What were the best ’90s movies? While the superhero movie boom is still upon us, it’s time to think back to a simpler time when not everyone was wearing spandex and saving the world. Instead, the ‘90s had everyone wearing straight-legged jeans, plaid shirts, and (largely) still saving the world.
Long before Thanos was snapping into action, Dom Toretto was racing his way around the world, or we were soaring high over Pandora, the ‘90s was a decade of cheesy one-liners, questionable CGI, and action movies at their peak. It was a decade when Tarantino, Burton, and Spielberg reigned supreme in what some have dubbed the new golden age of Hollywood.
Giving us some of the most memorable cinematic quotes of all time, the ‘90s was a time that life was like a box of chocolates, Robin Williams gave his best performances, there was room on the door for Jack, and we saw a whole new side to erotic pottery. With this in mind, here are the best ‘90s movies you’ll ever see.
What are the best ’90s movies?
- Pulp Fiction
- Forrest Gump
- The Matrix
- The Silence of the Lambs
- Toy Story
- Jurassic Park
- The Lion King
It’s a close call on what Patrick Swayze’s ‘best’ movie is, but Ghost gives Dirty Dancing a run for its money. Starring a short-haired Demi Moore as the grieving heroine left behind by her murdered boyfriend, Swayze’s muscular Sam returns from beyond the grave, spins a potter’s wheel, and tries to find his killer while saving his beau from the same fate.
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Importantly, Ghost is a movie with more than just a tragic twist, thanks to Whoopi Goldberg adding some much-needed comedy. Let’s be honest though, everyone remembers Ghost for that iconic use of ‘Unchained Melody’.
Pulp Fiction (1994)
In terms of A-list casts, there are few better than Pulp Fiction – boasting a lineup that is largely unrivalled to this day. Jackson, Thurman, Travolta, Willis, Rhames – need we go on? It was here that Quentin Tarantino’s beloved union with many of the above all started.
Intertwining the seedy lives of the Los Angeles underworld in a narrative that moves at breakneck speed, Pulp Fiction comes together like a rock and roll Spaghetti Western. If Reservoir Dogs was an understated heist movie, Pulp Fiction was its louder and more obnoxious little brother just two years later.
If nothing else, Pulp Fiction gives you a novel place to hide a watch when in a spot of bother.
The ‘90s left us shaken and stirred with the welcome return of James Bond. After putting the franchise on ice following those lacklustre ‘80s entries, GoldenEye reinvented the stagnant spy movie series with Remington Steele’s suave Pierce Brosnan nabbing the keys to the Aston.
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With ludicrous characters like Famke Janssen’s Xenia Onatopp and Alan Cummings’ Boris, the comedy of Bond married beautifully with a much more serious affair. Couple this with a death-defying dam leap, a villainous turn from Sean Bean, and Judi Dench sticking a middle finger to the patriarchy, it meant Bond was back staring down the barrel of a Walther PPK.
Forrest Gump (1994)
Dishing up one of the most misquoted lines of all time, Forrest Gump taught us that life was like a box of chocolates. The first of Tom Hanks’ entries to this list cast the star as a kind-hearted man from Alabama with a mission to make the world a better place.
Unfolding over a number of decades, this Oscar-winning outing saw the titular Forrest inadvertently influence some of the biggest events in history and cross paths with everyone from Elvis to J.F.K. While Forrest Gump is billed as a feel-good movie, cancer, war, and AIDS make it a sometimes tough watch. It was a simple premise from a simple character that won the hearts of us all.
Adapting something as harrowing as the disastrous sinking of the Titanic was never going to be an easy feat, however, James Cameron took this iceberg-sized challenge in his stride and delivered a love story for the ages. Even though Titanic was rooted in fact, Cameron told his own tale with the star-crossed lovers of Jack and Rose.
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Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio put in Oscar-worthy performances, while the effects were nothing short of breathtaking. The budget alone threatened to sink Titanic before it even hit cinemas, but thankfully, it went on to become the first movie ever to cross the $1 billion mark.
The Matrix (1999)
The immortal question of whether you should take the red pill or the blue pill is one that’s haunted us since 1999. Celebrating the turn of the Millennium, The Matrix’s last-minute inclusion as Best ‘90s movies comes largely from its pioneering special effects.
Although the ‘90s are packed with epic movies, The Matrix arguably takes the crown thanks to its unique premise and the fact it’ll leave you questioning your own tenuous existence. It’s no surprise that some two decades later, Lana Wachowski brought the gang back together for The Matrix 4.
The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
With an appetite for the macabre, Jonathan Demme adapted Thomas Harris’ Hannibal the Cannibal Lecter for the silver screen once again. Swapping Manhunter’s Brian Cox for Anthony Hopkins, The Silence of the Lambs was a psychological thriller movie that had everyone on the edge of their seats.
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Aside from the unhinged Doctor Lecter, Jodie Foster’s seemingly meek Clarice Starling proved more than a match for the bloodthirsty psychiatrist. Demme created a movie villain for the ages, but still, it’s baffling to think Hopkins’ chilling cannibal was only in The Silence of the Lambs for just under 25 minutes.
Toy Story (1995)
Tom Hanks saddled up as a rootin’ tootin’ toy plucked straight from Andy’s bedroom. Before Pixar was churning out blockbusters, Toy Story was a relatively humble start. Prompting a generation of kids to think toys actually come alive when they aren’t looking, Toy Story introduced a memorable cast of rag-tag playthings.
As a milestone movie, Toy Story was the first to be entirely computer-animated. It was a major gamble for the small Disney subsidiary, but paid off and rightly earned Toy Story the Academy Award for Best Screenplay. All these years later, the merchandise and movies keep on coming – proving we’ll always have a friend in Toy Story.
Jurassic Park (1993)
In 1993, life, uh, found a way with Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park. Opening the gates to Michael Crichton’s sci-fi favourite, the terrific trio of Sam Neill, Laura Dern, and Jeff Goldblum helped Jurassic Park become the icon it is.
With ground-breaking digital effects and more grisly deaths than a Jaws movie, Jurassic Park spun off into a franchise that’s still going strong to this day. Much like Doctor Ellie Sattler, our jaws were on the floor. The science behind cloning dinosaurs might’ve been a little shaky, but that didn’t stop us from holding onto our butts as Jurassic Park soared to the top of the box office.
The Lion King (1994)
Finally, The Lion King roared into our lives in 1994 and joined the Disney Renaissance in a big way. Loosely adapting Shakespeare’s Hamlet for modern audiences, the sometimes stuffy play was spruced up by cackling hyenas, a pompous hornbill, and some serious daddy issues.
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Alongside the all-star cast of Matthew Broderick, James Earl Jones, and Jeremy Irons, Elton John’s immortal soundtrack is worthy of inclusion on this list alone.
Disney movies are known for their dark undercurrent, but The Lion King’s crowning achievement was balancing its grim source material with a colourful cast of cartoon critters. This anthem of birth and death is ’90s Disney at its very best.
If you want to go even further back in time, why not check out our list of the best ‘80s movies?