Yes, that’s right… the 90’s part one. Upon refining my list this week, I realized that this decade holds a lot of value for the genre and decided that it begged to be expanded. Which means that this will cover six of a total top twelve best horror movies between 1990 and 1999.
The 90’s seemed to take what was good about the 80’s with practical effects, music, and representation, and expand on it in a new way. Where we saw no name actors getting a start in cult classics of the previous years, the screen brought forth bigger names of star-studded casts that are synonymous with this decade. People like Owen Wilson, Anthony Hopkins, Neve Campbell, and Meryl Streep began making appearances in the less glamorous world of horror cinema. Even representation was expanded in this decade, seeing a higher level of black and non-white actors getting larger roles within horror. Rappers like Ice Cube and LL Cool J started popping up as characters on the slasher screen, adding fuel to the flames of connection between the genre and social commentary because now it wasn’t only women gaining access to larger roles.
This also seems to be the decade where the genre lost some momentum, or rather that other genres took hold of the box office. It is my hope that this list introduces someone to a few new titles, enjoy!
#12- Misery (1990)
Based on Stephen King’s novel of the same name, Annie Wilkes is the number one fan of romance author Paul Sheldon. Paul is currently writing a new novel in hopes to leave his famous series behind, when he is caught in a blizzard and crashes. Annie takes him in to mend his wounds, and in return is allowed to read the manuscript. When it’s not up to her standards, things take a dark turn. Directed by Rob Reiner, starring an amazing Kathy Bates and James Caan, this film is a rapid decent into madness with a stellar performance by Bates that will absolutely leave a mark. Available to stream on Amazon.
#11- Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Just about everyone has heard of this one in some capacity, but if you haven’t seen it yet don’t fret! Even if you have seen it…watch it again. This film will always be one of my top favorites of all time. Based on the novel by Thomas Harris, Doctor Hannibal Lecter is a psychologist turned cannibal who is now locked up for his crimes. In the search for a current serial killer on the loose, FBI trainee Clarice Starling must interview Dr. Lecter to gain insight into capturing the elusive Buffalo Bill. From the writing, to the performances, to the cinematography this one is an absolute must watch. Available to stream on Netflix and Amazon.
#10- The People Under the Stairs (1991)
Directed by Wes Craven, this horror comedy did better than expected upon release, and is often read under a lens of gentrification and class warfare. Young “Fool” Williams is being evicted from his home by the landlords, a white couple called the Robesons. Leroy (Ving Rhames), Spencer, and Fool come up with a plan to infiltrate the Robesons home. When Spencer doesn’t return, forcing the other two to break in and discover a dark cannibalistic secret in the basement. This film is weird and creepy as hell, but also a pretty interesting take on a few heavy racial issues in a way that is easy to absorb. Available to stream on Shudder and Amazon Prime.
#9- Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)
Francis Ford Coppola’s take on the 1897 Gothic classic “Dracula”. It mostly follows the story, with a few embellishments and an absolutely star studded cast. Performances by Gary Oldman, Keanu Reeves, Winona Ryder, and Anthony Hopkins give this film the perfect 90s hollywood drama feel that is even further enhanced by the glamorous romanticism that Coppola brings. It’s a beautiful, macabre, and sweeping take on the source material and a total indulgence into Gothic horror. Available to stream on Amazon Prime.
#8- Candyman (1992)
Based on the Clive Barker story “The Forbidden”, the film follows Helen Lyle a Chicago grad student researching the topic of urban legends. She stumbles into the legend of the Candyman, a vengeful entity that can be summoned by five repetitions of his name to butcher his victim with his hook hand. In her research Helen learns that local residents of the Cabrini-Green projects believe some recent murders are the work of the Candyman, and decides to take a closer look. Throughout the film we learn the history of slavery in the origins of the Candyman’s story, and this is where the source material in literature takes hold. This film asks you, who is the true villain of this story? Available to stream on Crackle and Amazon Prime.
#7- From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)
This one almost didn’t make the cut because usually Quentin Tarantino ruins things for me, but the makeup/effects and rest of the cast make up for it. Two bank-robbing brothers Richie and Seth Gecko cross paths with a pastor and his kids in a Texas motel, deciding the logical thing to do is to kidnap them. Traveling to Mexico to connect with a contact, they end up at a strip club in the middle of the dessert.. that’s run by vampires and now the group must fight their way out. A Western-Action-Horror bloodbath with appearances by Salma Hayek, George Clooney, Juliette Lewis, Danny Trejo, Tom Savini, and Cheech Marin, this film is a grisly fun time. Available to stream on HBOMax and Amazon Prime.
Keep your eyes peeled for the final 6!