(Photo by Fox. Thumbnail: WB/courtesy Everett Collection)
Every ’90s Blockbuster Movie Ranked
Thirty years on, the 1990s has solidified its stature as one of the magical decades in filmmaking, much like how we view the ’30s and the ’70s. Precisely, this Gen X-decade pulled together the Hollywood studio power of the ’30s and the groundbreaking creativity of the ’70s, crocheting commercialism and art into the movie behemoths we speak of in legend as the ’90s blockbuster — which we’ve now ranked all by Tomatometer!
First off, in putting together this list, we didn’t want no scrubs: We defined the ’90s blockbuster as any film that made over $100 million at the box office — movies that had people literally lining up around the block to spend their easy-earned cash. (The economy was booming after all.) This, of course, ushers in all those films synonymous with ’90s blockbusterism, including Jurassic Park, Speed, Twister, Independence Day, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, The Phantom Menace, Armageddon, Wild wild West, and Batmans with three different guys.
But the ’90s blockbuster was more than just fast buses, exploding White Houses, and bat nipples. Audiences opened up wallets and handbags (they’re European!) on brazen independent films (Pulp Fiction, Good Will Hunting, The Blair Witch Project), big comedies (Sister Act, The Nutty Professor, The Waterboy, Dumb & Dumber, The Birdcage), and romances both funny and dramatic (Pretty Woman, Shakespeare in Love, Jerry Maguire, Ghost).
It was the era of the Disney renaissance (Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King), special-effects breakthroughs (Toy Story, Total Recall, The Matrix), and where the most popular movies of the year could reasonably expect a Best Picture statue come next February (Unforgiven, Titanic, Dances With Wolves). A scintillating ’90s blockbuster can transport us to that moment before cinematic universes, before CGI overload, and before ubiquitous cell phones and Internet; today, Lloyd Christmas can just DM Mary Samsonite and say “Hey, I have your briefcase :)” if he weren’t still illiterate.
Now, relive the rush of the decade without the searing sting of slap bracelets, or shotgunning Fruitopia, with our guide to every ’90s blockbuster ranked by Tomatometer!
Critics Consensus: Lovely to look at but about as intelligent as the asteroid that serves as the movie's antagonist, Armageddon slickly sums up the cinematic legacies of producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Michael Bay.
Synopsis: When an asteroid threatens to collide with Earth, NASA honcho Dan Truman (Billy Bob Thornton) determines the only way to... [More]
Critics Consensus:Doctor Dolittle finds some mirth in the novelty of wisecracking critters, but this family feature's treacly tone is made queasy by a reliance on scatological gags that undercut the intended warmth.
Synopsis: After a fender bender, Dr. John Dolittle (Eddie Murphy) gets back his childhood ability to converse with animals. But the... [More]
Critics Consensus:The Lost World demonstrates how far CG effects have come in the four years since Jurassic Park; unfortunately, it also proves how difficult it can be to put together a truly compelling sequel.
Synopsis: John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) summons chaos theorist Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) to his home with some startling information -- while... [More]
Critics Consensus: Julia Roberts and Denzel Washington are a compelling team in the overlong Pelican Brief, a pulpy thriller that doesn't quite justify the intellectual remove of Alan J. Pakula's direction.
Synopsis: Taut thriller about a young law student whose legal brief about the assassination of two Supreme Court justices causes her... [More]
Critics Consensus:Die Hard with a Vengeance benefits from Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson's barbed interplay, but clatters to a bombastic finish in a vain effort to cover for an overall lack of fresh ideas.
Synopsis: Detective John McClane (Bruce Willis) is now divorced, alcoholic and jobless after getting fired for his reckless behavior and bad... [More]
Critics Consensus: Despite lacking some of the book's subtler shadings, and suffering from some clumsy casting, Interview with a Vampire benefits from Neil Jordan's atmospheric direction and a surfeit of gothic thrills.
