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WatchMojo's 100 Decade-Defining Movie Moments of the 1990s

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Movie-wise, the ‘90s were—wait for it—like a box of chocolates. Audiences kept stuffing their faces year after year. But what was really in the box?

A lot of variety, actually. Remember, in the ‘90s, moviegoers much more frequently left home to watch, and rent, movies, and this greatly contributed to discovering new films. Cinephiles, movie buffs and dating couples roamed the aisles of Blockbuster and stocked up on flicks based solely on word of mouth.


The early ‘90s also gave birth to a new wave of independent filmmaking and concepts that would slowly creep into broader pop culture. A filmmaker like Quentin Tarantino pushed the boundaries of cinema, merging classic horror with a patented new brand of action comedy. And David Fincher blew minds with his provocative psychological thrillers. With the rise of the Internet and great technological advancement, a new era of innovative filmmaking began, but it took a little time for ‘90s cinema to look itself in the mirror and get its business together.

In this pre-Internet world, the cheesiest of moments made for easy laughs. Many films of the early ‘90s in particular thrived on questionable visuals and formulaic storytelling. But hey, it worked. In romantic comedies, characters spoke less about foreign threats and more about why their lives sucked; they spoke about the drama of their day-to-day existence. And this led to plenty of bedroom and street sequences in mainstream flicks, with characters overcoming conflict by way of old-school communication. They looked each other in the eye (often awkwardly). They cried on the phone, not looking at it. They went for walks in the park. And they tried to connect the dots of a world they just couldn’t quite piece together.

For any Big Apple romcom, the Twin Towers of New York City served as a perfectly acceptable backdrop as a couple of quirky leads navigated Manhattan, unafraid of looming threats. With no clear monolithic baddie of mainstream cinema, producers could get a little crazy with their antagonists. Could it be aliens? Well, yeah. And with the massive blockbusters of the mid ‘90s, Hollywood gave consumers a common enemy, one they could root against while still being able to sleep well at night.

At the beginning of the decade, horror seemed to be dying, like the cop in Basket Case 3: The Progeny whose face gets bitten off by a deformed Siamese twin named Belial. Not the most… realistic scenario. Horror didn’t deeply, resonantly horrify. And political thrillers were just that: thrillers. In other words, it took a lot to keep somebody awake at night sweating over a mainstream movie image that shook them to their very core, at least in the first half of the decade.

With our selective list of 100 Decade-Defining Movie Moments of the ‘90s, we explore the whole panoply of trends throughout the decade. There will be explosions, natch.There will be indie stoners and dinosaurs and some artsy weirdness and maybe even some villains that rock better style than the heroes. Characters will poetically speak of the future, but may sound just a little bit dumb, too. There will be dick jokes and hilarious bathroom scenes. Why? Well, because the first rule of cinema club is that dick jokes and hilarious bathroom scenes are timeless. (Second rule of cinema club? DICK JOKES AND BATHROOM SCENES ARE TIMELESS.) But there will also be heavy melodrama and early Internet fails.

Because movies!

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