In the 1990s, an exciting trend took over the film industry: the revival of beloved classics. It was as if every old TV show, cartoon, or family movie was getting a thrilling makeover. This clever move made perfect sense – people already had a deep connection to these iconic stories and characters, which made it even more thrilling to experience them in a whole new way.
However, not all of these revamped films were created equal. Some took bold and creative approaches, breathing fresh life into the familiar tales. These were the ones that truly stood out from the crowd. On the other hand, a few movies seemed rushed and lacked the magic of their predecessors, feeling more like hastily assembled “products” than true works of art. Nevertheless, all of these films captured the essence of the 1990s with their amazing casts, unique styles, and captivating tones. They are unmistakably products of that remarkable era.
1. The Addams Family
The Addams Family, released in 1991, became a massive success and set the stage for the wave of TV show reboots that would soon hit the big screen. Raul Julia stepped into the shoes of Gomez Addams, Angelica Houston portrayed Morticia, and Christopher Lloyd took on the role of Uncle Fester. This film established a certain vibe that subsequent reboots aimed to capture. It showed respect for its source material while also playfully teasing its outdated tone in relation to modern society.
Let’s not forget the unmistakable ’90s touch present in the movie. In what could only be described as a quintessential sign of the times, MC Hammer contributed a song titled “Addams Groove” to be played during the end credits. Hammer, who enjoyed a brief period of immense fame in the early ’90s, incorporated the show’s iconic finger snaps into the song. To further promote the film, a music video was created featuring the Addams Family actors alongside Hammer himself. And if that wasn’t enough, a partnership with McDonald’s showcased the film’s embodiment of the corporate synergy that marketers heavily relied on during that decade.
2. The Mummy
Action movies in the ’90s had a tendency to go all-out with a “bigger is better” approach. Thanks to advancements in CGI, filmmakers could do things that were previously impossible, so they loved to push the boundaries. Their main goal was to amaze the audience with what technology could achieve, whether it made sense within the story or not.
When it comes to The Mummy, it actually struck the right balance and proportion. The movie turned out to be a massive success. The concept of a bandaged villain has been around in cinema for years. However, in this film, the mummy was portrayed in a more realistic way as a decaying corpse. Brendan Fraser was a beloved star of ’90s popcorn entertainment, making him a perfect fit for the lead role in this adventure. It’s clear that the movie drew inspiration from films like Raiders of the Lost Ark in terms of tone and style.
In the ’80s, a lot of comedies pushed the boundaries with their edgy and raunchy humor. However, when the ’90s rolled around, there was a notable shift towards a softer and gentler type of comedy, with a few exceptions like “There’s Something About Mary.” A prime example of this shift is the movie “Flubber,” which is actually a remake of Disney’s 1961 film “The Absent-Minded Professor.” The story revolves around a guy who invents “flying rubber,” a material that is incredibly bouncy and becomes the target of some crooks.
To bring this remake to life, Disney enlisted the help of the legendary comedian Robin Williams, who was known for his numerous kid-friendly movies in the ’90s. Williams’ role in “Flubber” allowed him to showcase his trademark talent for energetic and lively performances, as he bounced around the screen like a human version of the flying rubber.
“Flubber” was released during the ’90s when filmmakers were obsessed with incorporating the relatively new phenomenon of CGI into their stories. The computer-generated Flubber in the movie provided the perfect opportunity for some wild and wacky slapstick moments, surpassing what was possible in the original “The Absent-Minded Professor.”
Movie versions of TV shows often tried to include one of the original stars, assuming that viewers would be thrilled to see a familiar face. This was the case with Maverick, which featured James Garner, the original Bret Maverick, in a supporting role. What made it even better was that he played opposite Mel Gibson, the new Maverick.
Like many remakes and reboots, Maverick had a playful tone, making it clear to the audience that it wasn’t taking itself too seriously. Jodie Foster, known for her serious roles, took on a rare comedic role as a con woman who becomes involved with Maverick. The film embraced the idea of mixing and matching, bringing together Foster, Gibson, and a high-concept storyline, which often led to great success at the box office.
5. The Flintstones
In the ’90s, reboots were known for their creative casting choices. The team behind The Flintstones adaptation faced the challenge of finding actors who were not only popular and recognizable, but also resembled the famous cartoon characters. They hit the jackpot with John Goodman, who was the perfect choice to play Fred Flintstone – it was almost too good to be true. The other casting choices were also pretty close to being inspired. Elizabeth Perkins portrayed Wilma, Rick Moranis played Barney Rubble, and Rosie O’Donnell took on the role of Betty. The whole cast had that quintessential ’90s vibe.
To add to the charm of The Flintstones, the movie had a soundtrack featuring popular pop/rock artists who recorded prehistoric-themed songs. The B-52s even made a cameo appearance as “The BC-52s,” performing a catchy tune called “The Bedrock Twitch.” Thanks to the groundbreaking advancements made in Jurassic Park, they were able to use CGI to bring Dino the dinosaur to life in a convincing way. And in the cameo department, they managed to convince none other than Elizabeth Taylor to make an appearance as Fred’s fussy mother-in-law. It’s safe to say that this ’90s reboot ticked off every box on the checklist.
