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 1991 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 1991.
1991 saw our first ever tie at the top between perhaps the greatest action sequel of the 90s and one of the great thrillers of all time. But before we reveal the top 5, let’s see the movies that received votes, but fell short of making our final list.
What About Bob? — 8 points
The Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell of Fear — 6 points
The Addams Family — 5 points
Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves — 5 points
The Rocketeer — 4 points
Boyz N the Hood — 3 points
Hot Shots!— 3 points
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze — 3 points
Defending Your Life — 2 points
Fried Green Tomatoes — 2 points
Lionheart — 2 points
Necessary Roughness — 2 points
Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey — 1 point
City Slickers — 1 point
The Double Life of Veronique — 1 point
My Girl — 1 point
Regarding Henry — 1 point
And now, let’s see the top 5 movies of 1991, as voted by the Place to Be Nation staff.
4 (tie). Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country
9 points, ranked by 3 of 10 voters, highest ranked by Glenn Butler at No. 2
Glenn Butler: Star Trek has always taken part in the tradition among science fiction stories of using far-away settings to create allegories to the present. (Any story makes some comment on the time of its making, and science fiction even more so.) The original series used both the Klingons and the Romulans as stand-ins for the West’s communist enemies, and developed the Federation along the lines of a mix of the United Nations in space and the United States in space. When The Next Generation premiered in 1987 it established that sometime after the most recent movies peace had been made between the Federation and the Klingon Empire (even if that peace proved difficult at times), but left the exact form of the peace process nebulous. In 1991, with world events most significantly swirling around the dissolution of the Soviet Union, it was time to craft a sendoff for the beloved original series crew in the form of their journey to forge peace with their long-time cold-war enemies. Along the way, they have to deal with assassinations, a criminal trial, betrayal, imprisonment, rooting out conspiracies, and the sort of hangover you only get from too much Romulan ale.
And when I say this movie aims to be an analogue of the Cold War, I mean it’s not at all subtle about it. The events of the film are set in motion when the Klingons suffer a major environmental catastrophe (coughChernobylcough), and eventually the Empire can no longer afford their massive military overreach. Some Federation military leaders are nervous and distrustful. Spock quotes an old Vulcan proverb: only Nixon could go to China. Characters explicitly refer to the prison Kirk & McCoy are sent to as a gulag. At the end of the movie, Captain Kirk all but explicitly references Francis Fukuyama’s speculation that the end of the Cold War signified the end of history: “Some people think the future means the end of history. Well, we haven’t run out of history quite yet.”
So, this movie is a lot more serious than many other outings in the series. The warm character moments that defined the previous movies (and nearly redeemed The Final Frontier, in my view) take a back seat to geopolitical maneuvering. Cliff Eidelman’s moody score has few moments of heroism, and even those are mainly restricted to the end credits. The visual aesthetics of the movie reflect this as well: while many of the scenes set on the Enterprise are filmed on sets from The Next Generation, they’re redecorated and lit much more darkly than was the norm on television, casting deep shadows everywhere (including the wrinkles on the cast members’ faces), lending the entire movie an air of gloom. Our Heroes do not travel through this atmosphere unscathed: Captain Kirk viscerally recalls his son’s murder in The Search for Spock, and toward the end of the movie there’s a truly unsettling scene in which Spock uses the Vulcan mind meld as a weapon, in order to extract information from one of the conspirators.
Ultimately, one of the main contributions of this movie to the larger Star Trek franchise is to further deepen the Klingons, in this case by casting the outstanding David Warner & Christopher Plummer and having them express a great interest in Shakespeare — you have not experienced Shakespeare until you have read him in the original Klingon, after all. It also provides a fabulous send-off for the original crew; some of them would appear in the spinoffs from time to time, but the entire original cast never appeared on screen together again.
4 (tie). Hook
9 points, ranked by 3 of 10 voters, highest ranked by Anthony Estrada at No. 2
Anthony Estrada: Peter Pan is a very important character in American mythology (despite being a Scottish import). We value youth and freedom, adventure without responsibility, and Pan embodies those qualities. His story is the paradigm of escapism: Pan and his crew of lost boys occupy a hidden land not found on any map, where rules and laws – even of physics – don’t apply. Death and danger are real. Commutes and deadlines are not. And I don’t think any movie has captured the Peter Pan essence better than Hook.
Hook shows us what happens when a lost boy decides to grow up (as many of us do). Peter Pan lived a lifetime as a teenager, chasing shadows and fighting pirates. Then one day he saw the right girl and realized he wanted more out of life. He left the fantasy behind and joined the rest of us. He married the girl, got a job, had kids and grew love handles. Over time he became a joyless workaholic who neglected his family. He forgot his own past. But he couldn’t escape it, as one stormy London night Captain Hook comes and kidnaps Pan’s children. He takes them back to Neverland, bait to lure Pan back for one final battle.
