10 Brilliant But Often Overlooked Movies From 1993 That You Should Immediately Add To Your Netflix Queues
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10 Brilliant But Often Overlooked Movies From 1993 That You Should Immediately Add To Your Netflix Queues

By Dustin Rowles | Guides | April 17, 2013 | Comments ()


Hollywood suffered a huge creative drought through most of the mid-1990s, as it fell back into very conservative choices (history will probably say the same about 2008-2012) while it was climbing out of the recession of the early half of the decade. Most people will point to 1999 as the best year in movies, probably since at least the 1970s, but often overlooked is 1993. There are a few classic movies from the year — Jurassic Park, Philadelphia, True Romance, Groundhog Day and Army of Darkness (which is at least a classic to me) — and it’s probably the most popular year ever for movies that are replayed on TBS: The Fugitive, Mrs. Doubtfire, Sleepless in Seattle, Cliffhanger, Tombstone, Cool Runnings, The Three Musketeers and Rudy all came out in 1993.

But there are several movies from that year that aren’t as frequently mentioned, and now that we are 20 YEARS removed from 1993, I want to highlight a few movies that deserve to be seen by a new generation on Netflix, that still hold up well, and can provide a lot of entertainment value. If you’re under 30, you might have missed these the first time around. If you’re over 30, or if you didn’t miss them the first time around, many of them are definitely worth of a rewatch now.

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Benny and Joon — Adorably whimsical, Johnny Depp’s performance in Benny and Joon is flat-out astonishing, as he plays an eccentric who basically communicates through Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin acts. He falls in love with the mentally ill Joon (Mary Stuart Masteron, filling in nicely for 90’s stock Winona Ryder role), and the movie deals with the consequences of her mental episodes that are triggered by her jealousy. It’s a very sweet, very touching, and completely magical romantic comedy.


What’s Eating Gilbert Grape — Clearly, ‘93 was a break-out year for Johnny Depp, who anchored my favorite film of the year, a movie about a dysfunctional family with a morbidly obese mother and a mentally handicapped son (Leo DiCaprio, rightfully nominated for an Oscar). Juliette Lewis fills the trailer-trash stock Winona Ryder role in Grape, a downright remarkable and elegiac tale of a broken family that is bittersweet as hell.


DavePhiladelphia came out in 1993 and would be a groundbreaking depiction of a gay man with HIV, which would lead to the first studio comedy about a gay man, 1997’s In and Out. Dave is the perfect movie to pare with In and Out in those hugely popular Kevin Kline double features that the kids are engaged in all around the country (or if you’d prefer, pair it with The American President for feel-good movies about presidents). It’s kind of like a John Hughes formula mixed with Frank Capra’s optimism, as it follows a presidential impersonator who fills in for the real president when he has a stroke while sleeping with his mistress. Dave, who runs an employment agency, uses his position as POTUS to find work for down-on-their-luck folks. It’s a sweet, infinitely rewatchable, light, and good-natured movie with a few salient points to make about politics.


So I Married an Axe Murderer — Before Austin Powers ruined him, Mike Myers’ darkly comic romantic comedy arrived in theaters with mostly a thud in 1993. Thanks to a hilarious performance from Myers (in several roles) and Nancy Travis (the poor man’s Annie Potts), and one of the more memorable soundtracks from the 90s, Axe Murderer has gained a small but appreciative following. It’s one of those films that a lot of people don’t get, but the ones that do will quote the ever-living crap out of it for years, as they should.


This Boys’ Life — Another DiCaprio film, this one with Robert DeNiro as an abusive step-father, This Boy’s Life may be the best film ever based on a memoir (it’s based on the memoir of Tobias Wolffe). It’s not light watching — it’s bleak and slow — but again DiCaprio’s performance elevates it into a powerful rites-of-passage tale about a teenager willing himself to escape a horrible and dysfunctional family life.


