At Cosmo, we’re kind of a broken record about this, but it’s true: the 1990s were an incredible decade for movies, from rom-coms to family-friendly films and Disney flicks to holiday-centric movies. Even when the premises are weird and nonsensical, they’re often original stories (or new takes on old classics) that became so popular they’re getting reboots as we speak. I mean: this is the decade that gave us Titanic and Romeo + Juliet and Toy Story!! Case closed.
If you grew up on these movies (moi!), some of these are going to be a walk down memory lane, and a few might be the fun (re)watching experience you need on a weeknight. If you’re new to some or all of these movies, I’m deeply proud to give you my (biased) ’90s movie watchlist. There’s soooo much to choose from. We’ve got the movies that made our childhoods (Matilda, Jumanji, Disney and early Pixar), the underrated classics we might have forgotten (Sliding Doors, A Goofy Movie), and the movies that changed movies forever (hi, The Matrix!).
So, here are the best ’90s movies you can watch right this second, either through your favorite streaming service or just by buying the damn thing so you can watch again and again. Also, this list is in no particular order—except for the fact that I really love Toy Story and Clueless, which is why they’re at the top. No regrets!
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It’s one of those deceptively simple ideas that a lot of movies try to emulate: what if all your toys came to life after you left the room? Pixar’s early greatness (and ability to make us cry) made a full cast of toy characters instantly lovable.
Raise your hand if you based most of your wardrobe on this movie (it’s me!!). Also: proof that Jane Austen is timeless, since a remake of Emma somehow makes the story even better when filtered through rich, selfish teens.
The world’s cinematic intro to Ben Affleck and Matt Damon is also a rlly, rlly great movie about the power of therapy (and proof of the dramatic greatness of Robin Williams). Also: a good Boston movie!
Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion
Who hasn’t wanted to go back to their high school reunion and claim they invented the Post-It? This is a cult classic because the answer is literally everyone.
It’s a three-hour movie about two hotties who fall in love before the Titanic sinks. If you didn’t grow up watching this movie 12 times in the theater, you really missed out on the viewing experience, but it’s still just as good when you stream it now.
Treasure hunters accidentally release a terrifying mummy (still scary despite rlly bad CGI!). Every single person in this cast is, like, the hottest person ever and this movie really made me feel…feelings, let me put it that way.
A woman catches a train home—or does she?? This film gives us both options simultaneously, and it’s a trippy “what if” tale about missed opportunities (and the coolest haircut on Gwyneth Paltrow of all time).
I just, like, really love Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks hate-flirting with each other, ok? If your re-re-rewatch of When Harry Met Sally just isn’t doing it for you anymore, try this equally amazing Nora Ephron classic.
10 Things I Hate About You
The ’90s were full of Shakespeare modernizations, and this one’s The Taming of the Shrew: high school edition. No notes, watch this as soon as you can (the cast alone is too talented for me to properly convey).
The Shawshank Redemption
This is an intense one (and watch out if graphic content’s not your thing), but you’ll be weeping at the power of epic persistence, intelligence, and friendship in truly horrific circumstances.
One of a few classic on-screen adaptations, It-girl Gwyneth Paltrow gives some sweetness to the (sometimes unlikeable) Jane Austen character Emma—always meddling in everyone’s business, and still getting her happy ending!
There’s a reason this premise is so enduring (literally, the miniseries The Best Man: The Final Chapters debuted in December 2022 on Peacock). A hot cast, complex characters, and a lot of drama (plus a VERY good soundtrack) make for an eternally fun time.
It’s pretty incredible that Steven Spielberg made this and Schindler’s List (coming up a bit later) in the same year. What’s even more incredible is that the dinos still look amazing and the plot! holds! up!!
It was mid-watch of this sexy, intrigue-heavy movie that I may have uttered out loud, “Wait, I didn’t know historical dramas could be good.” And it holds up, so take this opportunity to fall in love with young Cate Blanchett.
If you skipped this because “it’s just another gangster movie,” chances are all of your male friends know and love this movie deeply. As my husband likes to put it, “It’s a tragedy disguised as a male fantasy.” Which is cooler than you think it’s gonna be.
