90s Dramas That People STILL Love

Joseph Thornton

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The ‘90s marked the rise of independent cinema, where filmmakers could develop inventive, quirky, and original ideas that made dramas so exciting. It was one of the most exciting eras for cinema and TV. Here’s a list of 19 of the most exciting dramas of the ‘90s.

Titanic (1997)

Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures.

Titanic is one of the highest-grossing movies of all time. Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet play two passengers of vastly different social statuses who fall in love during the Titanic’s first and final voyage. This movie had most teenage girls sobbing their way through the late ’90s.

Pulp Fiction (1994)

Pulp Fiction (1994) Miramax
Photo Credit: Miramax.

Told out of chronological order and following a group of interrelated criminals through several violent and unpredictable events, this film is anything but traditional and even started plenty of trends. And, of course, it features Tarantino’s signature naturalistic yet insanely quotable dialogue.

American Beauty (1999)

American Beauty (1999) - DreamWorks Pictures
Photo Credit: DreamWorks Pictures.

One of the reasons this film is so good is that the audience can relate to some of the fears and insecurities the protagonist experiences. With a brilliant performance from Kevin Spacey, it explores the repressed desires and skewed values lurking behind the false exteriors of American families.

Forrest Gump (1994)

Forrest Gump Paramount Pictures
Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures.

This Best Picture winner is more of a meditation on our times, as seen through the eyes of a man who lacks cynicism and takes things for exactly what they are. It’s also where the unforgettable quote, “My mama always said life was like a box of chocolates,” comes from.

Schindler’s List (1993)

Schindler’s List (1993) - universal Pictures
Photo Credit: Universal Pictures.

As with most media involving the Holocaust, it can be hard to watch. But the fact that it’s based on true events only makes it more worthy of attention. Schindler’s List conveys one of the most awful events in human history with stark yet beautiful filmmaking and powerful performances.

Braveheart (1995)

Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures.

Although it’s ahistorical, Braveheart is a rousing piece of cinema that depicts the capacity of the human spirit to overcome the odds to achieve justice and dignity against oppression. It portrays the valor and horrors of war and has some pretty cool battle scenes you’d enjoy.

Goodfellas (1990)

Goodfellas (1990) Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc
Photo Credit: Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

This is a fact-based, testosterone-fueled gangster movie with iconic performances from the cast. I honestly feel this is the movie Scorsese was born to make, as he was able to combine his favorite elements of crime, Italian-Americans, moral ambiguity, and profanity.

Fight Club (1999)

Fight Club 20th Century Studios
Photo Credit: 20th Century Studios.

Fight Club is about finding meaning and purpose in a society designed to strip them away from us. I personally love the fight scenes, and the editing is beyond phenomenal. This cult classic is one of a kind with a major twist that will leave you stunned.

The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

Photo Credit: Castle Rock Entertainment.

The list wouldn’t be complete if The Shawshank Redemption wasn’t included. Despite its low earnings, it has gradually become regarded as not just a classic of the ‘90s but also one of cinema’s greatest. You’re not living your best life if you haven’t seen Shawshank.

Before Sunrise (1995)

Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures.

I think this is the most practical story about love. The realistic acting and immense script build the characters through their emotions and allow us to get to really know them. It has two more sequels that are just as good as the first, so get those tissues ready.

Léon: The Professional (1994)

Léon (1994) Columbia Pictures
Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures.

Hitman Léon forms an unlikely relationship with 12-year-old Mathilda and teaches her how to ‘clean’ after her family is slaughtered. Natalie Portman’s jaw-dropping performance as Mathilda elevates the emotional intensity of the movie. I believe Léon ultimately examines polar opposites and the human condition amidst violent upheaval.

Saving Private Ryan (1998)

Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures.

This graphic and harrowing depiction of war is almost unmatched in cinema. Earlier World War II films look phony in comparison. The ensemble cast and many great set pieces elevate it even further. It is said to be one of the greatest war movies ever made, and I agree.

Good Will Hunting (1997)

Good Will Hunting (1997) - Miramax Pictures
Photo Credit: Miramax Pictures.

Featuring a stellar cast with break-out roles, Good Will Hunting tells the story of a gifted but troubled young man who is held back by his self-sabotaging tendencies. His life is turned around when he meets a psychiatrist who believes there is more to him than he pretends.

The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

Photo Credit: Orion Pictures.

At one point or another, you’ve probably heard of ‘Dr. Hannibal Lecter’ or ‘Hannibal the Cannibal,’ as he is one of cinema’s most iconic movie villains. This film birthed something new in cinema and went on to win the “Big Five” at the Oscars.

Se7en (1995)

Se7en New Line Cinema
Photo Credit: New Line Cinema.

Se7en layers the right amount of gore and grim visuals with storytelling and pacing. It’s a beautiful unraveling of a killer’s performance art that ends with an unexpected and gut-wrenching climax the audience never sees coming. It’s so entertaining I’ll go as far as calling it a masterpiece.

The Usual Suspects (1995)

Usual Suspects Gramercy Pictures
Photo Credit: Gramercy Pictures.

It’s the perfect example of sustained misdirection ever committed to film, changing the mystery genre forever. The film has a compelling story with a cliffhanger that will keep you guessing right up to the very end. Make a point of watching it right away if you haven’t already.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2003)

Photo Credit: Mutant Enemy Productions.

This supernatural teen drama paved the way for shows like The Vampire Diaries (2009 – 2017) and Teen Wolf (2011 – 2017). The show explores man’s ability to change for better or worse, the human conscience, or how lust for power can turn a human into a monster as bad as any demon.

The X-Files (1993-2018)

The X-Files 20th Century Fox
Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox.

The X-Files is a mystery show about two FBI Agents who investigate the strange and unexplained. The series plays on our darkest fears of government conspiracies and monsters hiding in plain sight.

The Sopranos (1999-2007)

Photo Credit: HBO.

Tony Soprano was a strong and intimidating man who was forced to find the balance between serving as a family man and managing the crime organization he was handed. After a couple of seasons, it evolves into a show that feels much more intimate and personal. This one is worth watching over and over again.