Best Movies of 1996

 

10. JERRY MAGUIRE

Jerry Maguire

64 LISTS | 2 TOP SPOTS
Cameron Crowe | 139 mins | Comedy/Drama/Romance
Tom Cruise | Cuba Gooding Jr. | Renée Zellweger | Kelly Preston

“Remember how Clint Eastwood subverted the genre of Clint Eastwood movies with “Unforgiven”? Tom Cruise works similar magic in “Maguire.” He starts out as the cocky top gun, then loses it all — his flashy job as a sports agent, his fair-weather friends and his glamorous fiance. He becomes a winner by being a loser. Now, that’s risky business.” – Amy Longsdorf, The Morning Call

9. BREAKING THE WAVES

Breaking the Waves

74 LISTS | 15 TOP SPOTS
Lars von Trier | 159 mins | Drama
Emily Watson | Stellan Skarsgård | Katrin Cartlidge | Jean-Marc Barr

“A robust Scandinavian oil-rigger and a quirky but naive Scottish village girl marry; they are blissfully happy; he becomes paralyzed after a work accident; their lives fall apart. But the outline doesn’t really suggest the movie’s titanic emotions and mysterious power. Von Trier’s previous films–“The Element of Crime,” “Zentropa” and “The Kingdom”–suggest a master of baroque melodrama, with a flair for noir. “Breaking the Waves,” winner of both the Cannes Festival Grand Jury Prize and the all-Europe Felix Award, has a more monumental, stormy visual style, plus a plot that hinges on metaphysics and morality. And something more: a flood of emotion–triggered by star Emily Watson as the sexually martyred wife–that becomes almost annihilating.” – Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

8. THE PEOPLE VS. LARRY FLYNT

The People Vs Larry Flynt

81 LISTS | 5 TOP SPOTS
Milos Forman | 130 mins | Biography/Drama
Woody Harrelson | Courtney Love | Edward Norton | Brett Harrelson

“Woody Harrelson plays a real-life pornographer who builds a sleazy magazine into a publishing empire. The film’s main interest is his lengthy court battle with Moral Majority leader Jerry Falwell, pivoting on the question of whether blatantly repulsive speech is protected under constitutional law. The answer is yes, as stated in a unanimous Supreme Court decision written by one of the tribunal’s most conservative members. Milos Forman’s drama is sure to offend liberals and conservatives with some of the year’s most outrageous material, but no other picture positions itself so squarely on the cutting edge of current debates over censorship, free speech, and the effect of mass media on contemporary life” – David Sterritt, Christian Science Monitor

7. SHINE

Shine

82 LISTS | 10 TOP SPOTS
Scott Hicks | 105 mins | Biography/Drama/Music
Geoffrey Rush | Armin Mueller-Stahl | Justin Braine | Sonia Todd

“Shine, my choice as the best film of the year in a year of unusually good films, is pretty far off-Hollywood: It comes from Australia. But it cuts deepest with its fact-based story of a concert pianist reclaimed from a 15-year-long nervous breakdown into which he was guilt-tripped for defying his tyrannical father. Geoffrey Rush is brilliant as its central figure. He deserves all the awards he’s getting, and I hope they continue right through Oscar night.” – Jay Carr, Boston Globe

6. BIG NIGHT

Big Night

102 LISTS | 5 TOP SPOTS
Campbell Scott and Stanley Tucci | 109 mins | Drama/Romance
Tony Shalhoub | Stanley Tucci | Marc Anthony | Larry Block

“Would you believe it if I said that the most ecstatic scene of the year consists of a man cooking an omelette? The camera doesn’t even move: It just sits there on Stanley Tucci, the owner of an Italian restaurant in 1950s New Jersey, as he pours the olive oil, breaks the eggs, adjusts the flame, and gives birth to a meal. Codirected by Tucci, the exquisitely deft and funny Big Night transcends the usual food-porn “deliciousness” (Like Water for Chocolate, Babette’s Feast). The movie is about many things: the love of brothers, the ache of exile, the quest for the perfect risotto. Mostly, it’s about the way that food, the universal human art form, connects us to each other and to ourselves.” – Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly

5. TRAINSPOTTING

Trainspotting

118 LISTS | 7 TOP SPOTS
Danny Boyle | 93 mins | Drama
Ewan McGregor | Ewen Bremner | Jonny Lee Miller | Kevin McKidd

“Here’s my best movie of the year for its exciting, visual style and its exhilarating balance of pathos — heroin addiction, socioeconomic depression and cultural occupation in Scotland — and black seriocomedy. It also introduces us to the screen’s four most colorful characters of 1996: Renton (Ewan McGregor), Spud (Ewen Bremner), Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller) and Begbie (Robert Carlyle), who lead us through the netherworld of drug and alcohol dependence with unforgettable wit and irony. Coming to video stores in February.” – Desson Howe, The Washington Post

4. SECRETS & LIES

Secrets and Lies

131 LISTS | 19 TOP SPOTS
Mike Leigh | 136 mins | Comedy/Drama
Timothy Spall | Brenda Blethyn | Phyllis Logan | Claire Rushbrook

“Such a simple idea, brilliantly executed. Writer-director Leigh posits the notion that many family troubles could be done away with if the combatants would honestly confront each other instead of allowing jealousies, hurts and angers to fester silently. In this story, a working-class woman receives a call from someone claiming to be her grown daughter, put up for adoption unseen at birth.” – Gene Siskel, Chicago Tribune

3. THE ENGLISH PATIENT

The English Patient

132 LISTS | 26 TOP SPOTS
Anthony Minghella | 162 mins | Drama/Romance/War
Ralph Fiennes | Juliette Binoche | Willem Dafoe | Kristin Scott Thomas

