4 Best Movies to Watch by J.T. Walsh

Staff & contributors

Never has evil been so darn fun to watch. Bridget (Linda Fiorentino) is such a captivating villainess, you'll actually find yourself rooting for her at times in this noirish take on..., I don't know what, but it involves drug money, double-crosses, lots of witty repartee and cat-and-mouse manipulation that will make your stomach hurt. The script is tight, the acting is all testosterone driven and crisp and you'll hear some choice words come from nice guy Bill Pullman (as Bridget's husband Clay) that you never imagined he could say. Peter Berg (Mike) is fantastic as the guy's guy determined to earn his Alpha-dog badge by subduing the fierce and wickedly intelligent heroine, Bridget. Fiorentino won a BAFTA award for her performance and was nominated, along with Director John Dahl, for several others. The movie did not qualify under Academy rules for the Oscars, but it would have been a strong contender.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery, Romance, Thriller

Actor: Anne Flanagan, Bill Nunn, Bill Pullman, Bill Stevenson, Dean Norris, Donna W. Scott, Herb Mitchell, J.T. Walsh, Jack Shearer, Linda Fiorentino, Michael Raysses, Mik Scriba, Peter Berg, Walter Addison, Zack Phifer

Director: John Dahl

Rating: R

When David and his sister Jennifer fight over the TV remote, they are suddenly transported to David’s favorite sitcom, Pleasantville. They’re told by a spirit guide that their best bet at getting out is fitting in, but their modern sensibilities prove to be too much for the genteel ‘50s town. Soon, the residents learn about sex, art, criticism, and politics, and it’s up to the twins to control the ensuing mayhem and guide them to the right path. 

In hindsight, Pleasantville seems ahead of its time, preceding Marvel’s WandaVision as the ultimate, deconstructed homage to 20th-century television. But unlike the series, Pleasantville dives deep into personal and social politics, all while maintaining an impressive balance of wisdom and humor. Equally notable is the film’s transformation from black and white to Technicolor, which, aside from being a symbolic and technical feat, is also a piece of pure, mesmerizing cinema.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Family, Fantasy

Actor: Andrea Baker, Charles C. Stevenson Jr., Danny Strong, Dawn Cody, Denise Dowse, Don Knotts, Giuseppe Andrews, J. Patrick Lawlor, J.T. Walsh, James Keane, Jane Kaczmarek, Jason Behr, Jason Maves, Jeanine Jackson, Jeff Daniels, Jenny Lewis, Jim Antonio, Joan Allen, John Ganun, Johnny Moran, Justin Nimmo, Kai Lennox, Kevin Connors, Lela Ivey, Maggie Lawson, Marc Blucas, Marissa Ribisi, Marley Shelton, McNally Sagal, Nancy Lenehan, Natalie Ramsey, Patrick Thomas O'Brien, Paul Morgan Stetler, Paul Walker, Reese Witherspoon, Robin Bissell, Stanton Rutledge, Tobey Maguire, Weston Blakesley, William H. Macy

Director: Gary Ross

Rating: PG-13

In this neo-noir crime drama, John Cusack, Anjelica Huston and Annette Bening play a trio of con-artists in modern day (1990) California. Roy (Cusack) is a small-stakes hustler prone to swindling bartenders and drunken sailors for pocket money, while Lilly (Huston) plays his estranged mother who reappears in his life while working a series of horse track bluffs. Myra (Bening) notches in between the two of them as Cusack’s boisterous yet conniving girlfriend, and the instant mutual dislike between her and Lilly sets the film’s course of action in motion. It’s a fun, edgy thriller that will leave you guessing up until it's shocking finale. Elevated immeasurably by Elmer Bernstein’s old-fashioned, hard boiled music score, The Grifters is a real feather in the hat for both director Stephen Frears and producer Martin Scorsese.

Genre: Crime, Drama

Actor: Anjelica Huston, Annette Bening, Billy Ray Sharkey, Charles Napier, David Sinaiko, Eddie Jones, Frances Bay, Gailard Sartain, Gregory Sporleder, Henry Jones, Ivette Soler, J.T. Walsh, Jan Munroe, Jeff Perry, Jeremy Piven, Jimmy Noonan, John Cusack, Jon Gries, Juliet Landau, Lou Hancock, Martin Scorsese, Michael Laskin, Micole Mercurio, Noelle Harling, Pat Hingle, Paul Adelstein, Richard Holden, Robert Weems, Sandy Baron, Stephen Tobolowsky, Steve Buscemi, Sy Richardson, Teresa Gilmore, Xander Berkeley

Director: Stephen Frears

Rating: R

Sometimes all a movie needs to be entertaining is a character having a really bad day. Breakdown might not have the most story or thematic depth to it, but having Kurt Russell try to track down the men who kidnapped his wife leads to one tension-filled scene to the next. It's a great showcase for the small towns and empty stretches of highway that make up so much of America, lending to the film the feel of a western, with violence and stuntwork that feel edgier than most '90s action fare. There are no guarantees here that our hero will win the day, which makes the danger he's in that much more exciting.

Genre: Action, Crime, Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Ancel Cook, Gene Hartline, Helen Duffy, J.T. Walsh, Jack McGee, Jack Noseworthy, Jonathan Mostow, Kathleen Quinlan, Kim Robillard, Kurt Russell, M.C. Gainey, Moira Sinise, Rex Linn, Rick Zieff, Ritch Brinkley, Thomas Kopache, Vincent Berry

Director: Jonathan Mostow

Rating: R