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The Top 25 Movies of 1998 (#15 – 11)

June 28, 2023 | Posted by Bryan Kristopowitz
Lethal Weapon 5 Image Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

The Top 25 Movies of 1998: #15-#11

I once again really don’t have much of an intro for this, the third week of this megalist about the Top 25 Movies of 1998. I guess that’s a good thing for my own mental health as I always think no one likes them or actually reads them beyond, maybe, the intro to the first part of the list. Because, I mean, the title of the list is pretty self-explanatory, isn’t it? It’s a list of the Top 25 Movies of 1998. It’s been split into five pieces with five movies a week. Why does any of this need an intro? Am I wrong? Am I right? Just what the hell is going on here? Please, for those of you reading this, let me know.

In case you missed the first two parts of this list or just want to read them again for some reason here’s the link for the first part, #25-#21. And the second part is here, #20-#16.

And so, without any further what have you, what are the next five movies on the Top 25 Movies of 1998 list?

The Top 25 Movies of 1998: #15-#11

Image Credit: 20th Century Fox

15-The X-Files: Fight the Future: As a fan of the TV show, The X-Files: Fight the future was a big deal when it came out in the summer of 1998. Functioning as a bridge between the events of the just completed season five of the show and the upcoming sixth season while also working as a standalone movie story (that would hopefully develop new fans for the TV show), the movie was going to provide answers for some of the show’s up until then big hooha mysteries about the aliens that were the focus of the “mythology” episodes of the show. I mean, that’s what everyone thought the movie was going to do, and while it sort of did explain, to a degree, what the hell was going on with the show’s “mythology,” I don’t know if it was successful/if people felt satisfied by what the movie revealed. I know that the movie made me excited for the upcoming sixth season, but I do remember wanting the movie to explain more about the “black oil” alien stuff. The overall scope of the movie was amazing, especially the final sequence in Antarctica. And the exploding building sequence towards the beginning of the movie was pretty spectacular (I remember there was some controversy about this sequence and its visuals because it all resembled the Oklahoma City bombing a little too much for some people). David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson were both fantastic bringing their TV show characters to a movie, William B. Davis is creepy and weird as the Cigarette Smoking Man, and Martin Landau and John Neville (the Well-Manicured Man) both gave top notch performances (I was shocked by what the movie did to the Well-Manicured Man). I did want to see more from Armin Mueller-Stahl’s evil scientist within the syndicate character Conrad Strughold, both in the movie and later on in the show. And Terry O’Quinn’s character still bothers me to this day, when he sits in front of the bomb that blows up the building because that was his job as a part of the syndicate. Now, the thing that bothered me the absolute most about Fight the Future, and still does, is how people swear in the movie, especially Mulder. I know that it’s a movie and not a broadcast TV show and there are no “standards and practices” to worry about, but hearing Mulder say “shit” was just jarring.

And what, exactly, is the real title of this movie? Is it simply The X-Files, or is it The X-Files: The Movie, or is it The X-Files: Fight the Future? I’ve seen it listed with all three and there doesn’t seem to be a consensus on what the actual title is. I like the Fight the Future title because it sounds cool and I will always refer to it as that, but is it the real title? What do you all think? What do you call it?

Image Credit: Warner Home Vídeo

14- U.S. Marshals: I had no idea that there was a sequel to The Fugitive featuring the character played by Tommy Lee Jones, Sam Gerard, until I saw a commercial for the movie on TV. At first I thought it was some weird commercial for a TV airing of The Fugitive and the network I was watching somehow got Jones to “host” the broadcast. But, no, U.S. Marshals was an actual movie. When I did some research on the movie (basically I went online to find out what the hell the movie was supposed to be about) I was further surprised that Wesley Snipes was in it. Snipes was going to be playing the guy that Gerard would be after, and the Snipes character would be similar to the character Harrison Ford played in The Fugitive: a guy who was really innocent and was looking to take down an even bigger criminal while being pursued by the authorities. The big difference for Snipes would be, though, that his innocent character would have to be more of an “action hero” than the “just smart and resourceful” guy Ford played because Wesley Snipes was Wesley Snipes. That change to the formula established in The Fugitive gives U.S. Marshals a slightly different vibe. U.S. Marshals isn’t trying to be the “classy thriller” that The Fugitive was. It was seriously doubtful that Jones would once again be nominated for an Oscar for playing Sam Gerard (he wasn’t). U.S. Marshals was going to be an action movie that was created to entertain and nothing more (if there happened to be “something more” that would be a bonus but it clearly wasn’t what the movie was trying for). Robert Downey, Jr. a decade before he would become a worldwide megastar in the Marvel movies, was simply a “respected actor” and ended up playing a devious douchebag villain (you actually believe that his shifty special agent character could take out Snipes’ secret agent Mark Sheridan, which is pretty amazing considering RDJ wasn’t considered a “man of action” at that moment in time). There’s a big secondary character death in this movie that probably killed any chance of it becoming a full on franchise, which is what I hoped we would have after seeing the movie. It would have been awesome to see Jones as Gerard every few years, tracking down some other fugitive or whatever (think about how cool it would have been if Gerard had a movie where he had to go after a real deal bad guy who was justa bad guy.) That didn’t happen, but at least we got the one movie.

