In continuing our look back at films celebrating a monumental anniversary this year, we now look at the films that helped usher in, and in some cases define, the 1990s. Today we look at the films turning 25-years-old, the films from 1990.
If you’re unfamiliar with our “Making Movie History” series, we give you 15 of the best films of the year, a synopsis in case it flew under your radar, and a look at the legacy of the film since its release.
'Pretty Woman'March 23, 1990
Synopsis: New York businessman Edward Lewis is in L.A. for a week on a business trip. Edward gets lost on his way to Beverly Hills and ends up in the Red Light district, asking directions from a prostitute, Vivian. Taken by her personality, Edward hires Vivian for the night, and then offers her $3,000 for the week to be his escort to social events. Edward's time with Vivian begins to change his outlook on his business, much to the dismay of his business partners.
Legacy: Very well received by critics and audiences, 'Pretty Woman' went on to become one of the highest grossing movies of the year and the most successful romantic comedy of all time. Julia Roberts was praised for her portrayal of Vivian, winning the Golden Globe for Best Actress and being nominated for Best Actress at the Academy Awards.
'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles'March 30, 1990
Synopsis: TV Reporter April O'Neil has been covering an expose on a criminal ring known as The Foot, and unknowingly becomes their target. While ninjas from The Foot confront April, she is rescued by a mutated turtle and brought back to the turtle's sewer layer, meeting his three brothers and their father-figure and sensi, a mutated rat. Befriending the turtles, April and the turtles, along with street vigilante Casey Jones, bring the fight to The Foot and their leader, who has a connection to their sensi, Splinter.
Legacy: 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' received mixed reviews from critics but was praised by fans of the comic books and cartoon, becoming a box office success. Some criticized the dark and violent tone of the film, resulting in the sequel released the following year having a lighter, family-friendly tone. With the second film a resounding success as well, a third film was made where the turtles were transported to feudal Japan. The film was bashed by critics and fans, resulting in a 14-year wait for another film, 'TMNT' released in 2007 and entirely CGI animated. A live-action reboot starring CGI motion-captured turtles was released in 2014 to financial success but critical disappointment.
'Back to the Future part III'May 25, 1990
Synopsis: Immediately after seeing Doc Brown and the time machine struck by lightning in 1955, Marty McFly receives a telegram from Doc saying that he and the time machine were sent back to 1885. Marty seeks out the 1955 version of Doc, who has just sent Marty back to 1985. While retrieving the time machine left in an old mine, Marty discovers Doc's grave, showing Doc was murdered shortly after writing the telegram. Disobeying old Doc's wishes, Marty travels back to 1885 to save Doc's life.
Legacy: Filmed back-to-back with part II and released only six months later, 'Back to the Future part III' was a critical and financial success, even though it ended up being the lowest grossing film in the trilogy. Though the final film in the series, a cartoon series set after the events of the film center on Doc's children, Jules and Verne, and their adventures through time. An episodic video game was released in five parts from 2010 to 2011, taking place a year after the events of the original trilogy with Marty once again traveling back in time to save Doc's life, this time from a lynch mob in 1931.
'Total Recall'June 1, 1990
Synopsis: Mid-21st century construction worker Douglas Quaid is plagued by dreams of Mars and a beautiful woman. While a conflict breaks out on Mars between the ruling government and rebels over an alien artifact, Quaid decides to go to Rekall, a new-age travel agency that implants the memories of any adventure the client wishes. While at Rekall, Quaid has a mental break and acts as Hauser, an agent from Mars. Returning from Rekall with his memory of Rekall wiped, Quaid is attacked by his best friend and his wife, revealing that Quaid is actually a fake memory implanted into the mind of Hauser. Quaid escapes and travels to Mars to find answers, uncovering and coming to terms with his true identity as Hauser.
Legacy: 'Total Recall' was a critical and financial success, being nominated for many awards such as Academy Awards, BAFTAs, and Saturn Awards. A sequel was planned, based on another Philip K. Dick story 'Minority Report', which would have Schwarzenegger returning as Quaid, now a law enforcement officer on Mars and using martian mutants as psychics to solve crimes before they are committed. The film was scrapped but finally made in 2002 by Steven Spielberg and Tom Cruise. A remake was made in 2012, starring Colin Farrell and Brian Cranston. The film received mixed reviews, praised for using more elements from the original Phillip K. Dick story, but criticized for pointless referencing to the original film.
'Dick Tracy'June 15, 1990
Synopsis: Police Detective Dick Tracy is obsessed with bringing down crime boss Big Boy Caprice, though has never been able to successfully tie him to illegal activity. Balancing his professional aspirations with his personal life, rather unsuccessfully, Tracy's life is turned upside down when Caprice unites all criminal activity in the city and makes a deal with a faceless figure to frame Tracy for the murder of the corrupt District Attorney.
Legacy: Though a financial success worldwide, the film performed under Disney's expectations, resulting in the cancellation of sequel plans. The film was praised across the board for its visual style, both in production design and make-up, being nominated for several Academy Awards and winning three, the most for any comic book film adaptation. Al Pacino was nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, losing out to another mobster performance, Joe Pesci in 'Goodfellas'. Rights disputes between Warren Beatty, Disney, and Tribune Media for more than a decade resulted in any plans for a sequel being squashed. Beatty, the majority rights holder, still expresses a desire to make a sequel.
