TV & Movies

Classic ’90s Movies You Should Rewatch as an Adult


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90s movies"
90s movies
Source: Elevaé Visuals
Source: Elevaé Visuals

The ’90s are having a moment, from fashion to music to TV and movies. Nostalgia has become a form of social currency, especially when the internet makes it easier than ever to indulge in it. But while younger generations try on the decade as a trend, us ’90s kids revisit it for the familiarity.

Many of the best comfort shows and movies are from the ’90s. The hits just kept on coming—rom-coms, blockbusters, and teen movies were all at their peak. And some of the best Disney films came out in the ’90s, too. In short, there were a lot of great ’90s movies. And for those of us who grew up during that time, rewatching our favorite films takes us back to a simpler time and place. But it’s also an opportunity to experience them again with fresh eyes. God knows kids’ movies are full of hidden adult humor, so parents won’t get bored while watching. Now we get to know what was so funny, too.

So, as we all navigate through this plot twist we call adulthood, let’s examine some of the ’90s movies that are worth revisiting now that you’re an adult.

1. Mrs. Doubtfire (1993)

Stream on Disney+

As a kid, Mrs. Doubtfire was just another zany Robin Williams character to me. Sure, the movie was funny for its slapstick moments (like when Mrs. Doubtfire’s rubber breasts catch on fire), but I only understood it on a very basic level. It was about a divorced dad who didn’t want another man taking over his family—much like other ’90s films of the time (like The Santa Clause or Liar, Liar).

But rewatching Mrs. Doubtfire as an adult is absolutely hilarious. There is SO. MUCH. INNEUNDO. Some of the best scenes are Daniel’s (as Mrs. Doubtfire) exchanges with Pierce Brosnan’s character, Stu. Every chance he gets, Daniel tries to embarrass Stu by talking about something sexual. When he first meets Stu as Mrs. Doubtfire, he makes a joke about a fancy car compensating for small genitals (which totally went over my head as a kid). And the whole restaurant scene is dirty humor at its best, with Mrs. Doubtfire dropping colorful names for sex like “Rumpleforeskin” and “Cunning Linguistics.”

There are also so many great movie impressions from Robin Williams that now make way more sense since I’ve seen a lot more movies. And his drag transformations are just impeccable. Plus, there’s even an appearance by Williams’ brother, Robert Todd Williams, as the bartender at the pool where Mrs. Doubtfire throws a lime at Stu’s head, or as she calls it, “a run by fruiting.”

2. Never Been Kissed (1999)

Stream on Starz

Never Been Kissed came out when I was just about to turn 13, so at the time, I couldn’t really relate to Josie’s high school or adult experiences. I did like the funny and romantic parts, though—and who didn’t love ’90s Drew Barrymore?

But this movie has a lot to say on a rewatch as an adult. For one thing, it’s a reminder of how cruel high school kids can be to each other, especially to the nerds, weirdos, and outcasts of the world. But as Josie says in her poignant prom speech, “It won’t matter if you were the prom queen, or the quarterback of the football team, or the biggest nerd in school.” In the real world, we all have a chance to make something of ourselves every day.

Never Been Kissed points out how high school is just a model for conformity and that sometimes nerds are the only ones brave enough to actually be themselves. And oftentimes, those are the people who really end up succeeding, living without barriers and not having to measure up to other people’s standards.

Even beyond getting the film’s lesson, it’s also just a fun rewatch to see all the various actors you may not have known when it first came out. Besides Drew Barrymore, Never Been Kissed’s cast also includes Molly Shannon, John C. Reilly, and Jessica Alba.

3. Now and Then (1995)

Rent on Prime Video

Before Sex and the City, pre-teen girls in the ’90s were figuring out which Now and Then character they were. Whether you were a Roberta, Samantha, Teeny, or Chrissy said a lot about you. As a kid, it was easy to relate to the girls’ friendships with one another—their run-ins with boys, their childhood games, and even their cemetery seances (although we preferred light as a feather, stiff as a board). But as an adult, you can better understand the movie’s deeper levels.

Not only is Now and Then a coming-of-age story, it’s one that celebrates female friendships and all the ups and downs that come with them. It also shows us that things aren’t always as they seem, especially when you’re a kid. Much of the true world is hidden from us until we become adults and “grow out” of things. And although we’ll constantly have challenges thrown at us in both childhood and adulthood, as Crazy Pete tells Samantha, “Things will happen in your life that you can’t stop, but that’s no reason to shut out the world.” That’s good advice at any age.

4. Ferngully (1992)

Stream on Tubi

Ferngully was one of the few non-Disney movies of the ’90s that I actually loved, mainly because it was about fairies. I also think it fueled my love for bats because Batty (played by Robin Williams, of course) was such a loveable weirdo. But although Ferngully features fairies and other creatures of the forest, it’s really an environmentalist film at its core, and it isn’t afraid to point out all the horrible things humans have done to the Earth. Ferngully tackles deforestation, pollution, acid rain, animal testing, the perils of human greed, and our insatiable lust for fossil fuels. It’s incredibly relevant even today as we still grapple with these issues and the ever-escalating impacts of climate change.

