The 1990s represented a real time of cultural change and creative progress in the world of the entertainment industry. Following the experimental and witty period of the 1980s, the 1990s allowed for creatives to take stock of what had worked, and what definitely hadn't, in order to keep producing art that would mean something - and, of course, sell tickets.
Viewers flocked to their televisions in the tens of millions to watch the adventures of the Central Perk gang, or Frasier and Niles, or Martin and Tommy and Gina. The Seinfeld series finale is still one of the most contentious pieces of pop culture, even after all these years.
In the world of film, Disney was going full steam ahead during their Renaissance period, and Pixar would begin making a name for itself then, too. The careers of future Hollywood icons like Jennifer Aniston, Matt Damon, and George Clooney would burst out into the cultural consciousness during that time period as well.
However, for all the highs of the entertainment produced in the 1990s, there were definitely many, many lows - and some pretty embarrassing ones, at that. At least according to Rotten Tomatoes scores, the disparities between the best and the worst of the films of the '90s are quite surprising.
Here are the 10 Best (And 10 Worst) '90s Movies According To Rotten Tomatoes.
20 Worst: Chairman of the Board (1998) - 13%
Hard as it may be to imagine, someone, somewhere, once thought it would be a good idea to make a film starring Carrot Top as a surfer bro who, through sheer dumb luck, winds up the head of an incredibly profitable company. Chairman of the Board was released in 1998 to the near universal disdain of critics, going so far as to earn two Razzie nominations for Worst New Actor and Worst Supporting Actress.
Beyond the ludicrous initial premise of the movie, the details that follow are even more dumbfounding.
Some of the key items used in the plot are a hybrid television and TV dinner, an inherited surfboard, and goo that glows in the dark. The real mystery here is how this film even managed to score as high as a 13% on the Tomatometer.
19 Best: Aladdin (1992) - 94%
As we’ve previously mentioned, Disney had a real hot streak leading into the 1990s as the company entered the period that would come to be known as the Disney Renaissance. One of its biggest successes and most beloved films in this period is the 1992 classic, Aladdin, which scores in at a 94% on the Tomatometer.
Buoyed by the voice work of a lifetime by the legendary Robin Williams as the wish-granting Genie, Aladdin has the heart of the best Disney movies, and the irreverent wit that the earlier films were lacking. Supported by a lively soundtrack, featuring classics such as “Friend Like Me” and “A Whole New World”, it was only a matter of time before the film entered the illustrious canon of the best Disney films ever made.
18 Worst: Batman and Robin (1997) - 10%
It's hard work adapting a superhero franchise into film. Even in this day and age of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and, well, Wonder Woman, superhero adaptations can truly be hit or miss. There's a reason, after all, that we said Wonder Woman, and not the DCEU as a whole. We don't want to touch that one with a ten-foot pole. However, for the most part, superhero movies nowadays are legions better than they were in the 1990s - and the stark contrast between recent superhero films and 1997's Batman and Robin offers a clear cut example of that.
Most movies in the superhero genre these days are pretty dark and gritty, action-heavy stories. Occasionally, lighter fare like Ant-Man or Deadpool enters the canon. However, Batman and Robin was a bloated, joke-heavy film featuring far too many characters to make any meaningful story, and far too many bad jokes to allow for any movement of plot or connections. Its 10% on Rotten Tomatoes is sadly all too well earned.
17 Best: The Crying Game (1992) - 95%
Sometimes, art in its best form exists to challenge people, to stir up controversy, and to create conversations that have often been avoided. Films like the 1992 Academy award winner The Crying Game fit precisely in this complicated nexus of categories. The movie takes place in the contentious period of Irish history known as The Troubles, featuring a truly disparate cast of core characters that allow it to explore the struggles of Irish and British citizens through the lenses of class, gender, and race.
It's perhaps one of the more uncomfortable movies on this list to discuss at great length, purely because of the ugly truths it reveals about what humans are capable of when at their worst.
