You know all the biggest teen movies of your formative years and still keep them on a pedestal; you’ve got a monthly Clueless ritual and you haven’t stopped quoting Cruel Intentions since it came out in 1999. As anyone who grew up in the ‘90s knows, it was an extremely fertile period for movies for and about teenagers, and the canon extends well beyond the best-known films. There are plenty of hidden gems just waiting to be rediscovered, not least these 25 ‘90s teen movies, which should have been way more popular than they were. It’s time to give them the attention and love that they deserve.
Because here's the deal: While the ‘80s had the Brat Pack and the ‘60s had Frankie and Annette, no decade can match the ‘90s for star power (think Keanu Reeves, Christian Bale, Kate Winslet, and Kenan Thompson, just to name a few then-up-and-comers). And because teens were — and still are, for that matter — a desirable audience, studios built all kinds of movies around adolescent characters, from psychological thrillers to historical musicals to pitch-black comedies, all with a distinctive mix of wacky plot-lines, inexplicable hair accessories, and Generation Y cockiness. And even if you didn’t see them when they first came out, I bet these movies will make you feel a twinge of nostalgia for the days of Y-necklaces and Tiger Beat centerfolds.
Without further ado, check out thees 25 underrated teen movies from the ‘90s.
1. Drive Me Crazy
In the midst of her stint on Sabrina The Teenage Witch, Melissa Joan Hart starred in Drive Me Crazy as Nicole — an overachieving sweetheart who cooks up a scheme with her very antisocial neighbor (Adrian Grenier) to attract the attention of their respective crushes... only to discover they might just like each other. Plus, the title was taken from the Britney Spears song “(You Drive Me) Crazy.” Hard to imagine a more fitting tribute to the ‘90s than that.
2. Pump Up The Volume
Christian Slater was at the peak of his dreamboat phase in 1990, just one year after he’d appeared in Heathers. In Pump Up the Volume, he stars as Mark Hunter, a teenager who struggles to find his place at his school and instead dedicates himself to the pirate radio station he’s set up in his basement. Although he broadcasts anonymously, his identity is eventually revealed, and the radio station catches on with the student body — especially after Mark frankly discusses a fellow student’s death by suicide. The film also involves a sweet romance with another classmate and a tussle with the FCC over Mark’s First Amendment rights.
3. House Party
This electric film does what it says on the tin: invites viewers into the most enjoyable house party imaginable. The movie is bursting with music and energy, and appropriately, it stars two musicians — Kid and Play of hip-hop duo Kid ‘n Play — as well as up-and-coming Black actors including Martin Lawrence and Tisha Campbell. The film spawned multiple sequels and was critically hailed as a success at the time — a rarity for teen films in the ‘90s. Roger Ebert wrote that the film “is a canvas used by the director, Reginald Hudlin, to show us black teenagers with a freshness and originality that’s rare in modern movies.”
4. Good Burger
Sketch-comedy legend Kenan Thompson got his start on Nickelodeon’s sketch series All That, which was so popular that the network rushed Good Burger into development in January 1997; it would be released six months later. The film pits a small burger joint (the titular “Good Burger”) against the threat of the expanding and nefarious burger chain Mondo Burger. GQ described the film as “a stoner film for children” and “one of the weirdest films in children's entertainment,” and if that’s not enough to get you to watch, then what is?
5. Camp Nowhere
Do you dream about going away with your friends where no real-life distractions can impede your good time? That's basically the plot of Camp Nowhere, except the friends are all minors who probably should have a couple of chaperones. The film revolves Mud Himmel (Jonathan Jackson), a teenager whose parents try to send him to computer camp — a horrifying fate in the pre-social media ‘90s. Instead, he concocts a scheme to set up his own camp, “run” by an ex-drama teacher who has no interest in or ability to control a group of rowdy teenagers.
