9 Movies We Loved As ’90s Kids That Were So Bad They Were Good


To many contemporary movie-watchers, the flicks we watched as kids are full of nostalgia. Catching part of a cult classic like Hocus Pocus (1993) or Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (1994) may remind you of watching movies with friends or family, prompting pure sentimentality along the way.

Many ’90s movies might be good in hindsight, perhaps as a result of that very nostalgia, but a lot of films from the childhoods of 1990s kids were bad at the time – and remain bad now. Panned by critics, these movies don’t hold up – regardless of when you watch them – but their fans are adamant hangers-on, individuals who hold on to their truth that sometimes a bad movie is so bad, it’s good.  

In fact, there are numerous ’90s movies that comprise a category all their own. We can’t call them guilty pleasures (because we don’t feel guilty about loving them), but we can’t really fight the fact that they are, in fact, bad. Rather, they’re “good bad” ’90s movies, ones our inner child refuses to give up.

1. Encino Man

Encino Man

Encino Man and Jury Duty (1995) both earned Pauly Shore Razzie Awards, but the former was a box office success (while the latter was, comparatively, not). Encino Man demonstrated itself to be “aimed at the younger set… insulting even within its own no-effort parameters,” according to Variety magazine.

The movie ushered in a series of movies that featured what Caryn James from The New York Times called “Pauly-isms,” none of which made the movie “cool.”

As a side note, Arnold Schwarzenegger gets a credit for Encino Man on account of a clip of his 1984 movie, The Terminator, informing Brendan Fraser’s vocabulary

  • Actors: Sean Astin, Brendan Fraser, Pauly Shore, Megan Ward, Robin Tunney
  • Released: 1992
  • Directed by: Les Mayfield

2. Hook


In a retelling of the classic Peter Pan, 1991’s Hook was moderately successful, but the assessment of its overall quality remains contentious. Hook was nominated for several Academy Awards alongside a Razzie for supporting actress Julia Roberts. 

Critics felt as though Hook couldn’t decide exactly who its audience was supposed to be, with Rolling Stone chiding it for being “engineered for merchandising potential” but lacking charm. Roger Ebert was disappointed in the film never delivering in what it promised, but concluding in “embarrassingly excessive” fashion with no substance. 

  • Actors: Dustin Hoffman, Robin Williams, Julia Roberts, Bob Hoskins, Maggie Smith
  • Released: 1991
  • Directed by: Steven Spielberg

3. 3 Ninjas

3 Ninjas

As a relative box office success, 3 Ninjas was met with lukewarm reviews. The movie about three young boys learning ninjutsu was criticized by Stephen Holden of The New York Times for not being able to “make up its mind whether it wants to be a comedy, a fantasy, or an adventure film.”

The overall message of 3 Ninjas was one that seemed clear to Los Angeles Times critic Kevin Thomas, however, who praised its emphasis on “mind and spirit as well as body and requiring resourcefulness and discipline.” 

3 Ninjas spawned three sequels, released in 1994, 1995, and 1998. 

  • Actors: Victor Wong, Michael Treanor, Max Elliott Slade, Chad Power, Rand Kingsley
  • Released: 1992
  • Directed by: Jon Turteltaub

4. Ladybugs


With star Rodney Dangerfield, who was known as a comedian who played to adult audiences, Ladybugs was stifled from the get-go.

Cast as a salesman-turned-girl’s soccer coach, Dangerfield proved to be somewhat funny amid “feeble” material, according to The New York Times critic Vincent Canby, but the “emotional insecurities laced with aggressive tendencies” of the character dominated the movie. When asked why he made Ladybugs, director Sidney J. Furie stated, “Why not? It was something to do! One has to keep working, and believe me, it was one of the best paydays to come down the pike.”

