Sunday, December 2, 2018

Forgotten, underrated and underseen erotic thrillers from the 90's

By s. Sunday, December 2, 2018

One thing I don't think I talk enough about is just how much I love the 90's. Granted, I was just a kid back then but I loved everything about it - the music - remember, you could turn on MTV or VH1 and there were actual music videos there? - the clothes, the spectacular hair and the movies that were released back then.

One very distinctive kind of movies we got from the 90's were (mostly) female-led thrillers, usually featuring wild sex scenes, a lot of casual nudity and truly disturbing subject matter. In other words three things we don't see often, if at all, in American movies these days.

There were few attempts to recreate the magic after 2000 - The Resident, awful movie which at least captured the whole elegant tall building with creepy elevators vibe, Chloe which was a mess and of course Obsessed which served us pristine heroine and purely evil villain. They will never bring the genre back because there's this perception that it demonizes women - however Paul Feig did a great job in A Simple Favor this year - ridiculous story, great femme fatale, some kinky stuff and yet he avoided backlash because instead of male co-lead there was a female co-lead who was quite likable in traditional sense

What I observed while making that list is that the actresses from it sort of disappeared which isn't the case for the actors starring in those films. It really shows you how ageist and sexist Hollywood is towards women. Linda Fiorentino and Bridget Fonda completely vanished, Madeline Stowe, Rebecca de Mornay and Drew Barrymore had to look for work in TV and we all read about the problems Ashley Judd and Annabella Sciorra faced. Hopefully, this turns around soon because the amount of talent featured on this list is incredible.

So here comes the list of some of the very underrated films from the 90's. Films like Basic Instinct and Wild Things which are still popular to this day and often written about won't be featured here.

In chronological order: (companion list)

Poison Ivy (1992)
Who can forget the iconic scene of Drew Barrymore, one of the symbols of 90's rebellion, on a swing, with her incredible hair flowing in the wind? The film follows nerdy teen Sylvie (Sara Gilbert) who befriends sexy and spontaneous Ivy (Drew Barrymore). Very soon Ivy stars to focus the attention of Sylvie's father and mother (Tom Skeritt and Cheryl Ladd) on her and things turn murderous. The film is incredibly entertaining and the friendship between Sylvie and Ivy is, at least at first, very charming. The sex scenes in the film are still quite shocking, considering that at the time the movie was made Drew was 16 years old and Skerrit was over 40 years her senior.

Single White Female (1992)
Insecure and brokenhearted Ally (Bridget Fonda) is forced to look for a roommate after her boyfriend cheats on her. Enter Hedy (Jennifer Jason Leigh) - seemingly sweet, charming and friendly girl Ally's age. But when Ally and her boyfriend reconcile and Hedy has to move out, it begins to down on Ally that Hedy's innocence and sweetness were all for show. One thing that is very interesting here is that at least at first Hedy is completely justified to feel hurt because of Ally's reckless actions. I think in part those 90's films were so compelling because often times the hero really deserved the trouble coming their way - perhaps best illustrated by Michael Douglas having an affair with Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction. Spoiler warning - this one features extremely unpleasant scene involving a dog.

The Hand that Rocks the Cradle (1992) After her humiliated husband kills himself, an embittered pregnant widow (Rebecca De Mornay) loses her child. Then she embarks on a mission of vengeance against a woman (Annabella Sciorra) who she thinks is responsible for her husband's death. The 90's thrillers had something that is very rare in that genre these days - a villain that you understand and you root for, at least at first. Rebecca De Mornay's performance is in many ways what Pike's work in Gone Girl could have been - she is wronged and you can understand why she wants her vengeance and feels angry about the world, all of that while there is such an amazing mix of innocence and cunning going on inside her. And again, the protagonist is not perfect - who hires nanny this hot? Or the one telling you she cannot have her own kids? That's like a huge warning sign. The film features one of the most clever children I've ever seen in film (played by Madeline Zima in her debut) and also shows the all too familiar world where women suffer because of men's mistakes.

Sliver (1993)
This film is utter trash but it is entertaining - it also features Enigma's awesome song "Age of Loneliness" as well as Massive Attack's "Unfinished Sympathy", albeit the latter is featured in sex scene that is incredibly awkward because of Stone's moans that should have the guy stop what he was doing and ask if she is OK or just straight up call the exorcist. Enigma is featured in another movie from the list - Single White Female, doesn't that band just scream the 90's? And that's not the only similarity - there's also a tall, glamorous building in which shady things happen. Oh and goddess Polly Walker shows up and she serves absolute looks!

