Best Movies of 1994


Bullets Over Broadway

Woody Allen | 98 mins | Comedy/Crime
John Cusack | Dianne Wiest | Jennifer Tilly | Chazz Palminteri

“Writer-director Woody Allen, blissfully on target in the year’s best comedy, returns to the fateful crossroads where showbiz and the mob meet, 10 years after “Broadway Danny Rose,” to deliver an uproarious Roaring ’20s farce that sprays withering wisecracks like rat-a-tat gunfire as it ponders the link (or lack thereof) between art and humanity.” – Carol Cling, Las Vegas Journal-Review

9. THe Shawshank Redemption

Frank Darabont | 142 mins | Drama
Tim Robbins | Morgan Freeman | Bob Gunton | William Sadler

“Director Frank Darabont made a spectacular debut with this adaptation of a Stephen King novella set in a prison.  And that was a problem, because most viewers figured it was just another prison flick and stayed away in droves.  Well, “Shawshank” did have lots of cliches, from mean guards and a corrupt warden to the requisite big escape.  But Darabont rises above all that, dishing up a film that is ineffably sad, achingly sweet and even life affirming.  The cast was terrific: Tim Robbins as a banker wrongly convicted of murder, Morgan Freeman as the veteran inmate who befriends him, and especially James Whitemore as an aged convict who is paroled after 50 years only to find that freedom too terrifying to endure.” – Robert Butler, Kansas City Star


The Lion King

Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff | 88 mins | Animation/Adventure/Drama
Matthew Broderick | Jeremy Irons | James Earl Jones | Whoopi Goldberg

“There are plenty of reasons to love this Disney charmer, not the least of which is that it introduced youngsters to the possibilities of seeing original animated cartoons. A rarity from the studio, this is a story that’s not based on a fairy tale or legend, as it brings to life a fresh and original story. And so what if the music seems a little banal to adult ears? It’s the young ears that count here, and they loved it. So did I.” – Marc Horton, Edmonton Journal



Jan de Bont | 116 mins | Action/Adventure/Thriller
Keanu Reeves | Dennis Hopper | Sandra Bullock | Joe Morton

“Out of all the escapist junk that got flushed through multiplex portals between May and August, one piece glinted in the summer sun, suggesting it was plated with, if not gold, at least a reasonable facsimile thereof. The sublimely minimalist premise: A SWAT cop (Keanu Reeves) hops a crowded bus wired to explode if it slows to under 50 mph while barreling down the L.A. freeway system. To be followed shortly by more than an hour of outrageous stuntwork.
Those who hated the film because it was, ahem, “too unrealistic” were missing the point altogether. “Speed” is less an exercise in logic than an exploration of the raw aesthetics of “moving pictures” taken to their logical extreme: It is a film about rapidly accelerating motion and nothing else. This can either be viewed as as ’90s minimalism at its most dispiriting or an inspired celebration of the sheer physical mechanics of pop cinema. We chose the latter. This time.” – Dan Craft, Pantagraph


Hoop Dreams

Steve James | 170 mins | Documentary/Drama/Sport
William Gates | Arthur Agee | Emma Gates | Curtis Gates

“This wonderful film follows a couple of Chicago eighth- graders named William Gates and Arthur Agee through six years of their lives, as they pursue the elusive dream of someday playing professional basketball. But the film is not just about basketball. It’s about life as it is lived in a big American city, and like all great films it makes us think in new ways about the world around us. Gates and Agee, genuinely talented, are recruited to play for a suburban hi gh school with a high-powered sports program. But as fate and injury affect their careers, we grow involved in their lives — meeting their parents, neighbors, relatives, coaches. And one myth after another about the “inner city” is demolished, as we see how their extended families pull together to help the kids. The movie works on many levels. It is an exciting sports picture, with breathtaking game sequences. It is a thriller. It is heavy drama. And there is comedy. Yes, it’s a documentary, but no fiction film in 1994 was more entertaining or more memor able. The incredible persistence of the filmmakers — Steve James, Frederick Marx and Peter Gilbert — over six years has resulted in a film where we can actually see people growing up on the screen. If the members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences don’t nominate “Hoop Dreams” as one of the year’s best films, they haven’t done their homework. Those who take the trouble to see this film will recognize its greatness.” – Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times


Ed Wood

Tim Burton | 127 mins | Biography/Comedy/Drama
Johnny Depp | Martin Landau | Sarah Jessica Parker | Patricia Arquette

“I always reward great movies about the movies with a high place on this list (Fax Bahr and George Hickenlooper’s “Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse” topped this chart three years ago). Here is a tribute to the moviemaking impulse that celebrates a director without talent. A more traditional approach would be to praise a great director who obviously loved filmmaking-Truffaut, Fellini, Kurosawa. But how much more original it is to trumpet a clod whose dialogue was as cheesy as his $1.98 sets. Tim Burton (“Pee-wee’s Big Adventure,” “Batman,” “Edward Scissorhands”) has a natural affinity for the stories of outcasts. In ’50s schlock director Wood (played on the edge by Johnny Depp), Burton found a kindred spirit who served as real-life pal to a decaying Bela Lugosi while filming some of the strangest and dumbest movies ever made. The gorgeous black-and-white photography by Stefan Czapsky and production design by Tom Duffield are worthy of Oscars. Anyone can make beautiful landscapes look impressive on film, but how about cheap movie sets and tacky offices?” – Gene Siskel, Chicago Tribune


