25th Anniversary Films: The 10 Greatest Movies of 1994
1994 was an epic year for film. Many now-classic genre movies, oddball comedies, gritty crime dramas, high-caliber action films, and great family movies debuted. It was a critical year for the medium. To celebrate the movies of 1994, we’ve gathered some of the best 25th-anniversary films being commemorated this year.
Cover Photo: Miramax
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'Ace Ventura: Pet Detective'
1994 was undoubtedly the year of Jim Carrey. While Dumb and Dumber might have a larger cult following, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective is far more rewatchable. Carrey crafts a character that is so uniquely compelling that his performance and manic physical energy alone make it worth viewing again and again. Ace Ventura: Pet Detective may not be the most distinguished film of Carrey’s career, but it certainly is the one that launched it.
At this point, there’s no doubt that Pulp Fiction is easily one of the most influential movies of the '90s. Not only did the film earn Quentin Tarantino his first Oscar win for the film’s screenplay, but he also single-handedly inspired a generation of aspiring postmodern filmmakers. Aside from this, it also managed to revive the careers of just about everyone involved while offering the best performances of John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson’s careers. Make no mistake about it; Pulp Fiction is not only the most subversive movie of 1994 but also one of the best movies ever made.
Although True Lies comes in an extremely close second, only one action film can make this list and Speed is that film. As one of 1994’s biggest critical and commercial successes, the film solidified both Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock as viable box-office draws, so much so that an ill-fated attempt was made to recapture their excellent chemistry in the form of The Lake House. In all seriousness, Speed is the type of premise that is so bonkers that only the cinematographer of Die Hard could actually pull it off. In other words, it’s the epitome of a high-concept '90s action film.
'The Shawshank Redemption'
Some consider The Shawshank Redemption to be the best film of the ’90s. While Frank Darabont’s film was initially overshadowed by a few other entries on this list, it’s also one of the best movies of the year. Along with Roger Deakins’ astounding cinematography, Darabont’s sharp writing and subtle direction make it the ultimate tale of, well, redemption.
Out of all the films on this list, Ed Wood is perhaps the most underrated. Not only does it contain the best performance of Johnny Depp’s career, but the film is also arguably Tim Burton’s best directorial outing. Even though it was considered a box-office failure upon its release, Ed Wood has aged remarkably well. From Burton’s decision to shoot in black and white to Martin Landau’s Oscar-winning performance, Ed Wood is undoubtedly a classic.
As 1994’s biggest awards darling, Forrest Gump eventually swept every major awards category at the Oscars, including Best Picture. While Robert Zemeckis’ film certainly fits the criteria of Oscar bait, it also presents the best kind of sentimental Oscar bait. Not only is the film one of Tom Hanks’ most indelible roles, but it’s also one of the best films that Zemeckis has ever made. Endlessly rewatchable, Forrest Gump is a sweet, heartfelt story that still affirms the power of friendship over all else.
In general, the ’90s were a rough decade for the comic book movie genre. Although there are certainly more misses than hits throughout the decade, The Crow happens to be one of the latter. While the film is better remembered for infamously causing the death of Brandon Lee, it’s still a legitimately great movie. Ultimately, The Crow still stands as a visually-stunning supernatural tale that contains far more contextual weight than it should.
'The Lion King'
Out of all the movies celebrating their 25th birthdays, The Lion King is easily the most universal. Not only does the animated classic represent the pinnacle of the Disney renaissance era, but also pure storytelling at its finest. Although the movie drew controversy due to its similarities to a 1960s Japanese anime, the film’s original music is still magnificent. While the misguided 2019 remake of the same name managed to avoid tarnishing the legacy of the original, The Lion King still holds up extremely well.
'The Santa Clause'
Even though The Santa Clause was a significant domestic success during the 1994 holiday season, it truly became a Christmas classic on home video and cable. Released at the height of Tim Allen’s popularity in the mid-’90s, John Pasquin’s Christmas fantasy comedy is perhaps the best use of Allen’s talents throughout his entire career. In a genre that is increasingly rote and generic, The Santa Clause still manages to be a fun and heartfelt twist on the holiday movie tropes with everlasting family themes.
'Leon: The Professional'
In many ways, Leon: The Professional solidified the hit man with a heart of gold trope. Although it’s certainly one of the best hit man movies of the ’90s, it’s also so effective that it took the better part of a decade for the genre to do something interesting again. Aside from providing a star-making debut from a 12-year-old Natalie Portman and an absolutely bonkers performance from Gary Oldman, Jean Reno’s turn as the titular character is the best of his career. Ultimately, Luc Besson’s film is stylish and slick, while also providing a huge helping of heart.