10 Massively Underrated 1990s Movie Performances

Winona Ryder in Little Women, Reese Witherspoon in Cruel Intentions, Matthew LIllard in general...

Nicolas Cage 8mm
Columbia Pictures

Every decade of cinema has its unsung heroes, and the alternately grungy and DayGlo nineties are no exception to this rule. The decade that brought us everything from The Craft to Space Jam is no stranger to being misremembered and underrated (still waiting on the Library of Congress to honour Mermaids over here).

Some performances are simply too ahead of their time to be appreciated but go on to influence countless lesser flicks in years to come. Other films feature rightly lauded central turns, but the critical love heaped on their central cast leaves lesser known contributors out in the cold despite their invaluable contributions.

Whatever the case, we here at WhatCulture would like to take this opportunity to shine a light on some of the underappreciated turns throughout the decade of cinema which saw the dream team of Tarantino and Rodriguez come to prominence, the rise and fall of American indie cinema, and the wholesale integration of CGI by Hollywood.

And who knows? Hopefully this list will be able to turn a few eyes toward some performances that time has vindicated in the decades since—Matthew Lillard Appreciation Month when, folks?

10. Benicio Del Toro As Fred Fenster - The Usual Suspects

Nicolas Cage 8mm
PolyGram Filmed Entertainment

Any time a movie pulls together an incredible ensemble cast, it’s pretty inevitable that one of the star’s contributions will go under-remembered. Everyone loves the Oceans franchise, but how many people recall Casey Affleck and Scott Caan’s role therein? Anyone out throw on The Godfather trilogy to bask in James Caan’s great performance? Hell, we’re not even sure if Jeremy Renner knows he’s one of the Avengers.

In the same vein, Gabriel Byrne and Kevin Spacey may leave instant impressions on first viewing as Bryan Singer’s twisty 1995 mystery thriller The Usual Suspects unfolds. But upon a re-watch, the hilarious Benicio Del Toro really gets to shine, and it’s clear the man swaggered into the film to rob every scene he appears in.

It’s much easier to justify not guessing the film’s big twist when you consider that Benicio’s bombastic, goofy performance, complete with impossible-to-place molasses-thick accent, is an ever-present distraction from the convoluted plotting.

It turns out the best trick the devil ever pulled was hiring a camp, slurring thief to pull focus away from his machinations.


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