Movies That '90s Kids Saw WAY Too Young

Over 500 Ranker voters have come together to rank this list of Movies That '90s Kids Saw WAY Too Young
Voting Rules
Vote up the '90s movies you watched as a kid that you really, really shouldn't have.

Which '90s R-rated movies did you see too young? Children from that era, compared to the previous generation, had a big advantage when it came to accessing films that were above their age level. Sure, they could still take the old-fashioned approach, buying a ticket to a PG or PG-13 movie and then sneaking into an auditorium showing something rated R. But it didn't need to be that difficult.

Cable TV channels like HBO and Cinemax were in millions of American homes by that time, making mature content easily accessible. VHS and DVD formats thrived, and rental stores were notoriously less strict about enforcing age restrictions than cinemas were. Renting an R-rated film to watch at a sleepover became a common activity. And, of course, some kids just benefited from having clueless parents who didn't pay too much attention to what they were viewing. However it happened, a whole generation had the chance to experience cinematic pleasures they probably weren't psychologically or emotionally ready for. 

Vote up the R-rated movies from the 1990s that you remember seeing long before you should have.

  • Why You Saw It: Jonathan Demme's The Silence of the Lambs fired on a lot of counts. It won five Oscars, including Best Picture. Anthony Hopkins's Oscar-winning performance as serial killer Hannibal "the Cannibal" Lecter immediately became a pop culture sensation. There was also the fact that the film was infamous for being no-sleep-tonight scary. For whatever psychological reason, young people naturally gravitate toward horror, so the allure of seeing what was obviously a hall-of-fame chiller proved hard for kids to resist.

    Why You Shouldn't Have Seen It: For starters, it's about a guy who kidnaps women, peels off their skin, and makes an outfit for himself. That's an uncommonly grisly idea for children. And let's not forget the shocking scene in which Lecter escapes his shackles and bites off part of a cop's face - or later in the same scene, when he escapes by wearing another slain cop's face. It was enough to mess up a lot of adults, to say nothing of young kids.

    398 votes

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  • 2
    387 VOTES

    Why You Saw It: American Pie represents one of those weird cases in which a movie is fundamentally made for young people, yet the R rating generally restricts them from seeing it. What adolescent wouldn't want to see a racy comedy about other adolescents dealing with basic teenage issues like sexual curiosity? That made the film a prime sneak-in candidate at theaters. Failing that, you could pretty easily get your hands on the DVD when the parental units weren't around.

    Why You Shouldn't Have Seen It: The film works hard to get that R rating. There's sexual activity, nudity, and, of course, a scene in which Jason Biggs ruins the desert his mother made in a very humiliating way. The dialogue tends to be crude, as well, with one notorious line about a character's experience at band camp proving especially vulgar.

    387 votes

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  • Why You Saw It: South Park was already forbidden fruit as an edgy TV show, so the movie version, Bigger, Longer & Uncut, had built-in appeal for kids with a taste for slightly naughty stuff. Parents, meanwhile, undoubtedly let some children watch it, not realizing the animated feature was rated R, or thinking it would just be more of what their offspring were already watching on the tube.

    Why You Shouldn't Have Seen It: Bigger, Longer & Uncut goes way beyond what Trey Parker and Matt Stone were doing on TV. The movie literally broke the Guinness World Record for onscreen swearing, as it racked up an astonishing 399 profanities - none of which were censored, as they often were on television. Tons of crude humor, most notably a bit involving actress Winona Ryder and some ping pong balls, also helped the movie push its R rating to the limit.

    305 votes

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  • 4
    207 VOTES

    Why You Saw It: Wild Things might be the quintessential '90s-kid sleepover movie - the kind of thing you watched at a friend's house very late at night while their parents were sleeping. It stars Neve Campbell, who was popular coming off the family-friendly TV show Party of Five at the time. She was a natural draw for young viewers. More importantly, it was a "trashy" movie, its advertising overtly offering promises of sex and nudity. Any kid starting to feel the effects of hormones would have been drawn to Wild Things.

    Why You Shouldn't Have Seen It: Wild Things is unusual in that it has both full-frontal male nudity and abundant female nudity. It also has Campbell getting it on with co-star Denise Richards in one of the film's many steamy scenes. Since it's intentionally a lurid thriller, these factors are presented in an exploitative manner that doesn't exactly offer a mature view of relationships. Whether they expected it or not, kids sneaking into this one wound up getting a real eyeful.

    207 votes

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  • 5
    281 VOTES

    Why You Saw It: Pulp Fiction is arguably the defining film of the 1990s. It was hip, stylish, and innovative. Everyone was talking about it, so kids certainly wanted to be part of that discussion. Quentin Tarantino's masterpiece also had the advantage of several buzzworthy scenes that young people wanted to see for themselves, however they had to go about doing so. 

    Why You Shouldn't Have Seen It: Even hardened adults were caught off-guard by Pulp Fiction's violence. Whether it's Vincent Vega accidentally blowing Marvin's head off in the car, Mia coming back from an OD by having a needle full of adrenaline plunged into her heart, or the way Butch takes out some bad guys with a sword, the film can be tough to watch in spots. A lengthy bit involving the torture and assault of Marsellus Wallace is way too traumatic for many grown-ups, so it's absolutely not for children.

    281 votes

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  • Why You Saw It: There's Something About Mary definitely had a kid-friendly cast. Ben Stiller was popular from Heavyweights and The Cable Guy, while Cameron Diaz had become a star with The Mask. Advertising played up the softer yet no less hilarious moments, like a scene in which a dog comically attacks Stiller. Nothing from the trailer or TV spots would have indicated to parents that the movie had anything massively objectionable, aside from perhaps a couple swear words most kids would have already heard anyway. 

    Why You Shouldn't Have Seen It: The picture opens with a scene in which Stiller's character gets his privates stuck in his zipper - and this is shown on screen. In close-up. That almost seems tame compared to the infamous "hair gel" scene that comes later on. Imagine being a kid, thinking you were going to see a harmless comedy, and then watching that scene unfold. Even worse, imagine watching it while sitting next to your mom and dad.

    258 votes

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