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The 25 Best '90s Movies on Netflix

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Netflix  has just six of our Best Movies of the 1990s, and only one of those (Schindler’s List, #2) makes our top 20. Which is a shame because the ’90s were a glorious decade for movies, as indie filmmakers like Steven Soderbergh and Richard Linklater began finding audiences with films that were as unforgettable as they were personal. The West was also introduced to works from Krzysztof Kieslowski and others in the now-open Eastern Europe, along with the Hong Kong action cinema of Jackie Chan and Jet Li. On the other end of the spectrum, CGI advancements wowed audiences seeing the dinosaurs of Jurassic Park or playthings come to life in Toy Story.

That said, we found 25 good movies from the ‘90s available on Netflix streaming right now. They range from rom-coms, blockbusters and classic Disney to documentaries and early films from Linklater, Christopher Nolan and Gus Van Sant.

Here are the 25 Best ‘90s Movies on Netflix:

25. 10 Things I Hate About You
Year: 1999
Director: Gil Junger
Inspired by William Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, the 1999 teen comedy places Katherina and Perturchio into modern times as feminist Kat and bad boy Patrick, the breakout roles for Julia Stiles and Heath Ledger. Patrick is initially paid to charm Kat as a part of an elaborate scheme by Cameron (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) to take out her younger sister, Bianca. Ledger wins Kat and the majority of the female population over during his marching band-accompanied stadium performance of Frankie Valli’s “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.” Though Kat is angered when finding out about the deal that formed her relationship, the so-called shrew couldn’t stay mad for too long after receiving a sincere apology and brand new guitar from her Australian beau. With the perfect amount of ‘90s nonsense, the film ends with Letter to Cleo performing Cheap Trick’s “I Want You to Want Me” atop the roof of Padua High School. —Stephanie Sharp


24. The Prince of Egypt
Year: 1998
Directors: Brenda Chapman, Steve Hickner, Simon Wells
Rating: G
The scene where Moses parts the seas in this animated musical is a truly epic moment. An adaptation of the Book of Exodus, the biblical DreamWorks release follows Moses in his climatic quest to free the slaves from Egypt—all of which can be summed up by the line “Let my people go!” The score was composed by Hans Zimmer, who collaborated with Stephen Schwartz on “When You Believe,” which won Best Original Song at the 1999 Academy Awards. Disclaimer: Kids might argue plot lines are factual history at a later date. —Alexa Carrasco


23. The Newton Boys
Year: 1998
Director: Richard Linklater 
Between 1919 and 1924, the Newton Gang—a family owned and run operation based in Uvalde, Texas—robbed over 80 banks and six trains, sparing bloodshed in their outlaw ventures. The sibling quartet—Willis, Wylie, Jess and Joe—cut their legend from the same cloth as Jesse James and Butch Cassidy, sharing more in common with the latter by virtue of their humanitarian ideals; theft is one thing, but killing people is another entirely. Maybe that’s what drew Richard Linklater to the four brothers and their exploits when he cobbled together his 1998 heist flick, The Newton Boys. Today the film feels like an anomaly in his body of work, a straight-up genre exercise that sticks out like a sore thumb against the vast majority of his catalog. But sixteen years have passed since the film’s release, and a steady glance into the rearview reveals a movie that only Linklater could have made. The Newton Boys is a portrait of youthful angst and unrest, couching Willis’ motivations to live a life of crime in his own societal frustrations. If it’s an overlooked, lesser entry in his filmography, it’s also just as important to defining him as a narrator as his best received and most widely hailed offerings.—Andy Crump



22. Tarzan
Year: 1999
Directors: Chris Buck, Kevin Lima
With music from Phil Collins (mercifully, Tarzan doesn’t do the singing) and a cast that includes Minnie Driver, Glenn Close and Tony Goldwyn as the titular Lord of the Jungle, Disney’s Tarzan does justice to the Edgar Rice Burroughs source material with its expected anthropomorphic twist. Rosie O’Donnell plays his gorilla buddy and Wayne Knight (best known as Jerry Seinfeld nemesis Newman) provides comic relief as a meek elephant. The plot is tight, the action is well-paced, and the movie is an easy pick to please kids of all ages. If there’s a superlative to be handed out, it’s for the animation team, who walked the fine line of making the gorillas seem both true to nature and relatable to humans. —Josh Jackson


