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6 Must See Movies from 1990

by Joel G. Robertson

It’s 1990 and we’ve reached the end of this year-themed series of “6 Movies You Must See” posts; however, for those of you who’ve enjoyed them, I’ve got some good news:  “6 Movies You Must See” will not only continue on via the podcast, but right here on the blog as well!

Of course, rather than basing each list on a year, I’ll explore different themes. Some serious, some not so. But be sure to check back every Friday to see what movies YOU MUST SEE!

So, let’s get this party started right with a quick breakdown of the box office returns for the top 10 films from 1990 (according to Wikipedia):

1. Ghost (Paramount) $505,702,588

2. Home Alone (20th Century Fox) $476,684,675.

3. Pretty Woman (Touchstone) $463,406,268

4. Dances with Wolves (Orion) $424,208,848

5. Total Recall (TriStar) $261,299,840

6. Back to the Future Part III (Universal) $244,527,583

7. Die Hard 2: Die Harder (20th Century Fox) $240,031,094

8. Presumed Innocent (Warner Bros.)  $221,303,1889. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (New Line Cinema) $201,965,91510. Kindergarten Cop (Universal) $201,957,688

Know what strikes me most about that list? It’s not just the movies. Or that several of the final domestic grosses from the top 10 are what some of today’s blockbusters make in their first 10 days.

Nope, it’s the distribution companies represented on that list. Specifically, their logos and “theme” music and how much of an emotional connection we have to these brands.

I gotta be honest. Whenever I hear those horns blasting, followed by Pegasus freezing mid-leap over the TriStar logo, I get chills (or at the very least goosebumps). Same for the starry-sky background of the Orion Pictures logo.

Or whenever those segmented pieces of a silhouetted film frame fell onto the screen, letting us know it was New Line Cinema. Do you remember when their logo was simply a line of video noise that flashed until the New Line title appeared? Check it out on Youtube here if you don’t.

And while Universal, Warner Bros., Paramount, and the like continue on, Orion is gone and so are some of the lesser known names.  Does anyone else remember Carolco, The Cannon Group, or the De Laurentiis Entertainment Group (DEG)?

I suppose waxing nostalgic over a company logo and brand just speaks to how pervasive mass consumerism has become in our culture. Or could it be that since each of those brands preceded movies that affected and touched all of our lives we have such a connection to them?

So what if I get a warm fuzzy whenever I catch the regal horn blowing of a Morgan Creek intro?

Hey, that reminds me… I think Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves is on!


Tremors Rated: PG-13; Dir. Ron Underwood; Starring Kevin Bacon, Fred Ward and Finn Carter

The tiny desert town of Perfection, Nevada has a very big problem. It seems they have some new neighbors: prehistoric, subterranean, school bus-sized, man-eating worms. The good news for the townsfolk of Perfection: the damn things are blind. The bad news:  they can sense the slightest vibration through the ground.

Sucks for that little girl on the pogo stick…

Tremors Trailer

Movie Trivia:

  • Fred Ward starred in the first film to receive an NC-17 rating, Henry and June (1990).
  • Tremors originally received an ‘R’ rating. Not for violence, but for language.
  • Tremors was Reba McIntire’s acting debut.


Quick ChangeRated: R; Dir. Howard Franklin, Bill Murray; Starring Bill Murray, Geena Davis, and Randy Quaid

After Grimm (Murray), Phyllis (Davis), and their friend Loomis (Quaid) rob a bank, they think they’ve gotten away with the perfect crime; unfortunately, there’s one thing they didn’t count on… getting out of New York City.  

Quick Change Trailer

Movie Trivia:

  • Bill Murray has starred in two other movies from Howard Franklin, The Man Who Knew Too Little (1997) (written by Franklin) and Larger Than Life (1996) (Franklin directed).
  • Quick Change was based on a novel by Jay Cronley, which was made into a movie five years earlier called Hold-Up.
  • Bill Murray co-directed Quick Change with Howard Franklin (a decision made after original director Jonathan Demme bowed out), making it Murray’s directorial debut.


