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20 Best '90s Movies On HBO Max [December 2021]

The 1990s was one of the most bountiful and creatively explosive eras in film history. Not only did Hollywood reliably churn out eye-popping blockbusters made all the more thrilling and realistic because of new developments in special effects and CGI technology, but the independent film movement allowed for more artistic expression, unheard voices to be heard more often, and progressive, imaginative filmmakers to evolve the idea of cinema itself.

Millions of moviegoers evolved into full-fledged cinephiles during the era of Clinton, Beanie Babies, and Crystal Pepsi, and the omnipresence of home video and cable TV kept them satisfied with a steady diet of content. Nowadays, movie buffs can consume favorite flicks with a subscription to a streaming service. HBO Max, which boasts the library of parent company Warner Bros., has an especially large and diverse selection of movies. Here then are the best '90s movies currently available on HBO Max.

Updated on November 30, 2021: HBO Max frequently adds and drops movies from its virtual shelves, so we'll similarly regularly update this list to reflect those changes. Be sure to check back each month to see what '90s classics and overlooked gems are available to stream on HBO Max.

Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery

Near the end of the 1990s, comic actor and writer Mike Myers pointed out the absurdities of the decade by displacing there a character hopelessly stuck in the very different 1960s. But really, "Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery" is an ambitious and gleefully ridiculous spoof of garish and cocky British spy movies. Myers plays Austin Powers, a super spy cryogenically frozen in 1967 and thawed in 1997 when his nemesis, supervillain Dr. Evil (also played by Myers), returns from his cryonic slumber to hold the world hostage, requesting a hilariously low $1 million. Both Austin and Dr. Evil have to adjust quickly to a world that isn't how they left it, one where they can't be crude and sexist or cold and domineering anymore, respectively.

  • Starring: Mike Myers, Elizabeth Hurley, Robert Wagner
  • Director: Jay Roach
  • Year: 1997
  • Runtime: 89 minutes
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 73%

Blade

No one will ever mistake "Blade" for a movie that didn't come out in the late '90s. With its thumping electronic music soundtrack, askew camera angles, stylishly shot action sequences, and leather trench coats, "Blade" is a product of its era, but it's oh so cool and fun. Wesley Snipes clearly had a blast playing the title character, an antihero who walks the world alone, a half-human, half-vampire on a sworn mission to kill every evil (full) vampire in existence, either with his top-notch fight skills or awesome sword. But while he's chasing vampires, there are other bad guys chasing him — shady characters who need his blood to bring about the coming of the blood god La Magra.

  • Starring: Wesley Snipes, Stephen Dorff, Kris Kristofferson
  • Director: Stephen Norrington
  • Year: 1998
  • Runtime: 120 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 56%

Clueless

One of the definitive, most unquestionably '90s movies of the '90s — one depicting American teen life, fashion, and pop culture in explicit detail — is based on a British novel published in 1815. Cher Horowitz, a materialistic Los Angeles teenager who just wants to learn to drive, find a boyfriend, and give her friend Taj a makeover, was inspired by Emma Woodhouse, the central character and self-fancied matchmaker of Jane Austen's "Emma." Alicia Silverstone plays up the layers and nuance in what could be considered or portrayed by others as a vapid, air-headed California teen, as she deeply cares about finding happiness for her hyperactive friends, workaholic father, dowdy teachers, and herself, as she pursues a romance with her mismatched, much older ex-stepbrother.

  • Starring: Alicia Silverstone, Stacey Dash, Paul Rudd
  • Director: Amy Heckerling
  • Year: 1995
  • Runtime: 97 minutes
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 81%

Eyes Wide Shut

After a career that included such provocative, future-forward films like "A Clockwork Orange," "2001: A Space Odyssey," and "Dr. Strangelove," Stanley Kubrick made his final masterpiece in 1999, the intense and unsettling psychological romantic thriller "Eyes Wide Shut." The film takes a deep and intimate dive into the love life of a long-married New York couple. When Alice admits that she once considered having an affair, it sends Bill mentally and spiritually spiraling, questioning everything about his marriage and the nature of monogamous relationships. He sets off on a dreamlike journey deep into the night, in which he discovers and participates in the seedy and dangerous side of human need fulfillment.

