While many seemed focussed on being ready for Y2K, 1999 was busy giving audiences some of the best, most enduring and influential films of the last 20 years.
1999 was also the year that Hugh Jackman, Amy Adams, James Franco, and Colin Farrell made their movie debuts – Paperback Hero, Drop Dead Gorgeous, Never Been Kissed and The War Zone respectively.
Referred to as ‘the year that changed movies’ by Entertainment Weekly, it was extremely hard to get the list of classics down to just 10. Among the honorable mentions who haven’t made the list are The Thomas Crown Affair, Galaxy Quest, The Iron Giant, Election, and Being John Malkovich to name just a few.
So, here is my pick of ten quintessential movies that turn 20 in 2019. All figures are unadjusted for inflation.
Loved by audiences and critics, and the winner of four Oscars, The Matrix, which starred Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, and Hugo Weaving among others, is widely considered to be one of the greatest science fiction films. A pop culture phenomenon with a worldwide box office of $463.5 million against a budget of $63 million, The Matrix was the fifth highest-grossing film of 1999 domestically (fourth worldwide) and the highest grossing R-rated film of the year. However, it’s only the second highest grossing film in the Matrix franchise behind The Matrix Reloaded – that secured a worldwide box office total of $742.1 million.
The Sixth Sense
The second-highest-grossing film of 1999, behind Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, The Sixth Sense made $672.8 million at the worldwide box office against a $40 million budget. It tells the story of Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment), a troubled, isolated boy who can see and talk to the dead, and an equally troubled child psychologist named Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis) who tries to help him. Written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan, The Sixth Sense was nominated for six Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director. Not only did the movie established Shyamalan in Hollywood but his twists became a trademark. The Sixth Sense also became a pop culture phenomenon and the line “I see dead people” became a popular catchphrase even being listed as one of the AFI’s 100 Years…100 Movie Quotes.
Making $12.2 million at the box office against a budget of $10 million, Office Space was a box office bomb but was well received by critics and has become a cult film. Written and directed by Mike Judge, Office Space originated as a series of comedy films and really found its home when it hit home entertainment shifting millions of units over the years – it sold over six million DVDs in the United States alone by 2006. In 2008, Entertainment Weekly, who gave Office Space a poor review on its initial theatrical release, ranked it fifth on its list of the 25 Great Comedies From the Past 25 Years.
Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me
The second Austin Powers movie and the one where we met Mini-Me and Fat Bastard for the first time and saw Mike Myers return as the randy titular British spy, as well as his nemesis, Dr. Evil. Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me grossed around $312 million in worldwide ticket sales, taking more money during its opening weekend than the entire box office of its predecessor, Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery. It was also the tenth highest-grossing movie at the worldwide box office in 1999. Considered as somewhat of a classic, it only got mixed reviews from critics and obtained a Rotten Tomatoes score of 51% – although it has an audience score of 71%. A third, and to date final, Austin Powers movie, Austin Powers: Goldmember, was released in 2002.
Getting universally rave reviews, American Beauty was considered the best film of the year by the movie press. Kevin Spacey played Lester Burnham, a 42-year-old advertising executive who has a midlife crisis when he becomes infatuated with his teenage daughter’s best friend, Angela (Mena Suvari). Having previously worked extensively in theatre, American Beauty marked Sam Mendes’ directorial debut in the world of cinema. Costing $15 million to make, it made $356.3 million at the worldwide box office won the Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Cinematography. American Beauty’s writer, Alan Ball, originally conceived as a play. In 2006, the Writers Guild of America ranked it number 38 on its list of the 101 greatest screenplays.
Brothers Paul and Chris Weitz made their directorial debuts with American Pie which not only revitalized the teen sex comedy genre but was also a box-office hit and spawned three direct sequels as well as four direct-to-DVD spin-off films. Making $235.5 million at the worldwide box office against a budget of $11 million, it was a commercial success as well as, for the most part, a critical one. Not only that it but it made American Pie’s mostly unknown cast including Jason Biggs, Chris Klein, Ian Nicholas, Eddie Kaye and Seann William Scott who reportedly received just $8,000 for playing Steve Stifler.
Making $100.9 million at the worldwide box office against a $63 million budget, Fight Club fell short of the studio’s expectations for this adaptation of the titular Chuck Palahniuk novel. Directed by David Fincher and starring Brad Pitt, Edward Norton, and Helena Bonham Carter, Fight Club met with mixed and often polarizing reviews. Norton played the unnamed narrator, who is unhappy with his white-collar job so forms “fight club” with soap salesman Tyler Durden (Pitt) and becomes embroiled in a relationship with him and a destitute woman, Marla Singer (Bonham Carter) and quickly established itself as a cult film. Russell Crowe was among those considered for the role of Durden before it went to Pitt – one of his most iconic performances.
The Blair Witch Project
The Blair Witch Project was a gamechanger. Made for $60,000, it went on to make $248.6 million at the worldwide box office. The first widely released film marketed primarily by the internet, coupled with its use of the found footage style (although it wasn’t the film to do that), it was considered a milestone in cinema. It spawned two sequels, Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 and Blair Witch, and it influenced others such as Cloverfield, Paranormal Activity and REC. A Blair Witch television series is in the works.
The Green Mile
Frank Darabont directed and wrote this fantasy crime drama film adapted from Stephen King’s 1996 novel of the same name – the adaptation took just eight weeks. Tom Hanks played Paul Edgecomb, and Michael Clarke Duncan took on the role of John Coffey. Told in a flashback format, tells the story of Edgecomb’s life as a death row corrections officer during the U.S. Great Depression, and the supernatural events he witnessed. The Green Mile was nominated for four Oscars including Best Picture and Best Supporting Actor and took $290.7 million at the worldwide box office against a $60 million budget.
Toy Story 2
Initially envisioned as a direct-to-video sequel, when it was upgraded to a theatrical release and given a release date, the production schedule had to be compressed into just nine months. Critically acclaimed and with a rare 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes it’s something of a Hollywood rarity as Toy Story 2is a sequel considered to be better than the original movie. Made for $90 million it has grossed $497.4 million at the worldwide box office – globally, it ended up being the third highest-grossing movie of 1999 behind top-placed Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace and The Sixth Sense. Perhaps surprisingly, Toy Story 2’s only Oscar nomination, because at the time there was not Best Animated Feature category, was Best Original Song for Randy Newman for When She Loved Me. It didn’t win.