The 90s delivered all sorts of goodness, like flannel, grunge music and controversial movies. You’ve surely seen many of these, but it probably been a while. You should totally watch these controversial 90s movies again.
Before you start searching for these 1990s films on Netflix, head over to Break.com to enter their “Throw Break Thursday Sweepstakes.” The prizes are pretty sweet, including a Retro Arcade Tower, Classic Gaming Console & Games, and a Vintage Comic Book Pack.
Now on with the list…
Crash (1996): A TV director gets into a serious car accident and survives. But instead of resuming his regular life, he is sucked into an underworld of people who fetishize car accidents.
- Controversial because: Crash earned an NC-17 rating for the combination of sex and violence that disgusted many viewers.
Boxing Helena (1993): A woman is injured in a hit-and-run accident in front of a surgeon’s home. The two once had a relationship that she ended. Seizing the opportunity, he kidnaps her, amputates her legs (and later, her arms) and holds her captive in his home. The ending presents a bit of a plot twist.
- Controversial because: The storyline is dark.
Trainspotting (1996): Set in Edinburgh, a heroine addict decides that it’s time to get clean. However, the company he keeps and the situations he puts himself in make that challenging.
- Controversial because: Some viewers felt Trainspotting glamorized drug use because of the rather graphic scenes depicting heroine use.
Boy Meets Girl (1994): A guy who thinks he’s going to get laid goes home with a woman he meets at a bar. Instead of getting lucky, he wakes from being drugged to discover he’s been restrained in a dentist’s chair in the woman’s basement. Torture ensues, but things get even weirder when a third person involves herself in the situation.
- Controversial because: Lots of torture, S&M and murder got this film banned in the UK for a while.
Reservoir Dogs (1992): Quentin Tarantino’s directorial debut, Reservoir Dogs shows the before and after (but not the during) of a diamond heist gone wrong. The movie made a name for Tarantino and became a cult hit.
- Controversial because: The amount of violence in the movie offended some viewers.
Bulworth (1998): Warren Beatty plays a democratic senator who puts a hit out on his own life after he takes out a large life insurance policy. Because the end is near anyway, he seizes the opportunity to be honest.
- Controversial because: Bulworth, a white politician, hijacks hip hop language and culture and uses racially charged language.
The Lover (1992): Set in Indochina in 1929, a French teenager falls for an older and wealthy Chinese man. Both know that nothing good will come of the affair.
- Controversial because: Although they seem pretty tame today, some of the sex scenes were a bit much for some viewers in the early ’90s.
Natural Born Killers (1994): A married couple (played by Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis), both of whom had traumatic childhoods, go on a very violent killing spree. The movie examines the media’s obsession with violence.
- Controversial because: Natural Born Killers depicts extreme violence and the film was blamed for spurring copycat murders.
The People vs. Larry Flint (1996): Woody Harrelson plays Hustler publisher Larry Flint. The film tells the story of Flynt’s rise to porn-creating fame while depicting an important legal case about free speech.
- Controversial because: Porn! Doesn’t porn always make things controversial?
Pulp Fiction (1994): Two hitmen (Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta) are given the task of recovering a stolen suitcase for their employer, a mob boss. One is also in charge of entertaining the boss’s wife. The story lines intertwine with a few others and the result is an entertaining movie.
- Controversial because: Back in 1994, the movie’s depiction of drugs, violence and (gasp!) foul language was bothersome to some viewers.
Kids (1995): This low budget film is set in New York City, where one teens is trying to have as much sex as possible with virgins and another is trying to find him to tell him she contracted HIV from him.
- Controversial because: While this movie probably feels tame today, when it came out in the mid-90s, it was edgy because it involved teens doing drugs and having sex.
Stigmata (1999): A priest from the Vatican connects with a woman in the U.S. who shows signs of Stigmata — the wounds of Christ. What he learns threatens the existence of the Catholic church.
- Controversial because: Not all Catholics were pleased with Stigmata because the movie was critical of the Catholic church.
- Controversial because: Snuff films, for those not in the know, are porn films in which the female star is murdered on camera at the end. The dark subject matter made 8 MM controversial.
Goodfellas (1990): Based on the true story of mobster (and FBI informant) Henry Hill, Goodfellas explores the life of mobsters — and those who wish they were. Hill rises from a poor kid from the wrong side of town to an almost-member of the mob family, but he never becomes a “made guy.”
- Controversial because: In 1990, the violence and language made Goodfellas edgy and controversial. Today, it’s a classic movie.
JFK (1991): Following John F. Kennedy’s assassination, A district attorney from New Orleans launches his own investigation when he feels something’s missing from the official one.
- Controversial because: A Rolling Stone article summed the controversy up well: “critics, politicians and even some historians decried the picture for its depiction of an assassination plot hatched in the highest echelons of the American government.”
Showgirls (1995): Elizabeth Berkley of Saved by the Bell fame plays a young woman who comes to Las Vegas to find fame. She begins as a lap dancer and ends up the star of the show, compromising her morals and friendships along the way.
- Controversial because: Showgirls earned an NC-17 rating for the sex and nudity (and maybe the horrible acting?).
Lolita (1997): A British professor arrives in the United States for a teaching position. He rents a room from a woman after seeing and wanting her 15-year-old daughter. The step-father/step daughter duo begin a cross country trip/affair, but Lolita eventually sets her sights on boys her own age.
- Controversial because: Middle-aged man + young teenage girl. That sums it up.
Eyes Wide Shut (1999): Real life (at the time) husband and wife Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman play a husband and wife who encounter a marital issue when she admits she had sexual fantasies about another man. That pushes Cruise to set out to fulfill some of his own desires, but he finds himself in situations he’s not prepared to handle.
- Controversial because: Besides the movie being pretty bad, some of the sex scenes were a little much for certain viewers.
South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut (1999): Four kids from South Park watch an R-rated Canadian film, learn foul language, have their minds corrupted and cause their moms to declare war on Canada.
- Controversial because: Not everyone was into Saddam Hussein as Satan’s lover, and the movie was full of swearing and vulgarity. But would you expect any less from South Park?
- Controversial because: As you’d expect, Boogie Nights depicts lots of sex and drugs. Notably, Wahlberg pulls out his giant piece of equipment at the end, admires himself in the mirror and says, ‘I am a star. I’m a star, I’m a star, I’m a star. I’m a big bright shining star.”