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My parents grew up in the ‘90s, so I was exposed to ‘90s culture through them. We’ve all heard about the greats of ‘90s film: Clueless, 10 Things I Hate About You, My Girl. But because of my parents, I have a unique repertoire of ‘90s movies that I love that not everybody had the pleasure to experience. So, here are my five favorite underrated movies from the ‘90s.

Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead (1991)

This hilarious movie stars a young Christina Applegate, who plays Sue Ellen, a girl who’s just graduated high school and has no interest in going to college. When her mom goes on a summer vacation, Sue Ellen and her four siblings expect a summer of freedom, as they all expect Sue Ellen to be left in charge. Their mother, however, has other plans, hiring an elderly woman to watch over the house and the children. Simply put, this woman is horrible. She treats the house like military school, and Sue Ellen and her siblings accept that it’s going to be an awful summer. But, when the babysitter passes away, the gang sees a ray of hope. Afraid that their mother will just hire another babysitter, they omit that information during phone calls. Sue Ellen lies about her age and experience in order to get a job in the fashion industry to support her siblings once they run out of money. And — surprise! — there’s a love interest. This movie includes everything we love about ‘90s film with dark humor that I really appreciate.

Drop Dead Fred (1991)

Okay, this movie is objectively bad… but it’s also so, so good. The movie follows Lizzie, who finds herself in an unstable position in her life, with her mother being her usual abrasive self and her husband leaving her for another woman. These events lead to the reappearance of her childhood imaginary friend named Drop Dead Fred. My favorite scenes in the movie are the scenes in which we are taken back to Lizzie’s childhood antics with Drop Dead Fred. It’s honestly heartwarming how Fred helps Lizzie stand up to her mother. However, in the present-day, Fred causes intense chaos in Lizzie’s life, causing her mother to intervene and take Lizzie to a doctor. Eventually, though, Fred helps Lizzie gain some confidence, and the ending is super sweet.

The Man in the Moon (1991)

In Reese Witherspoon’s debut film, she plays Dani, a 14-year-old girl growing up in 1950s Louisiana. Dani is a free spirit who listens to Elvis and plays in the neighbor’s creek alone, which her dad says she is too old to keep doing. Dani looks up to her older sister Maureen even though they are very different. When 17-year-old Court moves in next door, Dani finds herself competing with Maureen for his affection. Court knows Dani is too young for him, but Dani takes his rejection to heart, becoming jealous of older Maureen. This movie is a heartbreaking coming-of-age that proves why Reese Witherspoon is one of the greatest actresses of our generation.

Mermaids (1990)

This might be more reminiscent of ‘80s film culture, but it had to make the list because it is just insanely good. Charlotte Flax is a 15-year-old who is a devout Catholic because her mother’s eccentric nature is upsetting to Charlotte. Charlotte feels like she is more of a mother to her younger sister Kate than their actual mother is, and for this, she resents her mother. When the family moves to Oklahoma after yet another one of Rachel’s (the mother) relationships ends, Charlotte is met by a temptation she has never before experienced: a much-older Joe. Charlotte finds herself confronted with the idea that she might be more like her mother than she thought, or than she wanted to be. If you’re not sold by the description of the movie, I’ll just let you know that it stars Cher as Rachel, Winona Ryder as Charlotte and Christina Ricci as Kate.

Now and Then (1995)

This one has to be my favorite on the list. I’ve watched it so many times I’ve lost count. Another Christina Ricci special, this movie follows four best friends in 1970s Indiana as they are at the awkward age at which they still want to play pretend but also find themselves somewhat interested in romance. Their story starts in the present-day, where one of the girls, Chrissy, is having a baby and requests that the other three come back to Indiana to be there for her, referencing a promise they made when they were younger. All four of their stories are vastly different, but the way they come together both in their adolescence and in adulthood is truly heartwarming.

Hopefully, you find a new favorite in one of these ’90s films!

Karleigh Wallace

Chapel Hill '22

Karleigh Wallace is an aspiring writer who is a junior at UNC double majoring in English and history.
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