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Top 100 Movies Of The 1990's: #24 Saving Private Ryan

Box Office: $217 Million Dollars

Oscar Nominations: Best Picture, Best Director (Steven Spielberg), Best Actor (Tom Hanks), Best Original Screenplay, Best Dramatic Score, Best Sound Effects Editing, Best Sound, Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Makeup, Best Film Editing

Oscar Wins: Best Director (Steven Spielberg), Best Sound Effects Editing, Best Sound, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing

MovieRankings.Net: 97/100

Available To Stream: Pluto TV, Paramount+

There might not be a better movie to help appreciate the value of Memorial Day than Saving Private Ryan. I fully admit that I fall into the trap of seeing Memorial Day more as the beginning of the summer than what the day really should mean. 

That sacrifice is fully on display in the first 20 minutes of Saving Private Ryan as we see the troops storm the beaches of Normandy. Steven Spielberg's brilliance is on full display here as the sequence is shot as though we are on that beach with this guys. It's less of an action scene than a horror one. Surviving that is more about good fortune than anything else. We all have things that we are scared of or make us nervous. Imagine the courage it takes to run up a beach TOWARDS gunfire. You might see friends getting shot and killed right next to you but you have to keep going.

Dreamworks. Shutterstock Images.

The scene is so powerful that in a small way, the movie can't recover. It never comes close to reaching those heights again. Don't get me wrong. This is a fantastic movie and should have beaten Shakespeare In Love for Best Picture that year. Even the Oscar voters seemed to know this when they still gave Spielberg the Oscar for Best Director. Harvey Weinstein basically strong armed the entire movie industry to vote for a movie like Shakespeare that should have been happy just to be nominated.

Tom Hanks is perfect as John Miller, a man who was living a normal life as teacher just three years earlier. Now, he's in charge of these young men who have been thrust into a mission that seems unfair yet courageous. Saving Private Ryan is about heroism and sacrifice but it's about being a man. Or in the case of Upham (played really well by Jeremy Davies), what it means to fail as a man. He is a coward but who are we are to truly judge? I want to get angry at Upham at the end of the movie but who the fuck am I? I have no idea how I'd react in a situation like that. The older I get, the more I understand that we should have pity for Upham. He's not a bad man, just a scared one. Imagine the regret that man would have to live with the rest of his life? War is more than just heroism and sacrifice.

CBS Photo Archive. Getty Images.

Casting Matt Damon was also a brilliant movie. I love that Spielberg (and this great script by Robert Rodat) has the guys angry with Ryan at first. How could anyone not feel resentment for this guy who is going to be going home? But by having it be Matt Damon, who was just coming off Saving Private Ryan, the audience would like this guy even before the other soldiers did.

It might be an impossible ask to have the rest of the movie stand up to what we see in the first 20 minutes. Some other casting like Ted Danson is a bit distracting but I'm nitpicking. Other than 1917, I don't know if there is another military movie I like more than this. For a lot of these actors who make up the rest of the battalion, it's their greatest moment. Guys like Tom Sizemore, Barry Pepper, Edward Burns, Adam Goldberg and Giovanni Ribisi have had very nice careers but you could do a lot worse than have this be your shining moment.

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Saving Private Ryan is a wonderful tribute to the men who saved the country and the world. It does so by showing us them saving just one man. Memorial Day weekend is the gateway to summer but I'll try to do a better job remembering why we celebrate it.

24. Saving Private Ryan

25. True Romance

26. Dumb & Dumber

27. Kingpin

28. Donnie Brasco

29. Heat 

30. Terminator 2: Judgement Day

31. Rounders

32. Unforgiven

33. Trainspotting

34. The Game

35. Out Of Sight

36. Carlito's Way

37. Seven

38. L.A. Confidential

39. Speed

40. Gattaca

41. Misery

42. Tombstone

43. Ransom

44. Wayne's World

45. The Insider

46. Back To The Future Part III

47. A Bronx Tale

48. The People Vs. Larry Flynt

49. Eyes Wide Shut

50. The Sandlot

51. Happy Gilmore

52. Contact

53. The Green Mile

54. Man On The Moon

55. Boyz N The Hood

56. Grosse Pointe Blank

57. Independence Day

58. The Rainmaker

59. Go

60. The Firm

61. Magnolia

62. The Talented Mr. Ripley

63. Tommy Boy

64. The Usual Suspects

65. In The Line Of Fire

66. My Cousin Vinny

67. Awakenings

68. JFK

69. Toy Story

70. Home Alone

71. Jerry Maguire

72. Titanic

73. Billy Madison

74. Apollo 13

75. Braveheart

76. Edward Scissorhands

77. Cape Fear

78. The River Wild

79. What's Eating Gilbert Grape?

80. 12 Monkeys

81. Stir Of Echoes

82. Mission: Impossible

83. Total Recall

84. Quiz Show

85. For Love Of The Game

86. Being John Malkovich

87. Men In Black

88. Scream

89. Alive

90. Three Kings

91. Glengarry Glen Ross

92. Die Hard With A Vengeance

93. The Blair Witch Project

94. Twister

95. Dirty Work

96. Election

97. Tremors

98. Any Given Sunday

99. The Wedding Singer

100. Clerks