Have you ever gone back and revisited some of your favorite ‘90s movies only to find out that they actually aren’t that good, or worse, are utterly terrible? It happens all the time and we’re forced to remove those rose-tinted glasses and think long and hard about all those popular movies that either made a killing at the box office or take up space in our nostalgia-filled minds. As difficult as it may be, sometimes it’s best to look back on those movies and memories, and ask ourselves: “Wait, what was going on there?” And while not every popular movie from the final decade of the 20th Century should be scrubbed from our collective memory, the films listed below aren’t anywhere as good as we remember them being…
Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves (1991)
Upon his return from fighting in the Crusades (and escaping a prison), Robin of Locksley (Kevin Costner) discovers that his familial home has been ransacked, his father killed, and the Sheriff of Nottingham (Alan Rickman) making a mess of things. Between the movie being way too long, Kevin Costner’s lack of an English accent, and Azeem Edin Bashir Al Bakir (Morgan Freeman) being nothing more than an egregious Muslim stereotype, there’s a lot to pick apart with Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. The only saving grace (which admittedly isn’t enough to right the ship) is Alan Rickman’s over-the-top and scene-stealing performance.
When her fiancé’s diamond-hunting expedition into the Congo goes awry, Dr. Karen Ross (Laura Linney) leads a group into the heart of the jungle to uncover the mystery, only to discover something darker and more dangerous awaiting their arrival. Released just two years after another Michael Crichton book adaptation (Jurassic Park) became one of the most successful blockbusters of all time, Congo pounded its way into theaters in June 1995. The movie is all over the place tonally, has more than enough terrible lines, a gorilla that can speak with a computer, and god awful special effects.
Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace (1999)
Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) takes young Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd) under his wing after meeting the young boy on the desert planet Tatooine, setting in motion events that will forever change the galaxy. The hype surrounding the release of Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace was insane, but that excitement quickly faded as audiences took in the new release in the iconic franchise in 16 years, setting the tone for the rest of George Lucas’ divisive Prequel Trilogy. Terrible CGI, way too many blue-screens, and offensively awful characters, the movie just isn’t good at all.
The Boondock Saints (1999)
Devout Irish Catholics Conner (Sean Patrick Flanery) and Murphy MacManus (Norman Reedus) go on a two-man mission to clean the streets and back alleys of Boston by eliminating every gangster in town. Upon its release in late 1999, The Boondock Saints became an unstoppable and inescapable force, especially in college dorm rooms plastered with the movie’s poster and arsenal of quotable lines. However, this movie isn’t good to anyone older than the age of 19 (I’ve tried to go back and watch but I can’t recapture that glory of yesterday) and is at times laughable it’s so bad.
Years after being mutated during a nuclear test, Godzilla takes up residence in New York City, bringing death, destruction, and a nest of babies to the Big Apple. Roland Emmerich’s 1998 adaptation of Godzilla is straight up bad, and not in an enjoyable “this is fun to mock” kind of bad either. It stinks! There’s just too much going on here with its bloated cast, overstuffed story, terrible CGI, and a lack of the fun and excitement that made the Japanese monster film franchise such a treat in the first place. At least this movie’s version of the iconic kaiju got bodied in Godzilla: Final Wars a few years later.
Rookie Of The Year (1993)
Henry Rowengartner (Thomas Ian Nicholas) becomes the star pitcher for the Chicago Cubs after a freak accident leaves the 12-year-old with an arm capable of throwing at the Major League level. While Rookie of the Year is a great movie to watch when you’re a kid, revisiting the popular 1993 sports comedy as an adult is a terrible way to spend a couple of hours. With abandoned subplots (like the part where Henry is sold to the Yankees but the trade is never mentioned again), head-scratching leaps in logic in terms of baseball (it’s best not to think about it), and lazy editing in the final game, this movie is no world champ.
Mortal Kombat (1995)
Three accomplished fighters from different backgrounds — Liu Kang (Robin Shou), Sonya Blade (Bridgette Wilson), and Johnny Cage (Linden Ashby) — are selected to fight for Earth in the Mortal Kombat tournament. I personally enjoy the 1995 Mortal Kombat movie, but that’s because I was in the second grade and obsessed with the video game franchise on which it is based when I first caught it at a sleepover. But if you take off those $500 rose-tinted sunglasses, you’ll see terrible CGI, god awful line delivery, and a half-hearted attempt at capturing the magic that made the arcade games so much fun.
