My Top 10 Favorite Movies of 1997

19 Apr

Here we go with another list of my favorite films of a given year. This time we’re in 1997. The year when we found out that the Terminator movies weren’t accurate predictions of the future as Skynet didn’t take over on August 29. The year when “MMMBop” reigned supreme on the pop charts. The year when James Cameron released a little film that would go on to obliterate the cash registers at the box office. The year when Lady Di met an unfortunate end. And, of course, plenty of good movies.

As usual, this list only counts movies with a stated release year of 1997 according to IMDB.

Honorable mentions: Boogie Nights, The Fifth Element, Life is Beautiful, Suicide Kings, Titanic

10 – CUBE (Vincenzo Natali)

“No more talking. No more guessing. Don’t even think about nothing that’s not right in front of you. That’s the real challenge. You’ve got to save yourselves from yourselves.”

A group of people wake up in a maze consisting of cube-shaped rooms. Some of the rooms contain deadly traps. There. That’s an effective two-sentence summary of Cube’s premise. While there are scenes of gruesome deaths, the focus lies primarily on the characters and how they cope with each other as they try to figure out where they are, why they’re there, and how they can get out. With claustrophic tension to spare, this Canadian thriller is not one to miss.

9 – PERFECT BLUE (Satoshi Kon)

“You bad girl! You have to follow the script!”

Perfect Blue is a must-see for anyone who liked Darren Aronofsky‘s Black Swan as they deal with similar themes: uncertainty of what’s real, pressure to succeed, and the psychological effects of sex. Here we follow a young famous pop artist who decides to switch gears and become an actress, only to find herself stalked by an all-seeing obsessed fan who thinks her a traitor. At only 80 minutes, Perfect Blue is a very condensed psychological thriller that packs a heavy punch.

8 – THE GAME (David Fincher)

“Discovering the object of the game IS the object of the game.”

It’s not often brought up in discussions on Fincher’s best films, but The Game is a fun and exciting thriller that deserves the spotlight on occasions. Michael Douglas plays Nicholas Van Orton, a wealthy businessman who signs up for a game that plays out in his real life, only for it to turn dark and threatening. The real entertainment here comes from Nicholas’ transformation from grumpy asshole to paranoid wreck. And the movie keeps you on your toes, making you question what’s real and what’s part of the game, putting you right in there with Douglas’ character.

7 – GATTACA (Andrew Niccol)

“I belonged to a new underclass, no longer determined by social status or the color of your skin. No, we now have discrimination down to a science.”

Should a person’s genes determine his life? They do in Gattaca, a smart science fiction film taking place in the not-too-distant future where people’s DNA is screened for job applications and where children are genetically altered before they’re born so that they can have successful lives. Vincent (Ethan Hawke) is born without any of these improvements and has a heart defect that limits his possibilities. He dreams of being an astronaut, but he’ll never be able to due to circumstances beyond his control. The film shows his attempt to break through this system of discrimination, and through this it works fine just as dramatic entertainment. What gives the movie staying power is the questions it raises, however. Questions that aren’t so easily dismissed – in either direction – when science marches ever onward in our own world. Bonus points for another great supporting turn by Jude Law, always a highlight of any movie.

6 – FACE/OFF (John Woo)

“Plan B: Why don’t we just kill each other?”

The story of a psychotic terrorist and an FBI agent who end up with each others’ faces is preposterous to say the least, and the way it plays out doesn’t make a whole lot of sense either. The film is also about as subtle as a brick to the face. But if one can look past these two things, there is a lot of fun to be had here. The action scenes are highly stylish with lots of slow-motion, explosions and gunplay at every corner. The two leads – John Travolta and Nicolas Cage – have a lot of fun mimicking each others’ body language and speech patterns, something only heightened by the bizarre antics of the bad guy Castor Troy. Few pure action films provide as much entertainment as Face/Off does.

5 – OPEN YOUR EYES (ABRE LOS OJOS, Alejandro Amenábar)

“I only believe what I see.”

The original that Vanilla Sky is a remake of. I wrote about my confused feelings on these two films a while ago. Don’t mistake “confused feelings” with “mixed feelings”, however; Open Your Eyes is a great thriller, elegantly constructed, with fun characters and an intriguing mystery at its core. For more of my thoughts on it, read the post I linked to above.

4 – JACKIE BROWN (Quentin Tarantino)

“Look, I hate to be the kinda nigga that does a nigga a favor, then BAM!, hits a nigga up for a favor in return. But I’m afraid I gots to be that kinda nigga.”

What makes Jackie Brown stand out a bit from the rest of Tarantino’s oeuvre is how tight and focused the dialogue is. The characters here don’t have time for casual conversations about Madonna, Superman or cheeseburgers. They’re too caught up in their plans to earn possession of half a million dollars, to stay alive, and/or to catch the bad guy. Everything they say to each other serves a direct purpose to bring the story along. And despite this, the characters still come alive and become more than mere plot devices. The actors certainly deserve credit – Pam Grier, Samuel L. Jackson and Robert Forster all put in great performances – but more than anything, Jackie Brown is a showcase for the storytelling ability of Tarantino.

