The 100 Greatest ’90s Movies of All Time (30-21)

There has never been a decade in film quite like the ’90s. It was a time where foreign and independent films were as big as blockbusters. Unlike today where Disney has a monopoly on entertainment, it felt like cinema at that time was one giant sandbox where everyone could play. Auteurs from decades past were making movies alongside indie darlings. Hell, even documentaries were successful. Everything seemed copacetic, which lead to everyone doing their own thing. Studios weren’t competing nor copying but instead, had a healthy rivalry. Animation was back in a big way and was evolving in terms of technology and maturing in terms of storytelling. 

It was a fertile period for cinephiles and with that came a wellspring of iconic movies that we took for granted. We didn’t appreciate how many new masters it was producing, the big swings the old masters were taking or how quickly it was taking cinema in terms of innovation. And since we’re all still drunk in love with the goddamn 80s, this decade doesn’t seem to be getting any love any time soon. This list is a reminder of how many bangers this decade produced and why it deserves more respect.

These are the 100 Greatest ’90s Movies of All Time.

30. The Player (1992)

Can a Hollywood studio executive (Tim Robbins) figure out which dejected screenwriter is sending him death threats before it’s too late? Like all good satires, The Player has aged out of being a satire and is just a film about Hollywood. The meta-comedy still works wonders, as do the constant jokes and cameos but unfortunately Hollywood was too powerful for Altman’s razor-sharp script. The ridiculous film-within-a-film doesn’t seem as ridiculous now that every film nowadays has at least five A-list movie stars in it.

This a film in which the bad guy wins, art loses to commerce and everyone, including a murderer, gets a happy ending because Hollywood is a horrible, terrible no good place that we all love so much, that we all willingly accept the lies they feed us. We’ve all heard the horror stories and we’ve all seen the effect it’s had on people within the industry but as long as they keep producing the shit we love, we’ll overlook it. The biggest target Altman is taking aim at isn’t the industry or everyone in it or even the people who want to be in it, it’s you. The viewer. He’s condemning you the most because if it wasn’t for you, this wouldn’t be seen as a comedy. It would be a documentary.

Sailor Monsoon

29. Dazed and Confused (1993)

Any baby boomer will tell you that Dazed and Confused nails the spirit of the ’70s. I can’t claim to be old enough to have experienced it as an adult or young adult, so I don’t know for sure. What I do know is that you don’t have to be a baby boomer to get the film. As much as it nails that era, it’s also timeless. Everyone knew an O’Bannion or a Wooderson in high school. Take away the 70s rock, the characters’ bell bottoms, and sideburns and give them flannel shirts, torn jeans, and a grunge rock score, and it would all still work. Linklater’s film may be an ode to the 1970s, but it’s still relevant in 2023 because of the relatable characters, the endlessly quotable dialogue, and the fantastic performances by an almost completely unknown cast.

Say, man, do you know if it’s streaming anywhere? Be a lot cooler if you did…

Billy Dhalgren

28. Speed (1994)

There are some movies, like Speed, that are remembered more for their premise than what actually happens in the movie. You know Keanu Reeves is on a bus that can’t stop, but do you actually remember the leadup to that moment? Exactly. Speed is a loud, action-filled movie with an insane premise that Hollywood doesn’t make nearly enough of anymore. No one cares if the lead character is racking up tens of millions of dollars when the villain only wanted like $4 million to release the hostages when the movie is this fun to watch. Honestly, this film was Fast & Furious before Fast & Furious. (So I guess that’s two Keanu movies that franchise has ripped off now.) Headlined by a cast of ’90s all-stars, Speed is one you can’t help but rewatch over and over again.

Marmaduke Karlston

27. The Big Lebowski (1998)

I bounced off The Big Lebowski when I first saw it. I couldn’t really tell you why now. I think maybe I thought it felt disconnected – like a series of vignettes more than a narrative. Whatever my reasoning, I was an idiot. Or maybe not a complete idiot – it IS a series of vignettes, but that’s the narrative. I think I came back to it upon hearing that the Cohen brothers had written the film inspired – in part – by the work of Raymond Chandler. Looking at it now I can see how the setting (LA) and the way a mystery is unfolded through a complicated and not necessarily connected plot evokes the feel of Chandler’s hard-boiled detective novels. That wasn’t what made me re-assess, however. It was The Dude and his slacker philosophy, it was Walter and his gung-ho asshole-ness, it was Donny and Maude and Jesus and the nihilists and The Stranger. It was the whole weird, wonderful, Cohen Brothers gestalt of it all. And the bowling. That really tied the whole film together.

