1996 Movies

Welcome to the Plex movie database for 1996, your definitive guide to the cinematic treasures of that year. Our database is painstakingly organized to provide you with a streamlined, user-friendly experience that lets you explore the movies of 1996 in the most efficient way possible.
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Browse 3,161 titles in our 1996 Movies Database

The Best Movies of 1996

The year 1996 was filled with compelling narratives and great performances. In the following sections, we're going to revisit some of the notable films from this year.

Jerry Maguire

Jerry Maguire, directed by Cameron Crowe, opens our list. This romantic comedy-drama centers around a successful sports agent, played by Tom Cruise. Jerry, after a crisis of conscience, advocates for fewer clients, championing a more personal approach to the business. After setting up his own agency with the help of Dorothy Boyd (Renée Zellweger), a single mother who mirrors his ideals, they navigate the highs and lows of personal and professional lives. Cuba Gooding Jr.'s stellar performance shines, garnering him an Oscar for his role.

Sling Blade

Sling Blade, a drama showcasing Billy Bob Thornton's writing, directing, and acting talents, narrates the story of Karl Childers. Karl, committed to a mental institution for a crime he committed as a child, attempts to build a new life after his release. He befriends a young boy and his mother, beautifully depicted by Lucas Black and Natalie Canerday, respectively.

Waiting for Guffman

Waiting for Guffman, a mockumentary by Christopher Guest, follows the eccentric residents of the fictional town of Blaine, Missouri. The town's amateur theater group, led by the clueless Corky St. Clair (Guest), aims to put Blaine on the map through a grand 150th-anniversary celebration. A hilarious take on small-town life, this film serves up satire and eccentric characters in equal measure.


Fargo, a black comedy by the Coen brothers, stars Frances McDormand as Marge Gunderson, a pregnant police chief investigating a series of crimes connected to a botched kidnapping scheme. William H. Macy and Steve Buscemi play pivotal roles in this darkly humorous and suspenseful story. McDormand's quirky and sharp performance won her an Academy Award.

Secrets and Lies

Secrets and Lies, a poignant drama by Mike Leigh, features Brenda Blethyn as Cynthia, a working-class woman in her 40s who discovers she was adopted. She sets out to find her birth mother, reconnects with her estranged brother, and confronts painful family secrets. Leigh's understated direction and the complexities of family dynamics make this film a truly empathetic portrait of ordinary people.

Hard Eight

Paul Thomas Anderson's debut, Hard Eight, is a gripping exploration of the world of gambling. The narrative focuses on John (John C. Reilly), a struggling gambler taken under the wing of Sydney (Philip Baker Hall), a mysterious older man. The plot entwines with deceit and double-crossing as they encounter other characters, each with their own distinct roles and stories.


Wes Craven's Scream redefined the slasher genre with its self-aware horror elements. Neve Campbell plays Sidney Prescott, a high school student targeted by a mysterious killer. Along with her friends, Sidney attempts to unveil the killer's identity. Scream's unusual humor, along with its subversion of genre tropes, has established it as a cornerstone of the horror genre.


Danny Boyle's Trainspotting is a black comedy-drama that reflects the 1990s counterculture through the story of Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor), a young heroin addict in Edinburgh. Renton's attempts to escape his addiction and start a new life provide a compelling narrative filled with hedonistic and nihilistic elements.

Breaking the Waves

Breaking the Waves, directed by Lars von Trier, features Emily Watson as Bess McNeill, a young woman who believes that performing sexual acts with other men will heal her paralyzed husband. As Bess loses touch with reality, she faces opposition from her religious community. Watson's raw performance makes this film a memorable one.

The English Patient

Lastly, The English Patient, based on Michael Ondaatje's novel, tells the story of a critically burned man (Ralph Fiennes). His memories of the past unravel as his nurse, Hana (Juliette Binoche), tends to him in an abandoned Italian villa. The film is a sweeping epic, beautifully filmed, winning nine Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Supporting Actress.

1996 Movies & Industry Highlights

1996 was a significant year in film, with an array of highly successful movies hitting the screens and creating quite a stir at the box office.

Movie Releases of 1996

In 1996, films like Scream, Independence Day, Fargo, Trainspotting, The Rock, The English Patient, Twister, Space Jam, Mars Attacks!, Jerry Maguire and a film version of the musical Evita made their way to the big screen. These were the films that captured the hearts, minds, and eyes of countless viewers.

Top Grossing Films

By the end of the year, a list was compiled that revealed the ten highest-grossing films of 1996. Leading the list was Independence Day by Fox, amassing a jaw-dropping $817,400,891. Following this, Twister by Warner Bros./ Universal stood at $495.7M. Mission: Impossible by Paramount made $457.6M. Other notable movies were The Rock, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, 101 Dalmatians, Ransom, The Nutty Professor, Jerry Maguire and Space Jam each earning impressive worldwide grosses.

Box Office Records

Significant records were made at the box office during this year as well. Independence Day established itself as the highest-grossing film of Will Smith's career until it was surpassed by Aladdin (2019). Another unique achievement was Rumble in the Bronx, which became Jackie Chan's first major box office hit in North America and also the year's most profitable film.

Industry Context

In 1996, the domestic gross for the movie industry touched a staggering milestone of $5.8 billion. This was also the year when a record twelve films crossed the $100 million mark by December end, led by Independence Day, which earned over $300 million. Despite these remarkable feats, the industry was not all roses.

A surplus of releases between 1995 and 1996 resulted in box office flops, studio bankruptcies, sales, and otherwise successful films struggling to turn in a profit. The average cost of producing and marketing a film rose to $60 million, a 20% increase from the previous year. This increase was influenced by the record-high salaries for stars that were under scrutiny due to the high-profile flops released in 1995 and 1996.

Key Events

  • The release of "Independence Day": This science fiction action film directed by Roland Emmerich and starring Will Smith became the highest-grossing film of 1996. Its state-of-the-art special effects, including the iconic destruction of the White House by an alien spaceship, were a significant draw for audiences.
  • Later in mid-July, production began on one of the most iconic films of all time, Titanic.
  • An unexpected surprise came on December 20 when Scream was released to unforeseen commercial success. Praised for its satirical take on the horror genre, Scream revived the slasher genre and led to studios marketing horror films toward the teenage and young adult demographic.