Itching for nostalgia? The best movies from the 90s to rewatch
There’s nothing wrong with nostalgia. Sometimes you just want to escape the present day (especially in the year 2020) and travel back to a time when the world was noticeably different – even if it’s a time you may have only experienced through movies.
Each decade has its own filmic personality, in a way: the 70s were gritty, the 80s were excessive, and the 90s . . . movies from the 90s are just so 90s. You know what we mean. The music, the clothing, the catchphrases – to paraphrase a character in one of the movies listed below, you can’t define the 90s but you know them when you see them.
Let’s take a trip down memory lane courtesy of some movies from the 90s!
Edward Scissorhands (1990)
It’s been a good while since the last time Johnny Depp came across as helpless & endearing. His performance as an innocent creature with giant scissors for hands was one of the opening salvos for the 90s and audiences all over fell for it, hard. The fact that Depp was in the middle of a public romance with his costar, Winona Ryder, only helped Edward Scissorhands’s popularity.
Reality Bites (1994)
Speaking of Winona Ryder, she kinda ruled the 90s. Ryder played Mina Murray in Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Jo March in Little Women, and even got to play in the Alien franchise sandbox in Alien: Resurrection. But none of her film credits are as utterly 90s as her role in Reality Bites: a romantic comedy where Ryder must choose between Ethan Hawke & Ben Stiller while trying to figure out what to do after graduating college.
Empire Records (1995)
Remember brick & mortar record stores? Do you even know what those were? Empire Records feels like such a time capsule due to being primarily set in a record store, but also thanks to the presence of very young would-be stars like Liv Tyler, Renée Zellwegger, and Ethan Embry. The soundtrack, the wardrobe, the “let’s put on a live show to save our jobs” – they all scream 90s and we love the movie for it.
Batman Forever (1995)
Stuck between the weird, gothic Batman movies from Tim Burton and the dark, realistic Batman movies from Christopher Nolan, we have Joel Schumacher’s lighthearted take on the dark knight. While it could be argued the subsequent Batman & Robin was too campy, Batman Forever strikes the perfect balance of silliness. Plus, it features Jim Carrey in his prime as The Riddler – a total 90s triumph.
Independence Day (1996)
When you think about movies from the 90s, it’s impossible not to get giddy at the memory of one of the biggest sci-fi blockbusters ever. Independence Day gave us the Will Smith & Jeff Goldblum team-up we didn’t know we needed, while also gifting us a U.S. President who wouldn’t hesitate to pilot a jet fighter in the middle of an alien invasion.
Romeo + Juliet (1996)
Australian director Baz Luhrman did 90s teenagers a solid by providing them with a modernized version of William Shakespeare’s classic. A baby-faced Leo DiCaprio played Romeo, a baby-faced Claire Danes played Juliet, and we all just swooned, even as we knew how the sad tale would end. Romeo + Juliet is most definitely unlike any version of Shakespeare’s play you’ve ever seen – it’s the 90s version.
Good Will Hunting (1997)
Matt Damon & Ben Affleck are such major Hollywood stars, it can be quite the shock to watch them in their humble beginnings. Good Will Hunting didn’t just allow these two best friends from Boston to make an impression in front of the camera – it also got them an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay (yup, they wrote it!). Side-quest achievement? The movie gave Robin Williams the only Oscar of his career.
Ever After (1998) / Never Been Kissed (1999)
Drew Barrymore closed the decade with back-to-back projects pretty much tailored for her. In Ever After, she got to play a live-action Cinderella – and isn’t a Drew Barrymore Cinderella totally 90s? – while Never Been Kissed put her back in high school as an undercover reporter. Both movies capitalized on Barrymore’s unique charm & presence and remain beloved movies from the 90s for many.
Cruel Intentions (1999)
Right at the apex of her Buffy The Vampire Slayer popularity, Sarah Michelle Gellar starred in this teenage version of Dangerous Liaisons. Gellar shocked her Buffy fans by playing a cold-hearted hypersexual villain facing off against Ryan Phillippe’s very-90s-bad-boy, with a young Reese Witherspoon caught in the middle. Throw in a Counting Crows song for the centerpiece sex scene and you’ve got a winner.
10 Things I Hate About You (1999)
You know this one (to be fair, you know every movie on this list, right?). It’s part one of the unofficial trilogy of Heath Ledger’s greatest hits, to be followed by A Knight’s Tale and The Dark Knight. Of course, Ledger is just one actor in a loaded ensemble (Julia Stiles! Joseph Gordon Levitt!) – but the future Joker’s performance of “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” is one of the ultimate 90s moments in most people’s minds.
We know we left lots of 90s classics behind. What are your favorites? Let us know in the comments!