These 9 Movies From the ’90s Were Massive, But No One Remembers Them Today

The Bodyguard

One of the unusual things about cinema is that even box office hits can fade into obscurity. People can’t wait to see them, and they’re big deals in the moment, but they eventually reach a point where no one talks about them. 

That’s definitely the case with many 1990s movies. It was a different time. Having a big star and a catchy premise was all it took to get at least two or three solid weekends at the box office. 

The following films from that decade were all major hits. They featured A-list stars of the era like Mel Gibson, Julia Roberts, Kevin Costner, and Sharon Stone. People still remember them, and they still have their fans, of course. However, the flicks just didn’t have the ongoing cultural footprint that Jurassic Park, TitanicSaving Private Ryan, and others from the ’90s had. 

Additionally, they struggled to attract younger generations of viewers. A few are undeniable turkeys, but the majority were successful, which makes them worth a chance for people who have never seen them. Who knows – maybe they’ll become big deals again!

1. Fried Green Tomatoes

Fried Green Tomatoes

Some movies are duds in their theatrical release but grow into cult favorites over time. Fried Green Tomatoes is slightly different. It was a considerable hit in 1991, yet later shrank into more of a cult favorite. It’s the tale of two friends, Idgie Threadgoode (Mary Stuart Masterson) and Ruth Jamison (Mary-Louise Parker), and how their lives change in and around a small Alabama restaurant in the 1920s.

The film had a lot of Oscar buzz upon its release, eventually earning a best supporting actress nomination for Jessica Tandy, along with a best adapted screenplay nomination. That undeniably helped drive ticket sales. It didn’t win anything, though, and failed to nab that all-important best picture nomination. 

Fried Green Tomatoes has settled into a place where it’s beloved by a specific demographic, who rightly view it as one of the decade’s quintessential female-driven pictures. Younger viewers don’t seem to have connected with it, however.

Of note, it’s worth mentioning that Fried Green Tomatoes carries the bizarre designation of being a heartfelt movie with a subplot involving cannibalism.

2. Bram Stoker’s Dracula

Bram Stoker's Dracula

It’s difficult to understate how heavily hyped Bram Stoker’s Dracula (also called simply Dracula) was in 1992. Acclaimed director Francis Ford Coppola, of The Godfather and Apocalypse Now fame, was delivering his big-budget interpretation of the classic novel. He lured red-hot stars Winona Ryder and Keanu Reeves to be his leads. And as Dracula, he landed Gary Oldman, a performer quickly establishing himself as a fascinating chameleon.

The movie was a solid hit, although not the blockbuster it was presumed to be. Similarly, reviews were solid, yet not rapturous. The overall consensus was that Bram Stoker’s Dracula was an interesting, visually lush take on the source material, but not a defining one. That reputation has likely hindered how people perceive it. With many Dracula-centered films to choose from, fans of the character are perhaps slower to gravitate toward this one than to the 1931 Bela Lugosi or 1979 Frank Langella versions. 

3. Mr. Holland’s Opus

Mr. Holland's Opus

The main character in Mr. Holland’s Opus is a high school band director – an occupation you almost never see portrayed onscreen. Richard Dreyfuss plays the titular Glenn Holland, and the movie spans many years of his career, during which he inspires countless students. The film was warmly received by critics and earned Dreyfuss an Oscar nomination as best actor. In terms of the box office, it was one of those pictures that hangs on, week after week, propelled by good word of mouth.

Even though there are always new high school musicians, Mr. Holland’s Opus failed to become a cross-generational hit. Other popular films from 1996 – including Jerry Maguire, Independence Day, and Scream – have continued to resonate, burrowing into the pop culture consciousness. 

This one may be remembered by people who saw it at the time or shortly afterward on VHS, yet seems relatively unknown among anyone born after 2000. Some of that may be due to the unrepentant sentimentality of the story, which could come off as old-fashioned today. Nevertheless, there’s a lot of heart in the movie, and it certainly speaks to anyone who played in a high school band. 

4. The Hand That Rocks the Cradle

The Hand That Rocks the Cradle

Released in January 1992, The Hand That Rocks the Cradle was a sleeper hit, earning $88 million at cinemas domestically. No one saw that coming, as it lacked major stars and came out during a month that’s normally a bit of a dead zone for new releases. Working in its favor, however, was an irresistible premise. 

Rebecca De Mornay played Mrs. Mott/Peyton Flanders, a deranged woman working as a nanny for married couple Claire and Michael Bartel (Annabella Sciorra and Matt McCoy). Mott blamed Claire for her own miscarriage, and sought revenge by trying to turn Claire’s husband and children against her.