As an adult, it’s also pretty hilarious how some of the songs have thinly veiled sexual innuendo hidden amongst the lyrics (and their delivery). Baddie Hexxus is played by Tim Curry, and his song, Toxic Love, would have made Dr. Frank-N-Furter proud. Even the lizard’s song If I’m Gonna Eat Somebody had my eyebrows raised when he called Zak “a welcome little snack.”

5. Hook (1991)

Stream on Hulu

Can you tell I loved Robin Williams? Hook has Williams playing a grown-up Peter Pan who’s now a husband and father of two. But after he returns to London to visit an elderly Wendy (Maggie Smith), Captain Hook (Dustin Hoffman) kidnaps his kids and takes them to Neverland to bait Peter into returning and settling their rivalry. While there are many Peter Pan adaptations, this version was always one of my favorites. There was plenty to enjoy as a kid, including Robin Williams’ humor, but as an adult, Hook’s underlying themes are very visible.

In true Steven Spielberg form, Hook shows the damage an absent parent can do to a child. And the importance of spending time with your kids (which was super relevant at a time when many of our parents were absent or getting a divorce). On the other hand, as an adult with children (or thinking about having them) of our own, we can better understand Peter and his wife’s anguish at their children being taken and understand just how far they’d go to get them back—even learn to fly again in Peter’s case.

6. Empire Records (1995)

Stream on Hulu

A lot of my friends were obsessed with Empire Records as preteens and teens. It idealizes working at a record store and being surrounded by music and your peers. Plus, it has a banging alt-rock soundtrack. Now it just makes me miss the ’90s when record stores and rock music reigned supreme. As an adult, I also appreciate The Beatles reference at the end when the band plays on the rooftop. And the fact that Rex Manning Day is April 8, the day Kurt Cobain died. But aside from all that, Empire Records also deals with deeper issues, like gambling, drug abuse, suicide, and gun violence.

Upon rewatching, one of my favorite moments is Deb’s mock funeral at the store. It used to bother me that everyone ended up talking more about themselves than Deb. But now, that moment highlights the importance of vulnerability in connecting with others. They’re trying to tell her, in their own ways, that she’s not alone. And everyone is going through something, whether they show it or not. Definitely give it a rewatch, especially if you want to see baby-faced Liv Tyler and Renee Zellweger.

7. Pleasantville (1998)

Rent on Prime Video

As a pre-teen watching Pleasantville, I was more interested in the novelty of getting stuck in your favorite TV show than really understanding the film’s deeper meanings. And the scenes where some characters were in black and white while others were in color were pure movie magic to me.

I used to think that the movie was just a commentary on the era of Leave it to Beaver and nuclear families, but there’s a lot more going on. It’s ultimately about the human condition. As Tobey Mcguire says in the courtroom scene, there are so many things better than just pleasant. Human emotion is a spectrum. And you’ll never progress in life if you don’t get outside your comfort zone and feel your feelings.

Once the characters in the film start allowing themselves to take risks, expand their horizons, and feel, they turn from black and white to color. There are so many ways to further interpret that physical change. But there’s one thing I definitely only get now as an adult—reading books and falling in love (or lust) can indeed expand your horizons.

8. Tank Girl (1995)

Stream on Tubi

Tank Girl is rated R but flew under many a parent’s radar since it was technically a comic book movie. Part Mad Max, part Deadpool, the film is a dystopian, punk rock fever dream that also probably fueled my fear of kangaroos (What? They’re weird). But even as a kid, it was fun to watch for its hyper-violence, bad language, and killer soundtrack.

It wasn’t obvious to me in the ’90s, but Tank Girl was unapologetically feminist at a very misogynistic time in movies. Not only does it have a female protagonist, it has a very edgy one at that—one who talks about her sexuality, doesn’t conform to conventional standards of beauty, and fights with men (and usually wins). Plus, she’s not afraid to call out pervy guys, which I definitely appreciate more now as an adult.

Unsurprisingly, the film also has some pretty queer undertones. Even though Tank Girl is with Booga the Ripper in both the comics and movie, many people ship Tank Girl and Jet Girl (played by Naomi Watts in the film). Looking back, though, I’m pretty sure she’d hump just about anything that moved. Tank Girl was a progressive role model on all fronts of gender and sexuality.

9. Toy Story (1995)

Stream on Disney+

Sure, on the surface, Toy Story is a movie about toys that come alive and have adventures. Throw in a bit of humor, some recognizable voices, plus the Disney Pixar brand, and you’ve got yourself a hit kids movie. And years later, the Toy Story franchise is still going strong, with a fifth movie currently in the works.

It’s unsurprising, though, when you realize toys are extensions of their kid. We make up stories with them; they travel with us, and oftentimes, they sleep with us. But that’s why watching Toy Story as an adult just hits differently.

Woody’s not just jealous of the new toy Andy gets for his birthday—he’s worried about being abandoned and replaced by Buzz. Sounds familiar, no? How many of us have had that very same fear or wondered if we were good enough to receive someone’s love? As corny as it sounds, watching Woody deal with and accept change is kind of healing because it’s something we all have to do eventually. Plus, it’s pretty clear on a rewatch that Woody could use some good old-fashioned therapy for his anxious attachment style. And if that’s not relatable as a millennial, I don’t know what is.