50 Things I Love About 90s Movies

Some of my most formative years as a cinephile were in the 1990s. It has become somewhat fashionable in recent years to bash the 1990s, often while praising the 80s (blech). You’ll never hear me bashing the 90s, primarily because it was such fertile territory for film. Call it the Weinstein Revolution, when indie cinema rose to previously unseen heights. Of course, the decade was also full of blockbuster fun. There’s so much to love about 90s movies that I’ve made a list.

1. The golden briefcase in Pulp Fiction (1994)

2. Tom Hanks taking on serious roles

3. William Blake (Johnny Depp), the accountant and not the writer, pairing up with a Native American named Nobody, immediately followed by…

4. Iggy Pop in drag, raving to Billy Bob Thornton about Philistines

5. Depp again, this time in drag as the title character in Ed Wood (1995)

6. The opening scene of Rushmore (1998)

7. Six gangsters named after colors

8. The rise of Steve Buscemi

9. “What’s in the box?!?!”

10. John Goodman as the devil, causing all sorts of wallpaper-related chaos in Barton Fink (1991)

11. Kevin Costner drinking his own urine

12. “I’m not even supposed to be here today!”

13. Wes Craven breathing new life into the slasher genre

14. Kayzer Soze

15. The bloody finale of Unforgiven (1992)

16. The pre-film buzz around The Blair Witch Project (1999)

17. Learning about the lurid things that can be done with a pie

18. The fact that Groundhog Day has a completely different meaning now, thanks to Bill Murray

19. Hood movies

20. The Big Lebowski (1997). All of it.

21. The last time M. Night Shyamalan surprised anyone with a twist in The Sixth Sense

22. The creepy madness of this very NSFW clip from Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

23. Shaquille O’Neal starring in not one, but TWO movies

24. Roller Girl

25. Will Smith’s dominance of 4th of July weekend

26. Steven Spielberg bringing dinosaurs to life in Billy and the Clonasaurus

27. “I’m funny how, I mean funny like I’m a clown, I amuse you? I make you laugh, I’m here to fuckin’ amuse you? What do you mean funny, funny how? How am I funny?”

28. Billy Bob Thornton turning his voice into an unholy mix of a frog and a lawnmower in Sling Blade (1995)

29. The John Williams score for JFK (1991)

30. Hannibal Lecter’s unusual diet

31. The last time Adam Sandler made anyone laugh

32. 1998: The Year Crap Fell from Space Towards Earth

33. Sharon Stone crossing her legs

34. Getting a huge introduction to jazz from The Last Time I Committed Suicide (1997) soundtrack

35. Thinking of this, every time I heard that stupid Celine Dion song from Titanic (1997):

36. The bank robbery sequence in Heat (1995)

37. A bunch of John Grisham novels sloppily thrown at the silver screen

38. The ennui of Lester Burnham in American Beauty (1999)

39. Ace Ventura beating the shit out of an NFL mascot

40. The chicanery with the dog at the end of Happiness (1998). Now let’s never speak of it again.

41. Tim Burton highjacking Christmas and steering it towards Halloween

42. “Blame Canada!” in South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut (1999)

43. Elizabeth Berkley and Demi Moore as dueling banjo strippers in back-to-back years

44. Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990), one of the most underrated horror-comedies out there

45. The haunting finale to Schindler’s List (1993)

46. The homespun, eerie Carter Burwell soundtrack to Fargo (1996)… and pretty much everything else about it, too

47. Robert Duvall as a lunatic Pentecostal preacher

48. The Pixies’ “Where is My Mind?” blaring over the ending of Fight Club (1999)

49. “Tommy Boy” Callahan outsmarting Ray Zalinsky using road flares. Shut up. I like Tommy Boy.

50. Andy Dufresne breaks free (the first time; not so much the other 148 times that we’ve seen it in syndication since then)

32 Comments

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32 responses to “50 Things I Love About 90s Movies

  1. Great list. The 90s were a great decade for film – so much better than the 80s. So many highlights here. Numbers 15, 27 and 46 especially.

    Some suggestions I’d like to throw in:
    The final scene of Three Colours: Red.
    The final 30 minutes of Satantango. And the 6 1/2 hours that precedes it.
    Harvey Keitel screaming “WHAT THE FUCK WAS I SUPPOSED TO DO?” in Reservoir Dogs.
    Jason Robards’ deathbed monologue in Magnolia.
    Christian telling his family what his father did to him and his sister in Festen.
    The rewind scene in Funny Games.
    EVERY SINGLE LINE OF DIALOGUE IN GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS.

    • For the most part, I was trying to stick to stuff that I actually saw in the 90s. Other than Run, Lola, Run, I didn’t see most foreign fare until much later.

