Best Movies Every Year through the Remarkable '90s

Best Movies Every Year through the Remarkable '90s

My son recently asked me to rank my favourite films from the 1990's. He couldn't understand why I looked at him as if he'd asked me to donate my liver to his teacher! It got me thinking though, as I take his question very seriously (and he will soon be sent this article as my response😆).

Now I know that everyone will have their own opinions, and I'm not saying that these films were the best of an incredible decade of filmmaking.

What I have tried to create is a list that encompasses an era and engulfs me in the most amount of nostalgia. And boy, oh boy, were there a lot of films to choose from!

The 1990s produced some of the most entertaining, thought-provoking, and downright iconic movies in cinematic history. From dinosaurs running amok to toys that come alive, this decade had something for everyone. Let's take a nostalgic trip down memory lane and revisit our picks, year by year, of the best '90s cinema could throw at us.

Rollicking into the 90s (1990–1991)

The early 90s came out of the gate strong with big-budget spectacles and chilling thrillers that still hold up today.

1990: Ghosts, Adventures and Submarines

You can't handle the truth! 1990 burst onto the scene with the following smash hits:


This supernatural romance thriller starring Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore charmed audiences to the tune of $505.7 million at the box office. Who knew pottery wheels could be so steamy? As Sam Wheat says, "It's amazing, Molly. The love inside, you take it with you." swoon

Total Recall

Arnold Schwarzenegger flexed his acting chops alongside a wild, mind-bending plot in this sci-fi action spectacle from director Paul Verhoeven. With iconic lines like "Get your ass to Mars," this movie carved out a first-class spot in pop culture.

The Hunt For Red October

Sean Connery and Alec Baldwin go head-to-head in this cold war drama film that dives deep (literally) into the tense conflict between the US and Soviet Union. With $200 million in ticket sales, this submarine thriller left audiences craving more.

Honourable Mentions 1990: Home Alone, Die Hard 2, Flatliners

1991: Suspense, Silence and De Niro

As if 1990 didn't bring enough heat, 1991 turned up the temperature even more with these sizzling releases

Terminator 2: Judgement Day

"I'll be back." Arnold makes good on his legendary catchphrase as the heroic T-800 in James Cameron's groundbreaking sequel. With revolutionary special effects and a heart-pounding plot, T2 earned a staggering $516 million globally. Hasta la vista, baby!

The Silence Of The Lambs

Anthony Hopkins delivers one of cinema's most chilling performances as the brilliant yet terrifying Dr. Hannibal Lecter. With its cat-and-mouse thriller narrative, Lambs became only the third film in history to sweep the "Big Five" Academy Awards.

Cape Fear

Robert De Niro goes full psycho as Max Cady in Martin Scorsese's nail-biting remake about a lawyer and his family being relentlessly stalked. With $182 million earned, this film proved that De Niro was a force to be reckoned with (as if Taxi Driver hadn't already made that clear!).

Honourable Mentions 1991: Dances with Wolves, The Addams Family, Backdraft

Rules Were Meant to Be Broken (1992-1993)

As we entered the mid-90s, unconventional stories and envelope-pushing films raised eyebrows and sparked discussion.

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1992: Sex, Race and Hoops

These thought-provoking movies stirred up conversation in 1992:

Basic Instinct

Sharon Stone became an overnight star after that infamous interrogation scene as seductive murder suspect Catherine Tramell. Despite mediocre reviews, the erotic thriller raked in $352 million and had everyone talking.

White Men Can't Jump

Wesley Snipes and Woody Harrelson make an unlikely comedic duo, hustling streetballers across Los Angeles. With all the trash talking and basketball battles, this sports comedy slam-dunked over $90 million.

Review: White Men Can’t Jump (1992)
Starring Woody Harrelson and Wesley Snipes, this hoops tale is not just about basketball; it’s also about race, trust, and chasing your dreams.

