The 90s had some of the best adventure films that brought joy to so many people. Fans had plenty of fun movies to choose from, but some adventure films made an impact and defined the decade. The reason why action-adventure films work so well is that there’s something for everyone–there is always a wide range of emotions in these films, it can go from humorous, to very emotional, and even sometimes scary.
That’s the joy of this genre, the fact that it can have everything and make the viewer feel so much at once. Adventure films bring so much to the table, and they’re always fun to watch whenever in need of a good pick-me-up. The 90s covered all genres, but action-adventure films were a true staple of the decade, and brought some key lead actors to the forefront.
Jurassic Park (1993) – Stream on HBO Max
Movies have always depicted dinosaurs in different ways, but they never really looked life-like until Steven Spielberg‘s Jurassic Park. The 90s had film crews using animatronics and practical effects that looked realistic, even looking back today.
There have been massive upgrades within each decade, but there was just something a bit more polished about the look of these creatures. The movie almost fell into slow-burn thriller territory because of how much tension Spielberg brought to dinosaurs and humans interacting. It’s a fun ride and fans have appreciated the franchise ever since.
Hook (1991) – Stream on Hulu Premium
Out of all the Peter Pan versions out there, Hook has to be the best live-action one. This is another Spielberg classic that has an older Peter Pan (Robin Williams) return to Neverland when he hears that Captain James Hook (Dustin Hoffman) is kidnapping children. When Peter Pan returns, he has to reclaim his youthful spirit to save the children. Such a fresh perspective on an old tale made everyone fall in love with Robin Williams.
Peter Pan is someone adults and children can relate to, and Williams is the perfect balance between the two. It was also fun for fans to see a different side of Hoffman, who got to have some fun in this role. They both had great chemistry, but the concept itself made this such a memorable 90s movie.
The Mummy (1999) – Rent on Prime Video and Apple TV+
The Mummy gave Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz lifelong fans who would always support them after this movie. This adventure film defined the genre and was a massive draw in the 90s. It’s similar to what Indiana Jones did in the 80s. Of course, it is a bit more spooky because of what the story entails and it’s so entertaining.
Fans wanted to study ancient lore and mythology after this movie, and the love they had for it also sparked a sequel. This cast made something special, and it could have only made an impact in the 90s when these practical effects brought so much life to action scenes, and Brendan Fraserwas a golden leading man.
Independence Day (1996) – Stream on Hulu and Prime Video
In the 90s Will Smith was the talk of the town, and he went from television to music, to movies in one swift motion. Everyone knew who he was, and he was able to build a career for himself. When Independence Day came out in theaters, the way audiences looked at action movies changed. Sure, this can also be classified as a disaster movie, but it also brought the fun elements of adventure.
Anything to do with aliens invading Earth is a surefire way to get any sci-fi fan to the movie theater. It is also a Fourth of July classic because of President J. Thomas Whitmore’s (Bill Pullman) incredible speech. The movie still holds up because of how suspenseful it was and the fact that aliens will always be cool no matter the decade.
Armageddon (1998) – Stream on Fubo
It seems that whenever the world is about to end, it just seems to make an engaging adventure movie. Director Michael Bay started off making some really strong movies like Armageddon. After discovering that an asteroid the size of Texas is about to wipe out Earth in less than a month, NASA recruits a small team of deep-core drillers to save the planet.
It does feel like an underdog story, but the action is what makes this movie so entertaining to watch. Bay, once knew how to construct the wildest action scenes in a way that didn’t feel messy. The more obscure adventure films make the cast have fun, and audiences can see the enjoyment on their faces when watching the movie.
Jumanji (1995) – Stream on Hulu
One of the best adventure films to grace the 90s was Jumanji. And, again, Robin Williams owned the decade and brought so much joy to everyone’s life. Watching this movie as a child is different from watching it as an adult because of the change in perspective.
Having two kids find a magical board game and have an old man pop out, who is so detached from civilization, can make any child wonder if their board games could do the same. It is such a cool concept and when Sony decided to revamp it and modernize it was video games, the 90s kids could appreciate the update while feeling nostalgic over the original film.
Space Jam (1996) – Stream on HBO Max
When the Looney Tunes made their on-screen debut in a live-action film with Space Jam, it was something special. It was fun because Michael Jordan who was such a big name in the NBA and MLB made his way to star in one of the most beloved 90s movies. The Tune Squad became popular, and the merchandise was everywhere.
On top of thatLooney Tunes: Back in Action also brought the tunes back again with Brendan Fraser. If fans need a nostalgia kick, this is one that defined the 90s because of basketball and Michael Jordan himself. It was also a nice addition to have Bill Murray come in and have some fun with the Tunes as well.
The Mask of Zorro (1998) – Stream on Prime Video
When certain actors have great on-screen chemistry, it changes the way characters make an impact. In The Mask of Zorro, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Antonio Banderas were both in their prime and were fantastic together. Foremost, the story of Zorro has always been fun, but to add the two of them into the mix with high-level tension and wicked fight scenes, just made it better.
Many fans can watch this movie over and over again because of how it flows. The action scenes were crafted so well, and the banter between the two of them made fans connect to these characters. It feels like such a classic looking back on it now, and it did define the decade.
Titanic (1997) – Stream On Netflix
Even though Titanic is emotional and ends on a sad note, it is still filled with wonderment. Director James Cameron was able to capture the same feeling that all those people had the first time they set sail on the ship. It was a brand-new voyage filled with all their hopes and dreams inches from them. Many wanted a pleasant trip, others wanted an escape, and some even found love.
There was something for everyone in this movie, and that is what makes it such a great adventure film. Apart from the fact that this used to be the reigning box office champ for Paramount, hitting that billion dollar mark, Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet won audiences’ hearts everywhere with their romance. It became a phenomenon within days and made its mark in 1997.
Total Recall (1990) – Stream on HBO Max
Like other notable action stars, Arnold Schwarzenegger had a big decade. He was one of the hardest working actors taking on role after role. And Total Recall became a massive hit because of how cool the concept was. To have an action-adventure film explore memories and other worlds was interesting, and the twist that comes with it made it a lot of fun. Douglas Quaid is probably one of the best Schwarzenegger roles because of how layered the performance was.
Director Paul Verhoeven made a classic based on how wonderfully crafted this story was, especially for an adventure film. The majority of the time adventure films are entertaining because of how strong the story is, and the 90s brought the best of the best.