With movies like “Pulp Fiction” and “Schindler’s List”, the 90s were a great time for those who appreciate good movies. Many even consider the 90s to be the third golden age of cinema, with directors like Quentin Tarantino and Kevin Smith entering the scene and reinventing movies in a whole new light. It was also a time when experienced directors like Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese put out some of their best work.
Like any other decade, especially in the modern era, there always seems to be a group of movies that fall into the cracks and don’t get the recognition they deserve. Here is a list of those movies from the 90s that don’t seem get the recognition they deserve.
1. Flesh and Bone (1993)
“Flesh and Bone” is a largely forgotten movie from the 90s that starred Dennis Quaid, Meg Ryan, and James Caan. Quaid plays an adult who, as a child, witnesses his father murder an entire family except for the baby. He unknowingly starts a romance 30 years after the incident with the grown-up child, played by Ryan. His father, played by Caan, later shows up, opening up old wounds and buried feelings.
This movie is a character study of damaged people and is a bit slow at times, which may be the reason it doesn’t get mentioned more often. However, it is worth watching for some fine performances from its three leads, and the tension does ratchet up significantly when Caan enters the picture. It does also boast a very good early performance from Gwyneth Paltrow as a seductress who would literally steal the rings off a corpse.
2. The Boxer (1997)
“The Boxer” stars Daniel Day Lewis as a former member of the IRA who, after serving 14 years in prison, tries to rebuild his life and find redemption through boxing.
It is a very compelling movie from beginning to end about a man who just wants to leave his past behind, and try and make the most out of his newfound freedom and the love he has for a former girlfriend. Unfortunately, things don’t go as planned and as always, the past must always be dealt with in order to move forward.
Day Lewis’s performance is another showcase of why he is one of the greatest living actors. It is easy to see why this movie might get overlooked given his large body of excellent work and the small scale of this movie, but the movie does have its virtues, even on its small scale.
It has a compelling story with fine supporting work from Emily Watson, which creates a layered movie that is never boring to watch. Their love story takes center stage, making sure the politics that are inherent in this type of movie don’t overwhelm the viewer.
3. A Civil Action (1998)
John Travolta stars in “A Civil Action” as a lawyer at a small firm who takes on an environmental case and soon finds out he is in over his head. Based on a true story, this movie, which is unlike other courtroom drama, is always compelling and boasts some of the best acting of the 90s. It has a long list of supporting actors who give one fine performance after another to create a layered movie that holds up to repeated viewings.
Robert Duvall, William H. Macy, John Lithgow, Tony Shalhoub, and James Gandolfini are just a few of the actors who show up in the movie. The script never lingers too long and the direction keeps a tight handle on the courtroom scenes, never letting them bog down into overly long courtroom procedures.
At the center of the movie, Travolta shows us what happens when he gets a script that isn’t dependent on him selling the movie. It is a credit to him that he is never upstaged by Duvall in his Oscar nominated performance; their interactions are easily the highlight of the movie.
Duvall seems to be in his element here and it is a joy to watch a living legend at work; he is engaging throughout without upstaging the other actors. Even though this movie is shown from time to time, it tends to be forgotten among Travolta’s 90s performances, who at the time, was going through a career resurgence.
4. Pushing Tin (1999)
“Pushing Tin” stars John Cusack as a cocky air traffic controller who gets into a feud with a new air traffic controller played by Billy Bob Thornton, who threatens his position at the top. The always entertaining Cate Blanchett stars as Cusack’s wife, and in an early quirky role, Angelina Jolie stars as Thornton’s wife.
From beginning to end, this movie is always funny and never takes itself seriously with all the lead actors effortlessly playing off each other. Adding to the humor is a group of quirky supporting characters that make you hope this is not an honest view of who controls the skies.
Cusack is one of those actors who seems to play the same manic person in every movie, but his character seems to be written for him and he anchors the movie nicely. Thornton and Jolie give their characters the right amount of weirdness without crossing the line into creepy, and Blanchett, as always, gives another fine performance.
One of the best scenes in the movie is where she is in a plane landing with her husband as the air traffic controller. This an adult comedy perfect for those who are sick of the “Hangover” comedies we seem to be inundated with today.
5. Romeo Is Bleeding (1993)
Gary Oldman has been one of the most productive actors of the last 30 plus years, putting in one great supporting performance after another, but rarely does he get a lead role. “Romeo Is Bleeding” is a fine example of what he is capable of doing when he is given the lead. He plays a corrupt police detective on the downswing who bites off more than he can chew when he gets involved with Russian hit woman played by Lena Olin.
It has a fun script that keeps it from going over the top, and an underlying humor that plays like a Coen brothers movie. One could argue that they are ripping off the Coen brothers, but after watching the movie, you’ll be willing to forgive them for any borrowing they may have done.
Oldman is the center of the movie, and you cannot imagine anyone else playing the part; he is never boring and is able show emotion without uttering a word. But what makes him unique is that he is willing to step aside and let other actors steal scenes from him. Olin does this several times and almost steals the entire movie from his grasp. Her character doesn’t hide her evil and with a Joker-esque smile, she screams to stay away.
She is also sultry, sexy, and smart, like a medusa – once you lay eyes on her, she owns you. She has no problem getting her way with Oldman and he is willing to sacrifice what little he has left for her. This is a fun movie from beginning to end, and worth catching when they do show it.