TV & Movies

15 Nostalgic ’90s Movies To Watch On Netflix Right Now

Because remakes and sequels just aren’t the same.

by Bustle Editors
Originally Published: 
Warner Bros.

Though the mid-20th century is often formally recognized as the “golden age” of cinema, anyone born between the years of 1980 and 1995 knows that really, it was the ’90s that gave us the best movies to watch on Netflix and that defined entire childhoods. From movies like Clueless to Matilda, these titles just got what it meant to grow up before the year 2000. In recent years, new movies have capitalized on our collective cultural nostalgia for the ’90s, like the 2019 film Men in Black: International and the 2020 reboot of The Craft. Some classic ’90s movies have even been rebooted for TV, like 2021’s I Know What You Did Last Summer.

While all these remakes and sequels are certainly entertaining, nothing can really replace the original films. Whether the appeal of those movies lies in their distinctly ’90s camp tone or their associations with our childhood is unknown. Maybe it was just that delicious feeling of watching a movie that we knew was just a little too adult for us that made us love the decade’s films that much more. Whatever the case, we’ve got you covered with the best nostalgic ’90s films now available to stream on Netflix:

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1. Big Daddy (1999)

Adam Sandler starred alongside Cole and Dylan Sprouse in Big Daddy.Ronald Siemoneit/Sygma/Getty Images

Adam Sandler stars in this heartwarming, though at times cringe, comedy about a man child Sonny who tries to prove he’s responsible by adopting a young boy named Julian who appears on his doorstep, supposedly his roommate’s biological child. At first a ruse, Sonny and Julian end up forging a strong bond. ‘90s kids will also recognize Julian as future twin stars Dylan and Cole Sprouse in one of their first on-screen roles.

2. Gattaca (1997)

You might have watched this in your high school science class to explain genetics, but this film about eugenics and genetic discrimination is as relevant today as it was when it released in 1997. Ethan Hawke, Uma Thurman and Jude Law star in Gattaca, a futuristic film following Hawke’s character who is born naturally instead of prioritizing “genetic selection,” the process of parents selecting dominant high-performing genes for their children.

3. Girl, Interrupted (1999)

The IMDb page for Girl, Interrupted is a calling card for some of today’s biggest female stars including Elisabeth Moss, Clea DuVall, Jared Leto, and of course, Angelina Jolie. Jolie and lead actress Winona Ryder were lauded for their performances in this emotional adaptation of author Susanna Kaysen’s memoir about women in a 1967 psychiatric hospital that delves into female friendships and mental illness. Come for the transportative female-centric narrative and stay for Jolie’s Oscar-winning performance.

4. The Next Karate Kid (1994)

Hilary Swank learned how to “wax on, wax off” for a new generation in The Next Karate Kid. Picking up where Ralph Macchio left off, Swank (as Julie) joins forces with everyone’s favorite bonsai florist, Mr. Miyagi (played by Noriyuki “Pat” Morita). The duo clash at the beginning of their relationship, but with Miyagi’s help, Julie is able to confront her demons in and outside the dojo. The Next Karate Kid didn’t fare too well at the box office or with some critics, but now two-time Oscar winner Swank’s first-ever film performance is significant.

5. Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998)

A love triangle spanning decades, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (translation: “Something Happens”) is the easiest introduction into Bollywood. The film is one of the most popular Hindi movies ever, and follows best friends Rahul (Shah Rukh Khan) and Anjali (Kajol) through college where Rahul is the campus womanizer and Anjali is the school’s tomboy. After Anjali realizes her feelings for Rahul aren’t reciprocated, she flees. Years later, the two are reunited by Rahul’s daughter (also named Anjali) and have to face what’s been under the surface of their friendship. Featuring classic songs, iconic choreography, and performances that will make you cry, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai is a must-see ’90s Bollywood primer.

6. Dumb and Dumber (1994)

Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels ride a bike in a scene from the ‘90s cult-classic Dumb & Dumber.Archive Photos/Moviepix/Getty Images

The first film of a burgeoning franchise, Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels star as two bumbling and, well, dumb friends who set out on a cross-country trip from Rhode Island to Colorado to return a briefcase full of money without realizing the money was left for ransom. The film has garnered a cult following in the years since, spawning both a sequel and a prequel, and is still a reliable source of laughs all these years later.

