The Best and Worst Movies of 1995

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So shoot me. Apollo 13, Ron Howard's stirring take on a failed moon mission, is the kind of epic celebration of triumph in adversity that wins awards. It's just that these 10 smaller movies impressed me more.

1. Get Shorty: Elmore Leonard's crime fiction is the basis for a never more pertinent satire about Hollywood's fear of reality.

2. Leaving Las Vegas: Mike Figgis directs Nicolas Cage and Elisabeth Shue in the year's most fearless and touching romance.

3. Crumb: One man's obsession with big boobs and butts becomes a masterly chronicle of life, art and family dysfunction.

4. Kids: Harmony Korine was 19 when he wrote the script, which offers a look at teens without the usual glib, comforting answers.

5. Sense and Sensibility/Persuasion/Clueless: It's the Jane Austen trilogy – three films that brought to fresh, funny and stinging life the work of an English writer dead for 178 years. I bet Jane never thought her Emma would turn up as a Beverly Hills high school student who looked like Alicia Silverstone.

6. The Usual Suspects: The search for the evil Keyser Soze sparks the year's freshest and wittiest thriller, with performances by Kevin Spacey and Benicio Del Toro that must be seen to be believed.

7. Devil in a Blue Dress: Carl Franklin crafts a black Chinatown, and Denzel Washington seizes a great role as a detective sniffing out moral corruption.

8. Dead Man Walking: Writer and director Tim Robbins drops the polemics to put a human face on the death-penalty issue.

9. Priest: Antonia Bird stirs up a tempest with this heartbreaker about a gay priest (Linus Roache) at odds with his church.

10. To Die For: A killingly funny Nicole Kidman earns her acting chops in Gus Van Sant's spoof of our obsession with celebrity.

Oh, what Schlock Riches await us in this crowded field. Still, no one could steal the sleaze prize from writer Joe Eszterhas, who easily captures the two top positions.

1. Showgirls: What scene from this toxic NC-17 clinker lingers most? The talentless Elizabeth Berkley licking that pole? The lesbians-in-leather S/M dance number? Alan Rachins passing out ice cubes so the showgirls could make their nipples as erect as his slimy dick? So much to say, so little time.

2. Jade: a charming Eszterhas thesis film that labors to prove women are all whores at heart. It proves only that good actors Linda Fiorentino, David Caruso and Chazz Palminteri must have been sooo desperate.

3. Powder: This may be the only 1995 film written and directed by a convicted child molester. It's a self-pitying fable about an albino boy (Sean Patrick Flanery) alienated from his teen peers, who get to run around with their shirts off. How fun! How camp!

4. The Scarlet Letter: And the hits keep coming. Here's Demi Moore adding nudity, masturbation and fucking in the grain shed to Nathaniel Hawthorne's classic novel of Puritan life in 1642. Get with it, Nate.

5. Copycat: Let's turn Sigourney Weaver into a target for a serial killer and Holly Hunter into a cop who offs him. That's class!

6. Jefferson in Paris: The Merchant-Ivory team got into the kink trade with this look at old Tom (Nick Nolte) and his slave mistress (Thandie Newton). It was dull anyway.

7. Nine Months: a sleazy Hugh Grant comedy overshadowed by an even sleazier Hugh Grant blow job. And they said Divine Brown wouldn't last.

8. Fair Game: See Cindy Crawford jiggle.

9. Species: See a blond alien get naked.

10. Waterworld: no explanation required.

From The Archives Issue 724: December 28, 1995