Best Movies of 1990

10. PRESUMED INNOCENT

Presumed Innocent

38 LISTS | 0 TOP SPOTS
Alan J. Pakula | 127 mins | Mystery/Thriller
Harrison Ford | Raul Julia | Greta Scacchi | Brian Dennehy

“Unlike “Tracy,” this carefully calculated, meticulously controlled thriller offers adult entertainment in the best sense of the word, detailing the life-and-death drama facing a Midwestern prosecutor assigned to investigate the grisly murder of a glamorous colleague _ until he’s charged with the crime. This streamlined version of Scott Turow’s blockbuster novel preserves its vivid sense of place, principle and personality, thanks to Alan J. Pakula’s taut-wire direction and riveting performances (from Harrison Ford, Bonnie Bedelia, Brian Dennehy, Raul Julia and Paul Winfield) that commandingly convey the storms that seethe beneath the placid surface of daily life _ and the circle of guilt and deceit that ultimately entraps us all.” – Carol Cling, Las Vegas Journal-Review

9. THE GRIFTERS

The Grifters

38 LISTS | 3 TOP SPOTS
Stephen Frears | 110 mins | Crime/Drama/Thriller
Anjelica Huston | John Cusack | Annette Bening | Jan Munroe

“Mr. Frears, the English director (“My Beautiful Laundrette,” “Dangerous Liaisons”) makes a spectacular American debut with this hard-edged, tightly focused tale about three con artists who allow their private lives to interfere with their professional activities.
Anjelica Huston, John Cusack and Annette Bening are the unholy trio, each ready to con the other two until death does them part. It’s also a love story, but not one to write home to mother about. Mother herself is involved. The performances are top-notch, and Miss Huston should again get the nomination she deserves.” – Vincent Canby, New York Times

8. CINEMA PARADISO

Cinema Paradiso

39 LISTS | 4 TOP SPOTS
Giuseppe Tornatore | 155 mins | Drama
Philippe Noiret | Enzo Cannavale | Antonella Attili | Isa Danieli

“How, a friend asked, could someone who writes about the movies not be a sucker for this lovely, wistfully nostalgic story about a little Sicilian boy who falls in love with the movies for life? He was right. Like nostalgia itself, ”Cinema Paradiso” is a movie that grows larger and more luminous in the memory.
Giuseppe Tornatore, who grew up in a Sicilian village and went on to make documentary films, directed and wrote the script, obviously working from the heart, and chose wisely in casting veteran French actor Phillipe Noiret as the projectionist-mentor and young Salvatore Cascio as the boy.” – Harper Barnes, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

7. EDWARD SCISSORHANDS

Edward Scissorhands

52 LISTS | 0 TOP SPOTS
Tim Burton | 105 mins | Drama/Fantasy/Romance
Johnny Depp | Winona Ryder | Dianne Wiest | Anthony Michael Hall

“Spooky-cute Johnny Depp and Winona Ryder– they look like the figures on a Transylvanian wedding cake-make ideally mismatched lovers in Tim Burton’s witty fable, in which a sweet-souled alien comes to suburbia, makes a few friends and scurries back home. E.T., meet E.S.” – TIME Magazine

6. THE GODFATHER, PART III

The Godfather Part III

58 LISTS | 3 TOP SPOTS
Francis Ford Coppola | 162 mins | Crime/Drama
Al Pacino | Diane Keaton | Andy Garcia | Talia Shire

“Francis Ford Coppola beat the odds and made a third film – the finale of his trilogy – about the Corleone family. While not up to the standards of the first two films, it nonetheless is an ambitious undertaking that delivers. Al Pacino reaffirms his place as one of our great film actors in telling this last chapter in the life of Michael Corleone.” – Terry Orme, Salt Lake Tribune

5. MILLER’S CROSSING

Miller's Crossing

58 LISTS | 1 TOP SPOT
Joel Coen and Ethan Coen | 115 mins | Crime/Drama/Thriller
Gabriel Byrne | Albert Finney | John Turturro | Marcia Gay Harden

