By Thomas Sellers Jr.
Arguably the greatest year in film took place a quarter of a century ago.
Whether you were into horror, action, family-friendly or period pieces, 1994 had something for you. Also known as the year of (Jim) Carey, there were plenty of comedies that still create a deep belly laugh today.
With so many timeless classics, cult favorites and hidden gems, I am here today to rank my favorite 10 movies from 1994. Please remember I was 12 and 13 years old when these movies hit the big screen.
If you hang around the 38-year-old Thomas Sellers Jr. today, you will notice much of my sense of humor was shaped by the comedies that will be listed below.
Some of you reading will be like, “Where is ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral,’ ‘Interview with the Vampire,’ ‘Pulp Fiction,’ ‘Clear and Present Danger,’ and of course ‘The Lion King’?”
The top worldwide grosser 25 years ago was “The Lion King,” becoming the highest-grossing Walt Disney feature animation film of all time. But I have never seen it or the previous movies listed.
I did enjoy flicks like “Airheads,” “Beverly Hills Cop III,” “Blue Chips,” “D2: The Mighty Ducks,” “The Mask,” “Dumb and Dumber,” “Exit to Eden,” “Hoop Dreams,” “Jason’s Lyric,” “Major League II,” “Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult,” “Natural Born Killers,” “The Shawshank Redemption” and “Speed.”
With my honorable mentions out of the way, let me channel my inner Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert to breakdown why I love these endearing motion pictures.
10. “The Paper”
Released: March 25, 1994
Directed by Ron Howard and starring Michael Keaton, Glenn Close, Robert Duval and Marisa Tomei. The plot is a New York City tabloid editor, Henry, being faced with tough decisions while he faces several serious life challenges and a tempting job offer.
Can you see my bias for liking this movie? As my journalism career has continued, I can relate to Henry Hackett even more. How do you balance your life as a reporter and keep integrity while doing the job of a journalist?
Do you stop at no cost to get the story? Are you making decisions that benefit the community you’re covering? How will your decision affect your colleagues? Am I spending enough time with my loved ones? This movies is well done at examining the life of a journalist and some of those tough decisions we face routinely.
9. “The Client”
Released: July 20, 1994
Directed by Joel Schumacher and starring Brad Renfro, Susan Sarandon, Tommy Lee Jones, Mary-Louise Parker, Anthony LaPaglia, Anthony Edwards and Ossie Davis. It is based on the novel of the same name by John Grisham.
Back in the 1990s, John Grisham adaptations to film were a hot commodity. “The Firm” was a megahit, putting Memphis on the movie map and proving Grisham novels could translate over to the big screen.
“The Client” focuses on Mark Sway, an 11-year-old boy, who lives with his mother and brother in a trailer. Tragedy strikes his family, and Mark has to find safety while looking for his justice. Susan Sarandon as Reggie Love is awesome with her Southern charm. There is suspense throughout and great acting throughout the movie. You can’t beat Tommy Lee Jones adding his natural talents to the film. A good balance of laughter and tears makes every second of this movie awesome. Shout out to Brad Renfro for his performance as Mark.
8. “Above the Rim”
Released: March 23, 1994
Directed by Jeff Pollack and starring Duane Martin, Tupac Shakur, Leon and David Bailey. The breakdown is a promising high school basketball star and his relationships with two brothers, one a drug dealer and the other a former basketball star fallen on hard times and now employed as a security guard.
This is the first rated-R movie my mom allowed me to see. I convinced her with the sports element in the movie. I told her it was a gritty version of “Hoop Dreams.” To my surprise, it worked and we went to see it.
I think my mom enjoyed the movie more than me. She has a crush on Leon, who played the security guard brother, Shep.
The lead in the movie was brought to life by Duane Martin portraying Kyle Lee Watson. The antagonist was the legendary Tupac Shakur (Birdie). Pac’s performance was like he was lowdown and evil. But his fellow actors Marlon Wayans, Bernie Mac, Leon and Martin fed off his energy to bring to life the importance of New York street ball.
7. “True Lies”
Released: July 15, 1994
Directed by James Cameron and starring the iconic Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jamie Lee Curtis and Tom Arnold. The plot was a fearless, globe-trotting, terrorist-battling secret agent having his life turned upside down when he discovers his wife might be having an affair with a used car salesman while terrorists smuggle nuclear warheads into the United States.
Harry Tasker has so many great scenes of escape, setups and pure butt kicking. If you want a microcosm of this film, watch the bridge scene. I love the ending when he saves the day, popping up in the jet. All of these awesome scenes are believable because Schwarzenegger is the actor.
Oh yeah, a 13-year-old Thomas fell in love with Jamie Lee Curtis after her dance scene. Curtis and antagonist Tia Carrere were added to my “Crush List.”
6. “House Party 3”
Released: Jan. 12, 1994
Directed by Eric Meza and starring Christopher Reid, Christopher Martin, David Edwards and Angela Means. Here is the lowdown on this: “House Party” where Kid, after a lifetime of “playing the field,” falls in love and is about to get married.
