Do you still quote Dazed and Confused? Or roll your eyes whenever someone mentions Sleepless in Seattle? We hate to break it to you, but both films turn 20 this year. You may remember ’93 like it was yesterday, but humor us anyway with this welcome trip down memory lane.
Remember the jaw-dropping awe you felt when you first watched Michael Crichton’s prehistoric visions come to life on the big screen? This Steven Spielberg-directed movie was a game-changer with its use of computer-generated imagery (its held up well, too). We also have Park to thank for putting the velociraptor on the map. Crichton passed away in 2008, but his legacy lives on with two sequels, a 3-D re-release of the original and talks of a fourth installment in 2015.
It has indeed been two decades since Robin Williams donned some frumpy frocks and set his breasts ablaze to play estranged father-turned-nanny Euphegenia Doubtfire. While it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, it was the second-highest-grossing film of the year – behind Jurassic Park – and won an Oscar – yes, an Oscar – for Best Makeup. Men in drag certainly wasn’t new to Hollywood (see: Some Like It Hot, Tootsie), but the flick’s $440 million haul opened the floodgates for a seemingly endless stream of cross-dressing comedies, both good and bad – from To Wong Foo and The Birdcage (also starring Williams) to Madea and Big Momma’s House. Believe it or not, a Mrs. Doubtfire sequel may soon be added to that list.
Ever get the feeling you’re experiencing déjà vu? You know, like you’ve already been reminded that it’s not 1993 anymore? At least you’re not Phil Connors (Bill Murray), who re-lives Groundhog Day over and over and over again. What seemed like a silly premise that saw moderate success at the box office has grown into a beloved cult classic that’s moved into the cultural lexicon and become one of Murray’s most memorable roles. It was written, directed and produced by Murray’s Ghostbusters co-star Harold Ramis, who originally wanted Tom Hanks to play the role.
Ah, the tale of a boy and his killer whale. Who can forget this film’s famous finale – of the captive black-and-white whale leaping out of the water, miraculously clearing a peninsula of rocks to reach the freedom of the deep blue sea – or Michael Jackson‘s close association with the flick, for which his hit single, “Will You Be There,” was the theme song. The movie was loosely based on Keiko the Orca’s real-life saga, and there was much controversy surrounding his on-screen use and continued captivity after being featured in the film and its sequels (though an animatronic whale was eventually used). Sadly, “Willy” died in 2003 at the age of 27, and the documentary Keiko: The Untold Story was released in 2010.
The Nightmare Before Christmas
It’s an enchanting amalgam of a horror film, a musical and a love story, smashing Halloween and Christmas themes together under the mad-genius guidance of Tim Burton, the spidery “Pumpkin King” character Jack Skellington and flesh-and-blood composer Danny Elfman – you either get it or you don’t. At the time, Rolling Stone‘s Peter Travers called it “74 minutes of timeless movie magic” that “explodes the notion that animation is kid stuff.” And indeed, the genre has skyrocketed since then with across-the-board blockbusters like Toy Story, WALL-E and Wreck-It Ralph. Over the years Nightmare has grown into a generation-defying cult hit, leaving Burton to shut down the idea of a computer-animated sequel proposed by Disney. May Jack and Sally rest in peace.
This biographical sports drama follows the title character as he chases his dream of playing football at the University of Notre Dame. It stars Sean Astin as the five-foot-six Rudy, exactly eight years after the actor’s big-screen debut in The Goonies and eight years before The Lord of the Rings trilogy began. But of perhaps even greater significance, the movie captures the very beginning of the 20-year bromance between Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau. Hard to believe it’s already been 17 years since the two became part of Hollywood’s elite with 1996’s Swingers. Or that the real-life Rudy is 64 years young these days.
Cue coyote howl, clomping cowboy boots and epic ‘staches, ’cause justice is coming. So said the movie posters, anyway. This loosely biographical western stands as a veritable who’s-who of hunks and manly men, past, present and future: Kurt Russell, Val Kilmer, Sam Elliott, Charlton Heston, Jason Priestley, Billy Bob Thornton, Billy Zane, John Corbett, Terry O’Quinn. . . you get the point. 20 years is an eternity in popular culture, so here’s some reference points: Kilmer made women swoon, Heston was seven years away from his “cold, dead hands” speech, and neither Sex & the City (Corbett) nor Lost (O’Quinn) would exist for another five and 11 years, respectively.
