review: Spielberg comes close to matching the impact of Schindler's List with this drama about an African who commandeers the ship make to bring him to slavery in America (he again reaches these heights with Munich, by the way) with powerful advocates portrayed by Anthony Hopkins and Matthew McConaughey once he finds himself in the trial of his life (literally) as a result. This is a movie that kind of symbolizes the whole year, which was a transition one for Hollywood in general, everyone trying to figure out what the new norm is supposed to be.
Out to Sea
review: If there's a better movie than the Lemmon/Matthau Grumpy Old Men series with them in it, it's this one, which also features a breakout comedic performance from Brent Spiner (Data in Star Trek).
The Fifth Element
review: Bruce Willis begins a new chapter in his career with this outlandish sci-fi parody that plays equally well in its dramatic elements, and as a parody of his action career, which clearly doesn't interest him as much as it does his fans.
Men in Black
review: An equally gonzo sci-fi flick, Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones deconstruct everything The X-Files had been trying to make suitably dramatic on TV.
review: Jim Carrey had waited so long for his big break that soon after he was already playing fathers in his movies. He twists himself into hilarious knots when his son makes a wish that he can't lie. Cary Elwes is equally great in a subdued supporting role, in which he gamely offers an imitation of what Jim Carrey might look like as a normal person.
Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery
review: So unexpected a belated hit with fans that later films couldn't possibly duplicate its appeal, with or without Mini-Me tossed in.
review: Mel Gibson's manic energy gives perfect voice to a guy driven off the deep end by finding out everything he hallucinated about the world may actually be true. And anyway, if you can't bring yourself to like him, there's also Julia Roberts and Patrick Stewart, in his greatest non-franchise Hollywood role.
Good Will Hunting
review: Matt Damon and Ben Affleck are game boy wonders, but Robin Williams easily steals the movie from them in one of his best dramatic performances.
review: Quentin Tarantino comes his closest to subdued in this movie, which posits a charismatic Robert Forster as the only person capable of taming Pam Grier. This is also your chance to see Robert De Niro and Chris Tucker in a Tarantino flick.
Grosse Pointe Blank
review: Easily the most unique high school reunion movie I've seen, with John Cusack as a hitman trying to reconcile his life even as Dan Ackroyd comes gunning for him.
review: The gushingly romantic James Cameron hit you may have heard about.
review: Ving Rhames in his best starring role in a kind of black Western.
review: Oliver Stone, oddly, does a more authentic Quentin Tarantino without Tarantino providing the script.
Batman & Robin
review: Oddly, I kind of like this much-despised entry in the franchise better than its predecessor, as it betters integrates all the elements the studio thought would make Batman more family-friendly. Despite the camp, it has more heart than any Dark Knight movie.
review: A kind of retro take on Tarantino, with Russell Crowe and Kevin Spacey leading an excellent cast.
review: Fun little original sci-fi parable with Ethan Hawke and Jude Law.
review: With Disney apparently uninterested in making its signature movies, someone else did.
review: Robin Williams in this effects-happy update of The Absent-Minded Professor before viewers were as interested as Hollywood in living in a digital world.
review: Admirable attempt by Sylvester Stallone to reinsert himself into serious dramas.
review: Disney again skewing tradition with a male lead. The Gospel music is an inspired choice.
In & Out
review: A movie inspired by an Oscar speech, with Kevin Kline desperately trying to prove he's not gay. This movie would not be made today.
review: Inexplicably, the horror satire becomes a part of horror tradition.
review: The Kevin Costner backlash continues, this time with an epic he derived from a David Brin sci-fi book.
review: A minor gangster entry featuring solid work from Johnny Depp and Al Pacino.
review: Demi Moore seeing how far she can push her career.
review: John Travolta and Nicholas Cage see how far they can push their careers.
Mortal Kombat: Annihilation
review: Brian Thompson tries to keep this unfortunate sequel afloat.
review: One of the first animes of the modern era to test whether American audiences are willing to enjoy something that was clearly never intended for them.
The Butcher Boy
review: Youths misbehave, but with Irish accents.
review: Patrick Stewart in a misguided effort to define his Hollywood role outside of franchises.
review: Volcano movie. For some reason this was a competition that year.
review: Hollywood's desperation to find the next Star Wars kind of reaches the bottom of the barrel. So naturally it was time for Star Wars itself to return.
Kull the Conqueror
review: Basically Kevin Sorbo making a big screen Hercules. But "not" as Hercules.
review: Not horrid. But clearly not budgeted sufficiently.
review: Clearly intended to be the Deadpool of 1997. Failed miserably.