It’s still unusual to see films about teenagers or adults focus on plus-sized characters, and Angus, a thoughtful, kind-hearted film, remains refreshing. Teenage boy Angus (Charlie Talbert) has endured years of bullying at the hands of a “popular” kid due to his weight, and his well-meaning but clueless family isn’t any help. Over the course of the film, he gains self-confidence, realizes he has to stand up to his bully, and finds love.
7. Welcome to the Dollhouse
This offbeat coming-of-age dramedy, written and directed by Todd Solondz, presents an unflinching look at the earliest stage of adolescence. Tween Dawn (Heather Matarazzo) is a social reject who desperately wants to be older than she is. She pines for her elder brother’s handsome, romantically unavailable tutor and sabotages her one real friendship with an awkward but sweet boy who’s her own age. The film takes a darkly comedic turn and culminates in Dawn briefly running away to New York City to escape her life — only to finally learn that the only way to become an adult is to live through her teenage years.
This Disney musical was a major flop when it was released: Critics panned it and it bombed at the box office. It found life, however, on home video, where it quickly became a beloved favorite of a generation of children who nursed crushes on a young Christian Bale. Despite its somewhat camp trappings — after all, it is a musical feature Christian Bale singing with a wonky “New Yawk” accent — it’s based on a very real and significant labor clash between young newsboys and the newspaper owners who were exploiting them. You can learn more about the real Newsboys’ Strike of 1899 by listening to the podcast You’re Wrong About, which covered it here.
9. Now and Then
This sweet coming-of-age film focuses on four 12-year-old girls in a small town in the ‘70s, played by Gaby Hoffmann, Thora Birch, Christina Ricci, and Ashleigh Ashton Moore. The girls all deal with familiar elements of adolescence, from developing breasts to overprotective parents — things that viewers will no doubt find familiar, but that feel seismic to the characters. They also become fascinated with a dead World War II veteran buried in the local cemetery and set out to find out what happened to him, an investigation that sets off a potentially supernatural mystery in town.
10. October Sky
October Sky moves at a calmer pace than some of these other movies and is perhaps not as showy, but those qualities are exactly what makes it so winning. The film is a biopic of Homer Hickam (Jake Gyllenhaal), a NASA engineer who grew up coal country in West Virginia. Like every other young man in town — and like his father before him — Homer is expected to work as a coal miner, but an encouraging teacher, played by Laura Dern, fosters his talent and sets his heart on rocketry.
This cult classic stars Cher and Winona Ryder as a mother-daughter duo in the 1960s. Rachel (Cher) has the unfortunate habit of picking up her family and moving whenever she ends a relationship — despite the fact that her teenage daughter, Charlotte (Ryder), can’t stand their nomadic lifestyle. The film finds them in small-town Massachusetts, with Rachel embarking on another romance with a local business owner played by Bob Hoskins. Meanwhile, Charlotte becomes infatuated with an older man and also obsessed with Catholicism — a disastrous combination that sends her infatuated adolescent mind spinning in wild directions.
12. Slums of Beverly Hills
The family in Slums of Beverly Hills moves even more often than the family in Mermaids: In order for their children, including 14-year-old Vivian (Natasha Lyonne), to attend better schools, the Abramowitzes are constantly moving from one crummy apartment to the next. Vivian wishes her family weren’t so embarrassing, although she bonds with her older cousin Rita (Marisa Tomei), who’s recently gotten out of rehab and offers her a glimpse into the adult world. She gets along less well with Rita’s controlling father Mickey (Carl Reiner), as the explosive climax of the film demonstrates.
13. All I Wanna Do
Odette “Odie” Sinclair’s (Gaby Hoffmann) parents force her to transfer to an all-girls prep school after they find out she has plans to sleep with her boyfriend. What they don’t know is that her new school is thinking about going co-ed. The potential merger wreaks havoc on the student body and on their panicked parents. This sly period comedy also co-stars Kirsten Dunst as the school’s queen bee, Lynn Redgrave as its headmistress, and Matthew Lawrence as Odie’s boyfriend.
