20 Years Later: 1999 Was One Of The Greatest Film Years Ever!

Sometimes the stars just align and greatness arrives all at once. Maybe it was because a lot of great filmmakers hit their stride (David Fincher, M.Night Shymalan, Spike Jonze etc) or just pre-millennium fear, but 1999 saw a lot of great movies land the big screen.

The decline of mid-budget movies and the rise of Netflix and franchise films means that we might never see a year like 1999 ever again. So many wonderful and edgy mainstream films were released by the studios (Fight Club, Being John Malkovich, Magnolia) and even the popcorn movies were great! (The Thomas Crown Affair, Bowfinger, The Matrix).

Check out this list of movies which were released in 1999:

8mm was Joel Schumacher making amends for Batman and Robin. An Andrew Kevin Walker script with Nicolas Cage delivering one of his best performances, gave this gritty film an edge that most Hollywood studio productions don’t have. It also featured a strong supporting role from Joaquin Phoenix. While it might not be for everyone, it is a strong film, IMHO.

The 13th Warrior
This John McTiernan film preceded the glut of medieval epics that followed in the wake of The Lord of The Rings trilogy. While The 13th Warrior is an incredibly flawed film, it is still worth watching on a rainy Sunday afternoon. The film was plagued by production problems and fights between McTiernan and producer and novelist Michael Crichton (it’s based on his book); the budget of the film finally came in at a reported $200 million – though it sure doesn’t look that way onscreen. The film’s plot is based on the “Beowulf” poem and it’s a curiosity film rather than a must-see.

American Beauty
American Beauty was Sam Mendes’ directorial debut. The multi-Oscar-winning family drama showed that thoughtful films for adults still made a killing at the box office ($130 million) and it highlighted the fact that adults are only teenagers with mortgages. It also solidified Kevin Spacey’s star status and made plastic bags cool – for about a minute.

American Pie
The film that started the current trend of R-rated sex comedies. American Pie was something of a cultural phenomenon when it was released way back in the summer of 1999 – it introduced the world to a raft of new sex-related phrases (MILF being the most commonly used) and it made an icon out of Seann William Scott. Two lesser sequels and a few straight-to-DVD installments followed, but none could match the originality of this original slice of Pie. We wouldn’t have had Superbad or The Hangover without it.

Arlington Road
Arlington Road was something of a sleeper hit in the summer of 1999. This Mark Pellington film is a 70′s style paranoia thriller clearly modeled on the work of Alan Pakula. Jeff Bridges stars as a college professor who suspects his friendly neighbor, Tim Robbins, might be a terrorist. A chilling and prophetic vision of post-911 paranoia. Highly Recommended viewing.

Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me
This Austin Powers sequel was another phenomenon in the summer of 1999. While the first film was a modest hit, grossing $50 million, this sequel upped the ante and brought in a huge $200 million. It’s the reason that The Love Guru exists – but don’t hold that against it. The Spy Who Shagged Me is actually funny.

Being John Malkovich
This Spike Jones/ Charlie Kaufman comedy was an art house hit featuring John Cusack and Cameron Diaz. It’s odd and off the wall, but there’s so much originality in the film that one can’t help but enjoy it. Having said that – it’s not for everyone.

The Blair Witch Project
The film that changed film marketing forever. Blair Witch came from nowhere and showed Hollywood that the internet was a way to hype films without having to spend $100 million dollars. Many were lead to believe that the film was true and the documentary style (later re-dubbed “shaky cam style” and now ‘found foogtage’) was copied for years to come (see: Cloverfield, Paranormal Activity).

The last great Eddie Murphy film. Written by and co-starring Steve Martin, Bowfinger is a Hollywood satire directed by Yoda himself – Frank Oz.

Breakfast of Champions
Chances are you’ve never heard of this Bruce Willis, Nick Nolte and Albert Finney-starring comedy. Based on the Kurt Vonnegut novel, Breakfast of Champions was barely given a release a back in 1999, but if you can find it and get past the tough first 20 minutes, it’s worth seeing.

Bringing Out the Dead
Martin Scorsese and Paul Schrader re-team far what some called “Ambulance Driver.” It’s bleak and depressing, but again it offers another good performance by Nicolas Cage as a burnt-out, drug-fueled paramedic.

Deep Blue Sea
Something of a guilty pleasure for me (and I know I’m not alone). Deep Blue Sea is a hell of an action ride. Sharks, Samuel L. Jackson and Thomas Jane in a Renny Harlin-directed film. It grossed an impressive $70 million back in the day and it’s still fun now!

One of Kevin Smith’s worst films, IMHO; I almost walked out of the cinema when I first saw it. It was a re-teaming of Good Will Hunting boys Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, and it also featured Alan Rickman and Alanis Morrisette. I haven’t seen it in years and I’ll probably give it a revisit. Maybe you should too.

