Was 1999 The Greatest Year For Movies Ever?
The year is 1999 and I am 16 years old.
“American Beauty,” “Being John Malkovich,” “The Blair Witch Project,” “The Boondock Saints,” “Eyes Wide Shut,” “Fight Club,” “The Green Mile,” “The Hurricane,” “Man on The Moon,” “The Matrix,” “Office Space,” “The Sixth Sense,” “Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace,” “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” and “Toy Story 2.”
What you have before you is, (in my humble opinion,) a list of some of the most influential and talked-about movies of modern time… and all of them released in the same year! I came across a very intriguing article that argued how the year 1999 opened Pandora’s Box with every facet of filmmaking. From digital effects, animation, original and adapted stories, cinematography, and even acting; no creative stone was left unturned.
This was the year that truly paved the way for independent filmmakers that blew the roof off the idea that only experienced filmmakers were capable of making truly amazing pieces of cinematic art for the mainstream. The Matrix, Fight Club, and American Beauty were all independent projects, and in some cases, the first feature films for their respected directors.
I’m gonna go down the line and tell you very briefly why I think each of these films is still so relevant today and how they’ve influenced filmmaking ever since.
“American Beauty”- The quintessential mid-life crisis film takes a very intimate look at suburban life from a very distorted yet familiar lens. Kevin Spacey’s Oscar-winning performance cemented his status as one of Hollywood’s most talented actors. 15 years later, he continues to blow us away with each and every one of his performances.
“The Blair Witch Project”- Directed by Eduardo Sanchez and Daniel Myrick, this fake documentary about University of Florida students who get lost in the Maryland woods shot for a mere $25K earned nearly $250 Million at the box office and invigorated a new generation for horror and films overall done on the super cheap. Not since “Clerks” has something shot for so cheap and been so socially relevant and economically successful. A crappy sequel (with a much larger budget) was made, but I believe that the original paved the way for the Saw and Paranormal Activity franchises.
“The Boondock Saints”- A “Robin Hood” meets “Goodfellas” meets “Se7en.” Written and directed by Troy Duffy, this was his first and only film since the long-overdue Bonndocks sequel that came out in 2009. The characters of highly devout Catholic assassins (Reedus and Flannery) being hunted by a genius, homosexual detective (Willem Dafoe) is the perfect juxtaposition from every conventional and non-conventional sense. This is a bloody action film shows just how important loyalty within family is… regardless of how dysfunctional.
“Eyes Wide Shut”- Stanley Kubrick’s final film-and I do mean final. He died only days after completing production, but boy did he go out with a bang? (Pun definitely intended.) This nearly 3-hour erotic drama certainly put the ratings board and censor lawyers to work going absolutely as far as you can go and still avoid an NC-17 rating.
“Fight Club”- This is the movie that every student filmmaker dreams of making. There’s no other way to describe it in the sense. Directed by David Fincher this complete mind-bending masterpiece of a movie still has dedicated superfans speculating, arguing, and dreaming of dozens of secret meanings, alternate interpretations, and completely crazy theories of this Chuck Palahniuk novel adaptation. This movie really opened my ideas to the notion of reading more books, especially when movies are adapted from said books. Later on, I would learn just how different film adaptations have to be from the original source material for various reasons.
“The Green Mile”- We lost Michael Clarke Duncan way too soon. This Steven King novel adaptation was written and directed by veteran writer/director Frank Darabont. Darabont already had previous experience and success with Steven King adaptations as he also wrote and directed “The Shawshank Redemption,” which is number 72 on the IFA top 100 list. Beautifully shot and stacked with some of the greatest character actors of our time all in one epic movie, this will leave you with tears of sadness and terrified all at the same time.
“The Hurricane”- A biopic of falsely imprisoned boxing great, Rubin “Hurricane” Carter. Denzel Washington got an Oscar nomination portraying the role with dramatic and physical perfection. The movie spans several decades as it shows Carter’s life as a boxing great and then his unshakable spirit and determination to be freed from prison after falsely being convicted of a triple murder. The movie is based on a book that Carter himself wrote. The real Rubin “Hurricane” Carter died on April 20, 2014 at the age of 76.
“Man On The Moon”- Another biopic; this time about 70’s comedic genius Andy Kaufman. Jim Carrey won a Golden Globe for portraying him and then it was very publicly known that he had difficulty letting the character go. It was said by cast and crew on set that Carrey was a better Andy Kaufman than Andy Kaufman. Carrey went into a spiraling depression and nearly died. I’m not kidding. Since then, Jim Carrey has completely turned his life around for the better. A very dramatic movie about a very funny man that deserves your viewing.
“The Matrix”- Without question the most visually stunning movie of the year and possibly the decade. Winner of four Oscars, and created entirely by Larry (Lana) and Andy Wachowski, “The Matrix” brought forth a fleshing out of a comic book unlike anything anyone had ever seen. What we all now know as the “bullet-time effect” was invented for this movie. Though its two sequels didn’t hold up to the grandeur of the original, The Matrix stands alone strongly as one of the most successful science-fiction/martial arts/anime films of all time.
“Office Space”- Easily the funniest film on the list. Before Jud Apatow graced us with his corporate America comedic genius, there was this movie. Written and directed by Mike Judge, (“King of the Hill,” “Beavis & Butthead”) this tells the story of three overworked and under-appreciated office employees who decide to finally take matters into their own hands against their boss and the company they work for.
“The Sixth Sense” A horror masterpiece if there ever was one. Written, directed, and cameo made by newcomer M. Night Shyamalan, this film received 6 Oscar nominations for a variety of categories both on the technical and on the artistic side. Sadly, every film since for M. Night has been a steep decline according to critics and moviegoers. You can easily see the Hitchcock influence in “The Sixth Sense,” which also includes one of the greatest twists in cinematic history. Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last 15 years, you probably know what it is, but just in case you don’t know (of better yet, if you haven’t seen it,) watch it right now.
“Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace”- Maybe in hindsight, the movie wasn’t that great according to die-hard fans of the original trilogy, but it did introduce a new generation to the Star Wars universe that has since resulted in one of the most profitable movie franchises of all time. This was the beginning of the origin story of Anakin Skywalker (who would eventually grows up to be Darth Vader by Episode 3.) With Episode 7 opening in December 2015 with undying and ever-expanding fans analyzing every frame, this franchise is not going away anytime soon. Or anywhere for that matter… no matter how far, far away that galaxy may be.
“The Talented Mr. Ripley”- Before Matt Damon was kicking ass as Jason Bourne, he was weirding us out as the awkward and terrifying Mr. Ripley. Nominated for 5 Oscars, this film shows the very convoluted side of romantic triangles and just how weird things could really get. Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow provide stellar performances to this dramatic film.
“Toy Story 2”- The sequel to the surprise masterpiece from this little-known company at the time called Pixar. “Toy Story 2” is the story of Woody being stolen only to be taken to a toy museum for preservation and achieve immortality from behind glass. I feel that with every Toy Story they seem to up the drama every time from the predecessor. “Toy Story 3” is the saddest animated movies. Period. But like all of the films, the second chapter tackles very adult themes in the guise of adorable characters, intelligent humor, and taking place in an animated world. Don’t be fooled by this. Watch this again as an adult and you’ll see it in a whole new light.
Obviously these aren’t all the movies that released in 1999, but they are-in my opinion-the best ones. Which of these have you seen? Which was your favorite?