15 nostalgia-night movies on Showmax

By Gen Terblanche12 June 2024

15 nostalgia-night movies on Showmax

Remember when going to the cinema was the biggest thrill of your young life? Whether you got dropped off with your friends for a Saturday morning flick, or the whole family made a date on a Saturday night and your mom snuck you treats from her purse, the world was suddenly more colourful and more exciting.

Let’s go back to that place. Set up your home theatre, gather your loved ones, turn down the lights, and pass the popcorn. It’s time to go Back to the Future, with nostalgia-night movies on Showmax. We’ve put together a playlist of 15 of the movies that made you who you are today. 

PS: Enjoy all that authentic 1980s, 1990s and Y2K  fashion!

1. Jaws (1975)

Jaws on Showmax

Thriller. Every movie buff who ever quipped “We’re going to need a bigger boat” is giving a nod to Steven Spielberg’s great big shark movie, which set the big-idea blockbuster movie trend in motion. This is also one of the templates for later films in which scientists advise a correct course of action, only for corpses to pile up when politicians and businesses ignore them in favour of making money. If you saw this one too young, chances are it made you afraid to even get into the swimming pool one summer. And it’ll still spook you now, despite its Muppety-looking practical effects shark, “Bruce”. 

Also showing: Jaws II (1978), Jaws 3 (1983), Jaws: The Revenge (1987), Lake Placid (1999, yes it’s a crocodile, not a shark, but it’s nearly the same movie)

2. Back to the Future (1985)

Back to the Future on Showmax

Sci-fi comedy. After he accidentally messes up the timeline, teenager Marty McFly (Michael J Fox) has to time travel back to 1955 in an experimental car invented by his mad scientist best friend Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) to make sure that his parents fall in love. If you’ve ever wondered why the 1980s were obsessed with the 1950s, this movie is part of it. For many viewers, this was an introduction to movie mind games and paradox in time travel, but handled in a lighthearted and stylish way. All three films in the franchise pull their weight. And do have a laugh at the 1980s’ vision of what the year 2015 would bring us. Hover skateboard now, please. 

Also showing: Back to the Future II (1989), Back to the Future III (1990)

3. Heart of Dragon (1985)

Action comedy. Policeman Ted (Jackie Chan) sets aside his dreams of seeing the world to care for his mentally challenged brother Danny (Sammo Hung), or Dodo, who’s later kidnapped by gangsters who want to use him to force Ted’s hand. While the story is lighter on action and focuses more on comedy and Ted and Danny’s emotional connection, there’s a lot of incredible stunt work and some unforgettable fight choreography. This is one of the films that turned the tide, pushing martial arts movies toward comedy. 

4. Top Gun (1986)

Top Gun Maverick is on Showmax

Action. Tom Cruise plays cocky young pilot Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, who lands a place at the elite Top Gun training academy for navy pilots. The romance plotline is thoroughly overshadowed by the tension between Maverick and his in-your-face rival, Iceman (Val Kilmer). This fast-paced film feels like a sun-soaked music video, with aerial flight scenes that are still an adrenaline rush. Top Gun impacted everything from fashion to music, to people’s career choices, to what we expect from high-tech action movies. Watch it, and feel “the need for speed”. 

5. Kindergarten Cop (1990)

Kindergarten Cop on Showmax

Action comedy. Police detective John Kimble (Arnold Schwarzenegger) has to go undercover as a kindgarget teacher. And that’s what we call a high-concept movie, because it’s all we needed to go stampeding for the box office at the time. The sight of a stern Schwarzenegger hulking over the tinies and losing his ever-loving mind at their chaos is still a gleeful delight. 

6. Jurassic Park (1993)

Jurassic Park on Showmax

Adventure thriller. Dinosaurs have been back roaming the Earth ever since businessman John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) invited scientists Dr Alan Grant (Sam Neill), Dr Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) and Dr Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) to visit his island theme park and meet his resurrected beasts. If your dinosaur-obsessed kids complain that 30 years of developments in palaeontology have made nonsense of some of Stan Winston’s animatronics, remind them that the story directly tells us that Hammond’s lab techs had to Frankenstein together what they could lay their hands on to create Hammond’s dinos in the first place. In the spirit of Dr Sattler and Dr Malcolm, criticising how Jurassic Park works is still half the fun of going there. 

Also showing: The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997), Jurassic Park III (2001), Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018)

7. Casper (1995)

Casper is on Showmax

Remember how the Casper the Friendly Ghost children’s comic books got their own movie 13 years before Iron Man did? Wild. Anyway, when ghost boy Casper (an animated, cartoony white ghost except when he’s briefly played by Devon Sawa) develops a crush on 13-year-old Kat (Christina Ricci) after seeing her on TV, he manipulates things so that she and her dad move into his haunted house. Wanting to become human again, he shows Kat’s widowed dad (BIll Pullman) the machine his father made to resurrect the dead. The film manages to be both heartbreaking and wholesome, silly and serious. And it punches far above its weight as it tackles the topics of death and grieving, despite dripping in emotional cheese – in true 90s fashion. 

8. Bad Boys (1995)

Bad Boys II on Showmax

Action comedy. Buddy cop movies might have peaked with this ultra-destructive, quippy and self-aware look at Miami cops Mike Lowrey (Will Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence). Chaos ensues when they have just 72 hours to track down the person who stole a massive haul of Mafia heroin out of a secure police vault, just after Mike and Macrus seized it in the biggest drug bust of their careers. Everything on screen is set to be as loud and fast as humanly possible. And Will and Martin give a masterclass in charisma and cool, thanks to director Michael Bay allowing them to improvise dialogue and tweak the script to play up their fast-paced, witty comedy style. 