Kalifornia — It’s been 23 years since Brad Pitt’s break-out role in Thelma and Louise, and while Kalifornia is not my favorite Brad Pitt movie, it’s still my favorite Brad Pitt performance (besides Floyd in True Romance, another 1993 movie). He plays a sociopathic hayseed in something akin to a pre-Natural Born Killers film exploring serial killers. Pitt is fantastic in this terrifyingly creepy film (Juliette Lewis plays the stock Juliette Lewis character).


The War RoomThe War Room, a political documentary about the machinations behind Bill Clinton’s 1992 political campaign, is a little more meaningful to me because I was on the other side of the wall from the War Room, working for Clinton’s campaign as a volunteer. It’s an intimate and compelling look into presidential campaigns, at how much political operatives like James Carville and George Stephanapolous mean to them, and the gritty examination of numbers and demographics and soundbites that go into getting elected, which admittedly was more eye-opening at the time, before cable news demystified the inner workings of a presidential campaign.


Searching for Bobby Fischer — You wouldn’t imagine that a movie about chess — this one is based on the life of chess prodigy Josh Waitzkin — could be as compelling and gripping as this, but it is, and I don’t know why Bobby Fischer was not nominated for Best Picture in ‘93 (or at least, best actor for Ben Kingsley, who plays Fischer’s chess tutor). It’s about a kid who has to maintain his decency as a human being as he is transformed into a vicious, tormented, and cold-blooded chess player. It’s basically an intelligent, complex, and supremely well acted version of The Karate Kid with chess instead of martial arts, and you wouldn’t believe how high the stakes can feel in a movie about chess.


A Perfect World — It’s the Eastwood film that came after Unforgiven and it has unfortunately drifted from most people’s memory. It’s an outstanding character study, about a escaped convict (Kevin Costner) who kidnaps a kid because he heeds a hostage to make it to the Mexican border, as Eastwood’s federal agent is in pursuit. The film is largely a study of the flowering father/son relationship between Costner’s convict and the kid who looks up to him. It’s an absorbing, and quietly entertaining film that kind of sneaks up on you and blows you away. It’s also a great reminder of how good an actor Kevin Costner can be.


Six Degrees of Separation — This is the film that introduced Will Smith as an actual, legitimate “actor,” and it’s probably still the best performance of his career. It’s also a really engaging story about a con man who claims to be the son of Sidney Poitier, who lies his way into the house of an affluent family, posing as a boarding school friend of their children. Based on the real-life of David Hampton, who himself lied his way into the homes of Melanie Griffith, Gary Sinise, and Calvin Klein, it’s an interesting study of the upper class and their willingness to accept these lies rather than be considered a racist.

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • mrfantastic

    "The only thing this apartment is missing is a giant poster of San Francisco. Oh!"

  • van68

    Atlantic City. They were in San Francisco.

  • KatSings

    I own Dave and The American President as a double feature - it was packaged that way, and it's how I keep rewatching them both. LOVE.

  • zeke_the_pig

    It'a all about '95, baby...
    Heat, The Usual Suspects, Before Sunrise, 12 Monkeys, Leaving Las Vegas, Se7en, Casino, Die Hard with a Vengeance, Empire Records, SHOWGIRLS...
    COME ON!

  • od

    A perfect world is SUCH a good movie

  • e jerry powell

    I SCOFF at Will Smith in Six Degrees. That movie was all about Stockard Channing, and Will Smith had no business up in there, especially because both he and Anthony Michael Hall refused to do the gay scene.

    If ever there was a role I was born to play, it's Paul/David Hampton, and now I'm too fucking old to play it. And me, less than three weeks older than Will Smith. I am LIVID. Still.

  • This is a damn fine list, and thankfully I've now been reminded just how much I've forgotten.

  • Ballymena Bob

    Gross sentimentality with the occasional episode of gratuitous violence. Yep, that sounds like 1993, all right. God, i really hated the nineties. So long shittiest decade of the twentieth century. Don't call us, we'll call you.

  • gutpunchprod

    As a Scotsman I can confirm that 'Axe Murderer' is, at most, a hair's breadth exaggerated.

