Remembering 1998: The Biggest Movies That Turn 20 This Year
By GameSpot Staff on
1998 was an unbelievably great year for film. No matter what you were into, something you could fall in love with hit theaters 20 years ago--from noir sci-fi and goofy action, stoner comedies and Coen Brothers sleeper hits, cult classics and blockbusters, to Disney princesses for the modern era and some of the greatest war movies of all time.
Join us as we pay tribute to the best, most memorable, and weirdest movies of 1998. Some hold up better than others, while the best of them are just as good today as they were 20 years ago. One and all, they're worth remembering.
What movies do you remember best from 1998? Let us know in the comments below.
1. Half Baked (January 16, 1998)
By Mat Elfring
Half Baked is the classic tale of Kenny Davis (Harland Williams), who is convicted for the accidental murder of a horsecop. His friends need to raise money to get him out on bail before a nasty prisoner by the name of Nate beats his spirit to a pulp. Kenny's friends find the only way to raise money is by selling medical-grade marijuana. Along the way, they all find the true meaning of life is friendship. How was this not nominated for an Oscar?
Okay, Half Baked is nowhere near as classy as I just described, and I'm not going to try and play this movie up like it's a masterpiece. It's a stoner movie written by the guys behind Chappelle's Show, and it came to theaters when I was 16. I was the target audience, and I laughed my ass off. I refuse to inform you of anything else about my moviegoing experience during that time. I still think this movie is brilliant, even if it hasn't aged exceptionally well.
2. Spice World (January 23, 1998)
By Dan Auty
For a short time in the mid '90s, The Spice Girls were the biggest pop group in the world. Their 1996 debut smashed all records for an album by a female group, and they remain the biggest selling girl band of all time. Which is not to say that much of the music is that well remembered, but their impact on pop culture at the time is undeniable. And, of course, they made a movie. Spice World was released at the height of the five-piece's fame, and unsurprisingly, was a box office success.
The movie took its cue from The Beatles' '60s movies; it's a silly, breezy musical comedy in which Sporty, Baby, Ginger, Posh, and Scary play themselves, and get involved in a series of misadventures involving corrupt media barons, fame-hungry Hollywood scriptwriters, obsessed filmmakers, and their unscrupulous manager. As a comment on the nature of fame and celebrity, it's tame and obvious, but the music, enthusiastic performances from the group, and a nonstop array of famous faces (Richard E Grant, Roger Moore, Meatloaf, Alan Cumming) make up for this. As a movie to watch in 2018, Spice World holds little relevance. But as a snapshot of a time when the UK’s music, film, and fashion scene was perhaps the world's coolest pop culture export, it's a fascinating experience.
3. The Wedding Singer (February 13, 1998)
By Justin Haywald
After spending the last 10 years being severely beaten over the head by Adam Sandler's lazy, dialed-in attempts at humor, it's easy to forget that the Sandler of 20 years ago was a warm, multi-talented, and genuinely endearing performer. Sure, he made some terrible choices back then that portended his current involvement in bottom-of the-barrel shlock. No one's going to look back fondly on The Hot Chick or Bulletproof. But The Wedding Singer stands out as a both a heartfelt romantic comedy and a fun pastiche of anachronistic '80s references.
The film's idealized version of the '80s, one where everyone wears deafening neon-colored oversized pants and plays with Rubik's Cubes, includes an easy-listening pastiche of '80s hits. And the entire plot, where Sandler is a heartbroken wedding singer who woos a waitress away from a womanizing jerk and that culminates in an airplane intervention singing session with a cameo by Billy Idol, stretches the bounds of reality. But is all of those elements that both lovingly evoke and poke fun at the ridiculousness of an entire decade.
But The Wedding Singer is most important for showing that Adam Sandler can make funny, wonderful things. His improvisational singing and heartfelt dorkiness are highlights that make this film feel just as magical and romantic today as it did 20 years ago. It's just unfortunate that The Wedding Singer is also a reminder of how abysmal and joyless his current work has become.
4. Dark City (February 27, 1998)
By Ryan Schubert
Following his angsty, dark, violent superhero debut in 1994's The Crow, Alex Proyas returned to the screen with the surreal, mind-bending sci-fi thriller, Dark City. In a stylish film-noir city, John Murdoch (Rufus Sewell) has lost his memory and enlists the help of Inspector Bumstead (William Hurt) to unravel a murder mystery in which Murdoch has become the main suspect. Meanwhile, he is pursued by strange, pale shadow men who seem to have some connection to the murder and the weird dream-like haze hanging over the citizens of the city.
Dark City was penned by David S. Goyer, who later wrote several Batman & Superman films as well as entries in the Call of Duty: Black Ops video game series, with lush visuals from Darius Wolski (Alien: Covenant) and Patrick Tatopoulus (Justice League), and an excellent score by Trevor Jones (Labyrinth, The Last of the Mohicans).
