My Top 10 Favorite Movies of 1998

29 Mar

You know the drill by now. These are my 10 favorite movies of 1998, going by release year listed on IMDB.

Honorable mentions: Dark City, The Interview, Rushmore, Run Lola Run, There’s Something About Mary

10 – FOLLOWING (Christopher Nolan)

“You take it away to show them what they had.”

Before there were the multi-million dollar blockbusters like The Dark Knight and Inception, there was Following. Nolan’s first film was made on a budget of $6000, shot in black & white and with no bells and whistles. The story thus becomes the focal point, and it’s a good one indeed. Telling the non-chronological tale of a writer (Jeremy Theobald) who after following people on the streets eventually finds himself led into a world of crime, this neo-noir is filled with twists, turns and intrigue. Not quite a masterpiece or anything, but definitely well worth checking out to see where the seeds for Memento were planted.

9 – THE CELEBRATION (FESTEN, Thomas Vinterberg)

“Here’s to the man who killed my sister. To a murderer.”

The Celebration is perhaps most significant for being the first (and, alongside Lars Von Trier‘s The Idiots, arguably the most well-known) movie of the Dogme 95 movement, a philosophy that emphasises realism throughout the whole film production and was started in reaction to big costly Hollywood fare. However, it’s also a captivating film in its own right, showing the dark secrets hidden away beneath the facades of a wealthy family. It’s a fitting subject matter for the style, which all leads to some chillingly stark scenes and moments. A powerful film.

8 – THE TRUMAN SHOW (Peter Weir)

“Cue the sun!”

In retrospect, it’s interesting that this film was made as early as 1998 when the reality show phenomenon was still in its infancy. Eerily predictive of the Big Brother-type shows still to come, The Truman Show takes the concept to its logical extreme and features a 24/7 program where the life of one man (Jim Carrey in his first semi-serious role) is manufactured, controlled and broadcast to the entire world by a TV production company. It works really well as a satire, but also has a compelling narrative as Truman starts to realize that something is not right about the town he lives in and attempts to break free of his artificial life. Oh, and Ed Harris is great as the God-like producer.


“The possibility of physical and mental collapse is now very real. No sympathy for the Devil, keep that in mind. Buy the ticket, take the ride.”

One long drug trip in movie form, from the mind of gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson and filtered through the sensibilities of Terry Gilliam. It’s an unrelenting and sometimes exhausting experience to follow Raoul and his lawyer (Johnny Depp and Benicio Del Toro) as they stumble around Vegas while indulging in copious amounts of narcotic substances, but it’s also a very funny and quotable comedy filled with black humor and bizarre hallucinations. The opening scene in itself (“This is bat country!”) is a must-see.


“One in every three black males is in some phase of the correctional system. Is that a coincidence or do these people have, you know, like a racial commitment to crime?”

I have some issues with the semi-rushed nature of the story towards the second half, but even so, American History X remains a powerful racism movie. While some time is spent showing the rhetorics and reasoning of racists – and establishing that there are no easy answers to the issue – the focus lies on the redemptive journey of one Derek Vinyard (Edward Norton), showing both his past as a neo-Nazi and his present life where he seeks to distance himself from it all and keep his younger brother Daniel (Edward Furlong) from heading down his path. Not always an easy film to watch (two words: curb stomp), but then a film like this probably shouldn’t be.

5 – SHOW ME LOVE (FUCKING ÅMÅL, Lukas Moodysson)

“Is it true you’re a lesbian? If you are I understand, ’cause guys are so gross. I’m also going to be one, I think.”

Show Me Love was a tremendous critical and commercial success here in its home country, quickly becoming one of those films that everyone was talking about. No other Swedish film has really managed that since then. The story itself is fairly straight-forward with two teenage girls at the center: one the most popular at school (Alexandra Dahlström), the other a tormented loner (Rebecka Liljeberg) in love with the first one. At play is the obvious themes of sexual identity and the pains of being a teenager, but the film is also about the frustration of small-town drudgery and wanting to escape to something bigger and better. It’s all expertly handled and one hell of a directorial debut for Lukas Moodysson, who’d go on to make the nigh-equally great Together and Lilya 4-Ever.

4 – HAPPINESS (Todd Solondz)

“If only I had been raped as a child! Then I would know authenticity!”

