Childhood was a simpler time when you thought summer would never end, slap bracelets would never go out of style, and Forrest Gump would always be a feel-good comedy. You were wrong about everything, of course — especially about Forrest Gump. On those rare occasions when you were allowed to watch a '90s movie for grown-ups — or, let's be real here, you smuggled one into a sleepover — you definitely did not have a firm grasp on what those '90s movies were about. Hey, even a few kids movies broke your brain a little. Through your child eyes, movies like Scream took on totally different meanings.
For better or worse, you are a grown up now, and looking back on the '90s movies with plots you misinterpreted can either be seen as innocence lost or general hilarity at your kid self's expense. Hey, everyone has been there. I honestly still need the occasional movie explained to me — what are you, Primer? — but the chances of you totally missing the point of a movie as epically as you did when you were a kid are slim. Bask in younger you's naïvety, and at just how far off base you were when it came to these 11 classic '90s movies, because no, Pretty Woman was not a conventional love story, as you have probably figured out by now.
1. Forrest Gump (1994)
What You Thought It Was About: A sweet, but mentally challenged man who was good at everything and dropped the best one-liners.
What It Was Actually About: The counterculture, the Vietnam War, the AIDS crisis, pain, death, and the perseverance of a man who lost everything he loved aside from his son. Basically, it was the story of America as seen through the innocent eyes of Forrest, and while it had funny moments, it was overall sad to the point of being maudlin at times.
2. Pretty Woman (1990)
What You Thought It Was About: Vivian, a beautiful, poor woman, who met the perfect guy by chance and ended up getting her fairy tale ending even though Richard Gere was afraid of heights.
What It Was Actually About: Vivian, a sex worker who is hired by a workaholic to be his companion for a week and who is then humiliated time and time again by his friends and/or random rich jerks. While Vivian does ultimately get her fairy tale ending, the road to how she gets there is not your conventional romcom fair.
3. Groundhog Day (1993)
What You Thought It Was About: This guy, Phil, who was always grumpy but also super funny, who kept reliving the same day over and over, doing increasingly silly things along the way.
What It Was Actually About: A jerk named Phil who became trapped in a time loop which he at first used as an excuse to indulge his id before succumbing to depression, suicide, and the futile nature of life. He is forced to continue reliving the day until he becomes a sincerely better human being.
4. Scream (1996)
What You Thought It Was About: Sidney triumphing over Ghostface!
What It Was Actually About: Deconstructing the horror genre by injecting it with self-aware teens who seemed to instinctually understand they were in a horror movie. Since Scream was probably the first horror movie you watched, you should not feel bad about not getting any of the subtext the first time around.
5. The Lion King (1994)
What You Thought It Was About: A young lion cub embracing his destiny and overthrowing his uncle. Also the circle of life.
What It Was Actually About: All of that stuff, but it was basically Hamlet with lions and catchier songs.
6. Pleasantville (1998)
What You Thought It Was About: A wacky sibling adventure into Leave It To Beaver land.
What It Was Actually About: The dangers of personal and political repression with lots of nods to the destructive nature of segregation and McCarthyism during the so called "perfect" '50s.
7. The Sixth Sense (1999)
What You Thought It Was About: A slightly creepy little boy who saw dead people, including Bruce Willis.
What It Was Actually About: The fear that you will leave behind unfinished business and the profound impact of death on those who are left behind. Also, how to craft a really, really good twist ending.
8. Edward Scissorhands (1990)
What You Thought It Was About: An unusual, but super sweet man with scissors for hands who gave cool haircuts and was definitely your first crush.
What It Was Actually About: The fear people experience when they encounter something they don't understand and the corruptive nature of the world at large. It's deep, guys.
9. Fried Green Tomatoes (1991)
What You Thought It Was About: Two best friends who went through everything together, plus Kathy Bates yelling "Towanda!"
What It Was Actually About: A love story between two women, with a strong message about the power of female friendships and ageism.
10. She's All That (1999)
What You Thought It Was About: A popular guy seeing an unpopular girl for the wonderful human being she was.
What It Was Actually About: The horrors of high school politics and attempting to remake My Fair Lady and by extension "Pygmalion" for a teenage audience.
Childhood truly did make everything simpler, even movies.
Images: Paramount Pictures; Giphy (10)