Films

The 25 greatest movies of the 90s

The 70s was an era of groundbreaking creativity, the 80s saw the advent of the blockbuster, but the 90s saw a little of both, resulting in a perfect mix of big-budget blockbusters, and quirky, inventive cult hits.

Here's our list of the 25 top films of the 90s. As ever, let us know if we've missed your favourite in the comments at the bottom.

(Image: AllStar)

  • Goodfellas

    Goodfellas

    Year: 1990 You can't beat a classic gangster film - and… More details

    Goodfellas

    Year: 1990

    You can't beat a classic gangster film - and this was one of the very best. Liotta, De Niro and Pesci excel under Scorsese's direction, providing a fantastic exposition of the mob lifestyle - the downfalls and violence, but also the glamour. A critically-acclaimed movie, and the first in a trilogy of Scorsese crime epics: Goodfellas was later followed by Casino and The Departed. Also notable for containing the 11th-highest F-word count in movie history, with exactly 300.

  • Boyz N The Hood

    Boyz N The Hood

    Year: 1991 Astonishingly, John Singleton was just 23 when… More details

    Boyz N The Hood

    Year: 1991

    Astonishingly, John Singleton was just 23 when he directed this classic and hard-hitting account of life on the LA streets of South Central. With rapper Ice Cube, from the notorious group NWA - themselves from that area - starring, the movie had the necessary authenticity, and realness, to gain respect from the critics and the people on the streets that it profiled. The cinematic counterpart to that era's gangster rap musical movement, this is an undoubted classic of the genre.

  • The Silence Of The Lambs

    The Silence Of The Lambs

    Year: 1991 Silence of the Lambs was a landmark movie in the… More details

    The Silence Of The Lambs

    Year: 1991

    Silence of the Lambs was a landmark movie in the horror genre, becoming the first film of that type to win a Best Picture Oscar (in addition to taking the other four of the 'top five' categories). Featuring a claustrophobic atmosphere and a tight script, the film was dominated by the towering performances of Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins, who turned Hannibal Lecter into an iconic movie character despite just 16 minutes of screen time. A sleeper hit, it very soon became one of the most famous films of the decade.

  • Terminator 2: Judgment Day

    Terminator 2: Judgment Day

    Year: 1991 James Cameron's epic cost an enormous $94m to… More details

    Terminator 2: Judgment Day

    Year: 1991

    James Cameron's epic cost an enormous $94m to make - 15 times the amount of its predecessor (which itself featured in our roundup of top 80s films) - but he spent it wisely, creating one of the all-time best Hollywood action blockbusters, and a worthy sequel. Schwarzenegger was again on top form, but it wasn't just the action and the effects which made this film: as one critic put it, it was very much a 'machine with a human heart', after all, who'd have thought you'd be in tears at a robot disappearing into a vat of molten steel?

  • Reservoir Dogs

    Reservoir Dogs

    Year: 1992 A bolt-out-of-the-blue, Reservoir Dogs brought… More details

    Reservoir Dogs

    Year: 1992

    A bolt-out-of-the-blue, Reservoir Dogs brought director Quentin Tarantino to the world's attention, as well as a serious amount of swearing and violence. The story of the aftermath of a botched diamond heist and the subsequent search for answers and recriminations provided a gripping story, soundtracked by a series of classic tracks. We can never quite listen to Stuck in the Middle With You without feeling a slight throbbing in our ears. A cult classic that still retains its power to shock today.

  • Groundhog Day

    Groundhog Day

    Year: 1993 A film so famous that its name is now… More details

    Groundhog Day

    Year: 1993

    A film so famous that its name is now widely-used as a description of a situation that repeats itself over and over again. A film so famous that its name is now widely-used as a description of a situation that repeats itself over and over again. A film so famous...where were we? Sorry, a deceptively simple idea, that creates a brilliant story, this is, without doubt, one of the best and most influential films of the 90s.

  • Jurassic Park

    Jurassic Park

    Year: 1993 Everyone holds a place in their heart for… More details

    Jurassic Park

    Year: 1993

    Everyone holds a place in their heart for Jurassic Park. A critical and box-office smash alike, the movie took humankind's eternal fascination with dinosaurs and allied it with a fantastic storyline and groundbreaking special effects. Under the watchful eye of Steven Spielberg, the movie took over from his own E.T.to become the highest grossing film worldwide at the time. The shaking glass of water followed by the T-Rex eye remains one of the most iconic movie moments ever created; with the Raptors in the kitchen scene not far behind. Watch this and you'll be in T-Rexstacy.

