The 1990s saw a lot of changes in the way we watch movies. There was the rise of blockbusters, for one. In 1990, $50 million was considered an astronomical sum to spend on the production of a film... today, that’s low-budget. Also, many movies tried to take on the advent of the Internet and personal computers, although, looking back, many of their views on technology are laughable. Culture has changed as well, from somewhat conservative to rather wild. The advent of cable TV programming upped their game to get folks into theaters. By the end of the decade, the stage was set for some major changes that continue to unfold today.
However, it’s clear that a lot of stuff which happened in movies in the 1990s wouldn’t work today. A key reason is technology, as the rise of the Internet, social media and more means a lot of classic comedies (and even thrillers) wouldn’t work as well for today’s audience. There’s also the tone, as a lot of stuff that was rather brutal and often politically incorrect flew better in the ‘90s than it would today.
Some might feel it’s better, especially from a social perspective, that things have changed, but it also means seeing some of these older movies in a far different light. From tone to technology and more, a lot of classic stuff from ‘90s belongs in that decade. Here are 15 movies scenes from the 1990s that wouldn’t pass today, showing just how much difference two decades can make.
15 Everything (Home Alone)
There’s so much in this movie that just would not work today. First, the reason the McAllisters are in such a rush is a power failure causes their alarms to go out so they’re late getting to the airport. Today, you have slews of stuff on your cell phone to keep track of that. They’re shown racing through the airport, barely making the plane without noticing Kevin is missing. As anyone who’s gone through modern airport security knows, there would be more than enough waiting time to figure out a kid was missing. Finally, with cell phones, it would take less than a minute for Kevin and his mom to reconnect, touch base and Kevin would use the Internet to help take care of himself (as well as let his mom see what he was up to). As for the Bandits, the physical comedy might be too cartoonish even for today’s kids to accept. Not to mention all Kevin has to do is take some photos of the guys, e-mail them to the cops and have them behind bars fast. While it was a huge hit in the '90s, the progress of technology means much of this movie wouldn’t work today.
14 All The Stalking (10 Things I Hate About You + Can’t Hardly Wait)
These two teen comedies have a unique vibe. In Can't Hardly Wait, a teen has been lusting after a hot student (Jennifer Love Hewitt) all year long and waits until the big end of school party to tell her how he feels. He basically follows her constantly, babbling to himself for a bit before gushing out how much he loves a girl he’s never said two words to over the last four years. 10 Things is a modern take on The Taming of the Shrew as in order to date the girl of his dreams, a boy has to get a date for her witchy sister (Julia Stiles). So, he hires a hot guy (Heath Ledger) to do whatever it takes to get her to go out with him, including interrupting cheerleading practice to do a song and following her constantly.
Today, both guys would no doubt be taking to the Internet and social media for their attempts to get info on these girls. In today’s world, this behavior comes off as flat-out stalking. Hell, Ledger’s character is being paid to do all this and Wait’s main character can be creepy. Too many times movies present “grand romantic gestures” that would never work in real life and in today’s world, two guys pursuing women who either hate them or don’t know them isn’t fun.
13 The Cell Phones (Clueless)
The 1995 comedy hit is still loved for its quirky style, lovely fashions and Alicia Silverstone’s performance. But it’s a clear sign of how things have changed. In 1995, the big joke was how the characters are going around, talking into their cell phones constantly to show how wealthy and privileged they are. When one loses her phone, she literally has no idea how to talk to other people. Today’s kids look at these phones and ask how in the world anyone could talk on such massive and outdated technology. The filmmakers joke that the scene of Cher and Dionne talking on cell phones to each other while walking side by side in the school hallway would today be changed to them texting constantly. Also, as the Internet wasn’t really a thing back then, the kids seem a bit behind in knowing about some social stuff and even keeping up on pop culture. Today, that would be easy to have and thus remarkable how a movie pushing teen culture is now so behind it.
12 The Fake Resume (Don’t Tell Mom The Babysitter’s Dead)
A flop back in 1991, this movie has actually gotten a cult following today. Christina Applegate is the eldest of a bunch of kids left with a tyrannical elderly woman when their mom goes on vacation. When the old gal kicks it, they drop her off at a funeral home and fend for themselves. Applegate fakes a resume to land a job at a fashion house and soon rising up with her talent. Obviously, while a fake resume might have worked back then, today, fashion houses don’t just do background checks. A modern teen like Applegate would be on social media constantly and it’s indicated she’s a party gal so friends would have pics of her. One Google search could reveal her real identity and have her dropped fast. The movie ends with her offered a real job after college but just imagine a fashion house today selling the story of a fake designer barely out of high school getting this job. The movie is fun but not really able come alive today.
