Jurrassic Park (1993): The first proper live action dinosaur film, one which amazed audiences with realistic robot monstrosities, and created a new standard for computer generated imagery, for bettor or for worse. The number of films it influenced is enormous, allowing for the future works of James Cameron, Lucas’ much reviled prequel trilogy, and Peter Jackson’s epic LoTR trilogy. The fear of ‘velociraptors’ is one that has been ingrained into the mind of many a kid of the 90s, particularly evidenced by xkcd creator Randall Munroe. Overall an extremely influential film that showed us what we had all been wanting for decades, through the innovative use of new technology, a statement to the path the 90s would take.
Pulp Fiction (1994): Pulp Fiction is Quentin Tarantino’s Magnum Opus, an innocuous film for the new generation. Its timeline is confused, the events are all insignificant in the grand scheme which doesn’t exist, and the characters are drug abusing sweraholics. This is what makes it such a great film. It was an enormously popular film, quite possibly popularizing the creation of indy films, regardless of whether or not this actually was. The dialogue is Seinfeldian in many parts, the film is self-referential as well as paying homage to dozens of past films, popular or not all based on Tarantino’s exhaustive knowledge of cinema, as well peculiar sense of direction. It got snubbed for Best Picture because of Forest Gump, but has been indoctrinated into the minds of teenagers of the 90s, and remains a timeless film.
Toy Story (1995): What can I say about Pixar’s first full length motion picture and the first fully CGI film too. The particular influence in this film can be easily felt in recent days with the glut of CGI films coming out recently, the peak one could say was Avatar, which while not fully animated, was almost entirely done so. The storyline is just that of a boy and his toys, nothing epic, just them wanting to get home, something easily relatable. Also Joss Whedon helped to write the film, giving it his unique touch. This film lead to both Pixar’s popularity, all with their exacting standards of excellence, as well as leading to two excellent sequels, something almost entirely unprecedented. It helped to represent the innocence of a generation, at an utter contrast to the rest of the films, but it is something that is necessary for a good society.
The Big Lebowski (1998): One of the Cowen Brother’s best films, featuring utterly surreal dream sequences and a plot about bowling and lies. The Dude, the protagonist, is the quintessential example of sloth. He does nothing to make his money, and he bowls, the only reason he gets involved in the events of the film is that some guys mistake him for someone else. The entire plot is lies and misinformation, and it starts because of a misunderstanding. It has become the basis for a philosophy on life and perfectly represents the slacker attitude of the 90s, and the greed inherent in society.
The Matrix (1999): An action film that dives into philosophical issues and looks at the issue of what is reality. By the Wachowskis, not that anyone else could do it. The first film especially was revolutionary in that it popularized the sort of action that has become the standard. The cinematic use of bullet time, the stylized wire frame for the kung fu scenes, and the ability to deal with complicated psychological issues through an action film have all become popular ideas because of this film. The numerous allusions are alike to many of Tarantino’s films, and the extended Alice in Wonderland metaphor provides a contrast to the violence in the film.
The 90s were an amazing decade in the film industry, having the third and most recent winner of the big 5, Silence of the Lambs, and introducing Tarantino to the world. Numerous other great films like Clerks, Fargo, Terminator 2, Beauty and the Beast, and all the films in the Disney Renaissance. The real defining film of the decade though was Pulp Fiction, an amazing film that shows the sex, violence, and drugs in the culture, with a simple perfect film.