Without question, 1999 was one of cinema’s best years. A plethora of great and innovative films were produced in that year that still have profound impact on future films in all aspects.
Probably one of the most influential of all these films is The Wachowski Brothers’ The Matrix. The film, a Sci-Fi Action flick, takes place in a world in which nothing is what it seems. Starring Keanu Reeves, in probably his career-best role as the savior Neo, the film provides the audience with astounding action scenes and a truly creative premise that have since been copied and imitated, often very poorly so. The “bullet scene” was especially innovative with its smart use of slow-motion and camerawork. It is easily one of cinema’s greatest scenes.
Another superb picture in this remarkable year is Fight Club. Now, I admit that I did not fully understand and get this quirky and unconventional film’s point on my first viewing. However, after multiple viewings, it has become clear how ahead of its time this film was. Starring Brad Pitt and Edward Norton in two outstanding roles, the film is rather a harsh comment on mainstream society and consumerism as a whole. The film, directed by David Fincher, was indeed so ahead of its time that there where some commentators in the United States took offense to its message and found it very blunt. A sign, to me at least, of a great film.
Paul Thomas Anderson, one of my all-time favorite directors, contributed his own instant classic in this year with Magnolia. A superb drama, the film focused on multiple characters, each in different phases of their lives, struggling to find the meaning of life. It is presented in such a gripping and visionary way that it still truly amazes me whenever I watch it again. It also featured one of the best ensemble casts ever committed to film: Tom Cruise, Philip Seymour Hoffman, William H. Macy, Julianne Moore, John C. Reilly, Alfred Molina and Philip Baker Hall.
Another gem from 1999 is Alan Ball’s American Beauty. It broke ground, in my eyes, with the way it views the typical American suburban neighborhood as anything but normal. With a soaring performance from Kevin Spacey, the film explores one man’s life at the center of him undergoing a mid-life crisis. I loved how Ball commented on and made fun of one’s almost-automatic assumption that the most normal of lives exists in these ‘perfect’ neighborhoods. Being an avid fan of his later classic TV Show, Six Feet Under, I believe American Beauty offers an early glimpse of his genius and his satirical and unrelenting comment on contemporary life.
Toy Story 2, one of my favorite sequels, was also released in 1999. Following up one of the most groundbreaking animated films, it succeeded in not only achieving the same greatness and fun of the original but surpass it. Indeed, this sequel is so perfectly paced and entertaining that it was only logical for it to be considered a great film soon after it was released. One of Pixar’s proudest achievements.
A film that I still believe is underrated but was one of 1999’s highlights is The Green Mile. Directed by Frank Darabont, the film takes place mostly in a prison compound in the American south. Based on a Stephen King story, the film does contain some ‘magical’ elements but also remains a very realistic portrayal of prison life in general. However, in comparison to Darabont’s other classic, The Shawshank Redemption, in this picture, it is the white man who is truly astounded by the black man’s courage and determination to live and endure despite the deep injustice and cruelty surrounding him.
It is clear that 1999 will always be one of cinema’s best years due to the high level of quality films that were produced in that year. The above films, and the below list of other exceptional films, show how filmmakers took big bets that paid off in dividends. A truly groundbreaking year in cinema history.
Other Notable Films:
- All About My Mother (Director: Pedro Almadovar)
- Being John Malkovich (Director: Spike Jonze)
- Boys Don’t Cry (Director: Kimberly Peirce)
- Office Space (Director: Mike Judge)
- Sixth Sense, The (Director: M. Night Shayamalan)
- Sleepy Hollow (Director: Tim Burton)