The Dark Half (1993)
The 90s Movie: After years of writing under an assumed name, novelist Thad Beaumont (Timothy Hutton) lays his writing pseudonym, George Stark, to rest.
After Beaumont becomes framed for a series of murders there’s no chance he could’ve committed, he learns that his alter-ego has emerged from a fake grave and has every intention of ruining Thad’s life.
Filmed two years before it landed a theatrical release, the studio, Orion Pictures, suffered major financial difficulties. The subsequent marketing campaign did little to entice audiences.
Why It’s Worth A Watch: It’s one of the better Stephen King adaptations, and arguably George A. Romero’s most gripping genre work outside of the Dead canon.
Big Night (1996)
The 90s Movie: In 1950s New Jersey, two Italian brothers struggle to make ends meet at their Italian restaurant, Paradise.
The stern, fanatical chef Primo (Tony Shalhoub) and his wiser, manager brother Secundo (Stanley Tucci) prepare for a ‘big night’ when their competitor Pascal (Ian Holm) convinces crooner Tony Prima to visit Paradise for dinner.
Why It’s Worth A Watch: The big dinner scene. Edited specifically to make you salivate and defrost that lasagna you’ve had squirrelled away in the freezer for years.
The 90s Movie: Based on the Dean Koontz novel of the same name, Phantoms is a surprisingly scary adaptation of the horror maestro's work.
Sisters Jenny (Joanna Going) and Lisa (Rose McGowan) head to the ski resort town of Snowfield, Colorado only to find it deserted. That is, apart from Sheriff Hammond (Ben Affleck) and Deputy Wargle (Liev Schrieber), who are equally perplexed as to why everyone has suddenly died in the middle of the night....
Why It’s Worth A Watch: The sequence when the group investigate the town’s abandoned houses is creepy as hell. And of course, that's WAY before the twist...
The Day Trippers (1996)
The 90s Movie: Before Adventureland and Superbad , Greg Mottola helmed this indie pic. An amusing glimpse into the lives of The Malones, the family invite themselves along on a road trip when youngest daughter Eliza (Hope Davis) sets off to New York to confront her cheating scoundrel of a husband, Louis (Stanley Tucci).
Why It’s Worth A Watch: For Liev Schreiber’s performance as Eliza’s sister’s boyfriend, Carl Petrovic.
Starship Troopers (1997)
The 90s Movie: Paul Verhoeven’s military alien epic, Starship Troopers got an unfair rap by critics who focused on the schlocky tone and its apparent lack of irony. When really, Verhoeven deliberately hammed it up with over-the-top performances from Casper Van Dien, Dina Meyer and in particular Denise Richards.
Why It’s Worth A Watch: Giant mecha-aliens getting blown into tiny icky bits by tanks. Need we say more?
Very Bad Things (1998)
The 90s Movie: A gaggle of buddies head to Las Vegas for a sleazy weekend of drugs, drink and women. Which is all fine until Michael (Jeremy Piven) accidentally kills a prostitute, sending the group of men into histrionics of Beatlemania proportions.
The film’s hyper-violence was a turn off for some, and a point of discussion for many, which wound up alienating its potential audience.
Why It’s Worth A Watch: Christian Slater finally achieved a Nicholsonian level of craziness he was destined to reach.
Mighty Aphrodite (1995)
The 90s Movie: Schlubby sportswriter Lenny Weinrib tracks down his adopted son’s biological mother, Linda Ash, only to find she’s a porn star and hooker. In case his son ever seeks out his real mother, Lenny aims to help her make improvements in her life.
Sorvino went on to bag a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her hilarious turn as Ash which still wasn’t enough to satisfy the masses.
Why It’s Worth A Watch: Woody Allen’s smutty dialogue coming out of Mira Sorvino's mouth. Genius.
Cop Land (1997)
The 90s Movie: A blazing crew of Hollywood’s finest unite for this New York tale of police corruption. Kickstarted by a case of mistaken weaponry, the nephew (Michael Rapaport) of Lt. Donlan (Harvey Keitel) is instructed to go into hiding after a murder, the effects of which spiral out into the police community.
