HomeMoviesQuarterly Look-Back: The Top 10 Best (and The Worst) Films of 1992

Quarterly Look-Back: The Top 10 Best (and The Worst) Films of 1992

April 26, 1992. There was a riot on the streets, tell me where were you? Yes, Sublime got the date wrong, but 1992 was a hell of a year.

The Chicago Bulls won their second championship in as many years, Bill Clinton was nominated as the Democratic representative and The Mall of America opened just outside of Minneapolis, Minnesota. The films of 1992 can be seen as quintessential 1990s nostalgia, ranging from foul-mouthed gangsters to white men who are surprisingly good at basketball. We’re smack dab in the middle of the Disney Renaissance and the driest period for horror films the public had ever seen. After viewing 40 of the best, worst and most infamous films turning 30 this year (jeez, I’m old), my job here is to rank the Top 10 flicks, as well as the WORST FILM of the year. So, grab your POGS, hop in The Mirthmobile and join me on a magic carpet ride through 1992!

Author’s Note: These are just my opinions. Friendly and respectable discourse is always welcome. Also, minor spoilers, of course.

For Tommy’s Full 1982 List check out his Letterboxd.

Song to Blast: Good Day by Ice Cube (The Predator)

10. Candyman
Starring: Virginia Madsen, Tony Todd, Xander Berkeley, Kasi Lemmons, Vanessa Williams, Ted Raimi
Directed by: Bernard Rose
Where to Watch: Apple TV, Prime Video, YouTube

Do you dare say his name five times? The early 1990s are known for being a barren wasteland for horror films, but that doesn’t mean some gems didn’t sneak through the cracks. Enter Bernard Rose’s Candyman (based off Clive Barker’s short story “The Forbidden”), a horrific urban legend of a black man murdered for daring to love a white woman. A complex tale of race, love, sex and gender takes center stage, crafting a narrative filled with the deep desire of knowledge so many of us posses. To speak highly of Tony Todd in this film is common; the man is amazing and deserves every bit of praise he has received. To speak highly of the film is nearly impossible to convey in just one paragraph. Simply put, Candyman is a socio-political epic disguised as a horror film and wrapped up in a neat, 90-minute package.

9. Basic Instinct
Starring: Michael Douglas, Sharon Stone, George Dzundza
Directed by: Paul Verhoeven
Where to Watch: Apple TV, Prime Video

Sex sells, especially coming out of the 1980s into the more sleek and sterile 1990s. Murder, of course, has always held intrigue amongst viewers. When you marry the two, one of the best exotic thrillers is born in Basic Instinct. The ’90s were filled with neo-noir thrillers, spearheaded by this expertly crafted mystery. A dead rockstar, a nymphomaniac and dour detective sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, but the entire production keeps you guessing from beginning to end. The interrogation scene is one of legend (and parodied amazingly for WWE’s WrestleMania 21), though controversy with the great Sharon Stone and Paul Verhoven followed, amongst other human rights issues. Personally, I like to place myself in the time the film was created and not look at them through a modern lens, so watch this film at your own risk.

8. Batman Returns
Starring: Michael Keaton, Michelle Pfeiffer, Danny DeVito, Christopher Walken, Michael Gough, Pat Hingle
Directed by: Tim Burton
Where to Watch: HBO Max, Prime Video, Apple TV, YouTube

Was there anyone more imaginative director the late ’80s and early ’90s than Tim Burton? The man made Batman work on the big screen and, as you can see by this ranking, did it more than once. Batman Returns is sleeker, scarier and darker. Catwoman and The Penguin were staples of prior television shows and comics but never as sexy and grotesque as they were portrayed here (it’s up to you to decide who occupies which). Michelle Pfieffer and Danny DeVito play perfect shades of gray to the ironic white knight of Batman (Michael Keaton, returning) and the dark and conniving Max Schreck (Christopher Walken) in one of the best sequels of all time.

