Blockbuster, Hollywood Video and Suncoast Motion Picture Company ruled the 90s. Sure, people owned VHS tapes, but rentals were all the rage. On Friday nights, families and friends would flock to these now relic stores in anticipation to check out the latest and greatest VHS releases before they ran out or rent an old standby favorite.
Today, with so many online streaming services available, that luster for swinging by the local video store is no longer there – neither are the video stores for that matter.
But it does bring to mind a good question, “what were the top VHS movies back in the 90s?” Those movies that made droves of people herd to Blockbuster for a couple of new release $3.99 rentals per day and some Milk Duds.
Well, enough of the suspense, let’s find out what were 10 of the best VHS tapes in the 90s.
If you’re a true 90s kid, the thing you’ll probably remember most about renting Titanic in the late 90s was that it was a two-parter VHS. Yep, Jack and Rose’s love was so monumental that is spanned across 3 hours and 15 minutes of young disastrous love … and two tape fulls.
Back in the 90s, kids were used to watching animated Disney films. VHS copies of Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King were huge hits. But then in 1995, something totally fresh and unimaginable happened … Toy Story was released, becoming the first entirely computer-animated feature-length film. The film’s overwhelming “first-of-its-kind” success led to high demand once it hit store shelves at the local video store.
The 90s were full of quality films, but to make this list only the strongest can survive. Steven Spielberg took us on a journey that beautifully summed up what it would be like if dinosaurs once again roamed the earth. There were so many innovative things about this movie, but none greater than the cutting-edge (for its time) special effects that graced young eyes for the first time. Graphics that still hold up decently, even by today’s standards.
Terminator 2: Judgement Day
James Cameron kind of owned the 90s bringing in two of the biggest films of the decade. We already talked about his historical love drama, Titanic, but don’t pigeonhole Mr. Cameron into just one category. The director extraordinaire got his start with sci-fi action films and none were bigger than 1992’s T2 release. It was the peak of Arnold Schwarzenegger's legendary career and audiences everywhere couldn't get enough of the unmatched special effects of the liquid metal antagonists, the T-1000.
Would you believe it if you were told that Hocus Pocus didn’t perform overly well in theaters? It’s a frightening fact, indeed, based on how popular the Halloween-themed movie has become since its release in June of 1993. Part of the problem could point to the ridiculous summer release date for a Halloween movie, but hey, that could all be just a bunch of hocus pocus ...
By 1996, Will Smith had defined what cool was. By the mid 90s the comedic action star’s popularity was on the rise thanks to the hit TV show Fresh Prince of Bel Air and (a young) Michael Bay’s blockbuster Bad Boys. When Independence Day fittingly hit theaters around July 3rd, 1996 the movie world welcomed the calm and collected coolness that only Will Smith could bring to saving the world from aliens.
Ushering in the new decade, Home Alone was released in 1990 and marks one of the most popular VHS films of the 90s. Even thirty years later, Macaulay Culkin’s performance is still on of the most memorable kid roles of all time. Not just for a Christmas movie but of. All. Time.
Dumb & Dumber
If James Cameron owned directing in the 90s and Schwarzenegger owned the action-star title of the decade, then Jim Carrey was the king of comedy. In 1994 alone, Carrey is responsible for two of the greatest comedies of the decade – Ace Ventura (where he got his big break) and Dumb & Dumber, which made him a household name.
The Lion King
It couldn’t be more fitting that the highest-selling VHS of all time – the anointed king of VHS –is Disney’s The Lion King. The movie had it all – amazing animation, sensational soundtrack and lovable characters. When Mufasa met his doom in the beginning of the film, there wasn’t a dry eye in the theater.
In 1994, Tom Hanks stole viewers’ hearts with his portrayal of Forrest Gump. The movie cleaned up at the Oscars and firmly earned him the role of most like-able actor in Hollywood. When the VHS was released several months later, the success of the film continued to be as sweet as that box of chocolates, except this time you knew what you were going to get – an amazing movie.
If we were truly doing a best-selling VHS countdown, this whole list could be comprised of Disney classics since the 90s were littered with them, including The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Pocahontas, Toy Story and Tarzan (technically a 2000 release, but we’ll count it). There were some great VHS films in the 90s, but Disney truly owned the decade for nearly 7 of the 10 years.
The 1990s gave us some of the most beloved VHS tapes of all time, despite the fact that the DVD was released in 1997 and stole VHS profits from the majority of films released in the later part of the decade. Additionally, the 90s gave us mass accessibility to a variety of consumer video recording equipment and tapes, so we could make our own home movies. And while you can still watch your favorite 90’s blockbusters on your favorite online streaming services, you can’t stream your old home videos – not unless you digitize. So don’t let your old VHS tapes and film reels go the way of Blockbuster, digitize them today and relive those memories like they were yesterday!