21. Bob Roberts
Year: 1992
Director: Tim Robbins 
The political bite to Tim Robbins’s directorial debut wasn’t a surprise given his history of political activism. Based on a short he made for Saturday Night Live in 1986, the mockumentary focuses on a conservative politician and folk-singer who cynically uses every dirty trick in the Lee Atwater book to win a Senatorial campaign in Pennsylvania. If you think dishonesty and partisanship in the political media is a recent phenomenon, let this film from 1992 prove otherwise in fairly hilarious fashion.—Garrett Martin


20. Brother’s Keeper
Year: 1992
Directors: Joe Berlinger, Bruce Sinofsky
There’s an alleged crime at the center of Brother’s Keeper: whether or not Delbert Ward, a 59-year-old farmer from Munnsville, New York, is guilty of murdering his older brother William. But that’s not really what Brother’s Keeper is about. Filmmakers Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky instead focus on the wide fissure between urban and rural American cultures in the late-1980s and early-1990s, examining the way the three remaining Ward brothers, essentially outcasts in their community prior to William’s death, are increasingly embraced by Munnsville as the media descends upon the town to report on Delbert’s trial. The mystery here is not about whether or not William was murdered; the mystery is what lies at the heart of community bonds and national identity, and how allegiances change as communities grow larger. —Mark Abraham


19. Grosse Pointe Blank
Year: 1997
Director: George Armitage
A slick combo of dark comedy, romance and ‘80s nostalgia, Grosse Pointe Blank is almost a partner to star John Cusack’s later film, High Fidelity. Both are about lonely men rethinking their direction in life set to a great soundtrack, but only in Grosse Pointe Blank does John Cusack play a hitman who murders Dan Aykroyd with a television. All that violence, and it still managed to capture the sweetness of returning home, and reconnecting with the one that got away/the one you left on prom night. —Garrett Martin and Shannon Houston


18. Contact
Year: 1997
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Contact seems almost calculated as the sort of cerebral sci-fi to appeal to critics rather than multiplex audiences, who could be frustrated with its philosophical, open-ended conclusion about “first contact” that questions whether any of what Jodie Foster’s character experienced really happened at all. Still, Contact is a beautiful film about the struggle between the tangible and the ephemeral, between faith, intellect and ambition. Ellie (Foster) is innately sympathetic, a woman with a selfless streak who nonetheless on some level seeks a very personal validation in being chosen as humanity’s representative to meet an alien race. The film challenges us to consider the depth of our inconsequential standing in the universe, and how different aspects of humanity, both beautiful and hideous, would present themselves after the revelation of a “higher power.” Add to this an impressive cast that includes Foster, John Hurt, James Woods, William Fichtner, Rob Lowe, Tom Skerritt, David Morse and Matthew McConaughey (years before the current McConaissance), and you can overlook the presence of Jake Busey in one of the best examples of “hard sci-fi” in the 1990s. —Jim Vorel


17. The Commitments
Year: 1991
Director: Alan Parker
One of the more dramatic movies on this list, The Commitments might’ve single-handedly created the working classic Irish musician genre. It’s hard to watch Sing Street or Once (whose star, Glen Hansard, also appears in The Commitments) without thinking back to this movie about a blue-eyed soul band in Dublin and their struggles to stay together despite community indifference and regular in-fighting. It’s one of the more dramatic films on this list, but there’s also tremendous humor here, and an uncommon degree of warmth and humanity.—Garrett Martin