Synopsis: Born as an 18th-century lord, Louis is now a bicentennial vampire, telling his story to an eager biographer. Suicidal after... [More]
Critics Consensus:Contact elucidates stirring scientific concepts and theological inquiry at the expense of satisfying storytelling, making for a brainy blockbuster that engages with its ideas, if not its characters.
Synopsis: In this Zemeckis-directed adaptation of the Carl Sagan novel, Dr. Ellie Arroway (Jodie Foster) races to interpret a possible message... [More]
Critics Consensus: It lacks the fresh thrills of its predecessor, but Die Hard 2 still works as an over-the-top -- and reasonably taut -- big-budget sequel, with plenty of set pieces to paper over the plot deficiencies.
Synopsis: A year after his heroics in L.A, detective John McClane (Bruce Willis) is mixed up in another terrorist plot, this... [More]
Critics Consensus: Disney's take on the Victor Hugo classic is dramatically uneven, but its strong visuals, dark themes, and message of tolerance make for a more-sophisticated-than-average children's film.
Synopsis: An animated Disney adventure follows disfigured Quasimodo (Tom Hulce), the bell-ringer of Notre Dame Cathedral, who bides his time locked... [More]
Critics Consensus: If it doesn't reach the heights of director James Cameron's and star Arnold Schwarzenegger's previous collaborations, True Lies still packs enough action and humor into its sometimes absurd plot to entertain.
Synopsis: Secretly a spy but thought by his family to be a dull salesman, Harry Tasker (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is tracking down... [More]
Critics Consensus: Director Tim Burton's dark, brooding atmosphere, Michael Keaton's work as the tormented hero, and the flawless casting of Danny DeVito as The Penguin and Christopher Walken as, well, Christopher Walken make the sequel better than the first.
Synopsis: The monstrous Penguin (Danny DeVito), who lives in the sewers beneath Gotham, joins up with wicked shock-headed businessman Max Shreck... [More]
Critics Consensus: Anchored by dazzling performances from Tom Cruise, Cuba Gooding Jr., and Renée Zellweger, as well as Cameron Crowe's tender direction, Jerry Maguire meshes romance and sports with panache.
Synopsis: When slick sports agent Jerry Maguire (Tom Cruise) has a crisis of conscience, he pens a heartfelt company-wide memo that... [More]
Critics Consensus: An old-fashioned courtroom drama with a contemporary edge, A Few Good Men succeeds on the strength of its stars, with Tom Cruise, Demi Moore, and especially Jack Nicholson delivering powerful performances that more than compensate for the predictable plot.
Synopsis: Lt. Daniel Kaffee (Tom Cruise) is a military lawyer defending two U.S. Marines charged with killing a fellow Marine at... [More]
Critics Consensus:Dances with Wolves suffers from a simplistic view of the culture it attempts to honor, but the end result remains a stirring western whose noble intentions are often matched by its epic grandeur.
Synopsis: A Civil War soldier develops a relationship with a band of Lakota Indians. Attracted by the simplicity of their lifestyle,... [More]
Critics Consensus: Full of creepy campfire scares, mock-doc The Blair Witch Project keeps audiences in the dark about its titular villain, proving once more that imagination can be as scary as anything onscreen.
Synopsis: Found video footage tells the tale of three film students (Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard, Michael C. Williams) who've traveled to... [More]
Critics Consensus: T2 features thrilling action sequences and eye-popping visual effects, but what takes this sci-fi/ action landmark to the next level is the depth of the human (and cyborg) characters.
Synopsis: In this sequel set eleven years after "The Terminator," young John Connor (Edward Furlong), the key to civilization's victory over... [More]
Critics Consensus: A funny, tender, and thought-provoking film, The Truman Show is all the more noteworthy for its remarkably prescient vision of runaway celebrity culture and a nation with an insatiable thirst for the private details of ordinary lives.
