Entertainment,  Film,  Underrated Gems

Underrated Gems of the 1990s

Photos courtesy of Orion Pictures, Universal Pictures, New Line Cinema, and Warner Brothers.

After the 1980s brought us blockbuster films those courtesy of John Hughes, the 1990s brought even more films centered on the lives of teenagers. Popular films of the 1990s include Pretty Woman (1990), Ghost (1990), Clueless (1995), Romeo + Juliet (1996), Good Will Hunting (1997), 10 Things I Hate About You (1999), among many others. While there were major blockbusters and commercially successful films, there are quite a few that didn’t get the recognition that they truly deserve.

Here are some underrated gems of the 1990s.

Mermaids (1990)

Mermaids is a 1990 dramedy film that is directed by Richard Benjamin. The cast includes: Cher, Winona Ryder, Christina Ricci, Bob Hoskins, and Michael Schoeffling. Its premise follows a neurotic teenage girl who moves to small town in Massachusetts with her whimsical mother and younger half-sister in the 1960s. It grossed $35.4 million against a $20 million budget. When it was released, it was met with critical acclaim, particularly for Ryder.

While it was a critical and commercial success when it was released, it has been overlooked since then. I love this film because it paints a realistic portrait of a teenager growing up and having an imperfect relationship with her mother. Cher and Hoskins have great chemistry in this film. I enjoyed watching their characters develop together and individually.

I love Charlotte Flax (Ryder). She’s a relatable character and Ryder portrays her so well. Kate Flax (Ricci) is particularly adorable and adds comedic relief. I just believe this film deserves more love.

Singles (1992)

Singles is a 1992 romantic comedy film that is directed by Cameron Crowe. The cast includes: Bridget Fonda, Campbell Scott, Kyra Sedgwick, Matt Dillon, Sheila Kelley and appearances from Bill Pullman, Tim Burton, Chris Cornell, Eddie Vedder, Alice in Chains, and Soundgarden. Its premise follows the romantic lives of several Generation X’ers in Seattle, Washington during the Grunge movement. It grossed $18.5 million against a $9 million budget. It was released to primarily positive reviews.

While Almost Famous is most likely Crowe’s biggest success in the box office and with audience reception, Singles is another great film of his. It has similar but different vibes as its premise is much different than Almost Famous. The film is funny and has great appearances from lots of actors and musicians.

Benny & Joon (1993)

Benny & Joon is a 1993 psychologic romantic comedy that is directed by Jeremiah S. Chechik. The cast includes Mary Stuart Masterson, Johnny Depp, Aidan Quinn, Julianne Moore, and Oliver Platt. Its premise follows two eccentric individuals who find one other and fall in love. It made $30 million in the box office and is best known for popularizing the song, I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) by The Proclaimers. 

I’ve loved this film for a long time. While it’s not entirely a light and funny story like some of the other films on this list, it’s definitely worth a watch. Masterson and Depp’s chemistry is highly electric. They’re incredible on screen together and separate.

Its portrayal of schizophrenia is often criticized for its lack of sanitization and trivialization but it is one of the only films out there that I’m aware of that portrays the mental illness.

Reality Bites (1994)

Reality Bites is a 1994 romantic dramedy that is directed by Ben Stiller. The cast includes: Winona Ryder, Ethan Hawke, Ben Stiller, Janeane Garafolo, and Steve Zahn. Its premise follows Leilana Pierce (Ryder), an aspiring filmmaker, who is putting together a documentary of the lives of her friends while dealing with the trials and tribulations of growing up. It grossed $33.4 million against an $11.5 million budget.

This film is one of my favorites of all time. It’s a comfort film of mine. It’s such an easy rewatch for me. I love the story, the chemistry between Ryder and Hawk, and the convenient store scene is one of the most iconic scenes in cinema history. I love the humor. It’s such a realistic portrait of young adults finding themselves.

Now and Then (1995)

Now and Then is a 1995 coming-of-age drama that is directed by Lesli Linka Glatter. The cast includes: Christina Ricci, Gaby Hoffman, Thora Birch, Ashleigh Aston Moore, Demi Moore, Rita Wilson, Rosie O’Donnell, Melanie Griffith, Devon Sawa, Cloris Leachman, Hank Azaria, and Bonnie Hunt. Its premise follows four women who reminisce about a  pivotal summer they spent together as teenagers in 1970. It grossed $37.5 million against a $12 million budget. It did received negative reviews from critics but is considered to be a cult classic.

One of my comfort films. I love this film so much. I love the story and how it follows multiple characters instead of just one. I love the chemistry between Ricci, Hoffman, Birch, and Moore. It makes me wish I had friends like them. I love the chemistry between Ricci and Sawa. I loved them in Casper (1995) but I loved them even more in this.

While You Were Sleeping (1995)

While You Were Sleeping is a 1995 romantic comedy that is directed by Jon Turteltaub. The cast includes: Sandra Bullock, Bill Pullman, Peter Gallagher, Peter Boyle, Glynis Johns, and Jack Warden. Its premise follows Lucy (Bullock), a transit authority token collector, who saves a man (Gallagher), and gets tangled up in a lie. It grossed $182 million against a $17 million budget. The film was a critical success receiving positive reviews from critics.

Another comfort film. I love this film as well. It’s such a hilarious and heartwarming take of mistaken identity. I love Sandra Bullock as Lucy in this. She’s so awkward which makes her extremely relatable. I love Bullock’s chemistry with Pullman. The score is iconic and adds so much humor.

Empire Records (1995)

Empire Records is a 1995 coming-of-age dramedy that is directed by Allan Moyle. The cast includes: Liv Tyler, Renée Zellweger, Anthony LaPaglia, Rory Cochrane, Debi Mazar, Johnny Whitworth, and Robin Tunney. Its premise follows a group of record store employees over the course of one day. It was a massive flop in the box office and received negative reviews from critics. It went on to become a cult classic and jumpstarted the careers of the many actors in this film.

I’m shocked at how bad this film did in the box office. I wonder if something similar to it was released now and how well it would do. I love it. I love the vibes and the story. It makes me wish I lived in those times. Liv Tyler is great in this.

Never Been Kissed (1999)

Never Been Kissed is a 1999 romantic comedy that is directed by Raja Gosnell. The cast includes: Drew Barrymore, David Arquette, Michael Vartan, Jessica Alba, Molly Shannon, John C. Reilly, Garry Marshall, and James Franco. Its premise follows Josie, a copy editor who goes undercover at a high school to make parents more aware of what goes on in their children’s lives. It grossed $84.6 million against a $25 million budget. It received mixed reviews when it was released.

Not only is the film underrated but it’s one of the most underrated rom-coms out there. It deserves so much more love. It’s so funny and makes you want to fall in love. Drew Barrymore portrays an easily relatable character as Josie doesn’t fit in with the popular crowd. The ending gives me anxiety every time I rewatch the film.

Final Thoughts

I hope you enjoyed this list of underrated gems from the 1990s. Please give them all a watch if you haven’t already. I promise you won’t regret it.

Please feel free to DM me on my Instagram and let me know what your favorite 1990s films are.

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