Top 10 Edgiest 90’s Films

Top 10 Edgiest 90’s Films

The 90’s was a decade almost twenty years ago and I’m not your dad or anything so here’s MY top 10 picks of the edgiest films from a time when trench coats, frosted tips, and depressed vampires were the coolest things you could talk about without mentioning drugs (there are also drugs on this list).

10. The Addams Family (1991)

Starting with jolly Christmas carolling and then upwardly panning to the eponymous family about to spill boiling tar on them, you can easily guess why such a cheesy yet classic dark comedy makes it onto this list, what with the charming and bumbling Uncle Fester (Christopher Lloyd) in his trench coat and Wednesday (Christina Ricci) constantly trying to kill her brother Pugsley (Jimmy Workman).

The story centers on Gomez Addams (Raul Julia) trying to find and bring his brother Fester home but of course, things don’t go as planned and a group of devious scam artists tries to use this as a way of getting a hold on the Addams’ fortune.

While not the greatest flick to start with, it became a staple for kids growing up in the 90s and while it doesn’t a hold a candle (or candelabra) to the memory it left, it certainly left its mark.

9. Darkman (1990)

Before his daughter kept getting kidnapped, an earlier iteration of Liam Neeson out for revenge instead became underlined by getting himself and his science lab burned down. Sent to hospital, he receives a radical treatment which gets the nerves of his spinothalamic tract cut which results in him losing the ability to feel physical pain. Not only that, he also gains the ability to overload his adrenal gland – so basically super strength but confined to still being a human.

Aside from dated visual effects, one of the most 90’s things about this film is the fact Liam Neeson’s character, Dr. Peyton Westlake, uses the science of digitalization to create synthetic masks for himself to wear. A flaw of the synthetic material he uses results in him only being able to wear them for exactly 99 minutes before they fall apart.

8. The Craft (1996)

An edgy teenager movie featuring Fairuza Balk as a witch. Yep. A group of outcast teenage girls discovers the power of witchcraft and as you might’ve guessed, it doesn’t particularly turn out well.

Starting with Sarah Bailey (Robin Tunney) moving to Los Angeles, she becomes fast friends with a group of girls, Bonnie (Neve Campbell), Nancy (Fairuza Balk), Rochelle (Rachel True), that are rumored to be witches. After finding out their new pal is starting to show magical powers, they get the idea to complete their coven by inviting her along. Followed by a failed date with a popular guy named Chris (Skeet Ulrich) whose revealed to be a dick, the group of witches gets the idea to solve their problems with magic. Sarah casts a love spell on Chris, Rochelle casts a hate spell on her bully, Bonnie casts a spell to become beautiful and Nancy casts a spell to become powerful (guess who’s the baddie in this flick).

Aside from an insane Fairuza Balk in leather, the most 90s thing about this film is the whole “witchcraft can solve our problems” plot. We don’t get a lot of that these days.

7. Dark City (1998)

I felt like placing this one on the list just because of its name but no really, this is a classic. The time its set is unknown but the eponymous Dark City is a metropolis placed on an enormous space habitat and oh boy. If you ever thought about combining the city from the Matrix with the city from BioShock then you’d get this, steampunk elements affixed to a dystopian New York City where it’s always night.

John Murdoch (Rufus Sewell) wakes up in a bathtub within a rundown hotel suffering from amnesia. He gets a call from Dr. Daniel Schreber (Kiefer Sutherland) soon after and is encouraged to leave since there’s a group of people who want to call him. Not long afterwards, we find out that John is the only sane person that realises how abnormal it is for there to be no sunlight and like Neo from The Matrix (not the only similarity with that movie) is an anomaly with superpowers and the only one capable of stopping the mysterious baddies who control the human population.

The VFX for this film has become a bit dated but the cinematography and setting make this a shining black star on the list of 90’s edge. There’s also a character called Inspector Bumstead.

6. Edward Scissorhands (1990)

Another Tim Burton / Johnny Depp classic on the list. Happy people and white picket fences contrasting with Robert Smith from The Cure who just so happens to have scissors for fingers.

Johnny Depp (Edward) is an unfinished, artificial human discovered and then adopted by a fairly stereotypical American suburban family. A fish out of water scenario with all the happenings you’d expect from inviting Robert Smith into your house. Acts of kindness turn into accidental cutting and as the story goes along Edward falls in love with Kim (Winona Ryder), a member of the Bogg family who adopted him. Confrontations with her jealous boyfriend end up forcing Edward out of town and back to the old mansion from whence he came.

Apart from being directed by Tim Burton, this makes it onto the list for its legacy as a modern take on Frankenstein, the monster being someone who doesn’t conform to societal norms and themes therein relating to growing goth subculture.

5. Trainspotting (1996)

The opening sequence starts off with a pale, drug-addled Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor) running down a street and giving a monologue, “I chose not to choose life. I chose something else. And the reasons? There are no reasons. Who need reasons when you’ve got heroin?”

