Bruce Campbell vs Army of Darkness - Originally titled Medieval Dead, Sam Raimi concluded (at least cinematically) his Evil Dead trilogy with this over the top, hyper quippy and action fueled adventure. Bruce Campbell is at his most iconic as the Ash character. This is a contender for most quotable movie ever made. While the film really is lacking in scares it makes up for in rich action set pieces and some truly funny one liners. Peter Jackson is said to have looked to this film to model the Battle of Helm's Deep at the conclusion of Lord of the Rights : The Two Towers and it kind of shows. (He even blatantly steals a joke from this film and recycled it into Two Towers; the scene in question has a character building an explosive from organic rock and minerals and when someone nearby leans forward with a candle to see what he's doing, the character mixing the explosive pushes the candle back. Happens in both films. Check it out.) But this is a fun 'Man out of time' adventure with some neat sword and sorcery filmmaking and genuinely great orchestral beats by Danny Elfman.
El Mariachi - Director Robert Rodriguez exploded into cinemas with this balls to the wall shoot em up. An impressive feat made more impressive for having made the film for a mere $7000. He generated money to make this movie by selling his body for scientific research at a health institute where he perfected this tight script. Once out, he hit a small town in Mexico that his friend had access to and used the resources around him to weave into the narrative. He had a friend with a bus, so he shot a little action scene involving a bus. He found a turtle on the side of the street, he book ended the film with it. But this is not a film graded on a curve. The fact he made it for $7000 is jaw dropping, but what is moreso is that it is simply a strong, visually gripping film debut for any amount of money. Sure, the script is simple, a sort of riff on The Man with No Name or Mad Max, but the simple script even has some strong symmetry to it within its own narrative beats and has a stunning ending. The film was made with the intent to sell to the straight to video market as a way for Rodriguez to make a "real" movie with, but the success of this was such that it made a big splash on the big screen.
The Fugitive - Based on a classic television show of the same name, this is a film that far transcends its own televisual beginnings. The fugitive finds a man (played by Harrison Ford) wrongly accused and convicted of murder. When circumstances arise for him to escape, he utilizes his freedom to reveal the identity of "the one armed man." In hot pursuit are the feds, led by Tommy Lee Jones in a performance that secured Oscar Gold. This is a gripping mystery, thriller and stands out as one of Ford's best films (which is really saying something). That said, this is the movie that shattered my Harrison Ford glass because it was with this film that I noticed that this man points a lot when he acts. I noticed it here and then wound my way back through his catalog of work and it's everywhere; Star Wars, Indy, Jack Ryan, dramatic point, dramatic point, dramatic point! Now, I broke you as well.
Groundhog Day - Harold Ramis and Bill Murray re-team with this groundbreaking comedy/romance about a man who gets stuck reliving the same day over and over and over again until he finds some way to break the chain. This stands out as one of Bill Murray's finest films. It is incredibly inventive in its narrative structure, brilliantly constructed to take this rather unlikable man and reinvent himself in a logical and completely believable fashion throughout the course of the film. Both Ramis and Murray show a level of maturity with this film that had been absent in a lot of their previous works, especially for Murray and this was really the start of Murray's transition from his 80's style comedic works into the actor in charge of his own identity that he is more known as now.
Philadelphia - Jonathan Demme followed up the viscerally haunting Silence of the Lambs with this equally haunting portrait of a man who encounters bigotry and is frankly dehumanized after revealing he has AIDS. Tom Hanks gives a rich and refined performance of this up and coming lawyer who takes his partners to trial for terminating his employment after discovering he is homosexual and terminally ill. He is being represented by another bigoted attorney played wonderfully by Denzel Washington. Rounding out the cast, in a small but well played role, is Antonio Benderas as Hanks' lover. The score to the film is lovely. About the only criticism that I have for the film is that it feels a bit dated by today's standards. That being said, the characters in the film act in accordance with public perspective of the era adding a neat window to the past. This is a well-made, albeit hard film to watch, but I encourage that you do.
Best Picture : Schindler's List - 1993 was the year of Steven Spielberg. He made this agonizing window into the darkest parts of World War 2 and changed the cinematic landscape with the film that was the Biggest Box Office earner of the year. Schindler's List really showcases Spielberg's transition from Blockbuster tent-pole filmmaking to sincere meditations on life, perspective and history.
Biggest Box Office : Jurassic Park - Spielberg earned his best directing Oscar in 1993 by not only making one of cinema's most effective and artfully beautiful anti-war movies, but also making this blockbuster which revolutionized digital filmmaking capabilities. While Jurassic contains plenty of spectacle, it is also a film that weeds into the ethics of science vs nature. Brimming with captivating characters such as gruff but likable Dr. Alan Grant, charming Dr Ellie Sattler, magnetic Dr Ian Malcolm, whimsical John Hammond and young kids Lex and Tim. Jurassic Park is a hard film not to get engrossed with. They brought to life dinosaurs in so convincing a way that to this day this is still how dinosaurs are seen. The action set pieces are glorious, especially the scene with the T-Rex and the tree scene that follows. The performances are great across the board, with Jeff Goldblum being the standout. The thing that none of the sequels have been able to do is justify their existence beyond just being B-monster movies. This film's examination of ethics and natural life raises it above merely being a monster movie. This is a film that has something to say but doesn't beat you to death with it. It is a finely woven masterpiece of blockbuster cinema.