  • Schindler's List

    Schindler's List

    Year: 1993 Steven Spielberg spent ten years deliberating on… More details

    Schindler's List

    Year: 1993

    Steven Spielberg spent ten years deliberating on whether to take on the story of Oskar Schindler, a German businessman who turned from Nazi exploiter to a saver of lives, repeatedly offering it to fellow directors. Thankfully, for movie history, he went ahead and created a cinematic masterpiece, which won seven Oscars, as well as the respect of the Jewish community.

  • Leon

    Leon

    Year: 1994 A superbly stylish French film, Leon was an… More details

    Leon

    Year: 1994

    A superbly stylish French film, Leon was an unusual tale; an orphaned 12-year-old girl - portrayed with unsurprising innocence by a young Natalie Portman - finding refuge with a loner hit-man, who gradually teaches her the ways of his world. Violent, graphic, but with heart and affection, Leon was undoubtedly a classic of the decade.

  • Pulp Fiction

    Pulp Fiction

    Year: 1994 The second Tarantino movie to feature in this… More details

    Pulp Fiction

    Year: 1994

    The second Tarantino movie to feature in this list and just as deserving of its place as the first; Pulp Fiction was thoroughly postmodern in composition, featuring a cut-up storyline, extreme violence juxtaposed with humour and extensive use of pop cultural references. It also managed the not-inconsiderable feat of revitalising John Travolta's faltering career. Featuring a host of killer lines and great moments, it is no exaggeration to say that it changed cinema forever.

  • The Shawshank Redemption

    The Shawshank Redemption

    Year: 1994 One of many great adaptations of Stephen King… More details

    The Shawshank Redemption

    Year: 1994

    One of many great adaptations of Stephen King novels, this film was perhaps the ultimate sleeper hit: only just recouping its cost at the box office, but going on to become one of the biggest-selling videos and DVDs of all time: astonishingly, 1 in 5 UK households own the title. Set in the Shawshank prison, it tells a story of two great friends and the effects of prison life upon them and their fellow inmates and featured towering performances by Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman, as Red, the film's wise narrator. An enduring epic.

  • Speed

    Speed

    Year: 1994 Sometimes all you need is a straightforward… More details

    Speed

    Year: 1994

    Sometimes all you need is a straightforward plot, and a whole load of tension and action. Speed was an exhilarating literal rollercoaster of a movie based on a simple idea of a bomb going off on a bus if it dropped below 50mph. The action never stops, and Sandra Bullock briefly became a Hollywood darling, later receiving $11m for starring in the 'let's-not-talk-about-it' sequel Speed 2: Cruise Control. A classic action-thriller, with a triple ending, it's a rush hour riot of a film.

  • Heat

    Heat

    Year: 1995 A nuanced action movie but on a large scale,… More details

    Heat

    Year: 1995

    A nuanced action movie but on a large scale, Heat has been cited since as an inspiration for the portrayal of Gotham City in Christopher Nolan's Batman franchise. Interestingly, Michael Mann spent ten years trying to get the film made, having created L.A. Takedown 6 years before - essentially a simplified TV version - in a bid to get the project noticed. With big-hitters Pacino, De Niro and Kilmer to the fore, this is an undisputed classic.

  • Se7en

    Se7en

    Year: 1995 Another one of those 'I can't believe this… More details

    Se7en

    Year: 1995

    Another one of those 'I can't believe this hasn't been done before' movies, Se7en took an idea that has literally been around since the dawn of time - the Se(7)ven deadly sins - and created a masterpiece of a film, dripping with tension, suspense and gore. Written by Andrew Kevin Walker and directed with aplomb by David Fincher, the film was a smash, helped in no small part by the superb chemistry between the two cops, played by Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt, together with a truly stunning ending.

  • Toy Story

    Toy Story

    Year: 1995 You would have got long odds on the tale of a… More details

    Toy Story

    Year: 1995

    You would have got long odds on the tale of a set of toys, their adventures, and their hopes and fears, produced by a company making its first film, becoming not only a landmark in film animation, but the first of what has been described as 'the greatest movie trilogy of all time', but that's exactly what happened with Toy Story. The first full-length computer animated film, it turned Pixar - backed by Apple guru Steve Jobs - into a global brand, and ushered in a new era of cartoons. But the story was the star, with a tale of friendship and heroism that appealed to adults and children alike.

  • The Usual Suspects

    The Usual Suspects

    Year: 1995 Year: 1995 A brilliant Spacey performance, a… More details

    The Usual Suspects

    Year: 1995

    Year: 1995

    A brilliant Spacey performance, a densely packed but tight script, and twists-a-plenty - including one of the greatest of all time near the end, The Usual Suspects is a glorious romp of a movie. Despite a budget of just $6m, it was a box-office hit, and rapturously received by the critics. In addition, almost by design, it rewarded multiple viewings and thus replicated its success on the video market.

