1997 in Movies

Movie reviews written for movies released theatrically in 1997. Keep in mind I was 15-16 in 1997 and saw many of these movies in my late teens or early 20s.

1. Eve’s Bayou, directed by Kasi Lemmons (9/10)

Unfortunately I have lost my review for this film, so I can’t really justify its position here at the top right now.

1. Fast, Cheap and Out of Control, directed by Errol Morris (9/10)

This is a remarkable movie. It’s not your normal documentary. From the title, you might think it was about some kind of illegal car races. I don’t know what I was expecting, but not this. I don’t know exactly how to describe it. What it is is some kind of rumination on life, via interviews of four guys, some weird, some not so weird, and some relevant (or not) film clips. It doesn’t sound like much, I know, but it’s unlike anything else I’ve seen. I’m never too quick to dismiss the unusual. It was thought provoking, to say the least. A unique film.

1. Little Dieter Needs to Fly, directed by Werner Herzog (9/10)

This story is absolutely incredible. As usual, Herzog’s telling of it is totally unlike anything else. I don’t know how he does it, but it’s totally outside the box. The combination the very compelling story of Dieter’s crash and escape, and Herzog’s bizarre approach to the story, which manages to elevate the story to something universal, makes for an incredibly compelling film.

4. Lost Highway, directed by David Lynch (9/10)

“We’ve met before haven’t we?”

“Where is it do you think we’ve met?”

“At your house, don’t you remember? As a matter of fact, I’m there right now. Call me.”

5. Hands on a Hard Body, directed by S. R. Bindler (9/10)

The other day I watched Hands on a Hard Body. It was an awesome movie. Here is the best moment of it:

“It’s like a movie that I once saw. It’s called Highlander. In the end, there can only be one.”

Why this is funny…no, why this is amazingly hilarious:

Until that point in the movie, despite the contest itself, there is still a pretty serious tone.

This guy was serious.

He didn’t get the quote right, it’s : “There can be only one.”

Apparently immortals having swordfights (for some reason I can’t remember) is the same as trying to keep your hand on a truck for three days.

Anyway, the movie is great. See it.

6. Fireworks aka Hana-bi, directed by Takeshi Kitano (9/10)

What I said at the time: What’s great about this movie is how it deals unconventionally with conventional stuff. Though violent (and often needlessly bloody), a lot of the violence takes place off screen, which can be very striking and effective. Though the main character rarely speaks, we are able to understand him a little more through his relationship with his wife. The fragmented time at first seems awkward but eventually works to the film’s advantage.

7. Grosse Pointe Blank, directed by George Armitage (9*/10)

I cannot be objective about this movie.

8. Boogie Nights, directed by Paul Thomas Anderson (8*/10)

Seen when I was in my late teens, I have never watched it since. I suspect I should.

9. L.A. Confidential, directed by Curtis Hanson (8/10)

I have likely seen this too many times to be objective about it but it remains a very effective neo-noir.

10. The Game, directed by David Fincher (8*/10)

I had a way too high opinion of this for many years, back when twists were all I cared about. Also, as my friend pointed out, this was ripped off the Magus. Why not just make that instead?

11. Insomnia, directed by Erik Skjoldbjaerg (8/10)

There are certain things the remake improves, but for the most part this is the better film.

12. Jackie Brown, directed by Quentin Tarantino (8/10)

I saw this years and years ago, and I didn’t like it. I don’t know why. I guess it was just the stubborn thing for me to do. I didn’t like Pulp Fiction the first time, either.

I guess I can see why people thought of this as some kind of misstep from the wonder boy, because it’s certainly way less ambitious than his previous film.

But I think it’s certainly underrated. It may be his weakest feature [prior to The Hateful 8] – and that’s debatable – but it has held up much better than True Romance, the film that launched his career and which is considered part of his oeuvre even though he didn’t direct it. And it’s nice to see what he can do when he is restricting himself to actually trying to make a relatively straightforward crime caper, with limited film references.