Forrest Gump

Robert Zemeckis | 142 mins | Drama/Romance
Tom Hanks | Robin Wright | Gary Sinise | Sally Field

“The mass audience embraced it; then the pundits and politicians took over. But like all great American popular movies, “Forrest Gump” is not reducible to the kind of simple explanations that guided its childlike hero. (If audiences loved it, it wasn’t for politics, but its canny mix of satire and sentiment.) With a glorious dope and his only love, Jenny, at the center, it’s a fantastically visualized tall tale about four convulsive decades of American history seen through the innocent eye of Tom Hanks’ good-hearted, slow-witted Gump. Gump’s flabbergasting athletic, military and financial achievements are a grand joke on national legends and pretensions. His steadfast candor and loyalty to friends, family and Jenny, meanwhile, celebrate the decency we aspire to.” – Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune


Four Weddings and a Funeral

Mike Newell | 117 mins | Comedy/Drama/Romance
Hugh Grant | Andie MacDowell | James Fleet | Simon Callow

“Sparkling wit made a delightful comeback in this swift, literate English ensemble film propelled by Oxbridge talent on and off the screen. While Mike Newell and Richard Curtis, the director and screenwriter, found an unexpected but wonderfully buoyant structure for their comic confection, previously little-known Hugh Grant emerged as the year’s brightest of new stars.” – Janet Maslin, New York Times


Quiz Show

Robert Redford | 133 mins | Biography/Drama/History
Ralph Fiennes | John Turturro | Rob Morrow | Paul Scofield

“Though it did not catch on with ticket buyers, this examination of the rigged TV programs of the late 1950s is the best film to come out of the studio system this year. Directed by Robert Redford from a script by Paul Attanasio and starring Ralph Fiennes as a trapped Charles Van Doren, “Quiz Show” is a Hollywood rarity: a thoughtful, absorbing drama about moral ambiguity and the affability of evil.” – Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times


Pulp Fiction

Quentin Tarantino | 154 mins | Crime/Drama
John Travolta | Uma Thurman | Samuel L. Jackson | Bruce Willis

“From its opening frames, Quentin Tarantino’s wild, shocking, impassioned, zigzaggy, rudely hilarious crime thriller is more sheer fun than a great movie has any right to be. It’s as packed with pleasures as a toy store for adults, and the pleasures are right there on the surface. Just think of Uma Thurman’s gimlet-eyed moll doing a coked-up dance of eternal-adolescent rapture to ”Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon”; of Bruce Willis’ scruffy-noble palooka escaping an S&M torture den, and then pausing to pick the perfect weapon (the chainsaw … no, the samurai sword!) so that he can go back and save the man who’d sworn to kill him; of John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson, as the two most eloquent hit men in history, transforming their workaday discussions of foot massages and Parisian Big Macs into goofily irreverent moral debates — mental cross fire for the age of pop. For two and a half hours, Tarantino dedicates all his energies as a filmmaker to keeping you blissfully entertained. Yet it’s his instincts as an artist that make Pulp Fiction take up permanent residence in your imagination. In a brilliant act of cinematic time juggling, Tarantino kills off one of his main characters, only to confront us, in the end, with the stubborn reality of his existence — a structural coup that becomes a kind of sleight-of-hand resurrection. In Pulp Fiction, what Tarantino has resurrected is the primal joy of American moviemaking.” – Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly

Full List:

1Pulp Fiction196822.586%43%843583%42%
2Quiz Show143114.363%6%63562%6%
3Four Weddings and a Funeral11375.750%4%46246%2%
4Forrest Gump109233.548%12%39539%6%
5Ed Wood9965.244%3%41141%1%
6Hoop Dreams97133.943%7%48648%7%
8The Lion King7616.033%1%33033%0%
9The Shawshank Redemption6706.230%0%25025%0%
10Bullets Over Broadway6636.129%2%25025%0%
11Little Women6515.429%1%28028%0%
13Heavenly Creatures5615.125%1%27127%1%
14Eat Drink Man Woman4206.319%0%16016%0%
16Natural Born Killers3716.416%1%14114%1%
18To Live3516.115%1%20020%0%
19Vanya on 42nd Street3426.115%1%23223%2%
20The Last Seduction3406.415%0%18018%0%
21Nobody's Fool3325.715%1%17117%1%
23Thirty-Two Short Films About Glenn Gould3005.413%0%17017%0%
24Red Rock West2506.311%0%11011%0%
27The Hudsucker Proxy1907.08%0%505%0%
28The Blue Kite1724.97%1%929%2%
29Spanking the Monkey1706.87%0%606%0%
31Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle1607.57%0%808%0%
31The Boys of St. Vincent1606.17%0%12012%0%
34The Crow1407.66%0%505%0%
34Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert1406.36%0%303%0%
36Clear and Present Danger1307.36%0%303%0%
37The Madness of King George1307.86%0%505%0%
38The Scent of Green Papaya1206.15%0%707%0%
39Interview With the Vampire1206.45%0%202%0%
40Through the Olive Trees1215.15%1%717%1%
41True Lies1106.15%0%202%0%
43The Mask1007.14%0%303%0%

Lists Included 227 | Top Critics’ Lists Included 101

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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