11 The Zipper Scene (There’s Something About Mary)
The classic gross-out comedy from the Farrelly Brothers remains a wild ride for its content. Cameron Diaz became a major box office star thanks to her title role as a woman unaware of how she causes nearly every man she meets to fall obsessively in love with her. Ben Stiller also was boosted to box office success thanks to his part as Ted, her first would-be paramour. The movie opens with him asking Mary out to prom, excited about it. He’s in her bathroom, trying to finish up and yanks his zipper up too tight. Another movie might just play off the reactions or cut away. Instead, we get a long scene of how he’s injured his manhood, complete with a close-up of it wrapped in the zipper. The entire audience is screeching right along with those inside the movie and a sight way too much even for an R-rating.
10 The Mass Destruction (Fight Club)
This 1999 movie is well known for its anarchist nature and its fantastic twist ending. It plays on multiple levels with talk of crass commercialism and you can see a few parallels to modern times with men feeling so emasculated that they need to engage in fistfights to kick it up. Edward Norton and Brad Pitt are good in the main roles with the secret behind their connection so well done, it requires a second viewing to take it all in. It culminates in the big moment, the plan to take down “the elites” via synchronized bombings of buildings in New York. In 1999, the sight of skyscrapers coming down and crashing into one another via explosions was a cool sight and meant to show the power players brought down. Today, you won't find a producer daring enough to do something like this again, showing how this movie remains one of a kind to watch.
9 The Pie Scene (American Pie)
For a while, it looked like the “pie” in this 1999 hit comedy was just a metaphor. The raunchy hit examined a pack of teens, the guys trying to lose their virginity in various ways while handling some lovely ladies. It’s a wild romp with nutty bits like Nadia's (Shannon Elizabeth) scene in Jim's room, or Michelle's (Alyson Hannigan) flute skills. But what everyone remembers is the scene where Jim (Jason Biggs) sees a pie on the kitchen table. Remembering that a friend once compared being intimate with a woman to “warm apple pie” he hits on the idea of…practicing. The movie just goes wild with the sight of Biggs in the act as his dad (Eugene Levy) walks in on him. It was a scene that made audiences howl in laughter but it’s hard to imagine it being done today. It just comes off way too over the top and messy, this is one meal you won’t see repeated today.
8 The Curb Stomp (American History X)
In today’s environment, making a movie about a Neo-Nazi is a red flag all by itself. Having it be in black and white and not holding back on its harshness is something else. Edward Norton earned an Oscar nomination for his turn as a student studying Nazi behavior and soon believing they’re on the right side. The movie is gripping showing how far one can fall and Norton believable as this growing racist. Naturally, there are a lot of things very uncomfortable from the anti-Semitism abounding to the Nazi imagery and “white power” talks. But the worst has to be when Norton's character makes a black man "bite the curb". It’s a horrifying moment on multiple levels and shocking it made the final cut. Today, there's no way a moviemaker would dare shoot something like this and thus how race can be a delicate issue.
7 The Reactions To Cross-Dressing (Mrs. Doubtfire)
This 1993 hit was one of Robin Williams’ most beloved movies. He plays a father hurt by his divorce and starts disguising himself as a British nanny to be closer to his kids. From the start, the plot wouldn’t work as Williams steals the number of the agency his ex-wife was going to call. Today, she could use a dozen Internet sites to find the right nanny. Also, everyone treats Williams dressed as a woman as something rather…disgusting. He affects a transgender voice to scare his wife off, something that wouldn’t fly today. When his kids see the “nanny” peeing standing up, they freak out as if “she” is going to attack them. Even the judge talks about how this may be a sign of a mental disorder before ordering supervision on Williams. Today, this wouldn’t be funny but downright insulting. Williams still pulls off a great act but the overtones are way behind the times.
6 Threats At A School (The Big Quiz)
Granted, you don’t expect realism from an Adam Sandler movie. But even by the standards of his later comedy, his 1995 breakout hit is a bit too much to handle. Sandler is the title character, a rich slacker whose father is tired of putting up with his antics. He always assumed he’d inherit the company but his dad breaks it to him that he can’t trust him because the only reason Billy passed high school was that his dad bribed the teachers. To prove himself, Billy says he’ll go through school, grades one through 12, in just a few months. This leads to the usual nutty Sandler comedy before the big showdown as he debates his would-be challenger in a quiz at the school. In a hilarious bit, the bad guy can’t answer any questions on ethics so Billy wins. In response, the other man pulls out a gun and threatens to open fire inside a school. He’s only stopped when the school bully shoots him. Audiences today can take the idea of a dimwit becoming a CEO, but a guy making threats at a school over losing a contest is a bit much and this is one Sandler comedy that hasn’t aged well.
