My Top 10 Favorite Movies of 1994

27 Aug

1994 tends to be one of those years people refer to as great film years. It’s hard to disagree too vehemently with such a statement, as it had plenty of quality movies to offer in a wide variety of genres. About half of these films are long-time favorites of mine, wheres the others are newer acquintances that I’ve seen for the first time within the last few years.

As always, this is going by listed release year on IMDB.

Honorable mentions: Ace Ventura – Pet Detective, Airheads, The Crow

10 – SWIMMING WITH SHARKS (George Huang)

“You are nothing! If you were in my toilet I wouldn’t bother flushing it! My bathmat means more to me than you!”

While Kevin Spacey recently played a horrible boss in the aptly named Horrible Bosses, this was hardly his first outing as that character type. In Swimming with Sharks, he plays a movie mogul who takes great delight in putting his new employee Guy (Frank Whaley) through all kinds of torment. Spacey is teriffic in the part, but praise should go not just to the delivery but to the material as well. A well-written black comedy with a brutal ending.

9 – HEAVENLY CREATURES (Peter Jackson)

“It’s all frightfully romantic.”

What’s really interesting about Heavenly Creatures in hindsight is how it encapsulates everything else Peter Jackson had done or would go on to do. There’s drama, there’s fantasy – in dream sequences -, and there’s bloody murder. Based on a true story, this harrowing tale of the obsessive friendship between two teenage girls is one that sticks with you. Also notable for being the film debut of Kate Winslet.

8 – TRUE LIES (James Cameron)

“I’m beginning to like this guys. Oh, we’ve still gotta kill him. That’s a given.”

It has Arnold Schwarzenegger riding a horse into a hotel elevator! What more do you want? True Lies is just a damn fun action comedy. It never takes itself too seriously and is all the better for it.

7 – REALITY BITES (Ben Stiller)

“My goal is… I’d like a career or something…”

Reality Bites is often cited as one of the defining films about Generation X. While it does a good job of capturing this era, it also works really well as both a comedy and a romance film. The cast impresses; Winona Ryder in particular was in that phase of her career where she could do little wrong, but co-stars Ethan Hawke and Janeane Garofalo also put in strong work. An impressive directorial debut by Mr. Stiller.

6 – DUMB & DUMBER (Peter & Bobby Farrelly)

“She gave me a bunch of crap about me not listening to her or something. I don’t know, I wasn’t really paying attention.”

Some time shortly after this movie arrived, I remember watching a Swedish talk show that had John Cleese as a guest. The talk drifted to modern comedies and this film in particular. Cleese said that he didn’t find Jim Carrey funny, but that Jeff Daniels totally cracked him up. At the time, I found this to be a weird opinion, but with time, I too have grown fonder of Daniels’s more grounded character than Carrey’s obnoxious loudmouth. Dumb & Dumber as a whole has aged pretty damn well. If the Farrelly’s brand of low-brow humor is your thing, of course.


“I like these calm little moments before the storm. It reminds me of Beethoven. Can you hear it?”

Another personal anecdote: Having recently moved to my new apartment, I took the time the other day to try to organize my DVD collection by genre. Léon: The Professional had me a bit stumped, though. Is it a revenge drama? Is it a carefully paced action movie? Is it a thriller? Or is it in fact a love story? I think I eventually settled on action for sorting purposes, but it’s really all these things and more. A rich and entertaining film, helmed by a number of great performances from Jean Reno, Natalie Portman, Gary Oldman, and the chronically undervalued Danny Aiello.


“The world changes. We do not. There lies the irony that finally kills us.”

I really don’t know where on the list this film belongs, but it deserves to be here somewhere. It was a long-time favorite of mine, and back then I loved it at face value. A recent rewatch made such frank appreciation difficult, and yet there’s still lots of things I really enjoy in this one. From the cheese of it all, to the story that takes itself so gosh-darn seriously, not to mention the campy and confused acting – there are times where Brad Pitt looks like he has no idea what he’s supposed to be doing with his character. For me, this all adds to the charm of it though, and it blends in with the genuinely strong qualities of the movie: the impressive art direction, the atmosphere, and the teriffic performance by Kirsten Dunst who even at a young age shows that she’s a force to be reckoned with.

3 – FORREST GUMP (Robert Zemeckis)

“My Mama always said you’ve got to put the past behind you before you can move on.”

