Last Updated: November 13th
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. The Matrix (1999)
Run Time: 136 min | IMDb: 8.7/10
The Wachowskis created one of the greatest sci-fi films in cinematic history with their mind-bending Matrix trilogy, but the original is hard to top. Keanu Reeves plays Neo, a young man unplugged from the matrix — a kind of alternate reality that keeps humans docile, so machines can harvest their life energy. He teams up with a band of rebels fighting the machines (Laurence Fishburne as Morpheus and Carrie-Ann Moss as Trinity) and faces off against a henchman named Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving). The real draw of this trilogy, besides its inventive storyline, is the CGI display. The movie also sports some of the most imaginative fight sequences you’ll ever see on the big screen.
2. Schindler’s List (1993)
Run Time: 195 min | IMDb: 8.9/10
It took decades in the industry for Steven Spielberg to finally earn an Oscar for one of his movies, but his win for Schindler’s List is well deserved. The film focuses on wealthy businessman Oskar Schindler, who spends his fortune and risks his life to save the lives of 1,100 Jewish men and women after taking in the horrors of WWII and the concentration camps. Between the three hour running time, the cold, unrelenting cruelty of Ralph Fiennes’ portrayal of Amon Goeth, and its realistic style, it’s a bleak film. But there’s hope to be found in the grim black and white images. It’s an important story told movingly by a filmmaker at the height of his powers.
3. Pulp Fiction (1994)
Run Time: 154 min | IMDb: 8.9/10
Possibly the most famous of Quentin Tarantino’s masterpieces, Pulp Fiction stars John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, and Uma Thurman spitting out punchy dialogue, pop culture references, and committing some pretty violent crimes along the way. Tarantino’s love of non-linear storytelling is on full display here with three separate plots, all entwined in some way, take shape over the course of the film. Travolta plays Vincent, a hitman for a mob boss who, along with his partner Jules (Jackson), survives a couple of shootouts in the film as the two contemplate their life of crime, escort mob wives across town, help fix boxing matches, and dispose of dead bodies.
4. Trainspotting (1996)
Run Time: 93 min | IMDb: 8.1/10
Danny Boyle’s black comedy crime film has become a cult classic and made it on plenty “best movies” lists over the years. Ewan McGregor plays Mark Renton, an unemployed heroin addict who shares a flat with his equally unimpressive friends, Spud, Sick Boy, Franco, and Tommy. The group parties together constantly, doing drugs, getting into fights, and committing petty crimes before Renton attempts to get clean only to return home to make a drug deal that could set him up with a clean slate. It’s darkly comedic, with some ridiculous twists thrown in, but the core of the story is surprisingly emotional.
5. Jackie Brown (1997)
Run Time: 154 min | IMDb: 7.5/10
After earning acclaim with Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs, Quentin Tarantino made his subtlest feature with Jackie Brown, an Elmore Leonard adaptation that the director still makes very much his own. After middle-aged stewardess Jackie Brown (Pam Grier) is picked up by the FBI, she’s pulled between her arms-dealing boss (Samuel L. Jackson), the feds that are after him, and saving her own skin. With an all-star ensemble that includes Robert De Niro and Robert Forster (who earned an Oscar nomination), Jackie Brown is a throwback to the blaxploitation genre, which started in the ’70s, of which Grier was a big part of. It’s a tense, sexy, and desperate story with a wonderful soundtrack to boot.
6. American History X (1998)
Run Time: 119 | IMDb: 8.5/10
Edward Norton stars in this politically-charged drama about a reformed neo-nazi skinhead hoping to prevent his brother from following in his footsteps. Norton plays Derek, a man who’s anger over his father’s death fuels him to start up a violent racist gang and recruit his brother, Danny, to film their exploits. When Derek goes to prison for killing a man, he changes his ways, enduring violence at the hands of his Aryan brothers while befriending a Black inmate who he works with. Once Derek is free, he goes against his former friends and mentor to get his brother out of the life, a decision that puts his life and his family at risk. It’s a tough watch, one that feels even more relevant now than it did in the ’90s, but Norton is fantastic in it.
7. Men In Black (1997)
Run Time: 98 min | IMDb: 7.3/10
We should all hail the casting genius who threw Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones together in this sci-fi action flick about a police officer who joins a secret government organization in charge of monitoring extraterrestrial activity on Earth. That’s because the two bros – Smith, the wise-cracking rookie, and Jones, the seasoned veteran – have an almost otherworldly kind of chemistry on screen. Watching them bicker like an old married couple is almost more fun than witnessing them take down alien monsters intent on subjugating our planet.
8. Four Weddings And A Funeral (1994)
Run Time: 117 min | IMDb: 7.1/10
A Hugh Grant-starring rom-com, this one sees the witty British playboy wrestle 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.
9. Now and Then (1995)
Run Time: 100 min | IMDb: 6.8/10
Christina Ricci, Gaby Hoffman, Thora Birch, and Ashleigh Aston Moore play younger versions of stars Rosie O’Donnell, Demi Moore, Melanie Griffith, and Rita Wilson in this quintessentially 90s tale of a group of young girls who form a friendship that carries them into their adult lives. The girls spend a life-changing summer together, investigating a mysterious death and learning more about themselves in the process before reuniting years later where they confront past mistakes. It’s a heartwarming ode to friendship supported by a truly talented group of young actresses.
10. The Waterboy (1998)
Run Time: 89 min | IMDb: 6.1/10
Remember when we used to like Adam Sandler? Sure, his comedies were never high art, but you still find yourself quoting them to this very day. The Waterboy is the classic example of this comfortable familiarity. Sandler mugs his way through his performance as a football team’s waterboy who gets a shot at playing due to his ability to channel his rage into unexpected prowess on the field, and you’ll find yourself cocooned in the welcoming embrace of ’90s nostalgia.
Recent Changes Through November 2019:
Removed: Scream, The Sixth Sense, Empire Records, As Good As It Gets, Groundhog Day
Added: Men In Black, The Matrix, American History X, Now And Then, Trainspotting