The previous two “House Party” movies proved rappers Kid and Play could hold their own on the big screen. The third installment was their final performances in the series. It was time for the guys to grow up with one last “House Party.” With plenty of Easter Eggs from the first two movies, “House Party 3” was simply funny.
Great casting with up and coming comedians at that time helped this movies deliver the laughs nonstop.
Released: Aug. 19, 1994
Directed by Mike Binder and starring Damon Wayans, David Alan Grier, Robin Givens and Christopher Lawford. A simpleton inventor becomes a superhero with a bulletproof costume and a low budget.
With the explosion of DC and Marvel movies this recent decade, people always ask me, “What is your favorite superhero movie?”
I always reply, “Blankman.”
It usually takes folks a minute to get over the shock of me picking a 30-something virgin who created his gimmick and fighting crime on a discount in honor of his grandma.
But Blankman takes down a real villain and gives a community real hope. Meanwhile I am laughing at such scenes as the pimp smacking him around and calling him Susan.
4. “Forrest Gump”
Released: June 23, 1994
Directed by Robert Zemeckis and starring Tom Hanks, Robin Wright, Gary Sinise and Sally Field. The presidencies of Kennedy and Johnson, the events of Vietnam, Watergate and other history unfold through the perspective of an Alabama man with an IQ of 75. The film is based on the 1986 novel by Winston Groom. Both center on the character of Forrest Gump.
This was a wholesome summer blockbuster. I love history, and Forrest Gump brings so much to life. I love how it all connects and how he plays a role in crucial moments around the world. How can a man with such a simple approach to life have such a major impact in so many lives?
Purely entertaining, Hanks proved why he is our generation’s greatest actor. He totally becomes Forrest. With more than $300 million domestic at the box office, “Forrest Gump” was relatable for a lot of us. Classic one-liners, memorable scenes and a deep message makes this one of the greatest movies of all time. No wonder it won the Oscar for Best Movie.
3. “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective”
Released: Feb. 4, 1994
Directed by Tom Shadyac and starring Jim Carrey, Courteney Cox, Sean Young and Dan Marino. This 1994 American comedy classic focuses on an animal detective who is tasked with finding the abducted dolphin mascot of the NFL’s Miami Dolphins prior to the Super Bowl.
I’m going to let the 13-year-old Thomas take this one. Jim Carrey was awesome. He talked from his butt. He said, ‘Allllllllllll righty then!’ And he drove his car all crazy and stuff. Man, everything he did in the movie was too funny. He fought a shark and he talked with asparagus hanging from his teeth. This move should have won the Academy Award. It’s harder to make folks laugh compared to making them cry.
Well it’s easy for Jim Carrey to funny. He also did “The Mask” and “Dumb and Dumber” that year — also classics we all should own in some form.
2. “Little Giants”
Released: Oct. 14, 1994
Directed by Duwayne Dunham and starring Rick Moranis, Ed O’Neill, Shawna Waldron and Devon Sawa. Misfits form their own opposing team to an elite peewee football team, coached by the elite team coach’s brother.
Comedy, football and Ed O’Neill are a proven winning formula. But this wasn’t Al Bundy talking about his five touchdowns at Polk High. O’Neill was a winner and was the leader of the established peewee football program. Tired of living in his brother’s shadow, Danny O’Shea (played by Rick Moranis) was ready to beat his brother Kevin at something – finally.
Danny gathered a group of nerds, losers, weaklings and his daughter, “The Ice Box.” It was so heartwarming to see those kids overcome their fears, weaknesses and opponents. It took things like the Annexation of Puerto Rico play and some Alka-Seltzer tablets for intimidation.
Love the pro football player cameos, character development and seeing a team wearing Cowboy uniforms lose in heartbreaking fashion.
1. “Serial Mom”
Released: April 13, 1994
Directed by John Waters and starring Kathleen Turner, Sam Waterston, Ricki Lake and Matthew Lillard. A sweet mother finds herself participating in homicidal activities when she sees the occasion call for it.
Kathleen Turner is amazing as Beverly. She is a loving mother who will stop at no cost to protect her family and hurt those who dare to hurt them. The news wanted you to believe Baltimore had a serial killer on the loose. But all I saw was a loving mother who had every right to terminate those who brought harm to her core beliefs and loved ones.
This movie is a great watch today and the textbook example of a “black comedy.” I suggest you run out and get a copy of “Serial Mom” and watch at holidays like Easter, Mother’s Day, Halloween and even Christmas. You’ll learn to appreciate your family and of course not to wear white shoes after Labor Day.
THOMAS SELLERS JR. is the editor of The Millington Star and both the sports editor and a weekly personal columnist for West 10 Media/Magic Valley Publishing. Contact him by phone at (901) 433-9138, by fax to (901) 529-7687 and by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.