10 Classic 90s Movies That Still Hold Up Today

The best 90s movies include classics like Pulp Fiction, Silence of the Lambs, and Forrest Gump.

By Rick Gonzales | Updated

90s movies

While the 1980s are routinely considered to be one of the best decades in music (it was also noted for some great films as well), the 1990s are no slouch when it comes to movies. The ‘90s were a decade filled with individual greats, amazing sequels, and franchise starters, many of which turned a great buck at the box office. What makes some of these ‘90s films such classics is that even 30 years later, many of them have aged quite well. Let’s take a look at 10 classic ‘90s movies that still hold up today.

Pulp Fiction (1994)

90s movies

Pulp Fiction was Quentin Tarantino’s second movie (following the 1992 Reservoir Dogs) and it immediately established him as a serious auteur of the crime film genre. Critics and audiences couldn’t get enough of the film as it also represented a rebirth of sorts for John Travolta’s acting career, which had taken plenty of hits prior to this film.

To say the film is unconventional in how the story unfolds is an understatement. Tarantino tells his tale out of sync, but it is very effective in the overall scheme of things. Along with Travolta, Tarantino has brought in Samuel L. Jackson (who would star in a number of his films), Bruce Willis, Uma Thurman, Harvey Keitel, Ving Rhames, Tim Roth, Amanda Plummer, and Christopher Walken, to name just a few of top-notch cast.

The film’s narrative, delivered in non-chronological order, is divided into seven sequences following three storylines that are somehow connected. The action is full-on Tarantino – bloody, violent, and sometimes shocking – and the dialogue can sometimes get long-winded (a Tarantino specialty). Pulp Fiction is one of the ‘90s movies that easily holds up today.

The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

90s movies

Who doesn’t like their ‘90s thrillers served up with some fava beans and a nice Chianti? That is exactly what you will get when you watch The Silence of the Lambs, a ‘90s movie classic made memorable by the performances of Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, and scene-stealing Ted Levine as the truly psychotic Buffalo Bill.

The story finds FBI trainee Clarice Starling (Foster) being brought in by her boss, Jack Crawford (Scott Glenn) to interview the infamous cannibalistic serial killer, Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Hopkins). She is there on the pretense of having him answer a psychological profile questionnaire, but in reality, the FBI is trying to get his insight on a new serial killer who calls himself Buffalo Bill, a man who kidnaps then kills young women, skinning them so he can use it for his own sick and twisted needs.

The film presents a fantastic relationship between Starling and Lecter, both impressed with the other. Lecter is a master manipulator, digging deep into the psyche of Clarice as she tries to mine whatever information from him as it pertains to catching Buffalo Bill.

The Silence of the Lambs is a masterpiece of tension and horror with a number of stellar performances by its A-list cast and has become a ‘90s movie that has aged wonderfully.

Forrest Gump (1994)

tom hanks forrest gump 2

Forrest Gump was released in the summer of 1994 and like its main character, it hit the ground running. Robert Zemeckis (Romancing the Stone, Back to the Future franchise) took Eric Roth’s script, which was based on Winston Groom’s 1986 novel of the same name, and turned it into box office gold. Of course, it didn’t hurt to have Tom Hanks play Forrest.

The film followed simple-minded Forrest Gump from his troubled childhood days (he wore leg braces to help correct a curved spine) up to his adult life and the many improbable, amazing situations he found himself in between. As a child, Forrest was smitten with Jenny (eventually played by Robin Wright) a young girl who always seemed to pop in and out of his life.

Forrest lived with his single mother, who ran a boarding house, that housed one very famous tenant – Elvis Presley – who just so happened to get his hip-shaking moves from Forrest. Zemeckis does a wonderful job moving through Forrest’s life, touching on specific incidents just long enough before he moves on to the next.

As Forrest goes from one adventure to the next, he meets Bubba (Mykelti Williamson) in the Army, where he also meets Lt. Dan (Gary Sinise), whose life will be intertwined with Forrest’s. Of course, Jenny shows up time and again with more “baggage” than one woman should be carrying.

Forrest Gump is a funny, adventurous, heart-warming, and heart-breaking ‘90s movie that remains relevant today.

