14 Underappreciated Crime Thrillers of the '90s You Need to Revisit
The '90s were a golden era of some of the best movies that often slip under the radar.
Here are some of the almost criminally underrated thrillers released in the 1990s you should add to your watch list.
1. The Last Seduction (1994)
Linda Fiorentino plays Bridget, a woman with ice in her veins and a plan in her head. After successfully stealing money from her husband, she escapes to a small town to lay low. Here, she meets Mike, a local man whom she seduces and manipulates into helping her with an even darker scheme. As the plan unfolds, trust is betrayed, and Mike realizes too late that he's trapped in Bridget's web of deception and seduction. But how far will Bridget go to keep her money and secrets safe?
2. Red Rock West (1993)
When a mistaken identity sends Nicolas Cage's character, Michael, into a whirlwind of crime and deceit, things get wild. Struggling financially, Michael lands in the town of Red Rock, where he's mistaken for a hitman. Without revealing the mix-up, he accepts the payment. But instead of doing the job, he warns the target, only to find out she has her own sinister agenda. Suddenly, Michael finds himself playing a dangerous game of cat and mouse with the real hitman, played by Dennis Hopper.
3. A Simple Plan (1998)
When three working-class buddies – Hank (Bill Paxton), Jacob (Billy Bob Thornton), and Lou (Brent Briscoe) – discover a downed plane with a dead pilot and millions in cash, they think their problems are over. But are they? They devise a "simple plan" to keep the money. As greed and paranoia creep in, their plan spirals out of control, leading to a series of tragic events. Secrets, suspicion, and betrayals turn friends into foes.
4. Fresh (1994)
The streets of Brooklyn in the '90s were no playground, especially for 12-year-old Michael, aka Fresh. This young kid (Sean Nelson) is a drug runner for local dealers but possesses an intellect that sets him apart. When the brutal realities of his world take a personal toll, Fresh uses his wits, mimicking strategies he learned from playing chess with his estranged father, to orchestrate a plan against his employers. The game's stakes are life and death, and Fresh moves his family and enemies as if they were pawns on a chessboard.
5. The Minus Man (1999)
Owen Wilson stars as Vann Siegert, a seemingly regular guy with a dark secret: he's a serial killer. But Vann is not your typical murderer. He kills without rage or motive, often choosing his victims at random. After relocating to a small town, Vann tries to lead a normal life, even beginning a relationship with a local woman. But his inner demons are never too far behind. The plot explores his mind and actions without resorting to gore or cheap thrills.
6. Bound (1996)
When ex-con Corky (Gina Gershon) and mobster's girlfriend Violet (Jennifer Tilly) lock eyes, sparks fly. Both stuck in their own versions of prison, they hatch a plot to steal $2 million of mafia money and escape together. Their plan is intricate, relying on deception and double-crosses. But as the heist progresses, their trust in each other is tested, and the mob becomes suspicious. The tension rises as the duo tries to outsmart the violent mafia and solidify their escape.
7. Killing Zoe (1993)
Zed (Eric Stoltz), a safe-cracker, arrives in Paris to help an old friend with a bank heist. But before the job, they engage in a night of wild partying. Hungover and disoriented, Zed soon realizes the group's leader is unhinged, and their "foolproof" plan is anything but. As the robbery spirals into chaos, hostages are taken, including a bank employee named Zoe (Julie Delpy). As the police close in, loyalties shift, and Zed has to make life-or-death decisions on the fly.
8. Romeo Is Bleeding (1993)
Gary Oldman plays Jack Grimaldi, a corrupt cop leading a double life. He's been feeding the mob information and getting rich while doing it. But Jack's world begins to collapse when he's asked to eliminate a beautiful Russian hitwoman named Mona (Lena Olin). However, Mona isn't an easy target. She's seductive, dangerous, and always two steps ahead. As Jack gets drawn into Mona's web, he realizes he's the one being hunted.
9. The Underneath (1995)
Michael (Peter Gallagher) returns to his hometown for his mother's wedding after years of estrangement. But he's also there to reconnect with an old flame, Rachel (Alison Elliott). However, Rachel has moved on and is now dating a local gangster. Not one to be deterred, Michael concocts a plan to rob an armored car, thinking it might be his ticket back into Rachel's heart.
10. Palmetto (1998)
Out of prison and trying to stay clean, Harry Barber (Woody Harrelson) finds himself pulled into a kidnapping scheme by the seductive wife of a dying millionaire. Rhea Malroux (Elisabeth Shue) promises Harry a hefty reward for his "help". But as you'd guess, nothing's straightforward. Soon, Harry is neck-deep in a scam that spirals out of control, with double-crosses and shifting alliances. He has to figure out who's playing who before he finds himself back in jail – or worse.
11. Normal Life (1996)
Based on a true story, this film features Chris (Luke Perry), a rookie cop, and Pam (Ashley Judd), a free spirit with a penchant for chaos. Their whirlwind romance leads to marriage, but soon, Chris finds himself in over his head. Pam's spending habits and their mounting debts push Chris to use his law enforcement skills in a series of bank heists. The thrill of the crime becomes addicting, but as their heists escalate, so does the police's pursuit.
12. Very Bad Things (1998)
A bachelor party gone horribly wrong. When a group of friends led by Kyle (Jon Favreau) and his best man, Boyd (Christian Slater), accidentally kills a stripper during a wild night in Vegas, things spiral quickly. Instead of reporting the accident, they decide to bury the evidence (literally). But guilt, paranoia, and the pressure of keeping such a dark secret starts eating away at the group. Friends turn on each other, and what was supposed to be a celebration turns into a bloodbath.
13. The Last Days of Frankie the Fly (1996)
Frankie (Dennis Hopper) has been a low-level guy for the mob for most of his life. He's seen as a joke by his boss, Sal (Michael Madsen), and everyone else in the business. However, when Frankie falls for a troubled actress named Margaret (Kiefer Sutherland), he decides he's had enough. He plots to get one over Sal and escape with the money and the girl.
14. Phoenix (1998)
Harry Collins (Ray Liotta) is a cop with gambling debts who's desperate for cash. His solution? Rob a loan shark. To pull it off, he ropes in his partners, Mike (Anthony LaPaglia) and James (Daniel Baldwin). But as the heist unfolds, allegiances shift, leading to a tense showdown. In the backdrop of the plot is Harry's evolving relationship with a bartender, played by Anjelica Huston, who may hold the key to his salvation – or his downfall.