7. A League of Their Own
Starring: Geena Davis, Lori Petty, Tom Hanks, Madonna, Rosie O’Donnell
Directed by: Penny Marshall
Where to Watch: Prime Video, Apple TV, YouTube

Some may look at A League of Their Own as a basic comedy movie about a women’s baseball league succeeding during World War II. On the surface, yes, that can describe the film. What most people who have never seen this flick don’t realize is that it encompasses a wide variety of emotions and gender politics that may be commonplace today (kinda, he says sarcastically), let alone the 1990s (and worse yet, the 1940s). Geena Davis and Lori Petty, playing sisters Dottie and Kit, generate enough love and animosity towards each other, keeping a sisterly rivalry going for the entire two-hour runtime. Madonna and Rosie O’Donnell pack the laughs and the ending, showing the real Hall of Fame for the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League is sure to make the most hardened person tear up.

6. Bram Stoker’s Dracula
Starring: Gary Oldman, Winona Ryder, Anthony Hopkins, Keanu Reeves, Cary Elwes, Richard E. Grant
Directed by: Francis Ford Coppola
Where to Watch: Paramount. Prime Video, Apple TV, YouTube

It is evident that 1992 was a fantastic year for film because we are entering top tier perfect films at number six. Dracula from 1931 (starring Bela Lugosi) might be the most well known visual story of the titular vampire, but I’m here to say, IT SHOULD BE THIS ONE! Francis Ford Coppola expertly adapts his source material into a sleek and scary adventure, with more twists and turns than a water slide. Gary Oldman proves once again that he is the greatest living actor, embodying many different forms of Dracula/Vlad the Impaler. Anthony Hopkins continues to define the word “thespian” as Van Helsing, the well-spoken vampire hunter second only to Buffy. Again, why isn’t this movie talked about more? Maybe it’s Keanu’s accent? Admittedly, it’s not great, but he was beginning to stretch his legs as an … actor. Much like Batman Returns, this film is dark, black upon black, ready to satiate fans of both horror and drama.

5. Home Alone 2: Lost in New York
Starring: Macaulay Culkin, Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern, Catherine O’Hara, John Heard, Tim Curry, Rob Schneider
Directed by: Chris Columbus
Where to Watch: Disney+, Prime Video, Apple TV, YouTube

There’s something to be said about an entire generation of kids (and thus, their parents) who were okay watching a child murder adults for an entire third act climax. Yet, here we are, thirty years later, still laughing at Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin) bashing Harry (Joe Pesci) and Marv’s (Daniel Stern) heads in with anything he can find laying around…an abandoned building … in New York City. Jeez, the McCallister’s really are HORRIBLE parents. You lose this kid twice, just for our entertainment? Guys, we thank you, but maybe it’s time to, ya know, parent? Now that I’ve let off some steam, Lost in New York is an incredibly fun sequel to Home Alone, with just as many laughs and a bigger playground. One can almost argue it’s more fun, with iconic set pieces such as Duncan’s Toy Chest and the Plaza Hotel, the latter gifting most kids their first interaction with Tim Curry. Merry Christmas, ya filthy animals!

4. Wayne’s World
Starring: Mike Myers, Dana Carvey, Tia Carrere, Rob Lowe, Lara Flynn Boyle, Brian Doyle-Murphy
Directed by: Penelope Spheeris
Where to Watch: Prime Video, Apple TV, YouTube

We’ve officially entered Party Time. Excellent. *Guitar Solo, Initiated* Based off the Saturday Night Live sketch of the same name, Wayne’s World is an easy watch, full of laughs, cameos and quotable lines that defined a generation. It’s hard to remember a time before Mike Myers and Dana Carvey wore out their welcomes (I’m talking to you Cat in the Hat and Master of Disguise), but they ruled the world back then. A simple plot about two local television personalities attempting to save a fresh rockstar (Tia Carrere) from an “eeeevvviiilll” businessman (Rob Lowe), it’s easy to say Wayne’s World is light on plot. But you’ve seen it. You know the score. What scene shall I reference? The donut shop pastry murder? How about the advertisement bonanza? Who could forget Garth’s drum solo or Wayne’s epic monologue, ending with there being no film in these cameras! Spoiler … there was definitely film in those cameras. Just talking about this film is making me laugh. Excuse me, while I go put it on in the background. SHA-WING!

