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Actors of the 90's

Here is my list of the top actors from the 90's. These are the people who consistently performed and made movies throughout the decade that were good or great. They choose different and challenging roles and seemed to surprise and entertain us at each turn. Some of their characters help to define what the movies in this decade were all about. They may not be the "best" or "most beloved" actors. I love Harrison Ford, but after ruling the 80's, his choice of movies in the 90's faltered a little. Nor Al Pacino who is an amazing actor, but didn't really define the decade. It is not someone who had one huge hit and became a teen heartthrob, sorry Mr. DiCaprio. Or someone who started out big and took a major dive, Mr. Costner. So, Here is the list:

10.) Robert DeNiro:I really wasn't thinking of DeNiro when I was first compiling this list. You always think of him as a great actor, but not really a 90's actor. Then I ran past his name and started reading his roles made during this decade. Although nothing was a huge standout role, the list was quite impressive and diverse. Starting in 1990 with the classic "Goodfellas", he went on to star in "Awakenings", "Backdraft", "Cape Fear", "Mary Shelley's Frankenstein", "Casino", "Heat", "Wag the Dog", "Great Expectations", "Rodin", and "Analyze This".

9.) Ralph Fiennes:A couple of actors had come to mind when I was making this list, but when I think of 90's movies I kept coming back to Ralph Fiennes. His Nazi role in "Schindler's List" was haunting, and then he gave us a moving and romantic role in "The English Patient". He also gave quality work in "Quiz Show", "Strange Days", "Oscar and Lucinda", and "The End of the Affair". Although many of these were the smaller films that didn't make the blockbuster money, he seemed to make them better with his skills. An unknown before this decade, he leaves being a professional.

8.) Denzel Washington: Started the decade, in 1992, with an Oscar nomination for "Malcolm X" and ending the decade with one for "Hurricane", Denzel Washington continued his quality work. He also starred in "Philadelphia", "Crimson Tide", "Courage Under Fire", "He's Got Game" and was wonderfully casted in the Shakespeare film, "Much Ado About Nothing".

7.) Tom Cruise: Although Tom Cruise became a "star" in the 80's, he contiuned to expand himself in the 90's. Choosing diverse roles and working with some of the best directors, he stopped being just a heartthrob and truly became an "Acting Star". His movies included "Far and Away", "A Few Good Men", "The Firm", "Interview with a Vampire", "Mission Impossible", "Jerry Maguire", "Eyes Wide Shut", and "Magnolia".

6.) Morgan Freeman:One of my personal favorites. I just love Morgan Freeman. I remember growing up and watching him on "The Electric Company" on PBS, and now he's one of the greats in Hollywood. Starting with the Moor from "Robin Hood: Prince of Theives", Mr Freeman went on to 3 great roles in "Unforgiven", "Shawshank Redemption" and "Seven". He finished with "Amistand" and "Deep Impact". He's up there with James Earl Jones as one of the best voices.

5.) Mel Gibson:This one moved up and down my list as I was putting it together and I finally decided to leave him right in the middle. The 90's was when Mel Gibson started to take lots of chances and that is why I rewarded him with this position. He started the decade with the lead in "Hamlet", which I think he did extremely well in. He starred in some lighter fare that were quite enjoyable; "Maverick", "Forever Young" and "Lethal Weapon 3" and some that weren't "Lethal Weapon 4", and he offered his voice to Disney's "Pocahontas". But as was the trend in the 90's, he tried his hand at directing and starring in movies. "The Man Without a Face" was a very good directoral debut in 1993. His second attempt, in 1995, was quite amazing. "Braveheart" won Gibson a best picture and director Oscar and was one of the reasons he's so high on the list. He finished the decade with "Ransom", "Conspiracy Theory" and "Payback".

4.) Robin Williams:One of those complete surprises. Robin Williams has always been a great comedian, but he has truly blown me away with his acting skills. He changes between comedies, dramas, childrens films, etc, and his role choices are always interesting. His movies include; "Awakenings", "Dead Again", was wonderful in "The Fisher King", "Hook", stole "Aladdin" with his blue genie, "Mrs. Doubtfire", "Jumanji", "The Birdcage", "Hamlet", won the Oscar for "Good Will Hunting", and finished with "What Dreams May Come" and "Jakob the Liar".

