The '90s were a pretty amazing decade for film. The rom-com was at its pinnacle (Pretty Woman, You've Got Mail), comedies were truly funny (Home Alone, Dumb & Dumber), critical faves were also crowd-pleasers (Titanic, Forrest Gump), and teen comedies (10 Things I Hate About You, Clueless) were having a heyday, making the years 1990 to 1999 a particularly good time to go to the movies if you were a teenager. Maybe it's because going to the movies was still a thing in the '90s? Anyway, luckily for you, most of these flicks can be watched now, in 2020, from the comfort of your couch via Netflix and other streaming services. We've scoured the archives and rounded up the best films with the most iconic characters—from Mrs. Doubtfire to Hannibal Lecter to Cher Horowitz—and we've listed them here for you. The next lazy Saturday you have, which seems like every day now because of quarantine, why not take a stroll down memory lane?
Pottery class became sexy after this romantic thriller starring Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze. The pair plays a loved-up couple whose relationship is cut short when Sam (Swayze) is murdered. As his spirit wanders the Earth, he learns Molly (Moore) could have the same fate and must somehow warn her before it's too late.
Identical twins Annie and Hallie (Lindsay Lohan) never knew the other existed until they crossed paths at summer camp. The only logical response? Trade places so they can meet their other parent for the first time while simultaneously getting the 'rents back together somehow. Forever thankful to director Nancy Meyers for casting Dennis Quaid as their father.
Recently unemployed Craig (Ice Cube) finds himself in a bind when he and his buddy Smokey (Chris Tucker) have to come up with $200 in one day. More than 20 years later, this film will make you laugh until your stomach hurts.
Based on the bestselling 1989 novel written by Amy Tan, The Joy Luck Club is a tear-jerker tale between four first-generation Chinese-American women and their mothers. It was the first film of its kind to feature an all-Asian cast, something that wouldn't be seen again until the release of Crazy Rich Asians in 2018. Bring lots of tissues and get ready to call your mom when the credits start to roll.
Think F.B.I, but for out-of-this-world monsters. Fortunately for James Edwards (Will Smith) of the N.Y.P.D., they're looking for recruits. Unfortunately for James, he has no idea what he signed up for, but it's up to him and his partner "K" (Tommy Lee Jones) to save the Earth from some super creepy aliens before it's too late.
Hollywood may reboot the classic Shakespeare play every few years, but this one starring Claire Danes and a young Leonardo DiCaprio reigns supreme. Sure, you know the ending, but the modern twist on this classic tale has a few tricks up its sleeve you won't see coming.
Schindler's List is based on the true story of industrialist Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson), who, with the help of his wife (Caroline Goodall), saved more than 1,200 Jews by employing them in his factories during World War II. It earned Steven Spielberg his first Oscar win for Best Director and would take home six other Academy Awards.
Forever icon Whitney Houston made her debut in this romantic thriller alongside Kevin Costner as a famous pop singer who hires a former Secret Service agent to be her bodyguard. It gets hot and also terrifying super quick. Don't even get us started on the soundtrack! It's still the bestselling soundtrack album of all time, with more than 42 million certified copies sold worldwide.
Mother-daughter duo Ada (Holly Hunter) and Flora (Anna Paquin) arrive at New Zealand's North Island with a handful of items, including a prized piano, to meet Ada's new husband, Stewart (Sam Neill). The relationship soon goes south when Stewart sells the piano to a neighbor name George (Harvey Keitel), who tells her she can earn the instrument back by teaching him how to play and some other things. Things get steamy...quickly!
Hundreds of tiny cameras have been watching Truman Burbank's (Jim Carrey) every move for close to 30 years as a part of an extreme 24/7 reality show called The Truman Show. Except he doesn't know he's the main character of this real-but-fictional world...until he finds out the hard way.
Stephen King's 1982 novella Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption finally saw the big screen in this Oscar-nominated story of two inmates serving a life sentence at one of the country's harshest prisons, documenting their tight-knit relationship over many years. It's longer than most films, but you'll treasure every minute.
The baseball movie of all baseball movies focuses on a group of kids and the adventure-filled summer they shared in 1962. Terrifying dogs, battling neighborhood bullies, treehouse sleepovers, and one crush on a lifeguard awaits! Also, 99 percent sure everyone's first crush was on Benny "The Jet" Rodriguez (Mike Vitar) because of this film, so we thank The Sandlot for its service!
Suddenly the idea of meeting your soulmate on a train ride heading from Budapest to Vienna, spending one glorious night together, and falling deeply in love seems possible after watching this movie. Just me? Okay! If you don't believe me, there are two more films in this series that say otherwise so, yeah, get those tissues ready,
When Ridley Scott's thrilling adventure of two best friends on the run hit theaters in the summer of 1991, we were forever changed. It was one of the first movies I saw that showed me all things women could (and had been doing) without the over-looming guidance of males. The bond Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon share is nothing short than perfection. Also, speaking of perfection, we get a shirtless 26-year-old Brad Pitt, so no complaints here.
Tom Cruise, Cuba Gooding Jr., and Reené Zelleweger showed us the money in this instant classic from legendary journalist Cameron Crowe. The script about a uber-successful sports agent who has an epiphany and decides to start all over took Crowe five years to write. The time was well spent since it earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Screenplay at the 1997 Academy Awards.
