With the All That cast reuniting, Cruel Intentions getting its own TV show, and Gilmore Girls coming back for a limited series on Netflix, one thing is clear — we refuse to let go of the 90s. It’s the decade where Melissa Joan Hart and Alicia Silverstone reigned supreme, Will Smith proved to be a bankable box office star, a young Leonardo DiCaprio sent teenaged hearts aflutter, and Batman and Superman never acknowledged each other, let alone appeared in the same film.
There were plenty of big screen favorites to come out of that period, including Titanic, Terminator 2: Judgement Day, The Lion King, the Matrix, Pulp Fiction, Toy Story, Saving Private Ryan and more. We even ranked the top 20 here. But with so many to choose from, we’re honing in on the ones that, if they were human, would be old enough to vote, but just a year shy of being able to legally drink.
These are the 13 Films Turning 20 This Year. Feel old yet?
13. Fargo – Release date: April 5, 1996
Boasting a story so strange it’s got to be fiction and a place so real it’s got to be true, this quirky crime thriller comes courtesy of the same people who brought you Raising Arizona. The Coen brothers have made their mark as one of the most critically acclaimed pairs since Ben and Jerry, and this one certainly helped solidify that status.
The movie follows an inept man named Jerry Lundegaard (played by William H. Macy) who is so desperate for cash that he organizes his wife’s kidnapping in an attempt to extort money from her wealthy father. Things go awry when his two henchmen end up killing a police officer who was performing what he thought was a routine traffic stop. Critics and audiences fell in love with this black comedy so much so, that it was revived as a TV series on FX. With two critically acclaimed seasons and a third on the way, we should expect to see more small-town adventures in the very near future.
12. James and the Giant Peach – Release date: April 12, 1996
This fantasy musical combines live action with stop-motion animation for a very cool but twisted film. While Tim Burton didn’t direct, he did sign on to produce, which is why it has that dark yet quirky feel so prevalent in his other work. The story follows an orphaned boy who lives in the care of his truly awful aunts. He ends up befriending a gang of human-like bugs who live in a giant peach. They take the youngster on a trip to New York City, which isn’t creepy at all.
While it received great reviews from the critics, the movie tanked at the box office. Still, for the few who have seen and love this neat little flick, it’s a nice departure from traditional children’s films. With the likes of Simon Callow, Richard Dreyfuss, Susan Sarandon, Jane Leeves, and David Thewlis lending their voices to the project, you could say it’s one of the coolest of the decade.
11. Twister – Release date: May 10, 1996
Storm chasers never looked as cool as they did when Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton portrayed them in this quintessential disaster flick. The two thrill seekers on the brink of divorce must join forces to create the most advanced warning system for the deadly and unpredictable tornadoes. To do so, they’ll have to throw themselves right in the crossfire of a string of unusually powerful storms.
Coming off of Speed, director Jan de Bont kicked things into high gear with scientific rivalries, reckless driving, houses getting leveled, and that flying cow popping out of a CGI tornado. Ignoring the fact that the lead characters survive an F-5 by using a regular belt to strap themselves to a water pipe, the blockbuster flick was thrilling enough to be turned into a special effects simulation ride at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida. It was also the first film to be converted into DVD format.
10. Mission: Impossible – Release date: May 22, 1996
Tom Cruise propelling from the ceiling. That undeniably catchy theme from composer Lalo Schifrin. Those quips. Mission: Impossible brought the fun — along with some gut-punching action sequences — to the spy movie game and none of us ever really recovered. When secret agent Ethan Hunt is branded as disloyal by his own agency, he must stand alone to expose the real spy and clear his name.
It’s not like this was Cruise’s first go in the driver’s seat of a major action flick. Remember Top Gun? While that film remains synonymous with the 80s, this undeniably cool spy flick continues to be relevant throughout the decades, producing numerous sequels. The latest, Rogue Nation, opened in July 2015 and received generally positive reviews, with a sixth entry set to begin filming in the fall.
9. The Hunchback of Notre Dame – Release date: June 21, 1996
For a children’s film, The Hunchback of Notre Dame had some pretty dark themes. Aside from the fact that Claude Frollo murdered an infant Quasimodo’s mom and tried to do the same to him, there’s a whole song dedicated to Frollo blaming Esmeralda for his lustful thoughts. Oh, and the premise centers on a guy who is just too ugly to hang out with the rest of society.
The emotionally heavy musical packs a punch, with a critically acclaimed soundtrack composed by Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz — the same folks who brought you the music for another animated classic, 1995’s Pocahontas. It’s also impossible not to root for a guy who, despite such awful circumstances, turns out to be a really good person. But if you ask any adult, the best part of the film is definitely Frollo. Tony Jay’s steely and haunting voice remains a force to be reckoned with.
8. The Nutty Professor – Release date: June 28, 1996
Believe it or not, there was a time when people were excited to see an Eddie Murphy film. This remake of the 1963 hit definitely falls within that period. The story follows overweight professor Sherman Klump who is so desperate to lose weight that he invents a toxic serum which creates an obnoxious skinny alter ego named Buddy Love. The dueling personalities fight for control while trying to court the same woman — Carla (Jada Pinkett Smith).
Not exactly highbrow comedy, the goofy film is basically an excuse to have Murphy play multiple characters at once. There’s even a dinner table scene where it’s literally just him playing different people. Still, audiences were captivated enough for the studio heads to greenlight a sequel. The follow up didn’t do quite as well, but the franchise continued on with a third movie starring The Proud Family’s Kyla Pratt. There’s a reason you don’t really hear about that one.
7. Independence Day – Release date: July 3, 1996
What better way to feel utterly patriotic than to spend two and a half hours watching Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum spit out funny catchphrases while blowing stuff up. Roland Emmerich delivers a somewhat formulaic blockbuster with aliens, airplane chases, scientific debates, and America taking the lead on saving the world. But it all looks so cool!
