There are a lot of movies out there. No, there are a lot of movies out there. It would take years to even scratch the surface of contemporary cinema- but some movies stand head and shoulders above the rest. These so-called “cult classics” have hallowed ancestries winding back for generations. They are spoken of in hushed voices by aspiring auteurs and dude-bros alike. Tonight, I present to you the three most influential films of the 90s: this is the white boy movie trifecta.
What it’s about: A bunch of frustrated middle-class men fighting, anarchy, etc.
What the critics said: Roger Ebert stated that this “frankly and cheerfully fascist big-star movie” sounds like “a man who tripped over the Nietzsche display on his way to the coffee bar in Borders”, while the Chicago Reader called it “American self-absorption at it’s finest”. On the flip side, the Philadelphia Inquirer called it “a combination punch of social satire and sociopathology”. I think the punch pun was intentional.
What your friends say: Hey, don’t talk about fight club! Haha, are you understanding my dope reference, dude?
Ideal viewing environment: A poorly lit basement. Bonus points for fluorescent lighting, concrete cinder blocks, and linoleum tiling!
For similar levels of testosterone and existential despair, watch masterpieces such as: The Boondock Saints, G.I. Joe: Retaliation, or Mean Girls.
What it’s about: I suppose you could call it a crime drama (complete with non-linear storytelling, violence (a lot of violence), and dark comedy).
What the critics said: The New Republic called Pulp Fiction “a spectacularly entertaining piece of pop culture”; the New York Times called it “a landscape of danger, shock, hilarity and vibrant local color”.
What your friends say: Check out my poster! Don’t you just love Tarantino? [Obligatory and unfunny impersonation of Samuel L. Jackson’s infamously profane monologue].
Ideal viewing environment: In a dorm room in a tropical climate— preferably Los Angeles— with surf-rock records on the coffee table and a vanilla milkshake within arm’s reach.
For similar levels of self-referential humor and violence, watch: Fargo, anything by Scorcese, or American Psycho.
What it’s about: Time travel, a spooky 6-foot-tall bunny named Frank, featuring young Jake Gyllenhaal. Seth Rogen pops up a few times too.
What the critics said: Egbert remarked that “[the] set-up and development is fascinating, the payoff less so”, while moviemet.com described the film as “brooding, complex, rebellious, and difficult to comprehend.”
What your friends say: Woah, dude! That’s rad!
Ideal viewing environment: At your friend’s house, consuming Mountain Dew and generic cheese puffs whilst reclining upon an ornate chenille settee. Make sure to leave your fedora and teenage angst at the door!
For similar levels of angst and metaphysical strife, watch: Primer, Neon Genesis Evangelion, or Twin Peaks.
Now, an afterthought: No, I don’t actually think that films like Casablanca and Citizen Kane have anything to worry about. Yes, I think that the legacies of Shakespeare and Chaucer can rest easy. So, I chose these three movies to discuss because they’re ubiquitous in 21st century culture. First off, it’s a lot of fun to lambaste the critical acclaim these movies received (and it’s even more fun to ridicule their massive fan bases). However, what’s really noteworthy is how deeply these films are entrenched in the American milieu- they permeate everything from college dorms to hilarious CollegeHumor sketches. Each one was hugely influential– and for better or for worse, they will not cease to be quoted and referenced (ad nauseam) any time in the foreseeable future (hell, Pulp Fiction was referenced in Space Jam). If you’re feeling really philosophical, this is a great starting point for a discussion on the divide between “high art” and “low art”– but at the end of the day, these are just some goofy movies that frat bros really love. Not that there’s anything wrong with that!