We all love the '90s. The 1990s was a decade that produced many unforgettable movies that have become timeless classics. However, there are some lesser-known films that are worth recognizing for their exceptional storytelling, unforgettable characters, and important messages.
This article highlights 27 of the best '90s movies that you may have overlooked, emphasizing why they are underrated and why you should make an effort to watch them.
Death Machine (1994)
"Death Machine" (1994) is an underrated gem from the '90s that shines as one of the best in its genre. Directed by special effects wizard Stephen Norrington, this sci-fi horror film explores ethical dilemmas tied to advanced technology and the perilous outcomes of unchecked scientific ambition.
The story pits eco-warriors, a whistleblower, and corporate employees against a deranged weapons designer, played brilliantly by Brad Dourif, and his deadly robotic creation. With a mix of suspense, action, and thought-provoking themes, "Death Machine" is a must-see for fans of underrated '90s movies, offering a fun and frantic ride through a high-tech nightmare.
Jurassic Park (1993)
"Jurassic Park" (1993), directed by Steven Spielberg, is a quintessential '90s masterpiece and one of the best films of its decade. This sci-fi action movie brought dinosaurs to life in a way that left audiences awestruck and terrified. It's not an underrated film but rather a celebrated classic that has spawned a blockbuster franchise.
The recent sixth installment showcases the enduring appeal of the original trio, Sam Neill, Jeff Goldblum, and Laura Dern, who continue to embody the film's magical spirit. "Jurassic Park" remains an iconic example of '90s cinema, with its groundbreaking special effects and timeless storytelling.
While "Titanic" (1997) isn't an underrated '90s movie, it undeniably ranks among the best of the decade. Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet's performances, far from dismal, are lauded for their portrayal of the ill-fated lovers.
This visually stunning historical drama, directed by James Cameron, combines an epic scope with groundbreaking effects and a timeless love story. Its 11 Oscars, including Best Picture, affirm its cultural impact. "Titanic" remains a pinnacle of '90s cinema, captivating audiences with its central relationship, grandeur, spectacular effects, and enduring soundtrack, securing its place as one of the decade's best and most memorable films.
"Jumanji" (1995), directed by Joe Johnston, is a thrilling family adventure film. When two siblings, played by Kirsten Dunst and Bradley Pierce, discover a mysterious board game, they unwittingly release a man (Robin Williams) who's been trapped in the game for decades.
As they play, the jungle-themed challenges come to life, unleashing chaos in their town. With its blend of fantasy and humor, the film takes viewers on a rollercoaster ride as they join the characters in their quest to finish the game and restore order. "Jumanji" is a classic '90s movie, cherished for its imaginative storytelling and Robin Williams' charismatic performance.
State of Grace (1990)
"State of Grace" (1990) is a criminally underrated gem in '90s cinema. This crime drama intricately explores loyalty and betrayal within the Irish mob of New York City. It boasts an exceptional ensemble cast led by Gary Oldman as the accomplished gangster and Sean Penn as the undercover cop.
The film's gripping narrative delves deep into the complexities of family, friendship, and criminal life. Unfortunately, overshadowed by "Goodfellas" during its release, "State of Grace" deserves recognition for its intense storytelling, strong performances, and ability to immerse viewers in the gritty world of organized crime and moral dilemmas.
But I’m a Cheerleader (1999)
"But I'm a Cheerleader'' (1999) is a satirical romantic comedy that has carved a niche as a cult favorite within the LGBTQ+ cinema community. Natasha Lyonne plays a high school teenager sent to a conversion therapy camp, where she unexpectedly discovers her sexuality and falls in love with another camper, portrayed by Clea DuVall.
The film's strength lies in its ability to tackle the serious and sensitive subject of conversion therapy with a humorous and irreverent touch. Through clever satire, it sheds light on the absurdity of trying to change one's identity, making it both entertaining and thought-provoking, while celebrating self-discovery and love.
"Freaked" (1993) is an outrageously subversive and comedic journey that defies convention. Directed by Alex Winter and Tom Stern, the film stars Alex Winter himself as a former child star who, after endorsing a mega-corporation, becomes entangled with a mad scientist and freak show owner, played by Randy Quaid.
This bizarre and comedic ride is filled with eccentric characters and over-the-top humor, with Keanu Reeves making a memorable cameo. "Freaked" revels in its absurdity and is a cult classic that stands out as a wild and unforgettable '90s comedy.
Corrina, Corrina (1994)
"Corrina, Corrina" (1994) is a heartwarming drama featuring Whoopi Goldberg as a sharp-witted housekeeper. She becomes a pivotal figure in the lives of businessman Ray Liotta and his silent 7-year-old daughter, portrayed by Tina Majorino, who is grappling with the loss of her mother.