Why It’s Worth A Watch: James Mangold’s gritty cop flick has one of the most impressive casts assembled during the nineties.
The 90s Movie: John Dahl’s card shark drama was buried when it was released. It’s a shame because there’s a sharp gambling flick here waiting to get rediscovered.
Less flashy than 21 or Runner Runner , Dahl keeps it down low and gritty with Matt Damon as a law student with a gift for the game.
Why It’s Worth A Watch: Damon’s solid turn as youngster Mike McDermott keeps the status quo, but it’s Edward Norton as the cocksure Worm who steals every scene he’s in.
Albino Alligator (1997)
The 90s Movie: If you’re a fan of movies shot in one location, with the heightened drama of a close proximity situation, look no further than Albino Alligator.
Over the course of a night, three crooks take refuge in a local bar and nab themselves a bundle of hostages to keep themselves safe. Needless to say, there’s talking, and when people talk, sommat’s bound to go awry.
Why It’s Worth A Watch: It’s Kevin Spacey’s directorial debut.
Beautiful Girls (1996)
The 90s Movie: Willie Conway (Timothy Hutton) returns home to Knights Bridge in the midst of a dreary winter for his high school reunion. During the trip he catches up with his oldest friends as they all ponder life, love and turning thirty.
Why It’s Worth A Watch: The ensemble cast perfectly capture the confusion wrought by a late-twenties existential crisis. And, a 13-year-old Natalie Portman has a charming cameo.
The 90s Movie: Way before Matthew McConaughey established himself as an Academy calibre actor, he popped up in this little comedy gem from Ron Howard.
A lighter riff on the ideas explored in The Truman Show , a national TV network sends a camera crew to follow video store clerk Ed (McConaughey) for a new reality show. The difference here is that Ed knows his life is being broadcast to the world, and soaks up the instant fame that follows.
Why It’s Worth A Watch: It eerily predicted the current state of reality television. And of McConaughey’s reputation.
The 90s Movie: A serial killer is on the loose in San Francisco, copycatting the crimes of infamous killers in history, and he has his eyes set on serial killer psychologist Dr. Helen Hudson (Sigourney Weaver).
Cops, Monahan (Holly Hunter) and Goetz (Dermot Mulroney) are desperate for her expertise. The problem is, she’s now an anxiety-ridden agoraphobic after surviving an attempt on her life by murderer Daryll Lee Cullum (Harry Connick, Jr.).
Released one month after Seven hit cinemas, it was swallowed in the shadow of Fincher’s now-classic serial killer whodunnit.
Why It’s Worth A Watch: It’s a fun, at times terrifying piece of moviemaking, made all the more exceptional by the play-offs between Hunter and Weaver.
Blood And Wine (1996)
The 90s Movie: A Floridian noir tale of backstabbery, Blood And Wine reunited director Bob Rafelson and Jack Nicholson for one of the actor’s most nuanced performances.
Wine dealer Alex Gates (Nicholson) cases the houses of wealthy clients then ropes in Victor (a grizzled Michael Caine) to help with the robberies. It winds up going horribly wrong as his troubled relationship with his wife and stepson complicates matters.
Why It’s Worth A Watch: Nicholson and Caine’s exploits come across like two seasoned thesps having a blast.
The Funeral (1996)
The 90s Movie: Abel Ferrara’s New York gangster tale revolves around the funeral of one of the Tempio brothers, while the story flashes back to the travails of this notorious brood and their violent criminal stylings.
Why It’s Worth A Watch: In a cinematic era cluttered with mobster flicks, The Funeral had a lot of tricks up its sleeve. Johnny’s personal beliefs betrayed normal gangster stereotypes, and that ending! Well, you’d better see for yourself.
