When the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences looked at 1991, it gave its Best Picture award to The Silence of the Lambs, a highbrow slasher flick. I liked that one well enough to add it to my honorable mentions, but it didn't make my top 10:
1. The Rapture Written and directed by Michael Tolkin
The best movie ever made about apocalyptic Christianity.
2. Hearts of Darkness Directed by Fax Bahr and George Hickenlooper
A behind-the-scenes look at Apocalypse Now that doubles as a remake of Apocalypse Now.
3. Homicide Written and directed by David Mamet
"When you start cumming with the customers, it's time to quit."
4. Raise the Red Lantern Directed by Zhang Yimou Written by Zhen Ni, from a novel by Su Tong
"It's all playacting. If you play well, you fool the others. If you play badly, you only fool yourself. If you can't even fool yourself, you can fool the ghosts."
5. Prime Suspect Directed by Christopher Menaul Written by Lynda La Plante
How amazed I was by this miniseries when it first came out. A police procedural whose solution wasn't telegraphed from the beginning. With red herrings that might actually mislead you. On television! In those days this was just about unheard-of.
6. Blooper Bunny Directed by Greg Ford and Terry Lennon Written by Ford, Lennon, and Ronnie Schelb
One of the few latter-day Bugs Bunny cartoons to retain the edge of the originals.
7. Tribulation 99 Written and directed by Craig Baldwin
Yes, we'll get to JFK in a moment. But this is the great sprawling conspiracy epic of 1991.
8. JFK Directed by Oliver Stone Written by Stone and Zachary Sklar
Stone throws so many theories into this movie that his psychedelic montages take on a life of their own; the cascading images and ideas sweep aside any single thesis about what happened in Dallas in 1963. As a result, whether he intended it or not, the film looks less like an historical theory and more like a panoramic view of the psychic landscape in paranoid post-assassination America. Needless to say, that's much more interesting than the standard Oliver Stone message-movie.
9. Slacker Written and directed by Richard Linklater
Obsessive geeks, conspiracy theorists, alt-media weirdos, an anarchist invoking Guy Fawkes, even a "Ron Paul: Libertarian for President" sign: Here is your guide to the ensuing 20 years of the counterculture.
10. Point Break Directed by Kathryn Bigelow Written by W. Peter Iliff
I'll tip my hat to Andrew Sarris and call this "expressive esoterica."
11. Delicatessen (Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Marc Caro) 12. Blood in the Face (Anne Bohlen, Kevin Rafferty) 13. The Double Life of Veronique (Krzysztof Kieslowski) 14. Zentropa (Lars von Trier) 15. Little Man Tate (Jodie Foster) 16. Dogfight (Nancy Savoca) 17. Like Water for Chocolate (Alfonso Arau) 18. Thanksgiving Prayer (Gus Van Sant) 19. The Silence of the Lambs (Jonathan Demme) 20. Flirting (John Duigan)
Of the films of 1991 that I haven’t seen, I’m most interested in The Architecture of Doom.