2018 marls the 20-year anniversary of a number of landmarks: The Good Friday Agreement, David Beckham’s World Cup sending-off, the Friends episode where Ross says Rachel at the altar.
However, on top of all that, it’s two decades since a number of memorable films came out – many of which still seem as fresh today as the day they were released, and some of which feel much, much older.
Films like… well… these ones.
1. The Wedding Singer
The start of the year is often a time for Oscar-worthy films to get an airing ahead of the awards ceremony. Adam Sandler may find himself in the mix in 2018 for The Meyerowitz Stories. Ergo, a film released in January 1998 and starring the American actor was probably Oscar-bait, right? Wrong.
There’s a reason it’s closer in time to Happy Gilmore than to Sandler’s more recent work, and it’s the exact sort of film with which he made his name: a comedy with heart behind the crass jokes, and perhaps his most accomplished performance of the ‘90s – perhaps even moreseo than fellow 1998 release The Waterboy.
There was much more optimism back in the late ‘90s. We were still pretending Britpop wasn’t dying, and Tony Blair was still legitimately popular, while England were ‘good’ at football. This is probably why there was so much space for bleak and terrifying cinema.
Ring was part of the first wave of East Asian films turned too quickly into English-language remakes, and Hideo Nakata’s classic was streets ahead of even its contemporaries. It’s hard to believe a film centred on videotapes could come out after the invention of the DVD.
3. The Big Lebowski
That’s 20 full years of ordering White Russians because it seemed cool at the time and you have too much pride to back down now.
The Big Lebowski is home to one of the all-time great ‘oh yeah, they’re in this too’ ensemble casts, with a flawless script and a show-stealing supporting performance from Philip Seymour Hoffman. Go back and watch it immediately.
4. Sliding Doors
1998 really was slap bang in the golden era of romcoms and before Love Actually came along to provide the definitive text/kill it stone dead (delete as appropriate), Sliding Doors offered up a glorious example of the genre, with peak Paltrow, the slightly-too-sickly but never mind John Hannah and, the star of the show, the hilariously utter bastard ex-boyfriend/current boyfriend John Lynch.
If nothing else, the film deserves eternal praise for featuring the greatest lost pop song of all time in the form of Aqua’s ‘Turn Back Time’.
5. Deep Impact
The late ‘90s were a simpler time, when disaster movies were still fantastical and not somehow underplaying the horror of reality. That meant the scope to go OTT was huge, and we got less gratuitous racism than some more recent attempts (not naming any names, but if you know, you know).
It was also the only film to star Morgan Freeman as the President of the United States – yeah, I know, it feels like we’ve had at least two – and as such, it features that speech.
Matthew Broderick was the star of one of the highest grossing films of the year. That feels like something that could have happened in the ‘80s or 2000s, but not the decade in between. And yet…
Are there too many Godzilla films? Maybe. Is this the one people miss out when running through monster films of the last 25 years? Perhaps. Was it good? Who knows.
7. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Fear and Loathing somehow seems permanently 10 years old, no more and no less, which is a fine achievement for a film released in 1998 and based on a novel published more than a quarter-century earlier.
Perhaps the quasi-period nature is what makes it so timeless, but the Terry Gilliam film retains the unique charm of that summer you really got into the idea of doing drugs and also maybe did actual drugs twice, once while watching this film.
Yeah, it’s Deep Impact, but with less Morgan Freeman and more Aerosmith. And we don’t hear too many complaints about the same film coming out twice in one year when it produces the best soundtrack of the last quarter-century.
OK, that’s probably unfair. One film is about an object on a collision course with earth after being discovered by an amateur astronomer, while the other is about an object on a collision course with earth after being discovered by professional astronomers. I take it all back.
9. There’s Something About Mary
It’s a known fact that Ben Stiller has looked almost entirely the same since 1996, with the exception of his hair getting a little greyer, so it can be tough to place this film in the wider chronology of cinema.
Also features Lee Evans in his short-lived run as ‘guy people would actually cast in Hollywood films because he’s funny in an English kind of way’, which we can only presume was a sort of dry-run for Ricky Gervais a few years later.
10. Saving Private Ryan
Ah, yes, Saving Private Ryan, that was good when it came out a few years back. What? 20? No way!
