The 25 Best '90s Movies On Netflix
By Aaron Pruner on
From Hercules to Eyes Wide Shut.
The dream of the '90s is alive on Netflix. It was a cinematic age where gritty serial killer stories found their niche, indie filmmakers hit the mainstream, and larger-than-life blockbusters set new benchmarks for what could be done on the big screen. Jeff Goldblum fought dinosaurs, Will Smith saved us from aliens, and an unknown video clerk by the name of Quentin Tarantino changed movies forever.
Two decades later, it's hard not to look back on the '90s with nostalgic fondness. And thankfully, plenty of these retro flicks are at your fingertips right now. From a handful of Disney classics to some Oscar-winning dramas to a plethora of big budget action films, here are the 25 best '90s movies currently available on Netflix.
25. Deep Blue Sea (1999)
Before Sharknado tore onto Syfy, another shark movie took audiences by storm on the big screen. Deep Blue Sea follows a team of scientists as they aim to end Alzheimer's Disease for good--by genetically altering sharks. Sure, it's a far fetched concept, but that's the point. Thomas Jane, Saffron Burrows and Stellan Skarsgard star as the shark scientists in question. L.L. Cool J shows up in a wacky supporting role--while also providing two original songs to the soundtrack. Most importantly, Deep Blue Sea's most memorable moment comes in the form of Samuel L. Jackson's bloody wink-at-the-camera monologue.
24. An American Tail: Fievel Goes West (1991)
The sequel to 1986's An American Tail continued the journey of the Mousekewitzes, a family of Russian immigrant mice who moved to America in pursuit of a better life. Five years later, the Mousekewitzes were still living paw-to-mouth, so to speak. The film was told through the eyes of young Fievel Mousekewitz. His dreams of following in the footsteps of Wylie Burp--the legendary Wild West lawdog--keeps a fair share of hope and joy throughout the uneven tale. But as clunky as the sequel may feel, it's hard not to give in to the childhood nostalgia the movie brings.
23. Cruel Intentions (1999)
One thing many people don't know when discussing Cruel Intentions is that it's a modern day adaptation of Christopher Hampton's play Les Liaisons Dangereuses. Glenn Close and John Malkovich starred in the '80s adaptation of the play. Cruel Intentions came in and flipped The Dangerous Liaisons formula on its head, presenting a group of rich kids as the story's main antagonists. Hot off the success of I Know What You Did Last Summer, fresh new face Ryan Phillipe starred as Sebastian Valmont opposite Reese Witherspoon's Annette Hargrove and Sarah Michelle Gellar's evil step-sister, Kathryn Merteuil. Come for the backstabbing drama, stay for the awkward, incestuous sexual tension.
22. Pocahontas (1995)
Disney's Pocahontas takes multiple liberties with its version of the character's real life story. But if you ignore the fact that she was really 11 or 12 when she met her lover Captain John Smith (voiced by Mel Gibson in the film), some important issues are explored in the animated film. White European settlers weren't often presented as the enemy by Disney, but Pocahontas showed these invaders--with their guns and destructive tendencies--as the big bad villains. The story glossed over some of the more gritty details of the princess's life, for sure. But the movie did prove to be a risky pivot in Disney's storytelling strategy, teaching a lesson of environmental protection amid a musical backdrop and stunning animation.
21. Cube (1997)
Vincenzo Natali may be known for his work on genre shows like Hannibal and Westworld, but the director first made his splash with the psychological gorefest Cube. In the film, a group of strangers find themselves trapped in a maze of identical rooms and must solve a plethora of traps, or die a gruesome death. Before Saw took audiences by storm, Cube tested the genre's torturous waters. It was enough of a success to breed multiple sequels. With its simple attention to character development and story, the original installment is easily still the best of the bunch.
20. The Iron Giant (1999)
Tapping into the hysteria of the 1950s, The Iron Giant tells the story of a boy's unlikely friendship with a giant robot (voiced by Vin Diesel), and the government's subsequent mission to seek and destroy it. The animated film offers an alternate perspective of America's past through the guise of science fiction. It's easy to see the influence films like King Kong and E.T. had on Brad Bird's (The Incredibles, Ratatouille) theatrical debut as a director. As fun as it is touching, The Iron Giant is an enduring classic worth watching again and again.
19. Hercules (1997)
The late '90s was a transitional time for Walt Disney Animation Studios. While Hercules may not have achieved the same sort of success of the decade's earlier movies, like The Lion King, Disney's animated take on the classic Hercules story was enough of a success to keep the studio relevant. Upon rewatching the flick, which is surprisingly humorous and endearing, it's hard not to think of the comic book adventures of Superman or Thor. After all, this is a tale about a young god trying to find his purpose and place in the world. And it's way more light-hearted and fun.
18. Quiz Show (1994)
In 1981, Robert Redford won the best directing Oscar for the movie Ordinary People. It took another decade and change for him to receive another Academy Award nomination--this time for his behind-the-camera work on Quiz Show. The movie told the true story of game-show contestant Charles Van Doren (Ralph Fiennes) who became famous for his consecutive winnings on rigged trivia show, Twenty One. It co-starred John Turturro as Herbie Stempel, the whistleblower that led to Van Doren's 1959 admission of guilt to Congress. In an age of fake news, Quiz Show explores the timely issue of misinformation and the media through the lens of 1950s America.