I mentioned earlier that American History X isn’t always easy to watch. Happiness easily has it beat in that department however, not due to graphic violence but because of the ugly nature of the characters that inhabit the film. Solondz’ aim here isn’t to make us like or sympathize with them, which is fortunate; it’s hard to harbor any positive feelings towards a man (Dylan Baker) who drugs and molests a 12-year old boy, to name but one of the central characters. Rather, he asks us to observe and consider them, and make us think about in what ways they differ from ourselves. An unflinching movie with some bitter black comedy, and one not easily ignored.

3 – THE NEGOTIATOR (F. Gary Gray)

“See, this is what us real cops do: We study liars.”

An unfairly forgotten action-thriller. Few people talk about this one nowadays, which is a shame. It deserves better than that. A highly entertaining movie in which a skilled hostage negotiator (Samuel L. Jackson) finds himself in trouble with his coworkers in the police and decides to take the man in charge of his investigation (J. T. Walsh) hostage. And then another negotiator (Kevin Spacey) shows up to resolve the situation, and we’re treated to a fun and intriguing chess game between the two as they seek to outmaneuver each other. A clever and exciting film, sharper than most of its kind.


“I don’t fucking believe this! Can everyone stop gettin’ shot!?”

I don’t really know what to say about this film that I didn’t already say about its spiritual sequel Snatch on my 2000 list. This one’s along the same lines, a British gangster movie with snappy dialogue, a 20 car pile-up of a plot (about illegal poker games, antique rifles, and God knows what else) and lots of cursing and violence. Also noteworthy for being Jason Statham‘s first real movie role. Funny as all hell, and still remains one of Guy Ritchie’s finest moments.

1 – THE BIG LEBOWSKI (Joel & Ethan Coen)

“Fuck it, Dude, let’s go bowling.”

If you haven’t seen The Big Lebowski, you should watch it. If you’ve seen it and didn’t like it, you should watch it again, because most people like it much better the second time. And if you’ve seen it and already like it, well, there’s no reason not to watch it one more time anyhow. Absolutely hilarious from start to finish, the kind of funny that over-quoting of its lines can’t seem to harm because the laughs come from context and characters as much as from the words themselves. Jeff Bridges and John Goodman give us two of the most memorable comedic characters of the 90s: laid-back stoner The Dude and agressive Vietnam veteran Walter. Add in teriffic supporting turns from Steve Buscemi, John Torturro, Julianne Moore, Sam Elliott and others, and you have a modern comedy classic.

What are you favorite films of 1998? What do you think of the movies on this list?


Posted by on 29 March, 2012 in Lists, Top 10 of a year


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22 responses to “My Top 10 Favorite Movies of 1998

  1. Pete

    29 March, 2012 at 18:26

    AHX and Truman are my faves here. I’d have Saving Private Ryan in there for sure. I’m hopefully going to watch Festen this week. And still need to see Following.

    • Emil

      29 March, 2012 at 18:50

      I’m no big fan of Saving Private Ryan. Granted, I haven’t seen it since it was in theaters, but I don’t think my feelings on it will have changed much over the years. War movies isn’t my thing. Hope you enjoy Festen and Following!

  2. Dave

    29 March, 2012 at 18:46

    Awesome list! AHX, Truman, Happiness, Lebowski and especially love the shout out to Negotiator. All great films, all on my list, and completely in sync with you. Hated Fear and Loathing, though, but that’s not surprising, given how polarizing it is. Didn’t care much for Celebration or Lock Stock either, and have yet to see Following and Show Me Love, though the latter has been on my list for a while.

    I am surprised by your omission of Saving Private Ryan because just about everyone loves that film (I like it quite a bit, but not enough to make my final cut). Also surprised by your omission of Pleasantville (a perfect double-feature with Truman Show), Out of Sight (still remains as Soderbergh’s best film), A Simple Plan (seems right up your alley) and Primary Colors (far better than you might think it is). What say you, Emil?!

    • Emil

      29 March, 2012 at 18:56

      You definitely need to get around to Show Me Love. I have a feeling it’ll be right up your alley, especially since you liked Together.

      As mentioned in the previous comment I made, I’m not a big fan of war films. SPR is well-made and all that, but I just found myself not caring much about what was going on. As for the other omissions, those will have to be chalked up on the more hopeful “haven’t seen yet” list. Pleasantville have been on my radar for a while, whereas the others must have slipped me by. They’ve all been added to my watch list now. Thank you for the recommendations!

