Images from 'Jurassic Park,' 'Fight Club,' 'Clueless,' and 'The Matrix' in 90s-style computer desktop pop-ups

The Best Movies of the ’90s

Ah, the ’90s. Don’t you miss it? Dope anime. Grunge. Cool gay movies. Dial-up internet. Heroin. Bill Clinton. Tony Hawk. Playstation One. Flip phones. Gushers. A fashion sense inspired by heroin. All in all, it was a pretty mixed bag. Don’t get me wrong, most of those things are dope. Except heroin. Don’t do heroin. The ’90s can also keep Bill Clinton. And dial-up. Honestly, just give me the Gushers. It’s not that I don’t like grunge records or whatever. I’d just rather have Gushers. Gushers are all hit and no miss.

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Just like these movies.

So you wanna know the best movies of the ’90s. Buckle up, cause this list is about to get totally tubular. Or radical. Or gnarly. Or whatever they said in the ’90s, idk.

Clueless

Brittany Murphy, Alicia Silverstone, and Stacey Dash in 'Clueless'
(Paramount Pictures)

Are you a fan of Mean Girls? Well, without Clueless, Mean Girls and every other high school coming of age comedy that came after it simply wouldn’t exist. Like its protagonists, Clueless was popular in its day, and as time has passed its popularity has only grown, shaping it into the cultural juggernaut it is today. Hell, Iggy Azalea and Charli XCX referenced this song in the music video for “Fancy.” Forget Iggy, but if it’s got pop queen Charli’s seal of approval than this film is going to be iconic FOREVER.

A modern take on the Jane Austen novel Emma, the film revolves around Cher Horowitz (Alicia Silverstone), the most popular girl at her school. After Cher takes new girl Tai (Brittany Murphy) under her wing and shows her the ropes of popularity, Tai begins CLIMBING that rope and threatens to leave Cher in the dust. Meanwhile, Cher and best friend Dionne (Stacey Dash) play matchmaker with two teachers while navigating their own troubled romantic lives. For Cher, that includes acknowledging her feelings for ex-step brother Josh, played by a young Paul Rudd.

The Shawshank Redemption

Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman in 'The Shawshank Redemption'
(Warner Bros.)

The Shawshank Redemption tells the story of Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins), a banker who was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in Shawshank State Penitentiary. But he was Duframed! He’s an innocent man! He didn’t do it! Try telling that to the corrupt warden and the sociopathic guards led by a young Mr. Krabs (Clancy Brown). Good thing Andy’s got a good friend like Red (Morgan Freeman) to help him get through it—and escape. Adapted from a Stephen King novella, The Shawshank Redemption is an exploration of both the horrors of prison and the indomitability of the human spirit.

Forrest Gump

Robin Wright as Jenny and Tom Hanks as Forrest in 'Forrest Gump'
(Paramount Pictures)

This may just be the greatest movie of the ’90s right here, and one of the greatest movies of all time. It’s so good that R&B icon Frank Ocean immortalized the titular protagonist in song. Forrest Gump is a simple-minded, pure-hearted man who hails from Greenbough, Alabama. Forrest Gump follows his extraordinary life as a high school football star, Vietnam War hero, ping pong champion, and successful shrimp entrepreneur. But he doesn’t care about any of that. All he cares about is his momma (like every good boy should) and the love of his life, Jenny (WHO DOES NOT DESERVE HIM. NO. SHE IS TERRIBLE). Come for the laughs and stay for the ending that will make you ugly cry.

The Matrix

Keanu Reeves as Neo in 'The Matrix'
(Warner Bros.)

How do you tell a transgender story to a world that isn’t ready to accept trans people? Make it about a white guy who realizes his reality is actually a virtual one created by robots and then give him kung fu powers to defeat them. The Matrix is a sci-fi masterpiece made by Lana and Lilly Wachowski, and stars a young Keanu Reeves as the chosen one protagonist, Neo. The man can’t act to save his life, but by God can he FIGHT to do it.

Princess Mononoke

San with blood on her face in 'Princess Mononoke'
(Studio Ghibli)

Do you like distant lands full of gods and demons? What about handsome young men attempting to save the forests? Or how about women raised by wolves and fighting capitalists encroaching on their land? I think I just found your favorite film: Princess Mononoke. Directed by Hayao Miyazaki, this film is (in my opinion) the iconic director’s best work. Action. Love. Drama. 100-foot-tall forest monsters! What more could you want out of a movie? Or life?