However, by prominently featuring such a diverse cast from all walks of life and including a lead transgender character, The Crying Game broke the silence on many social issues that desperately needed to be discussed, and therefore rightfully deserves its grade of 95%.
16 Worst: Milk Money (1994) - 8%
Apparently, nothing says "this should be a plot of a romantic comedy!" like a group of preteen boys enlisting the services of a street worker to help them learn about women. The initial premise is definitely bawdier than most rom coms, and that's even before the romantic part of the plot is forced into existence.
The year 1994's Milk Money finds a group of young boys desperate to learn the truth about women - including their anatomy. When they meet a street worker who's willing to help them out, nothing about this apparently set off any warning signs or alarms for the characters in the film, or the creators behind the making of it - but hey, it's okay. The street worker and one of the boys' fathers wind up falling in love, so there's nothing surprising to see here, not at all. Not even the confusing mob money storyline that takes up far too much of the movie.
15 Best: Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994) - 95%
Sometimes, big isn't better, and the smallest movies can turn out to be some of the best ever made. The 1994 British romantic comedy Four Weddings and a Funeral is a prime example of this notion. Made on a budget of less than $3 million, the film would go on to gross nearly $250 million in its theatrical release - and for good reason, too. Starring the then up and comer Hugh Grant, the genuinely affecting story follows a group of close friends as they navigate love and loss.
Even in its cheesiest moments, Four Weddings feels fresh, funny, and full of warmth. It masters the craft of the romantic comedy without ever feeling schmaltzy and overdone, more than earning the 95% Certified Fresh ranking it currently bears on Rotten Tomatoes.
14 Worst: Captain America (1990) - 8%
It wasn't just Batman and Robin that showed how poorly conceived superhero films could be in the 1990s. The 1990 adaptation of Captain America may have even been worse in many ways. Some of the beats the story of the film hits are similar in many ways to Captain America: The First Avenger - except for the fact that, well, that film worked tremendously well, and this one... did not, in any way.
The overall look of both Captain America and the Red Skull is garish and overdone.
The acting is truly shoddy, and the film's production was riddled with so much trouble that, despite being intended for a theatrical release during production, it wound up being released direct to video after a couple years of delay.
13 Best: The Silence of the Lambs (1991) - 95%
It's not every day that a movie has the unenviable task of making a monstrous, psychopathic cannibal into a compelling, fascinating, entertaining character. Yet somehow, not only was that the exact task 1991's The Silence of the Lambs was forced to deal with - it was also one they completely succeeded in meeting. The Silence of the Lambs is, by all accounts, a horror movie - sure, it's one infused with aspects of a mystery and thriller, but a horror film all the same. In that regard, the film accomplished considerable feats that are almost unheard of in the world of horror.
It was the winner of Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Adapted Screenplay at the Oscars, and has long been considered one of the best films ever made, in large part due to the performances by Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster. The 95%, in some sense, seems almost too low for a film of such high regard and quality.
12 Worst: Mr. Magoo (1997) - 7%
Mr. Magoo is a character that has never really been culturally sensitive in any form. Whether in the frequently racist cartoons, or in 1997's Leslie Nielsen starrer, the character has led to a lot of controversy in its lengthy tenure. The simply titled Mr. Magoo found Leslie Nielsen tasked with bringing the often-clueless cartoon character to life. J. Quincy Magoo's adventures may have been amusing and outlandish in cartoon form, but in live action, they're just plain unbearable to sit through.
However, thankfully for any potential viewers at the time, the film was faced with a far greater challenge: in addition to being a just plain bad story, it was found to be completely offensive to blind and near-sighted people. The 7% movie was even pulled from theatres only two weeks into its release.
11 Best: Goodfellas (1990) - 96%
Mafia movies are incredibly common in Hollywood, with The Godfather and The Godfather II often hailed as some of the best movies ever made. But beyond The Godfather series, Goodfellas stands out as one of the strongest crime films ever produced, with the added bonus of being inspired by a true story.
