When the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences looked back at 1992, it picked Unforgiven as the best movie of the year. That one almost made it to the top of my list—but not quite:
1. Glengarry Glen Ross
Directed by James Foley
Written by David Mamet, from his play
It's a filmed play, and it shows. But it's also the best Mamet adaptation ever to grace the screen.
Directed by Clint Eastwood
Written by David Webb Peoples
Wise and bleak.
3. Brother's Keeper
Directed by Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky
How is it that two moviemakers could go to a small town, start filming the real events transpiring there, and somehow capture a story more engaging, compelling, and mysterious than almost everything produced by people who get to make shit up?
4. Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me
Directed by David Lynch
Written by Lynch and Robert Engels
The Cannes crowd praised Lynch's Wild at Heart, and then they lacerated this nightmarish prequel to his TV series. They got it exactly backwards.
5. Prime Suspect 2
Directed by John Strickland
Written by Allan Cubitt and Lynda La Plante
A mystery miniseries with unpredictable plot twists, genuinely misleading red herrings, and other features sadly lacking from most TV police procedurals—including, alas, some of the subsequent Prime Suspects.
Written and directed by Jan Švankmajer
Not very appetizing.
7. Porco Rosso
Written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki, from his manga
"I'd much rather be a pig than a fascist."
8. Reservoir Dogs
Directed by Quentin Tarantino
Written by Tarantino and Roger Avary
Tarantino's great. Keep your stupid backlash, and stop blaming him for the lousy imitations he inspired.
9. The Player
Directed by Robert Altman
Written by Michael Tolkin, from his novel
"I was just thinking what an interesting concept it is to eliminate the writer from the artistic process. If we could just get rid of these actors and directors, maybe we've got something here."
Directed by Bernard Rose
Written by Rose, from a story by Clive Barker
Lots of horror movies are based on urban legends. This one is about urban legends, and the whole process of cultural transmission that they represent.
11. Swoon (Tom Kalin)
12. A Brief History of Time (Errol Morris)
13. The Crying Game (Neil Jordan)
14. Wayne's World (Penelope Spheeris)
15. My New Gun (Stacy Cochran)
16. L.627 (Bertrand Tavernier)
17. Barjo (Jerome Boivin)
18. Léolo (Jean-Claude Lauzon)
19. Rock Hudson's Home Movies (Mark Rappaport)
20. Malcolm X (Spike Lee)
If you compare this list to the version I posted 10 years and a day ago, you'll see that Alex Cox's Highway Patrolman and Lars von Trier's Zentropa have gone missing. That isn't because I stopped liking them. It's just that I've learned since then that they had their initial non-U.S. releases in 1991. When I made my 1991 list last year I found room for von Trier but not Cox.
Of the films of 1992 that I haven't seen, I'm most interested in Society and Careful.