13. Affliction, directed by Paul Schraeder (8/10)

I have lost this review.

14. The Ice Storm, directed by Ang Lee (8/10)

I have lost my review for this.

15. 4 Little Girls, directed by Spike Lee (8/10)

Overall, Lee does a very good job of using talking heads to transport the viewer to Birmingham. Some of the interviews seem a little irrelevant (Bill Cosby??) and some of the montages don’t work so well. But for the most part it is a fine film and it really conveys the sorrow everyone experienced from this particular act of terrorism.

16. The Butcher Boy, directed by Neil Jordan (8/10)

I have lost my review for this.

17. The Sweet Hereafter, directed by Atom Egoyan (8/10)

Egoyan’s best film; I don’t know if I reviewed it at the time.

18. Cube, directed by Vincenzo Natali (8*/10)

Yes, the acting is not very good. But this is an incredibly inventive low budget sci fi film. I still think I should re-watch it now that I am slightly less obsessed with gimmicks.

19. The Fifth Element, directed by Luc Besson (8/10*)

I loved this as a teen. I have not watched it all the way through since I was in my early 20s, probably. Don’t know what I would think of it today.

20. Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, directed by Jay Roach (8/10)

I think now that I have seen the ‘Flint’ films I might feel differently about this movie, but at the time, I thought it was a welcome antidote to too many spy movies.

21. Orgazmo, directed by Trey Parker (8*/10)

Way, way less good than I rated it, I’m sure.

22. The Spanish Prisoner, directed by David Mamet (9/10)

For a long time this was one of my favourite movies. I watchted it again in 2021 and found that it is a pretty well done cone film, with a few plot holes/open quetsions. It’s fun, but it’s hardly one of hte best movies of the year like I believed it to be for decades.

23. Donnie Brasco, directed by Mike Newell (7/10)

Not really sure what I would think of this now.

24. Karakter, directed by Mike van Diem (7/10)

I have lost my review for this.

25. Genealogies of a Crime, directed by Raoul Ruiz (7/10)

I have lost my review for this.

26. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, directed by Clint Eastwood (7*/10)

Though I have never read the book, I loved this at the time. I believe I may have adjusted this rating after I saw it once or twice on TV, in parts. But I think I should given this a full adult viewing.

27. The Boxer, directed by Jim Sheridan (7/10)

Age has not been kind to this film, is my guess, as its soundtrack and editing reek of the ’90s. I’m guessing that this film felt a little more realistic and “gritty” in 1997.

I don’t want to be critical of a message movie that was trying to help end an ongoing conflict. I never lived through anything like that and I sure can’t say what it’s like to have known this kind of conflict my whole life.

I can’t criticize the acting – Day-Lewis is great as usual, as is Watson, and I can say nothing against the supporting cast – or the sense of place, which is excellent.

But the plot feels contrived. I don’t know if it is, but it feels that way. Especially the end, which feels too cute, too perfect.

28. Starship Troopers, directed by Paul Verhoeven (7/10)

Even though I haven’t seen this movie since I was 16 or 17, I maintain that this is an effective satire, even if the acting is – I believe deliberately – terrible.

29. Trekkies, directed by Roger Nygard (7/10)

I lost my review for this, if I ever wrote one.

30. The Castle, directed by Rob Sitch (7*/10)

When I saw this I probably didn’t get most of it, but I wanted people to think I did, so I rated it higher. This was my cultural introduction to Australia, seriously.

31. Chile, Obstinate Memory, directed by Patricio Guzman (6/10)

This is an interesting, albeit sort of confused, film based around the decision of exiled director Patricio Guzman to bring his Battle of Chile back to Chile to show it to audiences who had never seen it – as it was banned by Pinochet’s government and, according to Guzman, no theatres were interested in showing it.