16. Little Dieter Needs to Fly
Year: 1998
Director: Werner Herzog 
The story of former fighter pilot Dieter Dengler, told in his own words, is one that, while pretty unbelievable, best illustrates the mastery manipulation of the man helping tell it. Werner Herzog makes no apologies for the way he so often bends truth to more snugly serve the grandeur he finds in the subjects he chooses for his documentaries—but he’s never been interested in unadulterated truth anyway. Instead, he’s in the documentary game for the exultation of truth, conveying it in such a way as to focus on the overpowering emotions at its core. And so, in Little Dieter Needs to Fly, Herzog takes Dengler back to Southeast Asia, where, in the early days of the Vietnam War, he was shot down and taken prisoner, tortured and starved—but then, somewhere within him, found the will to escape. Dengler leads us step by step through this harrowing experience, accompanied by locals who Herzog hired to help Dengler “reenact” the events, and in a sense help him remember. That Herzog later went on to make a narrative feature based on Dengler’s story isn’t at all surprising—Rescue Dawn, starring Christian Bale in the lead role, walks a fine line between harsh reality and patriotic melodrama. Because, as Herzog told Paste more than eight years ago: “Rescue Dawn is not a war movie. It’s a film about the test and trial of men … And survival.” It doesn’t necessarily matter how Dengler escaped, but that he was able to at all. Whatever you want to call it, it was that titular “need” that propelled him onward—and that’s the truth Herzog wants to discover. —Dom Sinacola


15. Sliding Doors
Year: 1998
Director: Peter Howitt
An inventive charmer from England, Sliding Doors grafts the rom-com treatment onto the philosophical notion of the “butterfly effect,” which asserts that the smallest incidents can have a profound impact on one’s life. In the case of the film, this defining moment is a young woman’s s attempt to catch a train. From here, her life splinters into two parallel realities—one in which she catches the train and discovers her boyfriend’s infidelity and one in which she misses her ride and remains oblivious to his indiscretions. While much of the film’s energy goes into servicing this complex gimmick, it’s the sharp writing and charming performances from the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow, John Hannah and John Lynch that keeps this from merely feeling like a needless exercise in story structure. —Mark Rozeman


14. Paris is Burning
Year: 1991
Director: Jennie Livingston
Madonna’s “voguing” phase has nothing on—that is, took everything from—the drag scene of 1980s New York City chronicled in this vibrant doc. Delving into the subculture of fierce, catwalk-styled posing and the clubs in which it thrived, Jennie Livingston depicts the less-than-glamorous realities of life as a drag queen before RuPaul was mainstream: issues of gender and sexual identity, race, bigotry and hate, HIV/AIDS, poverty, crime—theft is a commonplace means by which these would-be “Legends&#8221 seek a desired end: transformation. Named after one of the underground balls in which its subjects find a sense of family—in “houses,” no less—Paris is Burning is a joyous affair, and a curiously meta celebration of what it means “to be real.” —Amanda Schurr


13. What About Bob
Year: 1991
Director: Frank Oz
Despite a great co-directorial debut with 1990’s Quick Change and memorable cameos in movies like Little Shops of Horrors, Bill Murray’s career took a critical dive after 1984’s Ghostbusters. He didn’t even take a major role between 1984 and 1988. So when What About Bob? came out in 1991, critics had long been talking about the Murray slump, and there was legitimate reason to think his career was fading away. What About Bob? is no Groundhog Day (which, sadly, is no longer on Netflix), but Murray’s fantastic as the phobia-riddled patient of a pompous psychiatrist played by Richard Dreyfuss. (Dreyfuss is maybe too believable as an arrogant blowhard who barely tolerates his family.) It’s a classic Murray role but also an atypical one: Bob isn’t a sarcastic know-it-all, but a human puppy dog unaware of the drama and turmoil that follows in his wake.—Garrett Martin


12. The Blair Witch Project
Year: 1999
Directors: Eduardo Sánchez, Daniel Myrick
Where Scream reinvented a genre by pulling the shades back to reveal the inner workings of horror, The Blair Witch Project went the opposite route by crafting a new style of presentation and especially promotion. Sure, people had already been doing found footage, just look at The Last Broadcast a year earlier. But this was the first to get a wide, theatrical release, and distributor Artisan Entertainment masterfully capitalized on the lack of information available on the film to execute a mysterious online advertising campaign in the blossoming days of the Internet age. Otherwise reasonable human beings seriously went into The Blair Witch Project believing that what they were seeing might be real, and the grainy, home movie aesthetic capture an innate terror of reality and “real people” that had not been seen in the horror genre before. It was also proof positive that a well-executed micro-budget indie film could become a massive box office success. So in that sense, The Blair Witch Project reinvented two different genres at the same time. —Jim Vorel


