Our smorgasbord of 1990s nostalgia, two weeks of Top 10 lists for every year in the decade, is beginning to reach its end, but we pick up today with 1997. It was the year of the start of the second Clinton term, the first cloned animal with Dolly the sheep, the arrival of the Hale-Bopp comet (and the resulting suicide of the Heaven’s Gate cult), the murder of Gianni Versace, and the election of Tony Blair in the UK.

In the movie world, we arguably saw the start of the new blockbuster era: the “Star Wars” films were re-released in new Special Editions (to help build excitement for the first prequel, which began filming), “Jurassic Park” sequel ‘The Lost World‘ made a record $90 million on its opening weekend, and “Titanic” became the biggest movie in history, and the first to make a billion dollars.

Those films didn’t make the cut (and neither did other ’97 movies like, uh, “Beverly Hills Ninja,” “The Beautician And The Beast,” “B*A*P*S,” and “Anaconda”). To find out what did, take a look below, and let us know your own favorites in the comments.

Upset? Outraged? Can’t wait for more? You can catch up on 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993 and 1994 from last week, and can always visit our 2000s series while you wait for more: 20002001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 20072008 and 2009.

eves-bayou10. “Eve’s Bayou” (1997)
Initially most recognizable as Clarice Starling’s friend in “The Silence Of The Lambs,” the last couple of decades have seen actress Kasi Lemmons become better known for her work behind camera than for the work in front of it, beginning with her striking debut “Eve’s Bayou.” A remarkably assured and complex film for a first feature (Roger Ebert called it the best of its year), it’s a sprawling coming-of-age melodrama about a middle-class African-American family in 1960s Louisiana. Eve (the tremendous Jurnee Smollett) is the middle daughter to doctor Louis (Samuel L. Jackson) and Roz (Lynn Whitfield), who one day discovers her father’s infidelity with a family friend, beginning a series of events that take in burgeoning sexuality, voodoo and murder. If you didn’t know better, you’d assume that Lemmons’ film was adapted from an acclaimed novel: it finds an enormous amount of breadth and depth in a lean 109-minute running time, creating (with the help of Amy Vincent’s photography and Terence Blanchard’s score) an indelible atmosphere. Lemmons weaves her story with a maturity that belies it being her first feature, and gets some killer performances from her cast, including a young Meagan Good as Eve’s sister, and Jackson giving one of his very best turns. Lemmons’ later, very good features “The Caveman’s Valentine” and “Talk To Me” went disappointingly underseen, but her debut is a reminder that she’s as strong as anyone out there.

Cure9. “Cure”
Though Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s true horror masterpiece, “Pulse,” would come at the turn of the millennium, his earlier “Cure” is much more than just a warm-up for it. The great Koji Yakusho stars as Takabe, a closed-off police detective with a mentally ill wife (Anna Nakagawa) investigating a series of murders of people killed with an X carved into them, which would seem to be the work of a singular culprit, except they’re provably committed by a different person each time. Soon enough, Takabe and psychologist Sakuma (Tsuyoshi Ujiki) find the common thread — a seeming amnesiac named Mamiya (Masato Hagiwara) who may in fact be a master hypnotist. It sounds like something cheap and schlocky, a monster-of-the-week “X-Files” episode at best, but Kurosawa makes something infinitely more interesting: a bleak, dread-filled picture that uses its high concept to dig into something more existential about our free will and the viral-like nature of violence. Kurosawa’s cool, meditative style isn’t for everyone (it’s hard not to see him reflected in his hero), but if you buy into him as many others have done — Bong Joon-Ho called it one of the best films ever made — you’ll be haunted by “Cure.”

nil-by-mouth8. “Nil By Mouth”
Twenty years on, Gary Oldman has still only directed a single feature, risking the sense that he’ll end up as a sort of Charles Laughton figure when it comes to his helming career. We maybe wouldn’t put “Nil By Mouth” right next to “The Night Of The Hunter” when it comes to single directorial efforts by acclaimed British character actors, but it’s certainly a movie that suggested that Oldman was just as talented behind the camera as he is in front of it. It’s an autobiographical, kitchen-sink-ish drama about a family in South East London: the violent Ray (Ray Winstone), his wife Val (Kathy Burke, winner of Best Actress at Cannes), her junkie brother Billy (Charlie Creed-Miles) and so on. It’s a bleak, difficult, numbing watch, but one of unsparing honesty, without either the faux-naif romanticism or the unconvincing amped-up grittiness that British movies of this type can sometime fall into. It feels, simply, like life captured, more Cassavetes than “Kidulthood,” and we’d love to see what Oldman could do if he was allowed to direct again.

