7 Best Movies & Shows Released in 1996

Find the best movies and show to watch from the year 1996. These handpicked recommendations are highly-rated by viewers and critics.

This drama was the first feature written and directed by an out Black lesbian, Cheryl Dunye, and it is an absolute joy: a cheeky faux-documentary that ingeniously blends lesbian dating life with a historical dive into Black actors in 30s Hollywood.

Dunye plays Cheryl, a self-effacing version of herself, an aspiring director working at a video store who begins to research an actress known as the Watermelon Woman for a documentary. The more Cheryl dives into her research, the more she sees parallels between her subject and her own relationship. 

As incisive as it is funny, The Watermelon Woman shares some common ground with other major indie debuts of the era like Spike Lee’s She’s Gotta Have It and funnily enough Kevin Smith’s Clerks, but Dunye’s style is wholly her own and a dazzling treat to experience.

 

There are comfort food movies, and then there are films like Big Night: comfort food movies about comfort food. Stanley Tucci and Tony Shaloub are brothers running a failing Italian restaurant. Their last chance to save it from foreclosure is to throw a colossal dinner bolstered by a dubious promise of a visit from singer Louis Prima.

The comedy is mellow and pleasant, and Tucci and Shaloub have wonderful chemistry as bickering brothers. Meanwhile, a great supporting cast featuring Isabella Rosellini, Ian Holm, and Allison Janney more than make up for the somewhat predictable script.

 

A sweet and wholesome tale of two boys falling in love against the backdrop of 90s homophobia and social issues. Jamie is a heavily bullied high schooler whose only sanctuary is his family's low-income apartment. His mom Sandra decides to also make that apartment a sanctuary for Ste, another highschooler suffering from an abusive father and older brother. They share Jamie's bed and their prospect of friendship quickly turns into something else.

Beautiful Thing is beautifully scripted and never too emotional. In fact, whenever the story moves towards the emotional, a funny scene is introduced to ease the tension. Many of these scenes feature Sandra's boyfriend, a well-spoken hippie by the name of Tony. Features heavy British accents, subtitles may be necessary!

As Nicole Holofcener's directorial debut, Walking and Talking stands out not only for its honest dialogue and wonderful performance from the young Catherine Keener, but also for its portrayal of female friendship in a genre which too often portrays mindless cliches. The movie focuses on two best friends as one of them gets engaged and the other fears their friendship is getting lost in the middle of the excitement around her friend's marriage. Catherine Keener does a brilliant job as the likable but depressed friend and Anne Heche does an equally as good job playing her sympathetic half. A great movie if you're in the mood for something sweet, honest and sometimes sad.

Renton (McGregor), a Scottish twenty-something junkie, must choose to clean up and get out, or continue following the allure of the drugs and the influence of friends. Find out if he chooses life in this brutal yet entertaining Danny Boyle masterpiece. While definitely not for the faint of heart, Trainspotting still manages to be funny at times, and provides an overall very entertaining experience.

Not enough movies tell the stories of the down-on-luck, kind of uncool wolf-pack that still goes out into town with their wallets on chains hanging from their pockets and try their luck with the ladies. Mike, heart-broken actor-comedian pines over his ex long after she's been gone, while his guys - Trent, Rob and Sue - try to help him get back in the game in a series of nights club-hopping and wingman-ing. You find yourself empathizing with Mike almost immediately if you've ever had a broken heart and root for him throughout his highs and fairly embarrassing lows. Sprinkled with clever references and subtle, refreshing humor, Mike's journey to find closure is more than likely to warm your heart.

As a bonus, the flawed yet endearing gang of twenty-something struggling actors will take you to that charming 90's nightlife in Los Angeles (with music to die for, by the way) and remind you that boys will be boys and that they're just doing their best helping each other and themselves to keep it together with lots of "You're so money, and you don't even know it!".

With an ensemble cast featuring a young Natalie Portman and a less murderous Uma Thurman, Ted Demme's "Beautiful Girls" recreates the worries and woes that thrive in the minds of a tight knit group of working class friends stuck in their own small town Massachusetts world. Warm, quirky and filled with champagne diamonds, both metaphorical and tangible, for anybody who's ever walked the thirty something walk, it's a film that'll make you want to remember all the friends you wish you still had and actually still do.