7. Se7en (1995)

David Fincher’s breakout feature film is a psychological crime thriller starring Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Kevin Spacey. Pitt and Freeman are detectives who are investigating a serial killer whose criminal hallmark is a seven deadly sins motif. It became a cult-classic and set off a wildly successful directorial career for Fincher, and fans are still talking about what’s in the box.

8. Space Jam (1996)

At the peak of his powers, Michael Jordan became an animated version of himself. In Space Jam, the basketball superstar joins forces with the characters from Looney Tunes, helping them learn the game before a face-off with visiting aliens that are threatening to enslave them. While reviews were mixed at the time, the film became a smash hit with a cult-like following that has spawned endless merchandising, inspired Halloween costumes, and resulted in a 2021 ill-advised sequel starring LeBron James.

9. The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)

This psychological thriller is based on a 1955 novel, and was an instant classic upon its release. Starring Matt Damon, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, Cate Blanchett, and Philip Seymour Hoffman — a murderer’s row of talent — the film follows Tom Ripley (Damon), a pianist who assumes another man’s identity and travels to Italy to befriend the son of a rich shipping magnate, Dickie (Law). As Ripley and Dickie get closer, Ripley becomes obsessed, with disastrous results. It’s an intense film with incredible performances from its star-studded cast. Everyone is young and hot — especially Jude Law in a slew of perfect beachside linen shirts.

10. A River Runs Through It (1992)

Brad Pitt stars in this Robert Redford-directed period drama about two opposite brothers as they grow up and come of age in the years between World War I, the Great Depression, as well as part of the Prohibition era. The coming of age drama won the Academy Award for Best Cinematography and Pitt’s performance was praised as a “career-making” performance. Come for a young Brad Pitt but stay for the tear-jerking family drama.

11. Men In Black (1997)

Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones in the smash hit Men In BlackColumbia Pictures

Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones star in this sci-fi/action film about secret agents in an organization called Men In Black who keep track of extraterrestrial life on Earth and aim to shield their existence from humans. Known and nominated for its art direction, score, and makeup, the film kicked off a franchise with three more sequels (including one in 2021 starring Tessa Thompson and Chris Hemsworth) and an animated series that ran from 1997-2001.

12. Natural Born Killers (1994)

Originally based on a story by Quentin Tarantino which was then revised by director Oliver Stone and other collaborators, Natural Born Killers follows a serial killing couple (Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis) who accidentally become media darlings after Robert Downey Jr.’s Wayne Gale convinces them to air a live interview after the Super Bowl. It was hailed at the time of its release and the premise has only become more relevant in an age of rampant social media.

13. Menace II Society (1993)

Set in Los Angeles, this Black teen drama follows the lives of Tyrin Turner’s Caine and his friends as they grow up in a rough neighborhood and deal with everyday struggles. The film was lauded for its portrayals of urban violence, with reviews calling it “bleak, brilliant, and unsparing.” It also features breakout performances from Turner, Jada Pinkett-Smith, and Larenz Tate.

14. Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

In the ‘90s, erotic thrillers ruled. Eyes Wide Shut, directed by Stanley Kubrick and starring then-couple Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise, follows a medical doctor who goes on an all-night adventure (including to a masked orgy) after he finds out his wife had an affair. At the height of his career, it was an unusual role for Cruise who had cultivated a mostly affable persona in the mid-90s. Eyes Wide Shut is a provocative film that was also Kubrick’s last, and is one of the few remnants of the Kidman-Cruise Hollywood marriage that ended just a few years after the film’s release.

15. Dil Se (1998)

Shah Rukh Khan (SRK) is one of the biggest movie stars in the world, but his reign as the King of Bollywood is synonymous with the ’90s, which is why his films occupy two spots on this list. A romance film with a twist, 1998’s Dil Se (translation: “From the Heart”) is set against the backdrop of separatist movements and violence in the Indian state of Assam. SRK stars opposite Manisha Koirala as star-crossed and ideologically opposite lovers. The film is riveting and tragic, and features one of the all-time great Bollywood music sequences in Chaiyya Chaiyya, where SRK dances atop a moving train singing along to the A.R. Rahman classic.

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