Also showing: Will Smith’s comedy-meets-cool cred also forms the backbone of space monster secret agent comedy Men in Black II (2002), Men in Black 3 (2012). And check out Men in Black: International (2019)

9. The Nutty Professor (1996)

The Nutty Professor on Showmax

Sci-fi comedy. Comedian Eddie Murphy started his trend of playing every character in his movies when he took on the role of sweet, brilliant and obese Professor Sherman Klump, along with every member of the outrageous Klump family (with the help of makeup artist Rick Baker). Sherman develops an experimental weight loss drug and tries on himself, hoping to win the heart of chemist Carly Purty (Jada Pinkett). Instead he transforms into the fit but arrogant Buddy Love, whose personality is made up of 100% woman repellent. The comedy pushes every boundary out there, so watch out for values dissonance. If you’re not careful, it’ll have you shrieking with laughter at the filthiest toilet humour. 

Also showing: Nutty Professor II: The Klumps (2000)

10. B.A.P.S. (1997)

B.A.P.S is on Showmax

Action comedy. A rare 90s woman-led action comedy, BAPS (Black American Princesses) stars Halle Berry and Natalie Deselle as hairdressers Nisi and Mickey, who make the hop from rural Georgia to smooth LA, hoping to win an MTV competition and become dancers for rapper Heavy D. Instead they wind up in hot water when Nisi is hired to impersonate tycoon Mr Blakemore’s (Martin Landau) granddaughter. The film went on to become an absurd, feel-good campy classic and its costumes look like high drag in 2024. 

Also showing: Get more over-the-top 90s comedy with Damon Wayans in Major Payne (1995), Rowan Atkinson in Bean (1997), and Jim Carey in Liar Liar (1997).

11. Happy Gilmore (1997)

Happy Gilmore on Showmax

Sports comedy. Adam Sandler’s second major film gives the golfing elite a wedgie that their chequered pants were just begging for. Permanently raging and frustrated ice hockey player “Happy” Gilmore (Adam Sandler) shakes up the establishment when he swaps sports in an effort to raise enough money to pay his grandma’s back taxes and save her house from foreclosure. Aside from being a feel-good underdog story, the film is a hole-in-one thanks to Adam Sandler’s all-in, energetic commitment to violent physical comedy and quotable profanity that might surprise kids who’ve only encountered him in his lazier era. 

12. The Mummy (1999)

The Mummy on Showmax

Adventure. The world fell head-over-heels in love with the playful chemistry between nerdy and utterly charming librarian-egyptologist Evelyn (Rachel Weisz) and rogue adventurer Rick (Brendan Fraser). See why as they travel across 1920s Egypt in search of Hamunaptra, the ancient city of the dead, and become entwined in the tale of the cursed priest Imhotep (South African Arnold Vosloo). There’s a lot to be said for a movie that can turn “I … am a librarian” into a heroic catchphrase. 

Also showing: The Mummy Returns (2001), The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (2008, but Maria Bello replaced Rachel Weisz), and the Tom Cruise version, The Mummy (2017). 

13. The Matrix (1999)

The Matrix is on Showmax

Sci-fi action. What if reality isn’t real and we’re all just brains in jars controlled by a computer? One of ancient philosophy’s most basic conundrums gets a black leather makeover thanks to the ultimate turn-of-the-millennium movie. Rebel leader Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) recruits hacker Neo (Keanu Reeves) to fight humanity’s computer overlords in an apocalyptic future. And Neo trains to manipulate physical “reality” as he accepts that reality is an illusion. The Matrix influenced the style and techniques of so many films that came after it, so profoundly, that it can now seem like an over-serious parody of 2000s “cool” culture.

Also showing: The Matrix Reloaded (2003), The Matrix Revolutions (2003)

14. Final Destination (2000)

Final Destination is on Showmax

Horror. If millennial angst was a movie, it would be Final Destination. The franchise kicks off when a group of people escape a plane crash thanks to passenger Alex Browning’s (Devon Sawa) vivid prophetic dream about the event. According to creepy caretaker William Bludworth (Tony Todd), this “mistake” annoys Death itself. In retaliation, Death then sets up a series of elaborate accidents to kill off anyone who escaped the first time. The accident mechanics throughout the franchise are still a master study in misdirection, comedy, gore, and delayed gratification. Prepare to get freaked out whenever you drive behind a logging truck … as you should. 

Also showing: Final Destination 2 (2003), Final Destination 3 (2006), The Final Destination (2009), Final Destination 5 (2011)

15. The Bourne Identity (2002)

The Bourne Identity on Showmax

Action. The Austin Powers parody movies gave the spy genre a cyanide pill that nearly killed it stone dead. But we still have James Bond and the like today thanks to Jason Bourne (Matt Damon). This twisty conspiracy thriller puts us in the shoes of amnesiac super-agent Bourne as he tries to figure out who he is and why so many people are trying to kill him. As Bourne improvises his way out of deadly situations, he discovers (at the same time that the audience does) that he has what we’d now call “a very particular set of skills”. Shaky camerawork is used for good instead of evil, as it drops us in the heart of the action. 

Also showing: The Bourne Supremacy (2004), The Bourne Ultimatum (2007), The Bourne Legacy (2012), Jason Bourne (2016) and (for the heck of it) Johnny English Reborn (2012)

And for your consideration