When it comes to being nostalgic about movies, people often have their favorite decades. There are those who will think that all the best films came out during the 1980’s — and they’d have some excellent examples. ‘The Empire Strikes Back,’ ‘The Princess Bride,’ and ‘Ishtar …’ OK, that last one’s a joke. But the 1990s have nothing to apologize for. We’ve got a ton of our favorite movies from that decade. It was hard to get it down to 10, but we did it. Here they are, in no particular order:
1. Jurassic Park
When it came to adapting Michael Crichton novels to the big screen, this movie came close to making the book come to life. Steven Spielberg made the dinosaurs that populated the theme park seem as real as they might have been when they were alive millions of years ago. The gripping story showed how a wonderful place that brought history back to life could become a nightmare when the security systems stopped working properly.
The movie oozed with atmosphere from the very start — with the gates opening in the rain and giant containers being brought in. It evoked everything from sheer wonder, like when Sam Neill turned Laura Dern’s head so she could see the dinosaurs galloping around their Jeep, to suspense, like the part of the glass of water showing the weight of the dinosaur stalking them, to sheer terror — seriously, would YOU want to see a Tyrannosaurus Rex’s gaping maw in YOUR side mirror? On an unrelated note, what would you tell an auto body repair shop about having your vehicle stomped on by a T. Rex? There have been other Jurassic Park movies, but not even Chris Pratt could evoke the same feelings as the first one.
2. Good Burger
There are those who might think of this as just being ‘Kenan and Kel: The Movie.’ That’s because this movie was spawned from a sketch on the popular Nickelodeon show. It was a much better film than movies from that era that were initially centered around a popular sketch — ‘Its Pat’ comes to mind. The movie has Kel Mitchel playing Ed, a cashier, at Good Burger, who brings in buddy Dexter, who was played by Kenan Thompson. It’s about them trying to save their ‘Good Burger’ restaurant from being put of out of business by a mega corporation. It’s a hilarious movie … and people can learn some things about restaurant supplies, too.
As it often happens when a movie starring two people becomes popular, one of them becomes a mega star and the other one … doesn’t. After two ‘Bill and Ted’ movies, Keanu Reeves later became a blockbuster action hero in movies like ‘Speed,’ ‘The Matrix,’ and ‘John Wick.’ His co-star, Alex Winter basically had to wait until Keanu was ready for a third ‘Bill and Ted’ movie decades later. The same went for Thompson and Mitchell. Thompson has been a longtime fixture on ‘Saturday Night Life,’ and has regular guest appearances on all kinds of shows. Mitchell has not been anywhere near as visible but there was some good news for fans of the comedy — both Thompson and Mitchell announced that they were reuniting to do ‘Good Burger 2.’ Who cares if it’s been nearly 30 years? Fast food burgers can last a long time, after all.
Hollywood has had some hit and misses when it comes to adapting Stephen King’s work. ‘Maximum Overdrive’ was NOT good. But they hit it out of the ballpark with ‘Misery,’ which had two powerhouse performances by James Caan and Kathy Bates. For those who don’t know, the movie is about Caan’s character, an author named Paul Sheldon who was in a car accident in wintry weather and is rescued by Bates’ character, Annie Wilkes. She helps him recover from his severe injuries in bed. It also turns out that she’s obsessed with his books… which turns into her obsessing about him and making his life miserable since he’s thinking of killing off her favorite character.
The movie, which was directed by Rob Reiner — who did a decidedly different film from ‘This is Spinal Tap’ and ‘The Princess Bride’ — does a great job of a slow burn. While there are no supernatural elements, which are a big part of King’s other books and movies, there was one scene where this writer remembers being in a packed theater and having an entire audience just shriek at once when a scene showed Wilks being illuminated by lightning while holding a sledgehammer. Those who watched it know how she used her local firewood supply next. The movie culminates in a thrilling showdown between the two.
4. Small Soldiers
This movie came out in 1998, when Pixar was really starting to capture the animated market. The reason that we like this film is that it’s a blend of so many different movie styles. There is some live-action, some stop-motion, and some CGI work. The result is truly unique. Basically, it’s like if Toy Story’s army men really came to life … and they were able to blow up things. They basically destroy items to fully furnish a furniture store.
There’s an interesting backstory to this, too. Apparently, the director initially wanted the stars of the ‘Predator’ movies to do the voices of the toy soldiers. That didn’t work out, though. There is also a sad one, too, since Phil Harman, who was in the movie, was killed before the release. The studio didn’t put any advertising with his character on it. It’s still a great movie that holds up today.