Darkman Rated: R; Dir. Sam Raimi; Starring Liam Neeson, Frances McDormand, and Larry Drake

Peyton Westlake (Neeson), a scientist, is horribly disfigured and left for dead by mobsters. Hungry for revenge, he uses his invention of “synthetic skin” to replicate the faces of others as a way to get closer to those who wronged him.

Darkman Trailer

Movie Trivia:

  • Julia Roberts was almost cast as Julie Hastings, the part played by Frances McDormand.
  • Frances McDormand’s husband Joel Coen edited Raimi’s first film, The Evil Dead (1981).
  • Larry Drake, who played Durant, also played the titular killer in Dr. Giggles (1992).


Pump Up the VolumeRated: R; Dir. Allen Moyle; Starring Christian Slater, Samantha Mathis and Annie Ross

Mark (Slater) is a mild-mannered, introverted teen by day. You know the type: quiet, unassuming, ignored, if you blink he’s gone– even though he’s still standing right in front of you. But at night he transforms into the pirated-radio show host Hard Harry, the chain-smoking, cynical voice of the frustrated American teen (or any teen for that matter). However, when his controversial ideas begin to permeate his small Arizona town he’s racing against the clock to get his message out before the FCC shuts down his signal.

Pump Up the Volume Trailer

Movie Trivia:

  • Actress Annie Ross played Granny Ruth in Frank Hennonlotter’s Basket Case 2 (1990) and Basket Case 3: The Progeny (1992).
  • Christian Slater and Samantha Mathis also starred together in the John Woo actioner Broken Arrow (1996).
  • Writer/ Director Allan Moyle also made Empire Records (1995).


La Femme NikitaRated: R; Dir. Luc Besson; Starring Anne Parillaud, Marc Duret, Patrick Fontana, and Jean Reno

After a drug deal goes bad, Nikita is arrested and found guilty of her crimes. However, rather than a prison sentence, she’s enlisted and trained by a government agency to become an assassin.

La Femme Nikita Trailer

Movie Trivia:

  • La Femme Nikita was remade in 1993 as Point of No Return, starring Bridget Fonda.
  • Anne Parillaud starred in Innocent Blood (1992), a tale of vampires and Mafiosos directed by John Landis.
  • Director Luc Besson also made Léon (aka The Professional [1994]), starring Natalie Portman, Jean Reno, and Gary Oldman.


Edward ScissorhandsRated: PG-13; Dir. Tim Burton; Johnny Depp, Winona Ryder, Dianne Wiest, and Anthony Michael Hall


After his inventor/father dies, a strange young man named Edward (Depp) with scissors for hands is taken in by a kind woman named Peg (Wiest) and her family. But suburban life ain’t what it seems as Edward tries to fit into his new surroundings.

Edward Scissorhands Trailer

Movie Trivia:

  • Edward Scissorhands was the last on-screen theatrical film performance of Vincent Price.
  • One of Tim Burton’s earliest short films was titled Vincent.
  • Edward Scissorhands was shot in central Florida, including the Southgate Shopping Plaza in Lakeland. The giant arch is still there. (I can personally vouch for that!)

Now that you’ve read my 6 must see movies from 1990, what are yours?

Until next time, remember, a flick is only forgotten if you’re not talking about it!


25 comments for “6 Must See Movies from 1990

  1. February 11, 2011 at 10:02 am

    I’m surprised you didn’t mention that Sam Raimi wanted Bruce Campbell to play Darkman, but the studio wouldn’t let him. Also, I love Darkman!

    Browsing the 1990 in film wiki, I noticed that Days of Being Wild, Robot Jox and Total Recall all came out that year and I love those! I also recently saw Blind Fury with Rutger Hauer and loved it too.

    In the childhood memory dept., I remember liking Narrow Margin & Quigley Down Under a lot, but I don’t really remember anything else about them.

    • February 11, 2011 at 9:20 pm

      Hi Will– To be honest, I completely forgot that little bit ‘o trivia, but I thank you for adding it! 🙂 Actually, does Campbell even have a cameo in DARKMAN? I can’t remember. Speaking of memories, it’s funny how we maintain that sense memory of really digging a flick when we were kids (for you it was NARROW MARGIN and QUIGLEY…), but yet we don’t retain much about the movie itself. I find that happens a lot to me.