Ron Howard’s EDtv was beaten to the punch by The Truman Show the previous year as a pastiche of reality television. Matthew McConaughey stars as the titular Ed, a normal guy who becomes a celebrity when he stars in a reality television show. Like that would ever happen!

End of Days
End of Days was Arnold Schwarzenegger’s comeback film after Batman and Robin and heart surgery (the two weren’t related). It’s not Schwarzenegger at his best, but Peter Hyams’ dark visuals, John Denby’s score and an interesting supporting role of Gabriel Byrne as Satan makes this an interesting curiosity. The film relied heavily of millennium fear and pretty much reflects what the world was like at that point in time
A slick heist/thriller starring Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta Jones. It’s not a bad film, and it’s good to see Connery in any sort of toupee’d action. Only problem is – I can’t see Zeta Jones falling for a much older man. Oh…wait….

Eyes Wide Shut
Stanley Kubrick’s final film was two years in production and caused much controversy due to the sexually explicit scenes contained in the film. The film stars the then-married Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman as a doctor and his wife who turn a bizarre corner in their marriage. It was a strange film to be released in the summer months, with dream-like visuals and a slow and meandering pace. It’s kind of like a good novel really – takes you a long time to experience, but you end up thinking about it for ages afterwards.

Fight Club
Fight Club was a box office disappointment when it was released 20 years ago, but it has gained a HUGE cult following since – and it must have made an absolute mint on DVD. Brad Pitt and Edward Norton star in this David Fincher directed adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk’s now-famous novel. The film is another example of world perspective from a late 90s view point.

For Love Of The Game
There’s something about For Love of the Game that got under my skin when I saw it ten years ago. Maybe it was the music? Or maybe it was Kevin Costner’s performance? I don’t know, but it is my favorite Sam Raimi film. If you think that’s odd – I know nothing about baseball and I don’t like any sport!

Galaxy Quest
Few admit to liking Tim Allen on the big screen but many will say that they love Galaxy Quest. Alan Rickman and Sigourney Weaver also star in this comedic pastiche of Star Trek. It’s good fun, with some equally good creature f/x.

Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai
Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai is probably director Jim Jarmusch’s most accessible film. It stars Forest Whitaker as a Mafia hitman who follows the Samurai code. It didn’t make much of a commercial splash on release back in ’99 but it was hailed by critics. Go on – check it out!

Girl, Interrupted
The film that won Angelina Jolie an Oscar was supposed to be an acting showcase for Winona Ryder. Ryder has all but fallen into obscurity and Jolie is the biggest female star on the planet. Maybe that’s the reason to check out this James Mangold directed film.

The Green Mile
Frank Darabont does a Stephen King prison adaptation. Been there, done that. This one stars Tom Hanks. The Shawshank Redemption grossed $28 million and this did $136 million. You figure out why (Hint: Hanks).

The Haunting
Liam Neeson, Owen Wilson and Catherine Zeta Jones star in a Jan De Bont directed PG-13 haunted house horror film chock full of CGI. Half of that sentence seems like a good idea. Others must have thought so too, as it grossed $90 million. I haven’t seen it since it came out. If I have a few drinks I might watch it again on television. Maybe.

The Iron Giant
Based on the Ted Hughes tale, the Iron Giant was pretty much thrown out onto screens by Warner Brothers a decade ago. The Brad Bird animated film features the vocal stylings of Vin Diesel and Jennifer Aniston. It flopped on release, but it now (like a lot of ’99 films) has a huge cult following.

In my opinion Magnolia is one of the best films of the last ten years. Paul Thomas Anderson’s epic L.A. tale features an excellent ensemble cast featuring a never better Tom Cruise, Julianne Moore, Jason Robards, John C. Reilly and William H. Macy. Aimee Mann’s music adds heart to this lyrical and poetic film.

The Matrix
A film that changed cinema for the decade. Keanu Reeves stars as the saviour of mankind in the Wachowski’s cyber-punk action thriller. Black trench coats and sunglasses flew off the shelves as everyone wanted that Matrix look. “Bullet-time” and “wire-fu” became fixtures in nearly every action film that followed. It’s a pity that the sequels didn’t live up to this one.

The Mummy
Stephen Sommers’ action romp was an unexpected success when it opened. It’s a good old-fashioned adventure with a lot of CGI. It’s a shame that the only thing that Sommers seemed to take away from this film were the things that didn’t work!

Mystery, Alaska
An interesting little film starring Russell Crowe and Burt Reynolds. It’s directed by Jay Roach the man behind the Meet the Parents films but there’s heart to this comedy film that tanked on release.

Mystery Men
A superhero comedy film released a while before superheroes became all the rage again. Ben Stiller leads the cast in what would be one of his last not-for-they-paycheck roles.