  • Actors: Rodney Dangerfield, Jackée Harry, Jonathan Brandis, Ilene Graff, Vinessa Shaw
  • Released: 1992
  • Directed by: Sidney J. Furie

5. The Pagemaster

The Pagemaster

Macaulay Culkin earned a Razzie Award nomination for The Pagemaster (he lost to Kevin Costner in Wyatt Earp) but the problems with the movie, as identified by critics, had as much to do with plot (or lack thereof) and dark vibe. Roger Ebert called The Pagemaster “sad and dreary,” while Variety magazine described it as “brooding.”

The overall message of the movie seemed to be one that encouraged reading as escapism, but “cheap-looking animation” and “lame” takes on literary classics made The Pagemaster, in the words of critic Caryn James, “the kind of well-meaning film some parents think their children ought to like,” but one that “ignores a child’s sense of fun.” 

  • Actors: Macaulay Culkin, Christopher Lloyd, Ed Begley, Mel Harris, Kanin Howell
  • Released: 1994
  • Directed by: Maurice Hunt, Joe Johnston

6. Sidekicks


The duo of Chuck Norris and Jonathan Brandis in Sidekicks was enough to earn the movie a runner-up place at the box office the weekend it opened. Critics, however, were not impressed by the movie.

As a movie that blended martial arts and cliches about defeating bullies and winning the girl, Sidekicks was called, “one of the more far-fetched examples of what might be called the 97-pound weakling school of film making,” by New York Times critic Stephen Holden. Roger Ebert was a bit more kind, admitting the movie had some “charm,” albeit limited to viewers who’d not seen precursors like The Karate Kid (1984).

The fact that Sidekicks was directed by Norris’s brother, Aaron, may explain why the movie seems to channel the childhood experiences of the film’s star who, “daydreamed about being strong and being able to handle myself. To beat up the bullies.”

  • Actors: Chuck Norris, Beau Bridges, Jonathan Brandis, Mako, Julia Nickson
  • Released: 1993
  • Directed by: Aaron Norris

7. Suburban Commando

Suburban Commando

In a follow-up to his first major motion picture No Holds Barred (1989), wrestler Hulk Hogan failed to achieve box office or critical success with Suburban Commando. As a warrior from space, Hogan demonstrated his “limited” acting chops, although Roger Ebert found a few amusing aspects in the movie.

Unfortunately, the movie only made about $7 million during its box office run, admittedly “not a ton” of money, according to Hogan. In his autobiography, he lamented that the flick led to his branding “as somebody who couldn’t push a film.”

  • Actors: Hulk Hogan, Christopher Lloyd, Shelley Duvall, Larry Miller, William Ball
  • Released: 1991
  • Directed by: Burt Kennedy

8. Surf Ninjas

Surf Ninjas

Surf Ninjas united royalty with riding the waves in a movie that was “mindlessly watchable” to some critics and an “innocuous and negligible” flick to others. Surf Ninjas was another movie from the 1990s that incorporated martial arts as well, not quite meeting the appeal of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II (which also features Ernie Reyes, Jr.). 

One positive, according to reviewer Chris Hicks from Desert News was how much fun it looked like the cast was having as they made the film. Unfortunately, it did “not translate to the audience.”

  • Actors: Ernie Reyes, Rob Schneider, Nicolas Cowan, Leslie Nielsen, Tone Loc
  • Released: 1993
  • Directed by: Neal Israel

9. House Arrest

House Arrest

As a movie about children who hold their parents hostage, House Arrest was one of film critic Gene Siskel’s least favorite movies of 1996. Called a “Home Alone wannabe” by Variety magazine, House Arrest was, for critic Joe Leydon, guilty of “stretching a one-joke premise to the point of tedium and beyond.”

With moderately appealing performances and jokes revolving around dogs and snakes, House Arrest wavered “between doling out family values and pandering to adolescent anarchy,” for Lawrence Van Gelder from The New York Times. Audiences seemed to be just as underwhelmed, with House Arrest grossing only about $7 million at the box office. 

  • Actors: Jamie Lee Curtis, Kevin Pollak, Jennifer Tilly, Christopher McDonald, Sheila McCarthy
  • Released: 1996
  • Directed by: Harry Winer