If our list of 20 songs that turn 20 years old this year had you feeling nostalgic, wait until you see the films that are also celebrating two decades since their release. It seems that 1999 was perhaps one of the most sensational years for cinema, witnessing so many cult classics hit the big screen one after another. From heartbreaking moments to unexpected twists, and all-out action to impressive animations, and a whole heap of escapism in between, 1999 was an outstanding year in film. Not to mention, we were introduced to some of cinema’s most memorable characters for the first time: Anakin Skywalker, Neo and Stifler (to name a few)!
After closing the 20th century on a cinematic high, the films of 1999 are now considered timeless classics. Take a look at the top movies that keep on giving 20 years on.
1. Fight Club (released on 15th October, 1999)
One of Brad Pitt’s most iconic films in which he stars opposite Edward Norton and Helena Bohem Carter, Fight Club is the novel-turned-movie that created a cult following. Insomniac, depressed worker (Norton) meets Tyler (Pitt) and the two of them create a fight club in order to escape their daily lives and ongoing fears, recruiting like-minded men along the way. The ultimate twist is revealed at the end of the movie, as we discover the two leads are actually the same person suffering from a personality disorder. The gritty movie bursts with emblematic songs (Pixies; ‘Where is My Mind?’) and quotes “The first rule of Fight Club is: you do not talk about Fight Club”.
In the mood for some more hard-hitting action? Take a look at the new, explosive thriller ‘Glass’ starring James McAvoy, Bruce Willis, Sarah Paulson and Samuel L Jackson. Or for a heavy dose of Brad Pitt, check out any of his upcoming films ‘Ad Astra’ and ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’ due out this year.
2. Star Wars Episode I – The Phantom Menace (released on 19th May, 1999)
Though not the first release of the franchise, The Phantom Menace is the initial Star Wars film (in sequence order). George Lucas’ sci-fi observes a young Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman and Liam Neeson playing jedi knights and galactic queens in the first installment of the second trilogy. Despite being released 16 years after the last Star Wars, The Phantom Menace journeys back to the beginning where we meet a young Anakin (who we all know becomes Darth Vader and father to Luke and Leia).
Our nostalgia for the early Star War days is heightened with the impending release of the upcoming film Star Wars Episode IX (expected in cinemas 20th December, 2019).
3. The Blair Witch Project (released on 22nd October, 1999)
The pioneer behind documentary-style horror flicks, The Blair Witch Project’s shaky-camera action had everyone shaking in their seats. The film reached cinemas shortly before Halloween, featuring footage shot by students who venture to Maryland forest in search of the Blair Witch. The presented-as-real film went on to inspire the likes of Paranormal Activity (or Activities) and Cloverfield, as well as creating a sequel: Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2. To this day, fan theories keep us guessing about the original 1999 film and its hidden meanings.
In the mood for a good horror? Don’t worry, IT Chapter Two is heading to cinemas this Autumn.
4. The Mummy (released on 25th June, 1999)
Way before Tom Cruise decided to journey to Egypt in the 2017 remake, Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz were already getting busy resurrecting and putting back to sleep Ancient Egyptian murderers. The pair played action hero and beautiful scholar, adding comic value as they playfully detest one another, alongside John Hannah as the greedy, wise-ass sidekick. Back then, The Mummy was a great adventure film; the Indiana Jones for young, ambitious millennials. While it may have been overshadowed by today’s impressive CGI special effects, it remains a sacred part of our childhoods.
5. American Beauty (released on 8th September, 1999 in the US)
The movie that launched Sam Mendes’ directorial career and earned him an Academy Award and Golden Globe for ‘Best Director’ (he would then go on to direct Daniel Craig’s ‘James Bond’ films, ‘Revolutionary Road’, ‘Road to Perdition’ and more), American Beauty is a satire embedded in the culture of the 90’s, following suit with films such as ‘Fight Club’ that challenged the identity of white, middle-class men seeking escapism from their suburban American lives. It stars Kevin Spacey, Mena Suvari and Thora Birch, a cast also representative of that decade. Spacey’s character ‘Lester’ becomes infatuated with his teenage daughter’s friend during a mid-life crisis, which leads him to make some significant changes in his life.