If that doesn’t tell you how much edge this film has then you’d best go to bed. Right at the jump, the audience is confronted with drugs, sex and the squalor of the Edinburgh underworld underpinned by the decade from whence it came. As the story progresses, Renton’s ongoings lead to numerous illegal confrontations all beset by his and his friends’ knack for drugs, eventually succumbing to the idea that his life is actually quite bad and traditional stability is the route to real happiness.

The heavy themes, the combination of visuals and music intertwined in a swirl of what can only be described as “90s indie cinema”, drawing reasonable comparisons with an even bigger hit of the decade – Pulp Fiction.

4. The Matrix (1999)

One of the best hacker films of all time (if you forget about the sequels), it obviously shouldn’t come as a surprise to find such a masterpiece of trench-coated edginess on this list.

The film starts with Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss), a hacker-terrorist and wearer of tight leather, getting cornered by some cops in a shady part of town. She overpowers them with superhuman abilities, gets chased by some spooky men-in-black who seem to have powers like her and then escapes by disappearing using the magical properties of a phone booth.

It then cuts to Thomas Anderson or “Neo” (Keanu Reeves) sleeping at his computer eventually getting woken up by his computer talking to him which eventually leads him to meet Trinity at a very 90s dance club. Not long after, Neo finds out that he’s living in a computer simulation and that humans are used as techno-science cattle in a post-apocalyptic world dominated by machines. It’s also revealed that Trinity along with her merry band of cyber dudes believe that Neo is the key to freeing humanity and saving the world.

As you can probably tell it’s quite similar to Dark City but it’s set apart by revolutionary VFX (bullet time) and super slick action scenes that still hold up to this day. The Matrix not only asks the question of “are we living in a simulation?” but it also answers the question to “Why is Keanu Reeves so cool?”.

3. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

Famous for its shock value and Anthony Hopkins licking his lips over thoughts of cannibalism, The Silence of the Lambs is one of the edgiest films of all time.

FBI agents Jack Crawford (Scott Glenn) and Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) enlist the help of Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) in a hunt for a serial killer who’s been leaving his victims skinned. Hannibal and Clarice end up forming a quid pro quo relationship whereby Clarice reveals information about herself for information Hannibal can give about the case.

You could probably guess “Oh dear, this won’t turn out well” and you’d be right. Hannibal leads Clarice closer to the serial killer but Hannibal himself soon escapes by using serial killer powers of his own.

Referred to by critics as a horror masterpiece, The Silence of the Lambs doesn’t so much as have a stake in 90s culture but rather completely turns it on its head and wears it as a mask with its true identity being that of a thriller with edge and teeth. Oh and a cameo from Alfred Hitchcock in a trench coat.

2. Pulp Fiction (1994)

You can’t really get edgier than heroin but Uma Thurman overdosing on heroin and John Travolta doing the Batoosie? Well, damn dude.

Pulp Fiction starts off with hitmen Jules Winnfield (Samuel L. Jackson) and Vincent Vega (John Travolta) harassing and shooting some gangsters that owe them and their boss a briefcase.
One thing leads to another and Vincent ends up in a 50s themed restaurant with his boss’ wife, Mia (Uman Thurman). There we witness the two doing the famous dance scene shortly followed by them returning home and Mia mistakenly snorting Vincent’s heroin, believing it to be cocaine.

To keep this short I’ll leave out the complicated circular narrative that involves Butch Coolidge (Bruce Willis) and Ringo (Tim Roth) but it’s worth mentioning how entertaining it is for the story to connect and piece itself together with a cacophony of different characters all under the umbrella of one single story.

This film is not only an epic of its time but it transcends the era from which it was made, a combination of homage as it’s essence, style as it’s soul and innovation as it’s framework.

1. The Crow (1994)

By far the edgiest film of the 1990s, this cult classic has it all; rain, trench coats, gunfights, dark humor and a soundtrack that simply oozes with the tears of your goth dad.

Eric Draven (Brandon Lee) and his fiancée Shelly Webster (Sofia Shinas) are due to be wed on Halloween but instead are brutally murdered in their Detroit apartment the day before, Devil’s Night. The plot then centers on a young girl whom the couple used to look after, Sarah (Rochelle Davis). Sarah makes fast friends with Police Sergeant Albrecht (Ernie Hudson) who was with her at the scene of the crime. A year passes and while Sarah is visiting the graves of Eric and Shelly, a crow lands on the tombstone and taps it with its beak.

Eric shortly crawls out of his grave and heads back to his apartment, where he finds it in disrepair and full of painful memories. Growing a taste for vengeance, Eric puts on some clown make-up and puts on some slick boots, as you do. Guided by the mystical crow that resurrected him, Eric soon finds his first kill and takes his trench coat, starting a chain of kills on the people responsible for taking his and his fiancée’s lives.

The Crow is dark, majestic and full of an energy seen only in the best episodes of Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Grungier and darker than both Blade Runner and Tim Burton’s Batman combined and topped with a fever dream of melancholy. Truly the edgiest film of the 1990s and a masterwork of the late Brandon Lee who sadly died filming it.