Debating over which decade was better is pointless. It’s all relative, right?
Well, this list of 1990s movies on Amazon Prime Video is making a good argument that, when it comes to our golden years in film, the ’90s are where it’s at. From crime thrillers with twist endings to sci-fi epics, understated comedies, and Coen Brothers classics, this cinematic period is full of forgotten gems worth a rewatch. And now you can pay them the respect they deserve by binging them over on Amazon Prime Video.
Here are the best ’90s flicks on the streaming platform right now.
Run Time: 127 min | IMDb: 8.6/10
David Fincher’s poorly-lit thriller starring Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt is full of twists and turns you never see coming – and not just because the lighting’s terrible. Freeman plays a seasoned detective on his way out the door, Pitt plays the reluctant rookie learning under him as they hunt a psychotic killer. Fincher’s the king of creating desolate mindscapes and spotlighting tortured anti-heroes, but this film is grittier and grizzlier than the rest.
The Silence Of The Lambs (1991)
Run Time: 107 min | IMDb: 8.6/10
There’s a reason so many horror films and TV shows model their most villainous characters after Hannibal Lecter. Besides being the most terrifying serial killer, Anthony Hopkin injects the infamous cannibal with a striking charm and intense intelligence that elevate him to something more spine-chilling than just your run-of-the-mill psychopath. Jodie Foster plays the FBI agent tasked with catching another serial killer with Lecter’s same M.O., and she does it by striking up unnerving conversations with the guy, but Hopkins is the real star here, playing Lecter with a restrained insanity that makes his small talk of enjoying human liver with fava beans so much more nightmarish.
The Fifth Element (1997)
Run Time: 126 min | IMDb: 7.7/10
Luc Besson has done some fine genre work but this ’90s space epic will probably go down as his sci-fi magnum opus. Set in the future, the film follows a tough cab driver named Korben Dallas (Bruce Willis), who unwittingly becomes part of a galaxy-wide hunt for a cosmic weapon that could defeat the evil Mr. Zorg (Gary Oldman). Mila Jovovich plays said weapon, a young woman named Leelo who’s newly-formed, incredibly naïve, and capable of unlimited power. As the pair battle their way across the galaxy with Chris Tucker’s help, fans are treated to a colorful, boundary-pushing film unafraid to take risks that cements itself as a cult classic.
The Big Lebowski (1998) (requires Starz)
Run Time: 117 min | IMDb: 8.1/10
Again, the ’90s gave us some iconic characters, but Jeff Bridges as “The Dude” has to rank high on everyone’s list of beloved stoner types. Bridge’s bowling fanatic and overall slob’s mellow is seriously harshed when he becomes the victim of a case of mistaken identity and must recruit his bowling buddies (Steve Buscemi and John Goodman) to help him navigate kidnappings and cover-ups and the hangovers caused by too many White Russians.
Thelma & Louise (1991)
Run Time: 130 min | IMDb: 7.5/10
Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis star in this women-on-the-run tale of revenge and the chase for freedom. Davis plays Thelma, a ditzy housewife who’s nearly raped in the parking lot of a roadside bar, and Sarandon plays Louise, her sharp-tongued best friend who shoots the would-be rapist dead before the pair flee cross country. Trying to avoid capture by the police even while committing petty crimes to drum up the cash needed for a border run to Mexico, the real thrill of this cat-and-mouse game is in watching these two women go to the mat for each other. It’s the kind of feminist art that would inspire plenty of movies in the years that followed.
12 Monkeys (1998)
Run Time: 129 min | IMDb: 8/10
Bruce Willis and Brad Pitt star in another quintessential ’90s flick, this time together in a mind-bending sci-fi story about a convict sent back in time to save humanity. Willis plays Cole, a criminal given a chance to prevent a virus from wiping out most of Earth’s population by traveling back in time to prevent the disease from spreading. He teams up with a psychiatric patient named Goines (an off-his-meds Pitt) who has a read on the mysterious agency responsible for the virus. The two fight their way through conspiracy theories and involuntary psych procedures to get to the truth of why the group wants to destroy the world.
Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994)
Run Time: 117 min | IMDb: 7.1/10
Hugh Grant was the king of ’90s rom-coms and in this one, the witty British playboy wrestles with the unwelcome realization that he may have finally found love over the course of five social occasions. The epiphany upends his comfortable bachelorhood and amuses his family and friends, but Grant’s character fights the inevitable at every turn, giving us plenty of humor and sexual tension to keep things interesting.
