We all watch movies, and which is the “best” is a matter of opinion really. Here are the top 10 reality-based movies from 1990-2000. Don’t forget to check out other lists throughout Thought for Your Penny.
10. Schindler’s List (1993) 96% at Rotten Tomatoes
Oskar Schindler is a wealthy member of the Nazi party who ends up harboring over a thousand Jews during World War II. His story reminds us that even during the darkest times of great evil, there are still good people willing to risk everything to save the lives of others.
Director: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Kingsley
9. The Insider (1999) 96% at Rotten Tomatoes
We all know Big Tobacco purposely made cigarettes more addictive, and that’s mostly thanks to whistleblower Jeffrey Wigand. Working with “60 Minutes” producer Lowell Bergman, they both learn hard lessons on the power of money and office politics. CBS doesn’t want to air the story, and the NY Times takes the lead in exposing the corrupt dealings.
Director: Michael Mann
Starring: Russell Crowe, Al Pacino, Diane Venora
8. Alive (1993) 70% at Rotten Tomatoes
In 1972, an airplane carrying the Uruguayan rugby team crashes into the Andes Mountains. Left for dead for two months, the 16 survivors were forced to cannibalize their dead comrades in order to survive. It’s a harrowing real-life tale of what means we’ll go to when placed in the worst situations imaginable. Believe it or not, the first time I ever saw this movie, it was aired as an in-flight movie.
Director: Frank Marshall
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Vincent Spano, Josh Hamilton
7. October Sky (1999) 90% at Rotten Tomatoes
Homer Hickam seems destined to work in his small town’s coal mine like his father until Sputnik (Russia’s satellite) goes into orbit in October 1957. It inspires him to build rockets, enter a contest, and eventually become a NASA engineer, against his dad’s wishes.
Director: Joe Johnston
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Laura Dern, Chris Cooper
6. Philadelphia (1993) 78% at Rotten Tomatoes
Upon contracting HIV, gay attorney Andrew Beckett is fired from his law firm. He works with another attorney Joe Miller to successfully sue his former law firm for over $5 million. It’s inspired by the true stories of Geoffrey Bowers and Clarence B. Cain, who sued law firms Baker McKenzie and Hyatt Legal Services, respectively under similar circumstances. Of course Bowers’s family was forced to sue for the producers to admit this.
Director: Jonathan Demme
Starring: Tom Hanks, Denzel Washington, Roberta Maxwell
5. Quiz Show (1994) 96% at Rotten Tomatoes
Long before “Jeopardy” and “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?,” “Twenty One” was the trivia game show that enthralled American viewers in the 1950s. Unfortunately it’s rigged, and popular champion Charles Van Doren eventually testifies to this in Congress, effectively ruining his television career. I, for one, can’t wait to see the scandal repeat itself with today’s probably-rigged quiz shows.
Director: Robert Redford
Starring: Ralph Fiennes, John Turturro, Rob Morrow
4. The People vs Larry Flynt (1996) 87% at Rotten Tomatoes
Whereas Playboy always tried to keep things classy, Hustler is straight-up hardcore pornography. Publisher Larry Flynt became an icon of American free speech (he even sends monthly issues of Hustler to every American Congressman). Watch as he argues his case against pretty much everybody, even taking a bullet and being confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life over it.
Director: Milos Forman
Starring: Woody Harrelson, Courtney Love, Edward Norton
3. GoodFellas (1990) 95% at Rotten Tomatoes
Henry Hill is a small-time gangster who finds himself quickly rising up through the underworld with his partners in crime, Jimmy and Tommy. That is until they kill a member of the Gambino crime family and have to cover it up. Soon he’s addicted to drugs and has to enter the Witness Protection Program after selling out his partners and their boss Paulie.
Director: Martin Scorsese
Starring: Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci
2. Apollo 13 (1995) 95% at Rotten Tomatoes
The crew of the Apollo 13 are headed for the moon when an exploding oxygen tank creates chaos. The crew works with NASA’s ground team in Houston to troubleshoot the rocket and return it safely home. It’s a true story of one of the most harrowing space exploration trips in history.
Director: Ron Howard
Starring: Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon, Bill Paxton
1. Boys Don’t Cry (1999) 88% at Rotten Tomatoes
Teena Brandon is born female but identifies as male, so he changes his name to Brandon Teena and moves to a small Nebraska town in an an attempt to live a normal life. When his friends discover he’s transgender, they kidnap, rape, and beat him. He reports it to the Sheriff who does nothing but question his sexual identity, causing him to be murdered soon after.
Director: Kimberly Peirce
Starring: Hilary Swank, Peter Sarsgaard, Chloe Sevigny