HomeMoviesQuarterly Look-Back: The Top 10 Best (and The Worst) Films of 1993

Quarterly Look-Back: The Top 10 Best (and The Worst) Films of 1993


The Year was 1993. Ty Warner launched the very first set of Beanie Babies, a compound in Waco, Texas was seized and Bill Clinton was sworn into office as The President of the United States. Grunge was still running high, Nickelodeon was airing quality cartoon programming and ’90s hip-hop culture was becoming the most prevalent fashion choice amongst late Gen-X/early millennial youths. Quality films were also released that year, ranging from badass westerns to badass baseball movies to a badass Batman flick. Steven Spielberg decided to reward us with TWO major motion pictures and the world fell in love with celebrating Halloween and Christmas at the same time. I watched 83 of the best, worst and most notorious films of 1993. 

So grab your copy of Nirvana’s In Utero, hop in your dinosaur branded Jeep and lace up your PF Flyers and welcome to 1993! (You best have read that like Richard Attenborough). 

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

Full List on Letterboxd: https://letterboxd.com/popculturetommy/list/1993/ 

Song to Blast: All Apologies by Nirvana (In Utero)

10. Tombstone

Starring: Kurt Russell, Val Kilmer, Sam Elliott, Bill Paxton, Powers Boothe, Michael Biehn, Charlton Heston, Dana Delany

Directed by: George P. Cosmatos

Where to Watch: Paramount+ (Sub), Tubi (Ads), Most Rental Platforms

Let’s just get this out of the way quickly: historical accuracy is not this, nor many other great films’, bread and butter. However, cinematic interpretations on historic events and people can still be entertaining. Enter Tombstone, one of the absolute best westerns ever created for consumption. I don’t subscribe to the term “dude movie”, but an argument can be made that this film is a top tier dude flick, bringing total carnage and masculinity to the big screen (in a good way). Tombstone is beautiful for a variety of reasons, from the gorgeous scope and cinematography to the top tier acting from Kurt Russell (this writer’s personal favorite actor) and a legendary performance from Val Kilmer. Tombstone is one of those movies that feels real while also being a spectacle, celebrating the fantasy of the Western and cinema at the same time. This film is my huckleberry.

9. The Sandlot

Starring: Tom Guiry, Mike Vitar, Patrick Renna, Brandon Quintin Adams, Dennis Leary, James Earl Jones, Marley Shelton

Directed by: David Mickey Evans

Where to Watch: Starz (Sub), Most Rental Platforms

Sometimes, a movie comes along that captures the hearts and minds of a generation so quickly, an instant classic is made. A film’s faults (subjective or not), can be excused because the movie makes someone feel as if they experienced the events along with the characters. You’ll be hard pressed to find a film that does this for millennials more than The Sandlot. Every line is a memorable quote, delivered with the right amount of teenage passion to worm itself into your brain. The kids feel real, from Benny the Jet to Squints to Yeah-Yeah, representing almost every kid that had the pleasure of watching it. Baseball is just the backdrop, connecting the bases around the diamond that is the greatest summer of these kids’ lives. It’s a movie that will live on from generation to generation…for-e-ver…for-e-ver…for-e-ver.

8. Addams Family Values

Starring: Anjelica Huston, Raúl Juliá, Christina Ricci, Christopher Llyod, Joan Cusack, Jimmy Workman, Carol Kane

Directed by: Barry Sonnenfeld

Where to Watch: Paramount+ (Subs), Most Rental Platforms 

Addams Family Values is a rare breed: an excellent sequel that manages to surpass the first. Writer Paul Rudnick and director Barry Sonnenfeld take the dark comedy of the first film and ramp it up to 11, reveling in its aura. One can never tire of the ways The Addams Family falls into their weird capers, but this film does so in such an interesting way with such interesting set pieces. The juxtaposition of goth girl Wednesday and a bright and bubbly summer camp is a sight to behold. Speaking of Wednesday, Christina Ricci is once again excellent here, the perfect monotone and brooding foil for her more “normal” contemporaries. Joan Cusack as Debbie is the wacky villain this film needs and leads Anjelica Huston and Raúl Juliá hold the film down like the pros they are. This film is under-appreciated, hilarious throughout and absolutely gorgeous to look at. It’s an absolute travesty a third was never made. RIP Raúl Juliá. 

7. True Romance

Starring: Christian Slater, Patricia Arquette, Michael Rapaport, Gary Oldman, Dennis Hopper, Brad Pitt, Christopher Walken, Samuel L. Jackson

Directed by: Tony Scott

Where to Watch: Most Rental Platforms

The official Letterboxd synopsis of True Romance reads, “Clarence marries hooker Alabama, steals cocaine from her pimp, and tries to sell it in Hollywood, while the owners of the coke try to reclaim it.” I have never read a more true but to-the-point description of a film that also happens to be incredible. True Romance is Quentin Tarantino’s first writing credit for something he didn’t direct and boy am I glad he didn’t get behind the helm. This film could have gone off the rails so quickly with Tarantino-isms (and it still kind of does), but seasoned director Tony Scott reels them in with precision and ease.