You maybe didn’t watch this when it came out, but the underrated movie is now a classic (and features some early, pre-Groot Vin Diesel voice work). Also, be ready to cry ~a lot~, just an FYI.
Because Julia Roberts wasn’t as well-known at the time, it was easy for an entire generation of people to fall in love with her in the span of a single movie. This is that movie, and (despite a slightly eyrerolly premise), it still gives us that experience.
The snarky, winky horror movie (which is on its sixth movie in the series) is also just downright terrifying when you watch it the first time. If horror’s your thing, turn off the lights and watch it alone. Trust me.
This is the movie that put a young J. Lo on the path to super-superstardom, and it was a moving tribute to the late Tejano music star (which was made after extensive conversations with her family) after her tragic passing.
I know this one sounds like another “too intense” watch, but stick with it. It’s a really fascinating look at toxic masculinity, consumerism, and mental illness; Also, it’s a satire and a puzzle movie, all in one!
A young woman dresses up as a boy to take her father’s place in the Imperial Army, then totally saves the day and kinda falls in love with her boss. Without really meaning to, this film ~spoke~ to queer kids like myself, you know?
Lol, and then on the other end of the spectrum you have this joyfully out-and-proud look at a gay couple pretending to be straight for their buttoned-up in-laws-to-be. It’s objectively ridiculous but it’ll pump joy straight into your eyeballs.
While You Were Sleeping
I’ve mentioned the strangeness of this movie’s premise before, but basically the reason Sandra Bullock is a star is because she can pull off “accidentally compulsive liar falls in love with her fake fiancé’s brother” without batting an eye.
Aliens, but make it a buddy cop movie at the same time (featuring a very tired-looking Tommy Lee Jones and a highly enthusiastic Will Smith). Still got it!!
A nuanced, sensitive story? Absolutely not, but it also features some of the best songs on this list and (as previously mentioned), yet another powerhouse performance from Robin Williams.
To anyone who ever doubts the power of Lindsay Lohan, I must direct you to these two roles and her flawless (flawless, I tell you!!) British accent.
Seen objectively, this is a real cheesy movie. But Renée Zellweger and Tom Cruise have some of the best chemistry he’s ever had with a costar (something that didn’t happen again until Jennifer Connolly in Top Gun: Maverick). So it’s still fun to watch.
Speaking of teen girls watching movies a thousand times in a row, Baz Luhrmann’s teen-ified drama between angsty hotties (Claire Danes and Leonardo DiCaprio) was and still is the movie of the ’90s. Second only to Titantic, obv.
The Nightmare Before Christmas
It’s a Halloween movie! It’s a Christmas movie! It’s…really dark and melancholy and surprisingly beautiful stop motion at the same time, thanks Tim Burton! If you always felt like this one was too weird for you, give it a shot.
Skip the sequel (sorry) and go straight to the first one. Ignore the fact that a lot of the film’s conflicts could be solved with a single phone call and just bask in the chaos of Will Smith and Martin Lawrence for two hours.
I mean…they’re still making MI movies, in large part because Tom Cruise absolutely sticks the landing in this original film. He’s not jumping out of planes yet, but he is hanging off the top of a train!
Aside from giggling at Mark Wahlberg’s enormous prosthetic you-know-what, this movie’s worth a watch because, through the lens of the porn industry, it’s an epic rise-and-fall story (pun not intended, lol).
I feel like this is the best rom-com where the two leads don’t actually meet until the very end of the movie? Prove me wrong! Also, I still love you, Meg and Tom.
How Stella Got Her Groove Back
Angela Bassett and Taye Diggs. End of sentence. Let this be your weeknight escapism *tonight*.
You probably know the classic-cheesy line “I’m just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her,” but the actual movie’s pretty amazing too!
If you’re feeling the holiday spirit (even if it’s July! We don’t judge!), throw on this Whitney Houston vehicle that gives her a lil love triangle with Denzel Washington and Courtney B. Vance.
