Cinematheque Ontario's Best Films of the 1990s

by mymovieslists | created - 18 Sep 2011 | updated - 02 Aug 2012 | Public

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At the end of the decade, Cinematheque Ontario (the former name of TIFF) polled 60 film curators, archivists, and programmers and asked them to pick the best films of the decade.

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1. El sol del membrillo (1992)

133 min | Documentary, Biography, Drama

7.9
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  
82 Metascore

The artist, Antonio Lopez, tries to paint the quince tree he planted some time back in his garden. Throughout his life, he has worked on the same theme many times, almost as if it were a ... See full summary »

Director: Víctor Erice | Stars: Antonio López, María Moreno, Enrique Gran, María López

Votes: 1,367

2. Life, and Nothing More... (1992)

95 min | Adventure, Drama

8.0
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8/10 X  

A director and his son return to a region damaged by the Guilan earthquake, hoping to find the children who appeared in his film a few years earlier.

Director: Abbas Kiarostami | Stars: Farhad Kheradmand, Buba Bayour, Hocine Rifahi, Ferhendeh Feydi

Votes: 2,913

3. Through the Olive Trees (1994)

G | 103 min | Drama

7.8
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  

The movie focuses on one of the events in Zendegi Edame Darad (1992), and explores the relationship between the movie director, and the actors. The local actors play a couple who got ... See full summary »

Director: Abbas Kiarostami | Stars: Mohamad Ali Keshavarz, Farhad Kheradmand, Zarifeh Shiva, Hossein Rezai

Votes: 4,373 | Gross: $0.04M

4. Kauas pilvet karkaavat (1996)

96 min | Comedy, Drama

7.7
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  

The recession hits a couple in Helsinki.

Director: Aki Kaurismäki | Stars: Kati Outinen, Kari Väänänen, Elina Salo, Sakari Kuosmanen

Votes: 5,589

5. Nema-ye Nazdik (1990)

Not Rated | 98 min | Documentary, Biography, Crime

8.3
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  

The true story of Hossain Sabzian that impersonated the director Mohsen Makhmalbaf to convince a family they would star in his so-called new film.

Director: Abbas Kiarostami | Stars: Hossain Sabzian, Mohsen Makhmalbaf, Abolfazl Ahankhah, Mehrdad Ahankhah

Votes: 10,779 | Gross: $0.00M

6. Breaking the Waves (1996)

R | 159 min | Drama

7.9
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  
76 Metascore

Oilman Jan is paralyzed in an accident. His wife, who prayed for his return, feels guilty; even more, when Jan urges her to have sex with another.

Director: Lars von Trier | Stars: Emily Watson, Stellan Skarsgård, Katrin Cartlidge, Jean-Marc Barr

Votes: 53,442 | Gross: $4.04M

7. Satantango (1994)

450 min | Drama

8.5
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.5/10 X  

Plotting on a payment they are about to receive, residents of a collapsing collective farm see their plans turn into desolation when they discover that Irimiás, a former co-worker who they thought was dead, is coming back to the village.

Director: Béla Tarr | Stars: Mihály Vig, Putyi Horváth, László feLugossy, Éva Almássy Albert

Votes: 7,107

8. Hai shang hua (1998)

Unrated | 125 min | Drama

7.4
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  

In Shanghai in the 1880s there are four elegant brothels (flower houses): each has an auntie (called madam), a courtesan in her prime, older servants, and maturing girls in training. The ... See full summary »

Director: Hsiao-Hsien Hou | Stars: Tony Chiu-Wai Leung, Michiko Hada, Michelle Reis, Carina Lau

Votes: 1,994

9. Taste of Cherry (1997)

Not Rated | 95 min | Drama

7.7
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  

An Iranian man drives his truck in search of someone who will quietly bury him under a cherry tree after he commits suicide.

Director: Abbas Kiarostami | Stars: Homayoun Ershadi, Abdolrahman Bagheri, Afshin Khorshid Bakhtiari, Safar Ali Moradi

Votes: 17,144 | Gross: $0.31M

10. Chungking Express (1994)

PG-13 | 102 min | Crime, Drama, Romance

8.1
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  
77 Metascore

Two melancholy Hong Kong policemen fall in love: one with a mysterious female underworld figure, the other with a beautiful and ethereal server at a late-night restaurant he frequents.