17. Eyes Wide Shut (1999)
The final film in Stanley Kubrick's repertoire, Eyes Wide Shut leans heavily on style and tone. Starring Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, the film takes viewers into an erotic world where masked party goers partake in events both sexual and sinister. It may be awkward watching Cruise and Kidman's performances here, as their highly publicized romance crumbled just two years after the film's release, but Eyes Wide Shut is an aesthetic tour-de-force worth any cinephile's time. Watching Cruise, who was named 1990's Sexiest Man Alive by People Magazine, struggle to find intimacy for two hours is the ironic icing on the proverbial cake.
16. Bad Boys (1995)
There's nothing envelope-pushing about Michael Bay's buddy cop action flick, Bad Boys. That's fine, though. The pairing of Will Smith and Martin Lawrence as Detectives Mike Lowrey and Marcus Burnett provided enough chemistry to bring in the big bucks at the box office. Explosions, car chases, hot women, and gun fights are on full display. But as much as the movie overuses every genre trope in the book, the movie proved successful enough to spawn a 2003 sequel and a TV spinoff series. A highly-anticipated third film in the franchise is set for 2020. Bring the carnage, guys. We're ready.
15. The Truman Show (1998)
Up until The Truman Show hit theaters, Jim Carrey was universally known as Hollywood's highest paid funny man. With a steady string of comedy hits under his belt (Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, The Mask, Dumb and Dumber), Carrey began venturing into dramatic territory. His heart-warming performance as Truman Burbank--the unknowing star of his own reality TV show--showed the world there was more to Carrey than the colorful characters and over-the-top poop jokes he became famous for. Before the Kardashians were even a thing, The Truman Show explored the damaging celebrity culture that could elevate seemingly normal people. Oh how far we've come.
14. Schindler's List (1993)
In the '70s and '80s, Steven Spielberg changed cinema as we know it. It wasn't until the release of his World War II masterpiece Schindler's List that the director finally received his first Oscar win. The story follows wealthy businessman Oscar Schindler (Liam Neeson), who risked everything to save 1,100 Jews from Hitler and his concentration camps. Ben Kingsley's Itzhak Stern and Ralph Fiennes' sadistic Amon Goeth rounds out this grueling history lesson. Amid its three hour run time, black and white style, and bleak imagery, lies a movie experience unlike any other. Schindler's List is a difficult movie-going experience, but it's an important story that needed to be told. And Steven Spielberg was indeed the right director for the job.
13. Scream 2 (1997)
Just two years after Wes Craven changed the slasher movie game with Scream, he reunited with writer Kevin Williamson (Dawson's Creek, The Following) to up the ante with the film's sequel. In Scream 2, Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) and the gang have moved on to college, where Ghostface returns to wreak even more bloody havoc. Not only did Scream 2 up the ante on the tension, the gore, and the meta horror movie sequences, the film ended up providing a worthwhile story and a satisfying end--which, for a genre sequel, is a tough thing to do.
12. Face/Off (1997)
John Woo's action movie reputation precedes him. Even before he brought Face/Off to the big-screen, audiences revelled in the visceral action of such Hong Kong classics as The Killer, Bullet in the Head, and Hard Boiled. In 1997, Woo teamed with Nicolas Cage and John Travolta to bring this bloody bonkers identity-switching tale to life. The chemistry between the two actors really makes this over-the-top movie a worthwhile experience. Cage may have made some questionable acting choices since winning the Oscar for 1992's Honeymoon in Vegas, but his scenery-chewing performance as Caster Troy is really something to behold.
11. Armageddon (1998)
Before Michael Bay buried himself in the Transformers universe, he brought Armageddon to the world. Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck star in this against-all-odds tale which follows a ragtag group of unlikely heroes on a mission to stop a space rock from destroying the planet. Some may view this as Michael Bay's cinematic masterpiece (sorry, Megatron). With enjoyable performances from Steve Buscemi, Owen Wilson, Billy Bob Thornton, and Liv Tyler, the movie proved itself to be a patriotic race against the clock while delivering enough mindless fun and action to keep audiences of all walks of life happy.
10. Lethal Weapon 3 (1992)
Lethal Weapon 3 not only continued the adventures of Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson) and Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover), it proved that Shane Black's original game-changing cop thriller concept had longevity. The third installment of the franchise brought Joe Pesci's Leo Getz back while introducing a new love interest for Riggs in the form of Rene Russo's edgy policewoman Lorna Cole. While the danger and unpredictability of the first two films are mostly missing here, the chemistry between the characters keeps Lethal Weapon 3 a thoroughly entertaining chapter in the ongoing mishaps of America's favorite mismatched cop duo.