Synopsis: He doesn't know it, but everything in Truman Burbank's (Jim Carrey) life is part of a massive TV set. Executive... [More]
Critics Consensus: A straightforward thriller of the highest order, In the Line of Fire benefits from Wolfgang Peterson's taut direction and charismatic performances from Clint Eastwood and John Malkovich.
Synopsis: A Secret Service agent is taunted by calls from a would-be killer who has detailed information about the agent -... [More]
Critics Consensus: Director Jonathan Demme's smart, taut thriller teeters on the edge between psychological study and all-out horror, and benefits greatly from stellar performances by Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster.
Synopsis: Jodie Foster stars as Clarice Starling, a top student at the FBI's training academy. Jack Crawford (Scott Glenn) wants Clarice... [More]
Critics Consensus: As both director and star, Clint Eastwood strips away decades of Hollywood varnish applied to the Wild West, and emerges with a series of harshly eloquent statements about the nature of violence.
Synopsis: When prostitute Delilah Fitzgerald (Anna Thomson) is disfigured by a pair of cowboys in Big Whiskey, Wyoming, her fellow brothel... [More]
Critics Consensus: It follows a predictable narrative arc, but Good Will Hunting adds enough quirks to the journey -- and is loaded with enough powerful performances -- that it remains an entertaining, emotionally rich drama.
Synopsis: Will Hunting (Matt Damon) has a genius-level IQ but chooses to work as a janitor at MIT. When he solves... [More]
Critics Consensus: The rare sequel that arguably improves on its predecessor, Toy Story 2 uses inventive storytelling, gorgeous animation, and a talented cast to deliver another rich moviegoing experience for all ages.
Synopsis: Woody (Tom Hanks) is stolen from his home by toy dealer Al McWhiggin (Wayne Knight), leaving Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen)... [More]
(Photo by Warner Bros./courtesy Everett Collection)
All Harrison Ford Movies Ranked by Tomatometer
Unless you had tremedous recall of all the bit roles in American Grafitti or The Conversation, the first time the world at large set their eyes on Harrison Ford was in the little indie that could: Star Wars. With no previous acting reference points for most audiences, Ford WAS Han Solo, the glumly debonair and seductive space rogue who gave a dash of modern cynicism to Star Wars’ populist mysticism, singing aliens, and laser swords.
Ford returned for The Empire Strikes Back, jumpstarting the best run of movies anybody had in the ’80s. None of his films this decade were Rotten, and nine of them are Certified Fresh — utter classics and masterpieces like Blade Runner, Return of the Jedi, and all three Indiana Jones movies. 1985’s Witness, in which Ford plays a steely detective protecting an Amish boy who’s seen a murder, garnered him his only Best Actor Academy Award nomination.
Ford’s ’90s highlights include The Fugitive (another box office smash and a Best Picture nominee), taking on the CIA analyst Jack Ryan role created by Tom Clancy in Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger, and kicking off unruly passengers as the freaking President of the United States of America in Air Force One.
After a 19-year absence from the big screen, he, Steven Spielberg, and George Lucas brought Indy back for The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. The movie would go on to be designated Certified Fresh by critics, though it’s no secret critical and audience appreciation for the movie remains weak. A fifth Indiana Jones is currently in early pre-production.
Since them, Ford has gamely returned to the roles that made him famous: Han in Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens and Deckard in Blade Runner 2049. Both movies would also be Certified Fresh, the first time Ford would have two consecutive CF films since the ’80s. And now we’re taking a look back we rank all Harrison Ford movies by Tomatometer!
Critics Consensus: Like its predecessors, Expendables 3 offers a modicum of all-star thrills for old-school action thriller aficionados -- but given all the talent assembled, it should have been a lot more fun.
Synopsis: Years ago, Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) co-founded the Expendables with Conrad Stonebanks (Mel Gibson). After Stonebanks became an arms dealer,... [More]
Critics Consensus: Though the plot elements are certainly familiar, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull still delivers the thrills and Harrison Ford's return in the title role is more than welcome.