Last Of The Mohicans

Daniel Day-Lewis lets loose a guttural battle cry in Michael Mann's epic historical drama about the French and Indian War. As the adopted son Hawkeye, Lewis brings heart-stopping emotion with an Oscar-worthy performance.

Honourable Mentions 1992: Waynes World, Aladdin, Unforgiven

1993: Dinosaurs, Drag and Cliffs

Hold onto your butts! 1993 roared forward with these monsters, both figurative and literal:

Jurassic Park

Steven Spielberg brings dinosaurs to terrifying life in this sci-fi adventure based on Michael Crichton's novel. With groundbreaking CGI effects and edge-of-your-seat action, Jurassic Park grossed a monstrous $1 billion worldwide. As Dr. Ian Malcolm warns, "Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn't stop to think if they should."

Mrs. Doubtfire

Robin Williams showcases his comedic brilliance as Daniel Hillard, a divorced dad who disguises himself as a Scottish nanny just to spend time with his kids. In addition to grossing $441 million, this heartwarming comedy gifted us iconic lines like "Helloooo!"


Sylvester Stallone clings to rocky cliffs and battles ruthless terrorists in this high-octane action flick. With heart-stopping aerial stunts and avalanche sequences, Cliffhanger brought home $255 million in box office.

"You'll probably discover that once you get past your fear, most challenges come effortlessly." Cliffhanger's Hal Tucker offers some words of wisdom applicable to films and life.
Honourable Mention 1993: Dazed and Confused, The Fugitive, Cool Runnings, Sleepless in Seattle.

Animation Dominates as Decade Rolls On (1994–1995)

As we approached the late 1990s, animated films and technological marvels like CGI and Pixar took centre stage. All while iconic dramas and twisted thrillers continued to excel.

1994: - Coming of Age of Animation

These movies showcased both the wonders of technology and timeless coming-of-age stories.

The Lion King

Disney perfects their animation formula with this Hamlet-inspired tale about a lion cub named Simba accepting his destiny as king. Beyond critical acclaim and $968 million grossed, the music also became a cultural sensation, with songs like "Hakuna Matata" and "Circle of Life" ingrained in pop culture forever.

Forrest Gump

Tom Hanks shines as the titular slow-witted Forrest, who journeys through monumental 20th-century events. Director Robert Zemeckis skillfully blends groundbreaking visual effects with an uplifting story spanning decades. Oh, and it also nabbed Best Picture and raked in $677 million.

Pulp Fiction

Quentin Tarantino makes his directorial mark with this ensemble crime caper starring John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, and Uma Thurman. Known for its disjointed timeline, violence, and razor-sharp dialogue, Pulp Fiction revolutionised independent cinema on its way to $214 million in gross.

Ha!! You thought I forgot... the greatest film to come out of the 90's... never!

1994's The Shawshank Redemption

1995: Toys, Thrillers and Disasters

The mid-90s delivered innovation and entertainment with these market leaders:

Toy Story

Pixar revolutionises animation again with the first computer-generated feature film starring beloved characters like Woody and Buzz Lightyear. Beyond sparking a massively lucrative franchise, Toy Story also put Pixar on the map as an animation juggernaut thanks to their technological innovations.


Director David Fincher plunges viewers into the mind of a serial killer who stages grisly murders based on the seven deadly sins. Featuring chilling performances from Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman as detectives on the case, Se7en earned $327 million and left audiences stunned.


Dustin Hoffman leads an all-star ensemble fighting to contain a deadly virus threatening global devastation. While critics applauded its entertainment value despite scientific inaccuracy, Outbreak nonetheless cured audiences of $189 million at the box office.

Honourable Mentions 1995: Apollo 13, Braveheart, Legends of the Fall, Bad Boys.
Underrated 90’s Movies Voted by Reddit Users
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Epic Adventures and Laughs Close Out the Decade (1996–1999)

As the 1990s wound down, Hollywood kept churning out monumental box office smashes and zeitgeist-capturing films.

1996: Extreme Weather and Extreme Missions

These movies pushed the limits of action and animation.


Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton play storm-chasing scientists pursuing violent tornadoes across Oklahoma. With death-defying stunts and groundbreaking sound design, Twister obliterated records with $494 million grossed. Audiences around the world were blown away!

Mission: Impossible

Tom Cruise cements his action hero status as IMF agent Ethan Hunt, framed for his team's demise and forced to unravel an international conspiracy. With heart-stopping stunts and signature mind-bending twists, the first Mission: Impossible film secured $457 million at the box office.

The Rock

Sean Connery and Nicolas Cage join forces to prevent a madman (Ed Harris) from unleashing lethal weapons on San Francisco. Set against the dramatic backdrop of Alcatraz prison, this bombastic Bruckheimer production secured over $335 million behind expertly crafted action set pieces. Audiences could feel the heat and got their money's worth!

Honourable mention for 1996: Fargo, Jerry Maguire, Independence Day, A Time to Kill, The Birdcage, The Cable Guy, Scream.

1997: Laughs and Little Green Men

1997 delivered epic stories as vast as the cosmos along with down-to-earth hilarity.

Men in Black

Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones brought the laughs as secret agents monitoring extraterrestrial activity on Earth. With its crossover appeal combining sci-fi and comedy, Men in Black earned $589 million globally and became the second highest grossing film of 1997 behind...


James Cameron strikes box office gold again with this epic historical drama, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet as star-crossed lovers on the doomed ocean liner. Sweeping 11 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Titanic dominated the late 90s pop culture landscape while rounding up $2.2 billion in total. Talk about the king of the world!

As Good as It Gets

Jack Nicholson shines alongside Helen Hunt in James L. Brooks' charming rom-com about an obsessive-compulsive novelist who learns to curb his curmudgeonly ways. Beyond critical acclaim and box office business, it also nabbed Best Actor for Nicholson.

“You make me want to be a better man,” Nicholson's Melvin Udall movingly admits. As Good as It Gets makes all our hearts grow three sizes.
Honourable Mentions for 1997: Boogie Nights, Con Air, Contact, The Fifth Element, Good Will Hunting.

1998 and 1999: Laughs, Chills and Nostalgia

As the 1990s winded down, these films perfectly encapsulated the closing decade's mix of nostalgia, thrills, and boundary-pushing content:

Saving Private Ryan

Steven Spielberg plunges viewers into the D-Day invasion carnage during WWII as Tom Hanks' Captain Miller tries to rescue Matt Damon's titular private. Lauded for its raw intensity and realistic battle scenes, Private Ryan earned $482 million, including Best Picture.

There's Something About Mary

The iconic Farrelly brothers conjured up this outrageously hilarious and heartfelt rom-com starring Ben Stiller and Cameron Diaz. Despite pushback from studios due to its raunchy humour, Mary grossed $369 million and cemented Diaz's star status.

The Sixth Sense

"I see dead people." This chilling line encapsulates M. Night Shyamalan's sleeper horror hit, starring Bruce Willis as a child psychologist haunted by his past. Cementing Shyamalan's status as a suspense master, Sixth Sense scared up $672 million, including Best Picture nods.

The Matrix

How fitting to close off the list with the ONE and only The Matrix! Keanu Reeves' sci-fi action thriller introduced us to the mind-bending concept of reality being an artificial simulation. Beyond its boundary-pushing visual effects and East-meets-West storyline, The Matrix also influenced action films for decades and expanded into a multimedia franchise.

Honourable Mentions 1998/99: The Truman Show, Enemy of the State, Blade, Rush Hour, Meet Joe Black, The Blair Witch Project, Notting Hill and of course American Pie!

As the 1990s ended and the millennium dawned, one thing was clear: it marked an unparalleled decade for cinema history with something for everyone. We laughed, cried, covered our eyes, and cheered across these 10 prolific years. From dinosaurs to drag queens, submarines to storm chasers, the 1990s delivered iconic stories and characters that endure in pop culture today. What a time to be at the movies!