The 100 Greatest ’90s Movies of All Time (90-81)

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 still, 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.

90. South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut (1999)

The TV show that swept the nation when it debuted in 1997, Cartman, Stan, Kyle, and Kenny are four foul-mouthed boys who reside in the small mountain town of South Park, Colorado. The show was an instant hit and got a movie after just two seasons. After sneaking into an R-rated movie called Terrance and Phillip: Not Without my Anus, starring two foul-mouthed Canadians, the boys start to mimic and emulate the “naughty” language that they heard in the movie. This leads to parental outrage, which then leads to full-out war, with the U.S. on one side and the Canadians on the other with the parents calling for Terrance and Phillip to be electrocuted. The boys aren’t having it, gathering up all of the other children and they start a resistance. After so much blood, violence, and an appearance from the devil, things get put right again.


89. True Romance (1993)

It’s always weird to see a Quentin Tarantino script in the hands of another director. However, there’s something about Tony Scott’s directing style that lends itself to True Romance’s story. The romantic idealism and straightforward narrative here is probably best in the hands of someone other than Tarantino anyway. Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette perfectly embody the ambitious bliss of newfound love as the stars here. They obviously carry the movie, but the great supporting cast is what really brings this movie to life.

Raf Stitt

88. Heavenly Creatures (1994)

With Heavenly Creatures, Peter Jackson somehow shed his gory, splatstick cocoon – after films like Bad Taste and the gloriously over-the-top Dead Alive – to make this quiet, intimate, fever dream of a film. Based on the true story of Pauline Parker and Juliet Hulme, the film stars Melanie Lynskey and Kate Winslet as friends whose intense relationship blossoms into a rich fantasy life and, eventually, murder. By focusing on the friendship, rather than the murder and its aftermath, Jackson and his partner Fran Walsh crafted a believable (if sometimes fantastical) and emotional story about two young girls finding their kindred spirits, and how obsession and love are sometimes intertwined. This was the film that proved Jackson was more than the goofy director of comedy horror (though he’d take another stab at that with The Frighteners before finally taking on The Lord of the Rings) and introduced Kate Winslett, who is amazing in her first film role. Melanie Lynskey has also proven to be a capable and interesting actress, though she’s outshone a bit here. Nominated for an Academy Award (for Best Screenplay), Heavenly Creatures is fantastic little film, well worth a watch.

Bob Cram

87. Pi (1998)

Shot entirely in black and white, Pi is an intense and claustrophobic look at a mathematician’s quest to find order in the world, through numbers. That might not sound like an appealing synopsis, but Darren Aronofsky’s debut is an intoxicating film. Aronofsky won a number of best director awards for Pi and it’s easy to see why. The film has such a unique feel to it, and throughout the entire runtime, it manages to make you feel uncomfortable and on edge. The plot goes off in a few different directions, culminating in an extreme finale. A lot of the mathematical and numerical information is over my head, but as a character study of a dangerous obsessive, it’s top class. 

Lee McCutcheon

86. Living in Oblivion (1995)

Divided into three acts, each representing a different scene to shoot and each with its own specific problems, Living in Oblivion is the most realistic portrayal of filmmaking outside of documentaries. It’s hyper-stylized and a bit fantastical but the drama happening behind the scenes (and more importantly, in front of the camera) is painfully relatable to anyone who’s ever tried making a movie. Too honest to be a satire and too funny to be a horror film aimed at filmmakers, Living in Oblivion is an inside joke you don’t have to be a part of to find entertaining. It’s the single best film about filmmaking and is one of the only films to come out of the ’90s independent scene that didn’t age terribly.

Sailor Monsoon

85. Miller’s Crossing (1990)

Miller’s Crossing is definitely the most well-known Coen Brothers flick, but it is sneakily one of their best. It features many of the hallmarks that would come to define so much of their later, more widely recognized works. The dialogue is insanely slick, and the pacing and editing is about as crisp as it comes. Although so many of the characters remain so memorable, in his first of many collaborations with the Coens, John Turturro is an absolute scene stealer. Although, my favorite scene involves a home invasion, an attempted murder, and the absolute best use of a “Danny Boy” music queue in the history of cinema.

Raf Stitt

84. Out of Sight (1998)

“Is this your first time being robbed?”

