Best of 1990

Outside of Martin Scorsese’s masterful Goodfellas, 1990 was a pretty bland year for films.  People still talk about Dances With Wolves, likely because it won Best Picture, but how often do you hear people talk about Reversal of Fortune on a daily basis?

107 lists were compiled for 1990.

25. Life and Nothing But (13 lists; 2 top spots)


“A masterfully directed film, exquistely acted by Azéma and Vidal.” – Greg Muskewitz,

20. Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams (14 lists)


“It’s something altogether new for Kurosawa, a collection of short, sometimes fragmentary films that are less like dreams than fairy tales of past, present and future. The magical and mysterious are mixed with the practical, funny and polemical.” – Vincent Canby, New York Times

20. Henry & June (14 lists)

henry and june

“As outwardly beautiful as it is inwardly counterfeit.” – Desson Thomas, Washington Post

20. Henry V (14 lists)


“The cast — including Derek Jacobi as the modern-dress chorus, Paul Scofield, Judi Dench, Ian Holm, Emma Thompson, and Robbie Coltrane in an effective cameo as Falstaff — is uniformly fine without any grandstanding.” – Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader

20. Postcards From the Edge (14 lists)

postcards from the edge

“For the first time in years, [Streep] lives a role instead of ”acting” it – and in doing so, she becomes more of an actress than ever.” – Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly

20. Vincent & Theo (14 lists)


“The enjoyment in Vincent and Theo comes more from the director’s attention to art history than from his ability to interpret it anew.” – Janet Maslin, New York Times

19. Awakenings (14 lists; 2 top spots)

“Williams gives his best “straight” performance, shorn of all his marvelous manic vaudeville. The man he plays here is not a performer, which he was even in Dead Poets Society, but simply a man.” – Stanley Kaufman, The New Republic

17. Cyrano De Bergerac (15 lists)

Cyrano de Bergerac

“Gerard Depardieu gives a tour de force Oscar-nominated performance in this sumptuous (and best) screen version of the famous play” – Emanuel Levy,

17. Wild at Heart (15 lists)

“This winner of the Cannes Film Festival’s Palme d’Or is a lunatic road movie seething with the same dark intensity that animates director Lynch’s earlier work.” – TV Guide’s Movie Guide

16. The Grifters (15 lists; 2 top spots) 


“Donald Westlake’s excellent screenplay does some justice to the starkness of Jim Thompson’s novel; and Frears’ direction never fails to grab the attention.” – Stephen Garrett, Time Out

15. Sweetie (16 lists; 1 top spot)

“It’s hard to sum up Sweetie, which happens to be one of the movie’s strengths.” – Desson Thomson, Washington Post

14. The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover (16 lists; 2 top spots)


“Give or take another masterpiece coming down the pike, this intricately assembled, viscerally provocative tract on consumerism gone full and grisly circle, is without a doubt, the most accomplished, astounding film of the year.” – Desson Thomson, Washington Post

13. Monsieur Hire (17 lists)

“Helmer Patrice Leconte’s early effort is one of his best. (The spilled-tomatoes-on-the-staircase scene between the mismatched admirers is an unforgettable ode to seduction.)” – Brandon Judell, Culture Catch

12. Cinema Paradiso (18 lists; 3 top spots)

cinema paradiso

“In the director’s cut, the film is not only a love song to the movies but it also is more fully an example of the kind of lush, all-enveloping movie experience it rhapsodizes.” – Eric Harrison, Houston Chronicle

11. Presumed Innocent (19 lists)

presumed innocent

“Mr. Ford, who comes alive in the flashbacks recalling his tempestuous affair with Carolyn, spends much of the film with a wary, cautious expression masking all other emotions. He does this with flawless delicacy…” – Janet Maslin, New York Times

10. To Sleep With Anger (20 lists; 1 top spot)


“Burnett’s acute and sensitive direction is free of hackneyed movie conventions; even something as simple as a hello is said differently from the way you’ve heard it in any other movie.” – Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader

9. Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (21 lists)


“The difference between John McNaughton’s incredibly chilling film and the usual serving of screen carnage is the difference between the mind of a murderer and the cynical and manipulative depiction of mindless murder.” – Desmond Ryan, Philadelphia Inquirer

8. Metropolitan (21 lists; 2 top spots)


“Whit Stillman’s crafty independent feature about wealthy Park Avenue teenagers and a middle-class boy who joins their ranks over one Christmas vacation is certainly well imagined, and impressively acted by a cast of newcomers.” – Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader

7. Edward Scissorhands (33 lists)



“Burton’s modern fairytale has an almost palpably personal feel: it is told gently, subtly and with infinite sympathy for an outsider who charms the locals but then inadvertently arouses their baser instincts.” – Marc Lee, Daily Telegraph

6. The Godfather, Part III (34 lists; 2 top spots)

“The movie, a heady thicket of political intrigue and double crosses, is slower, talkier, and more prosaic than the first two films, and its narrative seams sometimes show. And yet it’s more than the sum of its mazelike convolutions.” – Owen Gleibermann, Entertainment Weekly

5. Avalon (37 lists; 1 top spots)

“Tracing the fortunes and misfortunes of an extended family of Jewish immigrants, this melancholy memory film is too soft and episodic, lacking the narrative focus of either Diner or Tin Men, which form a trilogy.” – Emanuel Levy,

4. Miller’s Crossing (38 lists; 1 top spot)

Miller's Crossing

“Substance is here in spades, along with the twisted, brilliantly controlled style on which filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen made a name.” – Variety

3. Reversal of Fortune (50 lists; 2 top spots)

“Irons founds his adroit performance, from cadaverous countenance to crooked pinky, on strangled passion and noblesse oblige. And astonishingly, he manages to make old Claus oddly pathetic, even sympathetic.” – Rita Kempley, Washington Post

2. Dances With Wolves (62 lists; 10 top spots)

“Costner tells a personal story that never loses touch with the vast Western spaces encompassing and defining it. Dances With Wolves is an epic that breathes. And it’s a beauty.” – Peter Travers, Rolling Stone

1. Goodfellas (87 lists; 23 top spots)

classic dvd goodfellas

“One remains detached from the characters, but Scorsese succeeds in smashing all the foolishly romantic myths about the mob with this shocking, vigorously honest portrait of a slick yuppie gangster who couldn’t stand being “an average nobody.”” – Kathleen Carroll, New York Daily News