This adaptation of the 1960s TV series of the same name was box-office gold, earning seven Oscar nominations (including Tommy Lee Jones’ first and only win to date). Harrison was a nimble 51 when the action-thriller was released, a solid 10 years out from Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. It was part of Ford’s tour-de-force as an aging action star outside of his Han Solo/Indiana Jones characters, starting with 1992’s Patriot Games and effectively ending with Six Days, Seven Nights in 1998. Now in his 70s, Ford is rumored to be reprising his role in updated versions of Star Wars.
Dazed and Confused
We doubt Richard Linklater knew what kind of celebrity pay dirt he hit while filming this throwback, coming-of-age stoner comedy – or did he? The slow-burn, blink-and-you-missed-it-in-theaters cult fave features Hollywood titans Matthew McConaughey, Ben Affleck and an uncredited Renee Zellweger in some of their very first roles. (They were literal nobodies when the film debuted.) Instead, the movie banked on stars like Jason London, Joey Lauren Adams and Milla Jovovich, who have all but essentially disappeared into the night. The title is derived from the 1969 Led Zeppelin song of the same name and prominently features Alice Cooper‘s 1972 single “School’s Out.” Since it’s set in the summer of ’76, aren’t we really looking at a 37-year gap here? Don’t bring us down, man.
A Bronx Tale
As the directorial debut of Robert De Niro, A Bronx Tale won lots of critical acclaim but brought in few bucks at the box office, grossing just $17 million domestically. Yet the coming-of-age crime drama, set in the turbulent New York of the 1960s, left a lasting impression. It was based on the childhood of De Niro’s co-star Chazz Palminteri, who adapted the screenplay from his one-man, off-Broadway show of the same name. (The show was revived on Broadway in 2007 and was followed by a national tour.) There was a 13-year gap between De Niro-directed films, his only other directing credit so far being 2006’s The Good Shepherd, starring Matt Damon and Angelina Jolie, which did exponentially better with a $100 million worldwide haul.
Brad Pitt smoked a honey-bear bong. (Does the guy ever age?) Perfect Strangers‘ Balki Bartokomous (Bronson Pinchot) turned into a Hollywood stereotype. James Gandolfini (R.I.P.) had his big-screen breakout as a leg-breakin’ tough guy. Patricia Arquette stepped out of big sister Rosanna’s shadow, becoming what can only be called a trailer-chic style icon. And screenwriter Quentin Tarantino solidified himself as the go-to guy for “gutter poetry,” as Rolling Stone‘s Peter Travers put it, one year before Pulp Fiction made him a household name. If all that doesn’t put it into perspective, here’s something that will: Clarence (Christian Slater) and Alabama (Arquette)’s kid Elvis (played by Arquette’s biological son Enzo Rossi) is now 24. In a fetal position yet? If so, just keep repeating these three words: “You’re so cool.”
Robin Hood: Men in Tights
“We’re men. We’re men in tights (tight tights!)”Admit it, you can still sing along to the theme of this Mel Brooks-helmed spoof of Kevin Costner’s 1991 adventure film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves that poked fun at the classic tale – and even Costner himself. “Unlike some Robin Hoods, I can speak with an English accent,” British star Cary Elwes says with a smirk, referencing Costner’s lack of even attempting one. Although the legendary Brooks has since written and produced other movies, like 2005’s remake of The Producers, Robin Hood was his second to last directorial effort. The very last? 1995’s Dracula: Dead and Loving It. On the flipside, it’s the very first film comedian Dave Chappelle ever appeared in, as the character Ahchoo – at the ripe old age of 19.
Searching for Bobby Fischer
Long before anyone was Searching for Sugar Man, they were searching for this child chess player. Actually, the biographical film isn’t directly about the mysterious and controversial Fischer at all; instead, he’s used as a metaphor for how main character Josh Waitzkin (Max Pomerac) is taught to play the game. The all-star cast includes Joe Mantegna, Joan Allen, Ben Kingsley and Laurence Fishburne, among others. Then-elementary-school-aged Pomerac, now 29, gave up acting in 1995 after a handful of films, becoming a mystery himself (the real Fischer died in 2008). Maybe someday there’ll be a film named Searching for Max Pomerac.