Hook begins in our world, with characters as familiar with the Peter Pan story as we are. We’re on the outside looking in. Once Pan is back in Neverland, we’re thrust into this world of color, absurdity and imagination. The movie is no longer an examination of the story – it’s another chapter in it. Can Peter regain his courage and his passion? Will a new assembly of lost boys accept this middle-aged man as one of their own? If Peter can reconnect with his past, will he again choose to leave it behind? Hook explores what it means to grow up, and the thrills and dangers of escaping from one’s life.
3. Beauty and the Beast
10 points, ranked by 3 of 10 voters, highest ranked by Kati Price at No. 1
Kati Price: “Tale as old as time…” You all know the song, and the movie. Belle is the daughter of an inventor who goes missing. She finds him in the castle of a man who is under a spell. In fact, the whole house is enchanted. The servants of the house who have become things like clocks, candle sticks and teapots, try to get Belle to break the spell by falling in love with the beast. Of course, eventually she does and the curse is broken.
I love Disney films and this is definitely in my top ten. I love the musical aspect. The music from Beauty and the Beast is absolutely timeless. This film won 2 Oscars: Best Music, Original Song and Best Music, Original Score. Alan Menken, who does most Disney films’ music, did an outstanding job on this one. Very few Disney songs are quite as moving as the main song. Something I found very interesting is that art director Brian McEntee color keyed Belle so that she is the only person in her town who wears blue. This is symbolic of how different she is from everyone else around. Later, she encounters the Beast, another misfit, also wearing blue. It symbolized good in the film, whereas red symbolized evil (the color of Gaston’s shirt is red). There is usually quite a bit of symbolism to be found in Disney films.
Beauty and the Beast was nominated for Best Picture but lost to one of our number one films. (Continue reading to find out which film it lost to.) This film definitely deserves its place on our list.
1 (tie). Terminator 2: Judgment Day
36 points, ranked by 9 of 10 voters, highest ranked by Glenn Butler, Anthony Estrada and Russell Sellers at No. 1
Nick Duke: After the success of 1984’s The Terminator, it would have been all too easy to rush a similar feeling sequel into theaters. However, James Cameron had a pretty clear vision of what it would take to follow the first film, and knew he had to wait until the technology could catch up to his vision. By the early 90s, it had done so, and it was finally time to continue the story of Sarah and John Connor, Skynet and the Terminators.
Credit to Cameron, however, for realizing early on that simply refreshing the first film by taking on a similar tone wouldn’t have worked. For one, Arnold Schwarzenegger had become one of the biggest stars in film, with his take on the T-800 still perhaps his most iconic role. Shifting Arnold into the role of hero and creating a new Terminator to face was a brilliant move that wound up creating some of the most iconic quotes in film history (Hasta la vista, baby.). But perhaps more important than the shift in Arnold’s allegiances was the shift in tone. The first film was very much a thriller movie with horror elements — the naive damsel in distress and her protector fleeing from an unstoppable, unforgiving force. But here, James Cameron turns the franchise from sci-fi/thriller to sci-fi/action, giving us a nonstop ride that is still regarded as one of the best action movies ever made.
The story revolves around the now-teenaged John Connor and a Terminator that has been reprogrammed to serve as his protector rather than his murderer. They set out to free Sarah Connor, now institutionalized after the events of the first film, before setting their sights on preventing the rise of Skynet and Judgment Day once and for all.
And the movie was BEAUTIFUL. It featured CGI extensively, and produced special effects that to this day still hold up and honestly outclass some modern-day efforts. The effects used to render the liquid metal T-1000, in particular, are still highly effective and never take the viewer out of the story. Cameron and Schwarzenegger have both made several films in the last 23 years, but neither have been able to match T2. In my opinion, they never will.
1 (tie). The Silence of the Lambs
36 points, ranked by 9 of 10 voters, highest ranked by Nick Duke, Greg Phillips, Andrew Riche, Steve Wille and Andrew Woltman at No. 1
Steve Wille: By no means am I a horror movie fan; I’ve probably seen a dozen films in that genre during my lifetime. But if I am going to be dragged kicking and screaming to one, it won’t be a movie drenched in blood, guts and gore, it will be a truly horrifying movie, one that haunts the recesses of the mind. Though categorized as horror, The Silence of the Lambs can be classified more as a psychological thriller. The terror comes from dramatic verbal exchanges between the two masterful leads, Sir Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster. Foster’s FBI operative, Clarice Starling, solicits guidance regarding the psyche of a serial killer from Hannibal Lecter, a convicted murderer and former psychiatrist played by Hopkins. In exchange for his information, Lecter delves deep into Clarice’s past. The emotional interplay becomes far more frightening than any current box-office horror flick.
Lambs cleaned up, both at the box office and during awards season. It became only the third movie in history to sweep the five major categories at the Oscars (Best Picture, Best Actor and Actress, Best Director and Best Screenplay). Director Jonathan Demme launched himself from near-obscurity to stardom, and Ted Tally’s script stayed true to the original novel by Thomas Harris. Off of a budget of only $19 million, Lambs went on to return $130 million in receipts, making it the envy of movie studios who tried to capitalize on Lambs’ profitability with sequels and copycats that met with floundering success.
That does it for 1991. To see the full breakdown of all 10 ballots, click here. Check back soon to see the staff’s top 5 movies of 1992!