My Top 10 Favorite Movies of 1995

14 Jun

As usual, this goes by release year as listed on IMDB.

Honorable mentions: The City of Lost Children, Copycat, Heat, Senior Trip, Welcome to the Dollhouse

10 – CLOCKERS (Spike Lee)

“Who the fuck is Rosa Parks?”

The plot of Clockers may be about a murder mystery, but it has a wider scope than that. Not surprisingly when it comes to Spike Lee, the film deals with black people in New York. There’s tension going on between them and the white cops, but also under the microscope here are the crimes the African-Americans inflict upon each other. It’s an intriguing film thematically, but it’s also some of Lee’s best story-telling that I’ve seen, and it all comes together through his trademark audiovisual style, with bright colors and an effective use of music. There’s also a pretty great Harvey Keitel performance in here. Clockers is not the director’s best movie, but it definitely deserves to be talked about more than it is.

9 – GET SHORTY (Barry Sonnenfeld)

“Rough business, this movie business. I’m gonna have to go back to loan-sharking just to take a rest.”

There’s a lot to like about Get Shorty. The numerous movie-related references and meta-jokes are sure to tickle the fancy of most cinephiles, but the humor is still broad enough to appeal to anyone. Having wonderfully constructed dialogue lifted straight from the Elmore Leonard novel helps too. Throw in a twisting plot of a loan-shark trying to get his foot – and more – into the doorway of Hollywood, and you have one hell of a fun ride. Has John Travolta ever been cooler than in this one?


“Great! I freak out in your dream, I freak out in my dream, no wonder I’m so fucking exhausted.”

1995 was apparently a good year for movies about movie-making, because here’s another one on my list. While Get Shorty is about the cutthroat world of Hollywood, Living in Oblivion covers the other end of the spectrum: low-budget independent film. It starts out simple enough, with a crew trying to shoot a movie and the numerous problems that arise. Then dream layers appear, reality seeps into the fiction and vice versa, and tension keeps rising between the various cast and crew members. Very clever and funny, and with a rare lead performance by Steve Buscemi as the frustrated director.

7 – TO DIE FOR (Gus Van Sant)

“On TV is where we learn about who we really are. Because what’s the point of doing anything worthwhile if nobody’s watching? And if people are watching, it makes you a better person.”

While I’m very far from a Nicole Kidman completionist, her performance in To Die For is my favorite of hers I’ve seen. She plays Suzanne, a driven woman dead-set on becoming a TV star, and she does so with gusto. Suzanne is ruthless, narrow-minded, and devious. She knows when to play the ditz, when to cajole, and how to get what she wants. Kidman brings forth all facets of the character flawlessly. The other actors impress too; Matt Dillon utilizes his strengths as an actor perfectly, Illeana Douglas is as great as always, and the trio of Joaquin Phoenix, Casey Affleck and Alison Folland play some of the most disturbingly dumb teens in recent memory. The satire lays thick in this film, and Gus Van Sant pulls no punches in skewering the obsession with fame so prevalent these days.

6 – LA HAINE (Mathieu Kassovitz)

“How you fall doesn’t matter. It’s how you land.”

I first saw La Haine somewhat early on in my cinematic awakening period. Movies in black & white was still something alien and peculiar to an extent. The lack of color was something I would fixate upon when I saw one. But never once did it strike me as peculiar in La Haine. It was just how it should be. Maybe because to the young angry protagonists, the world is very much black and white. Set in the aftermath of a riot in the suburbs of Paris, we follow three youths (Vincent Cassel, Saïd Taghmaoui, and Hubert Koundé) during one day as they drift around and try to amuse themselves, often leading to tense confrontations with the police and others. La Haine is tightly-wound, powerful, and captivating.

5 – THE USUAL SUSPECTS (Bryan Singer)

“It all makes sense when you look at it right. You gotta, like, stand back from it, you know?”

A risk with making a movie with a twist ending is that the twist might be what sticks to people’s memory of the film. Time and time again, I find myself thinking that maybe The Usual Suspects isn’t that great, and I only think it is because the ending is so cool. But then I sit down to rewatch it and am reminded of what a fun and wonderfully paced movie it really is. Teriffic cast too, with Kevin Spacey as the obvious stand-out.

4 – LEAVING LAS VEGAS (Mike Figgis)

“You’re like some sort of antidote that mixes with the liquor and keeps me in balance.”

A go-to rebute for whenever someone says that Nicolas Cage is a bad actor. Playing the alcoholic Ben certainly leaves room for the typical Cage craziness, but throughout the film there is a dark and somber feel to the character that keeps him grounded and tragic. Perhaps even more impressive, however, is Elizabeth Shue in what could have been an empty stock character – the hooker with a heart of gold – but instead becomes something more poignant and human. The whole film bathes in a melancholic blues-y atmosphere, illuminated by the neon lights that serves to highlight the self-destructive path Ben is on. Utterly captivating.

