Things were different in 1998. Back then, no one worried about stuff like subprime mortgages, record unemployment or Facebook status updates. In 1998 we were just wired differently. Boy bands and ska music filled the airwaves. Politicians were worried about blue dresses and naughty White House behavior. Dawson’s Creek was a hit show. People liked saying the word “globalization.” In 1998 it seemed like we were on the brink of some sort of altruistic interconnected global culture. And the US was leading the way. We were kings of the world.

Sure in ’98 the Euros made the Euro, but we blasted a 77-year old man into outer space just to say we could. We were riding high on a dot-com bubble that wouldn’t burst for another couple years. Michael Jordan was still playing basketball. Everything was coming together. We were comfortable.

It was just a different time, man. And there were different movies back then, too. Good ones. Lots of ‘em.

For reasons that aren’t entirely clear to me, 1998 is packed with quality movies. Just an all around good mix of films you can watch over and over. Anyone can pick out a decent list of 10-15 films from just about any year. But there’s just something about these 1998 selections that, as a whole, give this year in film an extra level of distinction.

So here’s the list. It’s totally subjective and by no means comprehensive. It’s just 10 movies from 1998 that deliver nostalgic entertainment value, repeat viewability, quotable quotes and a high level of goodness.

10. Saving Private Ryan

This film has to make the cut. It’s less cerebral than The Thin Red Line and it has just the right amount of schmaltz. If I needed to dial up a gritty, big-budget WWII drama, I’d probably reach for Band of Brothers or even The Pacific, but those projects would’ve never been made without the success of this film. Quality acting and decent directing by Steven Spielberg (back when he still had the touch). Smash at the box office, 11 Academy Award nominations, you get the idea. This isn’t a film you can watch weekly, but if you haven’t seen it in awhile, it’s worth a revisit.

9. There’s Something About Mary

Might not hold up as well anymore, but if you saw this in the theaters you remember what a gut-buster it was. It was just a different type of comedy for the time. In the world of 2012, Ben Stiller’s been relegated to making movies called Heist Tower with Eddie Murphy, but in the world of 1998, Ben Stiller was about to blow up. His performance in There’s Something About Mary was classic. Plus, Cameron Diaz was attractive back then.

8. Can’t Hardly Wait

I know, this one’s all cheese. Trip McNeally. 92% The beer has gone bad. Did anyone order a loveburger? Well done.

7. Rushmore

I used to love anything that Wes Anderson did. I kind of scaled back my Wes Anderson appreciation over the years, but it’s hard not love this movie.

6. Run Lola Run

Don’t worry, it’s okay to scream in the casino.

5. Fear Loathing in Las Vegas

Some movies trip you out for a scene or two, but this entire film is one big head change. I was trippin’ balls after I saw this in theater during my first date with my now-fiancée. It’s the kinda film that makes you want ice water with extra ice.

4. The Big Lebowski

At first I didn’t get what all the fuss was about, but this is definitely a movie that gets better with repeat viewings.

3. Rounders

Pay heem hees money!

2. The Negotiator

This movie made the top three? I wonder why that is. You got two actors in their prime: Kevin Spacey and Samuel L. Jackson. This is Spacey, after The Usual Suspects and before the American Beauty overhype and Sam L, before he became a Jedi. And David Morse, you just know he isn’t a good person any time he walks on screen in any film.

1. The Siege

Pre-9/11 New York is under attack by terrorists. Denzel Washington doesn’t support torture. He’s better than that. He won’t let the fight against terrorism threaten our civil liberties. But Hawkish, internment-lover general Bruce Willis stands in his way. With the help of Annette Benning (a shorthaired spy-floozy) and Tony Shalhoub (an Arab federal agent named “Frank”), Denzel must stand up for Tariq Husseini and find the last cell before the terrorists strike again…

“Samirrrrrr!”

Man, is this movie fantastic.

Honorable Mention
Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels
Wild Things
Ronin
Croupier
Safe Men
Armageddon
A Simple Plan

What’d I miss?

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