The word “cool” is said often in True Romance and that’s exactly what it is, a cool flick. A Joker and Harley Quinn origin story from another timeline, True Romance is dark, twisted, funny and horrifying. Let’s get this straight, Clarence (Slater) and Alabama (Arquette) are NOT relationship goals, but they gel together so well on screen, it’s impossible not to root for these two people, even if they are bad people, something Tarantino has always been good with. The two-hour runtime blazes by, so fast-paced and dangerous, you need to hold on for dear life. Brief and odd cameos that most would assume are lead roles (IYKYK) lead to some interesting plot points that thread all the way to the end. 

6. The Nightmare Before Christmas

Starring: Chris Sarandon, Catherine O’Hara, Danny Elfman

Directed by: Henry Selick

Where to Watch: Disney+ (Subs), Most Rental Platforms 

I’m not sure I can possibly say anything about The Nightmare Before Christmas that hasn’t been said by millions of people before me. From the twisted and dark mind of Tim Burton (back when his talent and creativity was still a force) and directed by Henry Selick, Nightmare is the sort of film that lives in the hearts and minds of millions. I don’t think I’m alone in saying that this film is THE most beautiful and well put together stop motion animation flicks ever. The way Selick and co. were able to match dialogue and vocals with dancing and theatricality is truly spectacular, even 30 years later.

Danny Elfman’s beautiful score and songs find themselves in Spotify rotations every October-December, kids and adults able to sing along on a whim. The merchandising that has come from said film is also a tour de force, especially back in the mid-aughts (thanks Hot Topic) and yet, all of that is due to the magical film Selick and Burton put in front of us. One man (or pumpkin king’s) quest to find meaning in life, looking past the same monotony he’s lived for thousands of years, embracing Christmas and all the wonder of the holiday by simply asking “What’s This?” 

5. Groundhog Day

Starring: Bill Murray, Andie MacDowell, Chris Elliott, Stephen Tobolowsky, Brian Doyle-Murray

Directed by: Harold Ramis

Where to Watch: Netflix (Sub), AMC+ (Sub), Most Rental Platforms 

Groundhog Day is the definition of a light, yet moving film. Moviegoers expect a variety of experiences while watching a film and the comedy is no different, especially when one can grow and change along with a character. Enter Bill Murray’s Phil Connors, a selfish and narcissistic weatherman covering a Groundhog Day event in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. Throughout the movie, Phil goes through a captivating and steady transformation that remains one of my personal favorites.

It is easy to miss the subtle changes that lead to his complete transformation as an individual yet, with an exceptional performance by Murray and a well-crafted screenplay, Phil’s character is challenged in countless ways that lead to his growth in the end. Not to be outdone, Andie MacDowell is the perfect foil for Murray, likeable and a necessity for Murray’s transformation. Aside from the change we can see in Connor and ourselves, Groundhog Day is plain and simply hilarious, with very few dull moments sprinkled in between the hundreds of thousands of days repeated. Many films have taken this concept and run with it, such as Happy Death Day, Palm Springs and Edge of Tomorrow, but the originality started here.

4. Dazed and Confused

Starring: Jason London, Joey Lauren Adams, Matthew McConaughey, Rory Cochran, Wiley Wiggins, Michelle Burke, Sasha Jenson, Parker Posey, Milla Jovovich, Marissa Ribisi, Ben Affleck

Directed by: Richard Linklater 

Where to Watch: Most Rental Platforms 

Ensemble films are easy to put together but difficult to navigate without someone or something getting lost in the shuffle. Thankfully, Richard Linklater’s magnum opus handles each character, plot point and set piece with care and precision. Why is this important, you might ask. Dazed and Confused has maintained a cult following for 30 years because of the way Linklater’s vision and his cast jump off the screen, entangling themselves in each viewer to consume. Every single person from Jason London’s Randall “Pink Floyd” to Wiley Wiggins’s Mitch Kramer has something to offer the viewer, a piece of themselves represented on screen.

While I did not grow up in the 1970s, I can see my parents in a ton of characters, passing their teenage angst and problems onto me. I’m sure I’m not the only one who can say that. Lest we forget the absolute banger needle drops consisting of Aerosmith, Alice Cooper, Kiss, Sweet, War, ZZ Top, amongst many other legends, paving the way for modern filmmakers to do the exact same (looking at you James Gunn). This film is endlessly quotable (Matthew McConaughey’s character could fill an entire book) and endlessly enjoyable for everyone. 

3. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm

Starring: Kevin Conroy, Dana Delany, Mark Hamill, Hart Bochner, Stacy Keach

Directed by: Eric Radomski

Where to Watch: Max (Sub), Most Rental Platforms 

Batman: The Animated Series burst onto the scene in 1992, crafting a legacy for The Dark Knight so beloved, it’s largely talked about to this day as the best interpretation of Batman. In 1993, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm opened in theaters, making no money and being largely dismissed. As is the case with many films, home video sales and rentals gave it a second life and it is now looked at as one of the best animated films of all time. In any other year, Phantasm would be an easy number one pick, but it’s up against two juggernauts.

This takes nothing away from the BTAS crew, who created an amazingly dark film based on the Caped Crusader. This is peak Batman, with the late great Kevin Conroy demanding the audience pay attention to each and every aspect. Batman/Bruce Wayne is at a loss to forget the love of his life while also protecting her (and many criminals) from the new masked Phantasm. Mixing it up with the new baddie is Mark Hamill’s interpretation of The Joker, laughing and killing his way through the film like the psychopath he is. Phantasm is a triumph of not only animation, but film in general. It is written, directed, animated, scored and acted so perfectly, you swear it’s jumping straight off the comic book page! 

2. Schindler’s List

Starring: Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Kingsley, Caroline Goodall

Directed by: Steven Spielberg

Where to Watch: Most Rental Platforms 

By 1993, Steven Spielberg had established himself as a powerhouse director. We’ve heard it all before: “he created the modern blockbuster”, “his films changed my life”, “he’s the greatest director of all time”, and so on and so forth. While many of his contemporaries saw a bit of a downswing in their careers, Spielberg came out swinging with his most personal story to date (The Fablemans notwithstanding). Raised in a Jewish household, Spielberg has spoken numerous times about the effect antisemitism and The Holocaust has had not only on his family, but the Jewish community as a whole.

Spielberg set out on a journey to basically make a documentary in narrative form about Oskar Schindler, the German industrialist who saved more than a thousand Jews from extermination during World War II. Whether it be the bleak atmosphere of Nazi-run Poland or the horrors of the Holocaust (I’m sure I don’t need to give a history lesson here), Schindler’s List is truly a harrowing masterpiece. The decision to shoot in black and white with a small smattering of color peppered in (the girl in the red coat being a standout) was what the kids call “chef’s kiss” and proves Spielberg still had an eye for innovation 20+ years into his career. He makes you feel this pain through his creative choices. If there was one fault with Schindler’s List, it would be that Spielberg had already created a masterpiece earlier that year. 

1. Jurassic Park

Starring: Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, Richard Attenborough, Samuel L. Jackson, Wayne Knight, Bob Peck, BD Wong, Joseph Mazzello, Ariana Richards

Directed by: Steven Spielberg 

Where to Watch: Peacock (Sub), Most Rental Platforms

How does a film made in 1993 have better special effects than a lot of modern films? That should be the absolute bar to beat and yet, whether it be digital or practical effects, Jurassic Park still holds up as a masterpiece of special effects filmmaking. Many people will and have debated whether this or Schindler’s List is the better Spielberg film and, to me, it’s comparing apples to oranges. One is a serious drama about the worst tragedy this world has ever seen, while the other is a fun romp through a doomed dinosaur theme park. So, what makes this better?

Aside from the effects I already gushed over, Jurassic Park has a sense of childlike wonder that only Spielberg can bring to the screen. We as kids put ourselves in the shoes of our child counterparts (Tim and Lex). We then grew up to wish we were as cool as Ian Malcom, as smart as Alan Grant or as down to earth as Ellie Sattler. Jurassic Park is also filled with everything you want from a blockbuster: you’re highly entertained throughout, laughing along when the time is appropriate, then scared out of your minds at the drop of a Tyrannosaurus Rex talon. If this film is mentioned to you, where does your mind go first? Possibly the kitchen scene with the raptors or the first time we see the T-Rex rampage. How about the more nuanced scenes with Mr. DNA or the talk of family between Ellie and Alan? Sexy Jeff Goldblum, maybe? This movie has lived in the hearts and minds of moviegoers from the moment it was released, and that isn’t changing anytime soon. I bet you’re even humming the theme song right now. 

Honorable Mentions

Robin Hood: Men in Tights, Braindead, Carlito’s Way, Matinee, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?, Last Action Hero, Philadelphia

Worst Film of Year: Coneheads

Starring: Dan Aykroyd, Jane Curtin, Michelle Burke, Sinbad, Phil Hartman

Directed by: Steve Barron

Where to Watch: Prime Video (Sub), Most Rental Platforms 

Some Saturday Night Live films are great (Wayne’s World, The Blues Brothers). Others are funny but forgotten (MacGruber, Superstar). Then there’s Coneheads, based off one of the dumbest ideas on one of the best eras of SNL. This film just isn’t funny. It’s ugly, it’s crass and it’s downright boring. 

Honorable Mentions

Super Mario Bros., Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday, Thunder in Paradise, Son in Law, The Beverly Hillbillies

Previous Lists

1982 |1983 |1992 | 2002|2012


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