Nostalgia never gets old. A whole lot of the movies on this list are concerned with the past. "Pulp Fiction" is obsessed with the '70s. "Forrest Gump," "The Sandlot," "Goodfellas" and "That Thing You Do" all are nothing if not wistful about the '60s. And, well, "Sleepy Hollow," "Titanic" and "Shakespeare in Love" all look back more than 100 years. Now look at us, revisiting these '90s movies and getting nostalgic about the nostalgia. The never-ending cycle continues and grows ever more incepted.
Star Wars: Episode 1 — The Phantom Menace
This behind-the-scenes photo is from an unproduced “Star Wars” movie called “The Phantom Menace.” It was actually a prequel to the “Star Wars” trilogy we all know and love. They spent almost $120 million on the project, but the end result was so bad that George Lucas demanded it never see the light of day. The film’s release was canceled, and all prints were destroyed. All that remains are a few behind-the-scenes images, like this one, of characters who will forever remain mysterious to anyone who didn’t work on the film.
“Now, Uma, when we film this dance contest scene, can you take off your shoes?”
“After Ed Sullivan tells you to take it away, but before the Chuck Berry song plays, can you, uh, slip off your shoes and dance barefoot?”
“I think it’ll inform Mia’s character.”
“You promised me. When we did the scene at the house, you promised I wouldn’t have to do that in any other scenes.”
“Just this one other one, though. I really think it’ll inform Mia’s character.”
“Just, I really think it’ll make the dancing pop if we can see your feet.”
“Well, what about John?”
“Will he be barefoot too?”
“Ew, what? Ew, no.”
“Why would anyone want to see John’s feet?”
“Because it’ll make the dancing pop.”
“No, you don’t get it.”
“I’ll take off my shoes if John takes off his shoes too.”
“I don’t think seeing John’s feet will make the scene pop.”
“Explain to me why I should be barefoot in the dance contest but John shouldn’t be.”
“Uma, please just trust me about this.”
“If John wears shoes, I want to wear shoes.”
“OK, what if John takes off his shoes but not his socks? Then can I see your toes?”
“Oh, come on. OK, fine. Fine.”
These are the characters from “Hocus Pocus” who everybody remembers. Every October, when Halloween season is in full swing, we say to ourselves and each other, “I just can’t wait to watch on ‘Hocus Pocus,’ my favorite Halloween movie, so I can see a young Thora Birch, the tall kid, the girl in the sweater and the other kid. All my favorites.”
I haven’t seen “Edward Scissorhands” since the ‘90s, but here’s what I remember about it: Edward is a weird man-doll who lives in a castle that Vincent Price lived in before Vincent Price died. He died before he got to put hands on Edward’s body, so Edward has scissors for hands. Edward goes into the town and falls in love with Winona Ryder. But Winona Ryder has a boyfriend who is the dweeb from “The Breakfast Club.” But now he’s not a dweeb anymore, and he’s a bully. Also, Winona Ryder’s mom is Dianne Wiest and her dad is Alan Arkin. Then Winona’s boyfriend tries to beat up Edward, so Edward kills him. And the whole town tries to kill Edward, so he has to go back to the castle, even though Winona Ryder loves him now. And also there’s a horny cougar in the town who wants to f--k Edward.
The Green Mile
Here’s what I remember about the movie “The Green Miles.” It’s a movie based on a Stephen King novel, and it’s about a prison but it’s not “The Shawshank Redemption.” It takes place in the ‘20s or the ‘30s or the ‘40s. Or the ‘50s. Tom Hanks works in the prison. It hurts when Tom Hanks pees, so Michael Clarke Duncan touches him and spits out some flies and then Tom Hanks feels better. Courtney Stodden’s husband works with Tom Hanks, and he’s bad. He kills Mr. Noodle’s mouse, and some other bad stuff. They find out Michael Clarke Duncan didn’t do any murders, but they kill him anyway. And that’s “The Green Miles.”
