25 years ago, we got one of the greatest years for movies ever. And, we don’t even need to talk about the most famous movie to prove it.
25 years ago, Titanic was only the tip of the iceberg when it came to killer movies. Leo’s “king of the world” moment tends to dominate our perception of 1997, but there were far more interesting, bizarre, and great movies from that year.
Here are the top 25 movies from 1997 that you can’t believe were all released the same year and also very much not Titanic.
Proof that all Jurassic sequels don’t even bother trying to be as good as the 1993 original begins with the first sequel, The Lost World. Like all sequels to Jurassic Park, this movie has some great dinosaurs and sort of throws up its hands about anything else.
‘90 movies really loved the whole dad-misses-son’s-baseball-game-because-he-cares- too-much-about-work-trope. Liar Liar is indisputably the best of those kinds of movies due in large part because of the way Jim Carrey throws his entire body — often literally— into every single joke.
Against all odds, a movie in which Nicholas Cage plays an Army Ranger who goes to prison because his fists are deadly weapons and is forced to almost single-handedly fight convicts when a man named “Cyrus the Virus” hijacks a plane in mid-air, is somehow not the weirdest Nick Cage action movie of 1997.
This disaster gave the world Arnold Schwarzenegger saying “everybody chill.” It may not be the same kind of camp masterpiece as its predecessor Batman Forever, but, the fact we will never again get a Batman movie quite like this is a small tragedy.
While everyone’s mileage with Quentin Tarantino movies will vary, Jackie Brown is one everyone can agree is solid. It’s fashionable to say Tarantino peaked with Pulp Fiction, but Pam Grier’s performance in Jackie Brown is amazing.
Contrary to what some argue, sci-fi can indeed be horror, but it’s tricky. Event Horizon pulls it off in large part because whatever’s going on in that abandoned ship in a distant orbit around Neptune is fundamentally unknowable and terrible. Also, let’s pause to consider that Sam Neill starred in this movie, but not the aforementioned Jurassic Park movie released the same year.
Wag the Dog is an eviscerating, darkly funny comedy about narratives and spin that has, perhaps, not aged especially well. It’s not the movie’s fault, though. It’s just that politics — and media — are much different than they were in 1997, so there’s almost a reassuring quaintness to Wag the Dog’s scandals and fake war.
The twists of this David Fincher thriller are contrived and beyond belief, yet when you’re watching, it doesn’t matter. The Game is a journey into madness, a world where every character except for our protagonist, Michael Douglas, is six steps ahead — and if you think you can out-think Fincher, he’s one step ahead of you, too.
Gritty superhero movies that are also anti-hero narratives are so common now it barely makes sense to suggest doing a movie like that was ever risky. And yet, in 1997 nobody was making movies like Spawn; a Black superhero, in a moody, utterly unique superhero movie. Nobody ever made them like this!
Bottom line: This was a James Bond spoof, that hit during a time when, arguably, the movie connected with people who didn’t care about James Bond. It’s a brilliant parody that created its own references and didn’t require anyone to “get” what it was (lovingly) mocking.
The most ‘90s thing that can happen in a ‘90s movie happens here: When Casper Van Dien and Patrick Muldoon fight over Denise Richards, the song playing in the background is Mazzy Star’s “Fade Into You.”
Also, you were aware this movie was satire, right?
It’s a wonder that Disney hadn’t put mouse ears on Greek mythology, and it’s a little baffling that they haven’t since — clearly these old myths were a great muse. Hercules stands out from other Disney movies of the era thanks to its distinctive, more-angular animation style and a more overt willingness to not just tweak old source material, but really have fun with it.
It can be a challenge for a movie to be both optimistic and thrilling, especially when it involves aliens. Contact solves this problem by beginning as a twisty-turny puzzle and ending with a dramatic, emotional, and even existential journey, anchored by Jodie Foster. Also, there’s a reason why this movie is also on our Matthew McConaughey list.
Air Force One, the second of two planes-taken-hostage movies on this list, asks a very important question: What if the president kicked ass? It’s a great question, and the answer is that politics are a whole lot better when there are no real-life stakes and instead you just have Harrison Ford growl-shouting “GET OFF MY PLANE.”