While many of the films on this list have attained cult status since their release, adherents of Dick are particularly intense: They’ll tell you that it features two of the best performances ever given by its much-lauded stars, Kirsten Dunst and Michelle Williams. (And they’re right!) The beloved actors star as two politically clueless teenage girls who stumble into a friendly relationship with none other than Richard Nixon, who becomes addicted to their pot brownies. Williams’ character even becomes infatuated with the titular Dick. When he eventually shuns them, they take revenge by becoming Deep Throat.
Before his 1988 teen hit Hairspray, controversial director John Waters wasn’t exactly known for his mainstream success. But he went from Hairspray to make another teen musical comedy, this time set in the 1950s and starring Johnny Depp as a teen rebel who falls in love with a “square” girl played by Amy Locane. Convertibles, rockabilly jamborees, and Depp in full teen-dream mode make this ode to living free and maybe dying young a movie you’ll watch over and over again.
16. But I’m a Cheerleader
When it was first released, But I’m a Cheerleader was poorly received by critics, but since then, it’s become a touchstone for queer viewers. The film was ahead of its time: In 2015, Autostraddle named it the best Lesbian, Bisexual & Queer movie ever made. Natasha Lyonne stars as earnest vegetarian cheerleader Megan, whose parents send her to a gay conversion therapy camp that strictly enforces traditional gender roles. While at camp, she meets and falls in love with fellow camper Graham (Clea Duvall), who’s more comfortable with her sexuality.
17. The Incredibly True Adventures Of Two Girls In Love
The Incredibly True Adventures Of Two Girls In Love is another ‘90s lesbian film that was ahead of its time. Writer and director Maria Maggenti made the movie on a tiny budget and cast non-famous actors (Nicole Holloman and Nicole Ari Parker) in order to realize her vision: an honest story about two teenage girls falling in love in a small town. Although the film depicts the characters’ struggles with homophobia, it isn’t egregiously tragic, either — and even features a happy ending, a rarity in queer films from this era.
18. Edge of Seventeen
If you’re looking for another queer coming of age film from the ‘90s, look no further than Edge of Seventeen. Chris Stafford stars as Eric, a teenager who comes to terms with his sexuality one summer while working at an amusement park. Although his best friend Maggie (Tina Holmes) pines for him, he only has eyes for college student Rod (Andersen Gabrych). The heart of the movie, though, is the relationship between Eric and his older lesbian friend Angie (Lea DeLaria), who also works at the amusement park and offers him guidance as he figures out who he is.
19. Heavenly Creatures
Melanie Lynskey and Kate Winslet both made their first feature film debuts in Peter Jackson’s Heavenly Creatures, a disturbing retelling of the real, obsessive friendship between two Australian girls and the unspeakable crime that it inspired. Working-class Pauline (Lynskey) is quickly enchanted by the more upper-class Juliet (Winslet), a new student at her school. Together, they invent a fantasy world they believe is real. When Juliet contracts tuberculosis and is forced to move into a sanatorium, the fracturing of the girls’ relationship eventually leads to disastrous violence.
20. The Opposite of Sex
When you think “romantic comedy,” you probably think of something like When Harry Met Sally or 10 Things I Hate About You. You probably don’t imagine a movie where a pregnant girl runs away from home, temporarily moves in with her gay older brother and his partner, and seduces that partner, only to persuade him that he’s the one who got her pregnant. But that’s exactly what happens in the gleefully twisted The Opposite of Sex, which stars Christina Ricci as its gloriously — or, depending on how you look at it, terrifyingly — amoral heroine Dedee.
Before Mean Girls, there were meaner girls. Inspired by Heathers, Jawbreaker is a viciously funny — and violent — satire of high school social hierarchy. The film stars Rose McGowan, Rebecca Gayheart, and Julie Benz as a group of girls who routinely play a violent kidnapping “prank” on their friend Liz (Charlotte Ayanna) for her birthday. This time, though, Liz doesn’t survive the “prank,” and the girls have to scramble to figure out what to do with the dead body in the trunk of their car.
