20 Movies That Defined the 90s

From swoon-worthy romances to the most mind-bending thrillers, to profound themes that speak to our humanity, the ‘90s were full of some of the greatest movies you’ll ever see. Here are 20 titles from the ‘90s that everyone should see at least once.

Fight Club (1999)

Fight Club 20th Century Studios
Photo Credit: 20th Century Studios.

I’m breaking the first rule of Fight Club by including this, but not doing so would be a disservice to humanity. Not only does David Fincher craft such compelling characters in this movie, but he also takes viewers on an unforgettable ride that ends at the most unexpected destination.

Good Will Hunting (1997)

Photo Credit: Miramax.

A self-sabotaging genius is mentored by a melancholy professor who teaches him about courage, life, and himself. You will not watch this movie only once. It will greatly entertain you and touch you so deeply that you’ll find yourself playing it back to hear the Professor’s words all over again.

Forrest Gump (1994)

Tom Hanks As Forrest Gump Forrest Gump (1994) Paramount Pictures
Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures.

Forrest Gump follows the life of a lovable character played by Tom Hanks. The unique thing about Forrest Gump is how easily the audience manages to form an emotional attachment to him and his story. It’s a movie that is sweet, heartfelt, and feel-good in the purest way possible.

Goodfellas (1990)

Goodfellas (1990) Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc
Photo Credit: Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

You can’t talk about the ‘90s without bringing up Martin Scorsese’s work with Goodfellas. A group of boys rise up the ranks of crime on the grimy streets of New York. When it comes to the ‘90s and crime dramas, Goodfellas is at the peak.

Scent of a Woman (1992)

Photo Credit: City Light Films.

Young Charlie Simms is hired to take care of the blind Colonel while his family is away. What was supposed to be a simple way to make some extra money turns into a wild ride that teaches Charlie some life lessons and leaves viewers with a warm feel-good sensation.

Titanic (1997)

Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures.

Love, tragedy, and steamy scenes. You might have to cover the kids’ eyes at certain points, but Titanic is one movie that nobody can watch without being touched in some way. A love story for the ages brews between an unlikely pair but ultimately ends in a devastating climax.

The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

The Silence Of The Lambs Orion Pictures
Photo Credit: Orion Pictures.

Having gone down in the horror history books, The Silence of the Lambs is a staple film birthed in the ‘90s that everyone should watch at least once. An FBI agent enlists the help of Hannibal Lecter on his mission to apprehend a sinister killer hunting down women.

Dazed and Confused (1993)

Photo Credit: Gramercy Pictures.

Richard Linklater is the best at making movies that seem to be about nothing but about everything at the same time. Dazed and Confused follows the lives of young high school students over the course of one night, inspiring nostalgia, fun, and reflection all at the same time.

The Matrix (1999)

The Matrix (1999) Warner Bros
Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

If you haven’t watched it, then you’ve heard about it. There’s a reason for that. The Matrix is not just a healthy source of conversational references; it’s also a marker of a pivotal point of cinematic history that is not likely to be forgotten.

The Lion King (1994)

Photo Credit: Disney Enterprises Inc.

Have you ever heard someone sing a stream of African-sounding words that you can’t recognize? They were probably singing from The Lion King. The Lion King is a darling movie inspired by the food chain of the animal kingdom that manages to charm everyone, ranging from little kids to fully grown adults.

Se7en (1995)

Se7en New Line Cinema
Photo Credit: New Line Cinema.

On lists like these, a David Fincher movie has to come up more than once. Se7en is one of those movies with beautifully crafted characters (and villains). It features two police detectives tracking down a serial killer who kills his victims according to the seven deadly sins.

Jurassic Park (1993)

Jurassic Park (1993) - Universal Studios
Photo Credit: Universal Studios.

A movie cannot spawn so many sequels and make up to a billion dollars without having something special. An island inhabited by cloned dinosaurs suffers a security glitch, causing the dinosaurs to escape, wreaking havoc. Jurassic Park is one of the most renowned when it comes to the adventure genre.

The Truman Show (1998)

Jim Carrey – The Truman Show Paramount Pictures
Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures.

Truman Burbank’s life is a simulation. His friends, family, and world as he knows it are all part of a reality TV show in which he is the main character. The film is a beautiful work of satire that provokes thought and contemplation about the impact of media on our lives and reality.

The Big Lebowski (1998)

Photo Credit: Working Title Production.

One of the most outstanding movies from the Coen brothers’ filmography. The Dude Lebowski is taken for a millionaire who shares his name. This case of mistaken identity throws him into a chaotic journey and adventure that viewers are not left out of.

Men in Black (1997)

Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures.

Men in Black sits pretty on number 9 of IMDb’s list of the 50 highest-grossing movies of the ‘90s, and we can understand why. A top secret organization monitoring the activities of aliens recruits a police officer to join their ranks after his encounter with an extraterrestrial.

The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

The Shawshank Redemption (1994) Castle Rock Entertainment
Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures.

The Shawshank Redemption tugs on heartstrings and cultivates a strong emotional connection for its viewers. Using Andy Dufresne’s journey in a prison (for a crime he didn’t commit) as a contact point, The Shawshank Redemption tells a remarkable story of redemption that transcends even the protagonist’s story.

Home Alone (1990)

Home Alone (1990) 20th Century Studios
Photo Credit: 20th Century Studios.

Whenever it comes to the best movies to watch during family movie night, Home Alone would always make that list. A classic that launched Macaulay Culkin’s career, this is one comedy that is bound to have you in fits of laughter whether you like it or not.

Pretty Woman (1990)

Photo Credit: Touchstone Pictures.

A rich businessman hires an escort to help him keep up appearances but falls in love with her along the line? Audiences ate it up in the ‘90s. You will too. Being one of the most famous performances of Julia Roberts’s career, Pretty Woman is one for the books.

Saving Private Ryan (1998)

Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures.

On a quest to rescue Private James Ryan, Captain John Miller and a group of soldiers go behind enemy lines to retrieve the young private who had already lost his brothers in the war. Saving Private Ryan is an undeniably moving story.

Heat (1995)

Heat Warner Bros
Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

One of the best crime dramas that came from a decade of great crime dramas. The title Heat does the movie justice. Al Pacino and Robert De Niro came in swinging on a movie that is almost fully guaranteed to be one of your favorites from the ‘90s.