The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

Frank Darabont (The Walking Dead) took one of horror meister Stephen King’s novellas (Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption) and turned it into one of the best ‘90s movies that still holds up today. The film, beginning in 1947, tells the story of banker Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) who is sent to Shawshank prison to serve two consecutive life sentences for the murders of his wife and her lover, although Andy professes his innocence.

Upon his arrival, he meets Red (Morgan Freeman), a man who will eventually play a large role in Andy’s life, such that it is in prison. Red is well-known for being able to bring in certain items of contraband. As the two begin their friendship, Andy has to fight off a group known as the Sisters, led by Bogs (Mark Rolston), whose only intention toward Andy is sexually related.

As time goes on, Andy asks Red if he can get him a rock hammer so he can create figures from the rocks he finds at the prison. Andy also uses his background in finance to help the crooked warden hide his money. It is all related to Andy finding a way to escape.

The Shawshank Redemption is a tale of survival under some of the worst conditions. Tim Robbins is great as Andy and Morgan Freeman does what Morgan Freeman does in all of his movies, he performs. Shawshank is definitely a ’90s movie that holds up.

Goodfellas (1990)

90s movie

Martin Scorsese’s gangster epic, Goodfellas, is a classic ‘90s movie that still holds up today. The story is based on the real life of mob associate Henry Hill and follows the rise and fall of him and his associates from the mid-1950s up through 1980. Ray Liotta delivers a great performance as Hill, along with Robert De Niro as James Conway, and a memorable Joe Pesci as Tommy DeVito.

As you can imagine, Goodfellas is filled with gratuitous mob violence. It also has its fair share of comedy as well as Joe Pesci delivers a stellar and unhinged performance. Lorraine Bracco is Karen Hill, Henry’s wife, and fits in neatly into the story.

As a classic ‘90s movie, Goodfellas still holds up today, but as a mobster film, with the cast it boasts, Goodfellas should stand the test of time.

Jurassic Park (1993)

dinosaur longest neck

If you were one of those sitting in the movie theater the very first time the Brontosaurus made its way across the big screen, you were undoubtedly in awe of what Steven Spielberg and his team of special effects wizards were able to create. Yes, there were many instances prior to the 1993 Jurassic Park where dinosaurs came to life (1976s King Kong, for one), but the effects always had that cheesy look to them. This was not the case with Spielberg’s dino flick, he had everyone believing that dinosaurs were real.

The film was based on the Michael Crichton 1990 bestseller of the same name and tells the story of billionaire John Hammond (Richard Attenborough), who has found a way to bring back extinct dinosaurs and put them in a “park” for the world to see. But before he can unleash the public onto his creation, he must bring in a group of professionals who can attest that the park is safe, appeasing his investors.

Sam Neill is Dr. Alan Grant, Laura Dern is Dr. Ellie Sattler, and Jeff Goldblum is Dr. Ian Malcolm, and they represent the team brought in at Hammond’s behest. Unfortunately for Hammond, their arrival and eventual inspection of the island park do not go according to plan. In fact, it doesn’t take long for things to go from bad to worse as the island’s security system gets sabotaged, putting everyone’s life, including Hammond’s grandkids, at risk.

Tension is high, the action is thrilling, and the dinosaurs run amok. It is a perfect blend that equals fun and one classic ‘90s movie that holds up well, even today.

Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

Arnold Schwarzenegger terminator reboot

Did you think he was joking when he said, “I’ll be back”? Arnold Schwarzenegger delivered that famous line in the 1984 blockbuster, The Terminator, and though it took him seven years, he made true to his word. Terminator 2: Judgement Day also saw the return of director James Cameron, who also co-wrote the script, as the two put together one of the most memorable films on record and a ’90s movie that truly holds up today.

This time around, Arnie is back as the T-800, but in a different capacity. Instead of being the hunter, he becomes the protector. Arnie’s Terminator has returned and this time, he is programmed to protect a young John Connor (Edward Furlong), who now has a bullseye on his back and is being hunted down by a new Terminator, the T-1000 (Robert Patrick).

