It has become increasingly apparent to me that it is the 1990s that are becoming the current “nostalgic” era being mined by filmmakers and showrunners. And it’s about time. I was born in the 80s so my most formative decade was the 1990s and I am sure it is not biased on my part to state that it was the best decade ever. So here are five 90s classics that you may have missed.
But I’m A Cheerleader
The priceless Natasha Lyonne stars as Megan, a high-school student who everyone else has decided is gay. When her parents have an “intervention” her resounding rebuttal of “But I’m A Cheerleader” does nothing to convince people and she is sent to a sexual redirection school for conversion therapy. The camp is as ridiculous as it is cruel, with every moment trying to push traditional gender roles and values on the students and is ran by “ex-gay” Mike (played by RuPaul) and the extremely homophobic Mary Brown. The film doesn’t shy away from just how truly awful such a place is and the damage done to people by convincing them to deny who they are. Megan does come to the realisation that she is gay but – spoiler alert – understands that is part of who she is and falls in love with another student – Graham (played by Clea Duvall).
Sidenote: The brilliant documentary This Film Is Not Yet Rated had an extended section on comparing sex scenes in But I’m A Cheerleader and American Pie, both released in 1999, the filmmakers suggested that because the former film dealt with gay relationships and female sexuality rather than straight relationships and male sexuality it was far more difficult to get the “R” rating.
Romy And Michelle’s High School Reunion
Romy and Michele are two twenty-somethings living a happy, carefree, life in LA. They go to bars, go to the gym and seem to always be pursuing men but clearly, it is their relationship that is the key one in their lives. When invited to their ten-year high school reunion they fall into a spiral of doubt and shame and become determined to change their lives to impress people. For a film that actively pushes the Valley Girl-ness of the characters it could easily have become a cruel attack on Romy and Michele but it in no way is. Another of their high school alumni, Heather, the Goth weirdo inventor, would usually be the “sympathetic” character but it is the unerring niceness of Romy and Michelle that makes us love these characters.
Best Moment – Deciding to claim to have invented the Post-It Note.
Despite the provocative title, Dick is focused on Richard Nixon and the Watergate scandal, or rather the secret source of journalists Woodward and Bernstein who was codenamed “Deep Throat”. In Dick, this source is revealed as two teenage girls who volunteered at the White House and whose main problem with Nixon was the way he treated his dog. The comedy stars Michelle Williams and Kirsten Dunst as the teenage girls, this is a silly and very funny film and it provides a very different take on some of the most turbulent events in American politics.
Sidenote: This entire list could have been made up of Kirsten Dunst 90s films – Jumanji, Small Soldiers, Drop Dead Gorgeous all quite peculiar high-concept films.
Last Action Hero
A film like no other Last Action Hero should have been a success. A parody of action films it was directed by Joe McTiernan (Die Hard, Predators), the screenplay was written by Shane Black (too many action films to list) and starred Arnold Schwarzenegger – i.e. the people making these action films. A post-modern satire about a child whose magic movie ticket takes him into the world of action films (and fictional characters into the real world) is a joyous if ridiculous film.
Best Moment – well there’s the ice cream truck that explodes for no reason, the animated cat cop but Charles Dance as fictional assassin Benedict who comes to the real world shoots someone and declares “I’ve just shot somebody, I did it on purpose! I said, I have murdered a man and I want to confess!” and is pleasantly surprised when there is no instant police response as in his fictional world.
The first film by the Wachowski Sisters Bound is a great heist-crime-thriller. Released in 1996 the film stars Gina Gershon, Jennifer Tilly and Joe Pantoliano who are all fantastic. Gershon plays Corky who has recently got out of prison and gets a job to renovate an apartment and she quickly gets to know the couple in the next apartment, Violet and Caesar. Violet (Tilly) quickly comes on to Corky and they start a secret relationship, especially secret as Caesar has mafia connections and is a violent man. After witnessing mob violence first-hand Violet is desperate to start a new life and she and Corky plot to steal $2,000,000 from Caesar and the mob.
Sidenote: Bound is often credited as one of the first major films to have a central gay relationship without that being what the film is about.