Crazy to think the movie “Titanic” is more than 20 years old. I’ve never seen it though. But I’m going to tell you what I think it’s about, even though I’ve never seen it. OK, Leonardo DiCaprio is Jack, a poor American boy who dreams of taking a ride on the big cruise ship Titanic. Kate Winslet is Rose, a rich lady who’s taking a ride on Titanic with her boyfriend, Billy Zane, who’s bad. Jack meets Rose, and he takes her to the front of the ship and says, “Put your arms out like this.” So she puts her arms out like that, and they fall in love. Jack draws Rose naked, so Billy Zane tries to kill Jack. Then the Titanic hits the iceberg and sinks. Jack and Rose are in the water, and Jack tells Rose to float on the door so she won’t die. Jack dies. One-hundred years later, Rose is still alive and she throws the necklace in the ocean. No one knows what happened to Billy Zane.
“Fight Club” is a movie about guys who start a club for fighting. The club has rules. The first rule is you can’t talk about the club. The second rule is the same as the first rule. The third rule is you can’t wear a shirt. The club gets really popular, because men in the ‘90s are very angry even though life was easy back then, so they have to fight about it. Pretty soon, they start doing crimes. Then you find out Brad Pitt doesn’t really exist. Then 9/11 happens, and that’s how the movie ends.
“Forrest Gump” is a movie about a stupid idiot who loves someone who treats him like garbage, so it’s basically the most relatable movie ever made. Even though he’s stupid, he goes to college because he can play football. But then he has to go to Vietnam. His best friend in Vietnam dies. He does ping-pong, and then another friend from Vietnam becomes his friend again. The stupid idiot gets rich from shrimp. Then the girl he loves comes back and they finally bang after the stupid idiot was in the Friend Zone that whole time. But then she leaves again. Then she comes back again and she has a kid, and it’s the stupid idiot’s kid. Then the girl dies of AIDS, and that’s how the movie ends.
Here’s what happens in “The Matrix,” a movie I admit I saw only once, and that was when it was new 19 years ago. OK, so Neo Anderson is this computer geek who works in an office where everything’s green. Then Laurence Fishburne is a magical guy who shows up and tells Neo he’s living in a fake world and the real world is run by robots. Laurence Fishburne and his friends are against the robots, and Neo has to be their leader. So Laurence Fishburne takes Neo to the real world where he, Neo, learns how to do kung fu and bend spoons with his mind. Then the robots send a secret agent to kill Neo, so they fight. They jump around a lot in slow motion and shoot at each other with guns, but the bullets go in slow motion. There are a lot of cool special effects, but I totally forget how the movie ends. And I never saw the sequels.
“What’s the matter, Pennywise? You seem a little down in the dumps.”
“I’ve been depressed.”
“Why are you depressed, Pennywise?”
“Lately I’ve just been thinking, what’s the point?”
“Of me. Of what I do. Why am I here?”
“Well, you’re the physical and emotional manifestation of pure fear and evil in the universe. That’s pretty important.”
“Really? If it’s so important, why am I cursed only to terrorize children who live in a tiny town in f--king Maine? Like, literally who even cares?”
“Well, Pennywise, that’s for the Deadlights to know. It’s not our place to question the Deadlights.”
“I know, but that’s what’s so depressing. There’s no reason and no end to it.”
“Everyone has these feelings sometimes, Pennywise. All you can do is the best you can, within the limits of your circumstances. And, Pennywise, you always do that.”
“Sure you do. This town is scared out of its mind of you. Some people are so frightened that they literally go insane.”
“Maybe you’re right.”
“Hey, I know what’ll cheer you up. Why don't you hide in a storm drain and wait for some little brat to waddle by so you can rip his arms off and take a bath in his stupid blood?”
“Hey, yeah, I guess that could be fun.”
“See? You’re smiling again already.”