  • Starring: Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Sydney Pollack
  • Director: Stanley Kubrick
  • Year: 1999
  • Runtime: 159 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 76%

Friday

A mini-genre of '90s films sought to depict the tough, violent circumstances of life in South Central Los Angeles and Compton, two areas beset by heavy gang activity, social ills, and poverty — themes shared in the gangster rap of the era. NWA member Ice Cube starred in one such movie, "Boyz n the Hood," but then went on to co-write and star in "Friday," a comic counterpoint to that film and others like it. 

"Friday" takes place over the course of one day in Ice Cube's neighborhood, a day in which his character, Craig, doesn't have much to do on account of how he just lost his job. So he might as well heed his best friend Smokey's request to just relax and enjoy some marijuana. But problems keep popping up, and Craig has to solve them, such as an angry drug dealer, a local bully, and an angry ex.

  • Starring: Ice Cube, Chris Tucker, Regina King
  • Director: F. Gary Gray
  • Year: 1995
  • Runtime: 91 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 78%

House Party

"House Party" takes viewers on a wild and twisty comic journey with so many ups and downs that the assured happy ending promised by the title often seems in doubt. Popular pop-rap duo Kid n' Play play themselves as teenagers, and when Play decides to throw a party, everyone in school is planning to go, from the coolest young ladies and idiosyncratic DJ Bilal (a scene-stealing Martin Lawrence) to a gang of bullies whose animosity toward Kid leads to a fight that prevents the protagonist from attending. He'll have to sneak out of his house, carefully watched over by his controlling father, in order to get to the greatest party ever thrown on film.

  • Starring: Christopher Reid, Christopher Martin, Martin Lawrence
  • Director: Reginald Hudlin
  • Year: 1990
  • Runtime: 104 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 93%

Interview with the Vampire

Based on the 1978 bestselling vampire novel by Anne Rice, "Interview with the Vampire" tells the lush and languid story of Louis de Pointe du lac, an 18th-century lord who still walks among the living. As he relates in his recollections, as told to an eager reporter, he was turned into a vampire — an undead, bloodsucker of the upper-crust variety — by the charismatic and controlling Lestat. "Interview with the Vampire" romanticizes the life and habits of creatures of the night but, unlike other vampire fiction, de-romanticizes it too. Louis, Lestat, and their forever young charge Claudia live a life of privilege but also violence and boredom.

  • Starring: Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, Kirsten Dunst
  • Director: Neil Jordan
  • Year: 1994
  • Runtime: 122 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 64%

Jurassic Park

"Jurassic Park" was more than just the biggest movie of 1993. It was at one point the top-grossing movie of all time, dazzling audiences with new highs in special effects technology and proving to be a pop culture phenomenon that reflected a literary craze of the era. Based on the extremely best-selling novel by Michael Crichton, "Jurassic Park" is a techno-thriller, a science-and-ethics-heavy fable about arrogant humans not recognizing the threats of nature and technology, only for their ambitious projects to go horribly awry. Of course, that's a very entertaining lesson when it's all about very angry dinosaurs brought back to life via cloning and housed on an island theme park. "Jurassic Park" is never not thrilling, what with the giant Tyrannosaurus trying to eat people in a rainstorm, wily Velociraptors stalking around a kitchen, and a nasty Dilophosaurus spitting burning poison at people's faces.

Malcolm X

Spike Lee — one of the best and most important filmmakers of the late 20th century and responsible for the race relations masterpiece "Do the Right Thing" — outdid himself with "Malcolm X," a complicated, epic, long overdue screen biography of one of the most important figures in American history. Multi-Oscar winner Denzel Washington is electrifying as Malcolm X, disappearing in the role of the Civil Rights Movement leader who demanded Black empowerment, immediate change, and revolution, as opposed to fellow crusader Martin Luther King's approach of peaceful resistance. Lee's film follows the former Malcolm Little's remarkable, inspiring, and tragic story from his time as an imprisoned activist, leader of the National of Islam, and final days as an inspiration to millions.

The Matrix

As the '90s came to an end and widespread anxiety about rapidly evolving technologies and the new millennium set in, the Wachowskis unveiled "The Matrix," a visually stunning, deeply philosophical sci-fi masterpiece that gave the world a taste of what the future might look like — if not movies of the future. After a trench coat-wearing revolutionary named Morpheus offers him the opportunity to discover the truth about reality, an office drone named Neo finds himself exposed to the dark secret of human existence. Real life is a simulation, and people are kept in pods as energy sources for machines. Soon after, Neo joins Morpheus' rebellion, seeking a life lived of his own free will, but first, he'll have to fight his way through "the matrix," where the evil Agent Smith is seemingly unstoppable, and time and space can be manipulated and act unpredictably.