Steven Soderbergh has released eight movies in the past seven years. The man is prolific. Yet, even with 30 titles under his belt, 1998’s Out of Sight remains one of his best. When you think “brilliant crime caper based on an Elmore Leonard novel” there’s a strong possibility another 90s movie springs to mind, but dare I say it — this is the cool one. It just looks so effortless. Anchored by George Clooney a year after Batman & Robin, Out of Sight is the first film to fully capitalize on the charm he’s able to light up the screen with, and which Soderbergh himself would reutilize in Ocean’s Eleven just a few years later. It’s not Clooney alone bringing the cool factor though. Clooney and Jennifer Lopez together in this film make for one of the most electric pairings of all time. Each and every exchange of dialogue between them feels like the warm crackle of a vinyl record. An absolute 90s essential.

D.N. Williams

83. The Limey (1999)

Any story can be made interesting with proper editing and style. The Limey is a revenge story that follows Terrence Stamp on a quest to find out who is responsible for his daughter’s death. There’s no investigation needed because the film isn’t a mystery. He knows who it is almost immediately, it’s just a matter of getting to his target. Before he finds him (the him being Peter Fonda) and pulls the trigger, he’ll interrogate lackeys, duck hitmen out to get him, hang out with his American contact (played by Luis Guzman) and a friend of his daughter’s (Lesley Ann Warren). There’s not much going on but the experimental editing by director Steven Soderbergh feels like a constant surge of electricity being periodically pumped into the film’s veins. It’s not crazy like 21 Grams but it does have a similar no fucks given approach to time. But even you don’t give a shit about style, it still has Terrence Stamp shooting people. That should be enough to glue your ass to your seat.

Sailor Monsoon

82. Home Alone (1990)

After getting left behind by his family at Christmas time, Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin) is forced to fend for himself. Being the youngest of five kids, he always felt like the black sheep of the family, feeling unloved and never getting enough attention. So when he makes a wish, he mistakes it for his family’s sudden disappearance.

Things only get worse from there when he runs into a duo of cat burglars, Harry (Joe Pesci) and Marv (Daniel Stern), who call themselves the ‘wet bandits’. He finds out that they are poised to rob his house. But Kevin, being the crafty little scamp that he is, isn’t going to let them steal anything without a fight. After setting up a bunch of booby traps in his house and making them run chase after him until their inevitable arrest.

After a few days of finally being able to do whatever he wanted to do without any interference from his family, Kevin can’t help but start to miss them and wishes for them to come back home. He wakes up on Christmas morning, his family has returned home to him and he realizes that he was never unloved by them in the first place.


81. Swingers (1996)

“This place is dead anyway, man.”

When Swingers came out, I was 20 years old. Fresh out of a small town and in the big city, I didn’t have a lot going for me. I had no money. Wasn’t in college like most other people my age. Had a shitty job I was embarrassed of. And drove a big ass hoopty car that no self respecting girl my age would want to be picked up in.

But I had big dreams. Dreams so big I could never quite manage to get my arms around them. Not then anyway. But I was good at pretending. And deflecting. And procrastinating.

Yeah, man, I could relate to Swingers.

I think the line above might be the line my friends and I quoted most from the movie. And Swingers was a movie we quoted a lot. I don’t know if we realized the irony at the time. We used it in the exact same scenarios that the characters in the film used it. We’d be at a club or bar where the crowd was elbow to elbow. We’d get drinks and stand against the wall sipping them and trying to look hard. We’d barely get through the first drink and someone would ask if the others wanted to hit up some other spot. Inevitably someone would reply “Yeah, man. This place is dead anyway.” We would laugh as we jostled our way out and to the next spot. Always moving. Always seeking. Our insecurities tagging right along.

Sure, some of us got some action once in a while. But not very often. And none of us ever seemed to acknowledge or maybe even realize that our lack of ability to be ourselves, live in the moment, and just have a good time among good friends was what was lacking. The place wasn’t the problem. The crowd wasn’t the problem. The problem was us. And no matter how many times we watched that movie and laughed at the characters and quoted the lines, I think we somehow managed to miss the point.

And now I’m sad, and I think I just ruined the movie for myself.

Billy Dhalgren

100-91 | 80-71

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