3 – GROSSE POINTE BLANK (George Armitage)

“You want to kill the good guy but not be the bad guy. Doesn’t work like that. You have to wait until the bad guy kills the good guy, then when you kill the bad guy, you’re the good guy.”

A quirky premise of a weary assassin (John Cusack) who decides to attend his high school reunion opens the doors for reflecting on what life has to offer, as well as a longing for “the good old days.” It’s a good story with a slightly melancholic edge, but that’s not why Grosse Pointe Blank is on this list. It’s on here because it’s absolutely hilarious, filled with wonderfully funny dialogue and some great comedic performances – chiefly Cusack in the lead, but also Dan Aykroyd as his colleague/rival. Clever and unique in the best of ways.


“I have gathered here before me the world’s deadliest assassins, and yet each of you has failed to kill Austin Powers. That makes me angry. And when Dr. Evil gets angry, Mr. Bigglesworth gets upset. And when Mr. Bigglesworth gets upset… people die!”

Mike Myers‘ career might have been on a bit of downturn in recent years, but he was on a roll in the 90s, creating three highly iconic comedic characters: first Wayne in Wayne’s World, and then the double-shot of Austin Powers and Dr. Evil in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery. A spoof of old 60s spy movies – particularly James Bond – the humor here is broad enough for anyone to laugh at but with enough little nods and homages to provide further enjoyment for those more well-versed in the genre it parodies. There are so many funny scenes here. The golf cart. The steamroller. The family therapy. Not to mention numerous fish-out-of-water moments as the 60s-based main characters – after having been cryogenically frozen for 30 years – have to adjust to the modern world. Just thinking about it all makes me want to revisit the film again for the umpteenth time.

1 – THE ICE STORM (Ang Lee)

“I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.”

Being set during Thanksgiving in 1973, right in the middle of the Watergate scandal, The Ice Storm effectively captures the changing of eras. The decline of traditional family values, distrust of politicians, and a growing sense of cruiosity for what lies ahead. The focus is on two Connecticut families and their struggles with communicating and sex. There is a lot of different areas and subjects for the film to explore, and everything is compelling and fascinating. And what a teriffic cast, featuring a mix of established workhorse actors (Kevin Kline, Joan Allen, Sigourney Weaver) and young talents (Tobey Maguire, Christina Ricci, Elijah Wood, Katie Holmes) all poised for future fame.

What are you favorite films of 1997? What do you think of the movies on this list?


Posted by on 19 April, 2012 in Lists, Top 10 of a year


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22 responses to “My Top 10 Favorite Movies of 1997

  1. Nostra

    19 April, 2012 at 16:12

    I’m shocked that I only saw half of these movies! Will work my way through the others, starting with Perfect Blue (Black Swan being my all time favorite film).

    • Emil

      19 April, 2012 at 16:40

      Yeah, definitely check out Perfect Blue. I wouldn’t say it’s a better film than Black Swan (which is indeed amazing), but it’s certainly worth a watch. Aronofsky claims that he wasn’t influenced by Perfect Blue when he made Black Swan, which I’d find easier to believe if he hadn’t bought the rights to Satoshi Kon’s film in the late 90s so he could swipe a scene from it for Requiem for a Dream. No matter. Great films, both of them.

  2. Pete

    19 April, 2012 at 16:19

    Some great choices! Love Austin Powers, Grosse Point Blank and The Game. I would definitely have Titanic as my number 1 and would also certainly have Boogie Nights in my top 10. I really need to see The Ice Storm. I’m going to put that on my lovefilm list now. I might put Breakdown and Copland in my top 10 too.

    • Emil

      19 April, 2012 at 16:45

      Glad to see some more love for Grosse Pointe Blank out there. You don’t see many people talk about it these days, which is a bit of a shame.

      As I’m getting further and further back in years for these lists, there are more and more films showing up that I saw “back in the day” but haven’t had the chance to revisit since. Both Titanic and Boogie Nights fall into that category. Titanic I saw in theater and liked a lot, though I’m not sure I’d want to sit through it on my TV screen. Might go check out the 3D version while it’s still playing. Boogie Nights I actually bought on VHS, and I probably still have that tape lying around somewhere. Lack of a VCR keeps me from rewatching it, unfortunately. Still, that’s another good one. Hell of a cast.

  3. Mark Walker

    19 April, 2012 at 16:25

    Some good choices there man. I particularly agree with Jackie Brown and it’s nice to see Gattaca get a mention. Boogie Nights is one of my favourite movies though. That’d be in the 10 for me. Possibly number 1.

    • Emil

      19 April, 2012 at 16:47

      Boogie Nights is a film that might well jump into the top 10 if I get to rewatch it at some point. I recall really liking at the time.

      Thank you for the comment!

  4. Movies - Noir

    19 April, 2012 at 17:32

    On your list, I haven’t seen or heard of Perfect Blue before. I’m not a great fan of anime, but it sounds interesting. Might have a look at it.

