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16 Iconic '90s Horror Movies That Still Hold Up

Apr 17 2018 - 11:20am

Ahhhh, the '90s. With its Beanie Babies, boy bands, and fanny packs; those were the good ol' days. The '90s also brought us a lot of good scary movies to watch, and as we are currently celebrating Halloween [1], it's a really good time to revisit some of our old favorites. Here's a rundown of the best (often we've used that term a little loosely) and absolutely '90s-est horror movies of the decade. Enjoy.

It

Singlehandedly causing a nation of folks to fear and loathe clowns, Stephen King's It is one of the scariest movies of all time — mostly because of Tim Curry's portrayal of Pennywise the clown. Eight friends struggle against Pennywise as he resurfaces 30 years after they first encounter him as children. There's a remake on the way [5], but we can't imagine anything measuring up to the original. Good luck sleeping with the lights off after watching this movie.

Misery

You thought YOU were a big fan of your favorite book? You ain't got nothing on Annie Wilkes (Kathy Bates). When her favorite author (James Caan) is involved in a car crash near her snowy mountain home, she takes it on herself to nurse him back to health. And by "nurse him" we mean kidnap him, hold him hostage as he heals, and then cripple him when it seems like he's going to get better. There's nothing overtly scary about this movie, but Kathy Bates' icy, weird kindness is about as terrifying as it gets.

Watch the trailer [6] but take care not to look Annie directly in the eye.

Arachnophobia

Spiders. Spiders. More and more and more spiders. A rural California town becomes infested with spiders, and it's as awful a nightmare as you'd imagine. No, really. It will give you actual nightmares. John Goodman plays the no-nonsense exterminator, while Jeff Daniels is Dr. Ross Jennings, the resident scaredy cat (aka all of us). Dr. Jennings and Delbert team up and get the best of the spiders once and for all. Watch this, and it's a safe bet you'll be itching for the rest of the day.

Jacob's Ladder

When we say this is a psychological thriller, we're not playing around. Tim Robbins plays Vietnam veteran Jacob Singer, who is struggling reentering the world after war. He rapidly descends into a nightmare of hallucinations and alternate reality, and we spiral right down the rabbit hole with him. Warning: this movie is trippy as hell.

Silence of the Lambs

One of the most iconic horror films of all time, Silence of the Lambs propelled cannibalism into the mainstream. Anthony Hopkins [7] made Hannibal Lecter the ultimate big bad. Seriously, he may be the scariest villain to ever hit the big screen. Jodie Foster [8] plays Clarice (and you know you just read that in Hannibal Lecter's voice). She's a fresh-faced FBI agent who has to consult Dr. Lecter to help capture another serial killer targeting young women. This movie will scare the pants off you.

Candyman

Candyman came along at a time when we were still trying to figure out if we should believe those pervasive urban legends. This movie played right into the '90s obsessions with urban legends, pitting a young grad student, Helen (Virginia Madsen), against a maybe-real-maybe-not killer (Tony Todd). Helen reaches out to Anne-Marie (Vanessa Williams) to investigate a stabbing that some worry is committed by the urban myth they call Candyman. Coincidentally, a man fitting the Candyman's description begins stalking Helen, complicating matters even more. It's traumatizing in a real way.

Leprechaun

Yup, that's Jennifer Aniston [9] in 1993's silliest (but ultimately still a little scary) horror movie. There's a plot concerning stolen gold, a leprechaun on a murderous rampage, and a family farm, but it doesn't really matter. What matters is that Aniston gets to strut her stuff while fending off a psychopath leprechaun. It's equal parts hilarious and scary. OK, not EQUAL parts, but it's worth the watch.

Mary Shelley's Frankenstein

This isn't technically the scariest movie of any year, but it has Robert De Niro [11] playing a broody monster, and that's good enough for us. Considered by some the most faithful adaptation of the 19th-century novel by the same name, it won an Academy Award for best makeup. It's the same, familiar story of the scientist mad with power creating a monster he can't control, and the metaphor remains. Come for De Niro, but stay for the allegory for vanity and the human ego.