5. The Big Lebowski (March 6, 1998)
By Dan Auty
The Big Lebowski is a beloved comedy classic, endlessly quoted and the inspiration behind multiple Lebowski-themed festivals every year. But in 1998, the story was very different. The Coen brothers' seventh film was a box office bomb and was met with very middling reviews--to many, it seemed like Joel and Ethan, riding high on the Oscar success of Fargo only two years earlier, had delivered a dud.
But fans saw something in this ridiculous, sprawling stoner detective comedy that critics and mainstream audiences did not. Perhaps it was the memorable characters, from Jeff Bridge's perma-stoned Dude and John Goodman's gun-toting, rage-filled Walter to John Turturro's purple jumpsuit-wearing, sexually deviant Jesus. Or the dialogue, with line after line of brilliant, weird, profane genius. Or maybe the soundtrack, packed with glorious ‘70s rock hits, from Dylan and Santana to The Eagles. Either way, The Big Lebowski is proof that today's flop is tomorrow's cult classic. The Dude abides.
6. The Man in the Iron Mask (March 13, 1998)
By Dan Auty
There was no hotter actor in 1998 that Leonardo DiCaprio. The 24-year-old star was straight off the unbelievable success of Titanic, which, 21 years later, is still the second biggest movie of all time. For his next major project he chose this literary adaptation, which was based on the stories of Alexandre Dumas. It featured DiCaprio in two roles, as the movie's villainous King Louis XIV, and his imprisoned twin brother.
The rest of cast is packed with big names, including Jeremy Irons, John Malkovich, and Gerard Depardieu as the Three Musketeers, with every actor keeping their own accent to hilarious, bewildering effect. At the time TheMan in the Iron Mask wasn't met with much acclaim, with only DiCaprio's scene-chewing villain singled out. But it actually holds up pretty well--fast-moving, silly, very camp, and far more fun than many of the more acclaimed movies of the '90s.
7. Godzilla (May 20, 1998)
By Dan Auty
King Kong might be older, but there is no big movie monster as iconic as Godzilla. The Big G first appeared on screen in the classic 1954 Japanese movie, and since then has appeared in dozens of movies and TV shows, both in Japan in the West. In 1998, director Roland Emmerich followed his 1996 alien invasion blockbuster Independence Day with this big budget, star-studded Hollywood update.
The results were not well liked by critics--it swept the board at the Razzies that year--and it was only a modest box office success. But despite the leaden pacing, a terrible script, and extremely variable performances, viewed 20 years later, there are a few things about Godzilla that do work. The monster itself looks great--less faithful to the original beast than Gareth Edward's 2014 remake, this has as much in common with the fast-moving dinosaurs of Jurassic Park as it does with the '50s version. There are some exciting sequences of urban mayhem, when the actors stop spouting the idiotic dialogue and Godzilla does what he does best--destroy buildings. And who doesn't love the audacity of Puff Daddy's tie-in song, as he transforms Led Zeppelin's Kashmir into an enormous-sounding hip-hop/rock monster mash-up?
8. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (May 22, 1998)
By Peter Brown
Hunter S. Thompson is a name that may not be familiar to all, but there's a fair chance most people are at least familiar with 1998's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. The Terry Gilliam-directed film was the second attempt at adapting Thompson's semi-autobiographical novel about a reporting gig gone awry, and it was a match made in heaven; drug-addled hell is evidently right up Gilliam's alley.
Fear and Loathing showcases a turbulent trip into the Las Vegas strip, one punctuated by frightening hallucinations and mental anguish for Johnny Depp's character, Raoul Duke--a proxy for Thompson. Duke and his incorrigible attorney Dr. Gonzo stumble into one volatile scene after another, fueled by paranoia and the powerful effects of LSD and mescaline, among the many illicit substances consumed en route. Gilliam aimed to create a film that echoed the wild swings of euphoria and dread that are part and parcel of a trip gone wrong, calling the film an "ugly nightmare."
It's safe to say that Giliam achieved his vision. But more than merely deliver the sights and sounds described in Thomson's twisted account, the film also successfully translates the underlying critique of post-'60s America that made the book culturally relevant in the first place. As if to give his stamp of approval, the often enigmatic and stern Thompson would ultimately lend his voice to the film via a full-length commentary track for the Criterion Collection DVD, tying a bow on the tale and cementing its legacy as an iconic piece of late '90s filmmaking.
9. The Truman Show (June 5, 1998)
By Greg Thomas
I grew up pretty sheltered as a kid. My early teen years were filled with a lot of monotonous days. You wake up, take the bus to school, and return home with absolutely no detours. It was a bit of combination of the growing up in Richmond, CA and my parent’s interest in the accursed D.A.R.E campaign. I would see the same places (and faces) at the same time every day for years. So you can probably imagine my 10 year old self having a euphoric sense of freedom when I sat down to watch a matinee of Peter Weir’s 1998 masterpiece. (No, I didn’t believe my life was some staged reality show; although ironically, this film would create the term "The Truman Show delusion" due to its cultural impact over time.)