6. Tarzan (released on 22nd October, 1999)
The Disney animation of Edgar Rice Burrough’s novel ‘Tarzan of the Apes’ delivered some catchy songs performed by Phil Collins (‘You’ll Be in My Heart’, ‘Two Worlds’) and a popular cast lending their vocals (Minnie Driver as ‘Jane’; Glenn Close as ‘Kala’; Rosie O’Donnell as ‘Terk’). Children and adults alike journeyed to the jungle in this magical adventure, giving us a soft spot for gorillas as they nurture a young ‘Tarzan’. The character of ‘Tarzan’ is also depicted as the brother of ‘Elsa’ and ‘Anna’ in Disney’s ‘Frozen’, where director Chris Buck recently confirmed the fan theory. The protagonists of Frozen are orphans adopted by the King and Queen after their parents ‘died’ in a shipwreck. However, the beginning of Tarzan observes the parents actually make it to shore after the shipwreck, landing in the jungle where Tarzan is born. They are then killed by a leopard, leaving Tarzan at the mercy of the gorillas.
The sequel to Disney’s Frozen is due out in November in the US with an exact UK date still to be announced. But Disney are also hitting us hard this year, starting the trend of Disney’s cartoons reimagined as live-action movies. ‘The Lion King’, ‘Aladdin’ and ‘Dumbo’ are all coming out in 2019!
7. The Sixth Sense (released on 5th November, 1999)
This movie provided us with one of the most popular catchphrases and memes of all time, where a young and fragile Haley Joel Osment eerily whispers to Bruce Willis from his hospital bed ‘I see dead people’. The supernatural thriller brought us chills and twists (albeit slightly predictable looking back), but saw Bruce Willis cast as a ghost who wasn’t aware he was dead. Reportedly, young Osment found it difficult to cry on cue, and so Willis was advised by Osment’s father to shout his lines at him off set to get him going. It worked, and Osment went on to believably compose a timid and tearful young boy who can communicate with the dead.
8. Being John Malkovich (released on 22nd October, 1999 in the US)
Another directorial debut, Spike Jonze was praised for the way he unveiled the wacky paradoxes in this comedy-drama. The film follows a puppeteer (‘Schwartz’) who gets a job as a file clerk, discovering a secret door in his new office that transports him into the body of actor John Malkovich. The ‘real’ John Malkovich begins to feel peculiar with the notion that strangers are taking over his mind. Delving deeper into this complex plot, Schwartz’ wife visits the portal and while posing as Malkovich, finds herself falling in love with his wife. A strange story that worked – but would have been stranger had it been ‘Being Tom Cruise’ as suggested by New Line Cinema and Malkovich himself at the time.
9. Girl Interrupted (released on 8th December, 1999 in the US)
Based on the 1993 best-selling memoir by Susanna Kaysen, the film details Kaysen’s time spent on a psychiatric ward during the sixties. Kaysen is played by the ultimate 90’s actress, Winona Ryder, who encounters the bold and charismatic ‘Lisa’ (Angelina Jolie) after being diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. Also winning over audiences in their roles, the late Brittany Murphy played ‘Daisy’, Whoopi Goldberg played nurse ‘Valerie Owens’ and Jared Leto acted as Kaysen’s boyfriend ‘Tobias’. The film won Jolie an Academy Award and Golden Globe for ‘Best Supporting Actress’ in 2000, but arguably its true legacy is the eye-opening insight into mental health as viewed from different perspectives.
10. Eyes Wide Shut (released on 16th July, 1999)
Just two years before their divorce, Hollywood’s former golden couple Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman starred in this erotic mystery with themes of sex, fidelity and marriage. Cruise plays ‘Bill’ who begins attending sex parties, following his wife’s (Kidman) admission that she almost cheated on him in the past. Bill soon finds himself in at the deep end with his relationship under serious threats. The shooting of the film lends to its intrigue, where it holds the Guinness World Record for the longest continual film shoot, lasting 400 days and dramatically going over the original prediction of six months. Director Stanley Kubrick made plenty of changes and calls for reshoots, while also rumoured to have banned Cruise from the set while Kidman was filming scenes with a male model.
