6. Twister (1996, Jan de Bont)
Jan de Bont’s weather disaster film Twister roared its way through movie theaters in the summer of 1996, essentially redefining what a blockbuster movie experience “could” and “should” be. With Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment producing, Jurassic Park author Michael Chichton penning the screenplay, and money bags sent in from both Warner Bros. Pictures and Universal Pictures, Twister was a “supergroup” effort of massive proportions. What’s more, it delivered the summer goods, offering up a potent audio/visual thrill ride.
While de Bont nearly committed career suicide the following year with Speed 2: Cruise Control, he is absolved because Twister is just that good. Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt share a unique chemistry, effortlessly convincing us of their supposed rocky past. Twister is one of those blockbuster films where everything comes together to form true movie magic, and that is a rare thing. Here’s hoping the rumored sequel gains traction soon.
Fun Fact: During one of the first severe weather tornadic encounters, the sound department mixed in an actual lion “roar” to give the tornado a more intimidating presence… Not that a tornado needs help to be more scary, but there’s no doubt this inclusion amplified the tension.
7. The Mummy (1999, Stephen Sommers)
Before director Stephen Sommers embarrassed himself, and everyone involved with Van Helsing, he rebooted what is still considered to be the best reimagining of Universal’s classic monsters. The Mummy was a hit, and deservedly so. CGI had grown from its pioneering days of trial and error, and was now a reliable tool. Utilizing the talents at Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), Sommers could see the future of what computing power could achieve. Yet, taking a page out of James Cameron’s playbook, he proceeded to combine a myriad of effects to create the titular villain. live-action acting, prosthetics, and digital imagery all came together to make movie magic.
Additionally, The Mummy had a fantastic cast. This is when Brenden Frasier was nearing his peak fame, and his portrayal of charismatic scoundrel Rick O’Connell fit him like a glove. A young, fresh faced Rachel Weisz graces the film with her presence, as does the steely eyed Arnold Vosloo as Imhotep. There hasn’t been a film since (especially not the 2017 Tom Cruise flop) that has been able to capture the same zany, adventurous spirit of what Sommers and company managed to pull off.
8. The Crow (1994, Alex Proyas)
So, here’s the deal. Dark City is probably the “better” film between it and The Crow, but is it as fun, and rewatchable? No. James O’Barr’s graphic novel adaptation, The Crow, is dark, but not in the same kind of bleak, downer way that ‘City’ is. The film has a spirited flare, and houses some memorable, larger than life characters. Take “Top Dollar,” for example. Michael Wincott’s gravelly voice and charismatic presence is alluring to watch. Earnie Hudson’s portrayal of a local cop with a heart of gold, grounds the film with some moral fiber. And what about that bangin’ soundtrack? Rock heavyweights such as Stone Temple Pilots, Nine Inch Nails, and Rollins Band are but a small handful of what the soundtrack has to offer.
A big part of the film’s aesthetic is directly influenced by the alternative music scene at the time. So, a lot of leather, cages, characters dressed like they’re about to go to an industrial music nightclub. And not to forget, Graeme Revell’s string-heavy score is sonically moving and dynamic. Tribal percussion is also used throughout, appropriately feeding off the mysticism and supernatural tone of the story. Despite Brandon Lee’s untimely death during production, The Crow would go on to garner cult acclaim that it still enjoys today.
9. Donnie Darko (2001, Richard Kelly)
What is there to say about Donnie Darko that hasn’t already been said? Well, we could start with facing the fact that Kelly hasn’t made a decent film since. Donnie Darko really is a one-hit wonder, as Kelly’s follow-up Southland Tales was a big-budgeted flop, failing commercially and critically. Don’t even get us started on the atrocity that is 2009’s The Box. But even though Kelly’s career took a steep nosedive, ‘Darko,’ which was once a cult classic, has graduated to simply being a classic.
Take your pick of why the film will stand the test of time. Is it the clever satirical edge? Maybe it’s the deep, poignant philosophical implications. Or could it be the brilliance of Gyllenhaal’s haunting performance? It’s all of these things and more. Kelly may never make a good film again, but as long as we have Donnie Darko, that’s more than ok.
10. The Sixth Sense (1999, M. Night Shyamalan)
Another 1999 release (God, that year was good for film) M. Night Shyamalan’s paranormal hit The Sixth Sense remains his best film to date. It’s a true wonder why, and how he fell so far from cinematic grace, because the types of things going on in this film are brilliant. Haley Joel Osment turns in a near perfect performance, setting the example for what child actors can achieve performatively. The fear in his eyes is palpable, and acts as a great marriage to the film’s many creepy moments.
Arguably the most disturbing scene is when Cole (Osment) is drawn into the deceased girl’s room, to find the tape. Atmospherically, this room is terrifying, and not because of any jump scare. Instead, Shyamalan employs the power of color and lighting to sell the effect. The entire room is draped in a cold, still, blue hue, contributing to the paranormal eeriness the film has become synonymous with. When a hand reaches out from beneath the bed, pulling Cole down, the shot reveals a pale, sick girl, with swollen black circles around her eyes.
Shyamalan took a very Hitchcockian approach with ‘Six,’ and while some may find it pretentious, the amount of symbolism and hidden meanings is undisputedly the work of an auteur. It’s a shame that his career would prove turbulent in later years, failing to even get close to the lasting relevance of what ‘Six’ earned. Fortunately, the hit film is just as scary today as it was upon release.