50 Movies That Perfectly Capture Your Favorite Decade
Though the Golden Age of Hollywood refers to the period of cinema marked by the end of silent films in the 1920s, in our mind's eye, it's the 1990s. Perhaps it's because the thought-provoking indie films, dystopic action flicks, and computer-animated cartoons of the time helped shape us. Or maybe it's because they remind us of that thrill we used to get when perusing the New Releases section on a Friday night at Blockbuster. And while it's nice to reminisce, the real fun starts once we sit down for a movie marathon of the best '90s movies.
Whether you're in the mood to cuddle up or you're simply looking for something to do, our list of the 50 best '90s movies to watch for every occasion, nostalgic whim or not. The only difference is that you won't have to get off your sofa to rent a VHS this time. Our roundup of 50 films is categorized by genre, so you can take our pick from comedies, indies, romances, actions, fantasies, sci-fi, and more. Plus, we included the best one-liners from each to remind you why you loved it—or to convince you to get it on your watch list pronto. Ready to get the show on the road? Read up and then start screening the 50 films below.
Dazed and Confused (1993): And thus, our eternal crush on Matthew McConaughey was born (not on his character, though—he was sort of a creep). This fun and funny coming-of-age movie takes place in Austin, Texas, and follows the kids as they celebrate their last day of school, when hazing ensues.
Standout Line: "When you're being inundated with all this American bicentennial Fourth of July brouhaha, don't forget what you're celebrating, and that's the fact that a bunch of slave-owning, aristocratic white males didn't want to pay their taxes."
Rushmore (1998): Directed by Wes Anderson, this dramedy is set at a prep school and focuses on the relationship between two men who both try to woo a first-grade teacher. Aside from the hilarious, quirky humor, Rushmore is stylistically and aesthetically delightful.
Standout Line: "I saved Latin. What did you ever do?"
Clueless (1995): No '90s movie list would be complete without this witty fashion favorite. This comedy revolves around the lives of (charmingly) shallow, sheltered, popular teens from Beverly Hills. There's a decade's worth of outfit inspiration from the first half of this movie alone.
Standout Line: "As if."
More Comedies From the '90s: Boogie Nights, The Big Lebowski, Wayne's World, American Pie, and Pleasantville.
Fight Club (1999): This explores the different representations and expectations around American masculinity, and it's also just a really fun film to watch. Like others made in 1999, Fight Club reveals the dark side of a monotonous, conventional life and how it can become a tinder box.
Standout Line: "The things you own end up owning you."
American Beauty (1999): It explores similar themes to many films released in 1999, like the male gaze and sexualization of teenage femininity as well as the simultaneity of dystopia and beauty in a banal suburban existence, featuring captivating cinematography and reflecting the tensions of the new millennium.
Standout Line: "This bag was just dancing with me. That's the day I realized that there was this entire life behind things and this incredibly benevolent force that wanted me to know there was no reason to be afraid, ever."
Forrest Gump (1994): Though it presents a sentimentalist portrayal of historical events like Watergate and the Vietnam War, among others, it's a '90s classic that many love.
Standout Line: "My momma always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get."
More Dramas From the '90s: Good Will Hunting, Boyz n the Hood, Life Is Beautiful and Schindler's List.
Horror and Thriller
The Silence of the Lambs (1991): If you like your thrillers thoroughly terrifying and rooted in the real world, look no further. This movie about an FBI agent's relationship with two serial killers is not for the faint of heart.
Standout Line: "I do wish we could chat longer, but I'm having an old friend for dinner."
Seven (1995): What keeps me up at night? This clever but absolutely sickening story about a serial killer who targets victims that represent the seven deadly sins.
Standout Line: "I tried to be pleasant and accommodating, but my head hurt from his banality. I almost didn't notice it had happened, but I suddenly threw up all over him. He was not pleased, and I couldn't stop laughing."
The Sixth Sense (1999): If you haven't seen this Bruce Willis classic about a child psychologist treating a creepy kid who sees dead people, stop everything you're doing and watch it now (or if you're like me, wait until you can tune in during the day with all the lights on).
Standout Line: "I see dead people."
More Scary Movies From the '90s: Ghost, The Usual Suspects, Misery, The Blair Witch Project, and Natural Born Killers.
Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and Action
Edward Scissorhands (1990): Ah, the Winona Ryder and Johnny Depp years. This movie is a fantasy (and insightful think piece) in terms of genre and otherwise. Not only will you feel gloriously entertained, but you'll also want to screenshot every gothic moment and pastel-soaked scene that graces the screen and replicate every sartorial moment.
Standout Line: "It is so easy to commit embarrassing blunders, but etiquette tells us just what is expected of us and guards us from all humiliation and discomfort. Mm, yes. Boring."
The Matrix (1999): Fantasy and sci-fi fanatics need to see The Matrix at least once. Personhood and humanity are thrown into chaos in a dystopic future populated with human-robot hybrids as the protagonist (Keanu Reeves) grapples with the some Allergy of the Cave–like situations.
Standout Line: "What is real? How do you define 'real'? If you're talking about what you can feel, what you can smell, what you can taste and see, then 'real' is simply electrical signals interpreted by your brain."
Saving Private Ryan (1998): This Steven Speilberg classic stars Tom Hanks and unfolds as we watch troopers cross enemy lines to save an American soldier after the Normandy attacks of World War II. It's tough to watch at times, revealing the brutality of war.
Standout Line: "I just know that every man I kill, the farther away from home I feel."
More Sci-Fi, Action, and Fantasy Movies From the '90s: Jurassic Park, Total Recall, The Fifth Element, Reservoir Dogs, and Star Wars.
Before Sunrise (1995): In perhaps the most romantic of all romance films, the audience gets whisked away into the story of two people traveling in Europe as they unexpectedly fall in love. It's the first in a trilogy, so you make sure you watch all of them to witness how their relationship develops.
Standout Line: "After that breakup, I just wanna be a ghost, completely anonymous."
Titanic (1997): To borrow a line from Clueless, as if we weren't already hopelessly in love with Leonardo DiCaprio before he graced the screen in Titanic… This period piece makes us sob every time, yet we could watch it on repeat for the rest of our lives.
Standout Line: "I don't know about you, but I intend to write a strongly worded letter to the White Star Line about all of this."
10 Things I Hate About You (1990): Patrick (Heath Ledger) and Kat (Julia Styles) are teen icons. Kat taught us that you should never change who you are to fulfill societal expectations. As long as you stay true to yourself, the right person will come along and accept you as you are.
Standout Line: "You don't always have to be who they want you to be."
More Romance Movies From the '90s: Sliding Doors, My Best Friend's Wedding, Cruel Intentions, Sleepless in Seattle, and Romeo + Juliet.
The Virgin Suicides (1999): Sofia Coppola's directorial debut is a true icon, both in form, aesthetic, theme, and casting. It traces the mysterious lives and deaths of five teenage sisters from the external perspective of their neighborhood admirers.
Standout Line: Doctor: "What are you doing here, honey? You're not even old enough to know how bad life gets." Cecilia: "Obviously, doctor, you've never been a 13-year-old girl."
Pulp Fiction (1994): Arguably the cult classic of all cult classics, Pulp Fiction fuses crime, action, philosophy, and drama. Aside from being thoroughly entertaining, it also stars the ultra-talented and hip Uma Thurman, whose character has inspired countless Halloween costumes.
Standout Line: "The streets are filled with regret."
Kids (1995): This is not your average coming-of-age film. In fact, it pushes every censorship boundary you can think of. Kids is a raw (and controversial) film that follows a day in the life of young teens from New York City as they navigate a variety of traumas and "firsts." It also happened to be Chloë Sevigny and Rosario Dawson's first movie.
Standout Line: "If you want to be happy, don't think. If you stutter, don't talk."
More Indie Movies From the '90s: Empire Records, Election, The Big Lebowski, Being John Malkovich, and My Own Private Idaho.
Bonus: Kids' Movies
Whether you're watching them during a bout of nostalgia or you want to share them with your own children, these are the kids' movies from the '90s you should add to the queue:
Home Alone, Mrs. Doubtfire, Toy Story, The Lion King, Space Jam, The Sandlot, and Leave It to Beaver.
What are your favorite '90s movies? Add yours to the list in the comment section below.