The 1990s was a great decade for movies. Summer blockbusters like 1993’s Jurassic Park and 1996’s Independence Day, horror classics like 1992’s Candyman and 1996’s Scream, and iconic comedies like 1992’s Wayne’s World and 1993’s Groundhog Day dominated cinema.
But it was also a decade of memorable trash cinema, with many awful movies stinking Hollywood out. Who could forget 1994’s tepid live-action adaptation of The Flinstones or 1998’s ghastly movie adaptation of the British television show The Avengers? Horrendous!
Some 90s movies were, however, so bad that they were good. You know the type: silly, corny, ludicrous films that you can revel in or have just one brilliant aspect that elevates them to a more watchable level. It’s those movies we’re going to be discussing here – twelve of them, to be precise.
12. Flubber (1997, directed by Les Mayfield)
Flubber is a sci-fi comedy and a remake of 1961’s The Absent-Minded Professor. It’s about mad scientist Philip Brainard, who discovers “flubber,” a rubber-like super-bouncy substance, while attempting to develop a new energy source.
Flubber is essentially a mindless slapstick movie, but when the late, great Robin Williams is the man behind most of that slapstick, it’s hard not to enjoy it. Granted, it does somewhat waste the talent of its supporting cast, but that supporting cast is elite and includes Marcia Gay Harden, Christopher McDonald, Clancy Brown, and Ted Levine. Seeing that ensemble performing together is a joy to behold.
11. I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997, directed by Jim Gillespie)
I Know What You Did Last Summer is a slasher movie based on the 1973 novel of the same name by Lois Duncan that draws inspiration from the urban legend “The Hook.” The first installment in a trilogy, it’s about four young friends getting stalked by a hook-wielding killer precisely a year after covering up a car accident in which they believed they killed a man.
Kevin Williamson – the same man who wrote Scream – wrote it, so comparisons were inevitable. Sadly, it compares unfavorably with its 1996 counterpart due to its dull tone, forgettable villain, derivative nature, and general “by-the-numbers” feel. However, its talented young cast – Jennifer Love Hewitt, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ryan Phillippe, and Freddie Prinze Jr. – take the poor material they’re working with seriously, which drags it up and makes it watchable.
10. Urban Legend (1998, directed by Jamie Blanks)
Urban Legend is a slasher movie and the first installment in the Urban Legend trilogy. It’s about a killer whose murders on a private New England university campus revolve around famous urban legends.
Like I Know What You Did Last Summer, Urban Legend suffers from comparisons to the vastly superior Scream. With its genre-savvy characters and a similar sense of humor, inspiration from Wes Craven’s classic is obvious. This movie is poorly-acted, but there are so many familiar faces – from Hollywood A-listers like Jared Leto, horror legends like Robert Englund, and television stars like Joshua Jackson – that it’s hard not to invest yourself. The kills based on folklore are inventive, and the final twist is so ludicrous it has to be respected.
9. Super Mario Bros. (1993, directed by Rocky Morton and Annabel Jankel)
Super Mario Bros. is a fantasy adventure based on Nintendo’s Super Mario game series. In the film, Mario and his brother Luigi must rescue Princess Daisy from a dystopian parallel universe ruled by the tyrannical King Koopa.
It’s a movie that doesn’t have a great story or good writing, but it’s so silly that you can’t deny it’s a lot of fun. Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo are an unlikely pair of siblings, but the combination works, and Dennis Hopper was excellent in everything, so even his King Koopa is watchable. Moreover, the special effects and production design make Super Mario Bros. a visual treat.
8. Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991, directed by Kevin Reynolds)
Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves is an action-adventure movie based on the 12th-century English folk tale of Robin Hood. In the film, Robin Hood becomes an outlaw and fights back against the tyranny of the Sheriff of Nottingham.
This movie is poorly written and badly performed by most of its cast, notably Kevin Costner in the titular role. It also has a dull tone and feels entirely depressing. That said, the brilliant and dedicated performances of Alan Rickman and Morgan Freeman amid the movie’s otherwise poor nature make for bizarrely entertaining viewing. Essentially, it’s worth watching for those two legends alone.
7. The Lawnmower Man (1992, directed by Brett Leonard)
The Lawnmower Man is a sci-fi horror movie that takes its name, but not its premise, from a 1975 short story by Stephen King. It’s about a man with learning disabilities who gets turned into a superhuman genius by a well-meaning scientist using computer science and virtual reality technology.