3.) Kevin Spacey: One of those actors who was pretty much a no name before this decade began, and many of Kevin Spacey's roles were quite small; "Henry and June" (1990), "Glengarry Glen Ross" (1992), "Consenting Adults" (1992), "The Ref" (1994), "Outbreak" (1995), but he always seemed to bring such professionalism to even these tiny parts. He also seems to heighten his skills when working next to other great actors like Samuel L. Jackson, in "The Negotiator" (1998). But the main reason Kevin Spacey is on this list is for three huge and huanting performances from the 90's. The first was Verbal Kint in "Usual Suspects" (1995), a role which won Spacey a Best Supporting Oscar. The second, in the same year, was the killer in "Seven". If it wasn't for Anthony Hopkins "Hannibal Lector" Spacey would have been awarded the creepest killer of the 90's. A few friends will not watch Spacey in anything else because of this role. And finally, Spacey received a best actor Oscar in 1999 for his role (which ruled) in "American Beauty". He has come a long way in ten years.

2.) Anthony Hopkins:He created one of the ultimate movie personas "Hannibal" Lector (In which he won the Oscar), and if you place that performance next to his work in "Howard's End" or "Remains of the Day", you would swear it's not the same person. He was a vampire hunter in "Bram Stoker's Dracula", Brad Pitts father in "Legends of the Fall", a swordfighting Zorro, "Nixon" (Oscar nomination), John Quincy Adams in "Amistad" (Oscar nomination), C.S. Lewis, and Picasso. He always gives the ultimate performance.

1.) Tom Hanks:Far and away the winner. Mr. Hanks was the 90's! His credits could be a top 10 list in and of itself; Joe Versus the Volcano (1990), Bonfire of the Vanities (1990), Radio Flyer (1992), A League of Their Own (1992), Philadelphia (1993), Sleepless In Seattle (1993), Forrest Gump (1994), Apollo 13 (1995), Toy Story (1995), That Thing You Do (1996), You've Got Mail (1998), Saving Private Ryan (1998), The Green Mile (1999), Toy Story 2 (1999). He won back to back "Best Actor" Oscars and he or his pictures were nominateed for many more. He has the wonderful ability to play lite comic fare, pull the romantic strings, or play dramatic, topical roles. He has become the Jimmy Stewart or Cary Grant for this generation and has been call one of the easiest and most professional actors to work with. Another of his wonderful traits is the passion he finds from his roles. Unlike some actors who use their position as a platform to express their views, Tom Hanks does so with professionalism or becomes active and does something about it. His acceptence speech for "Philadelphia" was generous and prominent for the AIDS epidemic. After "Apollo 13", he went on to produce and direct the wonderful "Trip to the Moon" mini-series for TV (which he won an Emmy for), and became one of the biggest supporters for a WWII memorial upon finishing "Saving Private Ryan". One true class act!

Actresses of the 90's

10.) Meg Ryan:One of the most beloved, by both men and women, female actors working in the industry. Like one of her favorite co-stars, Tom Hanks, her roles continue to be diverse, ranging from comedy, to drama, and romance. She began the decade with Tom Hanks in "Joe Versus the Volcano" (90), made "Sleepless in Seattle" (93), and ended the decade with him in "You've Got Mail" in (98). Her dramas included, "The Doors" (91), "Flesh and Bone" (93), she gave an amazing performance in "When a Man Loves a Woman" (94), "Restoration" (95), "Courage Under Fire" (96), "City of Angels" (98), and "Hurlyburly" (98). Her romantic comedies included, "Prelude to a Kiss" (92), "I.Q." (94), "French Kiss" (95), and "Addicted to Love" (97) and she provided the voice for "Anastasia" in 1997. Although, Ms. Ryan has not been nominated for any awards, she continued to be a shining star throughout the decade.

9.) Helena Bonham Carter:Helena Bonham Carter may not be known too well by the majority of the movie going public, mainly because she has been starring in smaller art house films for most of her career. During the 90's she started to branch out, always putting in great performances. In 1990, she starred as Ophelia in Mel Gibson's "Hamlet". Next were "Where Angels Fear to Tread" (91), "Howard's End" (92), "Frankenstein" (94), "Mighty Aphrodite" (95), "Twelfth Night" (96). She received an Oscar nomination in 1997, for her haunting role in "The Wings of the Dove". Had a few more smaller performances in "The Theory of Flight" (98) and "Carnivale" (99) and gave another great performance in "Fight Club" (99).

8.) Kate Winslet:I recently saw Kate Winslet's first role in "Heavenly Creatures" (94) and was completely blown away by her performance. Of course just about everyone knows Ms. Winslet from her starring role as Rose in "Titanic" (97), but if this is your only knowledge of her, your really missing out. She received her first Oscar nomination in 1995 in "Sense and Sensibility", her second was for "Titanic". In 1996, she played Ophelia in "Hamlet" and ended the decade with two stirring roles in "Hideous Kinky" (98) and "Holy Smoke" (99). Unlike many of the younger actors in Hollywood, Kate Winslet seems to pick interesting and difficult roles and not the huge moneymaking film. She also did something which is almost unheard of now a days in the industry. Dated someone for a few years, married him and a few years later got pregeant with child. It usually doesn't happen in that order. She seemed to have talent as well as a good head on her shoulders.