  • Homestar

    Wow. I thought I was the only one who loved Dave, Axe Murderer, and A Perfect World. I always felt kind of stupid for thinking Kevin Costner was a good actor. Thank you for making me feel less stupid!

    Also, I don't get people who don't get Axe Murderer. Phil Hartman's character alone is genius.

  • jlc1967

    What's Eating Gilbert Grape is fantastic ... But Benny & Joon, ehh. My memory of it was that its message is that love can cure mental illness/make it all better, and that is -- wow -- so not true. (I have avoided Silver Linings Playbook because I fear that's its message too.)

  • BlackRabbit

    More substituting one mental illness for another.

  • michaelceratops

    Am I the biggest nerd ever for having preordered The War Room on Criterion when it was released and then watching it every day for a week?

  • HerGuyWednesday

    Are these really often overlooked? Other than The War Room and perhaps A Perfect World, I would have figured that these are all pretty well known. Not trying to argue, but it surprises me that most of these movies would be considered overlooked.

    Also, 1994 was the best 90s year for films.

  • Mhs.sally

    "Dave is the perfect movie to pare with In and Out in those hugely popular Kevin Kline double features that the kids are engaged in all around the country"

    That made me laugh so hard. I would go to one of those. Growing up, my family was really, really into Kevin Kline, and I totally love In & Out. He's just so charming and hilarious and snarky and sweet. I can even get behind French Kiss.

  • pumpkin

    Don't forget The Pirates of Penzance. He makes a sexy (and hairy) pirate king.

  • Gilbert Grape...really? They played this movie all the time on cable when I was growing up. It's so damned depressing and I could never get the hell away from it.

  • Mr. E

    Mustard Sammiches

  • Archie Leach

    What if it isn't available on Netflix? Will Amazon Prime suffice?

  • danicakes

    I still feel that someone smelling like beef soup is a legitimate reason to dump them.

  • ViciousTrollop

    I second the love for What's Eating Gilbert Grape. I watched it again last weekend and loved it so much I went out and bought the book it's based on. I can't wait to read it.

  • llp

    The book is wonderful!

  • Eva

    Agreed on all points with So I Married and Axe Murderer. MM's Scottish father making fun of the young ginger boy still makes me laugh until I cry....

    "Stuart Mackenzie: Look at the size of that boy's heed.
    Tony Giardino: Shhh!
    Stuart Mackenzie: I'm not kidding, it's like an orange on a toothpick.
    Tony Giardino: Shhh, you're going to give the boy a complex.
    Stuart Mackenzie: Well, that's a huge noggin. That's a virtual planetoid.
    Tony Giardino: Shh!
    Stuart Mackenzie: Has it's own weather system.
    Tony Giardino: Sh, sh, shh.
    Stuart Mackenzie: HEAD! MOVE!

  • Eva

    Lol, now I see others have already shared the MM ginger bashing love...

  • Woman! Wo-man! Whooooooa man!

  • FireLizardQueen

    Harriet, Sweet Harriet. Hard heart-ed harbinger of haggis.

  • DMA

    The line that stuck with me is "they make me horny, Saturday morny"

  • katy

    She stole my heart and my cat.

  • Leigh

    This may not be *brilliant* per se, but it is overlooked, and it has been on my mind today since reading the Robert Downey Jr. post. Does anyone else love "Heart and Souls" (1993) like I do?

  • Love that movie. It's got Charles Grodin at his crankiest and RDJ at his best as he pretends to be possessed. I need to dig out my old VHS copy for a rewatch.

  • Bert_McGurt

    Am I the only one who CANNOT stand Juliette Lewis in anything? I mean, I've tolerated her scenes in some things (From Dusk Till Dawn, Christmas Vacation, Old School) but she's the primary reason I've not seen things like What's Eating Gilbert Grape and Natural Born Killers. The latter of which is rather nagging as I LOVE Woody.

    Anyways, I'm sure she's a lovely person but I am not a fan of her actressin'.