“For so many European wanderlusters who found an Eden in the Sahara, the desert was a woman–dazzling, enveloping, with a vastness that held all their dreams. In such a place, just before World War II, the Hungarian aristocrat Count Laszlo de Almasy finds his ideal desert woman and follows her to hell. He then lives, just barely, to tell the tale to a ministering angel (Juliette Binoche) who can give him what he needs: not absolution but understanding. The lovers are Ralph Fiennes–all coiled sexiness, threat shrouded in hauteur–and Kristin Scott Thomas, who has the gift of making intelligence erotic; they come together in a dance of doom that is abrasive, mysterious, powerful, inevitable. Anthony Minghella’s beautiful film, based on the Michael Ondaatje novel, gets the rapture right, with a scope and intimacy rarely seen on film since the David Lean days.” – TIME Magazine

2. LONE STAR

Lone Star

140 LISTS | 17 TOP SPOTS
John Sayles | 135 mins | Drama/Mystery
Chris Cooper | Elizabeth Peña | Stephen Mendillo | Stephen J. Lang

“John Sayles, the Steven Spielberg of independent filmmaking, could have filled this elaborate mystery with lots of big-bucks special effects. Instead, he chose to do things the old-fashioned way, using intriguing characters, intricate plotting and clever staging. Set in a small Texas town, it’s a story about a 40-year-old murder mystery. A skeleton found in the desert leads to a lot of skeletons in people’s closets.” – Jeff Strickler, Minneapolis Star Tribune

1. FARGO

Fargo

180 LISTS | 43 TOP SPOTS
Joel Coen and Ethan Coen | 98 mins | Crime/Drama/Thriller
William H. Macy | Frances McDormand | Steve Buscemi | Peter Stormare

“The best scene in this film is probably the one where the pregnant police chief goes to question the car dealer who has hired a couple of guys to kidnap his wife. The chief asks her questions according to inexorable procedure, very business-like. The dealer grows increasingly so nervous–he’s so taut we’re waiting for him to explode. She asks sensible questions in a sweet voice. He answers in tortured evasions. What’s best about the scene is that it’s in complete command of the characters. We know these people, how they’re thinking, how they feel. Frances McDormand, playing the chief, doesn’t use the kind of overbearing tone another actor might have brought to the scene; instead, she seems to sense that sweetness will more quickly crack this guy. And William H. Macy, as the dealer, projects guilt and nerves so urgently we almost feel like kidnappers ourselves. Ethan and Joel Coen’s “Fargo” is a remarkable tour de force: A comedy, a police procedural, a violent crime thriller and a human-interest melodrama, all wrapped up in a vivid sense of time and place, of frigid midwinter Minnesota, where even the police chief needs a jump for her car battery in the morning. This is clearly the year’s best film.” – Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

Full Top 50:

RTITLEL#1ARL%#1%TCLTCL1TCL%TCL1%
1Fargo164412.877%23%771872%20%
2Lone Star131144.061%8%661062%11%
3Secrets & Lies123184.057%10%69864%9%
4The English Patient120213.956%12%49546%5%
5Trainspotting10774.250%4%46243%2%
6Big Night9344.443%2%47144%1%
7Shine75103.935%5%31629%7%
8The People Vs. Larry Flynt7555.234%3%38236%2%
9Breaking the Waves67144.631%8%451342%14%
10Jerry Maguire5826.027%1%18017%0%
11Flirting With Disaster5016.023%1%26124%1%
12Welcome to the Dollhouse3805.118%0%21020%0%
13The Crucible3625.317%1%16015%0%
14Emma3315.415%1%14113%1%
15Sling Blade3634.215%1%21220%2%
16Cold Comfort Farm3016.014%1%19118%1%
17Courage Under Fire2825.913%1%707%0%
18When We Were Kings3234.712%1%20319%3%
19Evita2516.011%1%1019%1%
20Tin Cup2305.411%0%908%0%
20Independence Day2306.511%0%505%0%
22Everyone Says I Love You2425.711%1%16015%0%
23Hamlet (1996)2434.411%2%14113%1%
24William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet2305.410%0%404%0%
25Dead Man2255.210%3%16415%4%
26Chungking Express2004.910%0%13012%0%
27Michael Collins1917.19%1%817%1%
28The Whole Wide World2114.79%1%12011%0%
29The Portrait of a Lady1953.78%3%14413%4%
30Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills1825.48%1%11110%1%
31Get On the Bus1716.28%1%717%1%
31The White Balloon1714.88%1%15114%1%
33The Hunchback of Notre Dame1605.57%0%908%0%
34Swingers1606.37%0%505%0%
35Angels & Insects1405.67%0%707%0%
35Fly Away Home1405.87%0%807%0%
37Irma Vep1814.37%0%15114%1%
38Trees Lounge1405.06%0%807%0%
39Microcosmos1306.36%0%908%0%
40Mother (1996)1334.66%2%938%3%
41Twister1206.96%0%303%0%
41James and the Giant Peach1206.16%0%505%0%
43Looking for Richard1106.95%0%807%0%
43Bound1106.85%0%807%0%
45Mars Attacks!1106.05%0%606%0%
46Ma Saison Preferee1016.25%1%918%1%
47The Rock1006.15%0%202%0%
47Phenomenon1004.95%0%303%0%
49Citizen Ruth1114.25%0%717%1%
50La Ceremonie1014.35%1%707%0%

Lists Included 214 | Top Critics’ Lists Included 107

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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