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The Underrated '90s Suspense Film That's Killing It On Netflix

Contains spoilers for Double Jeopardy

Along with big-budget disaster flicks and edgy rom-coms, thrillers with a strong female lead were a huge part of the cinema landscape in the 1990s. Whether it was Sandra Bullock tracking down conspiracies in The Net or Julia Roberts escaping an abusive spouse in Sleeping with the Enemy, audiences were eager to see women taking on — and taking out — nefarious men. Few films personified this trend as well as the Ashley-Judd-and-Tommy-Lee-Jones-starring revenge tale Double Jeopardy.

In the Bruce Beresford-directed flick, Judd plays the quiet and kind Libby Parsons, whose wealthy husband Nick (Bruce Greenwood) vanishes while they're alone on a boat. Although Libby is clueless as to what's happening, she's eventually convicted of Nick's murder and sent to prison. It's then that she discovers that Nick is very much alive. In fact, he purposefully faked his own murder and set it up for Libby to take the fall. After one of her fellow inmates clues her into the legal concept of double jeopardy — that someone can't be tried twice for the same crime — Libby vows to use this loophole to make sure Nick doesn't get the chance to enjoy the new life he's created for himself and their son. The plan: She'll falsely admit to murdering Nick in order to be released from prison on good behavior, then kill Nick for real, as she's already been tried and convicted for that crime.

While the core idea of Double Jeopardy is, uh, not exactly legally airtight, who really cares? The movie is an enjoyable slice of late '90s thriller cheese — which is probably exactly why it's currently on the list of top 10 movies on Netflix

Critics weren't kind to Double Jeopardy, but audiences flocked to it

Everyone might be enjoying Double Jeopardy now that it's on Netflix, but back when it came out, the film took a bit of a beating from critics. 

The late Roger Ebert was more charitable than many in his two-and-a-half star review, published in September 1999, though he still called the film "not a successful thriller, but with some nice dramatic scenes along with the dumb mystery and contrived conclusion."

Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly described the movie as "toothless" and "a strained reworking of The Fugitive." Meanwhile, James Berardinelli at Reel Views wrote, "Unfortunately, this movie is too focused on action, melodrama, and plot twists to allow for more than a moment's intelligence to worm its way into the script."

Despite the middling reviews, the movie was a hit with audiences. It spent several weeks at No. 1 at the US box office and raked in nearly $178 million across the globe (via Box Office Mojo). Considering its current popularity on Netflix, it's clear that something about Double Jeopardy has always connected with the general public, despite the silly plot. In his review, Berardinelli provided a possible answer: the work of Ashley Judd. Though Berardinelli critiqued the movie as a whole, he did lavish praise on Judd's performance, saying, "Ashley Judd almost makes Libby credible. In fact, the actress is so good that, against all odds, we like the character even though she only uses about 1% of her brain cells."

Ashley Judd was a late addition to Double Jeopardy, but it helped define her career

Double Jeopardy has gone on to become one of Judd's most noteworthy roles, but her part in the film originally went to another actress. According to an interview in Urban Cinefile with the film's director, Bruce Beresford, Jodie Foster was originally attached. "She fell out of the project, because she got pregnant, and we had to recast. That's how Ashley Judd wound up in it," explained Beresford.

Second choice or not, the movie helped cement Judd's status as a go-to star for thrillers with tough women at their center. Before Double Jeopardy, she starred in Kiss the Girls, along with Morgan Freeman. That film is based on a popular James Patterson novel and sees Freeman's Detective Alex Cross on the hunt for a serial killer named Casanova. Judd plays a young doctor who was a would-be victim of Casanova who managed to escape. She partners with Cross to help him track down the killer.

After Double Jeopardy, Judd teamed up with Freeman again for High Crimes, where she plays a lawyer who finds out her husband has been leading a double life as a war crimes perpetrator. Following that, she starred in Twisted as a San Francisco police officer with a drinking problem who finds herself at the center of a conspiracy when her former lovers keep turning up murdered.

The quality levels for all of the thrillers that Ashley Judd made in the heyday of her career vary (Twisted is notorious for having a one percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes), but clearly even over 20 years since the film's release, audiences are still connecting with her portrayal of a woman hell-bent on revenge in Double Jeopardy.