Jurassic Park

Sam Neill, Laura Dern, and Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park
(Universal Pictures)

Jurassic Park is perhaps the greatest blockbuster ever made. This Steven Spielberg classic tells the tale of some scientists and wealthy investors who make the world’s stupidest decision to resurrect dead dinosaurs. Scratch that. The stupidest decision they made was to then put those dinosaurs in a THEME PARK AND CHARGE PEOPLE MONEY TO SEE THEM. WHAT COULD GO WRONG? OH NO. THE ELECTRIC FENCES WENT DOWN AND ALL THE DINOSAURS GOT LOOSE? I COULD HAVE NEVER SEEN THAT COMING.

Titanic

Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet in 'Titanic'
(20th Century Studios)

Wait, I was wrong. THIS is the biggest and bestest blockbuster ever made. I don’t care if the Avatar movies made more money, Titanic is BETTER. Directed by James Cameron, this movie centers on a doomed love story set onboard the Titanic. The plucky and poor-as-hell Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) falls in love with the bored and beautiful Rose (Kate Winslet), who is living a pampered but unhappy life with her douchey fiancé. Jack romances her, they dance with the other lower class people, they boink in a car, and everything is fine until the ship and an iceberg strike up a romance of their own.

Toy Story

Tim Allen and Tom Hanks as Buzz and Woody in Toy Story
(Pixar)

Not gonna lie: Toy Story creeped me out as a kid. I didn’t fancy the idea that my toys would come to life when I wasn’t looking. But as I have grown up, I realize that this movie is a total classic (albeit still a tad creepy). Created by Pixar, Toy Story is about a bunch of toys who are accidentally left behind by their owner Andy on moving day. The straight-laced cowboy Woody (Tom Hanks) has to team up with the other toys, including his spaceman rival Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) in order to make it onto the moving van before Andy and his family are lost to them forever.

Fight Club

Brad Pitt poses in a fight circle in Fight Club.
(20th Century Studios)

DON’T DO IT. DON’T MAKE THE JOKE. I DON’T WANT TO HEAR IT. YES, WE’RE TALKING ABOUT FIGHT CLUB.

Now that that’s out of the way, this David Fincher flick starring Edward Norton and Brad Pitt inspired an entire generation of edgelords who idolize this film and its hypermasculine sociopath protagonists for all the wrong reasons. But we’re gonna talk about all the RIGHT reasons to love this film. Fight Club is essentially a satire of the edgelord, the man who believes that men are inherently violent and competitive, and that the societal makeup of the modern world has deprived them of the one thing that they were put on this Earth to do: dominate. However, the moral of the story is that should that desire be followed to its endpoint, cities would be reduced to rubble and ash. Just like they are at the end of the movie! The real message of this film is to reject the artificial rules that society tells you that you should follow WITHOUT contributing to the violence, isolation, and existential despair that modern society causes in the first place. One cannot use violence to break the cycle of violence.

Schindler’s List

The girl in the red coat stands in front of a crowd in Schindler's List
(Universal Pictures)

Directed by ol’ Steven Spielberg—and released the same year as Jurassic ParkSchindler’s List tells the true story of self-interested businessman Oskar Schindler, who runs a factory in Poland in the early 1940s. He employs Jewish workers willing to tolerate the long hours and low wages. However, after Oskar sees firsthand the horrific treatment of Jews by the Nazis, he resolves to keep his workers employed in the factory in order to save them from concentration camps. As Nazi efforts to murder the workers under his care intensify, Schindler becomes increasingly selfless and heroic. This powerful film won SEVEN Academy Awards, and is justifiably regarded as a historically significant film. It was even added to the Library of Congress!

(featured image: Universal Pictures / 20th Century Studios / Paramount Pictures / Warner Bros. / Getty Images / Illustration by The Mary Sue)


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Author
Jack Doyle
Jack Doyle (they/them) is actually nine choirs of biblically accurate angels crammed into one pair of $10 overalls. They have been writing articles for nerds on the internet for less than a year now. They really like anime. Like... REALLY like it. Like you know those annoying little kids that will only eat hotdogs and chicken fingers? They're like that... but with anime. It's starting to get sad.