As CGI found its footing in the '90s, the masses flocked to big-budget spectacles like Titanic and Jurassic Park. But another revolution was unfolding on a smaller scale. We also saw the first films from some of the best indie directors, from Wes Anderson to Quentin Tarantino. Below are 10 of the best '90s movies on Netflix right now, ranked. They range from the '90s-est '90s movies that every millennial grew up watching to the influential award winners that are worth discovering or revisiting.
It took decades in the industry for Steven Spielberg to finally earn an Oscar for one of his movies, but his win for Schindler's List is well deserved. The film focuses on wehy businessman Oskar Schindler, who spends his fortune and risks his life to save the lives of 1,100 Jewish men and women after taking in the horrors of WWII and the concentration camps. Between the three hour running time, the cold, unrelenting cruelty of Ralph Fiennes' portrayal of Amon Goeth, and its realistic style, it's a bleak film. But there's hope to be found in the grim black and white images. It's an important story told movingly by a filmmaker at the of his powers.
Possibly the most famous of Quentin Tarantino's masterpieces, Pulp Fiction stars John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, and Uma Thurman spitting out punchy dialogue, pop culture references, and committing some pretty violent crimes along the way. Tarantino's love of non-linear storytelling is on full display here with three separate plots, all entwined in some way, take shape over the course of the film. Travolta plays Vincent, a hitman for a mob boss who, along with his partner Jules Jackson, survives a couple of shootouts in the film as the two contemplate their life of crime, escort mob wives across town, help fix boxing matches, and dispose of dead bodies.
After earning acclaim with Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs, Quentin Tarantino made his subtlest feature with Jackie Brown, an Elmore Leonard adaptation that the director still makes very much his own. After middle-aged stewardess Jackie Brown Pam Grier is picked up by the FBI, she's pulled between her arms-dealing boss Samuel L. Jackson, the feds that are after him, and saving her own skin. With an all-star ensemble that includes Robert De Niro and Robert Forster who earned an Oscar nomination, Jackie Brown is a throwback to the blaxploitation genre, which started in the '70s, of which Grier was a big part of. It's a tense, sexy, and desperate story with a wonderful soundtrack to boot.
Bill Murray has some great comedies living on his resumé, but none are as iconic, or at least, as well-loved as Groundhog Day. That's because watching Murray play a surly weather-man forced to relive the same day over and over again is basically a comedy goldmine of a plot. At first, Phil Murray enjoys the time loop, binge-drinking, filming some half-hearted news segments in a hick town in Pennsylvania, having one-night stands, etc, but eventually, he realizes that in order to escape his never-ending bed-and-breakfast hell, he's got to better himself, not an easy task.
5. As Good As It Gets 1997
Run Time: 137 min | IMDb: 7.7/10
Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt star in this rom com from James L. Brooks. Nicholson plays Melvin, a misanthropic author with obsessive-compulsive disorder who forms a friendship with a waitress named Carol Hunt, who good-naturedly puts up with his many quirks. When Melvin's gay neighbor Simon Greg Kinnear is attacked during a robbery, Melvin's carefully cultivated routine is upended, forcing him to make new connections and confront past hurts.
Hijinks-y teen movies and all, 1999 was an impressive year for movies. Magnolia, Fight Club, The Green Mile, Being John Malkovich, The Matrix... The list goes on and on. Among those entries is M. Night Shyamalan's first big release, and one of his best behind Unbreakable, of course. This was a simpler time, before seeing his name in trailers garnered skepticism. Centered on a boy who can't separate the dead from the living and his child psychologist with issues of his own, The Sixth Sense remains one of four horror movies to ever be nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars. It's endlessly tense, driven by strong performances from the two leads over jump scares. It's held up well, even if it's established a tough hurdle for the director's future efforts to clear.
7. Scream 1996
Run Time: 111 min | IMDb: 7.2/10
This totally '90s slash-fest has become a cult classic decades after it first landed in theatres. It's spawned sequels and TV shows and plenty of comedy sketches and internet memes, but if you actually sit down to watch this thing, you're bound to have night terrors. That's because the plot, which follows teens in a small town terrorized by a masked murderer who enjoys taunting them before hanging their entrails in backyard trees, capitalizes on our worst fear: that nowhere is safe, not even your own home.
A Hugh Grant-starring rom-com, this one sees the witty British playboy wrestle with the unwelcome realization that he may have finally found love over the course of five social occasions. The epiphany upends his comfortable bachelorhood and amuses his family and friends, but Grant's character fights the inevitable at every turn, giving us plenty of humor and sexual tension to keep things interesting.
Empire Records is the kind of quirky music-dive that just doesn't exist these days, and Liv Tyler stars in this totally '90s comedy about a group of teens working at a small-town record store. The staff is made up of troubled teens, managed by a guy named Joe. While trying to save the shop from becoming franchised, the kids gamble away thousands of dollars, hookup with aging pop stars, survive an attempted robbery, and throw a mock funeral for one of their own. It's loud and weird and full of strange fashion choices.
Remember when we used to like Adam Sandler? Sure, his comedies were never high art, but you still find yourself quoting them to this very day. The Waterboy is the classic example of this comfortable familiarity. Sandler mugs his way through his performance as a football team's waterboy who gets a shot at playing due to his ability to channel his rage into unexpected prowess on the field, and you'll find yourself cocooned in the welcoming embrace of '90s nostalgia.