The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996)
The 90s Movie: A suburban schoolteacher (Geena Davis) uncovers her true identity eight years after being struck with amnesia. She’s a trained CIA assassin with goons on her tail. Teaming up with smart-mouth private investigator Mitch Hennessy (Samuel L. Jackson), she hits the road to unravel the mystery of her double life.
Why It’s Worth A Watch: Penned by one of the hottest screenwriters at the time, Shane Black, the script is frenetic and fast-paced with a glut of brilliant one-liners.
The Thirteenth Floor (1999)
The 90s Movie: A virtual reality noir whodunnit, Douglas Hall (Craig Bierko) finds himself the prime suspect in the murder of a VR system’s billionaire designer, Hannon Fuller. With the help of Fuller’s daughter he ventures into the simulation; a mock-up of 1937 Los Angeles, to find clues left by his deceased mentor.
It was released a month after The Matrix , and suffered at the box office due to their similar subject matter. Two “reality exposes” in the same genre was too much for audiences, who opted for the action-packed Wachowski offering.
Why It’s Worth A Watch: There’s a bunch of solid twists that’ll have you gobsmacked when they roll around.
Pump Up The Volume (1990)
The 90s Movie: Teenage loner, Mark Hunter (Christian Slater) secretly dishes out life-altering aphorisms to his fellow schoolmates under the guise of local radio legend, Hard Harry.
Why It’s Worth A Watch: This is Slater in his prime. A self-aware kid without the ego, Hard Harry’s efforts to raise awareness on major issues are the sort of thing that’d be buried under a pile of schmaltz if made today. True cinema gold.
The 90s Movie: Peter Weir’s plane crash drama cast Jeff Bridges in arguably his second strongest performance after The Big Lebowski. As a crash survivor, he immediately embarks on a spiritual journey of discovery - questioning his very soul sovereignty.
Why It’s Worth A Watch: It’s so understated because it opens on one of cinema’s most punishing plane crash sequences, responsible for swaying viewers into thinking this was a straightforward action flick. When it’s really a deeply unsettling human parable.
The 90s Movie: Before Doug Liman made a leading man of Matt Damon, he directed this quirky narrative jumble. Penned by John August, the lives of three supermarket clerks overlap and zig zag across the space of one night with dire, drug-fuelled consequences.
Why It’s Worth A Watch: The nineties brandished a lot of “Mobius strip” storytelling - narratives that backtrack and intersect - but never was it this much raucous fun.
The 90s Movie: A gritty, bleak, flick that never found an audience. Rush delves into the worst-case-scenario for two undercover narcotics cops Raynor (Jason Patric) and Cates (Jennifer Jason Leigh): shoot up or ship out.
Why It’s Worth A Watch: It officially cemented Jennifer Jason Leigh as one of her generation’s most understated method actresses.
The 90s Movie: Based on the works of New York novelist Paul Auster, Smoke ’s veritable cast of characters congregate in a Brooklyn tobacco store, where the travails of daily life are hashed out.
Why It’s Worth A Watch: This tapestry of intertwining stories is like many a New York hidden gem - an unexpected treat. In particular store owner Auggie (Harvey Keitel)'s daily ritual.
Red Rock West (1992)
The 90s Movie: John Dahl’s neo-noir set in Arizona united a top-of-their-game cast - Nicolas Cage, Dennis Hopper, JT Walsh, and Lara Flynn Boyle - for one of the twistiest backwater dalliances of the decade.
Despite a phenomenal reception at the Toronto International Film Festival, Columbia Tri-Star chose to release it on home video. It missed out on a much wider audience.
Why It’s Worth A Watch: Its central conceit is the perfect amalgam of everyman, conman and femme fatale. Except transplanted from slick city streets to the dusty plains of Arizona. And it’s all the better for it.
The 90s Movie: David Cronenberg’s 90s body horror starred Jennifer Jason Leigh as game designer Allegra Geller. The gaming system itself involves inserting bio-mechanical leads into users’ bio-ports, allowing them a fully-immersing virtual reality gaming experience. Needless to say, some pro-reality folks aren’t keen.
