Ah, the 1990s, when Fruit by the Foot and Kudos ruled school lunches and sideburns showed up on the cheeks of 16-year-olds. Yes, there are some things about the final decade of the 20th century we can certainly do without. Movies, fortunately aren't one of them.
The 1990s were a wonderful decade for American film fans. Disney had its glorious renaissance. Science fiction envisioned the world around us as possibly unreal (Dark City, The Matrix). And comedians ruled the box office as stars like Jim Carrey and Adam Sandler became household names.
Meanwhile, filmmakers kept making films. Directors like Peter Jackson, Alexander Payne, and Christopher Nolan, among many others, all emerged from the decade. Some of their movies will be discussed below. Netflix carries a large selection of films from all decades, but we're focused squarely on the '90s today. Here are five great films from the Fun Dip decade everyone should see:
Raimi, who would go on to direct Spider-Man in 2002, always wanted to make a superhero movie. He tried to get the rights to Batman in the '80s but failed, so Darkman was his response. Conceptualized as Phantom of the Opera meets The Shadow, the story centers on a scientist who's horribly burned in a lab fire. The resulting surgery makes him impervious to pain and full of adrenaline, which lends immense strength. But he's also mentally unstable and becomes obsessed with seeing his love (McDormand) again. To do so, he continues his work creating a lifelike mask of his own face. But he also makes other masks and uses them to take revenge on the vicious mobster responsible for the fire. Darkman is a thrilling, often hilarious, action movie. Raimi fans will love the sense of humor and the actors all overplay it to the perfect degree. Neeson is a bundle of nervous energy and Drake is especially great as the villainous Robert Durant. [95 minutes]
At the height of the Texas hold 'em trend that saw young people flocking to poker tables everywhere and made the term "all in" a staple of conversations, Rounders emerged. Damon, coming off Good Will Hunting (and sporting a bad haircut), was perfectly cast as Mike McDermott, a brilliant law student who can't leave his life as a hustler behind thanks to the release of his best friend and old partner, Worm (Norton), from prison. Ever faithful to his best buddy, Mike loses his girlfriend, his law degree, and, very nearly, his life, trying to protect him. Rounders is one of those movies that's simply full of great scenes and characters. Norton is filthy and lovable as Worm, one of the great liars of modern cinema. And Malkovich sports a thick, amazing Russian accent as mobster Teddy KGB whom Mike faces off with in the film's grand finale. [120 minutes]
Heavenly Creatures (1994)
Before Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh partnered up for The Lord of the Rings, they made this tense, stunning drama about the real life Parker-Hulme murder case in their hometown New Zealand. Featuring the film debuts of Winslet and Lynskey, the movie depicts the lives of Pauline Parker and Juliet Hulme, teenage girls who become best friends. Their friendship becomes an obsession and the two imagine other worlds and write adventure stories together. Their intense relationship comes under fire thanks to sickness, allegations of homosexuality, and divorce. All these forces threaten to keep the girls apart and they react violently, concocting a plan to murder Julet's mother so they can be together. This film's ending isn't for the faint of heart, but it's a dreamy, otherworldly tale that's entirely unique as envisioned by Jackson. [99 minutes]
One of the greatest comedies of the decade, Election marks the arrival of Alexander Payne who's become one of the smartest and funniest writer/directors working today. He made Citizen Ruth before, but Election put his name on the map. Centering around a high school class president election, the film is told from the viewpoint of Mr. McAllister (Broderick) a beloved and naive teacher who rigs the election to keep an annoying go-getter named Tracy Flick (Witherspoon) from winning. His actions have hilarious repercussions and the incredible cast of characters are all greatly affected in different ways. Witherspoon is beautifully unlikable as Tracy, the perfect amalgamation of every brown-nosed teacher's pet you've ever known, and Klein is nearly as good as the school's beloved friendly dumb jock, who's in over his head at every turn. [102 minutes]
Walking and Talking (1996)
Featuring a very '90s soundtrack and fashion sense, Walking and Talking is the feature debut of Nicole Holofcener, whom you might not know, but definitely know her work (Enough Said, Friends with Money, Sex and the City, Parks and Recreation, many more...). Her signature style of easy conversation and real life problems centered around modern women took shape here. Walking and Talking is about two childhood best friends, now adults, who face a multitude of issues stemming from their love lives. When one of the friends gets engaged, the other panics and Holofcener presents scene after authentic scene to prove this fact. This is the movie that sprung Catherine Keener, one of the greatest actresses working today. It's a must see for Holofcener fans. [86 minutes]