  • cicatricella

    I can't stand her. Someone once said I looked like her. In a public newspaper column. The fact that said journalist is still alive is testament to my restraint.

  • trixiestreats

    I would say, forget her -- she has a pretty minor role in Gilbert Grape. Watch it! But that's coming from a girl who loved the movie as a teenager and will love it forever. Going in uninitiated in 2013 might have a different result altogether. Particularly if you're a guy. :)

  • F'mal DeHyde

    I'm strangely fond of her now but I couldn't stand her way back when. That scene where she's sucking DeNiro's thumb in Cape Fear disgusted me.

  • I was mostly creeped out by DeNiro macking on a teenager, myself.

  • F'mal DeHyde

    Yeah, that was the point. But she turned it around and made it seem mutual. Bleurg!

  • Jill

    Thank God I wasn't the only one that felt that way about that scene. I liked Cape Fear (and true story, my best friend vomited on my shoes in the theatre when DeNiro bit Douglas's cheek. Ah, to be 12 again...), but that scene was just too damn much. I also like her a lot better now than I did back then. Not sure why, really.

  • Laura

    I don't think her part in Gilbert Grape is big enough that it should prevent you from seeing this outstanding movie!

  • I have a friend who absolutely HATES her with a burning fiery passion. We've had long discussions about it and then watched Natural Born Killers together because that's the only movie she can tolerate with her in it. Seriously tho, you really should watch NBK. I hadn't seen it until a couple years ago and thoroughly enjoyed it. Woody is great in it and Robert Downey Jr pops up and does some good work.

  • Wednesday

    You are not alone. Anything that has her in it is unwatchable to me. I have to fast-forward past her performance in Gilbert Grape. She *almost* ruins the whole thing.

  • Bea Pants

    Her character in Kalifornia is borderline retarded and she absolutely nails it. Make of that what you will.

  • Monica

    um, the Other Sister.

  • Bea Pants

    I haven't seen it, but you should never go full retard.

  • melissa82

    Hahaha, perfect

  • Maguita NYC

    Juliette Lewis' ugly beauty is what I initially found attractive. She's odd and kooky, with jerky movements that make her mesmerizing to watch.

  • e jerry powell

    But we already had Sandra Bernhard!

  • Bert_McGurt

    Honestly, I think it's her voice more than anything. It is absolutely GRATING.

  • Bea Pants

    Apparently I spent way too much time indoors during the summer of '93 because I'm pretty sure that's when I caught most of these on cable.

  • Captain D

    Oddly, my mind gets Six Degrees of Separation confused with Made in America. As such, my immediate reaction was to question the validity of your choice. To be clear, I do not recommend adding Made in America to your queue...even if you're a Whoopi Goldberg fan.

  • Semilitterate

    For the life of me I cannot understand Whoopie Goldberg having a fan

  • e jerry powell

    She had a fan in that Poise commercial. She was fanning herself with it.

  • $27019454

    "The royal penis is clean, your highness..."

  • Ummmmm... there's a huge difference between "Made in America" and "Coming to America", and there's not a damn thing similar about them. Unless your mind immediately went "black leading cast + America in the title!!!", which I guess can be forgiven... I guess.

  • $27019454

    O my gosh. I ...I... have no excuse. Except the six degrees thing has an African-American leading man and so does Comin to ...O fuck me anyway. I hate me.

    In my defense, I read the original post comparing the two films and I scratched my head wondering how anyone could confuse Will Smith with Eddie Murphy )R Arsenio Hall...

  • Wow, there was a post comparing the two?? Shit, I missed it, must've been during one of my melancholies...

  • e jerry powell


    Still very, very bitter.

  • Love for A Perfect World just made my year. Such a great movie and certainly better than most of the Oscar bait movies Eastwood has directed in the past 10 years. Infinitely better than something like Million Dollar Baby at any rate.

  • $27019454

    Dave. On my list (and I do keep one) of all-time re-watchable movies. My teens love it. My mom loves it. I love it. Kevin Kline is charm personified and Sigourney Weaver does that patrician/icy-but-with-a-heart thing she does so well, and with a KILLER haircut.

