Favorite Films of 1998

I’m creating my movie best-of lists retroactively. See all of them.

Hard to believe my last retrospective list in this series was almost two years ago. But I recently rewatched what ended up as my top two movies on this list and realized I hadn’t done this movie year yet, so here we are.

I was 10-11 years old in 1998, so the movies I saw at the time were thusly limited: Mighty Joe Young at the theater, Spice World at a sleepover, The Prince of Egypt and The Parent Trap on steady VHS rotation. None of which, alas, made my list, but thanks anyways for the memories…

On to the list…

1. The Truman Show

I knew I loved this movie but a recent rewatch confirmed it’s an all-timer. It’s easy to forget just how dark the premise is, and how deeply the in-movie cast and crew had to commit to perpetuating this illusion for so long in spite of the many ethical concerns. But the concept, the cast, and the execution are all A+ work. And it’s only 1 hour and 40 minutes. So glad it’s that and not some 12-episode limited series.

2. Saving Private Ryan

A foundational cinematic text for my budding cinephile self who saw it at around 12 years old. Funny how the cascade of supporting players (Ted Danson, Dennis Farina, Bryan Cranston, Nathan Fillon) meant nothing to me at the time but now looks both impressive and odd.

3. You’ve Got Mail

This is Peak Romcom. Hanks and Ryan and Ephron and New York City and witty repartee and dramatic stakes and bookstores—it’s all there in a literary love note to love itself. See also: 1940’s The Shop Around the Corner, the movie this is based on.

4. Armageddon

Unequivocally one of Bruce Willis’s best roles, not to mention the cavalcade of character actors filling out the ensemble. Story-wise it makes no sense, but as a comedic blockbuster adventure there are few better.

5. A Bug’s Life

Feels like the forgotten Pixar at this point, coming out at the beginning of their run and nestled between the first two Toy Story movies. But it has all the elements Pixar is known for, on top of being a Seven Samurai rehash with insects.

6. Pleasantville

I’ve never forgotten the scene of Bud helping his mom reapply her makeup to cover up her post-transformation color. In a movie that’s basically one giant metaphor, that tactility really packs a punch.

7. American History X

Speaking of never forgetting, there are some brutal moments in this one—both physically and rhetorically.

8. The Thin Red Line

It would be a while before I became familiar with Terrence Malick and the significance of this movie as his return to filmmaking. But looking back now, it makes for a great contrast with Saving Private Ryan.

9. A Simple Plan

As a late-‘90s, midwestern, snow-laden crime noir with peculiar characters, it’s like Fargo’s more serious older brother. And if both of those movies can teach us anything, it’s to never, ever take the money. Very pleasing to see Bill Paxton in a full-fledged leading role, displaying the chops he exhibited in so many supporting roles.

10. Ever After

One of the many romcoms I grew up with on steady rotation. It’s been a minute since I’ve seen it but I was always impressed with the humor and drama and romance of it all.

Honorable mentions:

  • The Parent Trap
  • The Wedding Singer
  • The Big Lebowski
  • A Night at the Roxbury
  • The Prince of Egypt
  • Dark City
  • Out of Sight