'Gremlins 2: The New Batch'June 15, 1990
Synopsis: After the death of his owner Mr. Wing, Gizmo is found by a pair of twin scientists and transported to their lab in the Clamp Enterprises building, a high-tech building that also happens to be the workplace of Gizmo's friend Billy. After discovering Gizmo is in the building, Billy rescues Gizmo and plans to take him home, but not before an accident with a faulty water fountain results in Gizmo getting wet and producing a multitude of other mogwai who quickly become gremlins. The gremlins take over the Clamp building, making use of the experimental lab to their advantage, becoming a spider-gremlin, a bat-gremlin, and even an intelligent, speaking gremlin.
Legacy: 'Gremlins 2' received mixed reviews with some complaining about the campy, less serious tone of the film compared to the first, while others praised its self-deprecating humor and satirizing of sequels. Unfortunately, the film was a financial failure, failing to earn back its budget at the box office.
Synopsis: Banker Sam Wheat is mugged while walking with his girlfriend and killed. While remaining by Molly's side as a ghost, Sam discovers that his murder wasn't a chance encounter with a mugger, but has ties to obscure bank accounts he discovered prior to his death. Sam enlists the help of a con artist medium named Oda Mae who tries to convince Molly that her life is in danger.
Legacy: To call the film a "financial success" might be an understatement. On a budget of $22 million, 'Ghost' brought in half-a-billion dollars world-wide, making it the highest grossing film of 1990. Whoopi Goldberg was particularly praised for her role as Ode Mae, winning the BAFTA, Golden Globe, and Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.
'Young Guns 2'August 1, 1990
Synopsis: After the Lincoln County War, Billy the Kid and the surviving members of the Regulators have all gone their own ways. While Billy is now running with a new gang, Doc Scurlock and Jose Chavez are captured and brought back to New Mexico to hang for their roles in the war. Billy rescues his old friends and promises they will all escape to Mexico. However, a new adversary is thrown into the mix when Billy's former gang member Pat Garrett is made Lincoln County Sheriff and tasked with bringing Billy down.
Legacy: 'Young Guns 2' was a modest success, but was not able to recapture the acclaim and success of the original. The script and direction were a common source of criticism, though the performances were highly praised. The film's soundtrack was very successful, headed up by Bon Jovi's #1 hit 'Blaze of Glory'. Emilio Estevez originally approached Bon Jovi for permission to use the song 'Wanted Dead or Alive', but Bon Jovi didn't feel the song would be appropriate for the film and offered to create a new song specifically for the film.
'Reposessed'September 14, 1990
Synopsis: 17 years after having the devil cast out of her, Nancy Aglet is possessed by the devil again while watching a religious televangelist. Inexperienced priest Father Luke attempts to get the original exorcist, Father Mayii, to come out of retirement to help Nancy, but as the original exorcism nearly killed him and left him in a weakened state, Mayii refuses to help, leaving the exorcism in the hands of televangelists Ernest and Fanny. While Ernest and Fanny don't believe Nancy is possessed and are using this as a ratings ploy, the devil is looking forward to being in front of the largest television audience in history.
Legacy: 'Repossessed' received a very limited theatrical release and was released on home video before the end of the year. Many critics panned the film, but praised Leslie Nielsen's performance and Linda Blair parodying herself from 'The Exorcist'. The film has had a nearly non-existent life on DVD, finally being released in 2009 as part of "The Lost Collection" of forgotten cult classics, considered am overlooked gem in the legacy of Leslie Nielsen's career.
'Goodfellas'September 19, 1990
Synopsis: 'Goodfellas' tells the true story of Irish-Italian Henry Hill's rise and fall in the mafia. Introduced to "made men" in his neighborhood by working at a cab stand, Henry quits school to work for mob capo Paul Cicero full-time. As he matures, Hill makes a reputation for himself in Cicero's crew, but is unable to be a made man himself due to this Irish heritage. Hill teams up with Jimmy Conway and Tommy DeVito, pulling off several heists including the Lufthansa Heist, the biggest cash heist on American soil. Hill breaks Paul's biggest rule by engaging in the selling, and consumption, of narcotics. Hill's decent into the drug world results in trouble with not only the law, but his own crew.
Legacy: 'Goodfellas' was universally praised, not only considered Martin Scorcese's best film, but one of the greatest films ever made and one of the greatest, if not the greatest, mob film of all time. The film was nominated for a multitude of awards including Academy Awards, only winning one with Joe Pesci's win for Best Supporting Actor. The success of the film also impacted the life of the real Henry Hill, who was still in Witness Protection at the time the film was released. Hill was removed from protection after bragging that the popular film was about him. Assistant U.S. Attorney Ed McDonald, who played himself in the film, had to arrange with the mafia for the contract on Hill's life to be rescinded so Hill could survive outside of Witness Protection.