I haven’t watched “Jurassic Park” in at least 15 years. Here’s what happens in the movie as far as I remember. Santa Claus opens a theme park about dinosaurs and it has real dinosaurs. Dr. Alan Grant, Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum are scientists who get to see the park before it opens. But Newman accidentally turns off all the power in the park, so all the dinosaurs escape. The T. rex and the velociraptors eat a bunch of people. They want to eat everyone, but they don’t get to eat the heroes or the children. Then the heroes and the childrens fly away in a helicopter and Santa Claus is like, “Wow, that was a really bad idea.”
The Muppet Christmas Carol
"Statler and Waldorf were dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of their burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner. Michael Caine signed it: and Michael Caine's name was good upon ’Change, for anything he chose to put his hand to. Old Statler and Waldorf were as dead as a door-nail."
Oh, lord. I saw the “Sandlot” once with my family when it first came out on video. My memories of this movie are so vague. I’ll do my best here: OK, there’s a kid in the ‘60s who’s shy, and he loves Erector Set. He moves to a new town, and he starts playing baseball with other kids in the neighborhood. One of them’s fat and one of them’s a nerd and one of them’s latino. Sometimes they go to the public pool where there’s a sexy blonde lifeguard. The nerd fakes drowning so he can French the sexy lifeguard. There’s a giant dog in the neighborhood who terrorizes the baseball kids. I think the movie ends with a baseball game for high stakes against some bullies. And then, just before the credits, it probably says one of the kids later died in Vietnam, because they’d always pull that shit in movies from the ‘90s that are set in the ‘60s.
I’ve never seen “Sleepy Hollow.” I never read the book. I know very, very little about it. Ichabod Crane is a police officer in a creepy town called Sleepy Hollow in olde tyme New York. It’s either the 1800s or the 1700s. Everything is eerie and dark, and even in the daytime it’s all misty and eldritch and proto-Lovecraftian. Crane is on the hunt for the Headless Horseman. The Headless Horseman is a ghost who has no head and rides a horse. He kills people, I guess, and that makes the whole town scared. Helena Bonham Carter is in it, probably, and she plays Crane’s girlfriend. But she probably dies or almost dies or dies then comes back to life. Tim Burton directed it.
We need a word for a movie that you watch to completion whenever you find it playing on cable, even if its edited for TV, even if it’s already halfway over, even you if you own a copy on video. “Goodfellas” is definitely one of those movies. Do you know what’s cool about “Goodfellas”? Everything. Mafia guys are so cool. Except for, like, how they do all those crimes. And how they constantly backstab and murder each other. And house they treat women, which is appalling. And the way they talk, just toilet mouths all around. And how they just take whatever they want all the time and have no respect or regard for anyone else. Other than that, mafia guys are the coolest, and “Goodfellas” proves it.
If you want to make money forever, make a successful movie for children. Generations of kids will discover and rediscover and love it forever and ever, even if – and this is the important part – even if it’s a complete f--king turd of a film. “Hook” is maybe the perfect example of this. It is an absolute piece of s--t. Even Steven Spielberg says it sucks, and he directed it. Yet every millennial thinks "Hook" is “Citizen Kane.” Because when you’re a kid, you’re an idiot with no taste, so you like everything. And then, after you grow up, it’s too painful to admit that your childhood favorites are actually worthless trash. Now we live in a world of delusional people in their 20s and 30s who insist that “Hook” is a good movie. Appalling.
The Parent Trap
I never saw 1998's "The Parent Trap" because I was already a teenager when it came out, and it was a movie for children. So there's that. I saw the original when I was a kid, but all I remember is the basic premise: Identical twin sisters (played by the same actress) switch places to get their divorced parents back together. Or something like that. Anyway, I choose to live in a fantasy world where this is the only movie Lindsay Lohan ever made before she quit show business, had a stable upbringing, and became a schoolteacher or something.