9. Se7en (1995)
Set in an unnamed city in America--with all that rain, we're thinking Seattle--Se7en follows police detectives Mills (Brad Pitt) and Somerset (Morgan Freeman) as they hunt down a twisted serial killer who has modeled his murders after the seven deadly sins. It was a movie unlike anything audiences had really seen before. The gritty nature of the story's narrative along with the gruesome details behind each kill showed the taste of moviegoers was evolving. Kevin Spacey's role as the psychotic John Doe not only catapulted the actor to A-list status, the movie's jaw-dropping end left fans everywhere screaming, "What's in the box!?"
8. The Sixth Sense (1999)
M. Night Shyamalan made everyone sit up and notice when it was revealed that--spoiler!--Bruce Willis was dead the whole time. The Sixth Sense flipped the whole expected ghost story formula on its head, introducing audiences to Hollywood's new genre twist maker. The result was an exciting slow burn that not only showcased Willis's subdued dramatic chops, it put on display young Haley Joel Osment's talents as well. The writer-director may have since fallen victim to fan expectation and trope overuse, but The Sixth Sense is a firm reminder that his contribution to modern day horror storytelling is an important one.
7. Casino (1995)
When one thinks of the mafia movie trifecta of Martin Scorsese, Robert De Niro, and Joe Pesci, the first films that probably come to mind are Raging Bull or Goodfellas. However, keeping Casino out of the conversation would be an egregious mistake. The late '70s gangster tale not only gave viewers a look at Las Vegas's violent side, the flashy epic also gave Sharon Stone a well-deserved Oscar nomination. Casino brought a fair share of humor to offset the gangster violence Scorsese fans had come to expect. And with the engaging dynamic of De Niro and Pesci, it's hard to go wrong.
6. Mulan (1998)
An outlier in Disney's '90s animation slate, Mulan follows the story of a woman who poses as a man to replace her father on the battlefield. With themes of family, loyalty, and honor acting as the solid backbone of the tale, Mulan also stood out from the pack stylistically. The lush landscapes and bold red aesthetics brought Ancient China to life, giving moviegoers a hero that was neither male nor white. Balancing old world traditions with modern day aspirations, Mulan's feminist tale is as relevant now as it was when it hit theaters twenty years ago.
5. L.A. Confidential (1997)
Launching Guy Pearce and Russell Crowe to celebrity status, Curtis Hanson's (The River Wild, 8 Mile) L.A. Confidential is the '90s film noir masterpiece audiences didn't know they needed. The film followed three very different crime fighters as they worked to solve a mysterious murder. In the process, the criminal underbelly of 1950s Los Angeles comes through in a way that recalls Roman Polanski's Chinatown. Adapted from James Ellroy's novel of the same name, the movie earned Kim Basinger an Oscar for her performance as Lynn Bracken. As much as the film deviates from the book, the end product supplies plenty of edge-of-your-seat moments and worthwhile performances to keep you glued to the screen.
4. Men in Black (1997)
Just one year after Will Smith made the jump from television to save the planet from an alien invasion in Independence Day, the actor teamed up with Tommy Lee Jones to police the planet against, well, more aliens. Men in Black was a huge hit for director Barry Sonnenfeld and cemented Smith as a movie star worth paying attention to. Two sequels were spawned from Jay and Kay's original adventure tale. With Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson signed on to pick up the Men in Black mantle, it looks like the secret government organization is still alive and kicking after all these years.
3. Jackie Brown (1997)
After making a name for himself with Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, Quentin Tarantino changed narrative directions and brought Jackie Brown to life. Elmore Leonard's novel Rum Punch was the inspiration behind the big-screen caper that brought Pam Grier out of obscurity to play the title role in the film, which was as an homage to the actress's blaxploitation roots. The film's all-star cast included heavy-hitters like Samuel L. Jackson, Robert De Niro, and Robert Forster--who received an Oscar-nom for his performance as bail bondsman Max Cherry. Oh, and this should go without saying: the movie's soundtrack is on point.
2. Boogie Nights (1997)
After supporting roles in movies like The Basketball Diaries and Fear, Mark Wahlberg officially pivoted from making music--ditching his Marky Mark moniker (as well as the Funky Bunch)--for a career in movies. Audiences didn't really take this move seriously. And then Paul Thomas Anderson (Inherent Vice, Phantom Thread) brought Boogie Nights to the big screen. Taking on the role of '70s adult film star Dirk Diggler, Wahlberg proved he had the chops to act alongside talents like Burt Reynolds, Heather Graham, Philip Seymour Hoffman, William H. Macy, and Julianne Moore--whose performance as Amber Waves earned her first Oscar nomination.
1. Heat (1995)
Michael Mann's 1995 crime thriller is a masterpiece, plain and simple. Running almost three hours, Heat follows the unraveling of a group of bank robbers after a clue is left at their latest heist. That mistake puts homicide detective Lt. Vincent Hanna (Al Pacino) on an inevitable crash course with career criminal Neil McCauley (Robert De Niro). Stylistically speaking, the movie finds Mann at the top of his game. While the film's daylight bank heist stands out as a breathtaking cinematic achievement, the cat and mouse game De Niro and Pacino play is the movie's biggest selling point. Over two decades after its release, Heat continues to pack one hell of a punch.