Twenty years on, Kidman is now married to the ‘love of her life’ Keith Urban. She stars in the film adaptation of Donna Tartt’s novel ‘The Goldfinch’, due out later this year.
11. American Pie (released on 8th October, 1999)
1999 was the year that inaugurated the ‘American Pie’ saga; a series of raunchy teen comedies featuring a cast definitive of the era, including Jason Biggs, Tina Reid, Chris Klein, Seann William Scott, Mena Suvari and Alyson Hannigan. Blogger of Back to the Movies, Sean Edwards, reflects on how the film remains dear to him so many years on:
“Having older brothers I grew up with ‘American Pie’ way earlier than most kids. Corrupted from an early age, it is still one of my favourite films and it reminds me of the good old days of spending time with family. From the age of 8 upwards, Stifler quotes became a frequent occurrence around the household and with every sequel came more and more memories. I’ve had the joy of meeting and speaking to many of the cast and crew behind the films ever since and for this reason and with it being a part of my childhood; the original film (and the franchise as a whole) will always have a special place in my heart.”
12. Cruel Intentions (released on 18th June, 1999)
Holding much of the same themes as American Pie (loss of virginity, sex, teen relationships), Cruel Intentions is that much darker and twisted, but still as fun to watch. ‘I Know What You Did Last Summer’ co-stars Sarah Michelle Gellar and Ryan Phillippe play step-siblings who conspire to challenge the elite society by making a bet to seduce, manipulate and ruin others. Reese Witherspoon’s pure and virginal character is a pawn in their schemes, but ultimately transpires as Phillippe’s love interest (both on and offscreen, where the two were married from 1999-2007). Witty, clever and another flick with a great soundtrack of omnipresent artists (Fatboy Slim’s ‘Praise You’, the Verve’s ‘Bittersweet Symphony’, Counting Crows’ ‘Colorblind’ and Placebo’s ‘Every You, Every Me’).
13. The World is Not Enough (released on 26th November, 1999)
Back when Pierce Brosnan was sleek and suave as the 007 M15 agent, ‘The World is Not Enough’ was lighter than the latter Bond series starring Daniel Craig (the bond girl of this movie was called ‘Christmas’ – enough said?). It was the actor’s third occasion playing the legendary ‘James Bond’, where this time the character is sent to save the daughter (Sophie Marceau) of a murdered oil tycoon from being kidnapped by a villain who can’t feel pain thanks to a bullet lodged in his brain (Robert Carlyle). He is assisted by nuclear physicist, Christmas Jones (Denise Richards) on the mission. The plot summarised exposes the film’s eccentricity, yet the movie is still iconic of the former Bond days, complete with flashy cars, exotic locations and implausible action scenes.
Though the new Bond isn’t out until next year, you can still get in the mood with the Bond-esque work of director Matthew Vaughn in Kingsman 3, expected to hit cinemas in November 2019.
14. 10 Things I Hate About You (released on 11th June, 1999)
Often lost among the array of teen comedies that defined the end of the 20th century, this buried treasure is the movie where we swooned at Heath Ledger singing ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off You’ to Julia Stiles. For true 90’s teens, it also features Larisa Oleynik otherwise known as ‘Alex Mack’ and Joseph Gordon-Levitt pre-‘500 Days of Summer’. The film is a modern take on Shakespeare’s ‘The Taming of the Shrew’, where a young boy (Gordon-Levitt) becomes smitten with a girl in his class (Oleynik), but her father’s strict dating rules mean she can’t date until her older sister (Stiles) does. Thus he sets about matchmaking, fixing her sister up with the high school’s bad boy (Ledger).
15. The Matrix (released on 11th June, 1999)
Could Will Smith, Johnny Depp or Nicolas Cage really have played ‘Neo’? With Leonardo Dicaprio and Tom Cruise also being considered by filmmakers, the face of the sci-fi saga could have been totally different. Luckily Reeves landed the part and we can’t imagine it being any other way. The franchise is set in a dystopian society where machines rule and humans are under the control of the computer-generated dreamworld known as the ‘Matrix’, With the help of ‘Morpheus’, ‘Trinity’ and the ‘Oracle’, Neo must fight against ‘Agent Smith’ and the rest of the machines. The Matrix trilogy blew the minds of audiences upon release, being well ahead of its time and having a profound influence on the movie industry.
