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5. The Usual Suspects (1995)

The Usual Suspects is one of the best films ever made, period. The complex story about a con-man and a mysterious mob boss named Keyser Söze is a thrill ride through and through, with one of cinema’s great plot twists. Like The Fugitive, it defied August expectations, winning two Academy Awards – Best Screenplay for Christopher McQuarrie and Best Supporting Actor for Kevin Spacey – and putting its director, Bryan Singer, on the map.

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4. Babe (1995)

This 1995 classic, about a spirited pig who wants to be a sheepdog, is way more than a talking pig movie. Themes of friendship, perseverance, and the interiority of animals elevate the material beyond its sappy-sounding trappings. Babe was huge upon release, grossing $250 million worldwide and garnering seven Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director.

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3. Natural Born Killers (1994)

Oliver Stone’s satirical film is also one of the most controversial ever made. The story – about two mass-murdering lovers – inspired real-life copycat crimes and is often derided for its depiction of violence and rape. Still, it’s a largely influential film, with a story by Quentin Tarantino, and an ugly and wholly unique energy you won’t soon forget. It was also, perhaps surprisingly, a critical and box office success.

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2. The Iron Giant (1999)

The Iron Giant is a beautiful, devastating film, one that captures the nuclear paranoia of Cold War America, the pain of being other-ed in society, and the power of friendship and sacrifice. It’s a lot to pack into a children’s movie, but director Brad Bird is a master of the animated craft, as evidenced by his later work at Pixar. The film underperformed at the box office but was a massive critical hit, and has developed a passionate cult following. The title character will play a role in Steven Spielberg’s upcoming film, Ready Player One.

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1. Inglourious Basterds (2009)

Who could have figured that Quentin Tarantino’s revisionist Nazi-hunting blood bath would be extra potent in 2017, a year marked by violent cultural orders on American soil? Inglourious Basterds has an extra weight today, but would be No. 1 even without it. It’s one of Tarantino’s very best films, a hyper-realized war fantasy where Hitler gets mauled by machine guns and a Jewish woman plots revenge to the tune of David Bowie’s “Cat People.” It’s hilarious, it’s worldly, and it fits perfectly into the odd-dog month of its release – defying easy categorization and melting our brains in the process.

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