Best of 1994

1994 is now considered a landmark year for movies, but at the time, many critics complained that it was a disappointing year in their year-end reviews.  However, there were few complaints about the number one film of the year, Quentin Tarantino’s masterful Pulp Fiction.  It was placed on 66 of the 80 top 10 lists and was number one on 33 (over 40%) of the lists!

19. Red Rock West (12 lists)

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“Director John Dahl and his brother Rick Dahl co-wrote the intelligent and off-handedly witty script; they’re like the Coen brothers, but with a sense of fun and a coherent, entertaining story to tell.” – Joe Brown, Washington Post

19. To Live (12 lists)

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“As is typical with Zhang’s films, this one is gripping and leaves you with admiration for the brave souls who survive under totalitarian rule.” – Dan Lybarger, Nitrate Online

17. Fresh (13 lists)

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“[Fresh] is urgently lyrical, right down to its final, haunting image. And in lead performer Sean Nelson, first-time filmmaker Yakin has a 12-year-old breath of fresh air whose beatific face could launch a thousand scripts.” – Desson Thomson, Washington Post

17. The Last Seduction (13 lists)

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“Dahl gives us Linda Fiorentino as the baddest of the bad women, the most full-blown yet utterly believable femme fatale to come along in years.” – Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle

16. Eat Drink Man Woman (15 lists)

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“The personalities in this well-drawn family combine to produce subtle new flavors — and in the end, no one is spiced as you’d imagined they’d be.” – Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly

14. The Lion King (16 lists)

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“The Lion King, more than any of the recent wave of Disney animated features, has the resonance to stand not just as a terrific cartoon but as an emotionally pungent movie.” – Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly

14. Thirty-Two Short Films About Glenn Gould (16 lists)

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“The film’s strategy is to present many diverse fragments about Gould, each capturing an aspect of his artistry and/or personality, so that the cumulative effect would give the viewer a glimpse of the man and his times.” – Emanuel Levy, EmanuelLevy.com

13. The Shawshank Redemption (17 lists)

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“Without a single riot scene or horrific effect, it tells a slow, gentle story of camaraderie and growth, with an ending that abruptly finds poetic justice in what has come before.” – Janet Maslin, New York Times

12. White (17 lists; 2 top spots)

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“Kieslowski, who so keenly satirized the crippling excesses of communism in his earlier work, unflinchingly has a go at training-wheels capitalism, but not without affection for the thawing tundra of his beleaguered mother country.” – Jonathan Kiefer, Salon.com

11. Little Women (20 lists)

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“An outstanding version of Louisa May Alcott’s perennial, one that surpasses even the best previous rendition, George Cukor’s 1933 outing starring Katharine Hepburn.” – Todd McCarthy, Variety

10. Heavenly Creatures (21 lists; 1 top spot)

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“Combines original vision, a drop-dead command of the medium and a successful marriage between a dazzling, kinetic techno-show and a complex, credible portrait of the out-of-control relationship between the crime’s two schoolgirl perpetrators.” – David Rooney, Variety

9. Forrest Gump (22 lists; 3 top spots)

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“The movie’s technical tricks are great fun, as is its musical soundtrack, which captures the essences of the eras it traverses. But when you come right down to it, it’s the oddly magnetic personality of Forrest himself that is the biggest draw.” – Jay Boyar, Orlando Sentinel

8. Bullets Over Broadway (25 lists; 1 top spot)

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“Woody Allen at his best — a gem of a Broadway fable with a crafty premise, a raft of brilliant actors at the top of their form and a bouncy, just-for-pleasure attitude.” – Edward Guthmann, San Francisco Chronicle

7. Speed (26 lists)

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“The film takes off from formula elements, but it manipulates those elements so skillfully, with such a canny mixture of delirium and restraint, that I walked out of the picture with the rare sensation that every gaudy thrill had been earned.” – Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly

6. Red (26 lists; 5 top spots)

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“Stunningly beautiful, powerfully scored and immaculately performed, the film is virtually flawless, and one of the very greatest cinematic achievements of the last few decades. A masterpiece.” – Geoff Andrew, Time Out

5. Hoop Dreams (29 lists; 5 top spots)

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“A heady dose of the American dream and the American nightmare combined — a numbing investigation of how one point on an exam or one basket or turnover in a game can make all the difference in a family’s fortunes.” – Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader

4. Four Weddings and a Funeral (32 lists; 2 top spots)

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“Four Weddings and a Funeral is one of those rare films that have you smiling from the get-go, and keep you that way — with a few well-earned poignant interludes (including, of all things, a reading of W.H. Auden) — right to the end.” – Steven Rea, Philadelphia Inquirer

3. Ed Wood (35 lists; 3 top spots)

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“Beguiling rather than thrilling, oddly charming instead of transporting, meaning that Disney will have its work cut out for it with what is at heart a cult movie and a film buff’s dream.” – Todd McCarthy, Variety

2. Quiz Show (43 lists; 2 top spots)

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“Redford turns a dry subject into high art, matching the achievements of his other directing efforts in Ordinary People and A River Runs Through It.” – Michael Booth, Denver Post

1. Pulp Fiction (66 lists; 33 top spots)

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“This movie gets its charge not from action pyrotechnics but from its electric barrage of language, wisecracks and dialogue, from the mordant ’70s classicism of its long-take camera style and its smart, offbeat, strangely sexy cast.” – Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune