The decade of the 1990s produced some of the best movies of all time.
There were many best movies of 1994 in various genres, and it was also a period when blockbusters and independently produced movies both seemed to flourish.
It was a period in the movie industry when it seemed like something was out there for everyone, regardless of one’s preference in movies.
However, only a few years in the 1990s can match 1994 regarding the number of excellent movies produced.
There were so many classic movies that it was difficult to rate them all, and several honorable mentions regrettably didn’t make the cut.
The following represents the best of what 1994 offers because it was just a bit too excellent for its good.
Below is a list of the best movies of 1994.
1. The Lion King
- Director: Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff
- Cast: Matthew Broderick, Jeremy Irons, James Earl Jones, Whoopi Goldberg, Rowan Atkinson, Niketa Calame-Harris, Jim Cummings, and Robert Guillaume
- IMDb rating: 8.5/10
The Lion King is one of the most beloved and best movies of 1994 ever made.
It’s a classic family movie that’s not only for kids, with a plot similar to Hamlet, but it’s about lions, has musical moments, and is intended to be family-friendly.
Many different people have discussed The Lion King a million times, so there isn’t much more that can be said.
It has a terrific soundtrack, is well-paced, brightly colored, full of memorable characters and dialogues, brilliantly balances humor and drama, and features well-known songs. It has everything you could ask for in an animated movie.
2. Léon: The Professional
- Director: Luc Besson
- Cast: Jean Reno, Gary Oldman, Natalie Portman, Danny Aiello, Peter Appel, Willi One Blood, Don Creech, and Keith A. Glascoe
- IMDb rating: 8.5/10
In Luc Besson’s brutal but weirdly endearing Manhattan odyssey Léon: The Professional, Jean Reno emerged as the ultimate anti-hero.
Natalie Portman makes her acting debut in this immensely mature movie as Mathilda.
She is a little girl saved from the gun-for-hire Léon after having her family murdered by shady, drug-dealing policemen.
The lovely interplay between Reno and Portman, as their reclusive, controlled world starts to fall apart at the hands of vindictive police officers, is what helped the movie become canonical.
Léon, a sleek urban thriller, received praise from most critics for its outstanding dramatic direction, stunning visuals, and commanding acting performances.
Director Besson wrote the screenplay to cast a more mature Portman in the Mathilda sequel.
However, once Besson left, the movie’s rights stayed with Gaumont Film Company, ending any prospect of the movie ever being made.
However, he has acknowledged that the screenplay significantly impacted his 2011 movie Colombiana.
3. Pulp Fiction
- Director: Quentin Tarantino
- Cast: John Travolta, Uma Thurman, Samuel L. Jackson, Bruce Willis, Tim Roth, Amanda Plummer, Laura Lovelace, and Phil LaMarr
- IMDb rating: 8.9/10
With the success of Pulp Fiction, Tarantino established his style of American cinema.
Pulp Fiction mixes aesthetic, narrative, dialogue, and character to create an iconic journey through 1990s California.
It is a cultural phenomenon and is still considered a rite of passage for everyone who considers themselves a cinema enthusiast.
With its “Ezekiel” monologue by Jules Winfield, the adrenaline revival scene, and Travolta’s dancing movements, Pulp introduced a universe of directing many have since attempted to replicate.
Nobody, however, can capture the coolness of cinema quite as Tarantino achieved with this movie.
As a dark comedy criminal movie, Pulp Fiction blends humor and violence in a way that appeals to audiences.
Yet, its masterful execution also makes it deserving of academic and critical analysis. It makes sense why it is often cited as one of the best movies of 1994 ever made.
4. Forrest Gump
- Director: Robert Zemeckis
- Cast: Tom Hanks, Robin Wright, Gary Sinise, Sally Field, Rebecca Williams, Michael Conner Humphreys, Harold G. Herthum, and George Kelly
- IMDb rating: 8.8/10
The amiable innocence of Forrest Gump’s protagonist, portrayed with an endearing sincerity that only Tom Hanks could muster, made the movie an immediate classic.
People fell in love with the movie because it did an excellent job guiding them through a difficult period in American history amid a cultural revolution while maintaining an open heart.
It’s not surprising that the movie received so many awards; it was directed by Robert Zemeckis and included a supporting cast like Robin Wright, Gary Sinise, and Sally Field.
In addition to Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Visual Effects, and Best Film Editing, it also won six other Academy Awards.
Forrest Gump was one of the best movies of 1994, breaking through the borders of the genre to become the type of timeless movie that audiences will be raving about for years to come.