Oh, 1994, what a time to be alive! We were first really introduced to unbelievably charming Hugh Grant, and nothing was the same. The story of a man who realizes he might have found his soulmate (Andie MacDowell) after running into each other at five different social events is set to make any heart a little bit bigger. We may have came for the love story, but we really stayed for Hugh Grant's hair.
Director Paul Thomas Anderson put himself on the map with the 1997 film about the pornography industry in the late 70s and early 80s. We relished in Burt Reynolds' mustache, gasped at Mark Wahlberg's prosthetic penis, and just couldn't take our eyes away from the screen until the credits rolled. The craziest thing of all about the film isn't even in the picture: Leonardo DiCaprio was going to play Dirk Diggler but had to turn it down because he was filming the Titanic. He then suggested Wahlberg for the role.
The story of a husband who hires two criminals to kidnap his wife so he can receive the large ransom from his wealthy father-in-law was unforgettable in 1996. The crime movie that mixed in comedy put the Coen Brothers on the map and won Joel Coen the Best Director Award at the Cannes Film Festival the same year. I mean it got Frances McDormand her Oscar! It also inspired a spin-off series of the same name that premiered on FX in 2014 that was equally great.
The '90s to Chris Farley are like peanut butter and jelly. They just go together. When Tommy Boy came out, Farley was finishing up his fifth and final year at Saturday Night Live, and would we miss him. The comedy about a loser son who has to try and take back the family business after his father's death with the help of an accountant (David Spade) is unforgettable. Yes, the movie may not be "critically acclaimed," but it represents the comedies of the decade so well.
John Singleton's debut 1991 film about three men growing up in the Crenshaw ghetto of Los Angeles put a narrative on America's screens that wasn't always seen. The breakout performance of Ice Cube alongside Cuba Gooding Jr. and Morris Chestnut as they come of age was a message worth taking note. Re-watching it now is a reminder of how Singleton's film was a risk worth taking.
We have Cameron Diaz, Ben Stiller, and Matt Dillon with questionable facial hair in this romantic comedy about first loves. After viewing, I may have questioned the trustworthiness of men everywhere but I would tell myself 'It's just a movie!' Come for the 1998 tale of a guy trying to win back the first girl he ever loved by hiring a private investigator, stay for the unbelievable incidents that follow.
Some people may shame us for putting this classic on this list, but we welcome you to embrace it. When you watch it and see not only Keanu Reeves but Patrick Swayze as shirtless surfers in Southern California, you will thank us. Watching Reeves as an FBI Agent undercover trying to find out who has been behind the recent burglaries in the area keeps me on the edge of my seat time after time.
It's the mob movies of all mob movies based on Nicolas Pileggi's best-selling novel Wiseguy about Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) and his rise and fall as a mobster in New York in the '60s and '70s without glorifying the violent behavior the occupation is known for. The six-time Oscar-nominated movie from Martin Scorsese may have debuted in 1990, but it would be talked about for the rest of the decade.
The Best Picture Oscar winner for the year 1999, Shakespeare in Love stars Joseph Fiennes as the Bard himself, fallen on hard times and looking to score a hit with his new play, Romeo and Juliet. Meanwhile, Gwyneth Paltrow stars as a noblewoman with dreams of becoming an actress (at the time, women weren’t allowed to act and female parts were given to younger men in drag). Re-watching it now, this film is surprisingly progressive! It’s also still hot.
To this day, the 1999 horror thriller by M. Night Shyamalan remains the be-all-end-all of twist endings. Though the director would never again have the monocultural filmmaking clout that he had in the wake of this film (I mean, how do you top an ending like this?!), this movie was everywhere for an entire year, and is still referenced today.
The Coen Brothers could have had no idea the impact their strange film The Big Lebowski would have had when it came out in 1998. I mean, how do you even sum up this plot? A slacker-y gentleman gets mixed up in a case of mistaken identity with a rich guy and his petulant young bride, and then have to go to war with some nihilists alongside his bowling buddies in down-and-out L.A.? Actually, yeah that’s pretty much what happens. Other stuff too, but if you’ve never seen it, you really ought to watch and figure out what everyone’s been quoting for the last 20 years. The Dude abides.
The first Wes Anderson movie to really nail the director’s signature style. Sure, 1996’s Bottle Rocket is fantastic, but today feels like an outlier from Anderson’s later oeuvre—sorry for everything about that sentence, but it’s true! Jason Schwartzman stars as precocious, ambitious oddball Max, who is friends with the much older Bill Murray. The two of them eventually go head-to-head, however, when a pretty new teacher catches their eyes. The best scene, of course, is near the end when we see the fruits of Max’s playwriting labor in action.
The movie that made Julia Roberts a star (and earned her a best actress Oscar nom in 1991). Vivian (Roberts) is a Hollywood prostitute hired as an escort by a wealthy businessman (Richard Gere), and over their week of social events and parties together, the two develop an unlikely love. The film’s script originally detailed the dark landscape of sex work in Los Angeles, but turned into a romantic comedy with a huge budget from Disney.
An animated film from Studio Ghibli, this is the story of a world in which gods and humans live in harmony...until they don’t. When Ashitaka is bitten by a demon, she goes in search of a deer-god who can help her and ends up having an adventure. It was directed by the legendary anime director Hiyao Miyazaki, and remains one of the top-grossing anime films of all time.
If you ever want to explain to someone from Gen Z why Tim Burton and Johnny Depp have worked together approximately a zillion times, all you have to do is show them Edward Scissorhands, which was the perfect marriage of the frequent collaborators' individual brands of creepy quirkiness in 1990.