  3. Movies - Noir

    29 March, 2012 at 22:13

    Always enjoy these lists and they make me want to add a couple of them myself ;)

    I haven’t seen #7 and #9, even though I’ve been recommended Festen more than once and will probably see it sooner or later. Fear and Loathing doesn’t really feel like my kind of film so I’ve kept away from it. But if I get a chance, I’ll give it a shot.

    Out of the others, I thought Following was a solid debut by Nolan, but no where near Memento. The Truman Show is a very nice film and a good one from 1998. American History X is one of the best from the year, while I haven’t seen Fucking Åmål since it came out. I remember not liking one of the female characters (the loud mouthed one), but it was an emotional film I’d like to see again. Happiness is a fun, dark comedy with some excellent performances and characters. The Negotiator, hmm I should revisit this one as I don’t remember much from it to tell you the truth. Thanks for reminding me of it. Lock, Stock… is Guy Ritchie’s best and I like it as well. The Big Lebowski though, I’m not a fan. Having said that, I haven’t seen it since it came out so I would really need to give it another look.

    I saw that you mentioned The Interview among the honorable and I like that one, very good aussie thriller. As well as Lola rennt, a high octane Tom Tykwer.

    My favorite movies from the year include American History X, A Simple Plan, The Interview, Lola rennt, Lock, Stock…, The Truman Show and maybe Rounders. Not a very “deep” year, but American History X stands out in my opinion.

    Saving Private Ryan has some excellent war scenes and I like a good war movie. However, it’s a bit too patriotic and cheesy if I remember it correctly. But it’s a movie I’d like to watch again because of the tremendous war scenes.

    • Emil

      29 March, 2012 at 22:23

      Glad to hear you’re enjoying the lists. Not sure how much further they’ll keep going as sooner or later I’ll reach years where I haven’t seen enough great films to make meaningful lists anymore. But for now, the train keeps rolling.

      Of the two you haven’t seen, I reckon you’ll probably enjoy Festen more. Fear and Loathing is a bit of a divisive film that really requires you to follow along with its drug-induced tempo and atmosphere. It’s quite bizarre, but very funny when you’re in the right mood. But yeah. Watch Festen first, would be my advice to you.

      And I fully agree that Memento is a much better movie than Following, but Following is an interesting watch as you can see Nolan getting a feel for the movie-making process while preparing for Memento (non-chronological timeline, noir elements, etc.).

      You’re the second person to mention A Simple Plan here in the comments. I’m starting to wonder how this one has managed to pass me by so far. Definitely checking it out sometime.

      Thank you for the comment!

  4. Jessica

    29 March, 2012 at 23:32

    Lots of good movies that year. I would like to bring up Lars von Trier’s The Idiots.
    There are a couple of romantic movies I liked: You’ve got Mail and Shakespeare in Love. I also really liked Elisabeth and Antz. I take this as that you didn’t care for Saving Private Ryan?
    It’s been too long since I watched it so I don’t remember how good it was tbh.
    Oh and Pleasantville is a very cool movie. I think I’d have it on my top 10.

    • Emil

      30 March, 2012 at 00:38

      Interesting suggestions, Jessica. A lot of them I haven’t seen. In fact, the only one I have that you mentioned is Shakespeare in Love, which I thought was quite okay. Not great or anything, but I thought Paltrow did a really good job. It’s kind of an unfairly maligned film nowadays, as it seems a lot of people still can’t get over it beating Saving Private Ryan for Best Picture at the Oscars. Oh well. Shakespear in Love is the better film of the two in my book.

      I’ve been meaning to check out the other ones you mentioned for some time. Hopefully, I’ll get around to them soon enough. Thank you for commenting!

  5. Tyler

    30 March, 2012 at 09:29

    This list is fantastic. So many great films here: Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, The Big Lebowski, Happiness, Festen… I love your picks. The only one I disagree with is Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, which I didn’t like. But I probably need to see it again.

    Also, I might as well shamelessly promote it: I just posted my top ten films of 2011. Maybe I’ll work my way back through the years like you. Who knows?

    • Tyler

      30 March, 2012 at 09:30

      Oh, and I also second Jessica’s recommendation of The Idiots. Fantastic film.

    • Emil

      30 March, 2012 at 10:28

      Yeah, I saw your list just this morning as left a comment. Good stuff. I’d be really interested to see what your picks would be for each year if you do decide to travel down the same route.

      Glad you liked my picks here, Tyler!

  6. Nostra

    30 March, 2012 at 10:03

    Have to admit I have not seen all of them, although reading the descriptions I don’t know if I will watch Show Me Love or Happiness. Nice to see The Negotiator on there! Only saw Festen for the first time about two weeks ago (review was up this past week) and it’s a stunning movie despite the low budget feel.