5. The Crow
- Director: Alex Proyas
- Cast: Brandon Lee, Michael Wincott, Rochelle Davis, Ernie Hudson, Bai Ling, Sofia Shinas, Anna Thomson, and David Patrick Kelly
- IMDb rating: 7.5/10
Given that the protagonist and his love interest die right at the beginning of The Crow, it has a dramatic opening.
The main character in the story, Eric Draven, then comes back to life intending to exact revenge on those who murdered him and the love of his life.
The Crow captures the gothic, comic book vibes required to produce a sleek and potent vengeance thriller.
The story wouldn’t work if the tone weren’t perfect. While everything is heightened and dramatic, it never seems ridiculous or prevents you from feeling any connection to the plot and its characters.
It is undoubtedly one of the best movies of 1994 that has a 90s vibe but in the greatest manner imaginable. It also could be the best comic book movie of the era.
6. Four Weddings and a Funeral
- Director: Mike Newell
- Cast: Hugh Grant, Andie MacDowell, James Fleet, Simon Callow, John Hannah, Kristin Scott Thomas, David Bower, and Charlotte Coleman
- IMDb rating: 7.1/10
Four Weddings and a Funeral, a romantic comedy directed by Mike Newell, was produced in six weeks on a tight budget and, upon release, became the highest-grossing British movie ever.
Hugh Grant plays the main role of Charles, who is always single. Also, the movie follows him and a group of his friends as they fall in love, lose it, and then find it again through multiple weddings and one burial.
Hugh Grant’s worldwide fame was driven by the success of Four Weddings and a Funeral, and for many years he was the actor of choice for romantic lead roles.
It wasn’t the last time Grant appeared in a screenplay by Richard Curtis. Both critics and reviewers gave Four Weddings and Funeral great praises.
The movie received several awards, including four Golden Globes, a BAFTA, and Best Picture and Original Screenplay nominations at the Academy Awards.
In addition, it came in at number 23 on the British Film Institute’s list of the top 100 British movies of the 20th century and has been on many other magazines’ “best of” lists. This is undoubtedly one of the best movies of 1994.
7. Natural Born Killers
- Director: Oliver Stone
- Cast: Woody Harrelson, Juliette Lewis, Tom Sizemore, Rodney Dangerfield, Everett Quinton, Jared Harris, Pruitt Taylor Vince, and Edie McClurg
- IMDb rating: 7.2/10
Oliver Stone and Quentin Tarantino dominated the early 1990s. In the past, Stone ignited the early years of the decade with his blockbuster box office success, an Oscar-winning epic on the JFK conspiracy.
As soon as Reservoir Dogs was released, Tarantino became a brand name. So when one of Quentin’s screenplays fell into Stone’s lap, it would appear to be the ideal alchemical mix.
Natural Born Killers introduced viewers to the serial killer duo played by Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis as they shot their way to American fame.
It is a psychedelic nightmare that satires the media’s thirst for ratings above content.
With its unpredictable, outrageous violence, boiling-point performances, and spot-on criticisms of the media’s portrayal of murderers, the movie rose to fame in the 1990s.
The Natural Born Killers significantly differs from Tarantino’s original screenplay, and he has been quite outspoken about this.
Although it appeared on multiple “best of” lists and opened at number one at the US box office when it was released, audiences and critics tend to disagree.
8. Ed Wood
- Director: Tim Burton
- Cast: Johnny Depp, Martin Landau, Sarah Jessica Parker, Patricia Arquette, Jeffrey Jones, G.D. Spradlin, Vincent D’Onofrio, and Bill Murray
- IMDb rating: 7.8/10
You owe it to yourself to see Ed Wood if you liked the way The Disaster Artist handled the making of a notoriously terrible movie.
While it’s a very humorous look at the turbulent and unfortunate career of Edward D. Wood Jr., it also has some genuine heart and unexpectedly powerful dramatic moments to boot. It’s debatably even better and more unique.
Although it isn’t close to becoming one of Tim Burton‘s most well-known movies, it deserves to be.
It’s a vital picture about producing movies, and since it exemplifies the very best of its genre, it deserves a place among the best movies of 1994.
9. The Shawshank Redemption
- Director: Frank Darabont
- Cast: Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman, Bob Gunton, William Sadler, Clancy Brown, Gil Bellows, Mark Rolston, and James Whitmore
- IMDb rating: 9.3/10
The Shawshank Redemption is one of the greatest American movies ever produced and, along with The Shining, one of the best cinematic adaptations of a Steven King book.