“In case I don’t see you--good afternoon, good evening and goodnight!"--I may have said that line more times than my parents would like to remember that year, and the years to come. Among the movie's strengths are the incredible Jimmy Stewart-like performance delivered from Jim Carrey, and the well crafted script penned by Andrew Niccol. Following Truman's day-to-day life and gradually tearing down his world was the perfect move. Once Truman starts to pull back the curtain on this suburban picket fence facade, the race between our titular character and the God-like villain Christof is on. The Truman Show had originally been a spec script by Niccol that went through multiple rewrites (sixteen drafts) with the help of director Peter Weir, to find a perfect balance of light and dark. There’s a bit of uncertainty whether you should be having fun or feeling disturbed by the events taking place. Niccol and Weir could’ve easily turned in a bleak Stephen King type horror story and called it a day, but thankfully that’s not the case.
As the years went by, The Truman Show would slowly transform from just a tender thought-provoking fantasy film, to one of the most prophetic science fictions films ever made. Honestly, it's downright scary. The film was spot on when it predicted our world's fascination with celebrity voyeurism. Big Brother would debut only a year after the film's release. I could go on forever with eerie coincidences between the classic film and our sad celebrity-worshipping culture, but I’ll just leave you with this quote from Weir in an interview with the Independent from 20 years ago:
"There has always been this question: Is the audience getting dumber? Or are we filmmakers patronizing them? Is this what they want? Or is this what we're giving them? But the public went to my film in large numbers. And that has to be encouraging."
10. Mulan (June 19, 1998)
By Kallie Plagge
Loosely (and I mean very loosely) based on the Chinese legend of Hua Mulan, Disney’s version is iconic. Mulan is technically a Disney Princess, but she’s very different from the ones that came before her; she’s clumsy, not terribly interested in romance, and all around not very marketable as a bride, but on top of that, she is a hero. When her father is conscripted into the military to fight the Huns, Mulan secretly takes his place, dressing up as a male soldier and navigating army life with the help of a very sassy dragon (played by Eddie Murphy).
Mulan is probably best known for the song "I'll Make a Man Out of You," since getting down to business to defeat the Huns is a big point of the movie. But it's also much bigger than that. Mulan is a story about how one determined woman risks everything to save all of China, but it's also a story about identity, and of breaking away from the identity that others have forced upon you. Seeing a girl as a warrior, defender, and total klutz gave me the freedom to find who I wanted to be, not who I was supposed to be, and that was very novel for the Disney Princess movies of the time.
11. The Celebration (June 19, 1998)
By Dan Auty
Dogme '95 was a set of filmmaking rules drawn up by a group of maverick directors, led by Lars Von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg. These rules essentially stripped filmmaking down to its basics, removing such “artificiality” as lighting, special effects, music and set design. First out of the gate was Vinterberg's The Celebration.
The movie documents the birthday party from hell, as a family gathers to celebrate the father's 60th birthday. Over the course of a day, secrets are unearthed, old resentments come back, and matters quickly descend into verbal and physical violence. The handheld, naturalistic visual style and completely believable performances add to the movie's compelling realism, as Vinterberg skillfully walks the line between uproarious farce and unsettling drama. The Celebration is simultaneously utterly compelling and frequently hard to watch, and is one of the decade's greatest foreign language films.
12. Out of Sight (June 26, 1998)
By Dan Auty
Out of Sight was the movie that fully established George Clooney a movie star, and turned Steven Soderbergh into a commercial filmmaker. Clooney was, of course, a huge TV star at this point and had made a couple of successful films (plus Batman and Robin), but it was Out of Sight that showed that he had range as well as charisma. Soderbergh, meanwhile, quickly went from what he described as an “arthouse ghetto" to becoming the hugely successful director of Traffic, Erin Brockovich, and the Ocean's Eleven movies.
This was a smart, funny, sexy crime thriller, based on the Elmore Leonard novel. There was real chemistry between Clooney's veteran bank robber as he plans--you guessed it--one last job, and Jennifer Lopez's no-nonsense US martial, who is caught between her duty and her feelings for crooked George. There's also a great cast that included Ving Rhames, Don Cheadle, Albert Brooks, and Steve Zahn, cameos from Samuel L Jackson and Michael Keaton, and stylish, inventive direction from Soderbergh.
13. Buffalo 66 (June 26, 1998)
By Dan Auty
The ‘90s was a truly great era for American independent cinema, with directors such as Kevin Smith, Richard Linklater, and Todd Solondz making some of the decade's most memorable films. One of the very best best was Buffalo 66, which was directed, written, scored by, and starring actor Vincent Gallo. On the face of it, this was a pure ego project for Gallo--as well as handling all those tasks, the plot revolves around his ex-con character Billy and the kidnapped Layla (Christina Ricci), who ends up inexplicably falling in love with him.
