Remembering 1999: The Movies And TV Series That Turn 20 This Year
By GameSpot Staff on
Do You Remember?
In 1999, some of us were worrying about the alleged impending doom of the Y2K bug that was going to destroy all our computers. The rest of us were living our normal lives and enjoying some of the finer offerings from Hollywood to pass the time. Blockbuster movies were taking the crowds by storm, but the ones that got people talking the most challenged our preconceived notions of the world around us. On the television front, this was a turning point, as networks started losing viewers to the high quality content being put out by cable channels like HBO.
The fine folks of GameSpot are taking a look back at the movies and television series we hold dearly in our hearts, for better or worse, that debuted in 1999. From moments like Neo deciding whether to take the red or blue pill in The Matrix to America waging war on Canada in the South Park movie, 1999 had some iconic moments in the cinema. And television came into its own with HBO's The Sopranos debuting, along with a show that was ahead of its time, Freaks and Geeks.
Here are our picks for the most memorable movies and television series from 1999, in order of when they were released. And if you're looking for more nostalgia trips, check out GameSpot's pieces remember games from the past.
The Sopranos | January 10, 1999
The Sopranos was one of a handful of '90s shows--alongside the likes of Twin Peaks and The Larry Sanders Show--that truly laid the groundwork for TV over the next two decades. It helped turn HBO into a premiere destination for great original programming and showed how the medium was far from cinema's poor cousin. Created by David Chase, this sprawling saga of a New Jersey crime family was an expertly balanced mix of drama, dark comedy, and gangster thrills, anchored by a career-defining performance by the late, great James Gandolfini.
On paper, Tony Soprano is deeply unlikable man--unpredictable, selfish, violent, unfaithful--but over the course of six seasons, Gandolfini helped develop him into complex, multi-layered character, able to evoke our sympathies without ever giving some unrealistic Hollywood redemption story. The rest of the cast are just as memorable--from Tony's long suffering wife Carmela (Edie Falco) and his psychotherapist Dr. Jennifer Melfi (Lorraine Bracco) to fellow mobsters like uncle "Junior" Soprano (Dominic Chianese) and Paulie "Walnuts" Gualtieri (Tony Sirico). The ambiguous final episode might have divided audiences but The Sopranos remains one of the greatest TV shows of all time. | Dan Auty
Batman Beyond | January 10, 1999
Batman Beyond is a concept I thought I would hate. It takes place in the future, where an angsty teen becomes the new Batman, and there is so much raving going on. However, I ended up falling in love with it and have it sitting right below Batman: The Animated Series on the "Best Animated Series" list in my head. Because the Batman: TAS team (Paul Dini, Bruce Timm, and Alan Burnett) were the minds behind Batman Beyond, they created a show that stands on its own exceptionally well, yet feels as a companion piece to the original.
What I found so great about the series was that it didn't just try to rehash characters are stories from the world of Batman and toss it into a futuristic setting. Batman Beyond was always pushing forward. Sure, the Joker eventually popped back in--and that straight-to-video movie is near perfection--but the series created something new instead of living in the past.
Sure, I may have been a little too old at the time to be watching a cartoon for kids, but aside from being a Batman story, the person inside the suit--Terry McGinnis--was a high school student dealing with family, love, work, trying to be an adult, and fighting crime. That was just like me--aside from the crime fighting. Much like Freaks and Geeks, it resonated with me, which is why I fell in love with it. Also, Batman was in it. | Mat Elfring
Varsity Blues | January 15, 1999
"I don't want your life!" This was something my friends and I yelled at each other constantly after watching James Van Der Beek ditch his awful Dawson's Creek character temporarily to play a Texas high school football star with a terrible accent. Whether it's a cast that includes Paul Walker, Ali Larter, and Amy Smart, or the iconic whipped cream bikini scene, this movie is so late-'90s it hurts, and I'll never stop loving it. | Chris E. Hayner
Office Space | February 19, 1999
Office Space is a fantastic comedy that effortlessly captured the spirit of a whole generation of dead-eyed slackers (and future slackers like myself), but there's a lot more to it than that. Like The Matrix, Office Space played on my fear at the time that I'd grow up to have a soul-crushing cubicle job like my parents, driving to work every day in my metal coffin so I could get reprimanded by six separate bosses about forgetting a cover sheet on a TPS report. And Office Space offered a better route: doing literally anything else with my life.
