When you think of the '90s, countless things come to mind. Flared jeans, butterfly clips, and platform shoes became ingrained into our fashion choices. Music such as grunge, hip-hop, and pop became defining genres that transformed the industry. The way we entertained ourselves changed too, especially with the emergence of the internet.
Then you had movies. Cinema of the 1990s brought with it an eclectic range of great films that resonate with us today. From iconic blockbusters to phenomenal childhood animated films to well-crafted indies, there was something for everyone during that decade. We even started buying movies more. VHS tapes started making as much money — if not more — than theaters. Selecting only a handful of movies released during that decade is a near-impossible endeavor, but we've accumulated some of the best movies from the '90s.
We start our list with a movie that includes some of the most famous actors of that time. Starring Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore, and Whoopi Goldberg, Ghost is about a man who dies from an attempted robbery but manages to stay behind to warn the love of his life of impending danger. Goldberg took home an Oscar for her role in the movie and the movie itself was nominated for Best Picture.
Patrick Swayze plays the lead role as Sam Wheat who struggles to accept his fate. It's when he realizes the truth behind his murder, that the movie takes a thrilling turn. Sam meets up with Whoopi Goldberg's Oda Mae Brown, a local psychic, to help him warn Demi Moore's Molly Jensen. Blending comedy, romance, and supernatural elements, it's no surprise this movie has endured over the years.
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Beauty and the Beast (1991)
Disney certainly had their time in the sun during the '90s. One of the biggest Disney hits of that era is Beauty and the Beast. It tells the story of how a young man gets transformed into a horrible beast (voiced by Robby Benson). The only way he will get freedom from the curse is by falling in love. It sounds almost impossible until he meets Belle (voiced by Paige O'Hara).
The movie had everything you wanted from a Disney fantasy film, from beautiful music to charming characters to incredible artistry. It was the first animated movie to receive an Oscar nomination for Best Picture and it even took home the award for Best Original Score. There's no wonder it remains a treasured part of our movie history and a favorite in the hearts of '90s kids.
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Schindler's List (1993)
The impact of a movie like Schindler's List is hard to put into words. Directed by Steven Spielberg, it tells the true story of Oskar Schindler, played by Liam Neeson, a businessman who uses his factory to save the lives of 1,100 Jewish people at risk for death. Spielberg depicts one of the darkest times in history with remarkable accuracy and attention to detail.
It's no surprise the movie took home seven Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Actor in a Leading Role, and Best Director, just to name a few. Liam Neeson is at his best in this movie with strong performances as well by Ralph Fiennes and Ben Kingsley. The movie had long-reaching effects on many survivors of the Holocaust, who were inspired to tell their stories. It's a movie that serves as both a cinematic masterpiece and an educational tool for the generations.
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The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
When the '90s came around, Stephen King was one of the most popular authors of the time. His horror novels were turned into movies that became cinematic nightmares for us all. However, not all of his books were about scary clowns or haunted hotels. Ones like The Shawshank Redemption are about friendship and hope in the midst of dark surroundings.
Starring Tim Robbins as Andy Dufresne and Morgan Freeman as his friend, Ellis Boyd 'Red' Redding, this movie tells the story of a man sent to jail for crimes he didn't commit. However, despite not having any obvious pathway to freedom, he still manages to discover friendship inside the prison walls. Eventually, he finds redemption. It's a timeless movie that makes it one of the best '90s movies.
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Toy Story (1995)
Toy Story wasn't just a charming children's movie. It was the first movie made entirely by computer-generated animation. Released by Pixar in 1995, it told the story of Andy who gets a new toy for his birthday. Woody, Andy's favorite, can't help but be tremendously jealous of the fancy new addition to the room. However, Buzz Lightyear doesn't realize he actually is a toy, making it a hilarious plot device.
This movie had some of the most familiar voices we knew from the '90s. Tom Hanks starred as Woody, Andy's favorite toy and Tim Allen was Woody's nemesis, Buzz Lightyear. What makes it charming for adults as well as kids are the jokes woven within told by the familiar toys many of us had from our own childhood, such as Mr. Potato Head, Slinky, and the Green Army Men. It's a movie worth its weight in rewatches and a classic '90s film.
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The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)
Matt Damon certainly had his share of incredible '90s flicks, starting with his first movie, Good Will Hunting. However, one of his best and one of the best from the '90s is The Talented Mr. Ripley, a dramatic thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat.
Set in the 1950s, Matt Damon stars as Tom Ripley, who has been sent on a mission to bring back Dickie to his father in New York. When Dickie, played by Jude Law, refuses to go, they decide to take advantage of his father's money given to Ripley. Unfortunately, the friendship treasured by Ripley suddenly becomes one-sided, taking the movie down the road of a murder mystery. The cinematography that depicts his deception and spiral downward, makes it a must-see for those looking back on the decade's movies.
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The Sixth Sense (1999)
One of the best directors that emerged from the '90s was M. Night Shyamalan. He has given us incredible twisty supernatural thrillers that still feel fresh and new. One of the top selections from his films is The Sixth Sense starring Haley Joel Osment and Bruce Willis.
Osment plays Cole Sear, a troubled boy with a secret he is certain no one would ever believe. Willis plays the part of child psychologist Dr. Malcolm Crowe, who wants to reach Cole and help him, especially since he reminds him of a former patient. As time goes on, Malcolm learns of Cole's ability to see and speak with dead people but is uncertain how to help. Toni Collette plays a minor but impactful role as Cole's mother, who wonders about the unexplainable events that revolve around her son. Its shocking ending makes it one of the best movies with a twist of all time.