The 1990s are rooted in nostalgia for many moviegoers. Every decade in recent memory has produced its fair share of heavy-hitting movies that have stood the test of time, but the ’90s established some of the greatest and most financially successful movie franchises of all time.
The 1990s ushered in a new age of animated movies that reached unparalleled levels of success, while two live-action films easily surpassed the biggest box office hit of the ’80s, E.T. The ’90s was a successful decade for movies, with impeccable films like Titanic,Toy Story 2, and Home Alone to brag about.
10 Toy Story 2 (1999)
The Toy Story movies about living toys and their antics are cemented in film history. The ’90s saw the birth of the franchise, with the original movie releasing in 1995 and the sequel in ’99. While the original is generally preferred, it clocked in at a domestic gross of just under $225 million, placing it lower than Toy Story 2.
Toy Story 2 reached a total domestic gross that surpassed $245 million, delivering a sequel packed with new characters and a more wholesome storyline. Toy Story 2 broke hearts with “Jessie’s Song” and fixed them back up with “Woody’s Roundup.” The heartwarming Toy Story sequel also boasts a 100% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, just like its predecessor.
9 Men In Black (1997)
As far as action comedy movies go, they don’t get much more iconic than the 1997 hit, Men in Black. Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones have both had storied careers since the Men in Black franchise, but arguably their most iconic roles are Agents J and K, respectively.
Men in Black was a fun and wacky action film about a series of crimes involving aliens and other bizarre creatures. Men in Black may not have the best ratings among critics, but its box office earnings of over $250 million domestic and just shy of $600 million worldwide speaks volumes to its popularity and overall success.
8 Home Alone (1990)
When the iconic Christmas film Home Alone released back in 1990, few could have predicted that the home-invasion comedy would become a worldwide phenomenon that families still enjoy over 30 years later. Home Alone grossed $285 million in the United States and Canada, almost hitting $500 million worldwide.
Despite Home Alone being over 30 years old, fans will always remember the movie as Macaulay Culkin’s most iconic and defining appearance. Kevin’s antics and the bizarre charm of Home Alone still deliver today, so it’s no wonder it was such a big hit in the ’90s.
7 The Sixth Sense (1999)
M. Night Shyamalan, Bruce Willis, and Haley Joel Osment are all recognizable faces with plenty of work to their respective names, but 1999 psychological thriller The Sixth Sense will always tie them together. The movie has plenty of iconic quotes, and “I see dead people” essentially sums up the exceptional film.
The Sixth Sense hit almost $300 million domestically and well over $650 million worldwide. It is easily M. Night Shyamalan’s biggest success ever. It’s iconic ending revelation about Dr Crowe’s existence remains one of the most mind-blowing twists in cinema history.
6 Independence Day (1996)
Independence Day may not be one of the best movies that either Will Smith or Jeff Goldblum have been in, but the sci-fi action film remains an iconic ’90s movie. The film’s box office performance speaks volumes, as it ultimately surpassed $300 million domestic and over $800 worldwide.
Extraterrestrial-based movies had a big impact and interest during the ’80s and ’90s, from E.T. and Men In Black to Independence Day. Fans still see Independence Day as one of the main turning points of the disaster and sci-fi resurgence of the mid-’90s.
5 The Lion King (1994)
’90s kids fondly remember The Lion King as the best Disney movie of the decade, and it still holds up as one of the greatest animated films of all time. The original Lion King blew its sequels and live-action remake out of the water in terms of box office impact, as it hit over $300 million domestically with its original release. This number only grew with several further re-releases, and the movie landed much closer to $1 billion worldwide.
The Lion King continues to teach anyone who watches it about the fundamentals of taking responsibility for one’s actions, as well as sticking up for friends and family. The original movie raised the bar so impossibly high that its sequels and later animated films struggled to compete.
4 Forrest Gump (1994)
“Run, Forrest, run” and “life is like a box of chocolates” are timeless and iconic film quotes that have taken on a life of their own, beyond the movie they come from. Forrest Gump is one of Tom Hanks’ many triumphs in his long and storied career. This 1994 classic easily surpassed $300 million in gross box-office revenue for North America.
Forrest Gump hit almost $700 million worldwide but was still considered a “successful failure” due to high fees leading to serious losses. Regardless, audiences still recognize Forrest Gump as one of the most defining movies of the ’90s.
3 Jurassic Park (1993)
The mystery surrounding dinosaurs and their prehistoric existence has always had a place in cinema. It therefore came as no surprise that many audiences jumped at the opportunity to explore them in further detail when the iconic Jurassic Park franchise started in 1993.
The first Jurassic Park surpassed $350 million domestic with its first release, going well beyond that with subsequent re-releases and even over $1 billion total worldwide. The more recent Jurassic World films grossed higher than the original Jurassic Park at the box office.
2 Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace (1999)
Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace released in 1999 as the fourth mainline Star Wars movie but the first chronologically, as it started the prequel trilogy. Phantom Menace gets a bad reputation from die-hard Star Wars fans as a blemish on the franchise’s record, but it still performed well at the box office.
The Phantom Menace surpassed $400 million domestic and $900 worldwide upon its initial release, surpassing $1 billion worldwide thanks to its 2012 re-release. Despite the polarizing reception this film receives for its characters and plot, Phantom Menace paved the way for the rest of the trilogy and wasn’t a financial failure.
1 Titanic (1998)
Titanic hit its 25th anniversary in 2023, which prompted many to look back on the James Cameron classic from 1997. Titanic was the best-performing ’90s movie in terms of box-office upon its release, as it hit $600 million and a staggering worldwide total of $1.8 billion.
With various re-releases up to and including the 25-year anniversary, Titanic even surpassed a worldwide gross of $2.2 billion. This epic romance and disaster film is still iconic and fans will always remember Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet’s performances, even though they have had many other iconic roles since. Titanic was the biggest box-office hit of the 1990s by a long way.
NEXT: Every Best Picture Winner Of The ’90s, Ranked
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