Notting Hill
A Star Wars counter-programming release in which Julia Roberts starred as herself and Hugh Grant played the same guy he’s been playing for 15 years. Audiences loved it and it banked $100 million. It’s not a bad little film – for what it is.

Office Space
Office Space came and went when it opened. It found a rich life on DVD as it called to office workers like a siren to sailors. Mike Judge never seems to catch a break unless the words “Beavis and Butthead” are in the title.

The Omega Code
The Omega Code shocked box office pundits when it was released in 1999. A church funded film that cracked the top ten and showed that money could be made from marketing religious communities.

Mel Gibson kicked serious ass in this gritty film. Payback is a black-as-night comedy that harkens back to the gangster films of the 1970s. The film was re-cut and re-edited to make it slightly lighter. That means that the dog lives at the end!

Pushing Tin
John Cusack, Billy Bob Thornton and Angelina Jolie star in this pretty good off-beat comedy about air traffic controllers. It’s where Billy Bob and the future Mrs. Thornton Pitt met. The film crashed and burned but at least the tabloids made a killing.

Random Hearts
Harrison Ford and Kirsten Scott Thomas star in Sydney Pollack’s romantic drama. While the slow pace isn’t for everyone, it does have enough to warrant a viewing.

The Sixth Sense
The sleeper hit of 1999. This $30 million Bruce Willis starrer came from nowhere to bag $293 million on U.S. screens alone. There’s a reason for the hype – it’s damn good. The twist ending was the thing when it came out – but the film works on repeated viewings. I watch it every year.

Sleepy Hollow
Tim Burton and Johnny Depp. Way back when Depp wasn’t all that fashionable, Sleepy Hollow was his first $100 million grosser. It’s good, but no Ed Wood.

Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace
1999 was the year of Star Wars. George Lucas returned to directing with this CGI-filled epic that blew minds and disappointed with equal measure on its release. Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor and Natalie Portman were no match for Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill or Carrie Fisher, but you can’t really complain too much – it was Star Wars on the big screen. It was always destined to disappoint – but like I always say: it was like having the greatest meal in your life and complaining that your second helping wasn’t as nice. You got what you wanted but you can’t really complain (until Jar-Jar Binks walked on onscreen, that is).

I can only imagine that Gabriel Byrne bought a house in 1998/1999 because he starred in End of Days AND this religious clunker. He really does pay the devil. It’s probably one of the worst films I’ve ever seen. It fails on all levels. If you don’t believe me – check it out yourself!

The Boondock Saints
Nothing divides the folks  like The Boondock Saints. Troy Duffy’s Irish gangster thriller has attained cult status over the years and a sequel is soon to be released, titled The Boondock Saints 2: All Saints Day. The original film only grossed $30,000 on screens, but it shows the power of DVD. See if you love or hate it!

The Talented Mr Ripley
Matt Damon, Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow starred in this elegant thriller. Based on Patricia Highsmith’s novel it’s got Hitchcock written all over it and it’s a great watch.

The Thomas Crown Affair
No-one thought that Pierce Brosnan would step into Steve McQueen’s shoes for this remake. They were wrong. One of the few remakes to – dare I say it – surpass the original, this John McTiernan film hits the mark on nearly all levels. Rene Russo is the perfect foil to Brosnan’s gentleman thief and Bill Conti’s score is first rate.

Three Kings
This Gulf War action-comedy pretty much set the pattern for George Clooney’s films for the next decade. It takes a commercial premise and skews it as an off-beat and political bender. Hard to believe that this was first offered to Clint Eastwood and Nicolas Cage.

Toy Story 2
It’s hard to believe that Toy Story 2 was set to be released straight to DVD. However, when Disney saw some rough footage of the Woody and Buzz Lightyear follow-up they decided to give it the full cinematic treatment. It’s currently raking in even more cash in a cinema near you now in the 3D format. Maybe you should check it out. I might.

True Crime
Made when Clint Eastwood wasn’t making Oscar-bait, True Crime is a standard Eastwood thriller. It was ignored on release – go ahead and make my day and seek it out. It’s worth watching.

Wild Wild West
Wicki- Wicki- Wild Wild West. This was seen as the sure fire hit of 1999. Will Smith, July 4th Weekend and a bucket load of CGI. It was plagued with problems and the budget hit $200 million, which (for 1999) was huge. Critically mauled, it limped over the $100 million barrier and nearly killed Smith’s career and his friendship with director Barry Sonnenfeld. It’s a guilty watch – and really, it’s not as bad as it could have been.

The World is Not Enough
Bond, James Bond. Pierce Brosnan slipped into the tuxedo once again in this standard Bond romp. Not one of the best, but Brosnan clearly relishes the role. The opening boat chase is Bond at his best.