11. Babe
Year: 1995
Director: Chris Noonan
Not since Wilber has a pig captured the hearts of moviegoers. But this Australian production with a screenplay co-written by Mad Max’s George Miller and director Chris Noonan actually made for a better movie than either of the adaptions of E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web. Babe was nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and took home the prize for Best Visual Effects thanks to the lifelike anthropomorphized farm animals who rally around the titular hero. The underrated sequel, Babe: Pig in the City, is also available on Netflix. —Josh Jackson


10. Jurassic Park
Year: 1993
Director: Steven Spielberg 
 Jurassic Park, in 1993, was an achievement in major league filmmaking. Like Star Wars before it, it was a quantum leap in visual effects—both physical and CGI, in this case. Most important, however, were those CGI advancements. Jurassic Park, for better or worse, probably represents the first moment in AAA Hollywood filmmaking where an audience could look at CGI-driven creatures, nod their heads, and simply accept them as part of the story—call it the moment where CGI graduated to the modern era. Married with one of the greatest pure adventure movies in Spielberg’s celebrated canon, Jurassic Park was representative of the spectacle we’ve come to expect in the traditional “blockbuster.” That loose term, since the days of Jaws, has always referred to a breed of films that are supposed to succeed by wowing us and making jaws drop. Jurassic Park did that in a way that infinitely raised expectations for every effects-driven blockbuster thereafter.—Jim Vorel


9. Following
Year: 1998
Director: Christopher Nolan 
Before Memento, before Inception, Christopher Nolan made his feature-length debut with this tight little mindscrew. An aspiring young novelist shadows and studies strangers, rather innocently, for inspiration until he gets sucked in by a charismatic man in a suit who turns out to be a petty thief. Wise to his being followed, the burglar takes his would-be stalker along his crime route, until bad things—and a hot blonde—happen. Nolan, who also penned the screenplay, shows his knack for non-linear narratives early on; he establishes the key players before doubling back through the story. The constraints of a no-budget production—the film was made for just 6 thousand bucks and shot in black and white on 16mm—work in its favor. Nolan’s first neo-noir is voyeuristic, suspenseful and, at a shade over an hour long, efficient as hell. Like its subjects, Following gets in and out before anyone knows quite what hit them. —Amanda Schurr


8. Shakespeare in Love
Year: 1998
Director: John Madden
Another film whose reputation has suffered somewhat since its initial reception, largely in this case as a result of an ill-considered Oscar and Gweneth Paltrow’s ill-considered management of her public spersona since then. No one is more annoyed with latter-day Goop than me, but even I can admit that Shakespeare in Love gets a bad rap. It’s delightful, especially for those with any experience in the theater whatsoever (the theater world itself is the romantic interest of the film, every bit as much as Gweneth’s Viola de Lesseps). And, it’s now safe to say out loud – Ben Affleck is fantastically charming in this film. If you haven’t seen it in awhile, you’ll be surprised at how much more you like it than you remembered. —Michael Dunaway


7. The Nightmare Before Christmas
Year: 1993
Director: Henry Selick
On simply a shot-by-shot basis, The Nightmare Before Christmas ranks as one of the most visually splendid films ever made. Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King of Halloweentown, becomes obsessed with Christmas and decides to hijack the holiday. Often presented under the title Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, the film echoes many of the hit director’s pet themes, with Jack being one of Burton’s many brooding artistic protagonists. The film’s actual director was Henry Selick, who oversees an ingenious design and a cast of endearing monsters. The film doesn’t quite have the narrative fuel and graceful song lyrics to match Disney’s best animated musicals, but every year the film looks better and better. —Curt Holman


6. Barton Fink
Year: 1991
Director: Joel Coen
While hung up with the intricate plotting of Miller’s Crossing, the Coen Brothers took a break to write a script about a blocked screenwriter (Jon Turturro). Reminiscent of Stanley Kubrick and David Lynch at their most darkly satiric, Barton Fink depicts a self-important New York playwright who struggles to write a Hollywood wrestling picture while residing in a rotting hotel. A jaundiced metaphor for the compromised creative process of show business, Barton Fink delivers the deadpan comedy and quirky performances of the Coen’s trademark, including Oscar nominee Michael Lerner as a bombastic studio chief, John Mahoney as a boozing, Faulkner-esque novelist, and John Goodman as a cheerful salesman with a dark secret. Audiences can obsess over the meaning of lines like Goodman’s “I’ll show you the life of the mind!” but any answers the film holds are unlikely to be reassuring. —Curt Holman