Last Action Hero
Two decades ago, no one would have wagered a bet that Arnold Schwarzenegger would spend two terms running the state of California. No one – and if you claim you saw that coming, you just might grow a nose like Pinocchio. Especially after the fiasco that was Last Action Hero. Long considered one of Ahnold’s biggest flops, the flick parodied the genre that made him a mega-star with such hit films like The Terminator, Predator and, everyone’s favorite, Kindergarten Cop. (Yes, those are all even older than 20.) But people just didn’t want to see the Austrian actor biting the hand that feeds: despite it flopping, the muscle-bound future governator barely skipped a beat, quickly recovering with blockbusters like True Lies (1994), Eraser (1996) and Batman & Robin (1997). Always believe him when he says, “I’ll be back.”
So I Married an Axe Murderer
Sandwiched between Wayne’s World movies, this quirky comedy starring Mike Myers totally flopped. Still, who could ever forget such a title – and premise? For those who don’t remember: A commitment-phobe (Myers) falls for a woman (Nancy Travis) who works at a butcher shop and just might be a serial killer. Like many of the other movies on this list, the now-cult fave gained a following over the years as VHS tapes saturated the market – yeah, remember those? They were still popular back in the ’90s – then DVDs took over. Axe Murderer came out four years before a guy named Austin Powers turned Myers into a superstar, way back in 1997. Yeah, baby, yeah!
What’s Eating Gilbert Grape
Another small but mighty film, Grape put 19-year-old Leonardo DiCaprio on the map, earning him his first Oscar nomination for his role as a mentally challenged boy in a dysfunctional family that includes the title character, played by Johnny Depp. The movie also stars Juliette Lewis, who briefly dated Depp in 1993 after breaking off her engagement to Brad Pitt (yes, that Brad Pitt); John C. Reilly, in one of his first roles; and Crispin Glover, playing a coroner eight years after his role as George McFly in 1985’s Back to the Future. Phew, that’s a lot to take in, right? Well, here’s some more: Darlene Cates, the morbidly obese mother, lost 250 lbs. by 2012, taking her from 575 to 331 lbs. And Depp? He turned 50 in June 2013. Let that sink in.
Sleepless in Seattle
Love it or loathe it, this romantic comedy was inescapable in 1993. Starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan and directed by Nora Ephron, Sleepless was inspired by the 1957 film An Affair to Remember, and follows two would-be lovers who have yet to meet. The Hanks-Ryan duo had previously paired up in 1990’s Joe Versus the Volcano and then worked together again on 1998’s You’ve Got Mail. But 1993 was really a banner year for Hanks, as this and his Oscar-winning role in Philadephia represented a seismic shift in his career, moving him from comedic goofball to serious actor. Still, sometimes we just like to kick back and laugh at his roles in The Money Pit and The Man With One Red Shoe.
They ate the bones. Sorry, we couldn’t resist, because basically what most people will remember about this film is that Ethan Hawke and the rest of the cast chowed down on each other. But in all seriousness, this biographical flick chronicles the harrowing two-month ordeal a South American rugby team endures when their plane crashes and they’re forced to turn to cannibalism. Alive features John Malkovich in an uncredited voiceover role, and came out one year before Hawke’s big 1994 Gen X dramedy Reality Bites, which just so happened to introduce the world to one Ben Stiller. Like how we didn’t make this one a total Debbie Downer?
Benny & Joon
Young, warped love at its best – and an early glimpse at the oddball acting genius that is Johnny Depp. Before this, he had starred in a mish-mash of titles that included A Nightmare on Elm Street, Platoon, Cry-Baby and Edward Scissorhands, all equally classic in their own right. But there was something about Benny & Joon that showed just how kooky – and brilliant – he could be. While it was the end of an era of sorts for co-star Mary Stuart Masterson, who had previously starred in Fried Green Tomatoes and Some Kind of Wonderful, it signified the beginning of Depp’s high-profile trajectory. His game-changing portrayal of Captain Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean is already 10 years old, if you can believe that.
One of the biggest film’s of 1993 came in the form of this Sydney Pollack-directed legal thriller starring Tom Cruise, which banked $270 million worldwide. Based on the John Grisham novel of the same name, it follows a promising young lawyer (Cruise) who lands his first big job at a firm where two associates die under mysterious circumstances. The Firm ushered in a new era for then-30-year-old Cruise, who soon launched his action-star franchise Mission: Impossible. Back in ’93, Cruise was still married to Nicole Kidman and had just joined the Church of Scientology. 20 years later, though, he still flashes that million-dollar smile and has barely aged a day. If only we could all be so lucky, right?