Let’s be honest – we’ve collectively tried our best to forget a lot of things about the 1990s. The questionable fashion choices speak for themselves, and before the internet stole our attention, many millions of dollars were improbably spent amassing such oddities as Beanie Babies and Troll Dolls.
But a few relics of the 1990s have been unjustly collecting layers of dust, and these 10 movies are among them. We think it’s high time that these forgotten gems receive a piece of the spotlight, along with the respect they richly deserve. Thanks to an abundance of streaming options, added to advances in the home video market, they’re easier than ever to rediscover for yourself. So take a walk down memory lane with these 10 products of the 1990s which prove that the decade wasn’t completely cringeworthy.
10. The Limey (1999) – Steven Soderbergh
When a retired “professional” – whether it’s an assassin, a cop, or some other kind of ultra-cool character – comes out of retirement to pursue a personal vendetta, it usually makes for a good movie. The Limey is one of the better entries in that film tradition, with Terence Stamp filling the shoes of the anti-hero with calm but unstoppable determination. The quiet authority of Stamp’s voice alone could carry the role, and his vast acting experience makes him the perfect choice for Soderbergh’s film.
He plays a former criminal from England whose daughter dies in Los Angeles under mysterious circumstances. The ex-con travels to America to find answers, but when the L.A. crime scene violently interrupts his search for clues, Stamp shifts into full revenge mode. With cool precision on both sides of the camera, The Limey tells its story with maximum impact.
9. Great Expectations (1998) – Alfonso Cuarón
This 1990s adaptation of the classic novel Great Expectations transplants the perennially beloved story from Victorian England to the lush green landscapes of modern Florida. Cuarón’s entire film is bathed in a beautiful green color palette, which makes it a real pleasure to watch. This timeless tale of frustrated love flourishes in its modern setting with the aid of wonderful performances by Gwyneth Paltrow, Ethan Hawke, Anne Bancroft, and Robert De Niro; the always underrated Hank Azaria and Chris Cooper are no less impressive in their supporting roles in this star-studded cast.
Great Expectations is about the cycle of unrequited love, passed from one generation to another. Bancroft plays a bitter recluse who was deserted by her fiancé in her youth, and who teaches her niece how to gain the affections of men before breaking their hearts in return. Enter Finn, played by Hawke, who falls for the girl and spends the rest of his life paying for it. Finn’s journey to become a successful artist while pursuing his elusive crush is at the heart of this excellent adaptation.
8. The Indian Runner (1991) – Sean Penn
Over the years, Sean Penn has proved his talents in front of the camera, but fewer people are familiar with his work behind the camera. Penn’s directorial career began in 1991 with The Indian Runner, an exceptional film about two brothers and the family dynamics that play out between them. Viggo Mortensen and David Morse are perfectly cast as the siblings, with Charles Bronson, Patricia Arquette, and Dennis Hopper among the supporting cast members.
Penn took his inspiration for this story from Bruce Springsteen’s song “Highway Patrolman.” Mortensen and Morse play brothers with contrasting personalities – one is a criminal and the other a small-town deputy. When fate causes their paths to cross after several years, the character of each is tested by the presence of the other. Family loyalty collides with personal principles, and neither of their lives will be the same afterward.
7. Nell (1994) – Michael Apted
Before Liam Neeson was busy playing wise mentors and vengeful fathers, he was paying his dues in the shoes of ordinary, vulnerable citizens like the rest of us. Alongside his soon-to-be (and now, tragically, his late) wife Natasha Richardson, Neeson delivers a heartfelt and emotional performance; watching the two of them together in the same film is a genuine pleasure.
Jodie Foster turns in an unforgettable performance in one of her most unexpected roles – a young woman who has lived in remote isolation in the North Carolina mountains with her mother. Growing up with little to no contact with the outside world, Nell has developed her own language and possesses few social skills. After the girl’s mother dies, a local doctor and a caring psychologist take over her care, and try to prepare her for life in a society she doesn’t understand. It’s a moving, well-made film by Michael Apted.
6. Mr. and Mrs. Bridge (1990) – James Ivory
Though a couple of films by James Ivory (namely The Remains of the Day and Howard’s End) are almost universally famous, his catalogue runs much deeper for those willing to explore it. Each Ivory movie oozes class, with the technical restraint and polish of the upper class that he frequently profiled. Mr. and Mrs. Bridge is one of the very best of these lesser known works, and with a cast to die for (Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward), it simply can’t be missed by film fans.
Real-life partners Newman and Woodward play a couple living in 1930s Missouri, and the film is a wonderful study of the subtle dynamics of an average family. Mr. and Mrs. Bridge maintain a successful marriage despite hints of growing emotional strain, while their children push the boundaries set by their more conservative parents. As with many James Ivory films, this story is simple, but loaded with keen insight into human nature; it’s also remarkably beautiful to watch, and deserves a spot on your to-see list.