We’ve got suggestions of movies streaming on Netflix from one of the greatest decades ever: the ’90s!
Clueless is one of the great ’90s movies. Not only did it perfectly fit the teen movie cinematic style of the decade, it’s also a very clever adaptation and modernization of Jane Austen’s Emma. Though it didn’t lead to Alicia Silverstone having the great career it appeared it might, it did give birth to the great film career of Paul Rudd.
Another film in the early career of Paul Rudd? Romeo + Juliet, but he’s not what makes this one memorable. This movie is one of the most notable films in the early career of Leonardo DiCaprio (and certainly not the only one on this list). Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s best known play is passionately modern and is absolutely a classic. It’s perhaps encompasses the idea of a ’90s teen movie more than any other.
When we think of Robin Williams’ best movies, there’s one that comes to mind faster than any other: Good Will Hunting. No, the film doesn’t feature him being funny, it features him giving the single best acting performance of his career, and it touches our hearts every time. He won an Oscar for the role, as did Matt Damon and Ben Affleck for their perfect screenplay.
Fargo made quite the impact. In 2014 a TV show adaptation premiered that featured none of the characters or the plot from the movie yet still was so obviously Fargo. That’s how distinctive the Coen brothers style was in this masterpiece. Marge Gunderson as played by Frances McDormand is one of the all-time great characters, and if you’ve never seen this classic, it should definitely go to the top of your list.
Of all the great Disney musicals, Mulan is easily one of our favorites. Featuring great music, great characters, and great storytelling, this is one of the best movies Disney has made.
Tom Hanks won his first of two Oscars in two consecutive years for his role Andrew Beckett, a man fired from a law firm after he is diagnosed with AIDS. His co-star Denzel Washington too is great as the lone attorney who would represent him, and Philadelphia is an emotional experience of a movie.
Tom Cruise had a number of huge hits in the ’90s, and Jerry Maguire was one of the most interesting of them. Cruise made an interesting choice by choosing to play a protagonist that really just isn’t a good guy. Unfortunately Jerry Maguire perhaps works better as a series of moments than a full movie. The whole thing doesn’t always work, but what does work really does.
Sense and Sensibility as directed by multi-Oscar winning director Ang Lee is one of the best Jane Austen adaptations ever made. It’s a very skillfully made piece of cinema, and it’s far more funny than you’d ever expect. The performances throughout are great, but Emma Thompson in particular stands out.
One of the Coen brothers most criminally underrated movies is their masterpiece Barton Fink. John Turturro stars as the titular character, a famed Broadway playwright hired by a Hollywood studio to write their new wrestling picture. His performance is strong as the eternally distracted writer, as is John Goodman’s as a neighbor, but the real stars of the show are the Coens, who direct the film in such a way that it’s unforgettable.
Another of the great Disney animated movies is Hercules. It’s one of their most visually exciting musicals for sure, the songs are terrific, and the way they adapted the Hercules story into a Superman-esque tale works wonderfully.
Leaving Las Vegas features Nicolas Cage’s only Oscar winning role, and the performance is certainly deserving of that win. In addition to featuring a great performance from Cage, Mike Figgis’ film is undeniably sad and nuanced.
One of the all-time great comedies is Groundhog Day, and it features one of Bill Murray’s greatest performances too. The movie is the definition of timeless: it works just as well today as it did 20 years ago, and it will almost certainly work just as good 20 years from now. It contains a simple message, but it rings very true due to how hilariously and heartfelt it is portrayed.
Not only is it one of the best films of the ’90s, The Silence of the Lambs is one of the best films of all-time. Though we’re big fans of the current NBC series Hannibal, this movie is the best adaptation of any Hannibal Lecter tale. The movie is absolutely deserving of all five Oscars it won: Best Picture, Best Actor (Anthony Hopkins), Best Actress (Jodie Foster), Best Director (Jonathan Demme), and Best Adapted Screenplay (Ted Tally).
Quentin Tarantino consistently makes great movies, and depending on who you ask, Pulp Fiction might be his best (though this writer prefers Inglourious Basterds and both Kill Bill movies). Regardless of where it ranks in Tarantino’s personal fantastic filmography, Pulp Fiction is nothing short of an absolute masterpiece.
Luc Besson has made several great movies (and some less so) in his career, and The Fifth Element is one of his best. It’s one of the most visually inventive films ever, and the degree to which it is over the top simply works because it doesn’t take itself too seriously.
Ridley Scott’s Moses epic last year Exodus: Gods and Kings was “thematically and visually shallow and dull.” It was never a necessary film because The Prince of Egypt already told the story so perfectly. The visuals are just stunning, the voice cast is sensational, and Hans Zimmer’s score is great.
Maybe even more than most of his movies, Darren Aronofsky’s first movie Pi is a trip. Math and thriller aren’t two words that usually go together, but Aronofsky’s masterfully crafted low budget tale absolutely fits the bill. It’s certainly strange, and its ending is not to be missed.
Total Recall is one of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s most essential film. It’s as violent as it is gory as it is hilarious. It’s a great movie that so perfectly fit the late ’80s/early ’90s style of film making, and it’d be a terrible idea to try to remake it (which hasn’t happened).
Though it often gets a lot of flack for winning Best Picture in favor of better movies, American Beauty is still a good movie. Maybe more than anything else, it’s a movie so reflective of its time period (it’s such a pre-9/11 movie), but it still works under that lens. Sure, some parts of the movie simply don’t work (they never did), but a lot of the movie really does.
Before he wrote and directed Boyhood or even his best movie Dazed and Confused, Richard Linklater made Slacker, a truly unique movie. Before he was filming movies over 12 years, Linklater was breaking other narrative conventions by following the lives of different people, moving person to person. Linklater has always been interested in how stories can be told, and Slacker, his first movie, proved early on that Linklater had the talent to do this in an interesting way.
Christopher Nolan is another writer/director whose career had a very interesting start. With his low budget film Following, Nolan proved instantly that he was a talented filmmaker. The film is short, efficient, and really interesting.
Amistad is one of Steven Spielberg’s only movies available on Netflix, and it’s one of his most underrated too. The 1997 film tells the tale of an 1839 mutiny aboard a slave ship. Spielberg’s telling of the important story (somewhat surprisingly) isn’t preachy, and it’s (not at all surprisingly) masterfully made. The amazing cast features Morgan Freeman, Anthony Hopkins, Matthew McConaughey, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Djimon Hounsou, and Stellan Skarsgård, among others.
The other movie featuring a young Leonardo DiCaprio on this list is the great What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. DiCaprio and co-stars Johnny Depp and Juliette Lewis give incredibly heartfelt performances, and while the film does get predictable at times, it’s always very sweet.
Looking for a tear-jerker? Fried Green Tomatoes is the movie for you. It’s certainly manipulative, but it’s very effective. And sometimes that’s just what you want. The performances from Kathy Bates and Jessica Tandy in particular are really strong.
Galaxy Quest is the very definition of great satire. It pokes fun at Star Trek in a way that makes it undeniably clear that it really loves Star Trek, and that’s a lot of fun to watch. It also works on its own; knowledge of Star Trek isn’t at all essential to enjoy this as its an endlessly entertaining movie on its own terms.