Written and directed by Beavis and Butthead and King of the Hill creator Mike Judge, Office Space follows Ron Livingston's Peter Gibbons, a perfectly blank facsimile onto which I could project my own pathetic future self. He goes through life like a zombie until a hypnotic therapist keels over halfway through his treatment, leaving him in a semi-permanent state of disinterested contentment. Office Space ultimately suggests that's no way to go through life, although I'm not sure I fully grasped the lesson at the time.
Either way, Office Space still holds up today--just look at the countless memes and references to it present on any internet platform to this day, from Twitter to Reddit and beyond. And, oh, by the way, I'm going to need you to go ahead and come in on Saturday. | Mike Rougeau
Futurama | March 28, 1999
When it comes to debating The Simpsons versus Futurama, I stand firmly on the side of Futurama. I adore The Simpsons (come on, I grew up in the '90s), but for me, Futurama is the full package. It’s bitingly funny, exceedingly smart (go on, name another show that has its own mathematical theorem), but also able to give you emotional gut punches that resonate. Even today, almost 20 years after I saw it for the first time, I find it difficult to rewatch "Jurassic Bark."
Futurama was a show made by nerds, for nerds (how else would you get the perfect Star Trek set up episode "Where No Fan Has Gone Before"), and while it poked fun at technology and pop culture, its jokes managed to have a kind of timeless quality to them, making it endlessly rewatchable. It was also oddly prescient of meme culture, with many of its lines becoming memes in their own right (shut up baby, I know it).
Futurama didn’t deserve to be cancelled and revived over and over by Fox: it should have been allowed to finish on its own terms, instead of yanking itself out of all its resolved plot points, only to be sent out to die again. It was a fantastic show 20 years ago, and it’s still excellent now. Anyone who says otherwise can bite my shiny metal ass. | Lucy James
The Matrix | March 31, 1999
The Matrix is still easily one of my favorite movies--if not my all-time favorite. And that's despite its two sequels, which I, like many fans, consider to be pretty much garbage. I rewatch The Matrix several times a year; the last time I tried to watch the full trilogy, I could barely get through the second, and turned the third off part-way through.
But that's beside the point, which is that The Matrix is one of the greatest sci-fi movies of all time. It has everything: Its special effects were used sparingly and in smart enough ways that they still hold up 20 years after its release, the world it establishes held seemingly endless mysteries, the action was creatively unique and thrilling to watch, the sci-fi concepts were heady and complex but presented in an easily digestible way that anyone could understand--you get the idea.
Maybe most important of all, The Matrix was just plain cool--and it remains so to this day. I love the way most of the movie's technology was already archaic for 1999--it gives the movie a timeless feel. I fell hopelessly in love with the main characters' industrial inspired, leather-clad style (although thankfully, I never took to wearing shiny trench coats in real life). Neo's double life as a cubicle slave by day was so relatable--anyone around in the '90s who didn't already have a soul-sucking office job dreaded the day they'd find themselves in a similar situation, and fantasized about the phone call from Morpheus that would allow them to escape. Maybe the next step after that wouldn't be prettier, but at least it would be real. | Mike Rougeau
10 Things I Hate About You | March 31, 1999
1999 was a banner year for teen movies, with hits like American Pie, Varsity Blues, and She’s All That -- yet the one with the most heart was a 90s retelling of the Shakespeare comedy The Taming of The Shrew. 10 Things I Hate About You tells the story of high school romantic Cameron (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who wants to date popular classmate Bianca (Larisa Oleynik), whose father establishes a rule that she may date only when her antisocial, shrewish older sister Kat (Julia Stiles) does. Bianca tells Cameron to find someone to date Kat, so he pays bad boy Patrick Verona (Heath Ledger) to woo her.
10 Things is a smart romantic comedy that is incredibly charming, especially thanks to strong performances from Stiles and Ledger, who share an electric chemistry on screen. Plus, it’s the movie that gave us Ledger’s unforgettable and completely adorable performance of Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You accompanied by a marching band, which instantly stole thousands of teenage hearts around the world. | Chastity Vicencio
eXistenZ | April 23, 1999
David Cronenberg’s most neatly crafted and still-prescient picture hit theaters three weeks after the Wachowski’s introduced the world to the world of the Matrix. Cronenberg’s picture could be summarized as the thinking-person’s version of the Matrix. It deals with similar turn-of-the-century cybernetic themes which may seem quaint today but, I believe, are unfortunately still relevant. But whereas the Matrix found coolness in virtual representation, eXistenZ finds cause for concern.