The Hunchback Of Notre Dame (1996)
After spending the entirety of his life in the bell-tower of Notre Dame Cathedral, Quasimodo (Tom Hulce) makes a drastic change and introduces himself to the world and the woman of his dreams, Esmeralda (Demi Moore). Despite bringing in $325 million at the global box office and receiving praise from the likes of Roger Ebert, The Hunchback of Notre Dame is not a fun or even enjoyable movie and pales in comparison to the original source material by Victor Hugo.
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers (1995)
The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers find themselves in the biggest and baddest adventure yet when Ivan Ooze (Paul Freeman) escapes captivity, kills their leader, Zordon (Nicholas Bell), sets his sights on world domination. Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie, released in June 1995, is basically a bigger, more expensive, and flashier version of the iconic TV series but without a lot of the heart, goofiness, and enjoyability that made it such a big sensation in the early 1990s. I guess my dad made the right call taking me to see Apollo 13 instead that summer.
Jack Powell (Robin Williams), a 10-year-old trapped in grown man’s body due to a rare birth defect that accelerates his growth beyond comprehension, breaks free from his life of isolation and attends public school, changing his life and those of the people around him in the process. With director Francis Ford Coppola and star Robin Williams, Jack seemed like a recipe for success, but in actuality, the movie is a honker. There are some quick laughs here and there but the odd tone of the movie and some of its more delicate situations make for a hard watch 25 years later.
Meet Joe Black (1998)
On the eve of his 65th birthday, Bill Parish (Anthony Hopkins) is paid a visit by the embodiment of death who goes by the name Joe Black (Brad Pitt) and proceeds to make a deal for a few more days on Earth. The thing about Meet Joe Black is that it would have been a great movie if some of the fat was trimmed throughout its bloated 181-minute runtime and the final scene (Joe goes back to being a human) was left on the cutting room floor.
Paranormal therapist James Harvey (Bill Pullman) and his daughter Kat (Christina Ricci) move into a haunted mansion to free the estate of a ghostly presence and become involved with the four wayward spirits who live there, including Casper (Malachi Pearson). Upon its release in 1995, Casper brought in $288 million at the global box office and brought the long-dormant property back into the spotlight. Despite its success, Casper is a movie that is bogged down by a complicated set of rules put in place only to be broken time and time again.
An accomplished assassin by the name of Preston Lennox (Michael Madsen) is sent to eliminate a genetically modified alien-human hybrid named Sil (Natasha Henstridge) only to fall into her trap. Species is one those movies you were never able to watch as a kid due to the subject matter and by the time you got around to watching it years later on some premium channel you realized it wasn’t a fun or even enjoyable movie but instead of a half-hearted sci-fi action flick that was sold by the sex appeal of its villain.
The Waterboy (1998)
Through a stroke of luck, Bobby Boucher Jr. (Adam Sandler) goes from South Central Louisiana State University Mud Dogs’ waterboy to the football team’s star player. The biggest problem with The Waterboy is Adam Sandler’s performance and how it helped usher in a new era of the comedian-turned-actor’s career that saw countless annoying and over-the-top characters. I’m not saying Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore, or The Wedding Singer deserve an Oscar or anything like that, but this was just too much.
Mike Roark (Tommy Lee Jones), the head of the Los Angeles Emergency Management Department and geologist Dr. Amy Barnes (Anne Heche) race to find a way to prevent an ancient volcano from turning the City of Angels into a river of lava. Although it is far from being the worst disaster movie of all time and has a few fun moments and cool visuals, Volcano is just a big dumb expensive movie that tries too much with its short runtime.
The Flintstones (1994)
Fred Flintstone (John Goodman) is just another hard-working resident of Bedrock when he gets the chance of a lifetime to move up the corporate ladder, but pays a great deal in the process. Released in the summer of 1994, The Flintstones was a massive hit at the box office and in pop culture, and came out right in the middle of the craze that saw other classic ‘60s TV show get the big screen treatment. The movie, however, is a shell of the classic Hanna-Barbera cartoon of the same name and is nothing more than bad jokes and awful puns that will make you roll out of the theater.