This new-fangled terminator has many more tricks up its sleeve than Arnie’s version as it has the capability to morph into whatever it needs to so it can carry out its mission. It is a cyborg with no quit. Linda Hamilton also returns as Sarah Connor, who has been training to also protect her son by any means available.

While the original The Terminator was hailed as a sci-fi masterpiece, T2 is now considered to be the best in the franchise and one ‘90s movie that plays well today.

The Matrix (1999)

keanu reeves matrix

When the Wachowskis brought The Matrix to life, their intent was to push the boundaries of special effects as far as they possibly could. The result was an amazing science fiction winner, a ‘90s movie that holds up well today. Who knew it would be the start of a nearly $2 billion box office?

The original, thought to be the best of the bunch, introduces Keanu Reeves as Thomas Anderson, a computer programmer whose life is about to go sideways. Anderson is also a hacker in his spare time, using the moniker Neo.

As Neo continues his hacking pursuits, he is confused by constantly seeing the phrase “the Matrix.” His confusion is about to get worse when Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) arrives to inform him that his questions will be answered by Morpheus (Lawrence Fishburne) and that she will take him to this man. But agents arrive, led by Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving), and explain to Neo that they will wipe away his criminal record if he leads them to Morpheus.

What Neo finds out along the way is that humanity has been trapped inside something called the Matrix and the machines running it are using humans as their source of energy. There are some who are rebelling against the machines and Neo is the one who can help free humans from the Matrix.

The film is an amazing blend of science fiction and action, with mind-bending special effects. As a ‘90s movie, it is one that holds up today.

Home Alone (1990)

Macaulay Culkin

There is nothing fancy about this 1990 John Hughes/Chris Columbus Christmas comedy. No wild special effects, no long-winded dialogue, just good old fashion comedy that actually can be quite violent, but in a fun way. Macauley Culkin became a star after this film, playing young Kevin McCallister, who is inadvertently left at home alone during the Christmas holiday.

The McCallisters, led by mom Kate (Catherine O’Hara) and Peter (the late John Heard) are taking their family to Paris for the holidays. The night before, a crazy storm hits, knocking out all the electricity. When they wake in the morning, they realize that they are going to be late for their flight, so in a rush, they forget Kevin had been banished to the attic for acting up.

When Kevin wakes and goes downstairs, he realizes that his family left him alone and now he will have to fend for himself. Making matters worse for Kevin is the fact that the Wet Bandits, Harry (Joe Pesci) and Marv (Daniel Stern) are scouting the neighborhood for their next score. They just so happen to focus on the McCallister home, a mistake they will learn the hard way.

On the flight to Paris, Kate finally realizes that they left Kevin home alone, but they have to wait to get to Paris before they can do anything about it. As Kate starts to make her way back to her home, Kevin prepares himself to defend his home against the Wet Bandits. It is a painful lesson they learn when they have to take on Kevin and his numerous, hilarious, and dangerous booby traps.

Home Alone is a ‘90s classic that is on regular rotation during the holidays and one film that has aged quite well.

Titanic (1997)

90s movies

When James Cameron brought the tragedy of the Titanic sinking to life, he went further than many filmmakers would dare to go. He went deep beneath the ocean’s surface so he could personally film footage of the Titanic wreckage.  But to bring the Titanic tragedy to the surface, he needed to build a great story around it. He did.

Cameron built the tragedy around the love story of Rose Dewitt Bukater (Kate Winslet), a high-class young lady on the Titanic heading to New York with her future husband, Caledon Hockley (Billy Zane) and her mother, Ruth DeWitt Bukater (Frances Fisher) in tow. Rose is an unhappy young lady, not wanting to get married to Hockley and not caring for her mother’s direction, so she decides to end her life.

Enter Jack Dawson (Leonardo DiCaprio), who ends up saving her. Slowly, the two begin to fall for each other and Rose makes a decision. When the ship docks in New York, she is getting off with Jack and they are going to live an adventurous life. Unfortunately, an iceberg has other plans for the pair and the rest of the passengers on the ship.

James Cameron has crafted a story that is not only a ‘90s classic movie, but one that easily works even today. It is a story about love and loss centered around one of the greatest ocean tragedies.