If you have not seen eXistenZ, it is a Canadian sci-fi action film that takes place entirely in a church. Actually, it begins with the demonstration of a new virtual reality video game designed by the world’s most famous game designer, Allegra Geller (Jennifer Jason Leigh), then spirals quickly out of control following an attempt on her life by violent, pro-reality extremists. She and a Pilgrimage PR nerd, Ted Pikul (Jude Law), embark on a reality-bending, paranoid flight through rural Canada and Gellar’s game, eXistenZ.
The film is beautifully executed by Cronenberg’s long time collaborators Howard Shore (Lord of the Rings) composing the score, and Peter Suschitzky (Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back) on cinematography. | Ryan Schubert
WWF Smackdown | April 27, 1999
1999 was right in the golden era of the Monday Night Wars, where WWE--then WWF--and WCW were in the middle of a battle for wrestling promotion dominance. Smackdown was WWE's return to network television, airing on UPN, in direct competition with WCW's Thunder. And Smackdown was "more of the same" for WWE fans, which was perfectly fine for the time. It's simple supply and demand because wrestling was at its most popular during the late '90s/early '00s.
Maybe it's because I played Smackdown: Here Comes The Pain a lot, but the original theme music--which is objectively annoying--for the series brings back so many memories of sitting at my friend's house, excited we had more wrestling to watch, since WCW's Thunder was mediocre at best. What I loved about the pilot episode was that there was no setup, and for all intents and purposes, it's not a pilot. It continued storylines from Monday Night Raw, and the first episode gave us programming that was very familiar. Additionally, I remember the first episode debuting The Corporate Ministry, a wonderfully convoluted wrestling stable, which eventually led to one of my favorite, unintentionally hilarious, moments in WWE history.
Obviously, WWE's Smackdown has come a long way in the past 20 years, from a B-show with a giant fist on its entrance ramp--which is objectively awesome--to a brand with its own identity, stars, and titles. Sure, the content and times have changed, but it's amazing to see this show is still on the air, 20 years later, and moving back to network television this October. | Mat Elfring
SpongeBob SquarePants | May 1, 1999
I was always a Nickelodeon kid, but for a while, I kind of just watched whatever was on and went with it. Spongebob was the first Nickelodeon show I remember actively seeking out--my dad and I saw a commercial for it and decided we had to be there when it premiered. It quickly became the only Nickelodeon show my dad could actively quote from memory (and one that we relentlessly quoted at school and, honestly, still do to this day).
Like a lot of other cartoons, Spongebob appealed to both kids and adults by balancing silliness with more clever humor and plotlines. But it really stood out--SpongeBob's relentless optimism, Squidward's nasally disillusionment, Patrick's stupidity, Sandy's intensity, Plankton's incompetent evilness, and Mr. Krabs' greediness combined for something memorable and consistently funny that was also wholesome.
It's been 20 years since Stephen Hillenburg's nautical nonsense began, but I remember those early episodes like I've just watched them (and I have recently watched some of them--they still hold up.) Don't pretend you don't know all the words to the Krusty Krab Pizza song or Ripped Pants or even Striped Sweater. | Kallie Plagge
The Mummy | May 7, 1999
After giving it a lot of thought, I think The Mummy might be my favorite movie of all time. It has everything: historical intrigue, the supernatural, a life-or-death rivalry, romance, and Rachel Weisz. It's among Brendan Fraser's best roles, too, and I think I watched it every weekend for at least six months in a row.
Rick (Fraser) is a gruff WWI veteran who cleans up real nice, and Evie (Weisz) is a scholar of ancient Egypt and a bit of a know-it-all (but that's because, well, she really does know more than everyone else). After Evie saves Rick's life, he reluctantly agrees to take her to Hamunaptra, the lost City of the Dead, which he'd more or less stumbled upon during the war. Then Evie accidentally resurrects Imhotep, a condemned and gooey mummy who is driven by love, mostly. That's the short version, but the setup is fantastic, backed by a great score and bolstered by Rick and Evie's flirtation mixed with some ancient Egyptian mysteries.
