The Best Horror Thrillers of the ’90s, Ranked

Movies in the 90s were full of experimentation. There were unique stories being thought of, the visual styles were ever-changing from the ones from before, and the visual effects were rapidly advancing. The decade was full of filmmakers pushing for their films to reach their fullest potentials. With all the resources available and the experimental processes, the ’90s released some great horror-thriller films that scared audiences, or chilled them to the core. Here are the best ones to add to any thrilling collection.


6 The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

The critically acclaimed movie The Silence of the Lambs was released in 1991. Following the story of FBI trainee Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster), as she must interview a violent psychopath to help the FBI track down a serial killer. As Clarice speaks with Hannibal Lector, played by Anthony Hopkins, the lines between rationality and insanity are blurred. Clarice must navigate Lector’s mental mazes before the killer can strike again.

This film defined psychological horror and brought an intangible threat to audiences, making them feel its looming presence. While the story itself was disturbing, the cast did an amazing job bringing it to life. Anthony Hopkins is an incredibly dangerous character. He played a psychopath with a background as a brilliant psychiatrist. Not only was he convicted of murder, he was intellectually gifted and able to manipulate people with his knowledge of the human psyche. The evil radiating from this criminal was worse than the killer the FBI was tracking down.

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5 Flatliners (1990)

Flatliners is a 1990 film based on a very popular question: What is in the afterlife? It follows Nelson, played by Kiefer Sutherland, as he and his fellow medical students search for answers. They begin an experiment to medically die and then be resuscitated after seeing a glimpse of what comes after death. The group did not know that once the experiments, started there would be paranormal consequences that followed them back into life.

The movie’s premise was relatable because everyone has wondered about what comes after death. The horror comes to life in the form of consequences, and that is also very relatable. Almost as if the film is able to show a physical representation of the guilt people can experience. The movie has some of the best actors of the ’90s, such as Julia Roberts, Kevin Bacon, and Oliver Platt, and alongside Sutherland, elevated the story.

4 Mimic (1997)

The 1997 horror classic mimic is directed by Guillermo del Toro. Due to a deadly virus that is being spread by cockroaches, an evolutionary scientist, played by Mira Sorvino, develops a new bug species that will mimic the roaches and wipe them out. When the new species goes awry, they begin to evolve, to hunt humans and learn to mimic their habits. This isn’t a creepy movie just because it’s based on human-eating bugs. If you add the disturbing notion of an odd species being able to evolve past what we’ve ever known, it is down right terrifying. While the film was plagued by production issues, the movie still turned out to frighten any and all audiences.

3 California (1993)

The 1993 movie California takes horror on a road trip. When writer Brian Kessler (David Duchovny), and his photographer girlfriend (Michelle Forbes), travel to famous serial murder sites. In order to lower expenses, they ride-share with strangers Early Grayce and his girlfriend, played by Brad Pitt and Juliette Lewis. They don’t know that Early is actually a sociopath on his own killing spree.

The film received mixed reviews. Some thought its plot was just an excuse for violence, while others thought it was an arthouse wonder. Despite this, the film had some of the best performances to come out of the decade. The cast did an amazing job with the dark and gritty material. The movie has a great set-up for a typical slasher film; however, the events turn sour and become a run-away train on course for a massive wreck that audiences cannot look away from.

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2 Needful Things (1993)

Needful Things, the 1993 film adaptation of the Stephen King novel of the same name, is a classic horror film. When mysterious shop owner, Leland Gaunt (Max von Syndow), moves into a small town, odd happenings plague the town. Gaunt always sells exactly what a costumer wants most out of his eclectic shop; however, these perfect purchases come at a sinful price that does not include money as currency. As the town turns on each other and chaos erupts, the town’s sheriff (Ed Harris), works to maintain order while trying to stop Gaunt’s manipulation.

This movie was not well received and was called depressing, rather than scary. However, the movie deals in the worst of humanity, and that should be depressing. Needful Things, expressly shows the darkest parts of temptation and the consequences that can follow. The performances were amazing for the amount of characters that the story followed. The film also was a great example of the dark humor that comes out of chaotic situations.

1 Se7en (1995)

The 1995 neo-noir Se7en is a deeply disturbing thriller. This follows a retiring police detective (Morgan Freeman), as he investigates his last case. With the help of a new detective (Brad Pitt), the mystery case has found that the serial killer is attacking people based on the seven deadly sins. Outside the case, the young detective’s pregnant wife, who wants to be far away from the crime-riddled city, tries to get her husband to see reason.

The movie is a look into the depravity of humanity. The story follows the sins of the victims, the killer, the detectives, and humanity as a whole. It was unsettling, but also called out a harsh reality. The performances of Freeman, Pitt, and Gwyneth Paltrow were amazing, and gave a realism to the film, among all its grit and gore. The film staged a story that was unforgettable, but the final scenes are truly haunting and will be remembered forever.

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