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 114 of the 136 top 10 lists and was number one on 54 of the lists!

24. Clerks (15 lists; 1 top spotclerksThe film looks no more expensive than it was; some of the acting (by local nonprofessionals) is spectacularly amateurish; the story is a series of anecdotes about hockey, shopping and loving the one you’re with. But it’s worth loitering in this shop.” – Richard Corliss, Time Magazine

24. Three Colors:  Blue (15 lists; 1 top spot)Blue“Even in such a visually sumptuous work, Kieslowski is brave enough to tell us — through blackouts, blurred focus and commanding stillness — not to look, but simply to listen.” – Jonathan Kiefer, Salon

23. Red Rock West (17 lists)screenshot2012-07-15at11-22-55am“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

22. Nobody’s Fool (17 lists; 2 top spots)nobody's fool“Fronted by a splendid performance from Paul Newman… Robert Benton’s character-driven film is sprinkled with small pleasures; the dramatic developments here don’t take place in the noisy, calamitous manner that is customary these days.” – Todd McCarthy, Variety

21. Fresh (18 lists)fresh1“[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 Tompson, Washington Post

20. Vanya on 42nd Street (18 lists; 1 top spot)Vanya on 42nd Street“A film which reduces Chekhov’s “Uncle Vanya” to its bare elements: loneliness, wasted lives, romantic hope and despair. To add elaborate sets, costumes and locations to this material would only dilute it.” – Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

18. Thirty-Two Short Films About Glenn Gould (21 lists)thirty-two-short-films-about-glenn-gould“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,

18. To Live (21 lists)fiqqjcvrqzrjur_1_a“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. Eat Drink Man Woman (22 lists)eat-drink-man-woman1“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

16. The Last Seduction (23 lists)the-last-seduction-featured-image“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

15. White (23 lists; 2 top spots)27732id_1448_229_primary_w1600“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,

14. Natural Born Killers (24 lists)nbk.png“This is one of my all time favorite movies, and it put Oliver Stone on my list of ‘Best Directors Ever,’ right along with Stanley [Kubrick].” – Peter Travers, Rolling Stone

13. Heavenly Creatures (35 lists; 1 top spot)heavenly-creatures-3“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

12. The Lion King (36 lists)the-lion-king-still“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

11. Little Women (36 lists; 1 top spot)4fb97180-69d8-0132-4366-0ebc4eccb42f“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. The Shawshank Redemption (37 lists)Tim Robbins And Morgan Freeman In 'The Shawshank Redemption'“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

9. Red (38 lists; 8 top spots)three-colors-red-5“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

8. Speed (44 lists)speed-scene“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

7. Bullets Over Broadway (44 lists; 2 top spots)BULLETS OVER BROADWAY“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

6. Forrest Gump (54 lists; 7 top spots)007-forrest-gump-theredlist“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

5. Hoop Dreams (55 lists; 10 top spots)arthur_agee_is_carried_off_the_court_in_celebration_by_his_teammates_1“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. Ed Wood (61 lists; 6 top spots)ed-wood“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

3. Four Weddings and a Funeral (62 lists; 3 top spots)2000x1400xfour-weddings-and-a-funeralqitok_jkg0tby-pagespeed-ic-ybms9_hkyz“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

2. Quiz Show (83 lists; 5 top spots)ralph-fiennes-e2809cquiz-showe2809d“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 (114 lists; 54 top spots)ffc39ebe6c87b384c277ca8ce3a63ba4“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