The only thing that doesn't hold up about this movie is Rachel Weisz's eyebrows (and I say that with love). I honestly could still watch it at least once a month and not get tired of it. | Kallie Plagge
Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace | May 19, 1999
We all know what Star Wars: Episode 1 is, so you don't need an explainer of any kind to kick this off. So I want to talk to you about trauma. This is a story more about experience, hype, and learning to curb your expectations rather that a movie that changed the world for the better. Ok, over-dramatic reactions aside, I could not have been more excited for a new Star Wars movie. It had been 16 years since a new Star Wars movie had been released. The hype was real, and we all may have expected way too much.
I remember standing in line for hours at my local theater--and skipping school to do so--to be the 20th person in line. I bought Darth Maul's lightsaber, and my friend and I had battles while waiting for the latest Star Wars film. Yes, that's ridiculous, but we weren't the only ones doing so. Everyone in that line was excited to see the next chapter of the Star Wars saga. We were all nerds, and we were all friends for the day. Then, the mayor of our town, her friends, and kids all cut to the front of the line and got into the theater early, taking the best seats in the house.
After watching the movie, we were all living in a sea of excuses, trying to make what we just witnessed "good" in our heads. Sadly, it was one of the biggest letdowns we--and other Star Wars fans--ever had to deal with. I could sit here and discuss what's wrong with the film, but that's been done to death. More than likely, the film was aimed at a new generation of fans, pushing the older ones aside, and that's why so many of us felt so alienated. Looking back, yeah, the movie is a bit of a stinker, but without it, we wouldn't have things like Darth Maul, and The Clone Wars and Rebels animated series from Dave Filoni. And both of those TV shows are some of the best things to come out of the franchise. | Mat Elfring
South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut | June 30, 1999
South Park had been on the air for two years when the big screen version was released, but as good as those early seasons were, the conceptual leap taken by the movie was a huge achievement. A brilliantly written R-rated musical satire about censorship, freedom of speech, and media responsibility, it sees Stan, Cartman, and friends drawn into the war between Canada and the US, sparked by the foul-mouthed Terrance and Phillip movie Asses of Fire.
It was ironic that a film about movie censorship led to creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone engaging in a lengthy battle with the MPAA (who are mocked merciless in the film) to get it an R-rating, as opposed for the far more restrictive NC-17 it was first given. The pair ultimately won the fight, and the Bigger, Longer & Uncut went on to become the highest grossing R-rated animated movie of all time, until Sausage Party 17 years later.
And that's not to mention the songs, each of them a hilarious parody of Broadway showtunes; Robin Williams performing the Oscar-nominated "Blame Canada" at the 2000 ceremony remains an Academy Award highpoint. South Park has had many brilliant and hilarious episodes over the years, but few can match the movie for intelligence, dazzling invention, and absolutely outrageous laughs. | Dan Auty
Good Eats | July 7, 1999
Good Eats was a show that started a hobby for me. I've always been a science enthusiast, and because of this, Food Network series awakened a love of cooking in me, which is something I still really enjoy doing in my spare time. At this time, Food Network didn't appeal to me by any means, as it was just cooking shows with mildly-charismatic hosts with their well-thought out signature catchphrases, like "Bam."
However, Good Eats was something completely different, hosted by the nerdy Alton Brown, a man who didn't have a catchphrase but appealed to me in the same way Mr. Wizard or Bill Nye did when I was younger. It explained the science of cooking with a comedic slant that really appealed to me. While there were actual recipes on each episode, I never made any, but I did try experimenting with food in the kitchen because of of the series. I apologize to my parents, and in later years, to my roommates because I made some hot garbage.
Good Eats made cooking fun, during a time when every show about it was incredibly serious and many time, horribly pretentious. On top of that, you're learning about real-life science, stuff you can use in the real world. Also, follow Alton Brown on Twitter. He's delightful. | Mat Elfring
Eyes Wide Shut | July 16, 1999
Stanley Kubrick delivered his final cut of Eyes Wide Shut about one week before passing away. It had been thirteen years since Full Metal Jacket. It was his 12th film and perhaps the most anticipated of his career. Eyes Wide Shut was shrouded in secrecy; a scandalous sex film in which Hollywood’s most famous couple, Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, were cast in the leading roles. It was over budget and over schedule. Kubrick had always been infatuated with the 1920s novel it was based on and had gone out of his way to purchase every copy off of bookstore he could find to keep it out of the hands of others. There was rampant speculation that he had lost his mind.
