Being John Malkovich

Critics considered Being John Malkovich the best movie of 1999 when it was released….and looking back it might just be one of the best movies of the entire decade.   

Being John Malkovich, which is a fascinating and strange take on the technology crazed and celebrity obsessed culture of the late 90s was released on October 29, 1999.

It features an unemployed puppeteer, played by John Cusack, who has taken a boring job as a filing clerk on floor 7 1/2 of a New York office building. 

Employees need to crowbar open the elevator door to access the floor which has ceilings that are so low everyone has to duck as they walk around.

Craig the puppeteer eventually discovers a portal that lets him enter the mind of actor John Malkovich for 15 minutes before being dumped out in a ditch near the New Jersey turnpike.

Things get really weird when John Malkovich takes a trip trough the portal and enters his own mind.

The bizarre tale was written by Charlie Kaufmann who was an unknown screenwriter at the time. Nobody was interested in making it until soon-to-be legendary director Spike Jonze got his hands on it. Jonze was coming off a string of groundbreaking music videos including Beastie Boys’ Sabotage and Weezer’s Buddy Holly.

Even though this movie was released over 20 years ago it still feels very relevant with its examination a growing feeling at the turn of the century that the internet was changing the way we live.  We covered Being John Malkovich on episode 21 of History of the 90s which looked back at a bunch of great movies from 1999.

Despite being hugely popular with critics, Being John Malkovich didn’t have widespread appeal at the box office, coming in at 93 on the movie earnings list for 1999 with $23 million dollars in ticket sales.

It didn’t help that Spike Jonze, who is very well known for shunning the media, did very little promotion of the movie.  He canceled his news conference at the New York Film Festival and made only one bizarre appearance on the Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn to promote the film.

For more stories from the 1990s, make sure to check out my podcast “History of the 90s” on ApplePodcasts, Spotify, Google Play and anywhere else you stream audio. You can also listen at

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