Last Updated: November 10th
As CGI found its footing in the ’90s, the masses flocked to big-budget spectacles like Titanic and Jurassic Park. But another revolution was unfolding on a smaller scale. We also saw the first films from some of the best indie directors, from Wes Anderson to Quentin Tarantino. Below are 10 of the best ’90s movies on Netflix right now, ranked. They range from the ’90s-est ’90s movies that every millennial grew up watching to the influential award winners that are worth discovering or revisiting.
1. Fargo (1996)
Run Time: 98 min | IMDb: 8.1/10
Before FX gave us some spectacular follow-up formatted for TV, the Coen brothers introduced us to the cold, weirdly-accented world of murder and cover-up in Fargo, a thriller continues to stand the test of time. The premise is probably familiar by now: a criminal mastermind’s plan goes awry thanks to the ineptitude and bungling of his henchman and the persistence of a dogged policewoman (the unfairly-talented Frances McDormand). Still, it’s worth a rewatch.
2. Boyz n the Hood (1991)
Run Time: 112 min | IMDb: 7.7/10
John Singleton’s directorial debut is this dramatic masterpiece about life in the gang-ridden hood of Crenshaw and how one young man hopes to escape the endless cycle of violence that surrounds him. Cuba Gooding Jr. plays Tre, a smart, capable kid who struggles to stay clear of gang wars and his criminal friends while working towards his dreams of college. His buddies — gang members, former inmates, track stars — all navigate the bloodshed on the streets of their hood with varying results but when a tragedy brings them together, Tre’s forced to make a choice between the life he wants and the one he’s stuck in.
3. Cape Fear (1991)
Run Time: 128 min | IMDb: 7.3/10
Robert De Niro and Nick Nolte star in this Southern crime thriller about a convicted rapist whose release from prison after serving a 14-year sentence and decides to use his newfound freedom to stalk the family of the lawyer who convicted him. Nolte plays Sam Bowden, a lawyer and family man who made sure his client Max Cady (De Niro) was convicted for his heinous crimes. Cady comes back with a vengeance, using his knowledge of the law, knowledge he gained while in prison, to hunt down those closest to Bowden in order to get revenge on his former attorney. De Niro plays a particularly nasty bad guy, but Nolte is more than up for the challenge here.
4. 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.
5. Total Recall (1990)
Run Time: 113 min | IMDb: 7.5/10
Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sharon Stone star in this ’90s sci-fi flick set in 2084 that follows a construction worker named Quaid (Schwarzenegger), who begins having disturbing, memory-like dreams of an alternate life in which he was a spy sent to retrieve a dangerous weapon from colonized Mars. Stone plays Lori, his “wife” who reveals herself to be an agent as well, sent to monitor Quaid who purposefully wiped his memories of the mission to protect the planet’s people. There’s plenty of space travel, explosion, and twisted mind games in this one, but good luck figuring out if it’s all real or just Quaid’s imagination.
6. My Best Friend’s Wedding (1997)
Run Time: 105 min | IMDb: 6.3/10
Julia Roberts, Dermot Mulroney, and Cameron Diaz star in this classic rom-com about a woman set upon preventing her best friend’s marriage. Roberts plays Julianne, a woman who realizes she’s in love with her best friend, Michael (Mulroney), mere days before he’s supposed to wed his rich fiance, Kim (Diaz). Roberts attends the festivities, befriending Kim while also trying to split the pair up, using wedding planning mishaps and bar karaoke to prove how wrong they are for one another. It’d be cringeworthy if Roberts wasn’t so damn lovable, and Diaz wasn’t hilariously naive.
7. 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).
8. The Witches (1990)
Run Time: 91 min | IMDb: 6.9/10
This adaptation of Roald Dahl’s fantasy children’s story still holds up, mostly because of Anjelica Huston who terrifies and captivates as a Grand High Witch who holds a convention at a hotel where she plans a power takeover and constantly insults children. Of course, her plans are thwarted by a nosy brat who gets himself turned into a mouse and alerts the adults about this group of dark magic practitioners, but for most of the film we get to enjoy Huston hamming it up as a deliciously evil woman with an unabashed disgust for those tiny humans.
9. Coneheads (1993)
Run Time: 98 min | IMDb: 5.1/10
Sure, the premise of this movie — aliens with conical-shaped heads crash-land on Earth and must learn to adapt to life amongst humans — is overdone and even more ridiculous here, but you know what saves it? Dan Aykroyd and Jane Curtin, two comedy legends clearly having fun here.
10. The Addams Family (1991)
Run Time: 99 min | IMDb: 6.9/10
More spooky than downright terrifying, this Halloween favorite has a theme-song that always slaps and a cast of colorful characters that people almost always borrow costume ideas from come October. The first installment in the franchise introduces us to Morticia (Anjelica Huston) and Gomez (Raul Julia) Adams, a feverishly-in-love couple who live in a gothic mansion with their two children, Wednesday (Christina Ricci) and Pugsley (Jimmy Workman), and a handful of other bizarre family members. When Gomez’s long-lost brother shows up, it’s up to Morticia and the children to uncover whether he’s really blood, or just a con-artist hoping to swindle them out of their fortune.
Recent Changes Through November 2020:
Added: Fargo, Kicking and Screaming, Boyz N The Hood, Cape Fear, The Witches, Basic Instinct, Coneheads, My Best Friend’s Wedding
Removed: Jurassic Park, The Devil’s Advocate, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, Sleepless In Seattle, Silence of the Lambs, Tremors, Jerry Maguire