Synopsis: It's the height of the Cold War, and famous archaeologist Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford), returning from his latest adventure, finds... [More]
Critics Consensus: It may be too "dark" for some, but Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom remains an ingenious adventure spectacle that showcases one of Hollywood's finest filmmaking teams in vintage form.
Synopsis: The second of the Lucas/Spielberg Indiana Jones epics is set a year or so before the events in Raiders of... [More]
Critics Consensus: Thanks to an outstanding script, focused direction by Alan Pakula, and a riveting performance from Harrison Ford, Presumed Innocent is the kind of effective courtroom thriller most others aspire to be.
Synopsis: Prosecuting attorney Raymond Horgan (Brian Dennehy) assigns his chief deputy, the taciturn Rusty Sabitch (Harrison Ford), to investigate the rape... [More]
Critics Consensus: Lighter and more comedic than its predecessor, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade returns the series to the brisk serial adventure of Raiders, while adding a dynamite double act between Harrison Ford and Sean Connery.
Synopsis: An art collector appeals to Jones to embark on a search for the Holy Grail. He learns that another archaeologist... [More]
Critics Consensus: Misunderstood when it first hit theaters, the influence of Ridley Scott's mysterious, neo-noir Blade Runner has deepened with time. A visually remarkable, achingly human sci-fi masterpiece.
Synopsis: Deckard (Harrison Ford) is forced by the police Boss (M. Emmet Walsh) to continue his old job as Replicant Hunter.... [More]
Over the last 40 years or so, Harrison Ford has amassed a lifetime gross in the billions – and he’s done it while kicking bad-guy tail as some of the most memorable cinematic heroes in history, including Han Solo, Indiana Jones, and Jack Ryan. He’s made a whole bunch of great movies along the way, too – and now that one of the best in the bunch is getting a long-awaited sequel with Blade Runner 2049, we thought this would be the perfect time to take a look back at some of the critical highlights from his illustrious filmography. It’s time for Total Recall!
Use the up and down arrows to rank the movies, or click here to see them ranked by Tomatometer!
Hart and Johnson: The world’s two unlikeliest megastars join forces this week for Central Intelligence, playing former high school classmates who reunite and get embroiled in international action courtesy of the CIA. Since its inception in 1947, Hollywood has committed plenty of celluloid around the agency’s foundation of espionage and top-secret missions, inspiring this week’s gallery: the best and worst CIA agents in movie history.
Han Solo. Indiana Jones. Rick Deckard. Jack Ryan. Harrison Ford has carved himself a niche by excelling in roles as the handsome rascal, the man on the run, the humble protector of American ideals. Few other Hollywood stars have launched as many franchises as Ford and soon, at the sprightly age of 65, he’ll return to one of the most iconic roles of his career: the fedora-wearing, bullwhip-cracking, dashing archaeologist Dr. Henry “Indiana” Jones.
Here, we count down Harrison Ford’s best-reviewed films outside of the Indiana Jones franchise and the memorable characters that he played in each celebrated film. And while he had small roles in such lauded films as American Graffiti (97%), The Conversation (98%), and Apocalypse Now (98%), we’re focusing here on his starring roles – the characters that helped make Ford one of Hollywood’s most enduring leading men. And don’t forget to check out Harrison Ford’s full celebrity profile.
Although he took over the role of Jack Ryan from Alec Baldwin, who portrayed the history professor-turned-CIA agent in 1990’s The Hunt for Red October, Ford assumed the character for two sequels — and arguably stole the character from Baldwin in the process. In Patriot Games, the newly retired Ryan thwarts an IRA attack while in London, unwittingly provoking the…ire of an Irish terrorist.
Best quote: Jack Ryan to IRA member Paddy O’Neil (Richard Harris), after his family has been attacked: “I don’t give a s— whether you did it or not, and neither will anyone else. But I will put such a stranglehold on your gun money that you’ll be out on the street throwing rocks. I will f—ing destroy you. I will make it my mission in life.”