3 – TWELVE MONKEYS (Terry Gilliam)

“I am insane. And you are my insanity.”

A time travel movie, or maybe just a film about a delusional conspiracy theorist. Bruce Willis is at the top of his game here, showing unexpected dramatic range in the lead. And yet it’s Brad Pitt who everyone remembers in the role of the ranting nutto Jeffrey Goines. If set designs and art direction are more your cup of tea than story and acting, Twelve Monkeys still has something for you with its harrowing vision of a future post-apocalyptic world. Would you expect anything less from a Terry Gilliam film? This one’s clever, fun, and very rewatchable.

2 – BEFORE SUNRISE (Richard Linklater)

“Um… I want to keep talking to you, you know?”

Yesterday’s news that a long-awaited sequel to Before Sunset will be shooting this summer had me overjoyed. Getting to spend some time again with Celine and Jesse (Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke) is something I’m so looking forward to, and it all started with Before Sunrise when the two met each other on that train in Austria. Hindsight via the sequel gives the youthful romanticism in this extra weight, but this is a touching and affecting film even when viewed on its own merits. Rarely does two people walking and talking make for such compelling cinema.

1 – SEVEN (David Fincher)

“Wanting people to listen, you can’t just tap them on the shoulder anymore. You have to hit them with a sledgehammer, and then you’ll notice you’ve got their strict attention.”

The modern thriller.

What are you favorite films of 1995? What do you think of the movies on this list?


Posted by on 14 June, 2012 in Lists, Top 10 of a year


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15 responses to “My Top 10 Favorite Movies of 1995

  1. Pete

    14 June, 2012 at 16:28

    Great list! La Haine, Seven, Before Sunrise and Mallrats would be top of mine. Toy Story, Basketball Diaries and Kids would also be in there. I must see Clockers.

    • Emil

      14 June, 2012 at 16:47

      Thank you!

      I found Mallrats to be okay, but not much more than that. Kevin Smith’s best work was still ahead of him at that point.I really need to get around to seeing Kids at some point. Probably Basketball Diaries too. I hope you enjoy Clockers when you see it. It’s a good one.

  2. Movies - Noir

    14 June, 2012 at 17:24

    Ah, another list, haha. As you know, I’ve started my own, so I’m looking forward to the 90’s more and more.

    Even though I’ve done my list for 1995, I might still change some things before it’s time to post it. But at this point, four of your picks make my list (The Usual Suspects, Twelve Monkeys, Before Sunrise and Se7en). Also, two of your honorable mentions make my list (Copycat and Heat). La haine ‘might’ make the list, still undecided. One of the best years for a top ten in my opinion.

    Clockers and Living in Oblivion are the two I haven’t seen on your list. Get Shorty was pretty ok as I remember it, but not enough with so many other great films. To Die For, I agree with you on Kidman. She’s no favorite of mine, but excellent in this one. The film was also good, but could’ve been even better. Leaving Las Vegas, hmm I probably need to see it again as I don’t remember much from it, except for Cage playing the role of his life.

    • Emil

      14 June, 2012 at 18:34

      Yeah, it’s going to be fun to see what your picks will end up being. I’ll probably recognize a lot from your comments on my lists, I reckon. Still, it’s always interesting to hear your thoughts. :)

      1995 was a really good year, wasn’t it? It seems like it’s not mentioned a whole lot when people talk about great “recent” movie years – 1994, 1999, and 2000 get talked about more, for instance – but looking at my list, it’s a damn fine group of movies.

      Having some idea of your taste in movies, I’d say there’s a good chance that you’ll enjoy both Clockers and Living in Oblivion. Definitely check them out if you get the chance.

      And if you have the time for it, I would recommend revisiting both La Haine and Leaving Las Vegas before you make your own 1995 list. At least if it’s been a while since you last saw them. La Haine really grew on me on a recent rewatch, and Leaving Las Vegas is just too good a film to leave out due to hazy memory.

      • Movies - Noir

        14 June, 2012 at 18:57

        I don’t want to reveal my list just yet, but I agree, it was a really strong year.

        Thanks for mentioning that about Clockers and Living in Oblivion. I just checked out the two movies a bit more and Clockers ‘does’ look interesting, however Spike Lee hasn’t really done it for me in the past. And I just saw that I’ve actually seen Living in Oblivion, at least parts of it.