Against the backdrop of 1959, the film delicately explores the blossoming connection between Goldberg and Liotta, raising the question of whether their relationship will evolve beyond friendship. It's a touching story of healing, love, and the power of human connection during a challenging time in their lives.
Judgment Night (1993)
"Judgment Night" (1993) is a gripping and often overlooked action-thriller. It follows four friends, played by Emilio Estevez, Cuba Gooding Jr., Jeremy Piven, and Stephen Dorff, who accidentally hit a man with their car. The situation escalates when they discover that the victim was executed on orders from a ruthless crime lord, portrayed by Denis Leary.
Fleeing for their lives through a menacing urban environment, the film masterfully builds tension as the friends navigate a deadly game of survival. It makes it a thrilling exploration of ordinary people facing extraordinary danger in the unforgiving cityscape.
A Walk on the Moon (1999)
Set against the backdrop of the iconic Summer of 1969, "A Walk on the Moon" (1999) stars Diane Lane as a lonely housewife longing for the vibrancy of her youth. While her husband, portrayed by Liev Schreiber, remains emotionally distant, she attends Woodstock, where she crosses paths with Walker, played by Viggo Mortensen.
Their passionate affair becomes a transformative experience for her. Anna Paquin portrays her teenage daughter, who, like her mother, is on a journey of self-discovery during this era of cultural and social change, making the film a poignant exploration of desire and liberation.
The Matrix (1999)
"The Matrix" (1999) is a groundbreaking sci-fi masterpiece that forever altered cinematic landscapes. Keanu Reeves, portraying Neo, a skilled hacker, embarks on a reality-bending odyssey alongside Laurence Fishburne and Carrie-Anne Moss. They unravel a world where humans are trapped in a simulated reality, controlled by a malicious AI.
The film's visionary special effects and philosophical themes, coupled with stunning action sequences, reshaped the sci-fi genre. "The Matrix" not only stands as one of the greatest sci-fi movies but also spawned a beloved franchise, with enduring fan devotion, making it an iconic '90s film celebrated for its innovation and impact.
Blown Away (1994)
"Blown Away" (1994) is a high-octane suspense thriller that keeps viewers on the edge of their seats. Jeff Bridges stars as a bomb squad lieutenant whose past catches up with him when he becomes the target of a relentless terrorist, portrayed by Tommy Lee Jones.
The film is a pulse-pounding game of cat and mouse, filled with nail-biting set pieces and intense moments of tension. As the bomb expert and terrorist engage in a deadly battle of wits, "Blown Away" delivers a thrilling and heart-pounding experience that is a must-see for fans of suspenseful cinema.
Warriors of Virtue (1997)
"Warriors of Virtue" (1997) is a fantastical adventure featuring kangaroo heroes skilled in martial arts. The film takes a young boy on an extraordinary journey to a mystical forest realm inhabited by anthropomorphic kangaroo ninjas.
It uniquely blends action and imagination, offering a visually captivating and unconventional narrative. While it may not be widely known, the concept of martial arts kangaroos alone makes it a memorable and intriguing entry into the realm of '90s fantasy cinema.
"Braveheart" (1995) is a sweeping historical epic that tells the captivating story of Scottish warrior William Wallace, portrayed by Mel Gibson. The film brilliantly depicts Wallace's heroic efforts to lead his people in a rebellion against the oppressive rule of King Edward I of England.
Directed and produced by Gibson, "Braveheart" is a three-hour masterpiece that doesn't just demand time but rewards it with its emotional depth and enduring political impact. With stunning cinematography and a riveting narrative, it stands as a cinematic triumph, cementing its place as an essential and unforgettable piece of historical drama.
"Jawbreaker" (1999) undoubtedly draws inspiration from the '80s cult classic "Heathers" and paves the way for films like "Mean Girls." Rose McGowan shines as the queen bee, leading the "Flawless Four," played by Rebecca Gayheart, Julie Benz, and Charlotte Ayanna (albeit briefly, due to a jawbreaker mishap).
To conceal their accidental crime, they enlist school outcast Fern Mayo, portrayed by Judy Greer, who becomes a reluctant member of their clique. This darkly comedic and satirical take on high school dynamics explores themes of power, popularity, and the consequences of conformity in a wickedly entertaining manner.
The 1990s produced a wealth of underrated movies that continue to captivate audiences with their unique stories, characters, and themes. While these films may not have received the recognition they deserved upon release, they have found their place as hidden treasures in the world of cinema.
"Arlington Road" exemplifies the dramatic potential of '90s cinema, serving as a testament to the era's ability to deliver intense, unforgettable storytelling. So, if you're looking to rediscover the magic of the '90s, these movies are a great place to start.