9. President James Marshall in Air Force One Tomatometer: 78%
Introducing Hollywood to Kazahkstan long before Borat was unleashed on the world, Wolfgang Petersen’s airborne thriller pitted hijackers from the former Soviet republic against the President of the United States. Unfortunately for those hijackers (and for one turncoat Cabinet member), that President is Harrison Ford, and he’s got an Executive Order or two to deliver — with his fists!
Best quote: Pushing Egor Korshunov (Gary Oldman) to his death from Air Force One: “Get off my plane!”
8. Jack Ryan
in Clear and Present Danger Tomatometer: 80%
Ford reunited with director Philip Noyce two years after Patriot Games to resume the character of Jack Ryan, who is now moving up in the CIA. However, moving up means becoming embroiled in shady dealings between the U.S. government, Cuban drug cartels, and some of his fellow agents; when blood is shed on both sides of an unsanctioned black ops mission, Ryan puts ambition aside to blow the whistle on the President’s dirty deeds.
Best quote: Jack Ryan to President Bennett (Donald Moffat), who’s just proposed he take part in a government cover-up and sully his dead mentor’s name — the “Potomac two-step”: “I’m sorry, Mr. President. I don’t dance.”
Even in his lighter films, Ford played it straight. As Jack Trainer, the male object of desire in Mike Nichols’ corporate climbing romantic comedy, Ford is a man stuck between two women: Sigourney Weaver’s power broker, and Melanie Griffiths’ working class beauty. With a roguish charm, he fends off Katharine’s advances and succumbs to Tess as every leading man should: by deferring to her brilliance.
Jack Trainer: “I’ve been looking for you.”
Tess McGill: “Why, do you know me?”
Jack Trainer: “No, but I promised myself that when I saw you, I would get to know you.”
Prosecutor Rusty Sabich has gotten beyond a recent affair with a co-worker (Greta Scacchi) — until she winds up dead. Investigating her murder leads to a whole mess of city-level politics and scandal… but the real shock is waiting at home in a final act twist, courtesy of novelist Scott Turow and conspiracy flick director Alan J. Pakula.
Best quote: “I’m going to need a lawyer, a very, very good lawyer, an expensive lawyer.”
In the thick of his most prolific and successful period, Ford took on the role of Dr. Richard Kimble, a surgeon wrongfully accused of killing his wife. On the lam from a U.S. Marshall (the Oscar-winning Tommy Lee Jones), he follows the trail of a mysterious one-armed man in order to prove his innocence — and makes us believe the good doctor is as resourceful, canny, and elusive as MacGyver himself.
Best quote: “It wasn’t me. It was the one-armed man.”
How do you describe the innate coolness of Han Solo? The loner space cowboy with a Wookie for a BFF epitomized an unruffled, rascally spirit that came to define Ford”s most memorable youthful roles. Sparring with Jabba the Hutt (and with his own conscience), Han ditches the smuggler’s life to join Luke and Leia in the rebel cause in Episode IV — and becomes one of the most-worshipped heroes in pop culture history.
Best quote: “Traveling through hyperspace ain’t like dusting crops, boy!”
Ford’s lone Oscar nomination came thanks to this 1985 undercover cop-in-Amish-land thriller. Go figure. As police Captain John Book — who’s not above laying into a few punk kids on the behalf of the Pennsylvania Dutch — Ford is many things: brutish, protective, handy with a hammer. Plus, his romance with Kelly McGillis is the right kind of wrong.
Best quote: Eli Lapp, on Book’s impending smackdown of local toughs: “It’s not our way.”
John Book: “It’s my way.”
