With each passing year, knowing what to see becomes an increasingly daunting prospect. Not only are theaters flooded with mediocre offerings, but excellent films are bucking the trend and being released straight to Netflix and Cable On Demand. However it happened, the five films listed below came and went without their proper due. The late ’90s were an incredible time for movies, with a lot of soon-to-be heavyweight directors and actors cutting their chops in smaller, more eclectic films. If you haven’t seen any or all of these titles, do yourself the favor and get on it. Also, I’d love to know what movies you’d add to my list so tell me in the comments.
5. The Beach
You’d think a collaboration between a thrice Best Actor Oscar nominee and a Best Director winner would be better known. Instead, Danny Boyle’s The Beach is in some ways as hidden as its subject matter. Based on a riveting novel by Alex Garland, the film follows Richard (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his life with a secluded island community off the coast of Thailand.
What begins as an idyllic escape from the grind of the real world quickly devolves into something far more ominous. The Beach is a wise meditation on the cult of travel and the rise of Generation Y into adulthood. Look out for one especially amazing scene in which a somewhat delusional Richard imagines his life is a videogame.
You know your one friend who’s obsessed with poker? S/he spends all their time entering online tournaments and playing five hands at once? That friend has seen Rounders. Perhaps the best poker movie of all-time, Rounders features Matt Damon as a former player compelled to return to the tables to help his f*ck-up friend Ed Norton repay a loan shark.
Norton’s turn as Worm is on par with his work in more recognized classics like American History X and Fight Club. He’s a conniving, manipulating slimeball that oozes false sincerity. The scenes of them conning backroom rich folk are classic. Throw John Malkovich and John Tuturro in the cast and let the tension start to build to its epic, Oreo cookie climax.
Shot in Frank Lloyd Wright’s timeless yet futuristic Civic Center Building (located in my hometown of Marin), Gattaca is a haunting look at the cost of achieving your dreams. Jude Law delivers a breakout performance as a crippled swimmer who permits Ethan Hawke to assume his identity so that he may realize his wish to one day go into space.
Hawke’s Vincent Freeman is the victim of a newly established caste system in which one’s DNA is analyzed at birth and the results define your future. Written and directed by Truman Show’s Andrew Nicchol, Gattaca accomplishes the rarest feat a science-fiction film can achieve: to transcend its genre and function as both a caution for the future and a timeless human interest saga.