6 Best Movies That Turn 20 Years Old This Year

With recent releases like Creed, Mad Max: Fury Road, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Hollywood’s love of nostalgia is clearly running very deep at the moment. Although it remains to be seen if Independence Day: Resurgence will emerge as 2016’s record-smashing counterpart to last year’s Jurassic World, the release of director Roland Emmerich’s alien invasion sequel does highlight the fact that a full two decades have passed since Will Smith so memorably welcomed a crash-landed alien to Earth. As such, we journey back to the year 1996 to explore some other films that still remain popular favorites even 20 years after their initial theatrical releases.

1. Happy Gilmore (released February 16)

Adam Sandler in Happy Gilmore, best movies of 1996

Adam Sandler in Happy Gilmore | Source: Universal Pictures

Say what you will about Adam Sandler’s career as a whole, but chances are, most moviegoers can agree that this goofy comedy — which follows a hockey player who winds up a golf sensation — is certainly among the former SNLer’s best. Though it predates monster hits like The Waterboy and Big Daddy, Happy Gilmore fittingly helped expand Sandler’s budding fanbase at the time, quickly earning cult status. Director Dennis Dugan would later work with the star on far inferior films like I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry and Jack and Jill. However, this one — bolstered by a villainous Christopher McDonald — still remains one of the funniest comedies of the 1990s, and a bittersweet sign that Sandler’s best is very far behind him.

2. Fargo (released March 8)

Frances McDormand in Fargo

Frances McDormand in Fargo | Source: Gramercy Pictures

The fact that Joel and Ethan Coen’s crime drama spawned a television adaptation in 2014 alone is proof of its lasting appeal. Frances McDormand nabbed an Academy Award for her wry turn as Marge Gunderson in a career-defining performance, and the ensemble cast — which includes William H. Macy, Steve Buscemi, Peter Stomare, and John Carroll Lynch — provides pitch-perfect support. A riveting caper punctuated by dark comedy throughout, Fargo marked the Coens’ first legitimate run for Oscar gold, setting the stage for the Best Picture and Best Director triumph of No Country for Old Men more than a decade later.

3. Mission: Impossible (released May 22)

Emmanuelle Beart and Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible

Emmanuelle Beart and Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible | Source: Paramount Pictures

Though we very nearly went with Tom Cruise’s catchphrase-filled romantic dramedy Jerry Maguire (which hit theaters on December 13 that year), we are giving the edge to this Brian De Palma adaptation of the 1960s television series for its impact on action cinema and, frankly, the sheer longevity of the series it began. Twenty years after this film first brought Ethan Hunt to the big screen, the franchise is in better shape than ever, with the previous two films easily the most critically acclaimed of the bunch. Development is already moving forward on Cruise’s return for Mission: Impossible 6, and we’re surprised just how excited we are (still) to see what the franchise has in store for moviegoers.

4. The Rock (released June 7)

Sean Connery and Nicolas Cage in The Rock

Sean Connery and Nicolas Cage in The Rock | Source: Buena Vista Pictures

Michael Bay may have (mostly) settled into a groove as the man behind the Transformers franchise, but this release — which teams a chemist (Nicolas Cage) and a convict (Sean Connery) on a high-octane adventure — still stands among Bay’s best films to date. Thrilling action sequences, a slew of solid performances, and a compelling plot elevate The Rock above other guilty-pleasure action spectacles of the mid-1990s. Though it may have been a while since many have seen this one, the film is worth a revisit simply because of the way in which it blends gravitas and pure action-movie cheese, one-liners and all.

5. Trainspotting (released July 19)

Ewan McGregor in Trainspotting

Ewan McGregor in Trainspotting | Source: Miramax

After seemingly an eternity of anticipation, a sequel to this Danny Boyle drama — which follows a group of drug addicts in Edinburgh — is finally in the works, with stars like Ewan McGregor slated to return. The film launched both McGregor and Boyle to new heights of stardom. The former earned plum roles in films like the Star Wars franchise and Moulin Rouge, while the latter ultimately earned an Academy Award for his work on Slumdog Millionaire. We’re not sure exactly how closely the upcoming sequel will match the impact and resonance that this film struck with audiences and critics alike, but we can’t wait to find out.

6. Scream (released December 20)

Scream

Scream | Source: Dimension Films

The late great Wes Craven will no doubt be best remembered for two game-changing horror franchises: A Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream. Nowadays, the self-referential humor of Scream may be commonplace, but when the film first hit theaters, it marked a bold step forward for the genre, deftly blending legitimate scares with wry humor in expert fashion. Of course, audiences responded to it, and a sequel was put into the works before the first film even left theaters, a rarity back in the day. All told, Scream spawned a total of three big-screen sequels as well as a current MTV television series. Most of all, though, it established a new style of horror filmmaking that many have tried (and failed) to imitate since.

Follow Robert Yaniz Jr. on Twitter @CrookedTable

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