'Home Alone'November 16, 1990
Synopsis: After a disagreement with his family the night before their Christmas vacation in Paris, Kevin McCallister is forced to spend the night by himself in the attic. When a power outage causes the family to wake up late, the family hurries to catch their flight, forgetting Kevin at home. Kevin enjoys his freedom from his family, but is unknowingly at risk as his house has been targeted by a pair of cat burglars who have been staking out the homes of vacationing families. While Kevin defends his home from intruders, his mother is doing everything she can to get back to Chicago to her son.
Legacy: While receiving mixed reviews from critics, 'Home Alone' was such a financial success that it is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the highest grossing live-action comedy of all time. It was #1 at the box office for three months straight, a Top 10 film for two months after that, and making sporadic appearances in the Top 10 until mid-June, ending up as the third highest grossing film of all time. A sequel was produced with Kevin being left behind again, but because he ended up getting on the wrong plane. "Home Alone 2: Lost in New York" was not as successful as the original, but was still a success. Three more films, straight-to-DVD and made-for-television, were produced, each about a different family, and each to poor reviews.
'Dances with Wolves'November 21, 1990
Synopsis: Lt. John Dunbar, wounded in during a Civil War battle and facing amputation of his foot, decides to commit suicide by riding past a Confederate unit. Dunbar's actions distract the Confederate soldiers, allowing the Union to overtake them. Dunbar is hailed for his bravery and allowed to avoid amputation. Dunbar is also allowed to choose any post he desires, requesting to be moved to the western frontier. Finding Fort Segwick abandoned, Dunbar remains isolated and awaiting more troops who unfortunately are not coming. Dunbar's assignment to the Fort is widely unknown as the Major who assigned him to the post committed suicide immediately after Dunbar left his office, and the coach driver who took Dunbar there was killed by the Pawnee on his way back. Dunbar becomes a target of suspicion to the neighboring Sioux tribe, who eventually warm up to Dunbar and allow him to visit their land. Dunbar's respect and fascination with the tribe, and his feelings for Stands With a Fist, put Dunbar at odds with his allegiance to his country.
Legacy: The film was a surprise success, both critically and financially. The film's positive portrayal of the Sioux Indians led to the Sioux Nation adopting Kevin Costner as an honorary member. The film was also nominated for twelve Academy Awards, winning seven including Best Picture and Best Director for Costner.
'Misery'November 30, 1990
Synopsis: Novelist Paul Sheldon, known for his series of romance novels about Misery Chastain, is caught in a blizzard while driving back to New York from Colorado. Saved by a nurse named Annie, Paul awakes in Annie's home with two broken legs. Annie claims to be Paul's biggest fan and nurses Paul back to health. While recouperating, Paul's newest Misery Chastain book is released in which Misery dies. Annie, horrified at reading the death of Misery, threatens Paul and burns his new manuscript, telling him no one is coming to save him and he will write a new book that will bring Misery back. Fearing for his life, Paul agrees to write the book, but takes every opportunity he can to escape from Annie's remote home.
Legacy: A critical and financial success, 'Misery' topped out at #2 at the box office while 'Home Alone' ran at #1, making back its budget three times over. Writer Stephen King, whose novel was the basis for the film, cites 'Misery' as one of his most favorite film adaptations of his work. Kathy Bates received a great deal of praise for her portrayal of Annie, winning both the Golden Globe and Academy Award for Best Actress.
'Edward Scissorhands'December 14, 1990
Synopsis: Edward is the creation of an old inventor who has a fatal heart attack just before replacing Edward's scissors with real hands. Discovered living alone in his Gothic home, Edward is taken in by an Avon saleswoman and her family in suburbia. Initially frightening his new neighbors, Edward wins them over by showing his softer side with unique hair cutting and hedge trimming. Falling in love with his adoptive family's daughter, Edward and Kim's relationship cause strife with local bully Jim, and misunderstandings resulting in Edward being shunned by the town.
Legacy: A surprise financial and critical success, the film marks the first of many collaborations between Johnny Depp and director Tim Burton, and Burton considers 'Edward Scissorhands' to be his most personal work. The film was nominated for many awards, including BAFTAs and Academy Awards for design and make-up. An extinct lobster-like sea creature called Kootenichela deppi was named after Johnny Depp as the creature's claws were scissor-like.
'Kindergarten Cop'December 21, 1990
Synopsis: LAPD Detective John Kimble has been pursuing drug dealer Cullen Crisp for years, finally getting him on a murder charge. Kimble is assigned to track down Crisp's former girlfriend to testify. Tracking her down to Oregon and finding out she may have a child in Kindergarten, Kimble is assigned a new partner who will go undercover as a new teacher to track down Crisp's girlfriend and her child. When his partner comes down sick, Kimble is forced to take her place as the new Kindergarten teacher, finding it difficult to control a class full of 5-year-olds.
Legacy: Though receiving mixed reviews, the film was a great financial success, starting with a $15 million budget and making $202 million at the box office. Schwarzenegger was praised for his second comedic film, teaming up again with his 'Twins' director Ivan Reitman. The most lasting part of the film's legacy though is Arnold's often imitated line, "Its not a tumor!"