5 The Mega Store (You’ve Got Mail)
Five years after Sleepless in Seattle, Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan reunited for this romantic comedy. Hanks is the manager of a chain of bookstores opening a new branch. Ryan is the owner of a small indie store threatened by it. They end up exchanging e-mails and carrying on a romance with no idea who the other is in real life. One facet of the movie that wouldn’t work today is the set-up. Mega-chains like Borders have gone out of business while smaller bookshops are thriving so having Ryan’s business hurting by Hanks doesn’t make as much sense. Second, while in 1998, you could be pretty anonymous with e-mail, times have changed. It would be more text messaging and given how they’re both popular bookshop managers, each would no doubt have their own pages on Facebook. Thus, one little search can reveal who the other is and their “secret” romance exposed. It’s still a fun comedy yet progress has changed a lot of it.
4 The Glorification Of Their Crimes (Natural Born Killers)
Even in 1994, this was a huge bit. Today, it would be absolutely impossible to see. Oliver Stone's drama still stands as a genius work of how the media can turn a pair of mass murdering psychopaths (Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis) into folk heroes and overlook their true crazy personas. Mixing up various themes and wild ways of shooting, the movie is still fantastic to watch. Indeed, in many ways, it’s ahead of its time on how the media and public can glamorize those who don’t deserve it. But today, centering a film on a pair of twisted sociopaths is way too much for studios to take. Anti-heroes are one thing, this is something else altogether. The action is done in a brutal way, the nasty attacks going down and the movie can be seen glorifying gunplay and murder just for kicks. Things may be a bit harsh today compared to the ‘90s yet even Stone would have a hard time pulling off a movie like this with its brutal measures.
3 The Sledgehammer Scene (Misery)
One of the best Stephen King adaptations ever, Misery is the story of James Caan, an author who gets into an accident driving in the mountains. He wakes up in a cabin with Annie (Kathy Bates in her Oscar-winning performance), who’s a huge fan of his books. But when she discovers he killed her beloved main character, she holds him hostage until he writes her back to life. The movie is gripping thanks to how low-key it is and amps up the scares slowly. The big climax is the scene where Caan tries to escape but is caught. To ensure he won’t leave again, Annie literally breaks his legs. Originally, Rob Reiner wanted to cut away from it but was convinced by the actors it would be better to actually show the blows. That proved right as it’s a shocking turn that showcases the monster Annie is behind her charm and smile. Today, that would be too much to actually see, there would be cut-aways from it to ensure it doesn’t come off too graphic. The movie still works as a genius thriller but this is a horrible bit that would hobble it today.
2 The Surgery (Boxing Helena)
This is a fascinating case where the backstory is more famous than the movie itself. Originally, Madonna was to star in this 1993 thriller but dropped out just a month before filming. Kim Basinger was then cast instead but demanded extensive script rewrites and fights with director Jennifer Chambers Lynch. She was fired, kicking off an ugly lawsuit that resulted in Basinger going bankrupt. Sherilyn Fenn was finally cast as the title character, a woman who becomes the object of desire for a delusional surgeon. He becomes so obsessed that he kidnaps her and proceeds to remove both her legs to ensure she stays with him. When Fenn naturally tries to kill him, he responds by removing her arms. From there, the limbless woman begins to fight back with psychology, making cracks at her captor. The very idea is mind-boggling in all the wrong ways and it’s no wonder the movie was ravaged by critics and a box office flop. You can ask for a lot but a modern female audience seeing a woman in this state is something movies today would never get away with.
1 The Campus Shooting (Higher Learning)
John Singleton’s 1995 movie isn’t one of his best known but works on several levels. It shows how a group of college freshmen come in with big hopes only to have reality intrude. Plotlines include a co-ed (Kristy Swanson) dealing with an assault and the issues between a group of white supremacists and an African-American gang. Michael Rapaport is a young Midwestern guy who feels out of place. He soon falls in with the skinheads, also shaving his head, turning on some friends and believing in their mantras. When the college comes together for a big peace festival, Rapaport’s character proves he’s “for real” to his gang by using a sniper rifle to gun down several students. Even wilder is when a black youth stops him but when security comes up, it’s the black kid they grab and the real shooter nearly escapes. Today, showcasing a shooting on a college alone would be bad but the racial overtones are a real reason this wouldn’t be pass today.