Allow me ruin your favorite 90’s movies by watching them for the first time in my mid 30’s and writing a brief synopsis.
There are a lot of movies from the 90’s (and late 80’s) that I didn’t watch. Growing up my parents were strict about what we could watch. Thankfully, not quite as strict as my friend whose parents drew all sorts of funky conclusions between Disney movies and the devil.
We all had that friend whose house we’d watch some of those movies, anyway, and read Cosmo magazines. But, for the most part, I didn’t watch a lot of movies.
One of my favorite things to do is watch famous 90’s movies for the first time as an adult. It’s cathartic. Some of the movies still resonate surprisingly well while others make you wonder how anyone thought they was funny.
I love the nostalgia of the 90’s music, fashion, giant cell phones, and retro food product placements. Here are my thoughts on some memorable movies I watched during the past year:
As Good As It Gets (1997)
During the first ten minutes, Melvin (played by Jack Nicholson) hurls a racial slur, a homophobic insult, and throws a dog down a garbage chute.
“OH MY GOD IS THIS A HORROR MOVIE!?” I screamed.
The movie didn’t get better, in fact, it got worse.
Melvin’s neighbor, who he harasses for being gay, gets robbed and assaulted. And then, he loses the ability to care for his dog, create art, and can no longer pay for his apartment.
Melvin leverages his wealth to pay for a restaurant server’s sick child’s medical treatments so she’ll return to work and continue serving him eggs. And then they end up together.
I’m sure I’m forgetting a lot of details, which is fine, because they’re probably just as dreadful.
The English Patient (1996)
Growing up, I remember this film sweeping the Academy Awards.
A plane crashes in the desert during WWII. A mysterious man covered in extensive burn injuries survives. He falls in love with a nurse who moves them into an abandoned Italian villa. Then another guy arrives, forming some sort of love triangle. I got so bored that I switched to The Great British Bake Off and never even read the plot summary to find out how it ends.
Although I’ve caught pieces of Beetlejuice on TV, I’d never watched the movie from start to finish. I love Tim Burton’s style of playful spookiness. The seance scene where they burst into song is delightfully zany. Winona Ryder and Catherine O’Hara are perfection.
Beetlejuice, though, is a horror story. You might not actually want to watch it for the first time as a 35 year-old.
“Wait, is he trying to marry a teenager?!”
Hopefully no one summons him again in 2019. He’d surely get cancelled.
The Terminator (1984) and Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991)
I don’ t usually go for action movies – when Jake suggested we watch Terminator, I reluctantly agreed. What I didn’t expect was to love these two movies so much. Even 30 years later, it’s hard to find more compelling action heroes than Linda Hamilton and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Reality Bites (1994)
The fashion and the music are quintessentially 90’s. Everything Winona Ryder wears is perfection.
And the dialogue is so 90’s as well. Characters talk to each other like they do in Dawson’s Creek and Gilmore Girls – in that witty type of banter writers love to imagine people talk, but no one actually speaks.
e.g. Troy’s answering machine message: “At the beep, please leave your name, number, and a brief justification for the ontological necessity of modern man’s existential dilemma, and we’ll get back to you.”
At the end, I found myself scratching my head. I think this is supposed to be a love story but wonder if it’s actually a prophetic cautionary tale for female content creators.
Practical Magic (1998)
Don’t let the bad Rotten Tomato or IMBD ratings scare you away.
Last Halloween season I flipped to Practical Magic with no expectations; now it’s one of my all-time favorite movies.
The movie is dreamy and beautifully shot. Nichole Kidman and Sandra Bullock play good witches, as do their Aunts. Stevie Nicks sings in the background. It’s about magic, loss, strength, sisterhood, acceptance. Even though the movie looks like a trite romance movie, it’s not and the takeaways are weirdly profound.
Disclaimer: Deals with the subject of domestic violence.