Han Solo, one of Ford’s major career-defining roles, had plenty of his own character-defining moments in Episode V. Three years after helping the Alliance destroy the Death Star, Han is getting antsy — and plans to take off on his own again. But there’s that pesky problem of his… increasing loyalty to the cause and to his friend, Luke Skywalker, who he saves from freezing to death only to get trapped in a double-cross by Lando Calrissian. All of which leads to two of Han Solo’s most memorable achievements: heating things up with Princess Leia, then getting frozen in a chunk of carbonite.
Best quote: Princess Leia: “I love you.” Han Solo: “I know.”
In the year 2019, ex-cop Rick Deckard (Ford) is summoned out of retirement to hunt and kill a group of rogue “replicants” — bioengineered androids who’ve proven unstable and deadly — and so begins one of Harrison Ford’s most celebrated, if decidedly darker, roles. He filmed Blade Runner directly after playing Han Solo in The Empire Strikes Back and Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark, and resumed those characters immediately after, in Return of the Jedi and Temple of Doom. But it was a smart departure for Ford — and, decades later, earned him enduring cult status.
Best quote: “All he’d wanted were the same answers the rest of us want. Where did I come from? Where am I going? How long have I got? All I could do was sit there and watch him die.”
It looks like Paramount really is planning a Jack Ryan revival — and they’re looking to Sam Raimi to help them make it happen.
Variety reports that the studio is “in negotiations” with Raimi to head up what reads like an ambitious plan to reinvigorate the flagging film fortunes of Tom Clancy‘s iconic CIA analyst-turned-global hero. According to the article, Raimi has agreed to direct “a series” of Ryan films, to be produced by Lorenzo di Bonaventura in association with Josh Donen, Raimi’s partner in Buckaroo Entertainment. From the article:
The intention is to generate several films Raimi would develop and direct, featuring Ryan at a younger, more formative point in his career than previously depicted. One invention the studio is considering is to set the film in the present, with the action triggered by a global threat.
The next step, per Variety, is for Paramount to find a writer for the first film’s script while Raimi completes Drag Me to Hell. The first of the new Jack Ryan adventures is being targeted for a summer 2010 release.
Where all those films might wind up differing from the Raimi-directed installments, apparently, is their source material. According to Variety‘s report, Clancy is finishing a new Jack Ryan novel — and since Paramount owns the film rights to the character, the studio has first look — but “the studio hasn’t read it and so hasn’t decided if it will use the new book or come up with an original story.”
Romantics swooned over him in The Notebook, and critics loved his turn as the doll-toting lead character in last year’s Lars and the Real Girl — and if the latest rumors are correct, Ryan Gosling could soon be adding “action hero” to his résumé.
According to Moviehole, Gosling “might be” Paramount’s choice to take over the central role in the studio’s next attempt to resurrect the studio’s dormant Jack Ryan franchise. The fictional historian/CIA agent/President, created by Tom Clancy for 1984’s The Hunt for Red October, has been the focus of multiple Clancy novels, four of which — Red October, Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger, and The Sum of All Fears — have been made into movies.
Turnover in the role is nothing new — Ryan has been played by Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford, and Ben Affleck — and a new film in the series has been rumored since 2006, when Moviehole reported that Paramount was interested in filming a script (now rumored to be titled By Any Means Necessary) not based on any of Clancy’s books.
Even if he isn’t the new Jack Ryan, however, Gosling is still lining up work: Variety reports that he’s signed on to star in Andrew Jarecki‘s feature directing debut, All Good Things. The movie, described as a “period love story/murder mystery,” will be filmed from a script by Jarecki, Marcus Hinchey, and Marc Smerling. According to Variety, Kirsten Dunst is in negotiations to star opposite Gosling. From the article:
Set in the 1980s, story centers on the scion of a New York real estate dynasty (Gosling) who falls for a beautiful girl from the wrong side of the tracks (Dunst). But the fairy tale ends when the girl disappears. As a down-and-out detective stumbles on info that may lead to the truth, the political stakes get higher and people close to the case end up dead.