22. Dead Man On Campus
In this dark comedy, familiar ‘90s faces Tom Everett Scott and Mark-Paul Gosselaar star as two roommates determined to take advantage of an apocryphal university loophole in which they get straight A’s if their roommate dies by suicide. Deadbeat Cooper (Gosselaar) realizes he needs impossibly good grades to retain his scholarship — which won’t fly with his strict father — and he’s managed to drag the normally studious Josh (Scott) down with him. So they cycle through roommate after roommate, trying to find one who will fit their bill.
23. Don’t Tell Mom The Babysitter’s Dead
Christina Applegate stars as Sue Ellen, a normally responsible teenager whose life quickly goes off the rails in this zany, accidental crime caper. The last summer before she goes to college, her parents depart for a months-long trip, leaving her and her younger brothers in the care of a seemingly sweet old woman, Mrs. Crandell (Concetta Tomei), who turns out to be not-so-sweet after all. When Mrs. Crandell dies suddenly in her sleep, Sue Ellen and her brothers are faced with the prospect of a dead body and nobody to tell them what to do.
The star-studded cast of this indie thriller includes ‘90s staples William Fichtner, Katie Holmes, Sarah Polley, Taye Diggs, and more. Directed by Doug Liman, who would go on to direct major action films including The Bourne Identity and Mr. and Mrs. Smith, this film juggles suspense, comedy, and drama in a series of intertwining plots and stories told multiple times from the same perspective. The film is sharp, fast, and flashy: Critics at the time compared it to Pulp Fiction.
25. The Doom Generation
This horror comedy by New Queer Cinema auteur Gregg Araki follows a trio of troubled, horny teenagers as they go on the lam after a murder. Rose McGowan and James Duval play a couple who pick up a hitchhiker (Jonathon Schaech) who accidentally kills a convenience store owner, sending all three of them on the run. As they drive around Los Angeles’ haunting urban sprawl, sexual tension abounds between the trio, leading to flirtations and couplings that can fool the audience — and the characters — into forgetting that the movie started with an act of violence. But it ends on an even more gruesome and disturbing note.
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One reason films from the 90s hold such appeal is that they seem to depict a simpler, more innocent time. “A lot of these films were written by baby boomers, so even if someone had a dead-end job, they were still able to afford accommodation, they lived in a nice neighbourhood.What are some movies that were widely popular during the 1990s? ›
- Speed (1994) Rotten Tomatoes Classic Trailers. ...
- The Crow (1994) ...
- Malcolm X (1992) ...
- Ghost (1990) ...
- Boyz N The Hood (1991) ...
- Good Will Hunting (1997) ...
- The Bodyguard (1992) ...
- Meet Joe Black (1998)
The 1990s' most popular genre, action, channeled anxieties about global threats such as AIDS and foreign terrorist attacks into escapist entertainment movies. Horror films and thrillers were on the rise, but family-friendly pictures and feel-good romances netted big audiences too.How did people watch movies in the 1990s? ›
The Digital Age and Home Viewing:
The VCR was still a popular appliance in most households (about three quarters of them in 1991) and rentals and purchase of videotapes were big business - much larger than sales of movie theater tickets.
The 1990s' most popular genre, action, channeled anxieties about global threats such as AIDS and foreign terrorist attacks into escapist entertainment movies. Horror films and thrillers were on the rise, but family-friendly pictures and feel-good romances netted big audiences too.Why is the 90s important? ›
The 1990s is often remembered as a decade of relative peace and prosperity: The Soviet Union fell, ending the decades-long Cold War, and the rise of the internet ushered in a radical new era of communication, business and entertainment.What was the most popular genre in the 90s? ›
The most popular style of music in the '90s was hip-hop, closely followed by rap and contemporary R&B. Hip-hop redefined the Billboard charts in the early '90s and continued to dominate for two decades.What is considered the best movie of the 90s? ›
Best '90s movies
- Groundhog Day (1993) ...