  • Starring: Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, Laurence Fishburne
  • Director: Lilly Wachowski, Lana Wachowski
  • Year: 1999
  • Runtime: 136 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 88%

Menace II Society

"Menace II Society" won "Best Movie" at the 1993 MTV Movie Awards, so that should provide the proper context for understanding how important this movie was to young Americans in the early 1990s. Like the West Coast rap popular at the time, "Menace II Society" aimed to explain the trials and tribulations of being part of a Los Angeles area street gang. At age 18, Caine has grown weary and fearful of his future, and he seeks a way to escape the gang lifestyle he's known for years and that's enveloped most of his friends. He's got a support system of a crusading teacher and a loving girlfriend, and he plans to leave everything behind by leaving L.A. ... if tragic events don't pull him back into the old way of doing things before he even escapes.

  • Starring: Tyrin Turner, Jada Pinkett Smith, Larenz Tate
  • Director: Allen Hughes, Albert Hughes
  • Year: 1993
  • Runtime: 96 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 83%

The Player

Robert Altman specialized in films featuring meandering, overlapping stories (and dialogue) that explored a small community, social group, or otherwise interconnected subculture. In 1992, Altman adhered to the adage of writing what you know and turned out "The Player," a dark, cutting satire about trying to make artistic and relevant movies in modern-day, profits-driven Hollywood. 

High-powered producer Griffin Mill starts receiving death threats, and he's pretty sure they're coming from David Kahane, a struggling screenwriter whose pitch he turned down. He intends to offer the writer a deal to smooth things over but winds up killing him instead, then dating his victim's partner. Of course, all of this would make a great movie, as far as Mill's colleagues are concerned.

  • Starring: Tim Robbins, Greta Scacchi, Fred Ward
  • Director: Robert Altman
  • Year: 1992
  • Runtime: 124 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 98%

Rush Hour

The world got a little bit smaller in the '90s, and Hollywood began taking chances on non-American actors, bringing in Chinese martial arts movie star (and perpetuator of unbelievable, never-faked on-screen stunts) Jackie Chan onto the A-list. He teamed up with charming, motor-mouthed comedian Chris Tucker for "Rush Hour," an update and expansion of the '80s "Lethal Weapon" formula of mismatched police detectives trying to mesh their work styles and get along. 

After the daughter of a Chinese diplomat disappears in Los Angeles, the FBI brings in Hong Kong detective Inspector Lee to consult on the case, where he's paired up with jovial LAPD detective James Carter. Naturally, they hate each other at first, and they can't understand each other's language, but they'll learn to get along while also solving the case. (And the actors' talents are put to good use. Chan busts out a lot of martial arts movies, and Tucker doesn't stop cracking wise.)

Se7en

"Se7en" just might be the best of the many '90s crime thrillers that track a cat-and-mouse game between intense detectives and brilliant, gleefully evil murderers with a grand plan. In this case — one of the bleakest assessments of the human condition ever committed to film — brash, young, and naive detective David Mills teams up with weary old detective William Somerset to find and stop a killer the likes of which they've never seen. He's a monster who themes each of his grisly and revolting murders to the "seven deadly sins" of yore. Neither detective is truly prepared for all the twists in the nameless criminal's horrific game.

  • Starring: Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman, Gwyneth Paltrow
  • Director: David Fincher
  • Year: 1995
  • Runtime: 125 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 82%

Speed

The '80s were a time of excess, and at the movies, that meant muscle-covered tough guys stoically unloading machine guns. The '90s were more concerned with simplicity and unpretentiousness, and that played out in action movies like "Speed," a bare-bones, fat-free thrill ride that consists almost entirely of action, with a novel plot that turns the tension up to 10 and doesn't dip until the credits roll. 

In "Speed," Keanu Reeves proved his mettle as an action hero, playing a Los Angeles cop attempting to stop a shockingly cruel terrorist who places a bomb on a city bus. If the vehicle slows to below 50 mph, it will explode, killing dozens of innocent passengers. A rider named Annie jumps into the driver seat while Reeves' Jack Travel attempts to navigate the bus to safety, which isn't easy as it careens at top speeds through L.A.'s busy, crowded freeways.

