Take 5: '90s | EW.com


Take 5: '90s

The greatest movie moments in the nineties

As soon as the line between mainstream and art house came into focus, it blurred again. Studios snapped up indie companies; indie companies acted like studios. In between, a new power arose (DreamWorks), a new box office champ took hold (Titanic), new technology emerged (Phantom Menace), and a new audience ruled (teens). So were the ’90s when movies grew up or dumbed down? When studio conglomerates became monolithic or when indies took over? We’ll leave that judgment to the next millennium — and to you.

Boyz In The Hood brings tragedy home: July 12, 1991

Director John Singleton sent a shock wave through the country with his semiautobiographical tale of life on the mean streets of South Central L.A. Audiences mobbed theaters, and Hollywood dubbed the frank yet compassionate storyteller a visionary. The 23-year-old cocksure USC film-school grad emerged as the first African American and the youngest person ever nominated for the Best Director Oscar. ”I’ll never forget my shining moment,” says Singleton, describing the film’s climactic scene in which Doughboy, played by Ice Cube, takes his brother’s dead body home to their mother. ”Steven Spielberg told me that was his favorite scene. He said, ‘You don’t want to be in that room.’ And I was like, ‘Wow!”’ Rank 66

Pretty Woman gets her man: March 23, 1990

It’s the film that turned Julia Roberts into the most beloved smiling sweetheart since Annette Funicello. But it almost didn’t turn out that way. The original story, a dark drama, had drug dealers chasing a kinky hooker; and at the end, she and Edward part. After extensive rewrites, director Garry Marshall still wasn’t sure how the story should unfold. ”Garry shot the scenes three ways — sad, straight, and happy,” says screenwriter J.F. Lawton. ”In the editing room, he decided to go with happy.” There was equal spontaneity on the set. When Richard Gere snapped the jewelry box on Roberts’ hand, ”he was improvising,” Lawton says, ”and Julia didn’t know, so her laugh was real.” Rank 76

Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis hit the gas in Thelma & Louise: May 24, 1991

The climactic scene wasn’t just Butch and Sundance redux. Depending on whom you ask, it was either (a) the culmination of a brilliant feminist manifesto; (b) a disturbing glorification of suicide; (c) a metaphor for the fate of working-class women; or (d) a way-cool ending. Sarandon remembers that the controversial scene of take-no-bull liberation was shot very quickly: ”The sun was going down, we were losing the light, and we didn’t have time to do more than one or two takes. So I said I’ll just grab [Davis], give her a kiss, then floor the car. It was kind of a last-minute, improvised decision.” Talk about sailing into the sunset. Rank 51

Starling meets Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs: Feb. 14, 1991

Americans have always harbored a secret love affair with serial killers. So it’s a tad ironic that we got our first glimpse of Anthony Hopkins’ cat-and-mouse courtship of Jodie Foster’s FBI trainee when The Silence of the Lambs opened on Valentine’s Day. The suitor liked his liver with fava beans and a nice Chianti; the object of his twisted affection clutched a handbag that showed a little taste despite her cheap shoes — it was love at first fright. Silence became only the third film in history to sweep the top four Oscars. ”Where villains grab audiences are in scenes of seduction,” agrees costar Scott Glenn. ”It doesn’t have to be sexual — it’s as archetypal as the snake in the Garden of Eden. And we feel kind of uncomfortable because we’re so attracted to it.” Rank 57