The movie was tautly directed by Curtis Hanson, who would later direct L.A. Confidential and 8 Mile. After a decent $7.6 million opening, The Hand That Rocks the Cradle saw its popularity increase over the next three consecutive weekends. Of course, the buzz over hits like this doesn’t last forever. What was a you-gotta-see-it sensation in 1992 has become a hidden gem ripe for rediscovery by new audiences.

5. Maverick


Maverick was a rousing success in 1994, despite many audience members being too young to remember the TV show on which it’s based. Mel Gibson played Bret Maverick, a card shark looking to make a profit in a big poker game. To earn the money necessary to compete, he first conned a few other players out of their cash. Jodie Foster co-starred as con artist Annabelle Bransford, and James Garner (who played Maverick on TV) was Marshal Zane Cooper.

Teaming Gibson and Foster was a brilliant idea back then, as both were at high points in their careers. Bringing in Garner, meanwhile, was a canny example of stunt castingMaverick got generally good reviews, with critics pointing out that it was fun, if not necessarily substantive. 

After a string of personal matters, including making racist comments and allegedly beating up his ex-girlfriend, Gibson’s star has fallen considerably since the 1990s, which may account for why Maverick isn’t talked about much anymore. Lethal Weapon is beloved enough that it maintains a fandom, whereas much of Gibson’s other work holds little appeal to younger audiences who primarily know him for his problematic behavior.

6. In the Line of Fire

In the Line of Fire

Clint Eastwood played a cop many times over, most notably in the Dirty Harry series. Seeing him play a Secret Service agent in In the Line of Fire felt a bit different, though. And seeing him as an agent carrying guilt over not being able to save President John F. Kennedy was the icing on the cake. It was an ideal marriage of actor and role. With John Malkovich as the bad guy, it’s no wonder the movie became a hit in the summer of 1993.

In the Line of Fire came out as Eastwood was making a gradual career transition. He’d won an Oscar for Unforgiven the year before and was gradually turning toward less action-oriented, more substantive fare, both as actor and director. The Bridges of Madison County, Mystic River, and Million Dollar Baby were on the way. As his status as a major filmmaker grew, the popcorn-style movies he made tended to fade in the cinematic conversation, despite still having their admirers.

7. Flatliners


Flatliners struck at that moment in 1990 when a group of young actors had all hit it big around the same time. The thriller about medical students playing with death and revival brought together Kiefer Sutherland, Julia Roberts, Kevin Bacon, and William Baldwin. Because of the ensemble cast, it almost felt like a horror version of St. Elmo’s Fire.

The trajectory of its cast changed not long after release. Roberts maintained A-list status, but Bacon became more of a character actor, Sutherland cranked out a series of flops, and Baldwin never took off the way his brother Alec did. That ultimately proved damaging to Flatliners‘ reputation, making it feel like a lesser ensemble flick from the era. When it was remade in 2017, no one seemed to care, leading to a box office flop.

8. The Bodyguard

The Bodyguard

In 1992, Kevin Costner was one of the most popular working actors, coming off an amazing run of films that included Bull Durham, Field of Dreams, Dances with Wolves, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, and JFK. At the same time, Whitney Houston was the biggest recording artist in the world, selling millions of records and scoring hit after hit. The two joined forces for The Bodyguard, which predictably became a smash hit. 

A weird thing happened in the more than two decades afterward. Everyone remembers the soundtrack, including the chart-topping “I Will Always Love You.” But who remembers much about the actual story, aside from the basic premise that he’s a former Secret Service agent hired to protect a pop star from a stalker? Reviews were poor, and the movie’s afterlife reflects that. Removed from its era, when Costner and Houston were at the height of their fame, The Bodyguard is remembered generally, as opposed to specifically.

9. The Firm

The Firm

John Grisham was one of the hottest authors of the 1990s, so when his bestseller The Firm was adapted for the screen, it was a cause for celebration – especially because Tom Cruise took the leading role of Mitch McDeere, a young lawyer who gets a dream job at a legal firm, only to discover his employers are mired in a huge conspiracy. The movie earned positive reviews and was a substantial hit.

The Firm remains a notable movie, albeit somewhat overshadowed in the time since its release. Grisham still sells books, yet is not the literary force he was in 1993. Cruise, meanwhile, went on to make massive zeitgeist-infiltrating blockbusters like Jerry Maguire, Top Gun: Maverick, and the Mission: Impossible series. When you think of him, you likely think of those films – not The Firm