Too much tertiary education... Former performer/wrestler, teacher, scientist; Published author & Father... Want to be a writer if I grow up...
Published November 11th 2020
1990 - a great year for pop culture
Another reader request! Following on from my films of 1980 column, a Twitterite mentioned that I also brought up several films in my columns from 1990, thirty years ago. A quick look, and… yes. Yes, I have. This person was apparently born in 1990 (happy 30th!) and so, being another nice round number, I decided why not?
Now, looking through my own movie collection and lists of movies, it seems that 1990 was the year of the sequel. So many sequels! Also… So many films that were not crying out for sequels! As such… okay, one made my list here. In 1990, I was at university, and we saw a few films as a group, and it was more likely that films would come out on video (yes, video!) a lot faster than they had only five years earlier. I got into the not very good study habit of watching videos while doing homework, so I saw a lot of stuff in 1989/1990. I broke the habit in 1991, fortunately.
Anyway, there were quite a few good films released in 1990. Now, some of these are going to be the usual suspects, the films that appear on every list, while others are probably more a personal taste thing. But, in general, the critically lauded films are actually really good from back then. Now, two rules – no documentaries, no short films. I would say no animated films but not one cartoon from 1990 ever stood out to me in any way, shape or form, even when my own kids were the age to watch animated films.
So, to start, five honourable mentions: Hardware, the Richard Stanley directed sci-fi classic, done on a shoestring budget and atmospheric and… really, really strange; The Krays, the story of the infamous London crime twins, played by the Kemp twins from the band Spandau Ballet; surprisingly good film; Nuns On The Run, crime caper comedy starring Robbie Coltrane and Eric Idle is fine, but did not elicit as many laughs as I was expecting; A Nymphoid Barbarian in Dinosaur Hell… don't judge! Troma films at their trashy finest, and a film that's entire plot is encapsulated in its glorious title; White Hunter, Black Heart, based on the true story of John Huston in Africa, it is a fictionalised account, but none the less powerful for that; starring and directed by Clint Eastwood.
And that brings us to the top ten.
Directed by Robert Clouse Starring Cynthia Rothrock & Richard Norton Okay, this is very much a personal taste thing to start with, but I saw this at the cinema and it was so incredible to see a female in the lead role in a martial arts film and do it believably. She looked like she could not only kick arse but do with ease. The story is slight – protect a town from bad guys – but the action is incredible.
Death In Brunswick
Directed by John Ruane Starring Sam Neill, Zoe Carides & John Clarke Australian comedy – and one of the better ones, to boot – about a man who meets a beautiful girl, kills a co-worker and then tries to get rid of the body. It is silly but it is actually genuinely funny and the characters are likable and you really care what happens to them. Time seems to have passed this one by, which is a shame, as it is a fine movie.
Die Hard 2
Directed by Renny Harlin
Starring Bruce Willis Die Hard… on a plane! Seriously. That's it. The beats from the first film are all there and the bad guys lack an Alan Rickman… but this is still a really fun film. Lots of gunplay, explosions, and featuring John McClane in full-on quipping mode. Bruce Willis makes this film work. And, yes, it works. Such an awesome film.
Directed by Joel Schumacher
Starring Kiefer Sutherland, Kevin Bacon & Julia Roberts
One of Schumacher's best movies, this film about a bunch of medical students who come back from the dead is genuinely scary with surprisingly good acting and a dark mood. The ending is a little too happy, sure, but the film is a strong one. I saw it at the cinema and it freaked me out there, in the dark.
Directed by Jerry Zucker
Starring Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore & Whoopi Goldberg
Yes, a paranormal romance story, but one of the very best ever made, and the chemistry between Swayze and Moore is amazing. Goldberg as the medium who helps them re-connect is also really good. And the ending is amazing. But it is the acting the brings this above the mundane. And what a soundtrack! "Ditto…" indeed.
Directed by Martin Scorsese
Starring Robert De Niro, Ray Liotta & Joe Pesci
After Casino, this is my favourite organised crime film (yes, I prefer them over the Godfather films). And, again, it is the acting that makes it. The blood and violence is well done, the music chosen is awesome, but the acting is amazing. And it even has a sort of happy ending!
Hard to Kill
Directed by Bruce Malmuth
Starring Steven Seagal & Kelly LeBrock
Yes! I know! This is one of only two Seagal films I really like (the other is Under Siege, and I do find some others okay), but in this one the martial arts is front and centre, and Kelly LeBrock supplies the acting. Thin in plot (surprise!), but it looks great and it is really non-stop action, especially the last forty minutes. Look, I can't help it – I really like this one.
The Hunt For Red October
Directed by John McTiernan
Starring Sean Connery & Alec Baldwin
Great film from all involved. Without needing lots of gun-play, this is a tense actioner that relies completely on the performances of the acting ensemble, led by Connery and Baldwin. One of the few films where I prefer it over the book (though the book is fine, don't get me wrong). Again, another film made by the acting.
Directed by Rob Reiner
Starring James Caan & Kathy Bates Based on the Stephen King book, and one of the very best adaptations of one of his works(my personal favourite), this is a tour de force of acting by Caan and Bates. They bring the characters to life and it is so well done. Genuinely creepy and that hobbling scene… it still gets me.
Directed by Paul Verhoeven
Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger
Slightly silly in delivery, this is actually a really deep film with levels and an ambiguous ending (is it his recall dream or reality?). The special effects are surprisingly good, and even the acting is not too shabby. This is an intriguing science fiction film and well worth catching even today. And the less said about the appalling remake, the better.
1990 was an interesting year for films. As you can see, as far as I'm concerned, the films were either made by outstanding acting performances or crazy, over-the-top action. I enjoyed a lot of films from 1990, but, in truth, some incredible films were made this year. This is not just a list of films that I like personally, but there are many films here that are really good according to other viewers and even critics.
I would recommend all of these films to anyone. There is probably at least one thing here for most people. I hope you enjoy them.