Best of 1992

1992 was considered a good year for film – and it was led by three films in particular: Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven, Robert Altman’s The Player, and James Ivory’s Howards End.

Mark Rowland and Patrick McGilligan surveyed 106 critics in their annual survey, and I consider their poll results to be superior to the results below, as I was only able to tally 90 critics’ lists.  However, the 1992 poll only 16 films, so I’m using my results to get to a full 20.  I have included Rowland and McGilligan’s results below as well.

20. American Dream (10 lists; 1 top spot)


“Though a political film about labor unionism, American Dream is ultimately about the decimation of a social community, one that has suffered divorces, illnesses and broken friendships as a result of the conflict.” – Emanuel Levy, Emanuel

18. Bob Roberts (11 lists)


“A sort of political This Is Spinal Tap, Bob Roberts is both a stimulating social satire and, for thinking people, a depressing commentary on the devolution of the American political system.” – Todd McCarthy, Variety

18. The Hairdresser’s Husband (11 lists)


“Patrice Leconte is a director who should be better known. Like Ang Lee, he never repeats himself. Each film seems a fresh start from a new idea.” – Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

17. Mississippi Masala (13 lists)


“An utterly infectious romance between an African American and an Indian African emigre, this seductively funny film measures the pull of roots against the tug of heartstrings.” – Rita Kempley, Washington Post

15. The Last of the Mohicans (14 lists)


“Painstakingly, breathtakingly re-created by director Michael Mann, this landscape makes room for heroes with principles greater than the circumference of their biceps.” – Rita Kempley, Washington Post

15. Proof (14 lists)


“There are adroit little truths everywhere, touching on blindness, cruelty, loneliness, deception and love. Writer/director Jocelyn Moorhouse has a dynamic knack for psychological twists, and for suspense in the unlikeliest of places.” – Desson Thomson, Washington Post

14. The Best Intentions (18 lists; 2 top spots)


“Though Bergman only wrote (but didn’t direct), the film is permeated with his unique angst and thematic concerns, and casting Pernilla August in a major role establishes strong link to Fanny and Alexander, in which she played the servant.” – Emanuel Levy,

13. A Few Good Men (22 lists; 3 top spots)


“That the performances are uniformly outstanding is a tribute to Rob Reiner (Misery), who directs with masterly assurance, fusing suspense and character to create a movie that literally vibrates with energy.” – Peter Travers, Rolling Stone

12. One False Move (23 lists; 1 top spot)


“The biggest difference between One False Move and most other action films is the sting in its violence. There is so little stylization here — so little gimmickry — that when someone is shot or knifed, you feel it.” – Jay Boyar, Orlando Sentinel

11. Raise the Red Lantern (26 lists; 1 top spot)


“A beautifully crafted and richly detailed feat of consciousness-raising and a serious drama with the verve of a good soap opera.” – Janet Maslin, New York Times

10. Glengarry Glen Ross (27 lists)


“Mamet reveals his exceptional talent for writing almost poetic working-class vernacular, scores his major implicit thematic thrusts against the nature of the way business-at-large is conducted.” – Todd McCarthy, Variety

9. A River Runs Through It (27 lists; 2 top spots)


“Redford and his writer, Richard Friedenberg, understand that most of the events in any life are accidential or arbitrary, especially the crucial ones, and we can exercise little conscious control over our destinies.” – Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

8. Reservoir Dogs (28 lists; 1 top spot)


“A brash, brutal crime-caper film, Reservoir Dogs has enough raw energy for 10 motion pictures and more than enough rough stuff to traumatize the sensitive. But not only does Dogs have teeth, it has brains.” – Jay Boyar, Orlando Sentinel

7. Husbands and Wives (31 lists; 1 top spot)


“What Husbands and Wives argues is that many “rational” relationships are actually not as durable as they seem, because somewhere inside every person is a child crying me! me! me!” – Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

6. Aladdin (35 lists; 1 top spot)


“Those of you expecting the comfy family-sedan ride of Beauty and the Beast are in for a shock-the immensely enjoyable Aladdin roars off the Disney production line like the latest-model sports car.” – Ty Burr, Entertainment Weekly

5. Malcolm X (47 lists; 4 top spots)


“A spiritually enriching testament to the human capacity for change — and surely Spike Lee’s most universally appealing film.” – Rita Kempley, Washington Post

4. The Crying Game (52 lists; 12 top spots)


“Reasons remain to watch this movie: the development of Fergus and the fine performances, most notably Whitaker and Richardson, who plays her character with just the right number of screws loose.” – Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

3. Howards End (60 lists; 12 top spots)


“The triumph of Howards End is that it doesn’t merely invite us to feel for these characters. With something like grace, it shows us the error and the splendor of their ways.” – Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly

2. The Player (65 lists; 6 top spots)


“Mr. Altman’s most subversive message here is not that it’s possible to get away with murder in Hollywood, but that the most grievous sin, in Hollywood terms anyway, is to make a film that flops.” – Vincent Canby, New York Times

1. Unforgiven (72 lists; 16 top spots)


“This dark, melancholic film is a reminder-never more necessary than now-of what the American cinema is capable of, in the way of expressing a mature, morally complex and challenging view of the world.” – Dave Kehr, Chicago Tribune

Rowland and McGilligan’s Poll:

15. Enchanted April (18 lists), 15. A Few Good Men (18), 14. The Best Intentions (20), 13. The Last of the Mohicans (26), 12. Glengarry Glen Ross (28), 11. Reservoir Dogs (29), 10. One False Move (31), 9. Husbands and Wives (33), 8. A River Runs Through It (35), 7. Raise the Red Lantern (36), 6. Aladdin (41), 5. The Crying Game (54), 4. Malcolm X (58), 3. Unforgiven (76), 2. The Player (80), 1. Howards End (82)