      • Peter Nielsen
        February 12, 2011 at 6:38 pm

        Bruce Campbell actually HAS a cameo in “Darkman”… It’s right at the end and it’s very brief!

        • February 14, 2011 at 8:34 pm

          Peter– I’ll have to check that out ASAP! 🙂

  2. February 11, 2011 at 11:24 am

    Love TREMORS and I don’t think it’s just a nostalgia thing. I was a sr in high school in 1990, so PUMP UP THE VOLUME was my fantasy. Very surprised that BACK TO THE FUTURE III grossed more than DIE HARD 2, although I liked FUTURE III more than II (even if they are the two most unneccesary sequels of all time).

    Bad sequels – many of which I just refused to watch – seem to be the m.o. of the year. A relatively bad movie year all in all:

    Lowlights (sequels): Exorcist III (not gonna do it), Rocky V (didn’t actually happen), Predator 2 (remember kinda liking it, but so inferior to the original — although in hindsight, may be best sequel in series), The Two Jakes (the most needless on the list), and of course Godfather III (a great first act, then, “Dad?”)

    Highlights: Goodfellas (although as time goes on, I feel this is middle of the pack Scorcese for me – at the time, it was one of my first experiences), Miller’s Crossing (the first Coen brothers movie that I loved), State of Grace (loved this movie when I saw it on video – if you dont know anything about it, just see it. It was one of the few times that I was unaware of a major twist that takes place early in the film — warning, descriptions of the film give away the twist. If you like Sean Penn, Ed Harris and the mob – see it. Directed by Three O’Clock High’s Phil Joanou).

    Movie I loved in college, but have no idea if it holds up: Taking Care of Business with Charles Grodin and James Belushi (“To the Cubs winning the world series, and big …”).

    Honorable mention to movie I still have not seen: The Krays (gangster movie with the inspired casting of the Kemp brothers from the band Spandau Ballet).

    • February 11, 2011 at 9:26 pm

      Dave– TREMORS most certainly holds up and the rest of your choices are great; however, I’ll have to differ with you on both EXORCIST 3 and GOODFELLAS. Although, E3 was heavily edited, there are still some very effective moments in it (I’m thinking of the scene in the hospital at night, with that ghostly figured brandishing the massive, steel pruning sheers– freakin’ gets me everytime). And GOODFELLAS, well it’s easily the Scorsese film I’ve watched the most and I just love how alive and kinetic his filmmaking was in that movie. 🙂

      • February 11, 2011 at 9:48 pm

        I will take your word for Exorcist III (as I said, some of these sequels I have never seen), it is now in the Q. I take back my GOODFELLAS comment, too flippant and controversial, just looked back at the filmography on IMDB, no way this isn’t in his top 3 or 4 – best use of Gimme Shelter in a movie. Best use of Sid Vicious’s My Way since Sid and Nancy – or since this

        And I should give more respect to GFellas since it shares an actor with Do The Right Thing — any guesses, memorable scene in both films.

        • February 12, 2011 at 8:32 am

          Dave–No worries! I certainly didn’t take what you said as flippant. If anything, it made me want to rewatch GF and be sure that wasn’t a case of CND (Cinematic Nostalgia Disorder) on my part! 🙂

          But Scorcese’s use of music in GF was AMAZING!

          And the actor was… Samuel L. Jackson!

          • February 12, 2011 at 11:17 am

            Ha – I forgot about Sam Jackson – so that’s a correct answer, but a much more prominent guy. The two share someone else, a very pivotal scene in Goodfellas (he also ended up in The Sopranos).