Guzman oddly chooses to have people reenact some things and have people march down the street playing an old revolutionary anthem. I’m not sure what the point is, though the reactions in the crowd are kind of incredible.

The film is scored by Guzman’s old uncle trying (and failing) to play Beethoven’s ‘Moonlight’ sonata, which seems thematically appropriate but gets annoying.

Anyway, we get survivors reminiscing, students getting angry about the movie – as they are either brainwashed or believe that no matter how bad Pinochet was, Allende was worse – and other things. It’s a bit of a mess.

The film ends with a group of people reacting to the first screening, with most of them in tears. It is by far the most moving part of the film and the most effective.

This is only worth watching if you’ve seen Battle of Chile. But though it’s confused, it does have some value to it.

32. The MatchMaker, directed by Mark Joffe (6/10)

This is a fairly amusing Romantic Comedy with a ridiculous premise. (But then, aren’t most romantic comedies driven by ridiculous premises?)

As an avowed Garofalo fan, it’s nice to see her in a lead role. And the rest of the cast is pretty decent too, especially the Irish half. But the film, and its characterizations, have rather dated. Leary’s character, meant to seem like the lowest of political operators, seems super tame 20 years later. And the world around the campaign feels similarly dated, which makes it feel a little inauthentic, though this is not a problem for any of the scenes in Ireland)

I watched this weeks ago (over a month ago?) but forgot to write a review so I am forgetting the other things I thought at the time.

33. Cop Land, directed by James Mangold (6*/10)

I really don’t remember this.

34. Gattaca, directed by Andrew Niccol (6*/10)

I don’t really remember this.

35. The Edge, directed by Lee Tamahori (6/10)

I feel like this was sort of over-cooked.

36. In and Out, directed by Frank Oz (6/10)

I liked this a lot when I saw it in theatres.

37. Twilight of the Ice Nymphs, directed by Guy Maddin (6/10)

The only Maddin film that can’t really be called Maddinesque, this is still odd enough to be interesting, but it is certainly lacking much of the charm of the rest of his oeuvre.

38. As Good as a it Gets, directed by James L. Brooks (6/10)

I didn’t mind this mildly amusing movie when it came out.

39. Scream 2, directed by Wes Craven (6/10)

Though it is quite funny, like the first, it also gets a little more preposterous with the killers’ physical abilities. (I.e. he magically flies from one place to another.)

40. Seven Years in Tibet, directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud (5/10)

Way, way too deliberately place and too long, but otherwise beautiful to look at.

41. The End of Violence, directed by Wim Wenders (5/10*)

Putting aside the bizarre title, I think I was probably too young for this movie when I saw it.

42. Men in Black, directed by Barry Sonnefeld (5/10*)

Given how frequently I  invoke this movie in discussions about the nature of the universe, I really should rate it higher. Also, it is more entertaining than most of the films rated this low.

I really liked this as a teen, and then discovered that I did not as an adult.

43. The Lost World: Jurassic Park, directed by Steven Spielberg (5/10)

44. Murder at 1600, directed by Dwight Little (5/10)

I tried to tell people this was better than the original for a few years. I really don’t know why.

45. The Devil’s Own, directed by Alan J. Pakula (5/10)

No opinion, really.

46. The Myth of Fingerprints, directed by Bart Freundlich (5/10)

I lost my review of this.

47. Conspiracy Theory, directed by Richard Donner (5/10)

A mess, if I remember correctly.

48. Liar, Liar, directed by Tom Shadyac (5*/10)

Watched this too many times as a teen.

49. Dante’s Peak, directed by Roger Donaldson (5*/10)

Pretty ridiculous if memory serves, but hardly as horrible as Volcano.

50. Titanic, directed by James Cameron (5/10)

One of the most overrated movies in the history of overrated movies. The ship is sinking, but let’s have a gunfight. Incidentally, Avatar has already been nominated for Golden Globes, how does that work?

