Sure, you have probably caught a few of these on cable and perhaps you still have your VHS copy of them somewhere, but when is the last time you actually watched it? Furthermore, when is the last time you discussed it with your friends or it was mentioned on your favorite podcast?
We have taken the time to dig deep, deep into our cinematic memory vault to look back ‘90s movies whose popularity just barely surpassed the decade. There were plenty to choose from, but we have it narrowed down to just 11.
Whenever you have played the “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” game, you might not have thought to cite Tremors when connecting the Footloose star to another actor, considering he is the most easily recognizable name in the film - excluding Reba McEntire, perhaps. Furthermore, this creature feature, about a small Nevada town plagued by giant, man-eating, worm-like under-dwellers, was not a huge hit at the box office, but pleased enough home video viewers to earn five straight-to-video sequels, all of which are currently available on Netflix, and even a short-lived series on Syfy. Even with all of this, Tremors, a fun throwback to '50s B-movies, just does not have the following it used to, but its moments of genuine horror and intentional laughter would make for a a great movie night.
Defending Your Life (1991)
From the clever mind of writer, director, and star Albert Brooks comes this existential courtroom comedy, billed as “the first true story about what happens after you die,” in which the recently deceased Daniel Miller's (Brooks) case to prove he is ready to pass onto the afterlife becomes a more pressing matter when he falls in love with Julia (Meryl Streep), a strong candidate for making it out of Judgment City. Nowadays, people probably know Brooks best for his Oscar-nominated role in 1987's Broadcast News, his sinister Golden Globe-nominated role in Drive, and voicing Marlin in Finding Nemo. Yet, fans of those films really owe it to themselves to see Defending Your Life, one of his most original creations and darkly funny and thought-provoking gem the whole family will love.
My Cousin Vinny (1992)
With his Oscar-winning role in Goodfellas, Oscar-nominated role in The Irishman, and times Martin Scorsese made him out to be a tough guy, Joe Pesci's comedic talent has gone far overlooked, unless you count his performances in the Home Alone and Lethal Weapon franchises. However, I believe that his all-time funniest role is also one that does not get the attention it deserves today: the title role of My Cousin Vinny, in which he plays an inexperienced Brooklyn attorney who comes to rural Alabama to defend his cousin (Ralph Macchio) and his friend (Stan Whitfield) who are wrongly accused of murder, clashing with the locals over his unusual methods in the process. If Pesci's gut-busting conflict with Fred Gwynne as the local judge is not enough to get you to revisit this long ignored masterpiece, how about Maris Tomei, who won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role as Vinny’s motormouth fiancée Mona Lisa Vito?
Robin Hood: Men In Tights (1993)
Everything I learned about Robin Hood, I learned from Mel Brooks. While Brooks is still praised today for The Producers, Young Frankenstein, and Blazing Saddles, Robin Hood: Men in Tights, is one of his least celebrated directorial achievements these days, which I believe is a shame because Robin Hood: Men In Tights (co-written by Brooks, Evan Chandler and J. David Shapiro) may be the last of the comedy legend’s great streak of parodies, especially with Cary Elwes’ (mostly) earnest portrayal of the heroic archer juxtaposed brilliantly with the wall-to-wall crazy sight gags and cartoonish absurdity. It is also a treat to see young Dave Chappelle as Ahchoo. Bless you.
The Ref (1994)
I will reward the highest of props to anyone who includes this much overlooked comedy crime thriller that was released in March as part of their annual holiday movie tradition. The title of The Ref refers to cat burglar Gus (Denis Leary), who, after taking a married couple (Judy Davis and Kevin Spacey) hostage in their own home on Christmas Eve, must play as moderator to their relentless nagging. Its substitution of joyful spirits with bitter cynicism may be why you never, ever see it on any network's annual Christmas movie marathons, but National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation is just as disastrous, if not more, so why is that movie still praised as classic and not this?
