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Top 10 Movies Turning 20 in 2016

VO: Rebecca Brayton
Script written by Telly Vlachakis Put away your Game Boys and turn off that Tupac; it's time to head to the multiplex! Welcome to and today we're counting down our picks for the Top 10 Movies from 1996. For this list, we've rounded up the best films from all genres that came out in the year 1996. Special thanks to our users ksarkodie31 or submitting the idea using our interactive suggestion tool at WatchMojo.comsuggest

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Script written by Telly Vlachakis

Top 10 Movies From 1996 Turning 20

Put away your Game Boys and turn off that Tupac; it’s time to head to the multiplex! Welcome to and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Movies from 1996.

For this list, we’ve rounded up the best films from all genres that came out in the year 1996. We’re basing our choices on a mix of their popularity, quality and influence, as well as their critical and audience reception.

#10: “Independence Day” (1996)

We open our list with the year’s biggest box-office success, and an epic in every sense of the word. Roland Emmerich is now known as the big disaster-movie director, but with this popcorn flick he gave the world their first taste of gigantic special effects that stand up even against today’s standards. The White House explosion sequence remains iconic, and was recognized by critics and the Academy Awards alike, helping the film to win Best Visual Effects. A simple story of people fighting an alien invasion becomes a story of perseverance and humanity’s will to survive, with Will Smith proving to the world he is Hollywood royalty. This high-caliber cast and their surprising performances make this piece of eye-candy a cut above the rest.

#9: “Romeo + Juliet” (1996)

A major trend in '90s cinema – apart from asteroids and dangerous virtual reality – was modern updates of Shakespeare’s works. In 1996alone, we had the brilliant 4-hour-long “Hamlet” starring and directed by Kenneth Branagh, as well as this marvelous interpretation of “Romeo and Juliet.” In addition to showcasing the talents of Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes – who speak the lines from the original text – the film gives everyone their fix of Baz Luhrmann’s inventive imagination. His immediately recognizable style of bright neon flair works surprisingly well with the Bard’s most famous love story, and remains a psychedelic sensory experience.

#8: “Mission: Impossible” (1996)

Before remakes and updates of TV shows became so tiresome and common, Brian De Palma brought us his version of this popular '60s espionage drama. With the star power of Tom Cruise and Jon Voight, there was no doubt that this action thriller would become a box-office success. The public, who expected a cheesy '60s-throwback spy fest, was instead treated to a shocking, surprising, and beyond thrilling experience as they watched what has become one of the most quintessential action films of all time. Cementing Tom Cruise as an action star, the now-iconic pressure-room scene and train climax will go down in history as some of the best '90s cinema had to offer.

#7: “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” (1996)

In 1996, Walt Disney Pictures was riding the huge wave of their cinematic Renaissance, boasting huge successes like “Aladdin” and “The Lion King.” Though it was already a difficult task to follow such massive blockbusters, it was perhaps even harder to create a kid-friendly animated version of Victor Hugo’s dark gothic tale of obsession and destructive love. Disney, however, struck gold once more, and gave the world one of the most beautiful and thrilling epics of the year. The directors of “Beauty and the Beast” returned to the world of animation and with an all-star cast gave audiences a heart-warming tour of Paris, with memorable songs joining the other classics in the Disney canon.

#6: “The Birdcage” (1996)

It should come as no surprise that the funniest movie of 1996 was a Robin Williams farce. The subject matter, however, shocked the world, as the story revolves around Williams playing a gay drag club owner. The film is an American take on the revolutionary French comedy “La Cage aux Folles”, which was in turn an adaptation of the Jean Poiret play. And its American adaptation balances being uproarious without opting for offensive stereotypes, creating a comedy of errors in which a gay couple tries to play it straight for their son’s stuck-up future in-laws. The premise is comedy gold, and the performances by Williams, his on-screen husband played by Nathan Lane and the rest of the cast are nothing short of riotous.

#5: “The Rock” (1996)

The ‘90s action movie scene had a surprising star in Nicolas Cage. Following the success of “Bad Boys,” the world now knew what to expect from a Michael Bay action-packed extravaganza, but they didn’t know that Oscar-winner Nicolas Cage would be so at home shooting up bad guys with the likes of Sean Connery. What seemed like a convoluted and ridiculous plot about ex-Marine terrorists taking over the defunct Alcatraz prison also manages to meditate on military politics and the US’s treatment of their soldiers and veterans. While Alcatraz is known as impossible to break out of, the heroes have to break in to save the day… and watching them try to do it is definitely worth the price of admission.

#4: “Jerry Maguire” (1996)

Tom Cruise makes his second appearance on our list, this time in the romantic comedy that earned him his second Oscar nomination and his second Golden Globe win. Based on the life of legendary sports agent Leigh Steinberg, the ever-quotable “Jerry Maguire” was a huge hit that put director Cameron Crowe on the map. Audiences fall in love time and time again with Jerry, a successful sports agent who falls from grace only to rebuild his career on his own terms, and who gradually falls in love with the only woman who believed in him. He definitely had us at “Hello”.

#3: “Scream” (1996)

By the mid-90s, Wes Craven may have been known as a legend in horror circles, but he was not much of a household name. That is until he teamed up with a young, yet unknown, Kevin Williamson for “Scream.” Little did they know that they were about to turn an entire genre on its head. A first-rate cast and a dementedly ingenious plot about a horror movie-obsessed killer stalking and offing teens spawned one of the biggest surprise hits of the decade. Not only did the self-referential thriller pay homage to all its predecessors; it revitalized the genre for years to come.

#2: “Trainspotting” (1996)

This movie has it all. Junkies. A killer soundtrack. Dead babies? “Trainspotting” really is everything a ‘90s Gen-Xer could ever want… in their heroin-induced fantasies. The film, despite taking place in the ‘80s, is perfectly and nihilistically ‘90s, so much so that it created a new wave of British cinema, and epitomized what the grunge and punk kids were aiming for: jaded nothingness. This hilariously simple, but gritty, tale of impoverished Edinburgh heroin addicts has gone down in history as one of the finest British films of all time. And what else can be said except, “choose life.”

Before we reveal our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:
“Swingers” (1996)
“The English Patient” (1996)
“Primal Fear” (1996)
“Bottle Rocket” (1996)
“The People vs. Larry Flynt” (1996)
“Happy Gilmore” (1996)

#1: “Fargo” (1996)

If this film’s dozens of Oscar, BAFTA, and SAG Award wins and nods don’t convince you that this was the best film of the year, then just look at the cult status “Fargo” has gained 20 years after its release, you betcha! This genre-bending crime masterpiece really put the Coen brothers on the map, and remains one of their best and a fan favorite, one that’s rivaled by their next effort, “The Big Lebowski.” With a kidnapping gone wrong, a bag full of money, bumbling, double-crossing crooks, and a small-town police force unprepared for all the crazy stuff they’re about to see, this comedy knows when to get silly and when to get dark.

Do you agree with our list? What was your favorite movie of 1996? For more entertaining top 10s published daily, please subscribe to


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