51. Face/Off, directed by John Woo (5*/10)

I should really be crueler towards this stupid, stupid movie but I haven’t seen it since I was in my very early 20s.

52. Good Will Hunting, directed by Gus Van Sant (5/10*)

I’m not sure if I ever made it through all of this, which is why I have an asterisk, but I rated it anyway!

53. Alien: Resurrection, directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet (4/10)

Totally unnecessary, but at least a creative person made it.

54. The Devil’s Advocate, directed by Taylor Hackford (4/10)

Recently a writer for the AV Club suggested that this was the most over the top performance of Pacino’s career and I’m inclined to agree. Cool when you’re a teenager, though.

55. Deconstructing Harry, directed by Woody Allen (4/10)

I claimed to like this when I saw it in theatres, but I guess I liked it substantially less the next time I saw it.

56. Tomorrow Never Dies, directed by Roger Spottiswoode (4/10)

I didn’t mind this when it first came out but watching bits and pieces of it later changed my mind.

57. Chasing Amy, directed by Kevin Smith (4/10)

Lesbians are lesbians, they are not ignorant women waiting to be turned on to the virtues of the male.

58. My Best Friend’s Wedding, directed by P.J. Hogan (4/10)

For reasons that shall remain obscure, I have seen this movie more than once. It actually inspired me to dream about making a similar arrangement but I never had the balls to say it out loud to the girl in question. (I thought she would never speak to me again.)  I hate these things; they send horrible messages to people.

59. Sue, directed by Amos Kollek (4/10)

I feel like this was a Showcase late-nighter.

60. Absolute Power, directed by Clint Eastwood (4/10*)

I remember liking this the first time and pretty much hating it a few years later. I suspect the truth is in between.

61. I Know What You Did Last Summer, directed by Jim Gillespie (4/10)

What did I do?

62. Air Force One, directed by (4/10*)

The president as an action hero. That statement is ridiculous. I think I should be harder on this.

63. The Postman, directed by Kevin Costner (4/10)

Nowhere near as bad as it is maintained, this is still way too long and a missed opportunity to actually do something with the clunky allegory.

64. An American Werewolf in Paris, directed by Anthony Waller (3/10)

An insult to the original.

65. Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion, directed by David Mirkin (3*/10)

I really, really didn’t get this when I was a teen.

66. Con Air, directed by Simon West (2*/10)

I thought this was a great film featuring great acting when I was 16. I guess I then got really embarrassed by that opinion and changed by rating without sitting through it again.

67. Volcano, directed by Mick Jackston (2*/10)

I didn’t rate this when I saw it so I have retroactively given it this rating because the plot is so fucking stupid.

68. Excess Baggage, directed by Marco Brambila (2/10)

Don’t remember it. I guess that means it couldn’t be the worst.

69. Anaconda, directed by Luis Llosa (2/10)

Pretty terrible, but nowhere as nearly as terrible as the sequel.

70. Wishmaster, directed by Robert Kurtzman (2/10)

In retrospect, giving this a 2 seems somewhat charitable.

71. Spacejacked, directed by Jeremiah Cullinane (2/10)

I don’t remember this at all, but I’m sure I hated it at the time.

72. McHale’s Navy, directed by Bryan Spicer (1/10)

I never saw the show, but hopefully it was a lot better than this piece of shit.

73. Habitat, directed by Rene Daadler (1/10)

Just horrible.

74. Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, directed by John R. Leonetti (1/10)

I don’t remember this, now, but I hated this when I was in my early 20s. Can’t imagine what I would think of it now that I have standards.

75. Speed 2: Cruise Control, directed by Jan de Bont (1/10)

Perhaps the worst idea in blockbuster sequel history. Maybe that’s slightly too harsh. Maybe.

76. Batman and Robin, directed by Joel Schumacher (1/10)

The absolute nadir of the pre-revisionist super hero movie trend.


“Commingled Containers” directed by Stan Brakhage (8/10)