The year that was 1993 was a monumental year for the movies.
This was the year when newfangled digital visual effects were finally good enough—and, more crucially, photorealistic enough—for audiences to suspend disbelief for an entire feature film and accept pixelated monsters as flesh-and-blood creatures.
So, pop some corn, pull up a seat, and let’s take a multi-phased trip down memory lane.
Best In Class
No fewer than four comedies have stood the test of time and remain influential, perhaps because they’re so unassuming and old-fashioned in their approach.
Even the tragic death of Robin Williams cannot taint our memories of his greatest film role, as a soon-to-be-divorced father who sneaks his way back into his home gussied up as a dotty English nanny.
The flabby makeup prosthetics and frumpy drag costumes help Williams pull off the bodily transformation, but it’s the magical combination of late actor’s quick comic timing, his genius stream-of-consciousness improvisational skills, his capacity for physical comedy, and especially his riotous rapport with each of his co-stars that launched this picture into the stratosphere.
Bill Murray has more enduring comedies to his credit than many of his contemporaries, but because most of his classics pair him with a comic foil or feature him as part of an ensemble, the charming time-warp tale Groundhog Day stands above them because he’s essentially the solo romantic lead. Aided by longtime collaborator Harold Ramis’ nimble direction, and buoyed by a palpable onscreen chemistry with co-star Andie MacDowell, the Twilight Zone tale of an egotistical weatherman who keeps reliving the same day over and over until he gets it right turns out to be surprisingly and gratifyingly Capra-esque.
Never before had Murray’s onscreen transformation from smug to sweet seemed so genuine, and even in light of his many more artistic endeavors that would follow (notably Ed Wood, Lost in Translation, and pretty much everything he’s done for Wes Anderson), this movie remains a career high point.
Dazed and Confused
Of all the semi-autobiographical coming-of-age tales to emerge from Hollywood, Richard Linklater’s ganja-infused high school comedy stands the test of time more than most other similar films because of its knowing dialogue, its wall-to-wall classic ’70s rock soundtrack, and its terrific cast of then-unknowns who have since become veritable stars (notably Matthew McConaughey, Ben Affleck, Parker Posey, and Milla Jovovich—plus many others you will recognize, including an uncredited Renée Zellweger).
Furthermore, few films of its ilk capture with such unpretentious authenticity a wide gamut of the high-school experience, from adult and peer pressures to the hierarchy of classroom cliques, from the humiliating hazing rituals of schoolyard bullies to the supreme satisfaction of being accepted by the cool gang for who you are.
This Ivan Reitman-directed fable of an impersonator subbing for an incapacitated U.S. president holds up today because the—yes, here’s that word again—Capra-esque fantasy of a nice compassionate guy who deigns to rise above the swamp of political chicanery and back-stabbing to affect positive change for the working class is the ideal antidote to the embarrassing reality of the Age of Trump.
That, plus the effervescent comic turns by Kevin Kline and Sigourney Weaver still sparkle today.
Another Stakeout; Beethoven’s 2nd; Benny & Joon; Coneheads; The Beverly Hillbillies; Cool Runnings; Even Cowgirls Get the Blues; Fatal Instinct; Father Hood; Fear of a Black Hat; Grumpy Old Men; Hocus Pocus; Hot Shots! Part Deux; Made in America; Matinee; Much Ado About Nothing; Sleepless in Seattle; Wayne’s World 2; The Wedding Banquet
Fewer Will Remember:
Amos & Andrew; Born Yesterday; Cop and a Half; Ernest Rides Again; For Love or Money; Heart and Souls; Life with Mikey; Look Who’s Talking Now; Lost in Yonkers; Manhattan Murder Mystery; The Meteor Man; Mr. Nanny; My Boyfriend’s Back; Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit; So I Married an Axe Murderer; Son in Law; Son of the Pink Panther; Splitting Heirs; Three of Hearts; Undercover Blues; Weekend at Bernie’s II; Who’s the Man?; Wilder Napalm
Best In Class:
The Nightmare Before Christmas
This wondrous stop-motion musical—directed by Henry Selick but unmistakably the brainchild of writer/producer Tim Burton—stands the test of time because its warm and tactile puppetry towers over the electronic chill of computer-drawn animation. It’s also a cheerful fable that manages to dually capture the macabre delights of Halloween along with the joyous spirit of Christmas.
As such, it stands as a perennial favorite for celebrating both holidays and will hopefully live on forever.
There were quite a few prestigious all-star baseball-themed films of varying tonality released in the few years before and after The Sandlot—from Field of Dreams and Bull Durham to The Scout and Eight Men Out, from Major League and A League of Their Own to The Babe and Cobb, and so forth—but this unassuming coming-of-age tale stands tall among them for its likable gang of young misfits, and for its nostalgic view of growing up in the early 1960s.
Bolstered by quotable passages of dialogue, fine period detail, and a crucial extended cameo by James Earl Jones, few other movies capture the awkwardness of adolescence and the mythos of baseball as the “American game” while simultaneously tickling the funny bone and warming the heart.
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm; A Far Off Place; Dennis the Menace; Free Willy; The Secret Garden
Fewer Will Remember:
The Adventures of Huck Finn; Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey; Josh and S.A.M.; Rookie of the Year; Super Mario Bros.; Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III; We’re Back! A Dinosaur’s Story