    • Emil

      30 March, 2012 at 10:33

      Happiness is an understandable pass as it’s certainly not for everyone. I do think you should check out Show Me Love, though. It’s a great watch. What makes you hesitant about it?

      I actually spotted your review of Festen just as I was writing about it for this post, which was one of those paranoia-inducing coincidences. “Why is Nostra reading my mind!?” :)

      Good to see some more love for The Negotiator. I don’t get why that one hasn’t endured better in the public consciousness through the years.

      • Nostra

        30 March, 2012 at 10:41

        Mainly the title and the subject matter. Somehow got the feeling it’s not something I’d enjoy watching, but I might have to give it a chance.

        Hahaha, you didn’t know I have mindreading capabilities? ;)

        It’s a stunning movie and one where Samuel L. Jackson can show what an amazing actor he is.

        • Emil

          30 March, 2012 at 10:46

          Well, it’s up to you, but I wouldn’t worry about the title at least. “Fucking” refers just to the general cursing, and it’s uttered by one of the characters when she rages about the useless nature of the town they live in. As for the English title, well, it’s lame and boring.

          I knew it! I should probably get one of those tinfoil hats I keep hearing about…

          And yeah, SLJ definitely gets a chance to show his skills in The Negotiator. In so many films, he’s just cool and badass, so it’s easy to forget that he has real chops when called for. The Negotiator, Black Snake Moan, Changing Lanes, Jackie Brown, etcetera. All good stuff from him.

  7. Jandy

    2 April, 2012 at 20:39

    Nice list! Love Truman Show, Lebowski, and Lock Stock. Those would all be high on my list. I actually just watched Fear and Loathing for the first time last week, and really liked it as well. I haven’t seen Celebration, Show Me Love, Happiness, or The Negotiator.

    My own list would definitely include Shakespeare in Love (and NOT Saving Private Ryan – you may be the only person I know, other than myself, who ranks SiL higher than SVP!) and Rushmore. Other than that, it’s a lot of the same ones you picked. :)

    • Emil

      2 April, 2012 at 22:26

      Thanks! :)

      You definitely need to check out Happiness, Jandy. One of those films that gleefully pushes the envelope to further its point, rather than having the pushing BEING the point. It has its own identity, in a way. I think you might like it.

  8. Alex Withrow

    3 April, 2012 at 22:45

    Great choices here, love a lot of the flicks you mentioned. The Thin Red Line is one of my favorite films of all time, definitely my favorite of 1998. Others I like that weren’t on your list: Affliction, A Simple Plan, Saving Private Ryan, High Art, Pi, Out of Sight and Your Friends and Neighbors.

    Wow, who knew 1998 was such a great year?

    • Emil

      4 April, 2012 at 00:03

      It’s funny how some movies are being mentioned by a lot of commenters here, despite the fact that I rarely see them talked about otherwise. A Simple Plan and Out of Sight, for instance. I’ll definitely have to check those out.

      I’ve seen two of your picks. Saving Private Ryan I’ve discussed in respone to other comments. Pi is one I had a hard time getting into. I’m a big fan of Aronofsky in general, but his debut struck me as too cold and imperonal (granted, this suits the subject matter to an extent, but it wasn’t my cup of tea). It’s my least favorite of his films.

      The rest are unseen by me. I’ve actually not seen a single Malick film yet. I do intend to, but Thin Red Line does not seem a likely starting point for me. There are others that intrigue me more. I’m sure I’ll get around to it at some point, though. I’ll be looking up the other ones you mentioned, which I’m not sure I’ve heard of before. Thank you for the suggestions!

      • Alex Withrow

        4 April, 2012 at 21:47

        My pleasure! Ah, I envy that you will soon discover Malick for the first time. The main is a poetic master.

  9. Dino

    2 May, 2012 at 13:13

    Great list, enjoyed both the Big Lebowski and Lock Stock and two smoking barrels. However I think Lock Stock is by far the greater of the two films.The dialogue, the soundtrack, action, comedy. It is the kind of one in a million film, that really gets better with age. The film is as Kosher as Christmas

    • Emil

      2 May, 2012 at 15:45

      I really wouldn’t call Lock Stock & Two Smoking Barrels “one in a million”, as Snatch is so very similar to it – both in tone, content, and quality. But I get your point, and I definitely agree that it’s a teriffic film. :)

      Thank you for the comment!


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