I was about as much a Kubrick-phile as one could have been in 1999. I was devastated by his passing but heartened that Tom Cruise and Warner Bros sought to honor Kubrick’s film without compromising his vision. The opulent orgy sequence has notoriously bad CGI cloaked figures obscuring graphic sex, but this was something the filmmaker had agreed upon prior to the film’s completion. Kubrick knew better than anybody how to get movies made his way and where he could compromise.
Eyes Wide Shut is Kubrick’s most carefully composed and expertly crafted film. Every scene is meticulously planned, blocked and lit by Kubrick himself. He kept the crew to a minimum and the process intimate (except for building three blocks of New York City on a backlot in London from scratch). The resulting film is his most eerie, dreamlike journey in a brooding look at jealousy and paranoia. Like any Kubrick film, it is inherently a comedy beneath the surface, and like any Kubrick film it can be appreciated from many different angles on repeat viewings. | Ryan Schubert
The Blair Witch Project | July 30, 1999
The Blair Witch Project might have been released at the tail-end of the 1990s, but its influence stretches across the entirety of the following decade and beyond. It showed that shooting a movie on a domestic camcorder was no hindrance to huge international success, and ensured that low budget horror filmmakers stopped even trying to make their movies look good. Suddenly, “found footage” was the horror subgenre of choice.
Of course, few of the imitators had the terrifying power of this movie. It looked and sounded real, as three students head into a supposedly haunted wood to explore the legend of the Blair Witch, and find themselves trapped, as weird and scary things happen all around them. The believable, increasingly desperate performances--partially real, as the actors didn’t always know what tricks directors Eduardo Sánchez and Daniel Myrick would throw at them--and the growing sense of impending doom for these three kids absolutely petrified audiences in 1999.
The Blair Witch Project is a film that only truly works to the first viewing, and neither of its two sequels came close to matching it for raw scares. But in terms of a film that showed how much you can achieve with very little, Blair Witch has few rivals. | Dan Auty
The Sixth Sense | August 6, 1999
Having the ending of The Sixth Sense spoiled for you was one of those life-changing events that would set you on a different course forever, not to mention the bone-deep grudge you'd hold against the perpetrator who committed the spoiling. That's because the experience of watching the movie and seeing that twist unfold before your eyes was second to none in cinema at that time. It felt truly new. (And before you say you guessed the twist in the first 10 minutes, congrats, you're a genius? I don't know what you want me to tell you.)
Even without the infamous twist, Sixth Sense was a terrifying thriller about a little kid who was plagued by gruesome, terrifying ghosts that only he could see. The movie launched Haley Joel Osment's career into the stratosphere, and further cemented Bruce Willis as one of the biggest stars of the decade. And don't forget that it was director M. Night Shyamalan's first major feature film, which felt more significant before he used up all that goodwill with a series of duds throughout the aughts.
My dad and I watched this movie over and over, looking for all the little clues that we missed the first time around. M. Night Shyamalan would go on to become known as the cheesy twist guy who couldn't recapture his early genius, but before that, The Sixth Sense was so good that even in retrospect the hype was totally justified. | Mike Rougeau
The Iron Giant | August 6, 1999
I'm a sucker for fictional characters with limited communication skills. Before he was Groot, Vin Diesel was the Iron Giant, a mysterious space robot who crash-lands in the small town of Rockwell, Maine in the '50s. A local kid named Hogarth Hughes discovers and befriends the Giant, who seems friendly and peaceful.
Of course, the military and most of Rockwell's adult population don't like the Giant. There's a war on--the Cold War--and randomly appearing robots are generally not a great sign. With the help of a beatnik artist named Dean, Hogarth hides and protects the Giant, teaching him the difference between right and wrong, what death is, and how to use his powers for good. There are amusing hijinks and genuinely serious moments in equal measure, all building up to a phenomenal ending.
As far as animated family movies go, The Iron Giant can often take a backseat to Disney films from around the same time. It underperformed at the box office, even, really only gaining traction after its home release. But Brad Bird's directorial debut is now (rightfully) regarded as a classic of 2D animation. It's beautifully animated, intelligent, funny, and--above all--heartfelt and earnest, and it never fails to make me cry at least a little. | Kallie Plagge
Freaks and Geeks | September 25, 1999
Sorry Ronda Rousey, but Joan Jett's "Bad Reputation" will forever be attached to this NBC series, which was cancelled way too soon. Freaks and Geeks took place in the early '80s, following brother and sister Sam and Lindsay Weir, as they traverse a new year in high school.