But this is in fact a moving and at times overwhelmingly sad portrayal of depression and loneliness, that is also sweet and hilarious. Whether it's Billy and Layla visiting his parents while pretending to be married, or the classic photo booth sequence ("let's span time together"), there are just as many laughs as tears. Of course the notoriously difficult Gallo fell out with seemingly everyone while making it--Ricci vowed never to work with him again, and he later blamed Anjelica Huston for getting refused by the Cannes Film festival--but the movie itself is a gem.
14. Armageddon (July 1, 1998)
By Mike Rougeau
Armageddon never made a lot of sense. With an asteroid hurtling toward Earth, NASA trains a team of experienced oil drillers to launch into space and nuke it. Star Ben Affleck himself addressed this absurdity on the DVD commentary track, claiming, "I asked Michael [Bay] why it was easier to train oil drillers to become astronauts than it was to train astronauts to become oil drillers, and he told me to shut the f*** up, so that was the end of that talk."
For those who love Armageddon, that insanity--that pure, unfettered Michael Bay-ness--is just part of the movie's charm. Its editing has a breakneck, borderline unintelligible pace, jumping from nonsensical exposition to sweeping action to cheesy sentimentality so fast you can barely notice the holes in its plot. The eye-gouging romance between Affleck and Liv Tyler, scored by her dad's drippy ballad "I Don't Want To Miss A Thing," might be one of the worst things ever put on film.
And yet Armageddon still has its fans today. Roger Ebert famously called it "an assault on the eyes, the ears, the brain, common sense and the human desire to be entertained," and sometimes that's exactly what you want in a movie.
15. Small Soldiers (July 10, 1998)
By Mat Elfring
A toy company puts military computer chips inside of action figures and all hell breaks loose. No, this isn't a cheesy '80s horror film. It's a movie for kids that ends with a weird pseudo-religious message. The movie was directed by Joe Dante, a man who somehow bridges the gap between horror and kids movies, like his other films Gremlins, Explorers, and most recently, 2009's The Hole. As someone in their mid-teens at the time, was I too old to see Small Soldiers in the theaters? Probably, but a movie primarily about action figures was right up my alley, as someone who played with He-Man and G.I. Joe as a kid.
Small Soldiers is fun and brings us all back to a time when we played with toys in the backyard, even if said toys never talked to us or tried to kill our other toys. It's our young imaginations come to life, creating a movie any kid that's ever played with action figures would love to see. What always wowed me about the film was the voice talent behind the action figures. Small Soldiers featured Tommy Lee Jones, Frank Langella, Ernest Borgnine, Jim Brown, Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, and a few more notable actors.
16. Pi (July 10, 1998)
By Ryan Schubert
Darren Aronofsky’s memorable feature film directorial debut, Pi, follows a New York-based mathematician through his paranoid pursuit and discovery of a special number which could have a major impact on the interests of both Wall Street and Jewish mystics. Despite its lofty, artsy-sounding premise, Pi is deep down a thriller and an action movie on a shoestring budget.
Pi's frenetic storytelling, through longtime Aronofsky collaborators Matthew Libatique (cinematography), Jay Rabinowitz (film editing), and Clint Mansell (music), established early on the director's penchant for assaulting his audience with a visceral and emotional intensity that would become his signature style. While Aronofsky’s follow up, Requiem For A Dream (2000), is the more refined of the two, Pi’s edgy, high contrast black & white tone is worth a look for anybody seeking a quintessential '90s indie movie.
17. Saving Private Ryan (July 24, 1998)
By Ryan Schubert
For generations, the blueprint for the classic American war drama centered around a ragtag group of red-blooded but diverse American soldiers, from all walks of life, tasked with an impossible mission that would require sacrifice to overcome all odds and accomplish. In this respect, the film that won Steven Spielberg his second best director Oscar is a bog standard war drama, rife with cliches and tropes of the genre. For any other filmmaker this would be a detriment and a recipe for failure, but Steven Spielberg is a grandmaster of genre-busting who can turn tired but beloved tropes into something more: the principled school teacher, the grizzled sergeant, the coward, the gifted sniper, the guy from Brooklyn, and the final stand in the face of a stronger adversary.
When Spielberg makes a genre film, it is often one of the best-made in the history of the genre because of his passion to emulate, amplify, and improve on the films which came before his. While many other war movies have told deeper tales of sacrifice and loss (including Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line from the same year), what separates Spielberg’s innovation with Saving Private Ryan is largely technical prowess.
Never before had a war movie brought to bear the intensity of sound design, cinematography, and cutting-edge visual effects to convey the terrifying chaos of battle. Most people who saw Ryan in the theater at the time will never forget the 27-minute Omaha beach landing sequence that painted the carnage of modern industrial warfare in stark blood-soaked relief better than any narrative film before it.