        You’re right, I need to rewatch La haine and Leaving Las Vegas before I post my 1995 list. La haine actually made it on my initial list so it’s not impossible that it gets back in :D And LLL is worth another look as well because, as you said, my memory is hazy on that one for sure ;)

  3. Christine Bode

    15 June, 2012 at 02:56

    Wow, thanks for reminding me what a great year 1995 was for movies! I love your list! I wouldn’t pick Clockers, Get Shorty, To Die For (although it was very good), or La Haine as I’ve never seen it. However, the rest of them I’d put on my Top 10 list along with Braveheart, Heat, Don Juan DeMarco and Sense and Sensibility. Take the fact that I’m a woman into consideration. :-)

    • Emil

      15 June, 2012 at 08:20

      Thank you for the kind words. Yeah, 1995 was great. I can’t fault anyone for having Braveheart and Heat on their lists. Those are two really good films – although it’s been ages since I saw Braveheart. I haven’t seen Don Juan DeMarco or Sense and Sensibility, though I’m interested in both of them. Especially S&S, due to the Ang Lee factor. You should check out La Haine if you get the chance. It’s a great one.

      • scullylovepromo

        15 June, 2012 at 16:54

        You’re welcome. I will make a note to check out La Haine the next time I go to my neighbourhood video store. Cheers!

  4. Tyler

    15 June, 2012 at 10:09

    I haven’t seen 10-7, but I have seen 6-1 and I agree with all of them except for The Usual Suspects (which I think is a tad overrated). LOVE that SEVEN is your number one; mine too! Have you seen LA JETEE (1962), the film that directly inspired TWELVE MONKEYS? I think it’s much better than Gilliam’s film, and since it’s quite a short movie, it doesn’t take long to watch. I think you’d like it:

    • Emil

      15 June, 2012 at 11:20

      I haven’t seen La Jetée yet, no. I’ll have to make a mental note to watch it later today. I’ve heard intriguing things about it.

      Also, I’d recommend you check out Living in Oblivion if you get the chance. I think you might find it interesting.

      • Tyler

        15 June, 2012 at 12:16

        Thank you! Title noted.

        • Emil

          15 June, 2012 at 20:50

          Oooh, La Jetée was interesting. I liked the ambiguity of it all, and the way the still images emphasised the nature of memories as snapshots of the mind. Very cool.

  5. Movies - Noir

    15 June, 2012 at 17:00

    I agree with Tyler, La jetée is a must watch. Some great stuff.

  6. Alex Withrow

    19 June, 2012 at 18:04

    I so look forward to these year lists of yours. Really, I enjoy them immensely.

    Love that you included Clockers, which isn’t nearly talked about enough. Same with To Die For.

    Leaving Las Vegas would take my top spot for the year, followed closely by Se7en and/or Heat.

    A few others I love from ’95: Casino, Dead Man Walking, and The Brothers McMullen. Also, I gotta mention that Bad Boys, Die Hard with a Vengeance and Desperado are utterly perfect action films. Great list here Emil!

    • Emil

      20 June, 2012 at 00:38

      It’s always nice to hear that people enjoy these lists. They’re pretty much the easiest content I can put together, so that’s a good return ratio on investment for me. :P

      Clockers deserves to be talked about more, agreed. It’s kind of a problem that a lot of Spike Lee movies suffer from. Everyone always talks about Do the Right Thing – rightfully so as it’s a great movie – but the rest of his filmography tends to get lost in the shuffle. Maybe people mention Malcolm X or 25th Hour at times, or Inside Man as it’s more mainstream-y, but everything else is rarely discussed.

      I happened upon Clockers by accident, kind of. I had rented Do the Right Thing and decided after seeing it that it was one of those films I needed to own on DVD. So I went to buy it and discovered a low-price box set with it and four other Spike Lee joints (Mo’ Better Blues, Jungle Fever, Crooklyn and Clockers). I figured I could do with some more Spike Lee in my life, so I sprung for it. I’m glad I did. I liked all the films in that set. I read through your post about his filmography a while ago and found a lot of stuff to add to my rental list, so there’ll be more of the director for me in the future too.

      I can’t comment on a lot of your picks, unfortunately. I haven’t seen Casino, Dead Man Walking, or The Brothers McMullen. I believe I’ve seen half of Die Hard 3 many years ago, and it’s been ages since I watched Bad Boys as well. I recall liking it, but memories are too fuzzy for it to make it onto my list.

      Desperado is a movie I really dug some years ago. I rewatched it somewhat recently, and while Banderas’ character is still among the coolest to ever grace the genre, the movie itself hadn’t quite held up like I wanted it to. I’d probably rank Once Upon a Time in Mexico above it at this point. Still need to check out El Mariachi too. Time time time…

      Thank you for the comment, Alex! It’s much appreciated.


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