little-dieter-needs-to-fly7. “Little Dieter Needs To Fly”
The 1990s were a time of transition for Werner Herzog: after the passing of his collaborator/nemesis Klaus Kinski in 1991, Herzog focused mostly on documentary, making only a single fiction feature in the decade, 1991’s minor “Scream Of Stone,” ahead of his meme-like reinvention in the 21st century. His (mostly barely feature-length) non-fiction work of the period has its ups and downs, but the highlight is undoubtedly the stunning “Little Dieter Needs To Fly.” It focuses on the titular Dieter Dengler, a German-born man who moved to the U.S. at 18, joined the U.S. Navy, and was shot down in Laos where he was captured, imprisoned, and eventually escaped. Herzog would go on to make the same story as a bigger-budget feature eight years later with the Christian Bale-starring “Rescue Dawn,” but this is the definitive take, in part because of the chemistry and kinship between Herzog and Dengler, in part because the extraordinary story feels all the more powerful and unsentimental coming from the mouth of the man who lived it, and partly because of the borderline-uncomfortable, utterly fascinating way that Herzog films reconstructions using locals (anticipating “The Act Of Killing” to some extent). An undervalued gem.

Happy-Together6. “Happy Together”
Capping off an extraordinary run of prolific filmmaking of the highest quality (he made as many films between 1994 and 1997 as he did between 1998 and the present, and we’d argue of a higher consistent quality), Wong Kar-Wai’s fifth and final film of the 1990s remains one of his most woozily beautiful, and is a key text of ’90s LGBT cinema, and hell, of ’90s cinema in general. It follows a tempestuous, on-off couple, Ho Po-wing (Leslie Cheung, who tragically killed himself in 2003) and Lai Yiu-fai (Tony Leung Chiu-wai) as they try to salvage their relationship with a trip to Argentina. Captured with Christopher Doyle’s luminous, deeply intimate, stunning photography, it’s a love story as a clenched fist, two people caught in a self-destructive spiral, unable to pull away from each other, or to stay together, and gradually coming to a realization of that, with tremendous performances from the two leads making this feel like one of the more curiously relatable, saddest, yet strangely satisfying relationship movies of the period. His next film, “In The Mood For Love,” would prove a bigger leap forward, but this is still a beautiful little thing.

  • lostjack

    Man 1997 was a good year for movies:

    G.I. JANE
    IN & OUT

  • Wes Anderson

    1. Taste of Cherry (Abbas Kiarostami)
    2. Princess Mononoke (Hayao Miyazaki)
    3. Boogie Nights (Paul Thomas Anderson)
    4. Happy Together (Wong Kar-Wai)
    5. Jackie Brown (Quentin Tarantino)
    6. Lost Highway (David Lynch)
    7. Sweet Hereafter (Atom Egoyan)
    8. L.A. Confidential (Curtis Hanson)
    9. Life is Beautiful (Roberto Benigni)
    10. Ice Storm (Ang Lee)

  • Thor2013

    1. Sue (dir. Amos Kollek)
    2. The Mirror (dir. Jafar Panahi)
    3. Lost Highway (dir. David Lynch)
    4. Mother and Son (dir. Aleksandr Sokurov)
    5. Gummo (dir. Harmony Korine)
    6. Nowhere (dir. Gregg Araki)
    7. The Eel (dir. Shohei Imamura)
    8. Henry Fool (dir. Hal Hartley)
    9. Cure (dir. Kiyoshi Kurosawa)
    10. Chasing Amy (dir. Kevin Smith)

  • jmbrr

    90s rock… It is hard to keep it at ten:

    1.L.A. Confidential
    2.The Devil’s Advocate
    3.Starship Troopers
    4.Conspiracy Theory
    5.Liar Liar
    7.Cop Land
    8.The Game
    9.The Fifth Element
    10.Lost Highway

    Of course there are honourable mentions: Event Horizon,Wag The Dog,Alien Resurrection,Scream 2, Police Story 4,Welcome to Sarajevo,Amistad and I Know What You Did Last Summer.