18. Baseketball (July 31, 1998)
By Peter Brown
Matt Stone and Trey Parker are rightfully best known for South Park, but their body of work began in film years earlier with the dark comedy Cannibal! The Musical. It was the first of three films they would star in during the '90s, culminating in 1998's Baseketball: a movie about two idiots who accidentally create a new professional sports league while one-upping jocks at a house party.
The titular sport fuses baseball and basketball, and introduces the chance to distract another player with insults or by grossing them out. The characters' antics on and off the field are pointedly juvenile, not unlike South Park, but surprisingly Stone and Parker were cast for the film rather than the principles behind it; hats off to the casting director for recognizing the opportunity to capitalize on South Park's burgeoning popularity, too.
Baseketball is very intentionally dumb and was appropriately chided by critics, yet it remains a comedic treat for South Park fans and people with an affinity for irreverent '90s comedies. It's also the only movie where you can watch Parker and Stone passionately make out, or see Ernest Borgnine rubbing lotion on his chest while singing "I'm Too Sexy."
19. Ever After (July 31, 1998)
By Chris Hayner
After 1996's Romeo + Juliet, the race to remake another classic tale was on, which landed Drew Barrymore in the lead of this take on Cinderella. This time, though, the fairytale was treated like less like a work of fiction and more like a dramatization of actual history, in which Prince Charming is actually Prince Henry II of France. Leaning even deeper into that idea, Ever After: A Cinderella Story included Leonardo da Vinci, the Brothers Grimm, and more historical figures as characters to tie it to a reality.
With a cast joining Barrymore that included Dougray Scott (Fear the Walking Dead), Anjelica Huston (The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou), Melanie Lynskey (Two and a Half Men), and even Toby Jones (Captain America: The Winter Soldier) in a minor role, there's plenty to like about the movie--and audiences did. Not only was Ever After a financial success, but it was adapted into a stage musical.
20. Halloween H20 (August 5, 1998)
By Dan Auty
By 1998, the Halloween series wasn't in particularly good shape. John Carpenter's original 1978 classic had changed the face of horror, but the next 20 years of substandard sequels had made the series as disposable as its franchise rivals, Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street. Halloween H20 was an attempt to recapture the scary thrills of the original. Using the 20th anniversary as its hook, the film brought back Jamie Lee Curtis, alongside a new cast of young faces, including upcoming stars Michelle Williams and Josh Hartnett. And against the odds, it was pretty good.
Carpenter was originally slated to direct, but he walked away when negotiations over his fee failed. Nevertheless, director Steve Miner (House, Friday the 13th 2 & 3) was an experienced horror director, and the screenplay had uncredited work by then-super-hot Scream creator Kevin Williamson. Much of H20 is familiar stuff--Michael Myers returns to his hometown to finish what he started two decades earlier. But it's funny, scary, and well acted, and was a major box office hit. Sadly, 2002's woeful Halloween: Resurrection and Rob Zombie's terrible remakes undid all this hard work, but it still remains one of 1998's best flicks.
21. Blade (August 21, 1998)
By Mat Elfring
Blade is a movie that still holds up, 20 years after its release. The movie was penned by David Goyer, who helped mold the superhero genre with both Blade and Batman Begins. While the movie is bathed in cringeworthy late '90s moments, the story is still fantastic, especially when diving into the antagonists, whose stories far outshine anything that's happening to the titular character.
Blade paved the way for Spider-Man, X-Men, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe by not being afraid to step away from the source material in order to create its own mythos. He wasn't a character I cared for at all, but I was so angsty when this came out, and Blade had leather jackets and weird rave music in it that I knew my parents wouldn't understand, so I was in. I saw it for all the wrong reasons and only realized, 20 years later, that it was a whole lot better than the stupid, surface-level reasons that I used to love it for.
22. Rush Hour (September 18, 1998)
By Alessandro Fillari
20 years later, watching Rush Hour for the umpteenth time is still a fun ride. Released just two months after Lethal Weapon 4--the film series that made the buddy cop genre cool--the pairing of comic actor Chris Tucker with Hong Kong superstar Jackie Chan almost seemed too strange to work. But much like the experience of awkward culture-shock that Detectives Carter and Lee go through during the film, superficial pre-conceptions held by an odd couple of cops eventually fall by the wayside, giving way to the hilarious pairing of the two actors. Seeing the detectives awkwardly bond over stories about their own fathers, practice kung-fu, and sing along to Edward Starr's cover of The Temptations' "War!" gives Rush Hour an unabashedly fun vibe, which sets it apart from other buddy cop films.
Rush Hour is also an incredibly quotable, even featuring the single greatest line of Chris Tucker's career--said shortly after finishing off a secondary antagonist in the finale--"Wipe yourself off, man. You dead." However, what's most interesting about Rush Hour, especially looking back on it in retrospect, is that this duo of two unlikely actors--one of whom was already a superstar in his own right, while the other was still riding high from his breakout role in Friday--feels like a pairing that can't be replicated again. The chemistry between Chan and Tucker is so endearing and fun to watch. When one character makes an awkward--but not harmful--comment about the other's culture, they just roll with it and fire back with their own equally harmless comment--all followed up with wacky action scenes fighting against the criminal underworld.
