I saw this movie when it came out in 1991, and remembered it as one of the best films ever made. Which is a lot to live up to, coming to it again in 2019. But it pretty much managed it, and many other people list it as one of the best and most influential films in existence. It's on multiple American Film Institute best-of lists, and has five academy awards: Picture, Director, Actor, Actress (you know, all the important ones!), and Adapted Screenplay. And of course it has the first screen appearance of Dr. Hannibal Lecter as played by Anthony Hopkins, who was utterly terrifying - even when all he was doing was talking.
Lecter has proven particularly iconic. Created by author Thomas Mann, he's a man who's meant to scare you who doesn't just stab and torture. He's a psychologist who takes pleasure in learning the minds of others - and then using that knowledge to hurt them. (And he eats people for dinner.) I'd seen Anthony Hopkins in several movies before this one hit theatres: we all knew he was good, but I didn't think he was a good fit for this type of character. He just seemed to be too mannered and, well, British. I couldn't have been more wrong. Director Jonathan Demme's introduction of the character only further ratchets up the tension: Jodie Foster's character Clarice Starling has to walk a hallway of the jail's worst offenders, with Lecter's cell at the end. As she approaches, before we even see Lecter, we realize this guy is so horrible they had to make him a specialized Plexiglas cell. And there's Hopkins, so polite and so terrifyingly cold and observant ... Without Hopkins, this movie couldn't have succeeded as it did.
A quick outline of the plot for those few who don't know it already: Clarice Starling is an FBI trainee (this is a while ago, Foster was quite young) picked out by her would-be mentor, Agent Jack Crawford (Scott Glenn). He sends her to interview Lecter - and apparently he chose well, because Lecter seems to like her and gives her some useful information. They use this to pursue another serial killer, Buffalo Bill. Bill has just grabbed a senator's daughter, so there's pressure to catch him before the daughter turns up dead and skinned.
While there are a few markers of the period the film was made in (things like Crawford's use of a predecessor to the flip-phone), they were never the point of the movie and it's aged remarkably well. A must-see movie.