6. Dennis the Menace
Dennis the Menace started as a comic strip before making its way onto TV screens in 1959 as a popular sitcom that ran for several seasons. The main character, a mischievous little boy, constantly causes trouble for his neighbor, Mr. Wilson, who is often annoyed by Dennis’s antics. When it came to casting the 1993 film adaptation, they made a brilliant choice by selecting Walter Matthau to play Mr. Wilson.
Looking back, the decision to turn Dennis the Menace into a movie seems like an obvious one. The screenplay was written by John Hughes, a renowned writer known for his work on films like The Breakfast Club and Planes, Trains and Automobiles. Hughes gained immense success after his film Home Alone, which he wrote and produced, became the highest-grossing comedy of all time. Following this achievement, Hughes continued to write and produce a string of kid-oriented slapstick comedies. In fact, during the early to mid-90s, Hollywood was actively seeking to replicate the success of Home Alone, and Dennis the Menace offered a fresh perspective to explore this idea, as it was already a known and beloved concept.
7. The Nutty Professor
Eddie Murphy made a name for himself in the ’80s with R-rated comedies like 48 Hrs., Beverly Hills Cop, and Coming to America. However, by the mid-’90s, he wanted to soften his image while still maintaining his unique style. This led to The Nutty Professor, a remake of a 1963 Jerry Lewis movie. In the film, Murphy portrays Sherman Klump, a shy and overweight professor who transforms into the confident ladies’ man, Buddy Love, after ingesting a special serum. The rest of the story focuses on Klump’s struggle to control his wild alter ego.
The Nutty Professor was a major success and marked a shift towards more family-friendly content in Murphy’s career during the 2000s. However, when revisiting the movie today, some may find it politically incorrect due to its numerous weight-related jokes and Murphy’s portrayal of multiple characters in Klump’s family, including himself in fat suits. Such humor was more acceptable in the 1990s, but in today’s context, it could be seen as problematic.
8. The Beverly Hillbillies
When bringing a beloved TV show to the big screen, casting becomes the key factor that determines its success. It is crucial to find contemporary actors who can embody the personalities of the beloved characters. The movie adaptation of The Beverly Hillbillies was fortunate enough to have multiple stars who were not only popular during the ’90s but also a perfect fit for their respective roles.
Jim Varney, known for his portrayal of the country bumpkin Ernest in a series of comedies, was an ideal choice to play the role of Jed Clampett. His comedic expertise and knack for portraying lovable characters made him the perfect fit. Erika Eleniak, a bombshell from Baywatch, brought the sultry charm required for the character of Elly May. Her presence added a certain allure to the film.
The role of the goofy Jethro was given to Diedrich Bader, a comedian who excelled in portraying dim-witted characters. His comedic timing and ability to bring laughter to the audience enhanced the film’s comedic elements.
Furthermore, it was almost a necessity at the time to cast a Hollywood legend to add prestige to these remakes. The creators of The Beverly Hillbillies struck gold by casting Oscar winner Cloris Leachman to play the role of Granny. Just as Irene Ryan did on the show, Leachman delivered a scene-stealing performance, captivating the audience with her charisma and talent.
The film truly benefited from having the right actors who effortlessly stepped into the shoes of the beloved Clampett family. Their performances added depth and authenticity to the movie, ensuring that it stayed true to the essence of the original TV show.
9. The Little Rascals
The Little Rascals was an attempt to capture the charm of the Our Gang shorts that were popular from the 1920s to the 1940s. The story revolves around a group of mischievous children causing trouble. Their main goal is to break up their friend Alfalfa and his girlfriend Darla, resulting in a series of hilarious recreations of old gags from the original shorts.
To direct the film, they brought in Penelope Spheeris, known for her work on Wayne’s World. She gave it a soft and sweet tone, similar to many PG-rated movies of that era. It’s no surprise that after the massive success of Home Alone, the idea of multiple kids engaging in slapstick antics seemed like an obvious choice.
During this time, remakes and reboots often included a celebrity cameo. The Little Rascals followed this trend, taking inspiration from Home Alone 2 and randomly featuring businessman and future president Donald Trump as the father of a snobby rich kid named Waldo.
10. The Saint
In the ’90s, reboots and remakes were often created by selecting an actor who could be molded to fit the desired material. The idea was to attract both younger audiences who were unfamiliar with the original show, as well as older individuals who remembered it. For example, Val Kilmer was cast as Simon Templar in The Saint, a character originally portrayed by Roger Moore in the ’60s TV drama.
In the movie, Simon is a skilled thief and master of disguise hired to steal a cold fusion formula. The filmmakers aimed to capture the essence of Tom Cruise’s Mission: Impossible series by blending espionage with thrilling action sequences. To make the old TV program more “hip,” Kilmer was paired with Elisabeth Shue, who had recently received an Oscar nomination for Leaving Las Vegas, as his love interest. The Saint went to great lengths to embrace the contemporary vibe of the ’90s, even deviating from the core premise of the source material, which revolved around a man helping those who had been unjustly treated in some way.