While the movie was merely a modest box office success, nearly earning double its $25 million budget, it was a massive critical success, resulting in six Oscar nominations and a win for supporting actor Joe Pesci.
Rotten Tomatoes is so bold as to claim the movie as "the high point of Martin Scorcese's career," and when you look at all the film accomplished, thematically and stylistically and on sheer story and casting levels, it's hard not to agree with them. While it may not be The Godfather, there's no denying that the 96% rating the film holds is well-earned.
10 Worst: Troll 2 (1990) - 6%
It's not every day that you come across a movie that was marketed as a sequel to a film it truly has absolutely nothing to do with. The reported original, Troll, was released in 1986 and only has a 25% on Rotten Tomatoes. So it's not like there were very large shoes to fill, when Troll 2 was released in 1990. And yet, it managed to do even worse, earning a pathetic 6% on the Tomatometer.
Of course, Troll 2 really has nothing to do with Troll, the mothership. There aren't even any trolls in the movie, but vegetarian goblins who turn people into vegetable goop, because why not? The film is far and wide considered one of the worst ever made, and yet, it lives on in infamy on the internet these days, frequently discussed and turned into memes and GIFs whenever the need arises for such things.
9 Best: Groundhog Day (1993) - 96%
Stop us if you've heard this one before. You'd be hard pressed to find a better comedy film to come out of the 1990s than the Bill Murray starring classic Groundhog Day. With a lofty 96% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, the film stands far and away as one of the best rated comedies of the '90s, if not all time.
While Murray may have built his career with the likes of Saturday Night Live and the Ghostbusters films, Groundhog Day stands as perhaps the best representation of what his talents are really capable of. The movie has become such a cult classic hit that it would even go on to become a Broadway musical in the 2016 season.
8 Worst: The Avengers (1998) - 5%
This definitely isn't the story of The Avengers you're thinking of. The 1998 film was a remake of the hit 1960s British spy series that aired nearly 200 episodes from 1961 to 1969. Despite having considerable star power among its cast, including Ralph Fiennes, Uma Thurman, and Sean Connery, this very well may be one of the worst British to American translation adaptations ever produced.
Critics found the movie to be terribly dull in terms of its story (or lack thereof), and with almost all characters miscast, no matter the otherwise strength of the actors in other projects.
The film failed to make back its budget of $60 million, which all but guaranteed its status as a box office bomb, and makes it more than deserve its paltry 5% rating.
7 Best: The Fugitive (1993) - 96%
As we've seen so far, the length and strength of an actor's career prior to a project doesn't by any means guarantee whether the film will be a success. Harrison Ford may have been a star for the 1970s and 1980s, but by the time the 1990s rolled around, it wasn't a sure thing that his star power would continue to hold audience attention.
However, the 1993 movie The Fugitive quickly put an end to any and all wondering, showing that the 96% rating it's been given on Rotten Tomatoes is entirely deserved. The film is emotionally gripping, a chase movie with real stakes that most action movies lack across the board. Harrison Ford's performance is a powerhouse, one of the strongest of his career, and Tommy Lee Jones similarly steals the show, even winning the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in 1994.
6 Worst: Cool World (1992) - 4%
The 1990s had a lot to live up to when it came to embracing the level of creativity and originality on display in the best films of the 1980s. The cult hit Who Framed Roger Rabbit was released in 1988 to wide acclaim, earning it a 97% on Rotten Tomatoes for its seamless blending of animation and live action.
So it was inevitable, really, that imitations would come along - and likewise inevitable that they would never be as good as the Robert Zemeckis flick. The year 1992's Cool World is perhaps the most egregious example of a film that tried to be Roger Rabbit, and failed in every possible way. No matter its impressive animation, the film was darker, raunchier, and all the more uncomfortable to view because of it.