Though much of its humor and stereotypes about culture and race are antiquated, Rush Hour's focus on letting the two actors mesh--while letting them be themselves--is something that feels incredibly comforting and fun to watch. Even 20 years later, there's still this longing for another outing with the two leads--even if it will most likely suck like Rush Hour 3 (which is now 11 years old). Yet, despite that, I can't really find myself opposing another film with Chan and Tucker together.
23. A Night at the Roxbury (October 2, 1998)
By Chris E. Hayner
Sometimes a movie Based on a Saturday Night Live sketch is of the Wayne's World or Blues Brothers variety. Other times, you wind up with It's Pat or Stuart Saves His Family--two movies that fell way below any conceivable expectation. Other times, you get A Night at the Roxbury, a movie that isn't amazing but embraces exactly what it is.
Will Ferrell and Chris Kattan reprise their SNL roles as a couple of guys who constantly go to nightclubs to dance the night away. Now, though, the movie extends to their life outside of the club, much like Wayne's World expanded on its leads' lives beyond their cable access show. Though panned by critics, A Night at the Roxbury managed to not bomb at the box office. It will always be remembered, if only for teaching us to scream "Emilio!" after drinking too much at the club. You never know when you might run into Emilio Estevez.
24. Rushmore (October 9, 1998)
By Mike Rougeau
Rushmore is significant for launching Jason Schwartzman's career--the actor was just 17 when he shot the movie. As Wes Anderson's second film, it helped launch the auteur director's career as well. And it ushered Bill Murray, who won several awards for the film, into a new phase as a celebrated actor in independent films rather than a slapstick comedian.
But Rushmore would still be worth talking about even if it hadn't done all those things, because it's simply a fantastic film. Schwartzman stars as student prodigy Max Fischer, who gets terrible grades because he devotes all his time to starting new clubs and other extracurricular activities. He's in love with his teacher Rosemary Cross (Olivia Williams), who's also attracted the interest of depressed industrialist Herman Blume (Murray). Brian Cox and Seymour Cassel also appear as Max's headmaster and father, respectively.
This was the movie where Wes Anderson really honed his style for handcrafted, whimsical disillusionment. It's this oeuvre in which the filmmaker has operated for his entire career since, including most recently inIsle of Dogs. All his signatures are present in Rushmore, from the attentive use of music to the characters who feel just slightly too heightened to be real. And if Max's relationship with his dad--who he loves despite being deeply ashamed of their poverty--doesn't tug at your heartstrings, I don't know what to tell you.
25. John Carpenter's Vampires (October 30, 1998)
By Ryan Schubert
There is a type of John Carpenter picture that has a swagger to it, oozing with masculinity and machismo. They do so with complete self-awareness, usually with tongue firmly embedded in cheek. John Carpenter’s Vampires is no exception, although it falls into a period with Escape from L.A. and Ghosts of Mars that is more nostalgic and less trail-blazing than his earlier films.
Vampires' macho hero is Jack Crow, a cocky vampire-hunting badass who heads up a group of other vampire-hunting badasses backed by the Catholic Church. After a successful raid on a vampire hideout, the gang runs afoul of a dangerous vampire named Valek, who they must stop before it acquires greater power.
Set in the American southwest, Vampires is an atmospheric, sometime melancholic split-genre picture; part western, part horror movie, part action movie, part buddy film, and part road movie. Popular '90s co-stars include Daniel Baldwin (Homicide: Life on the Streets) and Sheryl Lee (Twin Peaks). As always with a Carpenter movie, Vampires is elevated by a rockin’ Carpenter-composed film score, but this time with some extra octane from a full rock band, the Texas Toad Lickers.
26. American History X (October 30, 1998)
By Greg Thomas
It’s hard to imagine that 20 years have gone by since American History X debuted. It’s one of those movies that, once you watch it, sticks in the back of your head for a very long time. Scenes and dialogue bury themselves in your brain, waiting to emerge at any unsuspecting moment. I truly believe American History X is essential viewing in this day and age.
The film follows Derek Vinyard (played by Edward Norton), a neo-Nazi leader whose fear and hatred of a black gang invasion of his town leads him to violence and ultimately murder. This is based on the real life former white supremacist skinhead Frank Meeink, who was arrested at age 17 and spent three years in prison, where he befriended several inmates of various ethnicities and grew to reject his former beliefs. In the film, Derek’s brother and best friend, Danny (played by Edward Furlong), sees him as an idol and attempts to mirror his brother’s hateful passion.
What makes History X such an anachronism in present day is the lack of Hollywood sensationalism. You get the film's important message without wanting to emulate any of the characters. If this film were pitched today, a producer would just copy/paste the Wolf of Wall Street screenplay and replace the stock-brokers with neo-Nazis--Please don't ever do this.
