BFI's 90 great films of the 1990s

BFI's 90 great films of the 1990s's icon

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One decade. 90 films. One film per director.

How do you even begin to choose just 90 films to represent an entire decade of cinema? That’s the question we’ve been asking ourselves ever since BFI Southbank announced its two-month retrospective, Nineties: Young Cinema Rebels.

With the season casting a very specific eye on the new voices that emerged between 1989 and 1999, we thought we’d cast our net a little wider, in a squabble-inducing attempt to shine a light on some of the very best films the decade produced.

There’s no scientific method applied to the selection process here, and this isn’t a Sight & Sound poll involving hundreds of critics or filmmakers. It’s more a chance for us to highlight some of our favourite films from around the world.

This list of 90s greats could very easily have been at least double the size (in early drafts it was), but with only 90 spots available, some favourites – both ours and yours – are bound to be missing, the hope being that any frustration at omissions will be juxtaposed with a few new discoveries.

To keep things as varied as possible, we’ve allowed for only one film per director – in itself leading to some impossible choices. Take the ranking with as little or large a pinch of salt as you see fit; every film on this list is terrific as far as we’re concerned, and these things are always going to be subjective, with any and all grievances or nods of approval welcome.

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  1. 1 new

    Crash

    1996, in 7 top lists Check
  2. 2 new

    Gu ling jie shao nian sha ren shi jian

    1991 — a.k.a. A Brighter Summer Day, in 13 top lists Check
  3. 3 new

    The Thin Red Line

    1998, in 13 top lists Check
  4. 4 new

    Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me

    1992, in 6 top lists Check
  5. 5 new

    Nema-ye Nazdik

    1990 — a.k.a. Close-Up, in 19 top lists Check
  6. 6 new

    He liu

    1997 — a.k.a. The River, in 8 top lists Check
  7. 7 new

    Sátántangó

    1994 — a.k.a. Satantango, in 12 top lists Check
  8. 8 new

    Beau travail

    1999, in 13 top lists Check
  9. 9 new

    Conte d'automne

    1998 — a.k.a. Autumn Tale, in 3 top lists Check
  10. 10 new

    Khrustalyov, mashinu!

    1998 — a.k.a. Khrustalyov, My Car!, in 5 top lists Check
  11. 11 new

    Xi meng ren sheng

    1993 — a.k.a. The Puppetmaster, in 10 top lists Check
  12. 12 new

    La belle noiseuse

    1991, in 12 top lists Check
  13. 13 new

    Le temps retrouvé, d'après l'oeuvre de Marcel...

    1999 — a.k.a. Marcel Proust's Time Regained, in 4 top lists Check
  14. 14 new

    The Long Day Closes

    1992, in 9 top lists Check
  15. 15 new

    The Piano

    1993, in 14 top lists Check
  16. 16 new

    Pola X

    1999, in 1 top list Check
  17. 17 new

    Chung Hing sam lam

    1994 — a.k.a. Chungking Express, in 20 top lists Check
  18. 18 new

    Hoop Dreams

    1994, in 14 top lists Check
  19. 19 new

    Eyes Wide Shut

    1999, in 11 top lists Check
  20. 20 new

    El sol del membrillo

    1992 — a.k.a. The Quince Tree Sun, in 9 top lists Check
  21. 21 new

    Unforgiven

    1992, in 22 top lists Check
  22. 22 new

    Jurassic Park

    1993, in 22 top lists Check
  23. 23 new

    Naked

    1993, in 8 top lists Check
  24. 24 new

    Underground

    1995, in 8 top lists Check
  25. 25 new

    Safe

    1995, in 8 top lists Check
  26. 26 new

    Short Cuts

    1993, in 9 top lists Check
  27. 27 new

    Pulp Fiction

    1994, in 37 top lists Check
  28. 28 new

    Belfast, Maine

    1999, in 1 top list Check
  29. 29 new

    D'Est

    1993 — a.k.a. From the East, in 6 top lists Check
  30. 30 new

    Rosetta

    1999, in 9 top lists Check
  31. 31 new

    Terminator 2: Judgment Day

    1991, in 21 top lists Check
  32. 32 new

    Before Sunrise

    1995, in 12 top lists Check
  33. 33 new

    The Silence of the Lambs

    1991, in 33 top lists Check
  34. 34 new

    Trois couleurs: Rouge

    1994 — a.k.a. Three Colors: Red, in 20 top lists Check
  35. 35 new

    Goodfellas

    1990, in 30 top lists Check
  36. 36 new

    Heat

    1995, in 20 top lists Check
  37. 37 new

    Lat sau san taam

    1992 — a.k.a. Hard Boiled, in 11 top lists Check
  38. 38 new

    La cérémonie

    1995 — a.k.a. La Cérémonie, in 7 top lists Check
  39. 39 new

    Wandafuru raifu

    1998 — a.k.a. After Life, in 7 top lists Check
  40. 40 new

    Strange Days

    1995, in 3 top lists Check
  41. 41 new

    To Sleep with Anger

    1990, in 6 top lists Check
  42. 42 new

    Taiga

    1992, in 2 top lists Check
  43. 43 new

    Orlando

    1992, in 6 top lists Check
  44. 44 new

    Van Gogh

    1991, in 5 top lists Check
  45. 45 new

    Wonderland

    1999, in 1 top list Check
  46. 46 new

    'Non', ou A Vã Glória de Mandar

    1990, in 4 top lists Check
  47. 47 new

    Ching se

    1993 — a.k.a. Green Snake, in 3 top lists Check
  48. 48 new

    Ladoni

    1994 — a.k.a. Palms, in 1 top list Check
  49. 49 new

    Mat i syn

    1997 — a.k.a. Mother and Son, in 7 top lists Check
  50. 50 new

    Daughters of the Dust

    1991, in 8 top lists Check
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Last updated on May 20, 2020 by Chilton; source