Wild Wild West (1999)
Civil War hero James “Jim” T. West (Will Smith) and U.S. Marshall Artemus Gordon (Kevin Kline) are tasked with stopping Dr. Arliss Loveless (Kenneth Branagh) before he can build an army of mechanical monsters and take over the country. Wild Wild West is not only one of the worst movies of 1999, it is also one of the worst movies of the ‘90s as a whole, and for plenty of reasons. The biggest travesty of the entire movie is the fact that there were classically-trained and decorated actors on the cast (Kline and Branagh) and the whole show still couldn’t be saved from being the worst Will Smith movie.
Blank Check (1994)
Through a stroke of luck, 11-year-old Preston Waters (Brian Bonsall) is given a blank check which he then cashes in for one million dollars and all sort of adventure. Released in 1994, Blank Check is another one of those movies you don’t want to revisit as an adult. There’s no heart, no logic, and a scene where a grown woman gives a kid (who has the hots for her) a kiss on the lips. All of that in a moderately successful Disney movie.
Deep Blue Sea (1999)
A medical experiment that involves taking brain tissue from sharks to cure Alzheimer’s Disease goes wrong and turns the animals into hyper-intelligent beings who don’t want to reason, but to kill. Deep Blue Sea, which features one of the most ridiculous Samuel L. Jackson characters and death scenes, is a forgettable paint-by-numbers monster movie that is all but forgotten to time.
Baby’s Day Out (1994)
Three dimwitted criminals (Brian Haley, Joe Pantoliano, and Joe Mantegna) kidnap the infant son of a wealthy Chicago family in hopes of collecting a massive ransom. If this is the first you’ve heard of Baby’s Day Out then consider yourself lucky. This movie, which was written by John Hughes, pretty much takes ideas from other kids vs. robbers movies (like Home Alone), but takes away the heart, likable characters, and fun.
Long after climate change has turned Earth into an endless ocean, the Mariner (Kevin Costner) tries to make it by in life while avoiding roving bands of raiders (and pretty much all human interaction), but that all changes when he learns of Dryland. The 1995 dystopian action flick Waterworld was supposed to be a massive even that would go down as one of the best action films of the decade, but that movie got off course, ran into troubled waters, and sank to the bottom of the box office ocean.
The English Patient (1996)
Over the course of multiple flashbacks, the mysterious life of Laszlo de Almásy (Ralph Fiennes) is uncovered, including his true identity and the love affair that has shaped much of his adult life during World War II. The English Patient won a total of nine Academy Awards following its release, including Best Picture, but the movie is way too long and rather boring with all of its various storylines. And the fact that it beat out Fargo at the Oscars is still baffling.
Mars Attacks (1996)
A group of Martians arrive on Earth, not to build a multi-planet organization focused on peace or anything like that but instead to destroy the planet and everyone on it. Mars Attacks is a terrible movie but that almost seems to be the point as it is a callback to the line of Topps trading cards of the same name first released in the 1960s. It’s campy, has some awful visual effects, and has only a few likable characters. Terrible as it may be, I’ll still watch it.
Vegas Vacation (1997)
Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) takes his family on yet another adventure, this time to Las Vegas with all its temptation, gambling, and dam jokes. If the 2015 Vacation reboot didn’t exist, Vegas Vacation would be the worst installment in the classic National Lampoon franchise. Clark has always been a bit of a goof who gets carried away rather easily, but he just so happens to be the most unlikable character in the movie, which is saying a lot.
Weekend At Bernie’s II
Larry Wilson (Andrew McCarthy) and Richard Parker (Jonathan Silverman) are accused of stealing $2 million that their deceased boss Bernie Lomax (Terry Kiser) embezzled prior to his murder and have to clear their names before it’s too late. We previously included the first Weekend at Bernie’s on the list of terrible ’80s movies, so it only seemed natural to have its 1993 sequel Weekend at Bernie’s II this time around. This is essentially a photocopy of the first film but manages to be even worse, maybe because it is completely unnecessary and features a reanimated Bernie.
There you have it — 25 popular ‘90s movies that are more terrible than you remembered. This list could have been longer, but there is only so much pain and torture one person can take.
Philip grew up in Louisiana (not New Orleans) before moving to St. Louis after graduating from Louisiana State University-Shreveport. When he’s not writing about movies or television, Philip can be found being chased by his three kids, telling his dogs to stop yelling at the mailman, or yelling about professional wrestling to his wife. If the stars properly align, he will talk about For Love Of The Game being the best baseball movie of all time.