    The Game, Gattaca, Jackie Brown and The Ice Storm would make my top ten as well. Others I’d include on my top ten would be L.A. Confidential, As Good as It Gets, Winterschläfer and Donnie Brasco. That’s eight. After that it would be two out of Four Days in September, Karakter, Affliction, Cop Land and Funny Games. It’s a tough one, many good movies to choose from.

    • Emil

      19 April, 2012 at 18:02

      I don’t watch a whole lot of anime myself. I don’t have anything against it. It’s more a case of me rarely hearing about any films of the type that sound really interesting. Perfect Blue is one of my favorites that I’ve seen so far, though.

      Those are some good picks you’re making too. I really enjoyed As Good As It Gets, though I felt the ending lacked any kind of closure to anything. LA Confidential and Donnie Brasco are also fine films, and I really ought to revisit at least the former sometime. Funny Games I saw for the first time just a few days ago. It was… interesting. I’ll have to look up the rest of the films you mentioned. Thank you for the comment!

  5. Dave

    19 April, 2012 at 22:35

    Brilliant list, pal. The Ice Storm tops my list as well, it’s the best film of that year and definitely Top 5 of the ’90’s for me. I’m planning on a writing a post about it in the coming weeks. I don’t quite agree with your love for Austin Powers or Grosse Point Blank (both films are amusing and entertaining, but not quite great for me). And I’d put Boogie Nights out of honorable mentions and place it squarely in the top 5. Breakdown is notably absent here. Queue that up if you haven’t seen it; ditto for Atom Egoyan’s The Sweet Hereafter. Keep it up, bro!

    • Emil

      19 April, 2012 at 23:40

      Thank you, Dave! You’re the second person to mention Breakdown, so that one is now on my watch list for sure. I don’t know quite what to think of Egoyan yet. I found Exotice to be a chore to sit through, but I really liked Chloe (at least up until the ending). I’ll trust your judgment and add The Sweet Herafter to the queue as well. Looking forward to checking them out!

      • Dave

        20 April, 2012 at 00:13

        I’m not a fan of Egoyan at all, really. Sweet Hereafter was his only film I found palatable and accessible. It’s a rather haunting and special film. Totally worth a look. Ian Holm is just devastating.

        And Breakdown is pure muscle. Always reminds me why Kurt Russell and JT Walsh are such good actors.

  6. Movies - Noir

    20 April, 2012 at 13:51

    I’d like to add that I also enjoy Breakdown. It’s one of those road-movies that one should watch if one likes The Hitcher (the original with Rutger Hauer). It also reminds me a bit of the dutch film Spoorloos, even though it’s a bit different from this one, but with a similar theme.

    The Sweet Hereafter is definitely worth a watch, not great, but pretty good. I’ve only seen Felicia’s Journey by Egoyan and TSH was the better one.

    • Emil

      20 April, 2012 at 18:21

      Haven’t seen either The Hitcher or Spoorlos. I probably should. Breakdown will be looked at sooner or later, in any case.

      • Movies - Noir

        20 April, 2012 at 21:05

        Ah, you haven’t seen The Hitcher, you say ? One to check out then, Rutger Hauer is tremendous :D

  7. sati

    24 April, 2012 at 01:33

    Great choices! I especially love Perfect Blue it’s such a great movie and it indeed does have a lot in common with Black Swan, I think certain shots were taken by Aronofsky directly from this one. The Game is also very underrated, it’s an entertaining movie with really fun twists and turns.

    • Emil

      24 April, 2012 at 08:21

      The bathtub scene Requiem for a Dream was definitely taken from Perfect Blue. Supposedly, that’s why Aronofsky bought the rights to the film: so he could use that scene. And yes, The Game gets too little love most of the time. Very fun thriller.

      Thank you for the comment!

  8. Alex Withrow

    24 April, 2012 at 17:44

    Excellent picks. Many of these flicks, namely The Game, Jackie Brown, and Grosse Pointe Blank never get the fair credit they deserve. A few of my 1997 picks: Good Will Hunting, Boogie Nights, L.A. Confidential, In the Company of Men, Funny Games, and Wag the Dog.

    • Emil

      24 April, 2012 at 17:49

      Those seem like good picks too. Boogie Nights and L.A. Confidential are indeed fine movies, and Funny Games was very interesting. Haven’t seen any of the others yet, but they’re all on my radar. Glad you liked my selections!

  9. dbmoviesblog

    5 May, 2012 at 01:09

    Absolutely love your list. I noticed that at least half of the films you put, especially ‘Cube’ and ‘The Game’, are very thought-provoking ‘intelligent’ kind of films – this is my favourite ‘genre’. My list, however, would probably also include ‘Good Will Hunting’ just for this film’s effort.

    • Emil

      5 May, 2012 at 01:38

      Thank you!

      Yeah, this particular year list happened to feature a lot of thrillers, many of them of the psychological kind. 1997 was a good year for them, it seems. This list is probably a bit of an exception, though. You’ll notice on my other lists in this series that I tend to lean towards comedies/dramedies more than anything. Still, a great movie is a great movie no matter what the genre. I’m always open for more great thriller experiences.

      I haven’t seen Good Will Hunting yet, unfortunately. I know there’s plenty of love out there for it, so I should hopefully get around to it soon enough.


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