27. The Waterboy (November 6, 1998)
By Mike Rougeau
The Waterboy may not be politically correct anymore, but there was a time when Adam Sandler pretending to be a vaguely disabled 30-something developmentally stuck at the mental capacity of roughly a 12 year old boy was the peak of humor. That time was 1998.
Bobby Boucher (Adam Sandler)--AKA The Waterboy--just wants to make sure the players on his favorite college football team are hydrated. His sheltered upbringing and overprotective mother (Kathy Bates) made it hard for him to lead a normal adult life, and after the millionth humiliation, he snaps and spectacularly tackles a player on the field. That lands him a scholarship and a spot on the team, not to mention a chance with the irreverent seductress Vicki Vallencourt (Fairuza Balk).
This was the type of movie you'd watch every weekend with your friends, as one-liners from Sandler and Rob Schneider deftly wormed their way into your everyday conversation, to the annoyance of your parents, your teachers, and every other adult who had to come in contact with you. Screaming "You can do eet--all niiight loong!" wasn't funny back then, and it sure as heck isn't funny now. But like puking out "WAZZZUPPPP???" instead of saying "Hello" like a normal person, we did it anyway, and it made us laugh.
28. Meet Joe Black (November 13, 1998)
By Dan Auty
For a while, Martin Brest was one of the biggest directors in Hollywood. From the action comedy classics Beverly Hill Cop and Midnight Run to Scent of a Woman, the movie that finally got Pacino his Oscar, Brest had the golden touch when it came to successful, crowd-pleasing movies. It all started to go a bit wrong in the late '90s, before 2003's disastrous Gigli seemed to kill his career--whether through choice to otherwise, he's never directed since. The film before that debacle was Meet Joe Black, a sentimental and excruciatingly long fantasy drama that starred Anthony Hopkins as a billionaire media mogul and Brad Pitt as the human form of Death, who falls in love with Hopkins' daughter.
Meet Joe Black has its moments--Hopkins' dignified, moving performance is one of his best, and there are moments of genuine emotional power amongst all the shmaltz. But three hours is a long time and by the end, the film becomes a serious endurance test. These days the movie is actually better known as one of the first films to feature the trailer for the upcoming Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace, leading many fans to buy a ticket for Meet Joe Black and leave the theater before it had even started.
29. Enemy of the State (November 20, 1998)
By Chris Hayner
While it may not be as well remembered as some of director Tony Scott's other movies--Top Gun, Days of Thunder, True Romance, etc.--Enemy of the State is not only a great thriller but also proved that Will Smith could carry a major movie that didn't rely on sci-fi elements and special effects to tell its story.
In the film, Smith's character finds himself in the middle of a massive government conspiracy, with only a crazed conspiracy theorist, played perfectly by Gene Hackman, as his ally. The cast is rounded out by Jon Voight, Lisa Bonet, Gabriel Byrne, Anna Gunn, Jason Lee, and even Jack Black. This is a movie that deserves to be revisited, so when you're in the mood to distrust the government, give it another shot.
30. A Bug's Life (November 25, 1998)
By Dan Auty
In the 20 years since A Bug's Life was released, Pixar has delivered some of the greatest animated movies ever made. From the Toy Story sequels to the likes of Wall-E, Finding Nemo, Inside Out, and Coco, the studio has rarely put a foot wrong (Cars 2 maybe). So by Pixar's more recent standards, A Bug's Life is a modest affair. It's funny and charming, the animation still looks good, and there's a great cast of predominantly TV stars, including Dave Foley, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and David Hyde Pierce. But its place in history is due more to the studio that made it than the movie itself.
In 1998, it had been three years since Toy Story had changed animation forever, and A Bug's Life's box office success proved that Pixar wasn't just the guys behind Woody and Buzz. It was also at the centre of the late '90s' most heated and public controversies, with rival animated bug movie Antz released only a few weeks earlier. Antz was produced by Jeffrey Katzenberg, who had quit Disney to set up DreamWorks, leading to accusations that he had stolen the concept of A Bug's Life from his former employees. A public war of words between Katzenberg and Pixar boss Steve Jobs provided almost as many column inches as the movies themselves.
31. Shakespeare in Love (December 11, 1998)
By Dan Auty
There's no escaping the fact that many successful, highly regarded movies from the mid to late ‘90s bear the name of Harvey Weinstein prominently. The disgraced former head of Miramax and The Weinstein Company built his reputation on his output of this era, from the iconic, groundbreaking work of Quentin Tarantino and Kevin Smith to such hugely popular hits as Good Will Hunting, Sliding Doors, and The Talented Mr. Ripley. Shakespeare in Love was one of the biggest; it swept the board at the Oscars, winning seven awards, and made more than $289 million worldwide.