I often hear people deride this movie for being overly sentimental and emotionally manipulative. For me, everything in it works like a charm. It hits all the right buttons, both in its drama and its comedy, and Tom Hanks does a great job in the sympathetic title role. Also, let’s not forget the technical innovation involved in seamlessly fusing together historic footage of famous persons with newly recorded material. Forrest Gump will be remembered for a very long time.


“Do you feel you’ve been rehabilitated?”

While I can’t say I agree with its IMDB status as best movie ever, it’s probably about as good a film as one could hope to have a public consensus flock towards. It has no real flaws; the direction, writing and acting are all rock-solid, and the end result makes for a very potent heartstring-tugger.

1 – THE LION KING (Roger Allers & Rob Minkoff)

“A king’s time as ruler rises and falls like the sun. One day, Simba, the sun will set on my time here, and will rise with you as the new king.”

Obviously, nostalgia has a lot to do with my fondness for this film. I don’t know how many times I watched this one as a kid, but it was a lot. What makes it stand out compared to other animated Disney films, though? There’s no one single quality, but rather a case of everything just coming together. The songs are a bit more memorable, the visuals a bit more gorgeous, the story a bit more investment-worthy, and the characters a bit more colorful. Who can forget Scar, or Mufasa, or Timon and Pumbaa, or Zazu, or Rafiki?

What are you favorite films of 1994? What do you think of the movies on this list?


Posted by on 27 August, 2012 in Lists, Top 10 of a year


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11 responses to “My Top 10 Favorite Movies of 1994

  1. vinnieh

    27 August, 2012 at 15:43

    Great post, so many good movies were released in 94.

    • Emil

      27 August, 2012 at 16:05

      Absolutely! Thank you very much.

  2. Roger Allers

    28 August, 2012 at 03:13

    Wow. Thanks, Emil! It Was a good year! Hakuna Matata!

    • Emil

      28 August, 2012 at 08:20

      Hakuna matata indeed!

  3. Alex Withrow

    28 August, 2012 at 17:08

    Nice list, love that Dumb & Dumber is here. Pulp Fiction is one of my favorite films of all time, so that’d definitely top my list. A few others not on yours that I love: Red, Hoop Dreams, Quiz Show, The Last Seduction, Natural Born Killers and Crumb.

    Good work!

    • Emil

      28 August, 2012 at 23:59

      Dumb & Dumber HAD to be on there for sure. I laughed myself silly the first time I saw it back in the day, and even today it still manages to crack me up.

      Pulp Fiction is a movie I like, but not one that I love. I’m planning a rewatch somewhere in the future, so maybe it’ll improve further. I keep liking it a bit better each time I see it.

      I haven’t seen Red, Hoop Dreams, or The Last Seduction. I think I saw part of Quiz Show way back when on TV, but that’s not much to go on. NBK is another one I need to revisit at some point, as I don’t remember much of anything about it. And then there’s Crumb, a documentary blessed with a fascinating subject but not with execution to match. I like that one too, but I don’t see myself ever rewatching it.

  4. Dave

    29 August, 2012 at 18:05

    Fantastic list. It’s definitely one of my all time favorite years. I have to add Nobody’s Fool, Clear and Present Danger, and Death and the Maiden to this list. If you haven’t seen them, seek them out. They are all very well-crafted films for their specific genres.

    Love that you’re still chiming these out! My next one is 1991, to be posted next week. I’m almost running out of years! :-)

    • Emil

      29 August, 2012 at 23:07

      I’ll make sure to check out those movies you mentioned. None of the titles ring a bell. I know I can trust your opinion on this stuff.

      Yeah, I figured it was about time I got another one of these out. The past month has been crazy busy, so the blog has had to step to the sideline for a bit. Hopefully I can get back into the swing of things soon.

      Thanks for the kind words, and I’m looking forward to your 1991 list!

  5. Movies - Noir

    6 September, 2012 at 17:22

    1994 was indeed a strong year. I think I only have four of your top ten on my list – True Lies, Leon, Forrest Gump and the Shawshank Redemption. My 1994 list will come in a few weeks time. Right now it’s 1998.

    • Emil

      7 September, 2012 at 08:57

      I’m looking forward to you catching up to me with these lists. I enjoy reading yours, but I haven’t been commenting on your last few ones because I know I’ll just be repeating what I’ve said in reply to your comments on my lists. I’m eager to see your 94 list, especially to find out where True Lies ends up on it. :)

      Thank you for commenting!

      • Movies - Noir

        7 September, 2012 at 16:19

        Haha, no worries. I’ve done lists all the way back to the late 60’s so far, but with my once-a-week pace, those won’t see the day of light for some time…


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