  2. I think no. 23 deserves a post of its own.

  3. The guy who met Kevin Meany

    I am so happy the dog in “Happiness” made the list. What a feel-good movie! Unfortunately, we will have to wait until your 50 Best from the 00s to see the mention of the Step Up movies, which for my money, are masterpieces and the worthy successors to Singing In the Rain.

    • I hate to say it because I’ll sound like a dick, but the 00s would be slim pickin’s.

      • The guy who met Kevin Meany

        This might sound weird, but the “slim pickin’s” might make it easier to write. “My precious”, “less than stellar Matrix sequels”, “Marvel going apeshit with the superhero movies”, the lessons learned by CGI animators–never draw humans–they’re creepy, the 80s movie remake epidemic, etc. That thing writes itself.

  4. Great list! Totally agree with you about the 90s. There were some fabulous films released during that decade. It also helps that I was still in my 20s and was in prime movie going mode, so I got to see all of it in the theater. Now… not so much. Guess that’s one positive thing about my kids getting older. I can drag them to the movies to see more stuff (other than Pixar) just like my dad did with me.

  5. “I’m not even supposed to BE here today!!!” Love. 37!!!

  6. Great lost John. I too have fond memories of the 90′s and you encapsulate them well here. How can I argue when your list says “The Big Lebowski – All of it”. Class man, pure class.

    • Lebowski was one of the real highlights of that decade. There’s not a single thing I’d change about it even if I could do such a thing.

      • I agree 100%. Ever since it’s release it has been my favourite film and none have came close to replacing it. As you say, I wouldn’t change a thing about either.

  7. Vladdy

    Nice list. The ’90s were awesome. I would like to add two more words: Juliette Binoche.

    • I honestly thought about throwing something in there about Jenny McCarthy popping up in movies. Although she’s… quite different from Binoche.

  8. I forgot about a few of these! Thanks John!

  9. aleksa

    It was a great decade for movies. On a side note, thank you for #35. I REALLY needed a laugh today.

  10. The guy who met Kevin Meany

    Regarding #21, M. Night Shyamalan had a couple more movies with good twists–Unbreakable and the Village.

  11. yeltnuh

    I completely forgot Slingblade! Thanks.

  12. thanks for the link! great list!

  13. goregirl

    What the??!! The movies of the 80s were not BLECH!! The hair, the clothes, much of the music…but not the movies.

    I really like Craven’s Scream but it seemed to be a launching point for a copious amount of PG teen and 20 something nonsense that I just loathe and despise. I actually collected a list of 90s horror films from IMDB for the purpose of doing a top 10 for each year like I have done for the 70s and 80s. I could only come up with a complete top 10 for one year. I may still take this project on at some point, but it does not excite me. I was shocked at how few horror films I liked from the 90s. It was frankly a godawful mess. Sure, there are exceptions (Dead Alive, Cemetery Man, Cure and a few others), but mostly dreck!

    That said I can certainly agree on a lot of your other points. I love Mr. Buscemi, and as you know I love all Tarantino & Jarmusch, Sling Blade, Boogie Nights, Fargo, Big Lebowski, BARTON FINK (without a doubt one of my favourite movies of the 90s and of all time EVER!!). Nightmare Before Christimas, Usual Suspects, Goodfellas, American Beauty…and Tommy Boy…hilarious…I love it!! Plenty to love about the 90s!…just not horror.

    The ladies at work laughed and laughed at the Grover VS Celine Dion…

    • Actually… yeah, if we’re talking horror, the 80s are tons better. You completely nailed that. The 90s really struggled with that genre. Other than Scream and Blair Witch, I can’t think of many other 90s horrors. I liked Event Horizon, and Candyman is great, and then there’s the ones you mentioned… and that’s pretty much it.

  14. Matt

    I lol’d at 26
    Apu: “Oh, you have got to be kidding sir. First you think of an idea that has already been done. Then you give it a title that nobody could possibly like. Didn’t you think this through…”

  15. Deniz

    Really awesome list. Although i did not get the meaning of the movies back then. I was born in 1992, so I did not really start understanding the true meaning of the movies before I was 13-15? I dunno, but from when I was 17, I started just watching so many of the movies and also the ones from your list. And I just love them more than the movies today, honestly. I dont know why, but they probably just seem much more meaningful and original towards me. Just what I think though. Still keep watching them :). I’ve watched a part of those from your list when I was a kid, but I just understand them more now :D. I grew up with some of these movies while some of the rest would be cartoons ofcourse. But I watched quite a lot of movies of those kinds on your list though back then as i remember. But great list anyway :). Bye

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