One thing we at Place to Be Nation like to celebrate is the subjectivity inherent in entertainment — be it in wrestling, comics, music, television or, indeed, film. With that in mind, ten members of the PTBN staff will be picking the movies of the PTB generation. In this series, panel members will collect their five favorite films of each year, beginning with the year in which the oldest writer was born — 1976. The only rule given to each contributor was to provide his or her own criteria. Some writers may go with the most artistic films, while others might side with the most iconic blockbusters. We welcome your lists on Facebook and Twitter. Each staff member has submitted a list of five movies from 1995 ranked 1 through 5. A first-place vote is worth five points, a second-place vote worth four points, and so on. Using that point system, we have identified the top 5 movies of 1995.
1995 saw the panel more divided than ever, allowing the No. 1 movie to win the year with just 17 points, the lowest total of any year winner thus far. But before we reveal the top 5, let’s see the movies that received votes, but fell short of making our final list.
The Usual Suspects — 10 points
Goldeneye — 9 points
Tommy Boy — 7 points
Batman Forever — 6 points
Clueless — 5 points
Leaving Las Vegas — 5 points
Before Sunrise — 4 points
Casino — 4 points
Heat — 4 points
Jumanji — 4 points
Apollo 13 — 3 points
Babe — 3 points
A Goofy Movie — 3 points
Welcome to the Dollhouse — 3 points
Friday — 2 points
Major Payne — 2 points
12 Monkeys — 1 point
Empire Records — 1 point
Kicking and Screaming — 1 point
Mallrats — 1 point
And now, let’s see the top 5 movies of 1995, as voted by the Place to Be Nation staff.
11 points, ranked by 4 of 10 voters, highest ranked by Glenn Butler at No. 2
Aaron George: I remember going to see Se7en in the theatre and thinking to myself “I hope Brad Pitt doesn’t ruin this movie.” You have to understand I hated Brad Pitt. All the girls I hung out with were obsessed with Legends of the Fall, and how could I possibly compare with that long haired Adonis?(not Adrian) So I sat in the theatre hopeful but intimidated. However my inadequacy quickly morphed into a wave of enthrallment. That day I fell in love with Brad Pitt too.
So by now you know the story: serial killer offs people with the theme of the seven deadly sins, an ageist young detective learns a thing or two from the penguin guy, head in a box. (why is there no SNL song for that one?) If these things alone aren’t enough of a catch then the simplistic brutality and wonderful sense of pace and tension truly place this film atop the heap of crime thrillers of the nineties. I’d like to think that this is David Fincher’s immaculate birth unto the filmmaker scene. I’m no film student or any kind of student, so I can’t take you through the techniques he uses to tell this riveting story, but alls I knows is that this is the first in what will be a (hopefully) endless line of awesome movies. While we hopefully don’t live in a world with a John Doe going biblical (HAHAHAHAHAHAHAhahahahahaha…sorry); there is a gritty realism to both the setting and acting that I’d like to lavishly Fincher praise for, and while this may not be his masterpiece (SHHHHH!) it sets an impressive precedent for what’s to come from him.
The acting is pretty universally excellent in this one. Morgan Freeman brings a quiet credibility to Detective Somerset, and Gwyneth Paltrow is not annoying at all as Tracy, proving she may well be the best actress in the world. Casting Kevin Spacey as the enigmatic John Doe was inspired and I think no one was surprised when he went on to be one of the finest actors of his generation. As for the heartthrob cast purely on his looks (who I hate)… Allow me to digress for a moment. When I stated above I was in love with Brad Pitt I wasn’t kidding. I truly feel he is one of the most underrated actors in history. If you look at his catalogue he is always good, damn good. He plays weird characters, he takes risks which many more “credentialed” actors wouldn’t take and he always has this smoothness to his performance which makes you believe him and side with him in almost every film he’s in. In fact I think his looks hurt him when it comes to being taken seriously, and the fact that he hasn’t won some sort of award up until this point is downright criminal. So I love him. I don’t want to have his babies or anything, but I will go see a movie if he’s in it, especially if he’s eating. (Pssst! It’s all of them. ) Ahem. All this to say, Se7en isn’t his best performance, but he is very solid in it and doesn’t look out of place for a second next to the much more seasoned Freeman.
Se7en is a great suspenseful movie that is insanely memorable for its gruesome story and fantastic heart wrenching moments. As a 15-year-old seeing it for the first time, it left a mark on me that I still feel to this day. If you haven’t seen it do it. If nothing else it will make you super interested in reading Dante’s Divine Comedy and Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. Spoiler alert: they suck.
4. Billy Madison
12 points, ranked by 5 of 10 voters, highest ranked by Anthony Estrada and Andrew Riche at No. 3
Andrew Riche: Okay, let me get this out of the way quickly: I do not exactly bow at the feet of Adam Sandler as an obsessive fan of some type. Sandler certainly hasn’t won me over with his more recent movie choices over the past, oh, say, 11 years or so, which makes his batting average pretty low when it comes to making enjoyable movies. With that said, I am a huge fan of Sandler’s early films in the late 1990’s, and his first starring vehicle has never left my side as one of my favorite comedies of all-time.