Primal Fear (1996)
Run Time: 129 min | IMDb: 7.7/10
Richard Gere and Laura Linney star in this neo-noir crime thriller about a Chicago defense attorney assigned to defend a man accused of murdering an influential Catholic Archbishop. Gere plays Martin Vail, a vain lawyer who takes on the case of a young man with a stutter who may have killed a high-ranking member of the Catholic Church. Vail begins digging into the boy’s past and finds disturbing links between the crime for which he’s accused and the abuse he suffered as an altar boy. The movie takes so many twists and turns that trying to predict its ending is nearly impossible — the mark of a truly good thriller.
Run Time: 127 min | IMDb: 7/10
Sure, most of what people remember about this early ’90s flick is that pottery scene, its soundtrack, and Whoopi Goldberg’s riotously funny performance as a reluctant medium but really, aren’t those good enough reasons to watch anyway? Add in the fact that Patrick Swayze plays the most swoon-worthy ghost we’ve ever seen on film and Demi Moore is rocking a chic ’90s bowl cut and well, you just can’t go wrong with this one.
The Birdcage (1996)
Run Time: 117 min | IMDb: 7.1/10
Robin Williams is one of the greatest comedic voices of a generation but in this absurdist comedy about a gay cabaret owner and his drag queen boyfriend who must pass as straight to impress the parents of his son’s fiancé, Nathan Lane more than holds his own. Williams plays Armand, the club owner, and Lane plays his life partner Albert. The two are forced to sell the ruse that they’re just two straight men when Armand’s son tries to impress his girlfriend’s ultra Conservative parents. There’s sharp wit and some ridiculous hijinks to this one. Plus, who would pass up the opportunity to watch Williams in anything?
Basic Instinct (1992)
Run Time: 127 min | IMDb: 6.9/10
The ’90s had a few defining films and this one, a thriller starring Michael Douglas and Sharon Stone, certainly feels like one of them. It’s a charged whodunnit, with Douglas playing a violent police detective obsessed with solving a gruesome murder and Stone playing the seductive authoress who may be involved. Both actors give their all, though Stone comes out on top, delivering an iconic performance as a villainous woman who has no qualms about being bad (and flashing police during heated interrogation scenes).
Event Horizon (1997)
Run Time: 96 min | IMDb: 6.7/10
Despite its troubled journey to the screen, Paul W.S. Anderson’s sci-fi horror thriller has become a cult classic for fans of the genre. The film, set in the year 2047, follows a crew of astronauts sent to rescue any survivors on a ship called Event Horizon. The vessel had disappeared in its orbit around Neptune, creating a rift in the space time continuum thanks to its experimental engine. That rift allowed it to travel to an entirely different dimension and bring back a terrifying being who takes control of the ship and nearly kills all of the rescue crew. It’s one hell of a ride.
Kicking and Screaming (1995)
Run Time: 96 min | IMDb: 6.9/10
Noah Baumbach’s feature debut is this understated comedy that builds on what the writer/director does best: human introspection. Here it’s in the form of a group of college bros who aren’t quite ready for the real world, so they hang around school long past their graduation date. There’s no grand climax or striking finale to this one, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a funny, enjoyable peek into young adulthood and the specific anxieties that come with it.
Varsity Blues (1999)
Run Time: 106 min | IMDb: 6.5/10
If you’ve never seen Varisty Blues but you are a fan of Friday Night Lights, the similarities between the two films (and later the TV show) are pretty striking. Both are set in small-town Texas. Both follow a high school football team shouldering massive expectations from its town to win another State Championship. Both teams face adversity as their starting quarterback (Paul Walker in this one) is injured and their second stringer (James Van Der Beek) is forced to step up. But Varsity Blues tackles issues of bullying and abuse by authority figures with Jon Voight’s portrayal of the tyrannical Coach Kilmer. And it has Ali Larter in a whip cream bikini.
Air Force One (1997)
Run Time: 124 min | IMDb: 6.5/10
Harrison Ford stars in this political action thriller playing, what else, the President of the United States of America. When Communist radicals manage to hijack Air Force One with President James Marshall and his family on board, Marshall’s forced to use his military skills to take down the terrorists and save his crew. Glenn Close plays his Vice President, who tries to negotiate from the ground, and Gary Oldman plays the bad guy hoping to cripple the U.S. Government by taking out its Commander-in-Chief.