Was anyone else weirded out that Snipes basically remade this movie in 2000 with The Art of War?

Image Credit: 20th Century Fox

13- Armageddon: During the summer of 1998 there was a battle at the box office between two doomsday asteroid movies, the serious ensemble science fiction drama Deep Impact and the badass sci-fi action flick Armageddon. Deep Impact was directed by Mimi Leder, who had just come off the somewhat successful action flick The Peacemaker the previous year. Armageddon was directed by Michael Bay, who had directed the big hooha summer 1996 action flick The Rock. I remember there being an actual pop culture discussion about which movie would be a bigger hit and which movie would mean more to audiences. It was obvious to me even then that Armageddon would end up being a bigger hit because it was an action movie more than anything else, and in the summer months that’s what people wanted to see. I mean, that didn’t mean audiences wouldn’t turn out for Deep Impact, which was clearly a more serious movie and there was always an audience of some sort for that kind of movie, but there was just no way in hell that the movie that didn’t have the Aerosmith song in it was going to be the movie of the summer. And I was right. Armageddon was a much bigger hit with audiences. Armageddon was fun despite being about a serious subject: the end of the world because there was a goddamn giant asteroid coming to hit the Earth. It had action king Bruce Willis in it as a badass oil driller who was going to be sent up into space with a ragtag bunch of his fellow oil drillers so he could land on the asteroid and drill a hole so he could then put a nuclear bomb in it. Was it plausible? The whole premise sounded like complete bullshit (I mean, even before coming up with the basic plan to fly to the asteroid and put the bomb in it, which seemed like so much movie nonsense, could NASA really train Willis and his team in enough time to be successful? That was the thing that I couldn’t deal with, even after thoroughly enjoying the movie. Even with the burning need and determination to do it there was no way in hell NASA could get enough of the Willis team trained to deal with the effects of space). But then it was a movie, and it wasn’t meant to be real or even plausible, it just needed to “work” in the context of the movie. And Armageddon works, even when it’s so completely insane that it shouldn’t (like pretty much every scene in space). I wish that Deep Impact had been a bigger success because I so wanted Leder to become a big deal action director (she “proved” herself with The Peacemaker). That didn’t happen (Leder did become a big deal TV producer and she does still dabble in movie directing so that’s cool). Bay, of course, is still making big hooha action movies. And the success of Armageddon is likely the reason why he was allowed to keep at it (we certainly wouldn’t have the Transformers movies he made without Armageddon).