5. Happy Gilmore
Adam Sandler used to be a fairly popular actor on ‘Saturday Night Live,’ but wound up getting fired from the show. Undeterred, he went on to become a movie star. There was a stretch of movies running from ‘Happy Madison’ to ‘Big Daddy’ that saw him be an A-list celebrity. ‘Happy Gilmore’ was one of those movies in that streak. It’s a hilarious film that has one of the most memorable cameos by a game show host. It might make you want to get street legal golf carts as well.
Sandler has seen some success since then, with fare like ’50 First Dates,’ ‘The Waterboy,’ and even a dramatic turn in ‘Uncut Gems.’ But seeing ‘Happy Gilmore’ can put you in a happier time, taking you back to the 90s. It’s a comfort movie as well as being funny.
6. The Cable Guy
OK, OK, this one was really tough. There were SO many good Jim Carrey 90’s movies to pick from. The reason we liked this one is that it showed a darker side to Carrey’s usually goofy personas. It also made us want to be careful when we were deciding on local handyman services. Matthew Broderick was a great relatively straight man for the ‘In Living Color’ star. People didn’t know what to make of it at first because it wasn’t the typical Carrey fare — yes he did press his nipple against a prison visiting area screen, but he didn’t talk out of his butt cheeks. Still, it’s a unique film that we like looking back on from time to time.
7. The Parent Trap
When people think of Lindsay Lohan, they tend to think of the train wreck that was always in the tabloids for substance abuse and other things. ‘The Parent Trap,’ though, showed us a sweet young girl before all of that happened. Her turn as twins that switched places to learn what the other’s life was like — they had been separated at birth. As a result, they team up to keep their father from marrying a conniving woman who just wants to use him for his money.
Basically, their goal is to keep him from slipping any wedding rings on the wrong fingers. What people might not know about this movie, is that it’s a remake of an earlier movie. Ironically, Lohan would also do a remake of another movie, ‘Freaky Friday’ in the early 2000s. It’s just a fun movie to watch and see Lohan as someone who was fresh to the Hollywood scene and not the person she later became.
8. Pulp Fiction
Quentin Tarantino had already become someone to notice when he directed ‘Reservoir Dogs.’ Then he shot to superstardom when he released ‘Pulp Fiction.’ Not only did it showcase him as a director who could capture a mood, but it also revived the careers of a couple of actors and made others household names. There’s a reason why it’s consistently ranked one of the best movies of all time.
The movie weaved several plot threads that would ultimately lead to an unbelievable climax. Both John Travolta and Bruce Willis became household names again, along with Samuel L. Jackson. Audiences also loved Uma Thurman. It was Tarantino’s eyes and ears for pulp noir that made it so good. This is one movie we rematch if only to see Travolta cutting it on the dance floor again. There was also a scene that showed why auto detailing was necessary.
9. The Long Way Home
There have been many movies about two diametrically opposed people being forced into situations like having to travel together. Those movies didn’t have Jack Lemmon in them, though. Lemmon, who was Felix Unger in ‘The Odd Couple’ movie, was great as the depressed widower who meets a woman (played by Sarah Paulson) who just turned old enough to legally drink. Of course, they are initially like oil and water, but as they hitchhike across the country, they come to respect each other. Over that time, they pontificate on everything from immigration to the end of life. As a result, they learn a lot about what drives each of them and their overall philosophies of life.
This film was also one of Lemmon’s last ones. He would go on to pass away in 2001 at the age of 76. He got to give one of his final great performances, one of many in a career that spanned multiple decades. It was fitting that it was in ‘Odd Couple’ territory.
10. The Shawshank Redemption
This is the second movie that is based on something from the mind of Stephen King. ‘Misery’ was from a novel while ‘Shawshank Redemption’ was from a novella. It centers around Andy Dufrensne, played by Tim Robbins, a man framed for murdering his wife and her lover. He gets two life sentences at the Shawshank Prison. Apparently, he didn’t have a good criminal attorney. While he’s there, he meets Red, played by Morgan Freeman. The two become good friends as they weather the brutal prison life where even the wrong glance can have you end up leaving the prison grounds feet first.
Just like ‘Misery,’ there were no supernatural elements to the movie. It’s just a great film that shows how a man can both survive and plan a long-term escape plan while being watched by a corrupt prison warden and his staff of equally corrupt guards. It culminates in some truly memorable scenes and both Robbins and Freeman do fantastic work. It’s one of those movies that if it’s airing somewhere, this writer will watch it.
We can understand if you’re sitting there spluttering, ‘How could you make a list without THIS MOVIE or how about THAT ONE?!’ There were a LOT of superb ones made over the course of the 90s and if we could do a Top 100, we would. These are the ones that really got our interest the first time and that we can enjoy watching over and over again. That’s the beauty of film. You can make your own list, and it would be equally valid as the one we made. In the meantime, how about revisiting the ones we listed and decide if we were right after all. You might even find a new movie that you love and will want to write an article about!