It's a funny, coming of age story, where Lindsay is having a bit of an identity crisis, hanging out with the burnouts, while her brother Sam dealt with being a nerd, which comes with things like being bullied. The series launched the careers of Linda Cardellini, James Franco, Martin Starr, Jason Segel, and Seth Rogen, and the series heavily featured the writing of both Paul Feig and Judd Apatow. Everything we know and love about contemporary comedy started here, but it wasn't a series that relied on punchline after punchline. It was ahead of its time.
Freaks and Geeks resonated with me immensely, as I was entering my senior year of high school when the show came out. I felt the same way as these characters and had the same struggles as well, just 19 years in the future. Regardless of when the series took place, these teenagers still have to deal with the same problems: fitting in, trying not to disappoint your parents, learning how to function as a young adult, and love. If Freaks and Geeks had been released six years later, it would have ran for 10 seasons. | Mat Elfring
Fight Club | October 15, 1999
A misunderstood commercial failure at the time, the legacy and reputation of Fight Club has increased massively over the past 20 years. While star Brad Pitt and director David Fincher's previous film--the serial killer thriller Seven--was a huge success, audiences and critics simply didn't know what to make of Fight Club. Was it a dark comedy? An edgy paranoid thriller? A drama about alienation and mental illness? A savage satire about masculinity and consumerism? The answer is, of course, all of the above.
An amazing cast--a never-better Pitt, Edward Norton, Helena Bonham Carter, Jared Leto--stunning direction from Fincher, and incendiary source material (Chuck Palahniuk's novel) ensure that there's never been a movie quite like Fight Club, before or since. For once, the movie's big twist actually makes you want to go back and watch again. For those that can stomach its excesses, it remains an endlessly rewatchable, disreputable treat. | Dan Auty
The Straight Story | October 21, 1999
If there is one popular director in film history who could otherwise be accused of never telling a straightforward story, his name is David Lynch. Following his bleak, narcissistic reality-bender, Lost Highway (1997), and prior to its full blown glorious follow-up, Mulholland Drive (2001), Lynch took a pastoral detour into one of the most frighteningly linear and starkly heart-warming corners of his enigmatic psyche.
An aging Alvin Straight, who lives with his daughter Rose (Sissy Spacek), decides that before he passes away he should make amends with his estranged brother who is ailing. Because Alvin is no longer allowed to drive a car, he decides that he will drive a John Deere tractor from Iowa to Wisconsin.
Based on a true story, The Straight Story is part family drama and part road movie. It shows that David Lynch’s penchant for existential horror is just as at home in a warm sweater as it is wrapped in plastic. Lynch fans and newcomers alike ought to see this film to know the breadth of Lynch’s capability.
Alvin was played by Richard Farnsworth who passed away the following year and received the film’s only Oscar nomination. Lynch composing veteran Angelo Badalamenti (Twin Peaks, The City of Lost Children) shows that his famous severity can be tamed in one of the most gentle and beautiful film scores you will ever hear. | Ryan Schubert
Dogma | November 12, 1999
Kevin Smith's movies hold a special place in my heart. When my wife and I started dating, we first bonded over our love of the movie Mallrats. And Dogma was the first Kevin Smith movie we got to see together in the theater. Sure, it was rated-R, but this was the late '90s, and as long as you weren't a child, you could be under the age 17 and buy a ticket no problem.
Smith's movies were very much a product of the mid to late-90s. It captured the minds of the a generation, primarily late Generation Xers and early Millennials. How did it do so? With rude, crude, and totally lewd jokes wrapped around a story about trying to find God, whom had gone missing somewhere on Earth, while two banished angels try to get back into Heaven.
