The Best and Worst Movies of 1990

January 24, 1991 12:20 PM ET

The Great God box office – the most influential critic in America – has spoken, declaring 1990 the year of Ghost, Pretty Woman and Home Alone. Don't despair. There were also some good movies. A few you needed a search party to find, others disappeared too fast, and two or three actually made money. It wasn't all mindless drool, as the following ten-best list attests.

1. GoodFellas: The best picture of the year shows Martin Scorsese in peak form as he turns Nicholas Pileggi's nonfiction book about life in a Mafia clan into two and a half hours of stylish, passionate, provocative, funny, scary, thrilling and finally sobering filmmaking.

2. To Sleep With Anger: Writer-director Charles Burnett's mesmerizing look at a middle-class black family in L.A. whose lives are shaken by a demonic visitor from the rural South (a superb Danny Glover) hasn't found the wide audience it deserves. Burnett is a major talent.

3. Longtime Companion: Director Norman René and the gifted writer Craig Lucas take on the AIDS crisis with compassion and cathartic wit. A vital film (seen many of those lately?), capped by an award-caliber performance from Bruce Davison.

4. Reversal of Fortune: The Claus von Büllow scandal becomes an audacious comedy of manners sharply directed by Barbet Schroeder and acted to perfection by a never-better Jeremy Irons.

5. The Grifters: A dazzling film noir in which director Stephen Frears catches every blackhearted twist in the Jim Thompson novel and Anjelica Huston delivers the performance of the year as a mom who'd give Freud nightmares.

6. Edward Scissorhands: A haunting fable from director Tim Burton marked by originality, vision and magic – rare qualities in cookie-cutter Hollywood.

7. Awakenings: What could have been a disease-of-the-week TV docudrama is redeemed by director Penny Marshall's leavening wit and the extraordinary acting of Robert De Niro as a patient and Robin Williams as his doctor.

8. Metropolitan: Manhattan debs and their escorts are the focus of this strikingly literate, witty and romantic curio from Whit Stillman, the third film on this list – after To Sleep With Anger and Longtime Companion – to debut at Robert Redford's Sundance Festival.

9. Dances With Wolves: The high of brow have dismissed this western from director-star Kevin Costner as "naive" or merely "competent," preferring the literary pretensions of Henry & June or The Sheltering Sky. Costner's no John Ford, but his three-hour epic possesses uncommon beauty, grace and feeling.

10. Wild at Heart: David Lynch got too trendy for some after Twin Peaks, so they sniped at his latest foray into the mysteries of violence and eroticism. It isn't Blue Velvet, but Wild gives ample evidence that Lynch is still a peerless wizard with startling poetic images of love and loss.

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