Today, Reeves still likes to be at the heart of the action, returning in 2019 with the third chapter of the ‘John Wick’ thrillers on 17th May.
16. Human Traffic (released on 4th June, 1999)
A true homage to British 90’s culture, ‘Human Traffic’ is a coming-of-age comedy about five ravers living in Cardiff that love nothing more than to have a good time. Critiqued as a ‘pro-drug’ film, there is little in the way of showing the come down of drugs, focusing more on comic value rather than the likes of ‘Trainspotting’, which has a much darker prescription of drug use. ‘Human Traffic’, despite its name, is light-hearted and easier to watch – and also witnesses a young Danny Dyer in action.
17. Notting Hill (released on 21st May, 1999)
Britain’s finest meets America’s sweetheart, as Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts star in this romantic comedy set in the west London district. Grant plays a charming but humble bookstore owner who meets a famous actress (Roberts) at work one day. The pair instantly hit it off but must overcome the challenges synchronous with fame. Joining the cast are some of Britain’s finest comic actors; Hugh Bonneville, Rhys Ifans, James Dreyfus and the late Emma Chambers (‘Vicar of Dibley’). The endearing film won a BAFTA and British Comedy Award, while its soundtrack comprising Ronan Keating’s number one single ‘When You Say Nothing at All’ secured a Brit Award.
18. Toy Story 2 (released on 13th November, 1999 in the US)
After the success of the breakthrough movie ‘Toy Story’ in 1995, Pixar and Disney returned four years later with an equally-enjoyable sequel. Tom Hanks and Tim Allen revoked characters ‘Woody’ and ‘Buzz Lightyear’, while we met new toys ‘Jessie’, ‘Stinky Pete’ and ‘Tour Guide Barbie’. Andy’s toys must rescue Woody from the toy collector, who has taken him to sell to a museum. Woody fleetingly becomes blindsided by the idea of being adored by millions of museum-goers, but soon realises the true value of his relationship with Andy.
The original ‘Toy Story’ set the bar high, but its 1999 successor proved to be a hit. Now Pixar and Disney are toying with us again, with the release of ‘Toy Story 4’ on 21st June.
19. She’s All That (released on 21st May, 1999)
While Sarah Michelle Gellar was busy cooking up conspiracies with Ryan Phillippe in ‘Cruel Intentions’, their other ‘I Know What You Did Last Summer’ co-star and Gellar’s would-be-husband, Freddie Prinze Jr. was distracted by the transformation of Rachael Leigh Cook in ‘She’s All That’. Cook plays the nerdy, unpopular ‘Laney Boggs’ who is singled out by Freddie’s character ‘Zach’ in a bet that he can make any girl in school prom queen. His sister agrees to makeover Laney, leading to the signature scene of the ugly-duckling-turned-swan walking down the stairs to Sixpence None the Richer’s ‘Kiss Me’. The late Paul Walker, Jodi Lyn O’Keefe, Anna Paquin and Usher also appeared in classic teen romcom, while SMG herself also had a small silent cameo.
20. The Green Mile (released on 12th December, 1999 in the US)
It’s hard to say which of Tom Hanks’ films is the best. From a one-man show in ‘Cast Away’ to war hero in ‘Saving Private Ryan’ to the strong-legged ‘Forrest Gump’, Hanks has given us a range of Oscar-worthy performances in his career. But hot on everyone’s Hanks’-movies-lists; ‘The Green Mile’ was the tearjerker jam-packed with emotion and sentiment. He played a guard working in a Louisiana Prison in the 1930’s, who encounters a convicted murderer and rapist on death row (the late Michael Clarke Duncan). As the story founded on Stephen King’s novel progresses, we learn of the inmate’s innocence and the brutality of the death sentence.
Still one of Hollywood’s most adored actors, Hanks has more in his tank with three films coming out in 2019. Besides ‘Toy Story 4’, he also stars in ‘Greyhound’ and ‘You Are My Friend’.
2019 has plenty of exciting films coming out, from plenty of superhero action to Disney’s live action remakes to highly-anticipated sequels. Don’t miss your chance to see them first – check out TickX’s cinema page to find and compare screenings near you.