Why would you wanna watch my husband’s favorite movie, you ask? Well, it’s one of the best heist movies of all time, for starters, and it has two of the best actors of all time trying to out-act each other. NBD!!
Did you know this was based on Pygmalion (and its original adaption My Fair Lady)? Which is another reason to love it, beyond Freddie Prinze Jr. and Paul Walker and the line, “Am I a f*cking bet??”
If you liked the latest adaptation, this is a much more ’90s version of the story (Winona! Claire! Susan! Kirsten!) but actually still pretty good. Maybe watch this one first, then Greta Gerwig’s version.
If you have no idea what this movie is, you’re in for a treat. A small-town band tries to hit it big, but honestly the plot is secondary to the very good love triangle that had teen girls wishing they were Liv Tyler.
The remake is fine! But if you’re over the age of 20, it just doesn’t compare to the original (which itself is inspired by Hamlet). Anything that’s got James Earl Jones AND Jonathan Taylor Thomas AND Jeremy Irons has my immediate vote.
Watch the latest Whitney Houston biopic then immediately head over to this cheesy romance movie that I still really love, because, Whitney and Kevin Costner have the best chemistry.
It didn’t necessarily perform at the box office, but this film’s been reclaimed as an ahead-of-its-time satire of the pageant world, helicopter parenting, and small town high schools all at the same time.
This was ~my~ Roald Dahl book growing up—he really does the “misunderstood child” thing rlly well, if you’re interested in the source material—and Mara Wilson is perfect as the precocious kiddo whose magical gifts are appreciated by exactly one person.
My Best Friend’s Wedding
This may take the cake for the weirdest, most subversive rom-com of the ’90s with a surprisingly non-cliche ending. Trust: you won’t know who to root for in this Julia Roberts, Cameron Diaz, and Dermot Mulroney love triangle.
This was a *wild* adaptation of the classic Peter Pan story, but I beg of you, please put it in and revel in how truly strange some of our fave ’90s movies really were.
Since Richard Gere and Julia Roberts had such great chemistry the first time around, producers figured—why not do it again? Spoiler alert: It totally worked.
If you like music, a coming-of-age movie, and a whole bunch of performances from actors who go on to be big stars, this is the one for you *tonight*. The movie originally bombed, but then fans eventually fell in love (for good reason!).
Not everyone watched this, and it’s kinda an underrated classic: Max Goof’s just a lovelorn teen getting into trouble, trying to impress his crush, and rolling his eyes at his literally goofy dad. Relatable to us all!!
Be ready to question everything about your life after you watch this trippy, unsettling look at a man whose whole life is just a TV show—without his knowledge. Like the Real Housewives…of Real Life.
A washed-up cast of a popular sci-fi TV show are confused as actual intergalactic saviors by real aliens. A really enjoyable movie-going experience, thank you Sigourney Weaver.
A great director (Steven Soderbergh), a great writer (Scott Frank), a great story (a criminal is trying to outsmart a U.S. Marshall, and then they fall for each other). Add wild chemistry between the two leads, and you can’t lose.
Ever wonder where the phrase “Bye Felicia!” originally came from? Wonder no more with this very funny film, which is way more than just its catchphrase. Stoner comedy shenanigans, yes pls.
This one is…dark, NGL, but it’s also a mystery suspense thriller that features Morgan Freeman’s voice and Brad Pitt’s face. Plus, if you’ve never seen it, prepare to suddenly realize the significance of a well-known cultural meme about five minutes from the end.
This objectively very silly movie is basically the same plot as the first Fast and the Furious, so if you like that film, you’ll like this too. Also if you think Patrick Swayze and Keanu Reeves are hot.
Tim Burton lends his dark, subversive take on the holidays to a superhero film that’s as cool as it is weird. But the real draw is Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman—why is the movie not all about her, again?
A real-time romance featuring two strangers with off-the-charts chemistry? Ish-spoiler alert, but not really: This is the first part of a trilogy about these two characters, because everyone wanted to know what happened to them after this adorable meetup.
The Silence of the Lambs
Fun fact, this is one of the few horror films I will actually watch, bc it’s amazing. It’s more thriller than horror, but if that’s not normally your vibe: Don’t watch this by yourself, lest you dream about Hannibal Lector for the next week.
