Best of 1995

1995 was an interesting year for film – it wasn’t a bad year, but it couldn’t compare to 1994.  But the thing that made it most interesting is that there is almost no consensus on what the best film of the year was (although today most people would probably agree that Toy Story is the most important film of 1995).

Braveheart eventually won the Academy’s vote, but it certainly wasn’t the frontrunner.  And it certainly wasn’t the top selection of film critics, as it nearly missed the top 20 for the year.

80 lists were included in 1995

19. Braveheart (12 lists; 1 top spot)

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“The political argument that ensues is pretty dull, but the battle scenes are the loudest and most convincing in years: Gibson has learned from Kurosawa in lending a clarifying thrust to what is, essentially, chaos.” – Anthony Lane, New Yorker

19. Dead Man Walking (12 lists; 1 top spot)

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“Tim Robbins’s balanced yet uncompromising approach refuses to judge any of the characters, including the killer (superlatively played by Sean Penn), instead giving each a fair chance to present their case with dignity and respect.” – Emanuel Levy, Variety

18. Smoke (13 lists; 1 top spot)

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“The best vignette, at the very end of the film, is the story Auster originally wrote for a newspaper as a Christmas piece, the one that inspired Wang to make Smoke in the first place. It’s the one you’ll want to inhale.” – Lisa Scwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly

16. Clueless (10 lists)

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“Parents are traditionally invisible and/or lame in teen flicks, but Dan Hedaya, as Silverstone’s sharklike litigator dad, does a drop-dead Robert Shapiro, biting off some of the best lines in the movie.” – Joe Brown, Washington Post

16. Il Postino

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“The Postman (Il Postino) is slight, but it’s tough to imagine anyone not liking it.” – USA Today

15. Heat (15 lists; 1 top spot)

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“There’s nothing really new in this lengthy 1995 thriller by writer-director Michael Mann about cops and robbers in Los Angeles, but it has craft, pacing, and an overall sense of proportion, three pretty rare classic virtues nowadays.” – Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader

14. Safe (15 lists; 3 top spots)

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“In a summer of heavyweight action movies and flyweight romantic comedies, I don’t think you’ll find a more provocative little number than Safe, which creeps under your skin like a rash.” – Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly

13. Exotica (16 lists)

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“Egoyan’s intent is not ultimately to disturb us, but to look closely at people at their wits’ end, desperate, and sad, in hopes of finding absolution for them.” – Jeffrey Overstreet, Looking Closer

12. The Bridges of Madison County (19 lists)

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“The gap between touchy-feely and touching isn’t easy to span, so credit judicious pruning on the one hand and a beefed-up script on the other for getting perhaps the best possible movie out of Robert James Waller’s The Bridges of Madison County.” – Mike Clark, USA Today

11. To Die For (20 lists; 1 top spot)

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“Nicole Kidman’s work here is inspired. Her clothes, her makeup, her hair, her speech, her manner, even the way she carries herself (as if aware of the eyes of millions) are all brought to a perfect pitch.” – Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

10. Get Shorty (20 lists; 3 top spots)

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“This comic potboiler about gangsters in Hollywood would be a great piece of fun even without Travolta. But as a loan shark from Miami with a charming bedside manner and bigtime movie dreams, he raises the fun quotient into the sublime.” – Desson Thomson, Washington Post

9. The Usual Suspects (21 lists; 1 top spot)

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“If the pleasures of The Usual Suspects are the more superficial ones of ingenuity and style, those are abundantly available. The twists and turns of the plot are an awful lot of fun, while the ending is genuinely satisfying and surprising.” – Jay Boyar, Orlando Sentinel

8. Nixon (21 lists; 2 top spots)

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“Thoughts of Hamlet, Macbeth and King Lear come to mind; here, again, is a ruler destroyed by his fatal flaws. There’s something almost majestic about the process: As Nixon goes down in this film, there is no gloating, but a watery sigh, as of a great ship” – Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

7. Babe (23 lists; 3 top spots)

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“For children, the movie will play like a storybook come to life. Adults, at first, will marvel at the special effects and puppetry. But ultimately, they’ll be won over by the nuances of a story that finds a fresh way to deliver a timeless message.” – Gary Dretzka, Chicago Tribune

6. Persuasion (24 lists; 4 top spots)

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“Much of the movie’s emotional work has to be done by…faces and eyes, while other people speak of other things, and to see that happening is frustrating, because it happens so slowly, and romantic, because it happens at all.” – Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

5. Leaving Las Vegas (31 lists; 6 top spots)

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“Dark and giddy at the same time, Leaving Las Vegas takes us into dreamy, intoxicated places no movie about an alcoholic has gone before.” – Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly

4. Apollo 13 (36 lists; 3 top spots)

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“Major, rousing, thoroughly professional Hollywood entertainment that will dazzle you with its re-creations of historical events, take you inside the space capsule and the Houston command center, and leave you wondering where our heroes [have gone].” – Gene Siskel, Chicago Tribune

3. Toy Story (37 lists; 4 top spots)

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“I can hardly imagine having more fun at the movies than I did at Toy Story, the miraculous new Disney feature that’s the first full-length animated film to be produced entirely on computer.” – Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly

2. Sense and Sensibility (41 lists; 8 top spots)

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“Thompson’s script manages the neat trick of preserving the necessary niceties and decorum of civilized behavior of the time while still cutting to the dramatic quick.” – Todd McCarthy, Variety

1. Crumb (43 lists; 3 top spots)

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“Crumb’s sense of humor is his saving personal grace and the movie’s insurance policy against total immersion into the morbid. But just so you know, Crumb fully earns its most revealing screen credit: ‘David Lynch Presents.'” – Mike Clark, USA Today

 

In 1996, Alex Fung tabulated 86 lists and got similar results.  Unfortunately, he did not post the number of lists and his rankings gave additional weight to films ranked near the top.  Nonetheless, I think it’s worthwhile to include his final standings:
1. Sense & Sensibility (53 lists)  2. Leaving Las Vegas  3. Crumb  4. Apollo 13  5. Toy Story  6. Babe  7. Get Shorty  8. Nixon  9. Persuasion  10. The Usual Suspects  11. Dead Man Walking  12. To Die For  13. The Bridges of Madison County  15. Braveheart  16. Devil in a Blue Dress  17. Smoke  18. Exotica  19. A Little Princess  20. The American President