10 Films That Defined The 90s, And We're Still Obsessed With Them
Here's some serious case of '90s nostalgia for you.
My Own Private Idaho (1991)
An arresting exploration of friendship, identity, and love, Gus Van Sant's "My Own Private Idaho" remains one of the most poignant films of the 90s.
River Phoenix and Keanu Reeves star as Mike and Scott, street hustlers who embark on a journey to find Mike's estranged mother. Phoenix's performance, in particular, stands out as he portrays a narcoleptic drifter, earning him a Volpi Cup for Best Actor at the Venice Film Festival.
It may be an indie art film, but "My Own Private Idaho" blends elements of Shakespeare's "Henry IV" with a contemporary narrative, creating something uniquely, unmistakably '90s.
The Blair Witch Project (1999)
The last year of the 90s saw a seismic shift in the realm of horror cinema.
A film that would inspire generations of filmmakers and send chills down the spines of countless viewers, "The Blair Witch Project," forever changed the very notion of a low-budget horror. Its unique found footage style was a first, an inventive, yet terrifying approach to storytelling, creating an authentic, palpable fear among audiences.
Seemingly an exploration into the Black Hills near Burkittsville, Maryland, the film documents a group of student filmmakers creating a documentary about the local legend of the Blair Witch, a supposed child-murdering specter. As they delve deeper into the forest, they are met with eerie occurrences that descend into pure terror. Impressively, on a budget of a mere $60,000, the film grossed nearly $249 million worldwide.
Capturing the grim, tumultuous landscape of 90s Edinburgh, "Trainspotting" delivers a visceral, uncompromising portrayal of heroin addiction. Directed by Danny Boyle, the film was met with acclaim on release, gaining an impressive 90% score on Rotten Tomatoes.
Based on Irvine Welsh's novel, the narrative follows the lives of a group of heroin-addicted friends and their desperate attempts to escape the dull reality of their existence. infamous "Choose Life" monologue, delivered by Ewan McGregor 's character, Mark Renton, has since become a defining moment in pop culture.
When it comes to indie film making, few have had an impact as profound as Kevin Smith's debut, "Clerks." Shot entirely in black and white, the film introduced us to Smith's "View Askewniverse," a shared universe centered on the fictional New Jersey town of Leonardo.
"Clerks" revolves around a day in the life of two store clerks, Dante and Randal, touching upon themes of love, life, and the existential dread of being stuck in a dead-end job. The dialogue is sharp, the characters relatable, and the humor is uniquely 90s.
The film, made for just over $27,000, went on to gross over $3 million, and established Smith as a force to reckon with in the independent cinema scene.
Breaking the Waves (1996)
Lars von Trier's emotionally intense film "Breaking the Waves" follows the life of Bess, a naive, deeply religious woman living in a Scottish village, whose world is shaken when her husband Jan becomes paralyzed after an offshore rig accident.
As Jan convinces Bess that her sexual relations with other men would heal him, the film delves into the depths of a woman's self-sacrificial love and her struggle with her beliefs.
Emily Watson's debut performance as Bess is remarkable and earned her an Oscar nomination.
Run Lola Run (1998)
In a sprint against time, "Run Lola Run," a German experimental thriller, proves that a simple premise can create an adrenaline-fueled cinematic experience. Lola, played brilliantly by Franka Potente, has 20 minutes to gather 100,000 Deutschmarks to save her boyfriend Manni from lethal gangsters.
What sets this film apart is its three different "runs," or attempts, each affected by slight variations leading to drastically different outcomes. This exploration of chance and the butterfly effect pushes the boundaries of traditional storytelling, turning a mere 20-minute timeline into a gripping 81-minute film.
The Big Lebowski (1998)
"The Dude" abides, and so do the fans of the Coen Brothers' masterpiece, "The Big Lebowski."
This genre-bending film effortlessly intertwines elements of crime, comedy, and drama, all underpinned by the laid-back attitude of Jeff Bridges' unforgettable character, Jeffrey "The Dude" Lebowski. This unusual narrative presents an intricate kidnapping plot, hilarious case of mistaken identity, and an unforgettable bowling rivalry.
"The Big Lebowski" didn't initially strike big at the box office, earning just over $46 million on a $15 million budget. However, over the years, it's gained a significant cult following, becoming a defining piece of 90s pop culture.
Before Sunrise (1995)
Have you ever met someone on a train, had an intriguing conversation, and then impulsively decided to spend a day exploring a picturesque city with that stranger? Well, that's precisely what happens in Richard Linklater's mesmerizing romantic drama, "Before Sunrise."
Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy beautifully portray Jesse and Celine, respectively, two wanderers who unexpectedly cross paths on a train to Vienna, engaging in profound discussions about life, love, and everything in between. What's striking about this film is the authenticity and depth of the dialogue, which Linklater meticulously crafted, making every sentence seem like an essential piece of the puzzle.
"Before Sunrise" barely made a splash at the box office, earning just over $5 million, but it subsequently gained a dedicated cult following and is now an intrinsic part of the "Before Trilogy," one of the most acclaimed series in cinematic history.
The Sweet Hereafter (1997)
A small town nestled in the heart of British Columbia experiences a tragedy that leaves a deep and lasting scar; that's the plot of Atom Egoyan's devastating masterpiece "The Sweet Hereafter."
A school bus accident claims the lives of numerous children, and the town, struggling to cope, is visited by a big-city lawyer who sees an opportunity to hold someone accountable. As he grapples with the town's grief and guilt, the audience witnesses the unraveling of various deeply hidden secrets that threaten to further shatter this close-knit community.
Ian Holm, as the lawyer, delivers a heart-wrenching performance, underlining the film's theme of communal tragedy and personal loss. With a strong Rotten Tomatoes rating of 98%, "The Sweet Hereafter" is an underrated gem of the 90s.
Chungking Express (1994)
A whirlwind of neon lights, captivating characters, and an unforgettable soundtrack, Wong Kar-wai's "Chungking Express" is a unique experience that somehow combines the chaotic energy of Hong Kong with a yearning sense of isolation.
The film consists of two separate stories, both centered on lovesick police officers struggling to deal with their respective heartbreaks. The first narrative focuses on Officer 223, who's been dumped by his girlfriend, and the mysterious woman he encounters in the labyrinthine Chungking Mansions.
The second narrative follows Officer 663, a man dealing with the aftermath of a breakup who finds comfort in the quirky antics of a woman working at the local snack bar.