Director: Kar-Wai Wong | Stars: Brigitte Lin, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Tony Chiu-Wai Leung, Faye Wong

Votes: 46,989 | Gross: $0.60M

11. Fireworks (1997)

103 min | Crime, Drama, Romance

7.9
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  

Nishi leaves the police in the face of harrowing personal and professional difficulties. Spiraling into depression, he makes questionable decisions.

Director: Takeshi Kitano | Stars: Takeshi Kitano, Kayoko Kishimoto, Ren Osugi, Susumu Terajima

Votes: 23,234 | Gross: $0.23M

12. The Thin Red Line (1998)

R | 170 min | Drama, War

7.6
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  
78 Metascore

Adaptation of James Jones' autobiographical 1962 novel, focusing on the conflict at Guadalcanal during the second World War.

Director: Terrence Malick | Stars: Jim Caviezel, Sean Penn, Nick Nolte, Elias Koteas

Votes: 151,803 | Gross: $36.40M

13. Histoire(s) du cinéma (1989–1999)
Episode: Toutes les histoires (1989)

51 min

7.2
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

An 8-part documentary chronically the history of cinema: "All the Histories", "A Single History", "Only Cinema", "Deadly "Beauty", "The Coin of the Absolute", "A New Wave", "The Control of the Universe", and "The Signs Among Us".

Director: Jean-Luc Godard

Votes: 861

14. Gu ling jie shao nian sha ren shi jian (1991)

Not Rated | 237 min | Crime, Drama, Romance

8.4
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.4/10 X  
90 Metascore

Based on a true story, primarily on a conflict between two youth gangs, a 14-year-old boy's girlfriend conflicts with the head of one gang for an unclear reason, until finally the conflict comes to a violent climax.

Director: Edward Yang | Stars: Chen Chang, Lisa Yang, Kuo-Chu Chang, Elaine Jin

Votes: 4,391

15. Nun va Goldoon (1996)

78 min | Comedy, Drama

8.0
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8/10 X  
70 Metascore

A semi-autobiographical account of Makmahlbaf's experience as a teenager when, as a 17-year-old, he stabbed a policeman at a protest rally. Two decades later, he tracks down the policeman he injured in an attempt to make amends.

Director: Mohsen Makhmalbaf | Stars: Mirhadi Tayebi, Mohsen Makhmalbaf, Ali Bakhsi, Ammar Tafti Dehghan

Votes: 2,292 | Gross: $0.04M

16. Goodfellas (1990)

R | 146 min | Biography, Crime, Drama

8.7
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.7/10 X  
89 Metascore

The story of Henry Hill and his life in the mob, covering his relationship with his wife Karen Hill and his mob partners Jimmy Conway and Tommy DeVito in the Italian-American crime syndicate.

Director: Martin Scorsese | Stars: Robert De Niro, Ray Liotta, Joe Pesci, Lorraine Bracco

Votes: 824,658 | Gross: $46.84M

17. L'eau froide (1994)

92 min | Drama

7.2
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

Gilles and Christine a boy and a girl live in the outskirts of Paris, their families are ineffective and distant and they lead a purposeless life. They steal some records in a supermarket ... See full summary »

Director: Olivier Assayas | Stars: Virginie Ledoyen, Cyprien Fouquet, László Szabó, Jean-Pierre Darroussin

Votes: 771

18. Mother and Son (1997)

73 min | Drama

7.6
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  

A slow and poignant story of love and patience told via a dying mother nursed by her devoted son. The simple narrative is a thread woven among the deeply spiritual images of the countryside... See full summary »

Director: Aleksandr Sokurov | Stars: Aleksei Ananishnov, Gudrun Geyer

Votes: 3,181

19. Vive L'Amour (1994)

R | 118 min | Drama

7.5
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  

Three lonely young denizens of Taipei unknowingly share an apartment used for sexual trysts.