- The Crying Game (1992) ...
- Toy Story (1995) ...
- Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) ...
- Fight Club (1999) ...
- Saving Private Ryan (1998)
The decade was notable for both the rise of independent cinema – as well as independent studios such as Miramax, Lions Gate, and New Line – and the advancements in CGI-technology, seen in such films as Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Jurassic Park, and Forrest Gump.What was the biggest film of the 90s? ›
- Titanic (1997) PG-13 | 194 min | Drama, Romance. ...
- Jurassic Park (1993) ...
- Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999) ...
- The Lion King (1994) ...
- Independence Day (1996) ...
- Forrest Gump (1994) ...
- The Sixth Sense (1999) ...
- The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997)
Popular music in the 1990s saw the continuation of teen pop and dance-pop trends which had emerged in the 1970s and 1980s.When did movies gain popularity? ›
In the United States, film established itself as a popular form of entertainment with the nickelodeon theater in the 1910s. The release of The Jazz Singer in 1927 marked the birth of the talking film, and by 1930 silent film was a thing of the past.How did movies impact society? ›
It can entertain, educate, or explore critical social issues. Films can make us sit up and take notice, learn about a new culture, experience a different perspective, or open our eyes to a world we know nothing about. We watch movies because they're entertaining and make us think about issues in new ways.How did movies affect society? ›
Besides mirroring our diverse cultures, the film has for a long time been shaping our beliefs and values. A good example is when people copy fashion trends from movie stars and musicians. It is also common these days to find societies using figures of speech that are inspired by the film industry.What was the #1 movie of 1990? ›
With a domestic gross total of around $217.6 million, "Ghost" was the top movie of 1990.
1. Home Alone (1990)What was one of the most popular movies of all time? ›
Gone with the Wind—first released in 1939—is generally considered to be the most successful film, with Guinness World Records in 2014 estimating its adjusted global gross at $3.4 billion.Why are the 90s so popular now? ›
Researchers have also found that nostalgia comforts us by making us feel connected to one another and to a shared past, he adds. Since the '90s were the last moment before the internet splintered mass culture, the decade is particularly good nostalgia fodder, says Peach Pit DJ and founder Matt Bailer, 42.Why 90s kids are so special? ›
90s kids have school friends, not Facebook friends. We were the last generation of kids who truly knew how to be kids. These days, playing outside has been replaced by sitting inside texting, playing video games and surfing the internet.What are 5 facts about the 1990s? ›
- PalmPilots were a harbinger of what was to come. ...
- The Perks of Being a Wallflower hit the New York Times List. ...
- We first fell in love with Tara Lipinski. ...
- You were not allowed to bring Furbies to work (per the NSA). ...
- The theme song to Friends was a one-hit wonder. ...
- Michael Jordan won 6 NBA titles. ...
- Everyone wanted a Hummer.
Walkman, Discman and MP3 players
These included portable cassette players (most notably Sony's "Walkman"), portable CD players (the also popular Sony's "Discman"), Minidisc players and MP3 players.
The two main influences on late '90s fashion were a 1970s revival in women's clothing and business casual for men. The '70s revival styles were inspired by disco looks and were mainly focused on women's fashion.What was the 1990s era called? ›
Known as the Post-Cold War Decade, the 90s are often culturally defined as the period from the Revolutions of 1989 that marked the end of the Cold War until the Global War on Terror ("GWOT"), which included the September 11 attacks, the War in Afghanistan, and the Iraq War.Why are 90s trends coming back? ›
Theories suggest that a big reason why 90s fashion is making a comeback could be children being influenced by their parents' clothing. As the children grow and develop their own fashion identity, they may take inspiration from the clothing their parents have/wear and 'translate' it into modern styles.What was the best thing about the 90s? ›
Music is the best part of '90s culture
TV was second most popular aspect of '90s culture, followed by movies and technology. Bringing up the rear were fashion and politics, with fewer than 1 in 10 people saying these were the best thing about the '90s.