Do you remember the Spice Girls? They were a pop band in the late ‘90s. They got so popular that they were allowed to make their own movie called “Spicy World.” Not long after that, they suddenly disappeared, just like every pop band is destined to, to make room for newer pop bands. But I still remember them. I remember their fun nicknames. There was Mel B., whose nickname was Crazy Spice. Mel C. was Spicy Spice. Geri, the redhead, was better known as Spice Rack. Emma, the youngest one, was Sugar ‘n’ Spice. And then there was Victoria, but everyone just called her Nutmeg. And those are all the Spicy Girls, OK?
“Clueless” is the second-best teen movie of the ‘90s. (The best is “10 Things I Hate About You,” #SorryNotSorry.) But I don’t want to talk about “Clueless.” I mean, what else is there to say? Do I really have to explain “Clueless” to you? Instead, let’s talk about the Muffs. They’re the band who recorded that kickass cover of “Kids in America” for the “Clueless” soundtrack. They’re one of the most underrated bands of the ‘90s. If you like their version of “Kids in America,” but you’ve never heard their album “Blonder and Blonder,” do yourself a favor and check it out. The singles “Sad Tomorrow” and “Oh Nina” are particularly good.
“Scream” was as pastiche of classic ‘80s slasher films that was super meta about the “rules” of scary movies. It continued in this tradition by later spinning off a few sequels to ever-diminishing returns. Anyway, it pulled its greatest trick by making everyone think Drew Barrymore was the star of the flick, when in reality her character gets brutally murdered in the very first scene. After that, the now legendary Ghostface killer terrorizes the town’s teens, murdering them one by one until it’s finally revealed that there were really two killers all along: Billy and Stu, played by Skeet Ulrich and Matthew Lillard. Oops, spoiler.
In the ‘90s, Michael Jordan was the best basketball player. He was so good, you guys. He threw that basketball and dunked that basketball right into all the baskets. All the best best baskets, tremendous baskets. But then he retired. He said it was because he wanted to be a mediocre minor-league baseball player instead of the biggest star in Major League Basketball. But really it was because he was a degenerate gambler. Anyway, when he returned to B-ball hoops, they made a dumb movie about how what he really did during his time away was play space basketball with the Looney Tunes. Adults who grew up in the ‘90s still insist that this is actually a good movie. See also: “Hook.”
“Home Alone” exists because Macauley Culkin (I’m not going to bother checking my spelling on that) was so cute in “Uncle Buck” that someone thought the 8-year-old actor deserved his own movie. And you know what? Whoever thought that was a goddamned genius. “Home Alone” is a stone-cold classic, and it turned Mackaulay into the ‘90s’ biggest child star, if not its biggest star, period. Man, “Home Alone” is so funny. I like the part when he says, “Keep the change, ya filthy animal.” Or when he asks the lady at the store if the toothbrush is approved by the American Dental Association, that was hilarious. Or the part when he brutally tortures and maims a couple of hapless burglars almost to death. Tee hee.
Shakespeare In Love
If you’d asked me, I would’ve guessed this picture of Dame Judi Dench getting a weird wig put on her head was from “Dune” or something, but it’s actually from “Shakespeare in Love,” a movie that I did see, but that was so boring I forgot everything about it less than 10 minutes after it ended. What I do know is that it’s about Shakespeare, and he falls in love with a character whom Gwyneth Paltrow plays. Who is that character? I have no idea at all. I think the movie implies that Bill writes one of his plays about her, but I can’t remember which play. It doesn’t matter; this movie is terrible. The only reason why it won a bunch of Oscars is because it’s a period piece stuffed to the rafters with elaborate period costumes. And it’s about Shakespeare, so it seems like it should be smart. But it stars Gwyneth Paltrow, so there’s no way it could be smart.