7.) Kristin Scott Thomas: You may be surprised that Kristin Scott Thomas is so high on this list, (or on it at all) but she must be one of the hardest working actress's in the world. When I looked up her films for the decade, I had her at 32 projects from the U.S., England, France, Italy, and Romania. That's quite impressive. She was also able to work with some of the biggests actors; Hugh Grant, "Four Weddings and a Funeral" (94), Tom Cruise, "Mission Impossible" (96), Ralph Fiennes, "English Patient" (96) (which she recieved and Oscar nomination), Robert Redford, "The Horse Whisperer" (98), and Harrison Ford, "Random Hearts" (99). Some other special projects included "Richard III" (95), "Angels and Insects" (95), the TV mini-series "Gulliver's Travels" (96), and the narrator for the great documentary on Insects "Microcosmos" (96).

6.) Jodie Foster:Jodie Foster has been working in the film industry almost her entire life. She continued her amazing career in the 90's. She would be higher up on this list, but had a let down near the end of the decade. She began the 90's in 1991 with her Oscar winning performance in "Silence of the Lambs". She continued with "Little Man Tate" (91), "Shadows and Fog" (92), "Sommersby" (93), and was nominated for "Nell" (94). She completed only 2 other films during the rest of the decade, "Contact" (97) and "Anna and the King" (99). Although Ms. Foster has cut back on her acting career, she still holds great power in Hollywood as she continues to produce and direct.

5.) Gwyneth Paltrow:We first saw Gwyneth Paltrow at the begining of the decade as the young Wendy in Speilberg's "Hook" (91). She continued starring in smaller, younger roles in "Malice" (93), "Flesh and Bone" (93), and "Jefferson in Paris" (95). The role that brought her to the forefront was Brad Pitts wife in "Seven" (95). She began doing a diverse range of roles, all with great skill, "The Pallbearer" (96), "Emma" (96), "Great Expectations" (98), "Sliding Doors" (98), and "A Perfect Murder" (98). She would win the Best Actress Oscar for "Shakespeare in Love" (98) and finish the decade with the thriller "Talented Mr. Ripley" (99). Ms. Paltrow always seems to pick good choices in roles, since I haven't seen a film of hers I didn't enjoy. I look forward to her becoming a true Hollywood star in the next decade.

4.) Meryl Streep: One of the best American actresses working in the industry, and a master of dialects. She had at least one movie released each year during the 90's. "Postcards from the Edge" (90), "Defending Your Life" (91), "Death Becomes Her" (92), "The House of the Spirits" (93), "The River Wild" (94), "The Bridges of Madison County" (95), "Before and After" and "Marvin's Room" (96), "....First Do No Harm" (97) "Dancing at Lughnasa" and "One True Thing" (98), and "Music of the Heart" (99). Meryl Streep was nominated for four Oscars throughout the decade, in 90, 95, 98, and 99, but never won. Unfortunately, none of the roles were earth sharing, which is why she's not higher on the list. It seems when a year is short on Actress nominations, they give a nomination to Ms. Streep. Maybe it is because she is so good that she makes it look effortless.

3.) Julia Roberts:Julie Roberts was probably the biggest female "star" of the 90's. Starting with the huge hit "Pretty Woman" in 1990 that made her a star and ending the decade in 99' with a double hitter "Runway Bride" and "Notting Hill". In between she had a series of hits and misses, "Flatliners" (90), "Sleeping with the Enemy" (91), "Dying Young" (91), "Hook" (91), "The Pelican Brief" (93), "I Love Trouble" (94), "Something to Talk About" (95), "Mary Reilly" (96), "Michael Collins" (96), "My Best Freiend's Wedding" (97), "Conspiracy Theory" (97), and "Stepmom" (98), but she always had that great smile. Although, not often nominated for her acting, she trully was a star for the 90's.

2.) Emma Thompson: Emma Thompson was "the" actress at the beginning of the 90's, picking up 4 Oscar nominations by 1995. She began the decade with two releases in 1991, "Impromptu" and "Dead Again". She won an Oscar in 1992 for "Howard's End", and received nominations for "In the Name of the Father" (93), "Remains of the Day" (93), and "Sense and Sensibility" (95). She was also seen in the wonderful Shakespeare adaptation "Much Ado About Nothing" (93), "Junior" (94), and "Carrington" (95). Unfortunately, after 1995 she wasn't seen much, appearing in only one major film release "Primary Colors" in 1998. I hope we have not seen the last of her.