Mariah Carey amassed the most number-one hits (14 songs) and had the longest cumulative run atop the Billboard Hot 100 chart (60 weeks) during the 1990s. Carey is also the only artist to spend at least one week at the summit of the chart in each year of the decade.What 90s movie divorced parents? ›
Bye Bye Love is a 1995 American romantic comedy film that deals with the central issue of divorce. It was directed by Sam Weisman and written by Gary David Goldberg and Brad Hall.What is the best looking movie of all time? ›
- # 1. BLADE RUNNER. Ridley Scott 1982.
- # 2. 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY. Stanley Kubrick 1968.
- # 3. BRAZIL. Terry Gilliam 1985.
- # 4. THE MIRROR. Andrei Tarkovsky 1975.
- # 5. NOSTALGHIA. Andrei Tarkovsky 1983.
- # 6. MEDEA. Lars von Trier 1988.
- # 7. STALKER. ...
- # 8. THE CONFORMIST.
1. “The Bodyguard” (1992): This film starring Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner holds the title of greatest selling soundtrack album of all time, with 17 millions copies sold in the US and over 42 million copies sold worldwide.Was the 90s the best decade for movies? ›
Not only the best decade for live action films, even animated films. Forrest Gump, Titanic, The Shawshank Redemption, Wayne's World, The Lion King, Dumb And Dumber, Pulp Fiction, The Matrix, And many more great movies were from the 1990s!
Old movies were shot on either 35mm or 70mm film reel. These reels were analogue. Analogue gives you the ability to go back to it and 'transfer' it to what ever technology is available at the time.What era had the best movies? ›
- 8 1989.
- 7 2007.
- 6 1999.
- 5 1984.
- 4 1994.
- 3 1967.
- 2 1975.
- 1 1939.
They also are a reminder of the past and life at the time. For many people, old movies are a beautiful reminder of a time when things were simpler. These movies don't rely as much on technology to wow and shock the viewer, the story lines are clear and straighter forward, their plots simpler.What is iconic of the 90s? ›
The 1990s was a decade where pop culture took flight, we all made some Friends, dance moves were born and fast-food got even bigger. Although they ended more than 20 years ago, some of these American icons remain just as relevant today. Iconic shows such as Rugrats (1991), Doug (1991), Hey Arnold!What movie made the most in the 90s? ›
Over time the chemicals on the film lose their potency and start to deteriorate. The silver halides in the films' emulsion degrade and lose their sensitivity. As a result, colors will lose their vibrancy, and contrasts will fade and grain increases. Eventually, expired film becomes foggy and unusable.Why do actors look younger in movies? ›
In motion pictures, whether for film (cinema), television, or streaming, de-aging is a visual effects technique used to make an actor or actress look younger, especially for flashback scenes. This is often accomplished via digitally editing the image or using computer-generated imagery (CGI) overlays or touch-ups.What is the #1 movie in US history? ›
|1||2015||Star Wars Ep. VII: The Force Awakens|
|3||2021||Spider-Man: No Way Home|
Gone with the Wind—first released in 1939—is generally considered to be the most successful film, with Guinness World Records in 2014 estimating its adjusted global gross at $3.4 billion.What causes people to age in old movie? ›
Electromagnetic material surrounding the beach is causing cells to age incredibly quickly – at the rate of around a year every half an hour. The kids are still growing so their aging is more obvious than the adult characters.
A good, classic movie can inspire pleasant memories for older adults, especially those with dementia. Watching nostalgic films is a great way for seniors to reminisce about their pastime in a positive light and talk about those memories with others.Why are old movies relaxing? ›
From a psychological perspective, they bring back a sense of nostalgia. For whatever reason, those movies resonate with us in some way, so whenever we rewatch them they can revert us back to a time of safety, reassurance, or just happy memories, in other words, similar times.”