Back then, it was hilarious, and it featured a ton of Jay and Silent Bob, which was a huge bonus for me. Does it hold up now? I don't dare go back and watch it because the memories of watching it in the theater will more than likely far outway the actual quality of the film. | Mat Elfring
Toy Story 2 | November 24, 1999
In some ways, Toy Story 2 seems to be the forgotten movie in the franchise. The first was a game changer and the third was such an emotional rollercoaster that it wrecked even the best of us. The second, though, touches on an aspect of toys that has become far more common in recent years; the collector's market. It also takes the action-oriented elements from the first movie and blows them up, crating a massive adventure that sends th toys to a toy store on a rescue mission to bring Woody home after he's taken by a super creepy grown man in a chicken suit. Toy Story 2 deserves more respect, so watch it again. | Chris E. Hayner
Being John Malkovich | December 3, 1999
Spike Jonze’s Being John Malkovich is as funny as it is bizarre. A puppeteer named Craig Schwartz (John Cusack) discovers a portal that allows him to enter the mind of real life actor John Malkovich, allowing him to see and hear what Malkovich is doing for fifteen minutes, before being ejected into a ditch in New Jersey. He and his co-worker Maxine (Catherine Keener) decide to profit on this experience, by charging a $200 admission for people to become John Malkovich.
It’s a ridiculous, mesmerizing story that twists in unexpected ways, supported by solid, over the top performances from its gifted cast, including an offtype Cameron Diaz and a very meta John Malkovich with an existential crisis. Best of all is the surreal love story between Maxine and Lotte (Diaz), who fall in love when Lotte is inside the mind of Malkovich while dating Maxine. The movie’s tagline poses the question, “Ever wanted to be someone else?” and gives us a surreal look at what people might do if they could be a celebrity for a short period of time. To this day, Being John Malkovich is still one of the most original, intelligent and outrageous comedies I’ve ever seen, and I look forward to rewatching it every 10 years. | Chastity Vicencio
Magnolia | December 8, 1999
Today it is easy to regard Magnolia as merely Paul Thomas Anderson’s fifth or sixth best film in a catalogue of nearly unparalleled quality among American filmmakers. But, in 1999, cinephiles were collectively impressed by the star-studded three hour opus from the relative newcomer who had gotten everyone’s attention with a Scorsesian romp, Boogie Nights, only two years earlier.
At the time, Magnolia drew comparisons to Robert Altman’s Short Cuts for its multi-character, multi-story tale of how the lives of seemingly disparate personalities are fatefully intertwined. Beyond this, it is difficult to describe Magnolia by its story as much as by its feeling: the impressions of melancholy, loneliness, and desperation that its characters share.
The Altman comparisons were apt, too, because it was abundantly clear with Magnolia that Anderson could make it seem as though drawing a spectacular performance out of any actor of any caliber was effortless. Julianne Moore, Tom Cruise, Philip Seymour Hoffman, William H. Macy, John C. Reilly and Jason Robards (in his final film) are all unforgettable.
Anderson’s films have since become more intimate, more complex, more carefully constructed, and in nearly every respect superior. Nevertheless, it is impossible to leave Magnolia out of any conversation about Anderson’s work in part for its foibles, but necessarily for the master craft it foreshadowed. | Ryan Schubert
Galaxy Quest | December 25, 1999
Galaxy Quest is one of the most surprising movies I've ever seen. At a glance, it would appear to be an attempt to make a Star Trek movie laced with a bit of humor. Nailing that could have made for an enjoyable if forgettable film, but Galaxy Quest is much more than that.
Galaxy Quest functions as both a sci-fi action-adventure film and a parody of that genre--and it does both of those things extremely well. The main characters--former actors from a Star Trek-like TV series--are roped into an interstellar space war involving aliens who think the actors are really the heroic characters they play. After a period of time where they believe the aliens are simply over-eager cosplayers, we get to enjoy the fun of these characters try to bulls*** their way through serving as the crew of an actual, real-life Enterprise-style spaceship while trying to hide their shock at what's happening. Meanwhile, Alan Rickman acts like a grumpy man who could not be less pleased with the show's success and its ensuing promotional opportunities, which results in one of the all-time great line readings.
This all facilitates some nice arcs, as we see characters who are loathsome or cowardly overcome their flaws as they turn into the people they portrayed. What might be most impressive about Galaxy Quest is how well it works, and how funny it remains, 20 years later. The jokes aren't reliant on recreating famous scenes from Star Trek; you don't even need to have watched that series (or anything else) in order to get it. I'm hesitant to invoke the name Shaun of the Dead, which is a triumph in numerous ways, but Galaxy Quest does an admirable job in nailing that same blend of action and comedy. | Chris Pereira