Director: Ming-liang Tsai | Stars: Chao-jung Chen, Kang-sheng Lee, Kuei-Mei Yang, Yi-Ching Lu

Votes: 2,650

20. Nouvelle vague (1990)

89 min | Drama

7.1
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  

Composed entirely by literary quotations from many different sources and from several historical periods, Godard's film works as an allegory on film. The loose narrative tells about a ... See full summary »

Director: Jean-Luc Godard | Stars: Alain Delon, Domiziana Giordano, Jacques Dacqmine, Christophe Odent

Votes: 1,182

21. Vale Abraão (1993)

187 min | Drama

7.5
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  

Ema is a very attractive but innocent girl, so pretty that cars crash in her presence. Young marries Dr. Carlo Paiva, who she is not attracted to, but is her father's friend. They move to ... See full summary »

Director: Manoel de Oliveira | Stars: Leonor Silveira, Cécile Sanz de Alba, Luís Miguel Cintra, Ruy de Carvalho

Votes: 1,036

22. Safe (1995)

R | 119 min | Drama

7.2
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  
76 Metascore

An affluent and unexceptional homemaker in the suburbs develops multiple chemical sensitivity.

Director: Todd Haynes | Stars: Julianne Moore, Xander Berkeley, Dean Norris, Julie Burgess

Votes: 9,719 | Gross: $0.51M

23. Dead Man (1995)

R | 121 min | Drama, Fantasy, Western

7.7
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
62 Metascore

On the run after murdering a man, accountant William Blake encounters a strange North American man named Nobody who prepares him for his journey into the spiritual world.

Director: Jim Jarmusch | Stars: Johnny Depp, Gary Farmer, Crispin Glover, Lance Henriksen

Votes: 78,995 | Gross: $1.04M

24. The Sweet Hereafter (1997)

R | 112 min | Drama

7.6
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  
90 Metascore

A bus crash in a small town brings a lawyer to the town to defend the families, but he discovers that everything is not what it seems.

Director: Atom Egoyan | Stars: Ian Holm, Sarah Polley, Caerthan Banks, Tom McCamus

Votes: 28,727 | Gross: $3.25M

25. Unforgiven (1992)

R | 130 min | Drama, Western

8.2
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  
85 Metascore

Retired Old West gunslinger William Munny reluctantly takes on one last job, with the help of his old partner and a young man.

Director: Clint Eastwood | Stars: Clint Eastwood, Gene Hackman, Morgan Freeman, Richard Harris

Votes: 312,219 | Gross: $101.16M

26. Exotica (1994)

R | 103 min | Drama

7.1
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  

A man whose daughter recently died becomes obsessed with a dancer in the night club Exotica.

Director: Atom Egoyan | Stars: Bruce Greenwood, Elias Koteas, Don McKellar, David Hemblen

Votes: 15,719 | Gross: $4.18M

27. Sonatine (1993)

R | 94 min | Action, Comedy, Crime

7.6
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  

Several yakuza from Tokyo are sent to Okinawa to help end a gang war. The war escalates and the Tokyo drifters decide to lay low at the beach.

Director: Takeshi Kitano | Stars: Takeshi Kitano, Aya Kokumai, Tetsu Watanabe, Masanobu Katsumura

Votes: 14,767

28. Maborosi (1995)

110 min | Drama

7.6
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  
94 Metascore

A young woman's husband apparently commits suicide without warning or reason, leaving behind his wife and infant.

Director: Hirokazu Koreeda | Stars: Makiko Esumi, Takashi Naitô, Tadanobu Asano, Gohki Kashiyama

Votes: 3,033

29. Naked (1993)

Not Rated | 132 min | Comedy, Drama

7.9
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  
84 Metascore

Parallel tales of two sexually obsessed men, one hurting and annoying women physically and mentally, one wandering around the city talking to strangers and experiencing dimensions of life.

Director: Mike Leigh | Stars: David Thewlis, Lesley Sharp, Katrin Cartlidge, Greg Cruttwell

Votes: 27,246 | Gross: $1.77M

30. The Life of Jesus (1997)

96 min | Drama, Romance

7.1
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  
74 Metascore

A social movie about current life in the north of France. Freddy and his friends are all unemployed. They pass away time by wandering around on their motorcycles and by directing their ... See full summary »

Director: Bruno Dumont | Stars: David Douche, Marjorie Cottreel, Kader Chaatouf, Sébastien Delbaere

Votes: 2,055

31. Fargo (1996)

R | 98 min | Crime, Drama, Thriller

8.1
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  
85 Metascore

Jerry Lundegaard's inept crime falls apart due to his and his henchmen's bungling and the persistent police work of the quite pregnant Marge Gunderson.