Considering the movie’s transcendent narrative in a prison setting and its manifestation of hope in a place without any, it is regarded as an essential piece of American cinema.
The Shawshank Redemption delivers touching moments of understanding and empathy among convicts going through the worst times as “Red,” the character who drives the plot.
The main character Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) performing classical music for the convicts and the anguish of realizing “Brooks was here” are two notable scenes in the movie.
The movie demonstrates how some guys are institutionalized beyond the point of recovery while others can leave.
The Shawshank Redemption survived its box office failure with a re-release in 1995 after seven Academy Award nominations, despite its theatrical debut to poor audience numbers.
Along with numerous other best movies of 1994 on this list, it was chosen for preservation in the National Film Registry, demonstrating the significant effect the year 1994 had on cinema.
- Director: Kevin Smith
- Cast: Brian O’Halloran, Jeff Anderson, Marilyn Ghigliotti, Lisa Spoonauer, Jason Mewes, Kevin Smith, Scott Mosier, and Scott Schiaffo
- IMDb rating: 7.7/10
Although it may not seem fun to see a movie about two friends arguing while bored at work, Clerks manages to pull it off.
With its quirky characters, funny dialogue, and low-budget charm, it was Kevin Smith’s first major feature movie and continues to be his greatest work.
Given that Clerks was developed on a small budget and was shot in the convenience store Smith himself used to work at, it may also motivate people who aspire to a career in directing.
Smith wrote about what he knew, filmed in one of the few locations he could afford then, and created something fantastic, turning his limits into strengths. This is undoubtedly one of the best movies of 1994.
11. Chungking Express
- Director: Kar-Wai Wong
- Cast: Brigitte Lin, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Tony Leung Chiu-wai, Faye Wong, Valerie Chow, Piggy Chan, Lee-Na Kwan, and Zhiming Huang
- IMDb rating: 8.0/10
Chungking Express is one of the best movies of 1994 that has a sentimental elegy to the transient nature of love.
The movie brought director Wong Kar-Wai to household name status among arthouse and cinema lovers worldwide.
It follows a love story with two depressed police officers who fell in love with two stunning ladies in a world where routines were important and everyday items turned into the cost of heartache.
Due to Kar-Wai’s narrative talent and the stunning ethereal cinematography by the acclaimed Christopher Doyle, this is a story that keeps inspiring people to love movies as time passes.
Fallen Angels, another of his movies, was initially intended to be the final act of Chungking Express but was eventually trimmed for length.
The movie received high remarks from critics for its depth, relatability, and control of emotion, and it took home numerous well-deserved honors.
12. Dumb & Dumber
- Director: Peter Farrelly and Bobby Farrelly
- Cast: Jim Carrey, Jeff Daniels, Lauren Holly, Mike Starr, Karen Duffy, Charles Rocket, Victoria Rowell, and Joe Baker
- IMDb rating: 7.3/10
Jim Carey had a fantastic year in 1994 with many smash hits. After a few years of introducing his manic energy to American homes via Wayans’ sketch comedy program In Living Color, Carey made his big screen debut in three blockbuster movies, including Dumb and Dumber.
In this amusing buddy comedy, Carey and Jeff Daniels play characters who set out on a road journey to retrieve a briefcase that was left as a ransom.
Total Film magazine ranked The Project as the sixth-best comedy movie ever in 2000.
It also inspired two sequels: Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd, which was released in 2003, and Dumb and Dumber To, which was released in 2011. This is among the best movies of 1994.
- Director: Atom Egoyan
- Cast: Bruce Greenwood, Elias Koteas, Don McKellar, Mia Kirshner, Arsinée Khanjian, Victor Garber, Sarah Polley, and David Hemblen
- IMDb rating: 7.0/10
Exotica, a movie by Atom Egoyan, raised the bar for understanding and emotional impact in melodrama.
This 1994 masterwork is a dazzling example of how to use the conventions of an older artistic style to great effect, savoring the grandiosity of its own drama and the anguish of its well-crafted plot.
Exotica follows the intertwined histories of a dancer and the man who has a special influence over her personal and professional life.
As a tax auditor and the owner of a pet store cross paths with the curious couple, they cause repressed emotions and spark new passions.
Egoyan tells this story of concealment and sexuality daringly and captivatingly.
He does this by revealing details through subtle body language, allowing ambiguities to heighten the tension, and giving each character’s every action tangible weight and significance.
Egoyan walks a dangerous tightrope; his finest movies toe the line between the plausible and the absurd. This is undoubtedly one of the best movies of 1994.