From 1990 to 1999, the film industry produced some of the most beloved and memorable movies ever made. Through literary adaptations of famous novels, reimaginings of works of classic playwrights, dramatizations of actual events, and more, filmmakers crafted pieces of art that have embedded themselves in the public consciousness even over twenty years later.
Though it can be difficult to definitively rank the best movies of the 1990s, the site Ranker has compiled votes from users who have stated their opinions. If viewers are interested in exploring the best the decade had to offer, these are fantastic options to start with.
10 Tombstone (1993)
The story of Tombstone revolves around the events leading up to, during, and soon after the infamous gunfight at the O.K. Corral on October 26, 1881. the film focuses mainly on Wyatt Earp in his quest to bring down the notorious gang known as the Cowboys.
There are plenty of reasons why viewers can consider Tombstone the best Western of the ’90s, including the exquisite attention to detail in regard to the environment of the Old West. With fantastic performances from Kurt Russell as Wyatt Earp and Val Kilmer as Doc Holliday, this film is reminiscent of the best parts of classic Westerns.
9 Home Alone (1990)
Now a staple of the holiday movie subgenre, Home Alone is about a young boy named Kevin who is accidentally left behind while his family embarks on a trip abroad. When Kevin overhears burglars discussing how they are going to rob his house, he sets out to defend his home through a series of traps.
This iconic film introduced many viewers to Macaulay Culkin, making him a huge star in the process, despite only being ten years old at the time of the film’s release. With the antics in the film still entertaining audiences thirty years later, it is clear that Home Alone will continue to be one of the most beloved holiday movies ever made.
8 The Lion King (1994)
Directly inspired by William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, The Lion King centers on the character of Simba, a young lion whose father is murdered by Simba’s uncle. The cub then runs away to live in exile as his uncle takes over as ruler, later growing up and having to decide to either stay where he is or challenge Scar.
The movie stands tall among other animated features because of the incredible visuals and vocal performances, most famously from James Earl Jones as Mufasa. Along with these aspects, the film also has a great soundtrack. One of the Disney animated movies with the best rewatch value, The Lion King is a classic that never gets old.
7 Se7en (1995)
Se7en is a film following two detectives, played by Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt, as they attempt to track down a killer who follows a pattern related to the seven deadly sins. As the film progresses, the detectives grow closer, although they initially did not care much for each other.
The engrossing film goes in unexpected directions, culminating in disturbing and jaw-dropping ways. The ending is still among one of the most iconic in the thriller genre, and the rest of the film leading up to that point does not let up in the horrors presented to the audience.
6 The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
Featuring a wide array of emotions, all of which are beautifully presented, The Shawshank Redemption is sometimes considered the best drama film of the 1990s, and many even refer to it as the best film ever made. The movie centers on the character of Andy Dufresne, who is incarcerated after he is falsely convicted of murdering his wife and the man with whom she was having an affair.
The film then follows him in the prison system, where he befriends Ellis Boyd “Red” Redding and finds hope to get him through his time. Though many aspects of the film are purposely upsetting, others are uplifting, displaying some of the determination the characters have and the value of solace in one another.
5 Apollo 13 (1995)
Apollo 13 follows the famed titular mission undertaken by astronauts Jim Lovell, Jack Swigert, and Fred Haise. While on their way to the Moon, an explosion aboard the spacecraft causes the mission to instead become one of survival, in which NASA and the astronauts attempt to bring the craft back to Earth safely.
The performances of Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon, and Bill Paxton as the astronauts are especially impressive considering the tight quarters with which they have to work, which further adds to the feeling of the characters being trapped. Along with this, the film uses tension to excellent effect, making the audience feel as if they are watching the actual situation unfold.
4 Toy Story (1995)
Toy Story was the first Pixar film to be released, and it immediately showed the world that the company would be a force to be reckoned with. The movie is about toys belonging to a boy named Andy, and it more specifically focuses on the character of Woody, who is voiced excellently by Tom Hanks.
With themes revolving around friendship, jealousy, and purpose, Toy Story is an excellent film that was also ahead of its time when it came to computer animation. Though the visuals are certainly not perfect compared to today’s standards, the film showed the potential that the medium had and inspired many 3D animated films to come.
3 The Green Mile (1999)
The Green Mile is a film that follows the character of Paul Edgecomb as an officer for a prison’s death row. When John Coffey arrives, Paul and other officers begin to witness him performing acts of healing. It becomes clear that John is innocent of the horrible crimes of which he has been convicted, and he displays various acts of kindness to those around him.
Tom Hanks is excellent in his role as Paul, but the performance of Michael Clarke Duncan as John has been lauded extensively since the film’s release. Incredibly heartbreaking but also full of heart, The Green Mile is sure to emotionally impact those who watch it on every viewing.
2 Saving Private Ryan (1998)
Taking place in 1944 and featuring one of the most brutal and recognizable recreations of a World War II battle ever put to film, Saving Private Ryan is certainly one of Steven Spielberg’s best historical epics. The movie follows a group of soldiers as they try to track down Private James Ryan, who is the last surviving brother of his family and is to be sent home.
Though the characters themselves are fictional, the film does not hold back in its depiction of actual events that took place, offering a horrifying glimpse at some of the costs of war. Exceptional performances by the cast help to elevate the movie and put it among the greatest war films ever made.
1 Forrest Gump (1994)
Forrest Gump follows the titular character as he navigates his way through life, finding himself at various historical events, meeting famous figures, and showing kindness to everyone he comes across. Like many other fantastic movies of the 1990s, Forrest Gump also features Tom Hanks in the starring role.
Hanks provides a wonderful presence to the character, contributing to him being so beloved among fans of the film. The story is excellently weaved together, showing all the positive effects Forrest has on those around him and recreating the time periods convincingly. The film has an incredible legacy that continues to live on and seemingly will never stop.
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