This movie influenced just about every movie that came after it, no biggie. Also: It still has a lot of relevant stuff to say about technology!
If you by chance loved the Netflix series Wednesday (and a lot of you did), take yourself down memory lane and find out why all the ’90s girls loved Wednesday too. Christina Ricci, love you forever!
If you’ve not seen this, let me prep you now: Watch, be prepared to be kind of confused about whatever the hell is going on with the Dude, then spend the next month quoting the movie to everyone around you.
The Talented Mr. Ripley
Italy is gorgeous and the actors are gorgeous, and that helps a lot—because the story is about a budding sociopath (Matt Damon) who increasingly wants to take over the life of his new, rich, handsome friend (Jude Law).
It’s the coming-of-age story that set the stage for a bunch of best friend movies to come—and it’s the movie that’ll make you gather your three+ BFFs together for (yet another) sleepover.
If you’re only familiar with The Rock’s version of this movie, figure out why we love the original adaptation so damn much. Hint, and I know I’m repeating myself: Robin Williams.
The buddy comedy-road trip-crime drama is doing a lot, but because of Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis, it’s a platonic love story that is just as powerful as any romance. “Let’s not get caught.” (weeps)
It’s a must-watch if you haven’t yet (although I get it if you need to be in the right mood to put it on). It’s an intense, worthwhile experience—less OTT than you think, at first. Then it really, really goes there in the most unexpected and poignant ways.
Come for the twisty murder-for-hire plot, stay for the subtly adorable romance between a brilliant pregnant cop and her artist husband (Frances McDormand and John Carroll Lynch).
Who knew that a movie satirizing conversion camps could be…funny?? It’s a very ’90s understanding of sexual orientation, sure, but Natasha Lyonne, Clea Duvall, and RuPaul (YAY) are doing so much. It wasn’t a hit at the time, but critics (and audiences) are way more into it now.
If you like slice-of-life films, this one inspired basically all of them: Writer and director John Singleton drew from his own life and drops us right into the story of Tre, Doughboy, and Ricky in South Central L.A.
Four Weddings and a Funeral
British acting legends, plus Andie MacDowell, are family, friends, and maybe-lovers to each other over the course of several big life events. It’s considered one of the best British films of all time, NBD, so add it to the queue now.
Hello, the movie that scared me the most as a kid (second only to Hocus Pocus)! Anjelicia Huston, just before the Addams Family movie the following year, shows why she was the ’90s horror goddess by portraying one of Roald Dahl’s scariest characters to absolute perfection.
A very hot, fictional Shakespeare has writer’s block, and finds inspo in an equally hot noblewoman. Throw historical accuracy out the window and just embrace the hotness!
A romance turned ghost story turned back into a weepy romance at the very last second (kind of spoiler alert but it’s in the title)! Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore had so much chemistry they even made pottery look sexy.
Also known as the moment when every teenage girl had a crush on Devon Sawa, this tale of a sweet lil ghost who becomes BFFs with Christina Ricci is still pretty cute. Maybe ignore some of the older CGI effects!
It’s considered dated, but this absolutely ~star-studded~ cast is nailing it in a super-emotional tale of multiple generations of Chinese women who trade stories over Mahjong. Tissues will be used to wipe up your many tears.
“I see dead people.” The movie that launched a bunch of M. Night Shyamalan twist movies still holds up as one of those “you never saw it coming but it totally makes sense” mysteries. No spoilers!!
Terminator 2: Judgment Day
A cool cyborg movie starring: Linda Hamilton’s arms, Arnold’s sunglasses, and that terrifying terminator that turns into liquid metal (Robert Patrick, who’s just as scary when you watch the movie now!!).
The Muppet Christmas Carol
I defy anyone to tell me this isn’t in the top three best Muppet movies (maybe top two, I regret nothing). Michael Kane is acting against a *frog* and somehow makes you believe every single second of the classic Dickens tale.
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These Are the *Best* ’90s Movies, Including a Few You Haven’t Watched
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