In the midst of all the high stakes drama and jaw dropping action sequences comes one of the most powerful and poignant moments — and it’s spoken. “We will not go quietly into the night. We will not vanish without a fight. We’re going to live on. We’re going to survive. Today, we celebrate our Independence Day!” Bill Pullman’s President Whitmore cries out, rebranding a traditionally American holiday to include the entire world. If there was ever a shot at world peace, it might start with a public viewing of this unapologetically badass flick, the sequel to which is due out in June.
6. Matilda – Release date: August 2, 1996
Before Harry Potter, everyone’s favorite extraordinary child was a six and a half year old by the name of Matilda. An avid reader with unique abilities, her impressive intellect went unnoticed by her selfish and neglectful parents —played by Danny Devito and Rhea Perlman respectively. She wasn’t invisible to her kind and caring teacher, Ms. Honey, however. The two would team up to take down her disrespectful family as well as the tyrannical school principal Ms. Trunchbull, whose torturous punishment on the defenseless student body easily rivals that of Professor Umbridge.
With a cast of colorful characters and some truly magical pranks, this heroic tale of a girl genius who figured out how to Xerox her own adoption papers as soon as she was tall enough to reach the machine remains one of the most beloved. The story lives on in the Broadway musical, currently dazzling audiences in New York City.
5. Romeo + Juliet – Release date: November 1, 1996
On paper, Shakespeare set in modern times while keeping the outdated language sounds like a terrible idea. However, Baz Luhrmann’s visual spectacular inched its way into the hearts of critics and teen girls all over the world, and it turned Leonardo DiCaprio into an international heartthrob. It also helped him secure the lead in another small-scale 90s film — Titanic.
Backed by Des’ree’s soulful crooning, Quindon Tarver’s booming vocals on “Everybody’s Free,” and the catchiest remake of Prince’s Purple Rain classic “When Doves Cry,” this hip soundtrack kept the movie alive even after it left the theaters. It also didn’t hurt to have a star-studded cast, which put DiCaprio alongside the likes of Claire Danes, John Leguizamo and Paul Rudd. Plus, it remains the only production to feature Mercutio in drag. I burn, I pine, I perish!
4. Set It Off – Release date: November 6, 1996
The struggle is real for a group of friends (Jada Pinkett Smith, Queen Latifah, Vivica A. Fox and Kimberly Elise) living in a rough neighborhood in Los Angeles. Tired of fighting to stay afloat and with not much to lose, they decide to start robbing banks. Things get complicated as the police close in on their scheme, and mistrust inches its way into the circle.
In a nice departure from the usual movie tropes, this film presents a group of complex, deeply conflicted women of color who are all so very different. With fast-paced action, an utterly cool soundtrack, and four compelling leads each facing a moral dilemma, it’s hard not to be engrossed for the entirety of this two-hour action drama.
3. Space Jam – Release date: November 15, 1996
Usually, when an athlete tries their hand at a major motion picture, it’s a blunder destined for straight-to-DVD obscurity. When Michael Jordan does it, however, it becomes one of the quintessential films of the decade. The premise itself is pretty spotty: The world famous athlete agrees to join forces with the Looney Tunes to play a basketball game against a group of aliens (who’ve stolen the abilities of several notable NBA stars) looking to enslave the wacky cartoons. But for some reason, it worked.
Maybe it was the magic of the overwhelmingly catchy soundtrack, which featured R Kelly’s inspirational anthem “I Believe I Can Fly” as well as Quad City DJ’s heart-pumping theme song urging you to “come on and slam, and welcome to the jam.” (Spoiler alert: It was definitely the soundtrack.) Whatever the reason, kids and adults alike still hold an eternal flame for this odd but fun film.
2. Jerry Maguire – Release date: December 13, 1996
Don’t lie — you’ve uttered at least one catchphrase from this romantic dramedy starring a dreamy Tom Cruise before Couchgate 2005, Renée Zellweger before Bridget Jones and Cuba Gooding Jr. before he descended into the dark mind of O.J. Simpson. Directed by Cameron Crowe, the same guy who brought you the 80s classic Say Anything as well as the cinematic travesty Aloha, the movie follows a sports agent (Cruise) fired for his moral epiphany which found him seeking fewer clients to focus on more honest and tailored relationships.
Since then, the phrases “You complete me” and “You had me at hello” ascended into the pop cultural zeitgeist as two of the most romantic things ever uttered on the big screen, and “Show me the money!” became the only thing you needed to say in conversations about negotiation. Crowe is trying to bounce back from a string of misses with his new show Roadies, but he’ll always have a place in our hearts because of Jerry Maguire.
1. Scream – Release date: December 20, 1996
Even if you’re not a horror fan, chances are you’ve seen the subversive slasher thriller Scream. In a decade where the genre was all but dead, legendary director Wes Craven jump-started things with an exciting film that essentially flipped conventional tropes on their elongated mask-wearing heads. The story follows Sidney (played by Neve Campbell) and her horror-movie obsessed buddies who are being stalked by a serial killer with a grudge.
A killer soundtrack by Marco Beltrami highlighted a refreshing story from Vampire Diaries creator Kevin Williamson, which features the main characters discussing how to survive a horror flick if they ended up in one. The movie would go on to be parodied in the Wayans Brothers’ Scary Movie franchise, as well as birthing its own flurry of sequels. Watch the film again and see if you can resist calling your friends to ask, “Do you like scary movies?”
Curious what the cast of this slasher flick is up to? Check out where they are now!
How many of these movies do you remember? Which ones are you dying to rewatch? Let us know in the comments.
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