  • Fargo

    Fargo

    Year: 1996 The first of two Coen Brothers films on this… More details

    Fargo

    Year: 1996

    The first of two Coen Brothers films on this list, Fargo was a classic crime film, which introduced one of the all-time greatest movie cops in Marge Gunderson (played by Frances McDormand). Like all great detectives, she slowly pieces together the puzzle of a spate of killings in Minneapolis, before the film comes to a thrilling conclusion. *Warning: Contains inventive use of a woodchipping machine*

  • Trainspotting

    Trainspotting

    Year: 1996 One of the most iconic films of all time, let… More details

    Trainspotting

    Year: 1996

    One of the most iconic films of all time, let alone simply of the 90s, Trainspotting's place in this list is beyond questioning. Director Danny Boyle created a fast-paced, fantastically black comedy in the grimmest of circumstances: the bleak surroundings of a group of heroin addicts. Featuring strong performances throughout and an absolutely killer soundtrack, the film was a cultural touchstone for the Britpop generation. *Spoiler* Contains no trains though.

  • LA Confidential

    LA Confidential

    Year: 1997 A stylish, seductive and smart film, LA… More details

    LA Confidential

    Year: 1997

    A stylish, seductive and smart film, LA Confidential took the relative unknowns Russell Crowe and Guy Pearce, and catapulted them to fame. Murder, corruption and ambition abound as three concurrent stories intertwine and unravel in a beautifully detailed rendering of 1950s LA; the critics and public alike loved it and it's a worthy addition to this list.

  • The Big Lebowski

    The Big Lebowski

    Year: 1998 The second film on this list to be written and… More details

    The Big Lebowski

    Year: 1998

    The second film on this list to be written and directed by the Coen brothers, but this was a very different kettle of fish to Fargo. An almost crime novel-style film of mistaken identity, it has become one of the most cultish of cult classics, and possibly the most quotable film of all time. Anyway, enough analysis, let's go bowling.

  • The Thin Red Line

    The Thin Red Line

    Year: 1998 This fictional war story marked the return to… More details

    The Thin Red Line

    Year: 1998

    This fictional war story marked the return to directing of Terrence Malick after a 20 year absence - but what a comeback it was. Featuring an astonishingly heavyweight cast (and that's not even including Billy Bob Thornton, Martin Sheen, Bill Pullman, Gary Oldman, Mickey Rourke, Lukas Haas and Viggo Mortensen who filmed scenes, but didn't make the final cut), who were all keen to work with the legendary director, the film was a similarly heavyweight affair and was rapturously received by the critics. Saving Private Ryan was released the same year, but this just edges it for us.

  • The Truman Show

    The Truman Show

    Year: 1998 There can't be many films that are so… More details

    The Truman Show

    Year: 1998

    There can't be many films that are so influential that they have a syndrome named after them - but this is one of them. Joel Gold, a psychiatrist revealed that, by 2008, he had met 5 patients that believed their lives were reality television shows, and thus "The Truman Show delusion" was created. Released a year before Big Brother smashed reality TV into the mainstream, this was a brilliantly clever, profound and prescient exploration of what 'reality' really is, with a masterful turn from Jim Carrey as Truman Burbank, the unwitting star of his own TV show.

  • Fight Club

    Fight Club

    Year: 1999 Like The Shawshank Redemption, this film went… More details

    Fight Club

    Year: 1999

    Like The Shawshank Redemption, this film went nowhere near to achieving box office smash status, but gained a lease of life upon DVD release, establishing it as a cult classic. Eliciting love and hate in equal measures from critics, the crucial attribute it had was that it elicited a reaction: Fight Club's nihilism and violence meant that everyone had an opinion on its merits, and what it meant. We probably shouldn't be writing this though; you all know what the first rule of Fight Club is...

  • The Matrix

    The Matrix

    Year: 1999 The Wachowski brothers went for epic in every… More details

    The Matrix

    Year: 1999

    The Wachowski brothers went for epic in every sense of the word with The Matrix. An ambitious sci-fi plot involving religion, myths and philosophical thought experiments, together with cutting edge special effects - particularly the ultra-slow 'bullet time', it created, appropriately enough, its own distinctive world and style. And it also had a brilliant baddie, in the form of Hugo Weaving's demented Agent Smith. Let's forget about the sequels for now: the original was undoubtedly one of the ultimate films of the decade.

  • The Sixth Sense

    The Sixth Sense

    Year: 1999 A creepy, psychological thriller, The Sixth… More details

    The Sixth Sense

    Year: 1999

    A creepy, psychological thriller, The Sixth Sense was an enormous box office smash, and ensured that if anyone came up to you and saying "I see dead people", you gave them a wry smile rather than running a mile. It's quite hard to say much more about this film other than there is something of a twist towards the end...

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