Similarly to The Thirteenth Floor , it was released a month after The Matrix . In the spring of 1999, cinemas were saturated with films nudging into the same arenas (what is reality? who is in charge? Int technology scary?) and sadly, eXistenZ fell to the wayside.
Why It’s Worth A Watch: For its endlessly quotable dialogue (“We seem to have some sort of reality bleed-through effect happening”) and how could we forget Jude Law’s bone gun. Ahem.
Alien 3 (1992)
The 90s Movie: The third instalment in the Alien franchise, Alien 3 suffered a lengthy pre-production before cameras rolled on Ripley’s next adventure. As the only woman on prison colony Fury 161, she battled not only misogynistic inmates, but a hungry xenomorph too!
The young David Fincher’s first stab at a studio flick was haunted with struggle from the off-set. That ruckus was held accountable for the darkest, most erratic Alien movie to date.
Why It’s Worth A Watch: The mythology of the xenomorphs expands (the Oxen deleted scene) and Weaver brings a fresh face to utter despair. Again.
Dark City (1998)
The 90s Movie: Set in a distant dystopia, John Murdoch (Rufus Sewell) wakes in a room with a corpse and no memory of how he wound up there. It could have something to do with those pale, Fedora-wearing chaps who only come out at night...
Director Alex Proyas constructed a world dripping in darkness, that morphed from sci-fi into a stylish and darned creepy horror. But only if you aren’t aware of the twists; which sadly were included on some of the poster art...
Why It’s Worth A Watch: It’s a dirtier, grittier version of The Matrix .
Swimming With Sharks (1994)
The 90s Movie: The cut-throat film industry at its cruellest, Swimming tells of a ruthless movie exec, Buddy Ackerman (Kevin Spacey) and his latest assistant, the bumbling Guy (Frank Whaley). He tears him a new one every chance he gets.
Its small-time indie sensibility (things ain’t gonna pan out how you expect) was likely a bit too hit and miss for some.
Why It’s Worth A Watch: Kevin Spacey’s performance is like a bitter Lester Burnham. His snipes might be heartless, but damn if he ain’t telling the cold, hard truth.
Jackie Brown (1997)
The 90s Movie: Quentin Tarantino’s Elmore Leonard crime adaptation rebooted Pam Grier’s career with a starring turn as moonlighting air stewardess, Jackie Brown.
When Jackie’s caught red-handed by the FBI smuggling cash for wannabe tough guy Ordell Robey (Samuel L. Jackson), the plot twists come thick and fast.
The follow up to 1994’s phenomenal Pulp Fiction , Brown had its work cut out for it before it began. Deemed overlong by some, its drawn-out last act alienated audiences keen for the peppiness of Pulp .
Why It’s Worth A Watch: When the narrative threads of the last hour pull together, watch Grier closely. Her subtle performance is nothing short of perfect.
Things To Do In Denver When Youre Dead (1995)
The 90s Movie: In the wake of Pulp Fiction , the nineties were awash with stylised quirky crime offerings. Things To Do In Denver... stepped away from that template. With Scott Rosenberg’s snappy script the impressive cast spun the movie into something unexpected. Funny, dark and with a brilliant cameo from Christopher Walken.
Why It’s Worth A Watch: Andy Garcia’s Jimmy The Saint elevates the flick above its B-movie status. Why? Because he’s so damn watchable.
Millers Crossing (1990)
The 90s Movie: The Coen Brothers’ slickly dark noir follows Tom Reagan, a mob enforcer caught in the politics between two rival gangs during the prohibition era. Double crossings, gunfights washed down with a lot of whiskey.
Sadly, the Coen’s gangster epic was victim to its clever niche at the time of release. Considered a box office failure, it lost out to bigger mobster flicks like Goodfellas and The Godfather Part III .
Why It’s Worth A Watch: Gabriel Byrne’s drunken antihero, Tom Reagan, delivers some of the Coens’ wittiest dialogue ever scribbled. One of the decade’s least likely action heroes.