By 1995, Sandler had been known for being a sidekick on MTV’s Remote Control, a comedy CD, and his stint on Saturday Night Live when he and show writer Tim Herlihy put together a script for Billy Madison, the story of a 28-year-old rich kid who never had to grow up until his father forces him to go back to grade school, middle school, and high school in order to prove his worth as the heir to his dad’s company. In terms of storyline and acting alone, it is by all accounts a pretty bad film (even the great Bradley Whitford as the bad guy couldn’t save this one) with a lot of senselessness and distaste. But what harsh critics missed the point on back then is the movie’s endless hilarity from almost every scene that showed the potential for what eventually turned Sandler into a comedy box-office king.
I cannot even pinpoint a favorite laugh-out-load scene in Billy Madison because there truly are too many. Steve Buscemi crossing Billy’s name off his kill list while putting lipstick on. Billy’s epic battle between shampoo and conditioner in the bath tub. The most random sing-along performance in a film maybe ever. The drunk penguin hallucinations that climax with this brilliant nugget from the late Chris Farley. The marriage-hating moderator of the academic decathlon giving by far the film’s most famous piece of dialogue, the end-all, be-all in scholastic put-downs. The O’Doyle family that “rules” according to themselves. I could go on and on, but you get the point just as Billy figures out how to be more responsible by film’s end in order to earn his daddy’s trust. Trust me, you will never think of chlorophyll or Snack Packs the same way again.
2 (tie). Die Hard With a Vengeance
16 points, ranked by 4 of 10 voters, highest ranked by Russell Sellers and Andrew Woltman at No. 1
Russell Sellers: Die Hard is arguably the best action movie ever made, but its sequels have been hit and miss. Mostly miss. Except for the third movie in the franchise which brought back the original director, John McTiernan to show everyone how it’s done!
John McClane’s trademarked smart mouth and penchant for throwing himself into the most dangerous situations possible along with a breakout performance from Samuel L. Jackson make this as close to a perfect buddy movie as it gets. The action scenes are second only to the original, but it’s the pacing and comedic timing of the leads that really sell it. While Jeremy Irons doesn’t turn in a bad performance, he’s no Hans Gruber. Though he is still an effective villain and a much more memorable one than…whoever Mr. Falcon was in Die Hard 2.
And talk about character development! McClane goes through quite an impressive growth spurt as he’s taken from on-the-edge drunkard to reminding us why he’s one of the best detectives on the force. Even the subplot of how Zeus tries to help him put his life in perspective is a nice subtle touch. The ending does land a bit awkwardly, but it’s not nearly enough to derail an otherwise fantastic film that stands as an instruction manual on how to craft a good action movie and a good buddy film. A classic in every sense of the word.
2 (tie). Braveheart
16 points, ranked by 4 of 10 voters, highest ranked by Glenn Butler, Aaron George and Greg Phillips at No. 1
Greg Phillips: Historical inaccuracies be damned — Braveheart is one of the best films I’ve ever seen. Mel Gibson’s sophomore directorial effort (following the underrated The Man Without a Face) stands as simultaneously my favorite war movie, historical epic and inspirational film. If this movie doesn’t fill you with pride and inspiration, I’m not sure what will. Gibson’s direction is precise and patient, yet he keeps things moving at a clip that makes the hours fly by.
He’s equally strong on screen. One of the key factors that make Gibson my favorite actor is how utterly believable he is in every role. He’s no different here, with untouchable charisma and a presence that leaps off the screen. He balances that with a sense of humanity that makes everyone in the audience identify and empathize with all of William Wallace’s struggles and heartaches. It’s a movie that stands the test of time, and one I have to watch at least once a year. The climactic battle, featuring hordes of warriors both Scottish and English, is one of the greatest action achievements of them all. If you have seen this movie, you know the effect it has on a viewer. If you haven’t, do so. It’s wonderful.
1. Toy Story
17 points, ranked by 6 of 10 voters, highest ranked by Anthony Estrada, Russell Sellers and Andrew Woltman at No. 2
Nick Duke: Looking back with the benefit of hindsight, it’s hard to imagine Toy Story being even somewhat risky. It was backed by Disney, featured an innovative animation technique and had two of the biggest names going voicing its two main characters.
But, in 1995, it was an incredibly daring move by Disney to trust a company like Pixar with a big animated release when the House of Mouse was on an almost unprecedented run of success with its own more traditionally animated films. But, audiences took to the new animation style instantly, paving the way for Pixar to become one of the most trusted names in all of animation. Almost 20 years later, the argument could be made that Pixar actually has more good will built up among critics and audiences than Walt Disney Animation, which is something no one could have foreseen before the release of Toy Story.
Does Pixar owe most of its success to one movie? I say yes. Toy Story was such a wonderful concept that almost every child could instantly buy into. In a world where children imagine their playthings to have personality and voice in the first place anyway, it wasn’t difficult for most kids to buy into a story where toys live and interact in a world of their own. Plus, the character interactions are so simple, yet relatable. Like Woody, who hasn’t felt useless when a new dynamic is introduced into your life? And like Buzz, who hasn’t had to question their entire way of thinking at some point?
Throw in some classic Randy Newman tunes to go along with the great animation and relatable themes and you’ve got the makings of a kids’ classic. I’m not nearly as high on most of Pixar’s followups as the general public, but Toy Story is one I can revisit time and again.
That does it for 1995. To see the full breakdown of all 10 ballots, click here. Check back soon to see the staff’s top 5 movies of 1996!