The Crush (1993)
Alicia Silverstone was one of the most famous 90's actresses and she has a fair share of cult classics - one of them being this one. The film is bad but it is so much fun because it's purely absurd - there's a scene where she keeps yelling as she chops lemons with a butcher knife in the middle of the night. Fifteen years old (at the time of the making of the film) Silverstone in her feature film debut, plays fourteen years old Darian who has titular crush on a young journalist (Cary Elwes). After he doesn't want to be anything more than her friend, she makes his life a living hell. The film is pure camp and trust me - it features the greatest punch in cinematic history.

Kalifornia (1993) Brad Pitt plays murderous and feral hick in relationship with a sweet, young girl played by Juliette Lewis. Michelle Forbes and David Duchowny play a couple who go on a rod trip trying to write a book about famous serial killings. They split the cost with the "charming" trash couple, unaware that one of them is the actual killer. The film, though not the best, has really cool cinematography and very good 90's soundtrack. Also this is the nastiest Pitt has ever been. We're not talking 'hot' in any way. He is just plain repulsive in this film.

Blink (1994) Emma (the always stunning Madeline Stowe) is a blind violist. She was blinded at the age of 8 when her mother smashed her face in the mirror. She has a surgery that restores her eyesight. Shortly after surgery, when her eyesight is still not working properly - and get this - she sees things a day after they happened (which is apparently a legit medical thing), she sees a guy who is a serial killer, making her the only witness. The film features Aidan Quinn, unsurprisingly playing a detective who falls in love with our heroine and surprisingly playing a jerk of a character. The great thing about the film is the cinematography that shows what Emma sees in a very cool way. And don't worry - her seeing dog is fine in the end in spite of one really distressing scene. The one thing I hate about 90's thrillers is that the pet is always hurt - or worse - in those films.

China Moon (1994) This film (actually filmed in 1991, but stuck in a limbo for few years) features Madeline Stowe playing Rachel, a woman trapped in loveless and violent marriage to her husband (Charles Dance). And then detective Kyle Bodine (Ed Harris) shows up and of course falls in love with her. He is willing to do anything for her, including getting rid of her abusive husband. Bonus - young Benicio Del Toro is also here, even at the beginning of his career playing characters that are shady as fuck.

The Last Seduction (1994) A true classic of the genre, immortalized even more by being referenced in an early Sex and the City episode. Linda Fiorentino (what happened to her? She completely disappeared!) is a revelation as a cold, calculating femme fatale Bridget Gregory who uses the men around her with such ease and cruelty you can't take your eyes off the screen. She steals her husband's drug money and runs away to a little town where she tries to lay low as her husband frantically tries to find her. There she seduces a sweet guy whom she manipulates in all kinds of ways. Believe me, even Amy Dunne would lose a battle of wits with this woman.

Never Talk to Strangers (1995)
Rebecca De Mornay plays a psychiatrist who deals with criminals daily, evaluating whether they are really insane or just pretending. She lives alone, she is single and she has a cat. When she is buying wine she meets a hot stranger (Antonio Banderas, come on, we all know he could get it back then) and begins a romance with him. Of course very soon it turns out her new lover may be very similar to the criminals she is dealing with. The cat unfortunately ends up dead and there is A TWIST that's so insane it almost works.

The Passion of Darkly Noon (1995)
After the death of his strictly religious parents, young man named Darkly (Brendan Fraser) gets lost in the woods. A truck driver, Jude, rescues the exhausted man, who has only a bible for comfort. He brings him to the house of Callie (Ashley Judd) and Clay (Viggo Mortensen), two lovers who live in the forest. While Clay is away in the forest Callie nurses Darkly back to health, and he develops an obsession with her. When Clay returns home and Darkly sees the two lovers kiss, it is too much for him. This film is utterly insane. It starts in a ordinary way but after a while surreal things begin to happen that one has to witness because they are impossible to describe. And Ashley Judd is an absolute goddess here.

Jade (1995)
Linda Fiorentino is back - and singlehandly saves the movie from being a complete disaster - in this utter trash which stars David Caruso of all people in the main role. There's some politics, some lurid sex stuff and an absolutely hilarious hit and run scene. If you liked her in The Last Seduction you may wanna check it out, even though it's nowhere near as good.