3. The Muppet Christmas Carol
Starring: Michael Caine, Frank Oz, Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Gonzo, The Rest of the Muppets
Directed by: Brian Henson
Where to Watch: Disney+, Prime Video, Apple TV, YouTube

Just to be clear, there has never been a bad Muppets movie. *Sets fire to Muppets Most Wanted*. Following Charles Dickens’ novella of A Christmas Carol almost to the tee, The Muppets Christmas Carol is a beautiful, family friendly story of the most miserable man on the planet, Ebenezer Scrooge (Michael Caine). How the team behind this film was able to craft a century old story into something so heartfelt is nothing short of extraordinary, turning it into this writer’s favorite version of the story. Guys, seriously, Sir Michael Caine acts solo against a bunch of Muppets. Kermit the Frog’s Bob Cratchit is, astonishingly, the most real and saccharine version of the character, sure to pull on anyone’s heartstrings. The usual Muppet craziness is still present, but reeled in to tell this important story. Watch it, and bring the tissues.

2. Reservoir Dogs
Starring: Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Chris Penn, Steve Buscemi, Lawrence Tierney, Edward Bunker, Quentin Tarantino
Directed by: Quentin Tarantino
Where to Watch: HBO Max, Prime Video, Apple TV, YouTube

Mr. Brown. Mr. White. Mr. Blonde. Mr. Blue. Mr. Orange. And Mr. Pink. A deadly combination of the world’s worst (best?) criminals, hired by Joe Cabot to execute the diamond heist of the century. What could possibly go wrong? Unfortunately, everything, as the group has been infiltrated by an undercover cop in Tim Roth’s Orange.

Quentin Tarantino’s first foray into feature film holds nothing back, as the filmmaker executes prototypes of his filmmaking techniques mastered in later films such as Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill. Fast paced dialogue mixed with jumbled editing (it’s a good thing) delivers a tour-de-force of a film. The most brilliant aspect is, you never see the diamond heist. Everything takes place either before or after, giving you a reason to actually care for these characters, wondering if they can escape the law and themselves. Some truly choice dialogue and character development, along with one of the most brutal torture scenes in cinema history, craft a perfect movie that the filmmaker would hitch his wagon to for thirty years. What could possibly be better than that?

1. Aladdin
Starring: Scott Weinger, Robin Williams, Linda Larkin, Jonathan Freeman, Gilbert Godfried
Directed by: Ron Clements and John Musker
Where to Watch: Disney+, Prime Video, Apple TV, YouTube

Here it is- the number one film of 1992, one that opened up an entire generation of children to a whole new world of storytelling, adventure and comedy. Aladdin, the fourth film in what is now known as the Disney Renaissance (1989-1999), is one of a kind. Though gender norms have been all but demolished in 2022, this was one of the first Disney films that boys could be attracted to. Adventure, excitement, a street rat DOES crave these things. What is there not to love here? It’s got the coolest main character, a princess who can, GASP, think for herself, a diabolical villain, great comic relief and some of the best animation the 90s had to offer. There’s also this guy, don’t know if you’ve heard of him, Robin Williams, at the very tippy top of his game, a tour de force of hilarity, giving millennials quotes that could carry on an entire conversation. Aladdin is perfect, so much fun that has lived on to later generations like the Golden Era of Disney films have.

Honorable Mentions:

White Men Can’t Jump, My Cousin Vinny, The Mighty Ducks, Tiny Toon Adventures: How I Spent My Summer Vacation, Malcolm X, Unforgiven

Not Listed

Braindead (Released Wide in 1993)

Army of Darkness (Released Wide in 1993)

Worst Film of 1992

The Lawnmower Man
Starring: Jeff Fahey, Pierce Brosnan, Jenny Wright
Directed by: Brett Leonard
Where to Watch: HBO Max, Prime Video, Apple TV, YouTube

Stephen King adaptations are the definition of the term “mixed bag”. Some are great, some are forgettable and some are terrible. Then, there’s The Lawnmower Man. Based on the short story from “Night Shift,” The Lawnmower Man is already a hard sell, as a man notices his lawn is being tended to by a naked man who eats his grass and kills those who under-appreciate his art. This film adaptation, however, is a Tron rip-off, showcasing the importance of tricking the mentally handicapped into cruel virtual reality experiments. The story is bad, the directing is bad, and, ya know what, the acting, CGI and entire production aren’t much better. The original story written by King is weird but at least that would have given us a more captivating idea than whatever the Hell we received here.


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