  • wsapnin

    "I once caught a fish THIS BIG"!

  • I'm pretty certain 11 year old me quoted that line incessently after seeing Dave. God I must've been annoying.

  • wsapnin

    Every time we go fishing.

  • Bea Pants

    I love this movie. Often I will sing Dave's version of "Hail to the Chief" when I am showering to get a laugh out of my boyfriend.

  • Arran

    I might be the only one that sings Jack Lemmon's version from My Fellow Americans. "Hail to the chief/He's the chief and he needs hailing/Hail to the chief/So everybody hail like crazy".

  • I actually prefer James Garner's version "Hail to the chief/if you don't I'll have to kill you/ I am the chief/so you better watch your step you bastards...

  • $27019454

    Hail to the chief he's the chief we all say hail to...

  • MissAmynae

    "TOOOOO-morrow, Tomorrow, I'll love ya, tomorrow...."

  • Maguita NYC

    Six Degrees of Separation? Really?

    Will Smith's movie did not hold well over the decades. Even if back then The Prince of Bel Air was trying to take on serious roles (and he was one of the very few African Americans to dare go gay), when compared with emotional giants such as What's Eating Gilbert and That Boy's Life, Six Degrees did not vintage well.

    Benny and Joon however is still lovely to watch. How much I miss Johnny Depp's brand of eccentric back when it still had charm and allure.

  • e jerry powell
  • I miss mid-to-late 90's/early 2000's Depp so much.

  • ERM

    How did Benny and Joon deal with the consequences of Joon's jealousy? Am I completely misremembering the movie or did you mean to write "mental illness"?

  • maydays

    Head! Pants! Now!
    Seriously....20 years? I might need to read less internet and go check on my bone density.

  • Harriet! Harry-Et
    Hard-hearted harbinger of haggis

  • nightman

    I am lonely! It's really hard! This poem...sucks.

  • Salieri2

    Because he puts an addictive chemical in his chicken that makes you crave it fortnightly, smartass!

  • DaveKan

    It's like a watermelon on toothpicks!

  • eatapeach

    "My name is John Johnson, but everyone here calls me Vicky."

    When we visited Alcatraz that's all I could keep saying.

  • Jill

    Every quote, a classic.

    Part of the reason why I watch Debi Mazar's cooking show is because of my undying love for anyone associated with that film. And Goodfellas. And the fact she dated Pee-Wee Herman. And she looks a lot like one of the brunette reproduction barbie dolls. Seriously. Look it up on Amazon. She's pretty cool.

    Amanda Plummer's character was clearly a warm-up for Pulp Fiction. She also has one of the scariest little girl voices I've ever heard.

    And Lapaglia? The guy didn't get enough chances after that to show how good he was at comedy. It's a shame some people may only know him from Without a Trace.

  • Did you ever see Paperback Romance? It's a cute Australian rom-com. LaPaglia's pretty good in it.

  • Jill

    I did! And I forgot about that one. He was good in that, too. Thanks for reminding me.

  • DeltaJuliet

    Ohhhhh how I love this movie.

    "Harriet, why don't you come with me. I have wonderful photographs when he was a wee baby"
    " And show her the picture of Charlie when he shit his pants at Niagara Falls."

  • Aaron Schulz

    Well, it's a well known fact, Sonny Jim, that there's a secret society of the five wealthiest people in the world, known as the Pentavirate, who run everything in the world, including the newspapers, and meet tri-annually at a secret country mansion in Colorado, known as The Meadows

  • Aaron Schulz

    His head is like sputnik, mostly spherical but pointy in parts

  • SugarSmak

    We've got a piper down!

  • Salieri2

    It's all right, he's just pissed.

  • Bea Pants

    Pre Austin Powers Mike Meyers is the best.

  • JH

    He's gonna cry himself to sleep tonight ... on his huge pillow!

  • It's like Sputnik.

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