Bob Cram

26. Unforgiven (1992)

After a prolific acting career mostly defined by classic and iconic western roles, Clint Eastwood decided to direct his own classic entry in the genre. Unforgiven is a hopeful tale of requested redemption. The true genius of the film is that it does not guarantee that redemption, no matter how much Eastwood’s William Munny wants it. The pain of regret is so apparent in Eastwood’s eyes for as long as he’s on screen. No matter how much Munny wants to do right, he can’t shake the wrongs of his past. Munny’s character is an obvious stand-in for the western genre as a whole. We admire it with such romanticized fondness, that we fail to recognize that much of it was actually quite tragic. Unforgiven allows us the opportunity to reevaluate and ask ourselves to be better going forward.

Raf Stitt

25. Scream (1996)

The explosion of iconic horror films in the ’70s and ‘80s, along with the endless subpar sequels and imitations that followed, left the genre bloody and gasping for its last breath as the ‘90s began. That is, until Scream invited its slasher flick-loving audience to become part of the film with a wink and a nod, then gave them twists, turns, buckets of blood, and a terrifyingly human conclusion.

Written by Kevin Williamson and directed by Wes Craven, Scream follows Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), who is haunted by the upcoming anniversary of her mother’s murder as she and her friends cope with the brutal stabbing deaths of two classmates. It’s a fairly mundane horror movie formula on its surface — mysterious killer targets teens in a small town. We’ve never seen that before, right? But Scream breaks the mold by not only acknowledging some of the most basic rules of the horror movie genre but embracing them and using them to taunt the viewer. From the famous opening scene with Drew Barrymore to the big reveal and epic showdown, Scream is a thrilling ride.

R.J. Mathews

24. Fight Club (1999)

Unfulfilled by his day job and the wealth that comes with it, Jack (Edward Norton) can’t sleep. He goes to a doctor for help curing his insomnia but the Doctor tells Jack to go to a support group instead. Jack gets addicted to these groups, or more accurately, he gets addicted to lying to the people who also attend them. He wants a new life, he lies about who he is and pretends to be a different person in every group he attends. He meets a man named Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) on an airplane, who shows him that what society has been told to want is not what will bring us happiness. The jobs we work and the material possessions we buy will not give us the identity that we so desperately crave as an individual. Tyler shows Jack that the only way to find enlightenment is to completely destroy your life and build it back anew.


23. Reservoir Dogs (1992)

Reservoir Dogs is the first movie I remember watching and thinking Oh, there’s a whole other world of film out there beyond the mainstream just waiting to be discovered.

It could very well be the film that started me on the path to becoming a cinephile. I don’t even remember where I heard about it. Coulda been a video store. Coulda been a friend or neighbor. What I do know is that it had a seismic impact on the way I thought about movies. It was so different than anything I had seen up to that point. The long and sometimes seemingly pointless dialogue, the smart use of music, the non-linear plot, the violence, and the colorful characters all add up to create one of the best movies of the 90s and my favorite Tarantino film.

Billy Dhalgren

22. Jurassic Park (1993)

I’ve seen many films for the first time on the big screen, but I don’t think there’s any experience that quite measures up to watching a brachiosaurus walk across the screen in Jurassic Park. Based on the 1990 Michael Crichton novel, the plot of both book and movie seemed iffy from a scientific standpoint, even to an 11-year-old. They got dino DNA from old mosquitos, combined it with frog DNA, and somehow there are now velociraptors again? But it didn’t matter. The dinosaurs looked real. Like, really real. It’s almost 30 years later and I still wonder how the hell they did that.

Set to a John Williams masterpiece soundtrack, a phenomenal ensemble cast helmed by Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, and Richard Attenborough makes the most of every moment of every scene. There’s a special place in my heart for the gruff but lovable Dr. Alan Grant (Neill) and the somehow both completely awkward AND totally cool Dr. Ian Malcolm (Goldblum, doing what Goldblum does). And Dr. Ellie Sattler (Dern) was an inspiration to an entire generation of girls, myself very much included.

R.J. Mathews

21. Clerks (1994)

Chronicling the day in the life of a clerk. Working at the QuikStop, Dante Hicks (Brian O’Halloran) isn’t even supposed to be here today! He is forced to work on his day off and what a day this turns out to be. He’s forced to deal with annoying customers and the riff-raff who hang outside the store selling drugs. Thankfully, his co-worker, Randall Graves (Jeff Anderson) is able to help and keep him company, Things go bad to worse when he gets in a fight with his girlfriend, Veronica (Marilyn Ghigliotti) after an innocent conversation about oral sex leads to her admitting that she had performed the act in the past a few too many times for his liking. (Thirty-seven?!?). He decides to confide in Randall who in turn tried to help Dante endure the worst day of his life.


40-31 | 20-11

What are some of your favorite ’90s movies? Maybe they’ll show up later in the list!