The world was very busy in 1995. The Internet became part of the public consciousness. Dean Martin died. OJ Simpson was found not guilty. And Jumanji was released. Robin Williams playing the world’s best board-game wasn’t the best thing to happen in the movies that year, though. Oh, no. In fact, cinema screens across the globe were lit up with an array of fantastic performances, delightful direction, and all-round enthralling entertainment over the course of 12 months.
But which films were the cream of the crop back in 1995? And which films have aged the best since then? Well, to mark the 20th anniversary of these efforts, let’s look back and celebrate the 10 best films of 1995, as selected in 2015.
While Ice Cube had already proven that he could perform on the big screen with 1991’s Boyz n the Hood, it was still rather shocking to see him take to screenwriting with such aplomb.
But with Friday he did just that, while he also brought an authenticity and lyricism to the film that was akin to his music. Heck, Ice Cube’s writing was so punchy that even Chris Tucker wasn’t annoying. Sure, there’s something rather crude, naive, and offensive about Friday, but that’s also what made it so unique, as it gave us a truly fascinating look at life on the street.
9. Die Hard: With A Vengeance
Obviously nowhere near as superb as the 1988 original, but a step-up from Die Harder (and a skyscraper above the disastrous installments that would follow), Die Hard: With A Vengeance bolts out of the blocks, and for its first hour showcases everything that’s great about summer blockbuster cinema.
Unfortunately, it’s unable to keep up this pace, and ultimately ends in an overly familiar, formulaic fashion. But, with Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson in top form, you’re never bored, and are constantly overjoyed just to be spending time with the duo as they look to foil the latest terrorists in John McClane's life.
8. Apollo 13
Despite his Oscar success with A Beautiful Mind, Apollo 13 is still Ron Howard’s best film to date. Yeah, sure, Apollo 13 falls into overly schmaltzy territory that Howard simply can’t avoid, but he is also meticulous with his detail of the failed mission, and brings both the 1970s and the journey into space to life in a twinkling fashion.
Apollo 13 is also boosted by fine performances from Tom Hanks (as per usual), Kevin Bacon, Bill Paxton, Ed Harris, and Gary Sinise. William Broyles, Jr. and Al Reinert’s script is expertly structured and plotted, creating incredible tension and suspense, despite the fact that we all knew how the story would end.
As South Park once expertly explained, "Say what you want about Mel Gibson, but the son of a bitch knows story structure." And that has never been more evident than in the multi-Oscar-winning epic, Braveheart.
Sure, it’s littered with historical inaccuracies and anachronisms, but it’s also brutal and ambitious, while pulsating action and drama is never too far away. It's anchored by a heart-breaking romance to boot. Wonderfully dirty, gritty, and unpredictable, even though he’s directing, Mel Gibson gives one of his most driven and intense performances, though his accent borders on the unforgivable at times.
The pairing of Robert De Niro and Al Pacino as a thief and an LAPD detective, respectively, was deemed as Heat's main selling point 20 years ago. But, with time, Michael Mann’s sumptuous direction is now what the crime drama is rightly remembered for, as he controls every ebb and flow of its almost three-hour running time to create the quintessential action film.
The movie's influence can still be felt to this day, from The Dark Knight's meticulous set-pieces to the intimacy of the Bourne series and the artistry of Mad Max: Fury Road. Mann brought a poetry to Heat's action scenes, and no one has come close to matching them since.
5. 12 Monkeys
1995 was a great year for Bruce Willis. After rejuvenating John McClane, Bruce ended it working alongside Terry Gilliam and Brad Pitt in the bewildering but beguiling 12 Monkeys, which underlined his status as the biggest movie star on the planet.
Gilliam revels in 12 Monkeys’ jumbled-up plot, which unfolds at a startling pace. But he also makes sure to create an atmospheric, haunting, and bleak dystopian future that is as intoxicating as it is disturbing. He ekes out towering performances from both Pitt and Willis, as well as Madeline Stowe and Christopher Plummer, but more than all that, 12 Monkeys is just wonderfully entertaining. As long as you let it wash over you, and don’t think too hard about it.
4. The Usual Suspects
It should never be forgotten just how good The Usual Suspects actually is. Not only did the film put both Bryan Singer and Christopher McQuarrie on the movie map, but it also boasts one of the best movie posters ever created, as well as one of the finest conclusions and plot twists of all time.
But, to just focus on its ending would do The Usual Suspects a huge injustice. Because Singer's direction and, especially, McQuarrie’s script feature so much detail that you can’t help but go back to it after its stunning revelation is made to look for clues and fawn over it in a brand new light.
3. La Haine
Prescient. Pulsating. And almost damn near perfect, La Haine is blisteringly beautiful, and could easily be the love child of Mean Streets and Do The Right Thing.
Set over a 24-hour period, and revolving around three close pals from the suburbs of Paris, the trio crack quips, act tough, and find themselves involved in all kinds of scrapes across the City of Love, which simmers with racial tension following the beating of their pal in police custody. The grim setting is beget by its flowing direction, which cranks up the tension and intensity all the way through its gut-punching end.
2. Toy Story
It’s almost impossible to think of a movie landscape without Woody and Buzz Lightyear anymore. That’s just how important, innovative, and entertaining Toy Story was and still is to do this day.
Sure, looking back, the animation is a little crude and rough around the edges, but Toy Story’s story-telling, jokes, and heart are all still ever present and at its core. In fact, just hearing the opening bars of Randy Newman’s music is enough to provoke a smile. It rejuvenated the genre, and while Pixar has gone on to create more inventive and profound films, Toy Story deserves its recognition because it all started here.
Se7en makes for grim viewing in the best possible way. Drenched in rain-water, covered in shadows, and featuring every minute detail of some of goriest and most rancid crimes Hollywood has ever depicted, there had never been anything as bleak on-screen before. And it’s glorious for that exact reason.
To the films eternal credit, it never deviates from this path, all the way up until its brutal ending. David Fincher was the perfect, angst-ridden director to bring this world to life, while Brad Pitt is brash, cocky, and still utterly appealing. But it’s wily old Morgan Freeman who is Se7en’s true savior, because even in its most depressing moments, just knowing he’s there makes you think that everything’s going to be all right. This is a Hollywood thriller unlike any other, and still the most definitive, enthralling, and audacious of its genre to date.
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