5. Braveheart
Year: 1995
Director: Mel Gibson 
Like any number of other artists, we should be able to separate the creator from the creation. Sure, what we might now know or think about Mel Gibson as a person might not be very nice but, wow, do few films say “epic” quite like this one? Sprawling, bloody, beautifully realized and rich with meaning, this film is everything we hope for from this type of film. —David J. Greenberg


4. The Iron Giant
Year: 1999
Director: Brad Bird
Brad Bird’s feature debut was traditional 2-D animation when computer animation was the craze, released by studio folk who didn’t realize just how special a film they had on their hands. Luckily, The Iron Giant received its due recognition on home video. Set in the 1950s and drawing off the nuclear fears of the time, it incorporates the hallmark of the era’s science-fiction—a giant metal robot—into a touching coming-of-age story. Bird effortlessly moves between riotous comedy (such as young Hogarth’s efforts to hide his enormous new robot friend from his mother), high-spun action and poignant moments of fear and friendship. —Jeremy Mathews


3. Good Will Hunting
Year: 1997
Director: Gus Van Sant 
The story of a genius janitor capable of solving the world’s most difficult mathematical problems, Will is both exasperating and loveable as the Boston boy reluctant to live up to his true potential. Robbin Williams takes the oft-clichéd mentor paradigm and turns it into a wholly original character as Damon’s therapist Sean. But what’s special about this film is the way Gus Van Sant captures the existential angst and, ultimately, the frustrated striving of a brilliant boy form the wrong side of the tracks. Matt Damon and Ben Afleck star in their own breakthrough roles as best friends closer than even blood brothers. Though the movie touches on heart-wrenching topics like childhood abuse and heartbreak, the sarcastic humor and witty banter are just as memorable. Effortlessly charming and never overwrought. —Amy Libby


2. Glengarry Glen Ross
Year: 1992
Director: James Foley
Surely somewhere on the Internet there’s a catalog of all the potboiler plays that have been turned into lifeless movies; wherein the minimal settings came off as flat rather than intimate or claustrophobic, and the surgically written prose came off as stilted rather than impassioned. Glengarry Glen Ross is the exception and the justification for all noble stage-to-screen attempts since. This adaptation of David Mamet’s Pulitzer Prize winning play about workingman’s inhumanity to workingman still crackles today, and its best lines (and there are many) have become ingrained in the angrier sections of our collective zeitgeist. James Foley directs the playwright’s signature cadence better than the man himself, and the all-star cast give performances they’ve each only hoped to match since. Mamet, for his part, managed to elevate his already stellar material with his screenplay, adding the film’s most iconic scene, the oft-quoted Blake speech brilliantly delivered by Alec Baldwin. This is a film worthy of a cup of coffee and, as we know, coffee is for closers only.—Bennett Webber


1. Schindler’s List
Year: 1993
Director: Steven Spielberg 
It’d be hard to find a more inspiring, moving story to tell than that of Oskar Schindler. And before seeing this film, I assumed that Steven Spielberg was exactly the wrong person to tell it. But all thanks be to the movie gods that I wasn’t a studio head in the ‘90s, because Spielberg produced what was simply one of the most ambitious, wise, and moving motion pictures of our lifetime. The acting is superb—a career-making role for big lumbering Liam Neeson, so carefree and cocky at the beginning, so and concerned and determined in the middle, and so noble and humble at the end of the film. Ralph Fiennes and Ben Kingsley are perfect in supporting roles. A host of unknowns give everything in their one moment on the screen. John Williams’s haunting score and Janusz Kaminski’s breathtaking black-and-white cinematography sparkle. But the script—oh, Steven Zaillian’s majestic script is the biggest star. He manages to take a Holocaust tale and turn it into a story of triumph, the story of how much one man can do, and the regret we’ll each someday have that we didn’t do much, much more. Oskar’s “I could have gotten more out” speech is almost too much to bear. —Michael Dunaway

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