Top Ten 1988

1. Distant Voices, Still Lives
2. Dead Ringers
3. Running On Empty
4. The Accidental Tourist
5. Working Girl
6. The Last Of England
7. Chocolat
8. Dangerous Liaisons
9. Die Hard
10. Women On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown


After an illustrious career on stage and a breakout performance on television in the intelligent (and somewhat stuffy) adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited, Jeremy Irons gave a series of rather cold performances in movies until David Cronenberg shook him up.  Dead Ringers is one of the most disturbing and memorable films of 1988; it isn’t too surprising that its exploration of that male-jangling career of gynecology rendered it completely ignored by the Academy. As the twin brothers who manipulate a Hollywood actress before descending into complete madness, Irons gives two delicious performances that firmly establish him as an excellent film actor whose powers would reach even greater heights with his Oscar-winning role in Barbet Schroeder’s Reversal Of Fortune two years later.

Honour Roll:  John Cleese, A Fish Called Wanda; Tom Cruise, Rain Man; Tom Hanks, Big; Dustin Hoffman, Rain Man


As the villainous Marquise de Merteuil, whose tongue and quill both drip the deadliest venom, Glenn Close is poised, controlled, exacting and perfect in her delivery of every single line in the wonderful Dangerous Liaisons. In a career marked by terrific performances, her mannered style and theatrical elegance were never better suited to a part and it is the highlight of her work (though she works this woman into her more recent stint on the excellent series Damages, and it is wonderful to behold).

Honour Roll: Isabelle Adjani, Camille Claudel; Melanie Griffith, Working Girl; Isabelle Huppert, The Story Of Women; Meryl Streep, A Cry In The Dark


The death of River Phoenix at a young age of drug overdose is amplified when one realizes that he gave so many great performances that could have led to even better stuff in the years to come. One of his best is his Oscar-nominated turn as the emotionally confused son of a family on the lam in one of Sidney Lumet’s best films, Running On Empty.  After years of constantly changing location and name thanks to his parents outrunning the law, Phoenix can no longer take the pressure and begs to be allowed to re-enter the real world. The pain of the separation that this will cause with his family is never overstated by the excellent direction or script, nor does Phoenix himself go in for hysterics, instead giving a level of quiet disturbance that is permanently affecting.

Honour Roll: Martin Landau, Tucker: The Man And His Dream; Michael Palin, A Fish Called Wanda; Dean Stockwell, Married To The Mob; David Strathairn,Eight Men Out


Geena Davis is marvelous as the quirky dog-training babe in The Accidental Tourist, probably Lawrence Kasdan’s best film.  She does an outstanding job of giving an emotional core to an otherwise disaffected tale of souls looking for a place to land.  Davis is hilarious as a quirky woman with an original sense of fashion, but when it comes time to show her serious, vulnerable side, she is ready with her guns loaded and blows the rest of the cast away.

Honour Roll: Joan Cusack, Working Girl; Michelle Pfeiffer, Dangerous Liaisons;Diane Venora, Bird; Sigourney Weaver, Working Girl


David Cronenberg, Dead Ringers

Honour Roll:  Terence Davies, Distant Voices Still Lives; Claire Denis, Chocolat; Mike Nichols, Working Girl; Martin Scorsese, The Last Temptation Of Christ