Everything about The Lawnmower Man is overdramatic, and its visual effects look incredibly dated. Stephen King fought to have his name removed from the movie’s credits, and that’s not surprising, but the premise is so ludicrous and surreal that it’s thoroughly fun to watch. It’s almost addictive. Seeing the suave Pierce Brosnan in the middle of it all is hilarious.
6. Tank Girl (1995, directed by Rachel Talalay)
Tank Girl is a sci-fi movie based on the British post-apocalyptic comic series of the same name first seen in Deadline magazine (and has since been published by Dark Horse, DC Vertigo, IDW, Image, and Titan Comics). It follows the eponymous antihero who fights against a mega-corporation that dominates Earth’s remaining usable water supply while riding a war tank.
It all feels amateurish and manic, and the plot is bordering on being pointless, but something about Tank Girl is enjoyable. Maybe it’s the performances of Lori Petty in the leading role, Malcolm McDowell as the evil CEO stereotype, or Naomi Watts in one of her first movie roles? Or maybe it’s just such a silly movie that the best way to view it is with an open mind and a lack of seriousness? If you do the latter, it’s a lot of fun.
5. Street Fighter (1994, directed by Steven E. de Souza)
Street Fighter is an action movie based on the video game series of the same name produced by Capcom. It follows Colonel William F. Guile and various other colorful martial artists characters as they fight against the tyranny of General M. Bison and his allies.
It’s a terrible movie, with some horrific miscasting (Kylie Minogue as Cammy, for example), poor martial arts scenes, far too many pointless explosions, and lots of unintelligible dialogue, but it’s a hoot! Raul Juliá, in his final role, gives everything as Bison, and it’s fantastic to watch him do his thing amid the utter nonsense of it all.
4. Showgirls (1995, directed by Paul Verhoeven)
Showgirls is an erotic drama movie about a “street-smart” drifter who heads to Las Vegas to become a star and successfully climbs the seedy hierarchy from stripper to showgirl.
It’s consistently ranked as one of the worst movies ever made, with everything from the acting (especially leading star Elizabeth Berkley’s), the writing, the characters, the story, the dancing, and the adult scenes targeted for criticism. It also won Worst Picture at the Golden Raspberry Awards. But it’s so awful that it’s laughably enjoyable and has successfully garnered a cult following.
3. Deep Blue Sea (1999, directed by Renny Harlin)
Deep Blue Sea is a sci-fi horror movie. In the film, while searching for a cure for Alzheimer’s disease in an isolated ocean research facility, a group of scientists becomes prey to a trio of hyperintelligent sharks.
It’s just a poor man’s Jaws, with some terrible CGI thrown in for good measure, but there are a few reasons why Deep Blue Sea is still incredibly watchable. For starters, it has a great cast that includes Samuel L. Jackson, LL Cool J, Saffron Burrows, Michael Rapaport, and Stellan Skarsgård. But superintelligent sharks are a terrifying concept, and, if nothing else, there are classic B-movie shocks every few minutes.
2. The Basketball Diaries (1995, directed by Scott Kalvert)
The Basketball Diaries is a biographical crime drama based on the 1978 autobiographical novel by Jim Carroll. It chronicles Carroll’s teenage years as a promising high school basketball star and writer who develops an addiction to heroin.
Many famous faces appear throughout this movie, but the only thing that remotely holds it together is a young Leonardo DiCaprio in the leading role. It’s otherwise a complete mess with a muddled message. Most people don’t even remember The Basketball Diaries, but those who do all seem to think of it fondly, despite its flaws, thanks solely to DiCaprio’s excellent performance.
1. Batman & Robin (1997, directed by Joel Schumacher)
Batman & Robin is a superhero movie based on the eponymous DC Comics characters created by Bill Finger and Bob Kane. In the film, the dynamic duo must attempt to keep their relationship together to stop Mr. Freeze and Poison Ivy from freezing Gotham City.
In this movie, George Clooney was painfully miscast as Batman, and the whole thing is a jumbled, overly tongue-in-cheek mess. However, the visuals are striking in a way that means you can’t look away, and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s one-liners are so cheesy you can’t help but laugh at them. Uma Thurman also plays a decent Poison Ivy, meaning the movie undoubtedly has its plus points.