You’ve seen this film, and you’ve seen it recently, because it’s that good. You’ve given Steven Spielberg’s modern classic a watch 10 times, once every couple of years, but for some reason haven’t done the maths and figured out that means it must have been released in 1998. Don’t worry, it’s been a tiring year.
Trey Parker and Matt Stone have been going for 20 whole years. And not just going, but going well enough that their early South Park success earned them the support of Airplane! director David Zucker.
BASEketball carries a premise so simple and an execution so natural there’s no way it couldn’t work. Well, except commercially. It made back less than one third of its $23 million budget, despite the combination of toilet humour, in-jokes and nonsensical streams of consciousness actually being all the rage back then. Oh well, we’ll always have that song.
12. Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels
In 1997, Vinnie Jones was a footballer with Wimbledon and Wales. In 1998 he was a Hollywood name. The same goes for Guy Ritchie, if you ignore the football part.
Lock Stock was a cinematic debut for actor and director alike, and looking at Ritchie’s subsequent success it’s hard to reconcile yourself that all of this has happened in just two decades. Incidentally, the film’s £800,000 budget was only a little more than QPR paid Wimbledon to sign Jones that same year, only for the midfielder to retire less than 12 months after arriving.
It’s the old Matt Damon having the same face for his entire life trick, isn’t it. As with Saving Private Ryan, Rounders arrived in the post-Good Will Hunting rush, when Damon was an in-demand name but not exclusively a headliner, and remains the one good poker film ever made.
Wondering why we saw such a big poker boom in the mid-2000s? It’s probably no coincidence that the impressionable teens who got good after watching Damon play Mike McDermott back in ’98 are the same ones who turned ‘poker pro’ into a workable profession.
14. Rush Hour
If there was ever a film to capture a time of hope and positivity, it’s surely this one. The sort of buddy cop movie that probably wouldn’t see the light of day in 2018, but went on to gross more than $240 million through the sheer power of feelgood.
Want a guide to how different things were when Rush Hour came out? The UK relinquishing its rule of Hong Kong was a legitimate plot point. Of course, it would have been a waste of time without the on-screen chemistry of Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker, two men who few would have thought to put alongside one another. I guess we were more prepared to take risks back then.
15. The Truman Show
Intrusive levels of surveillance on the lives of individuals? Out-of-control reality TV concepts? Jim Carrey in big, memorable roles? All sounds more recent, doesn’t it, but perhaps The Truman Show was just comfortably ahead of its time.
With cracking documentary Jim & Andy landing on Netflix, now’s the perfect time to revisit the last film Carrey released before playing Andy Kaufman in Man on the Moon in 1999.
16. American History X
Back in 1998, we were all talking about American neo-Nazis who were capable of hiding their views behind respectable facades. Thank god things have changed since then and that’s no longer a threat we’re having to deal with on a day-to-day basis with a confusing degree of media complicity. What’s that? Oh, yeah, right.
Ed Norton’s performance as Derek Vinyard is one of the most accomplished of his career. Just a shame it’s so close to home whenever we read the headlines in 2017.
17. A Bug’s Life
If you were growing up when the regular stream of Disney movies transitioned into a regular stream of Pixar movies and they were still called ‘computer-animated’ rather than just ‘animated’, you’ll probably think it can’t have been 20 years since A Bug’s Life came out. We hate to break it to you, but that’s just how time works.
It was joined in 1998 by Antz – you know, that other kids’ film with animated insects – in what we’ll call a six-legged Deep Impact/Armageddon scenario. And besides, this one had Julia Louis-Dreyfus and David Hyde Pierce, as well as less of a ‘it’s the ‘90s so we’re just going to use a regular word but change the s to a z’ vibe.
18. You’ve Got Mail
There’s probably some kind of ‘Millennium Bug’ pun we can make about the last two entries on this list, but that feels… well, not lazy, but someone probably did the exact same thing in 1998. Yes, 1998, when an email-based romcom was cutting-edge.
A Tom Hanks-Meg Ryan romcom directed by Nora Ephron feels like it ought to have arrived earlier, while chatrooms forming the basis of a relationship doesn’t feel like something that was so mainstream back in the ‘90s, so I guess the two things cancel each other out.
Additional Sliding Doors comment provided by Dave Fawbert.
(Images: Rex Features)