The Best ’90s Movies of All Time You Won’t Have to Rent on VHS

Elaine Chung/Esquire

Ah, the ’90s. It’s hard to believe there was a time when we were naive enough to actually think that Y2K would happen. As if the World Wide Web could stop running and not carry through with its plan to reign eternally over humanity? Okay, maybe we’re getting a little too cyberpunk. But you’re the one who wanted some ’90s energy.

The point is: whether you’re a tech geek or an analog purist, there’s probably been a day or two where you’ve dreamt of a post-Internet society. Or, at least, a pre-Internet-running-every-facet-of-our-lives society. With this yearning, we stumble back to the ’90s. When flip phones were high-tech, and the GameBoy Color was close to godliness. Before grunge was “emo,” and cartoons weren’t CGI.

Is that a tear in your eye, or a rhinestone? It’s okay, we miss those days, too. But, don’t fret: just because they’re gone doesn’t mean you can’t reminisce with some cinematic gems of pre-2000s nostalgia. So, give your Walkman a break and stop foraging through that VCR collection. (It’s starting to look desperate.) These are the best movies of the ’90s.

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The Shawshank Redemption

Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman star in this gripping film based off of Stephen King’s novella Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption. After being sentenced to two consecutive life sentences for allegedly killing his wife and her lover, one man must make peace with the consequences of a crime he swears he didn’t commit.

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Pulp Fiction

The quintessential gateway to Quentin Tarantino’s filmography, Pulp Fiction is an action-packed, multi-perspective thriller starring the likes of Bruce Willis, John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, and Uma Thurman, among others. Circulating around two hitmen in Los Angeles, the film is as gory and mind-blowing as it is humorous.

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Forrest Gump

The type of film that’s so memorable you could spend a whole day retelling it to strangers at a bus stop. Tom Hanks stars as a slow-witted man who lives an all-but-limited life, living through major moments in U.S. history while blazing a trail for himself.

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The Silence of the Lambs

Jodie Foster stars as Clarice Sterling, a student at the FBI training facility, who is assigned to interview and study serial killer Dr. Hannibal Lecter, played by Anthony Hopkins. The interview is meant to aid in a larger, onlooking investigation of another serial killer, Buffalo Bill, but her learning becomes more hands-on than one would think.

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Good Will Hunting

Matt Damon and Robin Williams star in this heartwarming and charming story about an MIT custodian with a genius-level IQ, who gets discovered by a professor there after solving an equation on a chalkboard. Despite his intelligence, the custodian receives crucial life lessons from the professor—and a chance to turn his life around.

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Schindler’s List

Directed by Steven Spielberg, Schindler’s List tells the story of Oskar Schindler, a Sudetan German man living in WWII Poland who employs Jewish workers in his factory as a means of saving them from the Holocaust.

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Fight Club

Nothing says toxic masculinity quite like bored businessmen making a fighting ring out of sheer disappointment with their lives. Edward Norton and Brad Pitt star in this classic thriller that packs a punch from start to finish.

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The Truman Show

As meta as it gets, The Truman Show stars Jim Carrey as Truman Burbank, a man who doesn’t realize that he has spent his entire life on a TV set with his livelihood being orchestrated and broadcasted to the American public.

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The Big Lebowski

The Coen Brothers’ The Big Lebowski is an epic crime caper comedy starring Jeff Bridges as “The Dude,” a man whose life is turned upside-down when he is attacked for his mistaken identity. The listless and lazy man discovers a newfound sense of purpose in tracking down the man he was mistaken for: the Big Lebowski.

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One of Martin Scorsese’s best, Goodfellas is based off Nicholas Pileggi’s book Wiseguy, which tells the story of mobster and FBI informant Henry Hill. Hill, a half-Sicilian and half-Irish Brooklynite, finds his identity and fate both split in two when he realizes the feds and his own mob are both after him.

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Hoop Dreams

Shot over the course of five years, this acclaimed documentary follows the pursuits of two high schoolers from the inner city of Chicago who travel every day to attend a predominantly white, suburbian high school. Recruited for the school’s prestigious basketball program, the two work towards their dream of going pro.

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Malcolm X

Film greats Spike Lee and Denzel Washington team up to tackle the biopic of one of the most influential men of the Civil Rights movement and American history as a whole: Malcolm X.

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Chungking Express

Writer-director Wong Kar-wai’s beloved Chungking Express tells the story of two lovesick Hong Kong policemen. One, who is struggling through an ultimatum to get over his lost love. The other, who is working through a breakup with his ex through an unexpected new flame.

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Paris Is Burning

Jennie Livingston’s canonical documentary Paris Is Burning is an unforgettable dive into the underground ballroom scene of 1980s New York City. Required viewing for all Drag Race fans, as well as practically anyone who wants to learn about and acknowledge the roots that today’s pop culture holds in drag culture.

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Based on Irvine Welsh’s novel of the same title and directed by Danny Boyle, Trainspotting follows a group of down-and-out youths in Edinburgh who work their way through the hassles of heroin addiction, poverty, and life.

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