Directors: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen | Stars: William H. Macy, Frances McDormand, Steve Buscemi, Peter Stormare

Votes: 515,140 | Gross: $24.61M

32. Pulp Fiction (1994)

R | 154 min | Crime, Drama

8.9
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.9/10 X  
94 Metascore

The lives of two mob hitmen, a boxer, a gangster's wife, and a pair of diner bandits intertwine in four tales of violence and redemption.

Director: Quentin Tarantino | Stars: John Travolta, Uma Thurman, Samuel L. Jackson, Bruce Willis

Votes: 1,496,313 | Gross: $107.93M

33. La belle noiseuse (1991)

Unrated | 238 min | Drama

7.8
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  

The former famous painter Frenhofer revisits an abandoned project using the girlfriend of a young visiting artist. Questions about truth, life, and artistic limits are explored.

Director: Jacques Rivette | Stars: Michel Piccoli, Jane Birkin, Emmanuelle Béart, Marianne Denicourt

Votes: 5,280 | Gross: $0.41M

34. Van Gogh (1991)

R | 158 min | Biography, Drama

7.3
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

The final sixty-seven days of Van Gogh's life is examined.

Director: Maurice Pialat | Stars: Jacques Dutronc, Alexandra London, Bernard Le Coq, Gérard Séty

Votes: 2,187 | Gross: $0.14M

35. Three Colors: Red (1994)

R | 99 min | Drama, Mystery, Romance

8.1
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  
100 Metascore

A model discovers her neighbor is keen on invading people's privacy.

Director: Krzysztof Kieslowski | Stars: Irène Jacob, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Frédérique Feder, Jean-Pierre Lorit

Votes: 71,096 | Gross: $4.04M

36. Le tombeau d'Alexandre (1993)

Not Rated | 120 min | Documentary, Biography, History

8.1
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  

This documentary tells the story of film director Aleksandr Medvedkin, throughout his life a sincere believer in communism, whose films were repeatedly banned in the Soviet Union. Modern ... See full summary »

Director: Chris Marker | Stars: Léonor Graser, Nikolai Izvolov, Kira Paramonova, Viktor Dyomin

Votes: 505

37. Caro diario (1993)

Unrated | 100 min | Biography, Comedy, Drama

7.3
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

Nanni Moretti directs himself playing himself in this wry look at life. Presented in three chapters, Moretti uses the experiences of traveling on his motor-scooter, cruising with his friend... See full summary »

Director: Nanni Moretti | Stars: Nanni Moretti, Renato Carpentieri, Giovanna Bozzolo, Sebastiano Nardone

Votes: 5,965 | Gross: $0.47M

38. Crumb (1994)

R | 119 min | Documentary, Biography, Comedy

8.0
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8/10 X  
93 Metascore

An intimate portrait of the controversial cartoonist and his traumatized family.

Director: Terry Zwigoff | Stars: Robert Crumb, Aline Kominsky, Charles Crumb, Maxon Crumb

Votes: 15,616 | Gross: $3.17M

39. The Puppetmaster (1993)

142 min | Biography, Drama, War

7.4
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  

In the first half of this century, young Li Tienlu joines a travelling puppet theatre and subsequently makes a career as one of Taiwan's leading puppeteers. During World War II the Japanese... See full summary »

Director: Hsiao-Hsien Hou | Stars: Tian-Lu Li, Giong Lim, Kuei-Chung Cheng, Chien-ru Huang

Votes: 1,353

40. Nan guo zai jian, nan guo (1996)

116 min | Crime, Drama

7.3
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

A glimpse at the lives of two petty criminals in Taipei.

Director: Hsiao-Hsien Hou | Stars: Jieh-Wen King, Kuei-Ying Hsu, Annie Shizuka Inoh, Jack Kao

Votes: 1,204

41. Sicilia! (1999)

Not Rated | 66 min | Drama

7.2
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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

A man returns to visit his native Sicily after living in New York for a long time. He learns about the Sicilian way of life from stylized conversations with an orange picker, his fellow ... See full summary »

Directors: Danièle Huillet, Jean-Marie Straub | Stars: Gianni Buscarino, Vittorio Vigneri, Angela Nugara, Carmelo Maddio

Votes: 512