  3. Mags
    February 11, 2011 at 11:50 am

    Just having a look at the other releases that year and Cry Baby was 1990, you’ve got to love a bit of John Waters. I have a soft spot for Tremors and for Kindergarten cop but that could just be because of the ferret ;), and I just loved Misery, Memphis Belle and Truly Madly Deeply. I liked Navy SEALS at the time but saw it again recently… just like Michael Biehn and Charlie Sheen, it’s not aged well…

    • February 11, 2011 at 9:34 pm

      Mags– Speaking of Waters, I always liked SERIAL MOM, though I realize that, for Waters, it’s pretty tame. The rest of your list is great. I also have a soft spot for MISERY (I know, that just sounds weird). And as a fellow fan of the great Dar, I too think that ferrets can make just about any movie even better! 😉

  4. February 11, 2011 at 12:13 pm

    Thank you for the movie suggestion and this review! I just finished watching Do The Right Thing for the first time and I thought it was thought-provoking albeit slow. I did enjoy seeing the late great Robin Harris and others again. Although I not the biggest fan of his I appreciate the contributions Spike Lee has made to black films & the film industry in general my favorite being Crooklyn. Thanks again for the post. Hope to see more from you.

    • February 11, 2011 at 12:41 pm

      Thanks for the comment Red Queen. We had too little Robin Harris in our lives. But thanks for reminding me, I forgot to mention HOUSE PARTY in my comment above – wondering if that has aged well.

      • February 11, 2011 at 9:30 pm

        I had a jones to watch HOUSE PARTY about a year ago. Not nearly as funny as I remembered it, but not as bad as I’d thought it be. Surprisingly endearing and like Dave and RedKQueen pointed out, you can never have too much Robin Harris! That’s right, you heard me! Don’t even try and argue… you… test-tube baby! 😉

    • February 11, 2011 at 9:32 pm

      RedKQueen– Thanks (as always) for the great comments. Gotta confess, I’ve never seen Crooklyn, but I remember when it came out. I’ll definitely have to add it to my Q. Thanks!

  5. February 11, 2011 at 12:14 pm

    Oops posted in the wrong place

    • February 11, 2011 at 9:31 pm

      RedKQueen–No worries! There’s no “wrong” place around here!

  6. Terry East
    February 13, 2011 at 10:44 pm

    At first glance, this is most likely my favorite list of your “must see movies” so far. If I could truly go back to older habits, this six pack would make for one great day of movie watching. As always, looking forward for more goodness to come.

    • February 14, 2011 at 8:38 pm

      Terry– Hey man! How the hell are you? Thanks for commenting and the kind words. I agree. I sometimes reminisce about the old days of hitting the Spec’s video store in the Winter Haven Mall on their .99 Wednesdays. Man, I’d hist that place in the evening, load up on 5 or 6 titles and have ’em all watched, rewound, and returned before Friday.

      Ah, the good old days… 🙂

  7. February 15, 2011 at 6:00 am

    Did anyone else dig Psycho IV: The Beginning as much as I did? I couldn’t get over seeing Juliet play Mrs. Bates LOL. I also liked WELCOME HOME ROXY CARMICHAEL and CADENCE from this year. These movie lists are helpful and fun, Joel…looking forward to the new ones!

    • February 15, 2011 at 7:29 am

      RedKQueen– I actually liked that movie too! Of course, I think Mick Garris is an underappreciated filmmaker. His King TV adaptations (like The Stand, and The Shining) are definitely worth checking out. And I totally have CND (Cinematic Nostalgia Disorder) for Critters 2 and, especially, Sleepwalkers.

      And I’m glad you’re looking forward to the new ones. Actually, the next “6 Movies You Must See” list will be in two weeks as this Friday (2/18) we’ll be featuring a brand new series of posts that will help give you ideas for movie theme nights and parties!

  8. GailinVA
    February 17, 2011 at 11:04 am

    Love the list! And completely agree with all the choices. I’ve seen everything including the top box office hits. I think this is the first time I can say this!

    Recently re-watched La Femme Nikta and found it just as riviting as the first time I saw it. Refuse to watch Point of No Return even if I accidently come across it on late late night TV.

    • February 17, 2011 at 9:48 pm

      Thanks Gail! Yeah, it’s been quite awhile since I got some Nikita action (wow, that sounded a little creepy, didn’t it?). I’m going to make a point of getting a viewing in asap!

  9. January 23, 2013 at 10:20 am

    Hi, I think your list is great and have watched all. My favourite is also La Femme Nikta altho there are so many good ones on your list, maybe Edward Scissorhands is my favourite. Yikes, I can’t decide.

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