Bound (1996)
Made by Lana and Lilly Wachowski this incredibly steamy thriller stars Jennifer Tilly as Violet and Gina Gershon as Corky - two lovers who rip the mafia off in quite an elaborate plan. The film is beautifully shot, incredibly stylish and has a great score. It's easy to see how the directors went on to make The Matrix after that. This is the best film featured on that list and if you haven't seen it yet you should definitely check it out.

Diabolique (1996)
This is a remake - that was torn to shreds critically - of a beloved classic and although it is really bad comparing to the original, it is one of the most rewatchable movies for me. Sharon Stone plays a slutty teacher and her outfits alone are a reason to watch it and Isabelle Adjani plays the abused wife with glorious hair and amazing - in your face "I'm an ex-nun!" - jewelry. Chazz Palminteri plays her jerk of a husband and Kathy Bates shows up as a sassy, fierce detective. There's also J.J. Abrams there playing a nameless character. If that's not enough to sell this movie, I don't know what is.

U Turn (1997)
Oliver Stone's insane, filthy and gorgeously shot thriller has been on my list of favorite movies ever since I saw it. Featuring the astounding cast the film follows Bobby (Sean Penn), a down on his luck criminal. Bobby arrives to the God forsaken little town of Superior and due to a chain of circumstances he is stuck there until his car is fixed. There he meets beautiful Grace (Jennifer Lopez) but since he needs money to pay off his debts he agrees to kill her on behest of Grace's husband Jake (Nick Nolte). The film is nasty, twisted, funny and very dark.

Dark Harbor (1998)
A bickering couple (Alan Rickman and the wonderful Polly Walker) drive to catch the last ferry to their island retreat. They stop, only to find a young boy (Norman Reedus, long before The Walking Dead fame) battered and bruised on the side of the road. An offer of summoning the police firmly rejected, the two help the boy as best they can although it certainly means missing the ferry... and so starts this thriller: a tale of twisted sexual attraction and ulterior motives. There's a scene with Reedus in Marilyn Monroe drag singing "Happy Birthday, Mr. President" and it's insanely disturbing.

A Perfect Murder (1998) This remake of Hitchcock classic features the husband (Michael Douglas) plotting the murder of his wife (Gwyneth Paltrow) after he finds out she has been having an affair with a handsome artist (Viggo Mortensen). Plot twist? He hires the lover to kill the wife, hoping that money will be enough to throw away whatever the artist feels for her. This is slick and very fun to watch thriller, greatly aided by James Newton Howard's gorgeous score and Viggo Mortensen's insanely good looks and some awesome moves.


  1. Literally so embarrassed that I've only seen The Crush. Adding these to my watch-list for today. Stay tuned!

    1. Omg!! There's a lot of good stuff here, follow letterboxd list to pick the best ones :D

  2. I watched about ten of those but not in a long time. U Turn is pretty insane and entertaining. I should watch Hand that Rocks the Cradle as it sounds intense and Rebecca is attractive.
    Final Analysis (1992) I remember from back then as was often on TV and Kim Basinger was hot! My favorite erotic thriller (for the story) from the 90s is Exotica (1994) though some label it a drama.

    1. Oh wow I love Mia Kirshner, I'm definitely going to see Exotica!

  3. I've seen only a handful of those but I remember The Hand That Rocks The Cradle to be very chilling.
    Great list!

    1. Yeah it was really a disturbing movie. De Mornay was so scary in the role

  4. Well aren't I just the worst - I haven't seen ANY of these! My watchlist now both loves you and hates you :D

    1. Well then you have plenty fun and trashy stuff to watch! :D

  5. Awesome post! I hate to say it but I've only ever heard of Single White Female, and I'm sad to say that I don't check out 90s movies that often. I like this genre - with the femme fatale/female thrillers - but didn't know there was that many movies out there. I'm going to add a lot of these to my to-watch list.

    1. Thank you! Oh yeah there are tons, there's so much more but I couldn't track all these down and watch them in order to feature them here, most of these I saw already but Bound was an awesome "new" find

  6. I love the 90's too, probably because that's the decade I grew up in. But I'm quite embarrassed to say the only ones I've seen the entirety of here are The Crush and Dark Harbor. I've seen parts of Single White Female and Hand that Rocks the Cradle.

    The Crush is such trash though lol. Entertaining trash, but man the acting in that is weak.

    Great list! This gives me some ideas on things I clearly need to check out.