Thelma and Louise

Ridley Scott, so influential on sci-fi cinema in the '70s and '80s with "Alien" and "Blade Runner," welcomed the '90s with "Thelma and Louise," a completely different movie than one he'd ever made before. It's one part dusty, big-sky road movie, one part empathetic drama about female friendship, and one part social satire critical of systemic sexism. 

Timid, unhappily married Thelma joins her free-spirited friend and inspiration, Louise, for a short fishing getaway ... which then turns into an actual getaway, as in from aggressively pursuant (but oddly understanding) police detective after Louise fatally shoots a man who attempts to assault Thelma at a bar. They go on the lam, finding adventures both romantic and dangerous on the way and winding up in an iconic car chase, giving us a film that ultimately asks more questions than it answers.

  • Starring: Susan Sarandon, Geena Davis, Harvey Keitel
  • Director: Ridley Scott
  • Year: 1991
  • Runtime: 129 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 85%

The Truman Show

What could be a paranoid-fueled, late '90s warning about the dangers of the reality TV revolution to come turns into a truly affecting story that serves as an allegory about the power of individualism and the need to follow one's path. "The Truman Show" also showed that comic wild man Jim Carrey could handle layered drama. He stars as Truman Burbank, who, as he approaches middle age, discovers that his entire life to that point has been staged — he's the unwitting star of the world's most popular reality show, where hidden cameras capture his every move and tell his life story. To track down his true love and find his real identity, he'll have to break through many trying levels of superficiality.

  • Starring: Jim Carrey, Laura Linney, Ed Harris
  • Director: Peter Weir
  • Year: 1998
  • Runtime: 102 minutes
  • Rating: PG
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 95%

Unforgiven

Launching a comeback that's now going on 30 years, one-time Western star Clint Eastwood starred in and directed "Unforgiven," an almost-meta examination and reckoning with his own career as a purveyor of violent cowboy (and police) shoot-'em-up movies. Here, he stars as an aging gunslinger trying to come to terms with a life filled with cruelty, violence, and death. Eastwood plays bandit turned farmer William Munny who takes on one final job — finding a sex worker's murderer — in a Wyoming town where the sheriff doesn't care much for vigilantes. "Unforgiven" won multiple Academy Awards, including ones for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Supporting Actor (for Gene Hackman).

Waiting to Exhale

An introspective, emotionally driven look at the effects of infidelity — from several different points of view — "Waiting to Exhale" plays like an engrossing, honest, and open novel, which makes sense because it's based on a bestseller of the same name by "How Stella Got Her Groove Back" author Terry McMillan. The central relationship of the movie is a tight-knit group of four well-to-do women — Bernadine, Gloria, Savannah, and Robin. All lean on each other through difficult times in their work and family lives, particularly Savannah and Robin who are mistresses to the married men they're seeing, while Bernadine copes with the trauma of her husband leaving her for another woman. "Waiting to Exhale" is a film about healing, the power of friendship, and the idea that life by no means ends at middle age. (And the soundtrack of excellent '90s R&B certainly helps the messages go down.)

  • Starring: Whitney Houston, Angela Bassett, Loretta Devine
  • Director: Forest Whitaker
  • Year: 1995
  • Runtime: 123 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 60%

The Wedding Singer

One of the best comedies of the 1990s actually takes place in the early 1980s. However, "The Wedding Singer" isn't just a throwback full of the distinctive styles and music of the '80s. It also captures that era's optimism and superficial effervescence. 

Abandoning his very successful schtick of playing hilariously immature malcontents in crude comedies like "Billy Madison" and "Happy Gilmore," Adam Sandler plays a fairly regular and very decent guy, Robbie Hart, who loves his job covering top 40 hits as the lead singer of a wedding band. But then his mean and aloof girlfriend dumps him, making him question everything, including love. The only way for Robbie to return to his sweet self is by finding love again, and he just might find it with Julia, a reception hall server engaged to an evil yuppie. It's a rom-com but also a Sandler movie, so "The Wedding Singer" delivers random and weird moments, like a rapping granny and an oddly un-aged '80s rocker Billy Idol subduing a villain on a plane.

  • Starring: Adam Sandler, Drew Barrymore, Christine Taylor
  • Director: Frank Coraci
  • Year: 1998
  • Runtime: 96 minutes
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 69%