True Lies (1994)
After he redefined the action movie with Terminator 2: Judgment Day and before he struck Oscar and box office gold with Titanic, director James Cameron reunited with Arnold Schwarzenegger American remake of a French comedy about a hard boiled spy who finds his secret life begins to affect his relationship with unsuspecting wife (Jamie Lee Curtis). True Lies has it all: clever family hijinks, heartwarming romance, and endless, explosive action that will undoubtedly satisfy the action junkie in you. Despite all of this, if you exclude his debut (Piranha II: The Spawning), True Lies get so little attention these days, it is easy to forget that he made it.
Harmony Korine has a reputation as a creator of some of the most bizarre, controversial, or downright unwatchable films of modern day, thanks to films like Spring Breakers, The Beach Bum, or Trash Humpers (yeah, that’s real and it’s exactly what it sounds like, but weirder). Films like these have distracted audiences from remembering that the filmmaker has a talent for capturing raw, authentic, and potentially upsetting material in his work, such as his screenwriting debut, Kids, which follows an ensemble cast of teens (including then newcomer Rosario Dawson) over the course of one day of sex, drugs, drinking, and other debauchery in New York. Perhaps the film's unapologetically dark depiction of the harsh realities facing America’s youth in the mid-‘90s has propelled people to choose to forget this otherwise critically acclaimed drama that you can't even find in Walmart's $5 bin.
The Fifth Element (1997)
Maybe you feel you have seen enough of French “auteur” Luc Besson’s overkill of mindmelting, over-stylized action with shortage of good storytelling in films like Lucy, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, and, most recently, Anna. And maybe that's fair, but what is not is fair is that those more underwhelmingly cheesy films have caused people to forget about the gloriously cheesy The Fifth Element, starring Bruce Willis as a cab driver tasked with protecting a woman (Milla Jovovich) who is the only hope of saving humanity. This 1997 sci-fi masterpiece is pure cinematic insanity in the best way possible, with a brilliantly inventive vision of the future that makes it the peak of Besson's visionary spectacle.
The Saw and Hostel franchise may have turned mechanical torture traps into a staple of the horror genre for a time, but the credit for that trend should really go to this cult horror favorite, which presents the method in a more inventive way, fusing B-movie gore with high-concept science fiction. Cube, about six strangers who wake up to find themselves trapped inside the titular maze in which whatever direction they go could lead them closer to salvation or instant death, is one of those horror gems blessed with a unique story that also turns out to be its curse, having barely surpassed half a million dollars at the box office. Furthermore, not a single recognizable person makes up its small cast, but that makes the ordinary people in an extreme situation element all the more intense.
Small Soldiers (1998)
While the endearing tale of playthings coming to life made Toy Story a massive, award-winning hit, those who felt it was too lighthearted for them found their solution in this film from Gremlins director Joe Dante about action figures accidentally upgraded with an AI meant for military defense, sparking a war between the Gorgonites and the Commando Elite in the middle of one troubled teen’s neighborhood. Featuring the voices of Frank Langella and Tommy Lee Jones, Small Soldiers is the kind of action movie you can proudly introduce your kids do, and I recommend that you please do. With a less-than-stellar critical reception and box office returns that could barely be considered modest, this movie could use a new generation of fans before it drifts away into obscurity.
Drop Dead Gorgeous (1999)
When was the first time you discovered Amy Adams: her magical portrayal in Enchanted, her guest spot on The Office, or even in Psycho Beach Party? I bet it wasn't in her feature film debut, Drop Dead Gorgeous: a much forgotten mystery thriller/mockumentary in which contestants of a local beauty pageant are plagued by one competitor who who will go as far as murder to earn the tiara. The hilarious performances by Allison Janney, Denise Richards, and Kirsten Dunst in this comic caper alone will have your designer dress in stitches, if you can find any site that even streams it.
What do you think? Does our list of overlooked ‘90s classics reignite your nostalgia from some deep cuts? If not, tell us what your favorite under-appreciated ‘90s gem and be sure to check back for more nostalgic news here on CinemaBlend.