The One Thing All '90s Movies Have In Common

The films of the ‘90s are a mixed bag in so many ways. The decade that brought audiences Jack and Rose's waterlogged final date in Titanic is the same one that sent an adult Billy Madison back to kindergarten to earn his family business. Good Will Hunting ’s South Boston coming-of-age happened the very same year that Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith suited up to keep the aliens in line in the first Men In Black. It was a period of creativity, weirdness, and newly minted superstars doing their thing. As a result, the ‘90s movie catalog is about as varied as any era’s. Still, there is one thing that all ‘90s movies have in common, across the board. Every competent movie from that decade has an incredible opening credits sequence.

The opening credits scene is the first impression a movie makes on the audience, and, in the ‘90s, filmmakers across genres did not waste that opportunity. There’s no formula for a truly great opening sequence; the best ones are specific to the movie that follows and instantly set a tone. Some of these 12 opening credits sequences deliver important information; some ride the wave of a killer song. But all of them plunge the audience into the universe of the film, which means that they’re doing their job right.

1. Clueless

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"So, OK, you're probably goin'...is this like a Noxema commercial or what?" The timeless teen comedy Clueless introduces its main ensemble's enviable lifestyle with some MTV-style camerawork and a low-fi cover of "Kids In America." Still perfect.

2. Speed

The opening sequence isn't online, but I hope that the dramatic and driving main title music will remind you of the thriller's first scene. Before there was a bus, there was an elevator. You know the rest.

3. Fargo

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The introduction to this Coen Brothers classic establishes the remoteness of the setting, a key story point in Officer Marge Gunderson's craziest case ever.

4. The Player

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There's something so satisfying about a flawlessly executed tracking shot. This one puts the audience right at home in the surface-deep studio meetings of The Player's Hollywood.

5. Clerks

The low-budget slacker movie to define all slacker movies opens with a relatable struggle: the one to get out of bed and in to work. And with any luck, doing both of those things while resembling anything close to a functional human.

6. Ace Ventura: Pet Detective

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I am so serious, I used to have all of this choreography memorized. Jim Carrey's brilliant physical comedy made him a household name. He needs nothing more than a cardboard box to send me into weeping laughter.

7. Reservoir Dogs

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Was there any question a Quentin Tarantino joint would make it onto this list? The effortlessly cool credits sequence of his heist masterpiece Reservoir Dogs has been the subject of many a parody and homage. That's how iconic it is.

8. Austin Powers: International Man Of Mystery

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With a lead character this specific and odd, it's absolutely necessary that the audience falls in love with him immediately. That happens over Quincy Jones' swingin' "Soul Bossa Nova," as a mugging Austin Powers leads a candy-colored dance number.

9. Mrs. Doubtfire

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Robin Williams lets loose as only he could at the start of Mrs. Doubtfire. He's a hero to any kid who grew up watching this movie, because he always felt like one of us.

10. The Lion King

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I mean, is there an opening note in the Disney canon more legendary than the beginning of "The Circle Of Life"? The whole animal kingdom gathers to pay tribute to the new prince in these credits, and every time, it feels like my heart is going to burst.

11. Beauty & The Beast

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I couldn't hold myself to one Disney opening, not when the '90s represented such a golden age for animated musicals. The prologue to the Beast's current torment is told through a series of stained glass windows, demonstrating the sophistication and elegance of Beauty & The Beast.

12. The Wedding Singer

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Where else could The Wedding Singer begin besides showing the titular character in action? The '80s come roaring back as Adam Sandler serenades an event hall as Robbie Hart. And I'm not ashamed to say that his cover is my preferred version of this song.

13. Bad Boys

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Will Smith and Martin Lawrence ruled the box office as rogue partners in this franchise. They get an early victory over some thugs in this hazy and Miami-humid sequence from the first movie, which features film's greatest use of a milkshake as a weapon.

The '90s set the bar for unforgettable opening credits scenes, and it's a legacy that deserves to be celebrated.

Image: Warner Bros. Pictures