It takes time for a cult following to build up. Movies from the 1990s just haven't been around long enough for movie fans to develop the cult-like obsession of a Rocky Horror Picture Show or Plan 9 From Outer Space.
That said, there are a few 1990s movies that can be called true cult classics. Here's a list of the best cult classic movies from the 1990s.
Starting off our trilogy of cult 90s classic movies with "cool" in the name, Cool as Ice is my favorite cult hit of the decade. Vanilla Ice, then the "it boy" in music thanks to his smash hit "Ice, Ice Baby" was reportedly paid a million bucks to star in this vehicle, an attempt to turn a huge musical success into a TV or film star. It didn't work--Vanilla Ice is today little more than a flash-in-the-pan motocross star--but we're left with this hilarious homage to the early 90s. The plot isn't important. Watch this movie for the awful script, wooden acting, early 90s fashion, and the joy of making endless fun of this truly awful cult hit.
A live action/animated hybrid movie starring Kim Basinger and Brad Pitt should have been a huge success. Cool World was originally pitched as a raunchy animated feature, sort of a Who Killed Roger Rabbit for adults. Unfortunately, the studio tamed the really nasty scenes and couldn't figure out what to do with the 82 minutes of the movie that didn't involve a cartoon Kim Basinger crossing her legs over and over. A cult hit mostly because of how vapid the script is, Cool World is a great study for students of film looking to avoid turning an awesome concept into a disastrous movie. Watch at your own peril--this one's a real stinker.
Cool Runnings fairly faithfully tells the story of the Jamaican Olympic bobsled team. The Olympics were huge in the 90s, with massive ad campaigns built around American Olympic stars, and this movie tried to cash in on that fame. Unfortunately, there's really only one joke you can tell about the Jamaican bobsled team: Bobsledding requires ice and Jamaica is hot. This movie tells that joke over and over again, missing out on an opportunity to tell a really interesting story in favor of jokes about fried plantains and pot-smoking. Cool Runnings is a great time capsule, capturing the mood of the times and not doing much else.
The writing of Hunter S. Thompson is rife with opportunities for films. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is a much better film than most people remember, probably because the vast majority of its viewers elected to be totally out of their minds on drugs when they screened the film. Both Benicio del Toro and Johnny Depp turn in amazing performances in this often-overlooked "road trip" movie, and there are plenty of psychedelic hallucinatory scenes to keep fans of visual effects happy. del Toro's performance is one of his best, and Depp portrays Hunter S. Thompson as something more than a drug-haze stereotype, a difficult task indeed.
To call The Big Lebowski a cult classic movie from the 1990s is an understatement. An entire underworld of Lebowski fans celebrate this film. The Big Lebowski is one of those big-budget successful films that has just happened to create a cult following--there's even a legally-recognized church called The Church of The Dude, an operation ordaining ministers the world over as long as they follow a few basic principles. Mostly, you just have to "abide." The Big Lebowski is a comedy, but it's also a decent crime movie, and one of the funniest films of the 90s.
Poor Mike Judge. He makes wonderful movies that get no attention from the fans. Office Space is right up there with The Big Lebowski in terms of the funniest movies of the 90s, and almost no one saw it in the theater. Critics loved it, and fans (eventually) found their way to Office Space. According to retailers, 6,000,000 copies of the VHS and DVD version of this film have been sold as of last year, a sure sign of a classic cult movie. Office Space is highly quotable, and the scene where office workers take their revenge on a faulty copy machine/printer with baseball bats is a Hollywood classic. Lots of movies try to be as funny as Office Space, but few are successful.
You know those movies where you either love it or hate it? The Boondock Saints is one of those movies. Shown for one week in American theaters (on just five screens) this relatively big budget action movie was at first a huge flop. The movie hit the big time in rentals and DVD sales, earning over $50 million in the time since it left the theaters. I detest this film--it is too much like a Pulp Fiction knockoff, totally derivative, and one of those movies where the director seems to want to show you how smart he is. But The Boondock Saints has a huge cult following, even though critics universally panned the film.
Much has been written about 1999's The Blair Witch Project. Yes, the film was shot for around $500,000 and earned nearly $260,000,000 in its theatrical run. Yes it paved the way for low-budget and indie films getting wide releases by major production companies. No, it isn't an actual documentary featuring the violent torture and murder of the filmmakers. Ironically, when the director was handed a huge budget to make a sequel, he made a terrible movie. Another "love it or hate it" 90s movie, The Blair Witch Project earns a spot on this 90s cult classic movies list because of the huge audience response to such an amateurish film.
The 90s were an interesting time in film history--a time when big budget blockbuster movies and indie darlings alike made the production companies tons of money. Indie films became mainstream, and the dawn of the Internet saw movie fandom explode like never before. Give the 90s some time, and more cult classic movies will rise to the surface.