5 Best: Good Will Hunting (1997) - 97%
Few Academy award-winning films can boast the fact that they were written by relative newcomer twentysomethings, and that the script started as an assignment in a course for Harvard. However, that's exactly the case of the now iconic 1997 film Good Will Hunting, which clocks in at a much-deserved 97% on Rotten Tomatoes.
The movie put future A-listers Matt Damon and the Affleck brothers on the map, offering a glimpse at the then culturally-ignored world of South Boston's working class.
With stunningly emotional work by Robin Williams, who earned the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, and the young Damon, Good Will Hunting manages to tread familiar beats in a way that doesn't feel tired or overwrought. Will Hunting's story is uniquely his own, full of life and color and pain and love, beautifully directed by Gus Van Sant and scored to perfection by Danny Elfman.
4 Worst: Baby Geniuses (1999) - 2%
For some reason, Hollywood was convinced for a while that movies with talking babies were guaranteed to be sure fire hits. The '80s and '90s brought us films like Look Who's Talking, Look Who's Talking Too, and Look Who's Talking Now. However, 1999 brought us the film Baby Geniuses, which featured some considerable talent with the likes of Kathleen Turner, Christopher Lloyd, Peter MacNicol, and Dom DeLuise in its cast.
However, unfortunately, it also featured a group of creepily CGI edited talking babies who, as a result of scientific experimentation, are now super geniuses. Nothing about the movie works, and no amount of talented adult casting could have helped it. It's no wonder that, in addition to a truly embarrassing 2% on Rotten Tomatoes, the film's consensus on the site reads, "Flat direction and actors who look embarrassed to be onscreen make Baby Geniuses worse than the premise suggests."
3 Best: L.A. Confidential (1997) - 99%
Out of all the films on this list, L.A. Confidential may be the most affected by time. As a result of the revelations about Kevin Spacey during the #MeToo and #TimesUp era, it's hard to look back on his career and evaluate his work with an even mind. However, the 1997 movie L.A. Confidential stands out as one of the best of the 1990s for much more than just Spacey's performance.
The film currently holds a strong 99% Certified Fresh ranking on Rotten Tomatoes, with only one review in the entire record being classified as a negative one. The movie was a hit at Cannes, a hit with critics, and a hit with audiences. It was nominated for a whopping nine Academy Awards, and has been chosen by the Library of Congress to be preserved as a significant cultural work.
2 Worst: Loose Cannons (1990) - 0%
The pairing of Gene Hackman and Dan Aykroyd doesn't exactly sound like one that would lead to the best comedy ever made - and... well, that assumption would be all too correct. Loose Cannons may just have one of the most absurd, offensive starting premises of any movie made in recent decades: two police officers are tasked with finding and exposing an adult tape featuring a current male politician from Germany and a young former leader.
Upon its release, the movie was universally panned, and to this day maintains a true goose egg score of 0% on Rotten Tomatoes, a feat that almost takes an impressive capability of being unabashedly awful.
Even Aykroyd all but renounces his role in the movie, claiming in 2013 that it belongs in a landfill.
1 Best: Toy Story (1995) - 100%
Few movies have fundamentally changed the world of animation in the way that Toy Story did in 1995. Beyond introducing a relatively new form of animation to the world, the film introduced a story that didn't have to be totally defined by the archetypal hero's journey or princess narrative that Disney films had become so renowned for.
Instead, Toy Story offers a story of jealousy, of hurt, of unlikely allies forced to work together to save their skins. It's a story of adventure and friendship and, ultimately, the nature of consciousness, hard as it may be to believe. For a kids' movie, it can get pretty intense at times. With a perfectly chosen voice cast including Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Wallace Shawn, and John Ratzenberger, Toy Story created instantly iconic characters, all by showing that toys have feelings, too. If that doesn't deserve a 100%, we're not sure what does.
What do you think were the best and worst of 1990s movies? Let us know in the comments!