is still an action must watch for any genre fan.
Speaking of action, the 90s was a great time for the genre and few films defined the era like “Speed”. As the fifth highest grossing film of the year, earning nearly $350.5 million globally, “Speed” was a smash hit and a true blockbuster. It served as the directorial debut for Jan de Bont, a celebrated photography director from hits like “Die Hard” and “The Hunt for Red October”, while also continuing Keanu Reeves’ and Sandra Bullock’s rise to stardom in the late 80s and early 90s. The bridge jump scene alone has become a staple of 90s pop culture, even being debunked in an episode of “Mythbusters”, while the villain, Howard Payne, is celebrated as one of the best to come out of the decade. Empire eventually named “Speed” one of their 500 greatest movies of all time further solidifying its lasting legacy. If nothing else it’s infinitely more memorable than its sequel, “Speed 2: Cruise Control”, which is considered one of the worst sequels in history.
6. “Dumb and Dumber”
The year 1994 was a HUGE year for Jim Carrey. Despite having numerous roles earlier in his career, this was the year where he became a true superstar as he led three massive hits all of which could have made this list. The first was “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective” and the second was “The Mask” which earned him a Golden Globe nod. However it’s the third film that has become an even more legendary comedy masterpiece and cult classic. “Dumb and Dumber” features Carrey and Jeff Daniels as now iconic friends Harry and Lloyd who are, well, dumb leading to hilarious moments that today are staples in the comedy genre. Who could forget “so you’re saying there’s a chance” or “the most annoying sound in the world”? It became one of 1994’s biggest hits, earning $247 million worldwide and has since earned a sequel in 2014 and a place on many best comedies of all time lists as well as Empire’s list of the 500 greatest movies ever.
While it certainly wasn’t the biggest hit of 1994, “Clerks” is one of if not THE most definitive cult classic of the 90s helping launch the career of writer, director and producer Kevin Smith. The first in a series of film by Smith called the View Askewniverse, “Clerks” was a minor hit made on a scant budget of $27,575 and earning over $3 million in return. It has gone on to be considered one of the best and most legendary independent films ever and inspired filmmakers to explore smaller projects in an attempt to establish themselves through independent work. Another entry on this list that made Empire’s greatest films countdown, it’s also considered one of the best comedies of all time. Celebrated even today for its realism and raw presentation, “Clerks’” cult following continues to make it an inspiration for aspiring filmmakers eventually resulting in a direct sequel in 2006 and continued talks of a third film.
4. “Pulp Fiction”
While “Reservoir Dogs” put Quentin Tarantino on the map it was 1994’s “Pulp Fiction” that turned the director into an unquestionable filmmaking superstar. Presenting a nonlinear narrative filled with memorable characters and one-liners still referenced today, “Pulp Fiction” remains one of the Tarantino’s most iconic pictures if not his absolute most iconic. Nominated for a Best Picture Oscar and winning Tarantino a Best Original Screenplay statuette, “Pulp Fiction” eventually became a primary example of the postmodern film by subverting expectations and clichés of the time to present a one-of-a-kind experience for its era. It has earned preservation in the National Film Registry and continues to make numerous “best of all time” lists for the medium. Today “Pulp Fiction” continues to be an influential piece of cinematic art and while many filmmakers try to replicate it noone can ever quite match up to this feature’s tremendous legacy.
3. “Forrest Gump”
Love it or hate it there’s no denying the legacy of this Best Picture winner that earned director Robert Zemeckis and star Tom Hanks Oscars of their own. The second highest grossing film of 1994, “Forrest Gump” is the story of the “slow-witting” titular character who experiences and/or influences historical events and people throughout American history. Enshrined in the National Film Registry in 2011, “Forrest Gump” has also been celebrated on many “best of” lists including being represented on numerous countdowns from the American Film Institute and on Empire’s greatest films of all time list. Beyond its critical praise “Forrest Gump” has stood as one of the most referenced and parodied pictures to come out of the 90s with iconic lines like “life is like a box of chocolates”, “stupid is as stupid does”, and “run Forrest, run” now ingrained in pop culture forever. It even led to the creation of a physical franchise in the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company that is now a worldwide franchise. Some may find it to be overrated, but regardless of whether you like it or not the fact that we still discuss it makes it that much more fascinating.
2. “The Shawshank Redemption”
A classic example of getting better with age, “The Shawshank Redemption” is a Stephen King adaptation that tells the story of Andy Dufresne and his time in Shawshank State Penitentiary as well as his budding friendship with fellow prisoner Red. Despite being nominated for numerous Academy Awards “The Shawshank Redemption” was actually overlooked in 1994. It only earned $16 million in its initial run, becoming a flop, but in 1995 people slowly began to respect it. The film was rereleased in theaters, eventually doubling its production budget, and became one of the top rented films of 1995. Eventually this evolved into a new legacy where many argued that it got robbed of Best Picture in favor of “Forrest Gump” and its characters, dialogue and moments all became iconic in pop culture. Today it is part of the National Film Registry, it’s considered one of the greatest films of the 90s, to some it’s seen as one of the greatest of all time and, perhaps its biggest bragging right, it’s cited by many in Hollywood as one of the most influential and respected films to come out of the 90s.
1. “The Lion King”
The top grossing film of 1994, a Golden Globe winner and considered to be one of the greatest animated pictures ever made, “The Lion King” has the biggest legacy of any movie released in 1994. It’s many iconic moments, from its epic opening to its pulse-pounding finale, and its unforgettable soundtrack and characters have helped “The Lion King” become a cinema staple and it remains as relevant today as it was 25 years ago. Over time its popularity led to sequels, television spinoffs, merchandise, a 3-D rerelease, parodies, homages, a popular Broadway stage adaptation and even a much-discussed controversy concerning its similarities to the Anime series “Kimba the White Lion”. It was enshrined in the National Film Registry in 2016 and today is still one of Disney’s most iconic animated films. With such a powerful legacy behind it and an undying fan base that still turns to it as a primary source of nostalgia and entertainment it’s no wonder the film is receiving the live action remake treatment this summer.