10 popular movies from the '90s that haven't aged well

Ni'Kesia Pannell
drew barrymore never been kissed
"Never Been Kissed" has been called out as depicting inappropriate student-teacher relationships. Getty Images / Handout
  • Some beloved films from the 1990s have scenes, jokes, and plots that can be really difficult to watch decades later.

  • "Dances With Wolves" (1990) and "Dangerous Minds" (1995) have been called out for featuring a "white savior" complex.

  • "Never Been Kissed" (1999) depicts inappropriate student-teacher relationships.

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

The 1990s produced plenty of cinematic hits, but some of them haven't aged well.

From offensive jokes to harmful stereotypes, these movies are guilty of some cinematic blunders that are hard to watch decades later. 

Read on for 10 films from the '90s that don't cut it by today's standards. 

"Basic Instinct" (1992) continues to be called out as pushing offensive LGBTQ stereotypes.

Basic Instinct
"Basic Instinct" has been criticized by many LGBTQ activists as having harmful depictions. TriStar

The neo-noir erotic thriller "Basic Instinct" stars Sharon Stone as the bisexual crime novelist and suspected killer Catherine Tramell.

Shortly after its release, "Basic Instinct" was called out by critics and LGBTQ activists as being misogynistic and "perpetuating negative images about homosexuality."

"This movie links up sex and violence in an irresponsible way," Jehan Agrama, a coleader of the LGBTQ advocacy group GLAAD, told the Los Angeles Times in 1992.

Agrama also said the film's plot pushed the dangerous narrative that lesbians were "psychopathic man-killers who secretly want to be men."

At the time, the "Basic Instinct" creators defended the film, arguing that its depictions of characters should not be viewed as a representation for all bisexual women or lesbians, the Los Angeles Times reported.

But decades later, critics continue to find issues with the movie and its depictions of being queer.

In 2012, Carrie Nelson wrote for Bitch Media that the film relied "on biphobic stereotypes to make Catherine a convincing villain" and used "queer sexuality as signifiers of depravity and a lack of morality."

"Ace Ventura: Pet Detective" (1994) has been called out as using jokes that are heavily rooted in transphobia.

Ace Ventura: Pet Detective
"Ace Ventura: Pet Detective" was directed by Tom Shadyac. Warner Bros.

Starring the comedian Jim Carrey, "Ace Ventura: Pet Detective" has numerous jokes unlikely to survive the cutting-room floor today.

In particular, critics have called out the way the film ridiculed a transgender character.

One particularly controversial scene is when Carrey's Ace Ventura reveals that the villain is a transgender woman. He strips her down in front of police officers to reveal a bulge in her underwear, and the crowd throws up and gags in response.

As The New York Times' Farhad Manjoo wrote in 2016, "as in many fictional depictions of transgender people in that era, the scene's prevailing emotion is of nose-holding disgust."

In 2019, Carrey agreed with a comment calling the film transphobic. Speaking with the Television Critics Association that same year, he said a lot of the show's "ridiculous" jokes wouldn't fly today.

"Cruel Intentions" (1999) is far from perfect when it comes to manipulation and victim shaming.

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"Cruel Intentions" has been called cringeworthy by many. Columbia Pictures

In "Cruel Intentions," Annette (Reese Witherspoon) makes a public pledge to "stay pure" until she marries her boyfriend. The pledge sparks Kathryn (Sarah Michelle Gellar) and Sebastian (Ryan Phillippe) to try to get Annette to break her promise.

Along the way, Sebastian also tries to seduce Cecile (Selma Blair) to get revenge for Kathryn. 

Critics have called out the film for its portrayal of sexual manipulation and victim shaming, particularly in scenes in which Sebastian forces himself upon Cecile and Kathyrn dismisses Cecile's uncomfortableness with the situation.

As Michelle Bright wrote for Ms. magazine in 2019, Kathryn harmfully "uses the same technique of victim-blaming questioning people often used when someone reveals they've been sexually assaulted to convince Cecile that she wasn't assaulted — and that whatever happened to her was actually her own fault."

The film has also been called out over the racism exhibited by Kathryn trying to break up Cecile and Ronald because he's Black.

Adam Sandler's "The Waterboy" (1998) has been criticized for its storyline and jokes.

the waterboy adam sandler
Some have taken issue with the film's dated vocabulary. Getty Images / Handout

Adam Sandler's "The Waterboy" was a '90s hit — but in the decades since, many have called it out for using dated language, including the R-word.

Many have also criticized the movie's plot for turning bullied people with disabilities into a comedic storyline. As Tom Keiser wrote for Vice in 2015, this seems to be a common theme in Sandler's movies.

"A huge issue with Adam Sandler's movies ... is that these movies imply that we can make fun of minorities, people with disabilities, the gays, etc. all we want, so long as it comes with the increasingly offhand message that They're People Too, and that Sandler is one of these outcasts, or at least empathizes with them," he wrote.