    • Sergei

      I’ll take The Fifth Element over Starship Troopers (which has a ‘OK, I get it’ vibe not privy to replays.) I once lived in a collective house where the only movie we could all agree on is Fifth Element, old and incoming roommates. It was such a funny coincidence considering how much the internet world shrugs the film off. The Fifth Element actually seemed like a plausible future…something a lot of sci-fi films seem to stumble creating. A more neon, ad-drenched dystopia.

      • jmbrr

        It is certainly damn fun movie,which you can not often find these days. Such as Starship. Aside from being probably the best satire that has ever done, Verhoeven’s directing is top notch.

  • John W

    I gotta remember to bookmark all these lists.

  • Clay Castille

    Little Dieter is the shit.

  • Mountain Trails

    You guys are really covering the lesser known films. Bravo.
    10 more worth considering.

    Mother and Son [Sokurov] Amazing film!
    On Guard [de Broca]
    Affliction [Schrader]
    Children of Heaven [Majidi]
    The Saltmen of Tibet [Koch]
    Ulee’s Gold [Nunez]
    Mr Jealousy [Baumbach]
    The King of Masks [Tian-Ming]
    The Life of Jesus [Dumont]
    The Full Monty [Cattaneo]

  • Chris Parkes

    Playlist can you please, please put these lists together into some sort of e-book? I LOVE them!

    • Sergei

      97 in particular was really well-written. It’s always great when you can find that perfect sentence to sum a film up. Even though I’m one of the weirdos who loves Happy Together way more than In the Mood for Love, their summary of it is fantastic.

      Some other favorites:
      “It’s just simply endlessly watchable, a gorgeous-looking, phenomenally acted noir tale that can achieve more in its relatively brief running time than most of your peak-TV faves do in 10 hours.” This sentence idea needs to be a feature. There are a lot of impressive films that TV series would be wise to take note of despite the difference in storytelling length.

      “It’s a rousing, thrilling adventure tale, with a dizzying level of imagination and creativity to the various creatures and sequences its showcases, like a sort of pastoral “Star Wars.”

      But for the record, does anyone’s dad love Inglorious and Django? The warring factions between those two probably splits up the dad-sphere too.

  • MarkoP

    No Fireworks?

  • loudrockmusic

    Dang. Not one Hal Hartley mention for the whole decade.

  • Pedro Canhenha

    The ones that I would add to this list include David Fincher’s The Game, Atom Egoyan’s The Sweet Hereafter, Woody Allen’s Deconstructing Harry, Pedro Costa’s Ossos and Steven Spielberg’s Amistad.

  • Silga

    1. Boogie Nights
    2. Jackie Brown
    3. Affliction
    4. The Spanish Prisoner
    5. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
    6. Gattaca
    7. L.A. Confidential
    8. The Fifth Element
    9. The Game
    10. The Rainmaker

    • lostjack

      Both Affliction and Spanish Prisoner were released in the US in 1998.

  • Jeremy

    Mad props for not mentioning the boat movie.

  • Joey Lee

    Chasing Amy

  • ReallyReallyBigMan

    1997 was a better year for movies than I’d realized. You covered most of them. Forgot Titanic and Life is Beautiful.

  • Phil Surtees

    Typical! Aside from making more money than any other movie up until that point, Titanic was not only nominated for a record tying number of Oscar, it won a record tying number of them, having also won 4 Golden Globes – including Best Picture – and it is on SIX of the AFI’s Top 100 Lists, including Best Movies Of The Last 100 Years. UNLIKE ANY OF THE OTHER MOVIES ON THIS LIST. When Titanic was re-released in 3D it made more money than a lot of blockbusters do in their initial theatrical run. Why? Because it’s a bloody brilliant movie! Ah … but it’s not popular to rate it so you don’t even MENTION it, even in the list of runners-up. I hope you feel sufficiently cool and hip, because you look like a pack of ignorant idiots…