Generally speaking, the vast majority of film and television productions feature a main character heading the project, and a group of secondary figures supporting said star. Certainly, this model is centered on this lead role and, by the end of the movie or show, the audience is perfectly familiar with every single detail of this character. Yet, there is a very different approach that is becoming increasingly popular in the industry, which is ensemble cast films. These productions are based on the idea that all the cast members are equally important to the story, allowing filmmakers to delve deeper into each character’s background.
Ensemble casts are quite common in TV shows, and in fact, there are often episodes devoted to each one of the characters that compose the group. Some popular examples of this kind of cast are Friends, The Office and Stranger Things, to name just a few. This pattern is also seen in the movie industry, but not as often. However, when a movie features an ensemble cast, it is very likely to be made up of big movie stars, making it even more appealing. A few examples of this include Ocean’s Eleven, Pitch Perfect and Avengers: Infinity War as well as its sequels. Check out the best movies of the 90s that feature an ensemble cast.
Magnolia is a 1999 film by Paul Thomas Anderson that simultaneously chronicles the story of several characters in the San Fernando Valley that seem to be unrelated, yet are strangely connected to each other. It stars Tom Cruise, Jeremy Blackman, Philip Baker Hall, Melinda Dillon, Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ricky Jay, William H. Macy, John C. Reilly, Alfred Molina, Michael Murphy, Melora Walters, and Jason Robards in his final role. This ensemble cast was highly praised, particularly Cruise, winning a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor, among other awards.
8 Dazed and Confused
Jason London, Ben Affleck, Milla Jovovich, Cole Hauser, Parker Posey, Adam Goldberg, Matthew McConaughey, Nicky Katt, Joey Lauren Adams, and Rory Cochrane star in the coming-of-age comedy film Dazed and Confused. This 1993 production directed by Richard Linklater is set in 1976, following the adventures of several groups of Texas teenagers on their last day of school. While this film was not a huge box office hit, it was warmly embraced by critics, who praised the cast and the film’s humor. Still, as the years went by, Dazed and Confused‘s popularity increased, and, per Rolling Stone, it eventually became a cult classic.
7 Boogie Nights
One more mention of Paul Thomas Anderson, but this time to talk about the film that consecrated him for the first time: Boogie Nights. This 1997 production is also set in the San Fernando Valley, and it focuses on Eddie Adams (Mark Wahlberg), a young man discovered by Jack Horner (Burt Reynolds), who turns into a porn star. Boogie Nights tracks this young man’s career, now renowned Dirk Diggler, all the way to his downfall. Joining Wahlberg and Reynolds in the cast are Julianne Moore, Don Cheadle, John C. Reilly, William H. Macy, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Heather Graham.
6 Reservoir Dogs
The 1992 film Reservoir Dogs marked Quentin Tarantino’s feature-length directorial debut, in which he also served as writer and cast member. He starred alongside Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Chris Penn, Steve Buscemi, Lawrence Tierney, Michael Madsen, and Edward Bunker. The film features a gang of thieves that are hired to heist a jewelry store and rob some diamonds. However, just as they are about to undertake their mission, the police intercept them, causing some of the gang to lose their lives. The ones who manage to get away, get back together to figure out which member of the group ratted them out.
5 Saving Private Ryan
Steven Spielberg helmed an all-star cast in the 1998 epic war film Saving Private Ryan. Starring Tom Hanks, Matt Damon, Tom Sizemore, Edward Burns, Barry Pepper, Giovanni Ribisi, Vin Diesel, Adam Goldberg, and Jeremy Davies, this production chronicles Captain John H. Miller’s mission to find Private First Class James Francis Ryan, the only survivor out of four brothers who goes missing in the midst of World War II. At the time of its premiere, Saving Private Ryan immediately became a hit among critics and audiences, and to this day ranks among the most influential films of its decade.
4 Shakespeare in Love
Shakespeare in Love is a 1998 film directed by John Madden and starring Gwyneth Paltrow, Joseph Fiennes, Geoffrey Rush, Colin Firth, Ben Affleck, and Judi Dench, among other actors. This production traces the love affair between William Shakespeare, a talented playwright undergoing a rough patch, and young Viola de Lesseps, the muse who inspires one of his masterpieces: Romeo and Juliet. Shakespeare in Love was a smash hit and earned several nominations and awards, with Paltrow, Rush, and Dench being recognized for their performances.
3 Jurassic Park
Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park kicked off one of cinema’s most popular and beloved franchises. Based on the 1990 novel by Michael Crichton and starring Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, and Richard Attenborough, this 1993 film introduces John Hammond, a millionaire businessman who fulfilled his lifelong dream of cloning dinosaurs and setting up his own Jurassic Park. Prior to its opening, he summons a group of scientists and a mathematician to obtain the necessary safety certification. Of course, an employee boycott, terrible weather conditions, and a bunch of wild dinosaurs prove to be the perfect recipe for disaster.
2 Pulp Fiction
Pulp Fiction is Quentin Tarantino’s second movie and the one that cemented his reputation as a director. Starring John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Bruce Willis, Tim Roth, Ving Rhames, and Uma Thurman, this 1994 film intertwines several stories featuring members of Los Angeles organized crime, among them Vincent Vega (Travolta) and Jules Winnfield (Jackson), two criminals that despite being complete opposites must work together to fulfill their goals. Pulp Fiction is considered to be one of Tarantino’s greatest masterpieces and both the film and the cast’s performances, particularly those of Travolta, Thurman and Jackson, were highly praised.
Goodfellas is one of Martin Scorsese’s best films, and is a production that revolutionized the gangster genre. This cinematic adaptation of the book Wiseguy: Life in a Mafia Family by Nicholas Pileggi stars Robert De Niro, Ray Liotta, Joe Pesci, Lorraine Bracco, and Paul Sorvino, and recounts the life story of Henry Hill, from his origins as an aspiring mobster to his eventual downfall. Goodfellas ranks among the best films of the 1990s, garnering a slew of awards. Within the cast, the most highly praised were Pesci, Bracco and De Niro.