"American Pie" (1999) has one scene Jason Biggs says "wouldn't get made now."

American Pie, Jim
"American Pie." Universal Pictures

"American Pie" is one of the most celebrated films of the 1990s, and it's responsible for launching the careers of actors like Jason Biggs, Alyson Hannigan, Tara Reid, and Shannon Elizabeth.

But one scene in particular hasn't aged well.

One of the movie's stars, Biggs, told BuzzFeed News earlier this year that the scene in which his character sets up a webcam to secretly record a student who is undressing wouldn't fly in 2020.

"It wouldn't get made now and it couldn't get made now," Biggs said of the scene. "It would be unacceptable what that represents, but at the time I remember reading the script and reading that part and being shocked that there was cameras on computers! That's what I took away from it originally!"

The premise of "Chasing Amy" (1997) is filled with issues.

Chasing Amy
Kevin Smith directed "Chasing Amy." Miramax Films

Starring Ben Affleck, "Chasing Amy" follows a man who falls in love with a woman he later learns is gay.

Though the film initially received many positive reviews from critics, it's since been widely criticized as featuring a harmful portrayal of sexuality.

As Gabe Delahaye wrote for Stereogum in 2010, the film also harmfully depicted gayness "as a flimsy tool of self-identification that can be easily and quickly shrugged off if the right melodramatic speech comes along in the middle of a thunderstorm."

Some have also criticized the film as using a lesbian character who exists only to serve a straight one.

As Shannon Keating wrote for BuzzFeed News in 2017, "Ultimately, the film assumes that a lesbian can go straight, even if just for a little while, as soon as the right guy comes along."

The children's movie "Blank Check" (1994) featured a scene that faced criticism years later.

blank check
"Blank Check" has a few shocking moments. Walt Disney Pictures

When Disney's "Blank Check" was released in 1994, kids everywhere wished they had the same luck as the 12-year-old Preston Waters. Who wouldn't want to receive a blank check and cash it for $1 million?

Though there were plenty of things that didn't make sense in the film, one of the most commonly criticized points is that Preston's love interest was a 30-something FBI agent named Shay Stanley.

"Blank Check" also featured a controversial scene in which Shay and Preston exchange a kiss.

When the film was added to Disney Plus years later, many viewers took to social media to criticize the "troublesome" full-on kiss between an adult and a child that they didn't feel was necessary. 

"Dances With Wolves" (1990) has been criticized for its premise.

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"Dances With Wolves" has been called out as a "white savior" film. Orion

"Dances With Wolves" follows Lt. Dunbar (Kevin Costner), a white man, as he joins a band of Lakota Indians and falls in love with a white woman named Stands with a Fist (Mary McDonnell), who was raised by the tribe. Eventually, Dunbar helps save the group from Union soldiers.

Though it was highly celebrated upon its release, the Costner-directed film has since been called out as featuring a "white savior" complex, meaning it depicts a leading white character saving people of color from situations they can't save themselves from.

Percy White Plume, an actor who also appeared in the film, told Indian Country Today in 2015 that many Native people — more specifically those who are Lakota — also took issue with the way the white actors dominated the film.

"It was a white man coming into the Lakota country and learning the language and leading the way," he said of Costner's character.

"Dangerous Minds" (1995) has also been called out as featuring a white-savior complex.

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"Dangerous Minds" is based on a book. Buena Vista Pictures

"Dangerous Minds" stars Michelle Pfeiffer as LouAnne, a Marine turned teacher of inner-city California high-school students.

The film takes inspiration from a book of anecdotes by the real-life educator LouAnne Johnson, and it has been called out as being guided by a white-savior complex.

Many critics have taken issue with the fact that the group of students LouAnne helps in the film is primarily made up of people of color.

Johnson told The Guardian in 2015 that the lack of white students in the schools was actually inaccurate.

"In my class, the kids were evenly mixed: black, white, and Hispanic. In the movie they made it all minority kids with a token white kid here and there," she said. "That perpetuates this myth that only minority kids are at risk, and that white kids don't have any problems."

The classic rom-com "Never Been Kissed" (1999) has raised eyebrows for its premise.

never been kissed
"Never Been Kissed" features a student-teacher relationship. Fox 2000 Pictures/"Never Been Kissed"/YouTube

The rom-com stars Drew Barrymore as Josie, a copyeditor who pretends to be a student so she can go back to high school and research the culture of the students.

While posing as a student, she and her English teacher, Mr. Coulson, fall for each other. 

As Anne Cohen wrote for Refinery29 in 2019, "It's a film about adults posing as high schoolers, framing inappropriate and predatory relationships either in the rosy glow of fantasy romance, or playing them for laughs."

In particular, many take issue with the student-teacher relationship between Josie and Mr. Coulson. Even though Josie is not a teenager, Mr. Coulson doesn't know that when he interacts with her for most of the movie.

Coulson also makes a range of inappropriate confessions and remarks to the faux-teenage Josie, including, "When you're my age, guys will be lined up around the block for you."

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