“This was the most original of the year’s plethora of gangster films, perhaps because it attacked double-dealing and mixed loyalties from a fictional viewpoint.
Directed by Joel Coen, it’s an intricate gangster thriller in which a drunken and disillusioned “hero” (Gabriel Byrne) finds himself involved with his idol’s woman. Albert Finney adds an Irish boss to combat all the Italian stereotypes. Marcia Gay Harden, a veteran of the Virginia Stage Company, is the hard-boiled woman at the center of things – a Dashiell Hammett woman if ever there was one.
The forest scenes are bathed in muted color, and the musical score, composed by Carter Burwell, has a pleasant Irish touch that contrasts with the violence. The casual way violence is treated raises it to the level of comedy in a film that was much underrated and never reached the audience it deserved.” – Mal Vincent, Virginia Pilot

4. AVALON

Avalon

63 LISTS | 2 TOP SPOTS
Barry Levinson | 128 mins | Drama
Aidan Quinn | Elizabeth Perkins | Leo Fuchs | Eve Gordon

“Director Barry Levinson’s cinematic equivalent of a photo album used a series of charming vignettes to trace the history of his family over four generations. The ambitious film managed to be sensitive, affectionate and sentimental without turning sappy. It was obvious that Levinson cared intensely about his subject matter.” – Jeff Strickler, Minneapolis Star-Tribune

3. REVERSAL OF FORTUNE

Reversal of Fortune

82 LISTS | 2 TOP SPOTS
Barbet Schroeder | 111 mins | Biography/Drama/Mystery
Jeremy Irons | Glenn Close | Ron Silver | Annabella Sciorra

“Without a doubt, the crowning achievement of this movie is Jeremy Irons’ masterfully droll performance as Claus von Bülow, the ghoulish aristocrat who may or may not have attempted to murder his rich, depressed, socialite wife (Glenn Close). Irons does something far more perverse than getting you to ”care” about Claus — he gets you to like him. Yet what finally makes Barbet Schroeder’s reenactment of the Von Bülow affair a truly great movie is the spine-tingling ambiguity with which it views Claus’ conduct. Ushering us behind the mausoleum-like walls of the Von Bülows’ Newport estate, the film offers many contrasting versions of the events, holding contradictory bits of evidence up to the light with a Rashomon-like dexterity. By the end, it almost doesn’t matter whether Von Bülow actually tried to kill his wife or simply stood by and watched her sink into suicidal despair. The real question is whether there’s any difference.” – Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly

2. DANCES WITH WOLVES

Dances With Wolves

116 LISTS | 19 TOP SPOTS
Kevin Costner | 181 mins | Adventure/Drama/Western
Kevin Costner | Mary McDonnell | Graham Greene | Rodney A. Grant

“In the aftermath of the Civil War, an infantry officer is posted all by himself at a remote outpost in the Dakotas, where he is eventually driven by loneliness and curiosity into responding when the local Sioux Indians make an overture. Slowly, cautiously, tentatively, the man opens himself to Indian culture, and the film follows him as he is adopted into the tribe.
Then the fragile structure is broken when more U.S. Cavalry arrive, and we are reminded of the tragic and short-sighted racism that led to the genocidal destruction of Native Americans.
The movie stars Kevin Costner, who also makes his directing debut. He shows a sure feeling for the land, for gesture, for language and silence. And the movie expands in its epic form, freeing us from the notion that a plot must be hurried along, freeing us to grow and explore as the protagonist does, as we gradually learn about another culture. One of the key decisions is to allow the Sioux to speak iin their own language, instead of in the demeaning pidgin English so common in films about Indians. The fim is filled with strong, effective performances by actors by Mary McDonnell as the woman Costner falls in love with, and Graham Greene and Rodney A. Grant as two of the Sioux leaders.” – Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

1. GOODFELLAS

Goodfellas

147 LISTS | 48 TOP SPOTS
Martin Scorsese | 146 mins | Biography/Crime/Drama
Robert De Niro | Ray Liotta | Joe Pesci | Lorraine Bracco