1.) Susan Sarandon:Like Emma Thompson, Susan Sarandon received 4 Oscar nominations by the middle of the 90's. But unlike Ms. Thompson, she continued working throughout the decade in many different areas, including family films, animation and documentaries. She started the decade with "White Palace" a film about a young mans affair with an older, lower class woman. In 91' she appeared in "Light Sleeper" and "Thelma and Louie" which she recieved her first nomination. Her second nomination was for "Lorenzo's Oil" (92) and again in 94' for "The Client". During this time she would also star in "The Player" (92), "Bob Roberts" (92), "Safe Passage" (94) and the family film "Little Women" (94). She finally won her Oscar for "Dead Man Walking" in 1995. After that she appeared or narrated a few documentaries including the groundbreaking "Celluloid Closet" (95) about gays throughout the history of Hollywood. She was a voice in the animated "James and the Giant Peach" (96), appeared in "Twilight" (98), "Illuminata" (98), "Stepmom" (98), "Cradle Will Rock" (99) and "Anywhere but Here" (99). Although, she does become a little too vocal at times with her causes, she is always very passionate with what she does, and when it comes to acting she is one of the best.

Directors of the 90's

5.) Tim Burton Although Tim Burton has still not made the great movie I think he is capable of, he continues to be one of the most creative directors working in the industry. He was first heard of at the end of the 80's with "Beetlejuice" and "Batman", but his quirkyness and sense of humor slowly grew on us with each new film during this decade; "Edward Scissorhands"(90), "Batman Returns"(92) "A Nightmare Before Christmas"(93), "Ed Wood"(94), produced "James and the Giant Peach"(96), "Mars Attacks"(96), and "Sleepy Hollow"(99). His films are always wonderfully visual (with "Sleepy Hollow" winning an Oscar for Art direction) and funny in a macbre sort of way. One of those director that can sell me on a movie just to see what he will do with it.

4.) Quentin TarantinoAlthough Quentin Tarantino didn't direct many films during the decade, he made such an impact on the few he did make I had to include him on this list. Really it is just two films that caused such a stir. "Reservior Dogs" was released in 1992 and had a big impact with it's graphic voilence, dialogue and humor. This was pushed even farther in the landmark film "Pulp Fiction" (94). Tarantino directed only two other films after that; a segment of "Four Rooms" (95) and "Jackie Brown" (97). He did work as producer, writer and actor in other projects throughout the decade, but it's the directing that he is most noted for. Unfortunately, I don't think much will become of Tarantino. He made his masterpeice so early that no matter what he does it will be compared to "Pulp Fiction". Many of the things that made that movie special have been picked up by other writers and directors and have become common place. I hope I am wrong and that Tarantino will be surprising us in the future.

3.) The Coen Brothers This brother duo; Ethan and Joel Coen are quite an exciting pair. They produce, write and direct their own films and each seems to be a little different from the normal Hollywood movie. "Miller's Crossing" was their first film of the decade in 1990. Other films included "Barton Fink"(91), "The Hudsucker Proxy"(94), And "The Big Lebowski"(98). Although some of these films may be a little off the mark, the Coen Brothers are always experimenting and trying something new. In 1996, they hit the mark perfectly with "Fargo". Their quirkness and dark sense of humor add to their plots and story twists that are always just a little offbeat.

2.) James CameronHe hasn't done much, but what he has done is quite amazing. One of the few directors who doesn't lose sight of a good story when he's adding amazing special effects, and doesn't lose sight of his vision. Starting the decade with his second Terminator movie in 1991, which pushed special effects and stunts to an all time high. The sequence of the nuclear blast is one of the most horrific on film. "True Lies"(96) was an adventuresome, humorous and again SFX filled movie. In 1996 he helped create "T2 3-D" a movie/amusement park ride for Universal Park. One of the best shows at any of the parks. Then in 1997 he made "Titanic", the biggest moneymaking film of all time. Although this film may have went to his head, it will be interesting to see what he will do in this decade since he hasn't done anything since the ship sank. The Terminator series will continue without him (which may be a huge mistake for the franchise) and he's working on a sequel to True Lies.

1.) Steven Speilberg Although not as playful and adventuresome as he was in the 80's, Speilberg is still the greastest living American director working in the industry, and he may have proven it even more in the 90's. The films "Schindler's List" and the beginning of "Saving Private Ryan" are true masterpeices. (I still could not imagine the emotional strain he must have felt making "Schindler".) It also helps that being the best, he is able to surround himself with the best team to help him create his movie; cinematographers, editors, sound mixers, actors, etc. He also is one of the leaders in film technology. "Jurassic Park" was one of the first films to use complete digital images to create characters and elements, now it's such common place. And although "Jurassic Park 2" wasn't a great film, Speilberg still directed some great sequences of suspense. This decade also saw Speilberg start his own movie studio, Dreamworks (with Katzenberg and Geffen) which began to shine by the end of the decade. Steven Speilberg is one of the giants of Hollywood.

. My Top 20 - 90's Movie Poll


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