    1. You should see the rest of SWF and THTRTC! If only because some of the stuff there is really something they would never do in movies these days because they would fear backlash :)

  7. wow, this is quite an extensive list! some I've heard of, some I most definitely need to check out - the hand that rocks the cradle sounds great!

    1. It is! It feels kinda dated now and the treatment of the black character would be all kinds of offensive these days but it's a strong thriller

  8. Being that I was teenager for most of the 90s....uh...I've seen a lot of 'erotic thrillers'. I hadn't given many of them a thought, really, til I read this glorious post. I'd love to go back and watch them again, you know, for research, but this post will likely have to do.

    Am I crazy, or did Rebecca DeMornay breast feed the child in The Hand that Rocks the Cradle? 'Cause if she did....that doesn't make a lot of sense.

    I'd like to talk about Bound a little, but...I'm not sure I'll be able to function for the rest of the day if I do. I remember that one....fondly.

    Oh, and much love to Alicia Silverstone. I was never really a fan, but she certainly belongs of the Mt. Rushmore of 90s erotic thriller stars...with The Crush and Fear (if that counts) as her standouts.


    1. Yeah she did breastfeed that baby lol :D

      I haven't seen Fear but I'm sure sooner or later it will be on Netflix :)

      Thank you!

  9. Love, love, LOVE this list! I was too young to watch most of these (I was 6 when the decade started), but I do remember the times and seeing trailers for these on TV a lot.

    The Crush is amazing, Silverstone is damn good in it and it's SO FAR from Cher Horowitz in Clueless. The Hand That Rocks the Cradle is such great trash, but Sliver is even better on that front. I love A Perfect Murder and Single White Female, too, but Bound is EASILY the best movie on this list. This reminded me I need to see Blink, U-Turn, and The Last Seduction.

    Disclosure (Demi Moore is a BOSS BITCH who comes on to Michael Douglas and then frames him for sexual harassment)
    Body of Evidence (completely terrible movie starring Madonna at the height of her Erotica period)
    Fear (teenage Reese Witherspoon is attracted to Marky Mark Wahlberg, who ends up being SERIOUSLY INSANE and becomes obsessed with her. With bonus William Petersen as her Dad being all hot and protective.)
    Color of Night (I don't think anything in this movie makes sense, but it has Bruce Willis's peen in it, so... WORTH IT!)
    The Babysitter (Alicia Silverstone in a movie even trashier and worse than The Crush)

    1. THANK YOU! :)

      I saw Disclosure years ago, my mom loves that movie :D I skipped Body of Evidence because when I saw Madonna on the cast list this just seemed like too big of a disaster to sit through :D I already saw way too much of Bruce Willis in that movie he made with Momoa :D But I will check out Fear and Babysitter!

  10. If you haven't watch it already, I think you should check The Hot Spot. Great film that I think could enter this list!

  11. Literally going to crawl under a rock now because I've seen none of these! Jesus.. I guess I really avoided this genre growing up.. and afterwards. I would love to see your list of 90's rom-coms next, now those I've seen and would be able to comment upon! Like.. most likely... all of them. :D

    1. Oh 90's rom coms! I definitely saw all the major British ones

  12. So I kind of not-so-secretly love this genre, and I think this list is an absolute masterpiece. I've seen all of these movies, and I really enjoyed reading about all of them in one place. The distribution for The Last Seduction was such a mess (HBO didn't think it would do well, so they released it on TV first, therefore disqualifying the film from awards), but I think if handled properly, Fiorentino could've won the Oscar. I love that damn movie.

    1. Thank you so much! You've seen all? It's impressive you saw Dark harbor and Passion of Darkly Noon, I only saw those because of Rickman and Viggo :D Yeah I read about that distribution, same thing is happening with Mandy and the score this year :/

    2. I have NOT seen Dark Harbor, my mistake. But The Passion of Darkly Noon... oh yeah. I used to love Ashley Judd haha.

  13. I grew up watching music videos on MTV. I can't tell you the shock years later when I found out there was only trash on the channel.

    Anyways, Poison Ivy I've been meaning to watch for ages but I keep putting it off.

    And I just saw Single White Female (Italian Netflix added it yesterday) and I loved it. That dog scene though 😭

    I'm not sure what's more embarrassing, that A Perfect Murder was the only movie I had seen before reading this, or that I saw this post all these months later. And only because you mentioned it in RF 😅 anyways, I'll check out the others