Hugh Grant and Julia Grant together at last! Boy oh boy, if there’s a movie in the world I know less about than “Notting Hill,” it has to be one I’ve never heard of at all. “Notting Hill” is a romantic comedy, I think. Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant fall in love in it, I guess. And that’s all I know about that movie. What else I know about Hugh Grant is that he was dating Elizabeth Hurley in the ‘90s but f--ked a Hollywood street prostitute anyway. And despite the indignity of getting caught doing that, he suffered, like, zero consequences for it. Because he’s a rich white guy, so society applied no consequences. Grant just went on Jay Leno’s talk show, said he was sorry, and then got to make “Notting Hill.”
Call it a hot take if you must, but I insist that “Batman Returns” is the best Batman flick ever made. First of all, handing Batman to Tim Burton was a stroke of genius in the first place. You get Batman filtered through a “Beetlejuice” lens, and nothing could be cooler. But “Batman Returns” is even better than the 1989 “Batman” movie because it turns the Burtonness up to 11, and then makes everything all Christmas-y on top of that. So instead of Batman plus “Beetlejuice,” it’s more like Batman plus “The Nightmare Before Christmas.” And let’s not forget it has Danny DeVito in it. Did Christopher Nolan give you DeVito in his three-hour Batman slogs? No, he didn’t.
The Addams Family
Has there ever been a fictional couple that's more #RelationshipGoals than Gomez and Morticia Addams? They’re two creepy goth kinksters who somehow managed to find each other in this overpopulated world full of small-minded, vanilla cretins. Not only is their commitment to each other absolute, but they never forget how to have fun. And keeping the spark alive in their sex life? That’s never a problem because they both have libidos like a couple of teenagers.
The Silence of the Lambs
“Remember, Tony, the line is, “I ate his heart with some zucchini and a fine Cabernet.”
“No, no, I don’t care for that. I don’t like that at all.”
“What’s the matter with it?”
“I don’t like zucchini, first of all.”
“Maybe not, but Dr. Lecter likes it.”
“How do you know, Jonathan?”
“Because it’s in the script.”
“But I’m an actor. The creative process means I get to decide things about my character even if it goes against the script.”
“Well, that’s stupid.”
“Jonathan, if I don’t like zucchini, how can I possibly get into the mind of a man who does?”
“No. I’m going to change it to fava beans. I adore fava beans, don’t you? With liver instead of the heart. Liver is so much more subtle, I think. And for the wine, I’ll just come up with something in the moment.”
“OK, whatever. It really doesn’t matter. Back to one!”
“I’m a good actor.”
Not a bad flick, but the "Pretty Woman" we got is way different from the movie "Pretty Woman" was supposed to be. Originally, it wasn't even a romantic comedy, but a dark and gritty look at hooking in LA. The basic structure of the rich yuppie hiring the street hooker for a week was the same. But in early drafts of the script, Vivian was a drug addict, Edward was a more complete piece of s--t, and at the end he kicks her out of his car and back to the corner. Not as pleasant, but infinitely more realistic.
"All That" was a tremendously unfunny sketch comedy show on Nickelodeon in the '90s. It was basically "Saturday Night Live" for kids. Can you imagine that? The most toothless sketch show in the history of comedy, sanitized for children. Unlike "SNL," though, "All That" spun off just one feature film instead of dozens. That film was "Good Burger," starring comedy partners Kenan Thompson and Kel Mitchell. I think what's so great about the comedy partnership between Kenan and Kel is how they both went on to exactly equal adulthood success in show business. Kenan and Kel: together forever!
That Thing You Do!
And here it is: the single best movie of the ‘90s. “The Thing You Do” is as perfect a pop confection as the fictional hit song that it’s about. Still to this day the only movie Tom Hanks both wrote and directed – Larry who? I don’t know what you’re talking about – he spun his obvious love of ‘60s pop rock into ‘90s throwback gold. Because ‘60s nostalgia will never go out of style, this movie, now more than 20 years old its own damn self, ages like a fine wine, only getting better as the years go by. And if nothing else, it’s the movie that gave the world Charlize Theron. So there.