Roger Ebert once said that that every great film should seem new every time you see it. You should be able to dissect it in each viewing and discover new meaning in it; see what you could not see before. Having been born in 1986 but mostly growing up between 1990 and 1999, I encountered a number of films that I without a doubt believe belong in this category. I will begin with the very first year and travel on down to the last, one film per year:
1990: Problem Child. For most kids and parents who saw this movie, these two words immediately send an image of that mischievous red-headed little boy named Junior; played by Michael Oliver, who is adopted by Ben Healey, played by the talented John Ritter (may he rest in peace). This film is about a bad little boy who, despite his awful but hilarious acts, has a good heart. I never understood why so many people found the movie tasteless. The movie is nearing its 20th anniversary this year, and I will have to remember to watch it for the hundredth time.
1991: Hook. I was a Peter Pan fanatic as a child, as I am sure many were. This film is about Peter Banning, a middle aged lawyer played by Robin Williams, who is too busy for his family. He has also completely forgotten that he is (or was) Peter Pan. When Captain Hook kidnaps his children, he has to return to Neverland, become the Peter Pan he once was, and save his children. My mother used to take me to the video store and ask me what I wanted to rent, and I chose that Hook VHS tape almost every time. This movie made me angry, made me cry, and made me burst out in laughter. I now have it on DVD and the film is as magical as it ever was.
1992: The Mighty Ducks. This film is about a lawyer (another lawyer) named Gordon Bombay, played by Emilio Estevez, who is court ordered to coach a peewee hockey team after receiving a DUI arrest. He eventually takes this team further than he had ever expected. Of course you have to see all 3 parts of the film to see just how far. There was a sequel in 1994 and in 1996.
1993: Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey. I am a sucker for movies involving man and dog (well.. kid and dog or kid and cat). In this film, three pets set out on a quest to find their family when they leave on vacation. Sassy (the prissy cat), Chance (the young, stubborn American bulldog), and Shadow (the old wise Golden Retriever) encounter many dangers in search of their owners. It is a beautiful portrayal of the loyalty that pets have for their owners. One of the last scenes of the movie, in which Peter (owner to Shadow) waits to see if Shadow was able to make it back home, still makes my eyes water. It is a wonderful reunion, but in the 1996 sequel, Homeward Bound 2: Lost in San Francisco, they did it again.
1994: The Lion King. This movie, if you have not seen it (which I doubt), is about a young lion prince named Simba. He is tricked by his throne-hungry uncle, scar, into believing that he is responsible for the death of his own father and King, Mufasa. Simba runs away and returns years later to find that his home is a very different place than it once was. He must challenge his uncle for the throne and return peace to the land. I am going to have to throw in some honorable mentions here for 1994; Camp Nowhere and The Little Rascals.
1995: Casper. An afterlife therapist (James Harvey) and his daughter (Kat) move into an old mansion that is haunted by three not so friendly ghosts (Stretch, Fatso, and Stinkie) and one lonely young ghost named Casper. Casper and Kat become quick friends, while James attempts to rid the house of the three malevolent ghosts. I loved the friendship that developed between Kat and Casper. They were both so lonely. Kat had been moved all over the country by her father, who only became an afterlife therapist so that he could see his deceased wife once more. There was always one line that stood out to me from this movie. I heard it in the scene where Casper spoke to Kat as she fell asleep and whispered into her ear: Kat, Can I keep you.
1996: Matilda. This was such a good one. All kids wish they had super powers, and no child deserved them more than Matilda. It is hard to believe that she was related at all to those horrific parents of hers. The protagonists in this movie were clearly exaggerated but I still loved how courageous, intelligent and kind she was.
1997: Zeus and Roxanne: Again, I am a sucker for animal movies, but this one was a bit different. The friendship that this film is centered around is between a dog named Zeus and a Dolphin named Roxanne. The new best friends eventually bring together Mary Beth, a marine biologist who cares for Roxanne, and Terry, a musician who is owner to Zeus.
1998: Paulie: And again, another film involving a pet. We have already covered cats, dogs and dolphins, so it is only logical that we address the bird species (specifically, the parrot). Paulie is the story of an intelligent talking parrot that is given as a gift to a little girl who stutters. Paulie speaks to her and helps her overcome her stutter, but the father of the little girl gives him away. Years later, Paulie finds himself imprisoned in an institute where scientists run tests on him. He just wants to return to the little girl. Happily, in the end he is finally reunited with her when she has grown into a young woman.
1999: Office Space. This movie is not for kids but is still one of the best movies of all time, in my opinion. It is about Peter Gibbons (I think that is the 3rd Peter on my movie list already), a guy who works a miserable job (can you relate?), has a cheating girlfriend and an excruciatingly annoying boss. He visits a hypno-therapist who suddenly dies before waking him from his blissful state. Peter then stops worrying about making a living and, along with coworkers Michael and Samir (who are about to get fired), plants a virus inside the company computer system to embezzle money into their own account. I know many people can relate to this movie and the desire to break free of the 9 to 5.
I am sure there are several other movies between 1990 and 1999 that were extraordinary, but these are the titles that stand out the most in my mind. I will end this article with a favorite quote from Hook in which Tinkerbell says to Peter: You know that place between sleep and awake? That place where you still remember dreaming? That is where I will always love you Peter Pan. That is where I will be waiting.
And I guess that is where this decade will be waiting, too.