It's not hard to see why--this is a film for everyone. This fictional account of the love affair between William Shakespeare and the daughter of a local merchant is romantic without being overly sentimental, dramatic but also laugh-out-loud funny, artistic and literary but never pretentious. The cast is perfect too--from Joseph Fiennes and Gwyneth Paltrow as the young lovers, to Judi Dench's terrifying Queen Elizabeth and Ben Affleck's hilariously arrogant actor.
32. The Prince of Egypt (December 18, 1998)
By Kallie Plagge
Based on the Biblical story of Moses, The Prince of Egypt opens rather brutally: with slaves working in the hot sun and Moses's mother sending him down the Nile in a basket. Later, a clever hieroglyphics-style sequence tells the story of the Egyptians killing the firstborn children of each Jewish family. A young Moses bonds with his adoptive brother, Rameses, before realizing the truth of his birth--and you most likely know how the rest of the story goes. Plagues, parting the Red Sea, the burning bush. It's a familiar tale, but its delivery is something special.
From the very first scene--and song, "Deliver Us"--every moment of Dreamworks' film is packed with emotion. Heartbreak, disappointment, and betrayal are all painstakingly animated on each character's face, and the soundtrack swells with both hope and despair. It's an incredible retelling of a very old story and one that's phenomenally evocative from start to finish. To this day, it remains a testament to the power of animation as a storytelling medium.
33. You've Got Mail (December 18, 1998)
By Dan Auty
When it comes to romantic comedies of the '80s and '90s, were there three better practitioners than Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan, and writer/director Nora Ephron? The trio had cemented their chemistry with the 1993 smash Sleepless in Seattle, and reunited five years later for You've Got Mail.
It's a remake of the classic 1940 film The Shop Around the Corner, and like Sleepless, spends much of its time keeping Tom and Meg apart. It lacks some of the magic of that earlier film--the plot is often contrived and predictable. Built there's no denying that the two leads were made for this kind of thing, and Ephron's skill at writing witty dialogue and creating lovable characters remains as good as ever.
34. Patch Adams (December 25, 1998)
By Chris E. Hayner
Fresh off of Good Will Hunting and What Dreams May Come, Robin Williams continued his streak of dramas with Patch Adams, in a role that saw him play a suicidal medical student that theorized humor could be the best medicine. The story was based on the early years of an actual doctor, whose work has continued around the world. Patch Adams earned Williams a Golden Globe nomination, with the movie itself earning one for Best Motion Picture-Musical or Comedy. All of the best comedies, clearly, are about suicidal doctors.
Thought critics were not fans of the movie--Gene Siskel called it the single worst film of 1998--it met with box office success, bringing in over $200 million in theaters. Most importantly, though, it made its mark by giving the world images if Williams wearing a red clown nose that will make us laugh until the end of time.
35. The Faculty (December 25, 1998)
By Chastity Vicencio
From the Scream series to I Know What You Did Last Summer, teen horror films were huge in the late '90s. It was such a trend that there were at least four notable teen horror movies in 1998 alone. The best of them was The Faculty. Directed by Robert Rodriguez (Sin City, From Dusk Till Dawn) with a screenplay by Kevin Williamson (Scream, Dawson’s Creek), The Faculty is a witty, exciting sci-fi thriller that is basically The Breakfast Club meets Invasion of the Body Snatchers. A motley crew of high school students discover that their teachers are aliens, and decide to fight back.
The film boasts an impressive cast who are a ton of fun to watch years later as many of them became bigger stars. Our teen heroes included Elijah Wood, Josh Hartnett, Jordana Brewster, and R&B/Pop sensation Usher, fighting against teachers played by Salma Hayek, Famke Janssen, Robert Patrick, and future Daily Show host Jon Stewart. The Faculty has developed a cult following since its release, offering better performances, CGI, and production value than you’d expect from it. It’s everything you would want from a campy '90s teen movie, plus alien monsters and decent scares.
36. The Thin Red Line (December 25, 1998)
By Dan Auty
When The Thin Red Line was released in December 1998, it had been more than 20 years since Terrence Malick had made a movie. The filmmaker behind two of the '70s most acclaimed American movies--Badlands and Days of Heaven--had seemingly vanished without a trace from the movie scene, leading many to wonder if he would ever direct again. But Malick finally returned with this sprawling, star-studded World War II movie. It was released only a few months after Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan, but the two films couldn't be more different. The Thin Red Line is set during the US campaign against the Japanese in the South Pacific in 1942, in which a company of soldiers attempted to seize the island of Guadalcanal.
Like Saving Private Ryan, the movie features some brilliantly shot, brutal battle sequences. But it is also a hypnotic, poetic meditation of man's capacity for savagery and his destructive relationship with nature. Many of the movie's biggest stars, such as George Clooney and John Travolta, had their roles cut down to fleeting, occasionally distracting cameos. But what remains is one of the greatest, most powerful war movies ever, a beautifully made masterpiece that thrills and provokes in equal measure.