“The mob picture that had the moral clarity to label Mafioso and their attendant hustlers as vicious animals. We meet them through the wide-eyed reminiscences of a gofer-turned-informant (Ray Liotta) who wanted to become a mobster in the way that other kids wanted to become baseball players. The essential scene has thug Joe Pesci fake getting angry at Liotta`s idolatrous remarks, then relax, and then go nuts when a bar owner respectfully asks him to pay part of his long overdue bill. Very scary. The best line of narration is when Liotta tells how wiseguys think that people who work for a living are suckers. Scorsese mixes music and photographic styles to cover years of a changing landscape of crime. For the third time a Scorsese picture tops my best-of-the-year list (”Raging Bull,” 1980; ”The Last Temptation of Christ,” 1988), breaking a tie he held with director Eric Rohmer (”My Night at Maud`s,” 1970; ”Claire`s Knee,” 1971).” – Gene Siskel, Chicago Tribune

Full List:

RFilmL#1ARL%#1%TCLTCL1TCL%TCL1%
1Goodfellas147483.0780%38%702080%33%
2Dances With Wolves116193.8263%15%52960%15%
3Reversal of Fortune8225.3145%2%38244%3%
4Avalon6325.1934%2%29033%0%
5Miller's Crossing5815.6932%1%29133%2%
6The Godfather, Part III5835.2032%2%32237%3%
7Edward Scissorhands5206.7328%0%22025%0%
8Cinema Paradiso3944.4221%3%17220%3%
9The Grifters3834.3021%2%17120%2%
10Presumed Innocent3805.6721%0%13015%0%
11Awakenings3625.0020%2%18121%2%
12Cyrano De Bergerac3445.1919%3%16418%7%
13To Sleep With Anger3315.7118%1%21124%2%
14Metropolitan3145.4717%3%14116%2%
15The Nasty Girl2906.3316%0%15017%0%
16Longtime Companion2906.9316%0%13015%0%
17Sweetie2725.0715%2%14116%2%
18The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover2724.8015%2%17020%0%
19The Freshman2717.2415%1%10111%2%
20Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer2706.4715%0%13015%0%
21Life and Nothing But2524.6714%2%16218%3%
22Monsieur Hire2403.6913%0%15017%0%
23Jesus of Montreal2325.5013%2%819%2%
24Wild at Heart2306.9413%0%9010%0%
25Postcards from the Edge2208.0012%0%607%0%
26Vincent & Theo2016.0011%1%16118%2%
27Mr. & Mrs. Bridge1925.5811%2%10211%3%
28Henry & June1915.5610%1%12114%2%
28Ghost1915.5610%1%607%0%
30Dick Tracy1906.5510%0%9010%0%
31Men Don't Leave1717.099%1%809%0%
32Miami Blues1704.719%0%9010%0%
33Misery1604.369%0%202%0%
33Akira Kurosawa's Dreams1605.259%0%809%0%
33The Krays1606.679%0%607%0%
36Pretty Woman1526.808%2%405%0%
37Mountains of the Moon1507.118%0%405%0%
38The Vanishing1407.928%0%506%0%
39The Hunt for Red October1406.638%0%202%0%
40The Russia House1307.837%0%607%0%
41Time of the Gypsies1205.807%0%506%0%
42Hamlet (1990)1102.506%0%405%0%
43The Sheltering Sky1107.446%0%809%0%
44Q&A1105.836%0%506%0%
45Landscape in the Mist1036.005%2%637%5%
46Pump Up the Volume1006.835%0%506%0%
46White Hunter, Black Heart1009.505%0%809%0%
46Last Exit to Brooklyn1006.335%0%506%0%
46Darkman1007.005%0%506%0%
46Total Recall1008.575%0%405%0%

Lists Included 184 | Top Critics’ Lists Included 87

R Rank
L Total number of lists where the film was selected as one of the top 10 films of the year
AR Average position on ranked top 10 lists
#1 Total number of lists where the film was selected as the best film of the year
L% Percentage of total lists where the film was selected as one of the top 10 films of the year
#1% Percentage of mentions where the film was selected as the best film of the year
TCL Number of times that the film was selected as one of the top 10 films of the year on top critics’ lists
TCL1 Number of times that the film was selected as the best film of the year on top critics’ lists
TCL% Percentage of times that the film was selected as one of the top 10 films of the year on top critics’ lists
TCL1% Percentage of lists where the film was selected as the best film of the year on top critics’ lists

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