15 Times '90s Stars Took Big Swings In Movies Too Weird To Be Appreciated In Their Time

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Vote up the movies that were a little too off-the-wall to be fully appreciated at first.

The 1990s was a lucrative decade for the film industry, which allowed many stars to take big swings with movies too weird to be appreciated in their time. The period wasn’t just rich because of the quality of films being made, but also because it was during the ‘90s that an actor and actress first received a $20 million paycheck for a role. This benchmark also conveys the amount of control stars had during that time, and many of them leveraged this power to help risky projects get produced.

Whether they were unusual passion projects or opportunities for actors to play against type, all of these films were unexpected choices for the star involved. Often the risks were too great to overcome. In some cases, they were huge critical flops or notorious financial failures, but all are deserving of a second look. Despite being too weird for the times they were released in, these often-dismissed ‘90s releases are actually quite good. Decades after their initial release, these films can now be accepted as underrated classics, and they likely never would have been made without the established movie stars attached.

Which '90s films were a little too off-the-wall to be appreciated, despite the movie stars attached? Vote up your favorites!


  • With a story involving multiple tragedies, depression, and suicide, What Dreams May Come was a bold swing to come from a major studio, even before considering most of it takes place in the afterlife. Robin Williams stars as Dr. Chris Nielsen, a man who leaves heaven to find his wife (Annabella Sciorra) in hell after they are separated.

    While he was best known for comedy, What Dreams May Come wasn’t Williams’s first venture into the world of drama. He had just won an Academy Award for his supporting role in Good Will Hunting, but What Dreams May Come added elements of fantasy typically only seen in Williams’s lighter family fare. Despite being a box-office failure, the colorful depiction of heaven won the film an Academy Award for best visual effects and features a performance from Williams every bit as heartfelt as Good Will Hunting.

    181 votes

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  • Michael Keaton had starred in numerous comedies prior to Multiplicity, but the combination of science fiction elements allowed for even more Michael Keaton than usual. After construction worker Doug Kinney (Keaton) meets a scientist working on cloning, he has a copy of himself made. Each time he duplicates himself, the clones come out with slightly different personalities, causing confusion in his life when he doesn’t tell his wife (Andie MacDowell) about the multiple versions of himself.

    Based on Chris Miller’s short story first published in National Lampoon Magazine, Multiplicity is wackier than most of Keaton's output since the early '80s, and gave him the opportunity to return to his comedic roots after playing Batman and more dramatic leading man roles.

    150 votes

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  • Although Hudson Hawk was marketed as an action film to capitalize on Bruce Willis’s success with Die Hard 2 the year before, it was actually a slapstick crime caper sharing more in common with Looney Tunes. As a result, the film was panned by critics and largely ignored by audiences. Along with starring in the film, Willis also co-wrote both the story and the theme song and took several opportunities to sing throughout the madcap narrative. The plot is something like a comedic Da Vinci Code, involving a vast conspiracy over a machine invented by Leonardo da Vinci.

    When cat burglar Eddie "Hudson Hawk" Hawkins (Bruce Willis) is strong-armed into several capers needed to make the machine work, he finds himself caught between a number of unsavory characters with whimsical names. While Hudson Hawk may have disappointed audiences hoping for a more straightforward action film, it was tonally similar to both Willis's first credited film role, Blind Date, and the TV series Moonlighting, which had made him a household name.

    132 votes

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  • Arnold Schwarzenegger had starred in comedies before Last Action Hero, but this was intended as a parody of the action films that had made him a movie star. Schwarzenegger plays himself, as well as the fictional character of Jack Slater from a popular action franchise within the film. When a teenage boy (Austin O'Brien) is magically transported from the audience into the world of the film, his knowledge of action film tropes is the asset that helps them survive.

    Along with playing two roles in the film, Last Action Hero was also the first time Schwarzenegger held a producing credit. The action film parody was intended to be a blockbuster capable of matching the success of Schwarzenegger’s previous films, but was considered a box-office failure after it was unable to compete with Jurassic Park, which was released the week before. Last Action Hero may have simply been ahead of its time, anticipating the industry satire of Tropic Thunder, genre parody of Hot Fuzz, and the meta content of Deadpool decades before they became the norm.

    157 votes

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  • If anyone was going to be able to sell the premise of a man agreeing to throw himself into an active volcano to appease superstitious natives of a South Pacific island, Tom Hanks was the best option. Hanks would establish himself as a great dramatic actor in the 1990s with two consecutive best actor Oscar wins (Philadelphia, Forrest Gump), but the 1980s were filled with his wacky comedic roles, many of which included elements of the fantastical.

    Hanks had previously fallen in love with a mermaid in Splash, was a child who becomes an adult overnight in Big, and lived next to a family of killers in The 'Burbs, but Joe Versus the Volcano is easily his most outlandish role. Although audiences certainly remember Hanks pairing with Meg Ryan for the romantic comedies Sleepless in Seattle and You’ve Got Mail, many forget that this was their first pairing. Ryan inexplicably plays the role of three different women in the narrative, adding to the film’s idiosyncrasies. Though Joe Versus the Volcano saw minimal success and received many poor reviews, Roger Ebert recognized the film’s ability to achieve “a kind of magnificent goofiness,” which has earned the film a cult status since its release.

    153 votes

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  • Life was the second collaboration between Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence in the 1990s, and it came after each had a string of successful films. This may explain why the ambitious comedy spanning a 65-year period was allowed an $80 million budget. The film follows two men, Ray (Murphy) and Claude (Lawrence), who are both framed for murder and sentenced to life in prison together in 1932.

    This same concept made today would likely be even more dramatic, or at least contain some social satire, but Life is gleefully in the ignorant bliss of the 1990s. Even if it isn’t the most socially conscious film, there is no denying the chemistry Murphy and Lawrence have together.

    118 votes

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