Image Credit: Paramount Pictures

12- The Negotiator: I didn’t see The Negotiator until it debuted in cable. I know it came out in the summer of 1998 and was a big deal because it starred Samuel L. Jackson and Kevin Spacey. Now, Jackson was the bigger star at that moment in time and Spacey was more the highly respected actor who everyone loved (he was the killer in Seven, he was the district attorney in the John Grisham movie A Time to Kill, which also featured Jackson, and he was in L.A. Confidential and the Clint Eastwood movie Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil before doing The Negotiator). And it was clear from the advertising that the movie was going to be all about Jackson’s character, a framed cop and police negotiator who takes people hostage so he can figure out who framed him, and Spacey’s character, who was also a big deal police hostage negotiator. They were going to chew the scenery, it was going to be a big deal battle of wits, it was going to be a movie about how important movie stars are in movies. The Negotiator likely wouldn’t have been made without the participation of a star like Jackson and a somewhat-lesser-star-but-still-a-star Spacey. And while it’s true that both Jackson and Spacey rock the house in The Negotiator, the movie is kind of stolen by J.T. Walsh, Siobhan Fallon Hogan, Ron Rifkin, and Paul Giamatti, top notch character actors who all stand toe-to-toe with Jackson and Spacey. The Negotiator was not a big hit when it came out. It seemed like it disappeared from movie theaters rather quickly. As I said earlier, I didn’t see it until it hit cable and couldn’t figure out why it wasn’t a bigger hit when it came out. Why didn’t audience “word of mouth” save it? Why wasn’t it the “adult” movie of the summer season? I’d suspect that more people eventually saw it on TV, either via home video or cable, than in theaters. People watched it over and over again, like I did, trying to determine if the story made sense, if the big mystery at the heart of the plot was worth the time spent watching the movie. It did make sense and it was worth it. I’m shocked no one has tried to remake this movie as a streaming TV series of some sort.

Image Credit: Image Credit: Warner Home Vídeo

11- Lethal Weapon 4: Out of the four Lethal Weapon movies made so far (and I say “so far” because every so often there’s a rumor that a fifth movie is in the works, like there is now, with franchise star Mel Gibson rumored to be lined up to direct since Richard Donner is no longer with us), Lethal Weapon 4 is probably the least well liked. It isn’t as smoothly directed as the previous three, it has a bloated story, and some people consider it kind of racist as the bad guy is Jet Li. The movie also doesn’t quite handle the comedy and action and drama balance as well as the previous three movies (there’s definitely more comedy in part 4). There’s also the whole “I’m too old for this shit” idea that was generally the domain of Danny Glover’s Roger Murtaugh spreading to Gibson’s Martin Riggs, which I’d imagine some people didn’t care for (I can’t really prove that but when you look at the other three movies Riggs is the badass hero who always wins, while in part 4 he isn’t quite the same badass, which I’d bet annoyed some people because they didn’t expect it. Up until that point that isn’t what the franchise was about). But that plot change makes sense (Riggs is older now and he has settled down with Rene Russo’s Lorna so it makes sense that he probably wouldn’t be the same guy) and the comedy helps blunt some of the dark and depressing parts of the story (human trafficking, family murder, racism. Yes, the “racist movie” tries to deal with that by having Murtaugh take a stand against slavery and shutting down Richard Riehle’s racist asshole ICE character). The movie also has some insane stunt work and fight choreography. The big car chase sequence that involves Riggs being dragged behind a trailer on the freeway while “surfing” on a sheet of plastic and Murtaugh driving a car through an office building is still pure insanity twenty five years later. The whole opening sequence with the guy with the machine and flamethrower and gigantic explosions is still one of the most intensely ridiculous opening sequences in movie history. And every fight scene featuring Jet Li is nothing short of awesome. His final fight between Riggs and Murtaugh wouldn’t have been as dangerous if it didn’t have a martial artist as talented as Jet Li in it. You really believe that there’s a chance that Riggs and Murtaugh might lose and maybe even die. Jet Li is that damn good. On top of all of that, you just want to spend time with all of these actors and their characters. Riggs, Murtaugh, Leo Getz (Joe Pesci!), Chris Rock, Rene Russo, Murtaugh’s family (the wife and kids), the captain (Steve Kahan). You like them, you like it when they interact and goof off. Is the whole thing where Murtaugh gets weirded out by the idea that Rock’s Detective Butters is gay and has the hots for him cringe now? Yes. It was cringe back then. But it was also funny and it wouldn’t have worked with any other set of actors. Think of the “Uncle Benny at the dentist” scene, where Riggs, Murtaugh, Butters, and Kim Chan’s Uncle Benny all get high on nitrous oxide. It’s such a cheap cliché idea and yet it works and is funny because of the actors involved. You just end up liking all of these people, you want to spend time with these people, and you hope that the family album that makes up the movie’s end credits sequence gets a few more pages one day. I doubt it will but who knows? As long as Gibson and Glover are alive and still acting there’s always a slight chance that Riggs and Murtaugh will hit the streets again. I know I would love it to happen again.


Next time: #10-#6! War! Unknown love! Stupidity! The wind! Spies!


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