Interview With a Vampire

These sexy vampires will out-seduce those Twilight [12] vamps any day of the week — and they'll do it with such style and swagger that you'll be left asking, "Edward who?" Tom Cruise [13] and Brad Pitt [14] team up in Ann Rice's thriller to produce what might just be the absolute sexiest interpretation of the vampire mythology ever.

Se7en

Now THIS is a scary movie. It has the trifecta of the horror genre: intense gore, psychological subtext, and a super dreamy leading man who suffers immeasurable torture. The leading man in question is a clean-cut Brad Pitt [15] playing Detective David Mills. He is partnered with retiring Detective William Somerset (Morgan Freeman [16]) as they investigate a series of very grisly murders based on the seven deadly sins. Whatever you do, don't look in the box.

Scream

Scream was the first of its kind because its characters had a self-awareness of modern horror conventions, and the film doesn't shy away from satirizing the clichés of the genre. As the residents of a small town are terrorized by a killer on the loose, they use what they've learned from watching scary movies to solve the crimes. It has a ton of big-name '90s stars like Neve Campell, Courteney Cox [17], and David Arquette [18], and director Wes Craven wasn't afraid to kill off Drew Barrymore [19] in the very first few minutes. Ballsy move for a movie like this. If you like your horror with a touch of camp, this is the movie for you.

I Know What You Did Last Summer

Landing in the same sweet spot as Scream, I Know What You Did Last Summer plays up the teen drama as four friends revisit a horrible crime they committed a year before the movie picks up. It has enough abs, cheekbones, and perky bosoms to last you a lifetime, and it's so fun to watch Jennifer Love Hewitt [20], Sarah Michelle Gellar [21], Ryan Phillippe [22], and Freddie Prinze Jr. taking themselves so seriously. It was a monster hit and did its part to establish some conventions of its own. Let the nostalgia wash over you!

Bride Of Chucky

Just hear me out. This is another installment in the Child's Play franchise, but by 1998, the series had become such a cult sensation, producers were just leaning into the outlandish gag. Bride of Chucky finds the doll resurrected by the girlfriend (Jennifer Tilly) of the serial killer whose soul inhabits the doll. Nonsense ensues, and Tilly's character is turned into a doll as well. The two end up stowing away with two unsuspecting road trippers — one of whom just so happens to be Katherine Heigl [23]. If you're expecting any level of sincerity or realism, this movie will disappoint. But if you crave silliness with your gore, here's your movie.

The Faculty

The '90s were a hotbed of teenage trauma and wanton sexuality. Such is the case in this gore-fest which finds students at Harrington High trying to save themselves from their teachers, who are possessed by supergross parasitic aliens. The Faculty launched a ton of careers, although you have to cut through the cheese to get to their talent. Celebs like Josh Hartnett [24], Elijah Wood [25], Jordana Brewster [26], and Usher [27] all turn up in this gem. Keep an eye out for a pre-Daily Show Jon Stewart [28].

The Blair Witch Project

These days shaky-cam, mockumentary-style movies are a dime a dozen, but in 1999, The Blair Witch Project was something relatively new and, frankly, we just weren't even ready for it. At the time of the premiere, "documentaries" began airing on channels like Syfy, creating the illusion of a real and present phenomenon. It was clever marketing for an indie movie with a shoestring budget. It worked, and the movie wound up grossing over $250 million, making it nearly impossible for anyone to step foot in the woods.

The Sixth Sense

This movie has the surprise ending to end all surprise endings. Starring Bruce Willis [29] as the frumpy psychiatrist hired to help a little boy with his special "problem," this movie made us so very, very afraid of the dark. Haley Joel Osment plays the little boy, Cole, and his scene with a puking Mischa Barton [30] still haunts me to this day. Stick around to the very end to see what's REALLY going on. (IF you've managed to stay away from spoilers all these years.)


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