Right now, we are living in the age of the film reboot. Depending on how you feel about that, it is either a great time to be a movie fan, or it is the absolute nadir of creativity. Either way, there's no escaping the fact that if it existed, it's probably in the process of being made into a film. After all, this is the era of movies based on smartphone games and emojis. If those kinds of things can be made into narrative films (with extremely varying degrees of success), then certainly, there is still room at the theater for a film based on a cartoon from the 90s. After all, there are plenty of 90s cartoons that are still waiting to be brought to the big screen in one form or another.
Many of them deserve a film reboot, due to their rich storytelling, memorable characters, or their general sense of fun. However, there are also 90s cartoons that should never, under any circumstances, be made into movies. This is mainly due to the fact that they are products of their era, things that could have only existed and been popular from 1990 to 1999. All we can do is hope that film executives will be wise enough to know the difference between the two. There are plenty of great cartoons out there that would benefit from a revamp for the new decade, and it could even draw in an entirely new audience that wasn't even alive to see it the first time. These are 10 90s cartoons that deserve a big screen reboot, and ten that should just stay in the world of the small screen.
20 DESERVES IT: DEXTER'S LABORATORY
Dexter's Laboratory still stands as one of the most brilliantly creative cartoons to come out of the 1990s Hanna-Barbera canon. It was about a boy genius (Dexter) who had somehow built a hidden, yet giant, laboratory underneath his family home. He would find solace there until his annoying sister Dee Dee came in and just started pushing buttons and destroying everything.
This is the kind of super imaginative story that would be perfect for a big screen film, now. The show's creator, Genndy Tartakovsky, has already worked in film, directing all three Hotel Transylvania movies. If he teamed up with a great group of writers and brought back the old voice cast, people would be thrilled to see a Dexter's Laboratory movie.
19 DOESN'T DESERVE IT: CAPTAIN PLANET
Captain Planet is a superhero who is firmly rooted in the environmental movement of the early 1990s. He came into being when the Planeteers combined their powers (Earth, fire, wind, water, and for some reason, heart) together. He then used his superpowers to fight back against wicked industrialists and polluters who were destroying the planet.
The problem with Captain Planet is that it is far too earnest and preachy to exist in the modern era without some kind of ironic post-modern twist. Just look at his green mullet! That right there is evidence enough that this character could never really be taken seriously in the modern motion picture landscape, and any attempts to make him more realistic and gritty would be entirely laughable.
18 DESERVES IT: HEY ARNOLD!
Hey Arnold! was one of Nickelodeon's more down-to-earth shows, focusing less on overt wackiness and more on real stories about people living in inner-city communities. It allowed people from all walks of life to have their stories told and it showed just how much heart and hilarity can be wrung out of a specific community of people who are all just trying to get by in an often unkind world.
In this day and age, having a new big-screen version of Hey Arnold! could really shine a light on some of the societal problems that people are facing. It seems like people are willing to write off the struggles of anyone who does not fit into their worldview, so it would be great to have a film that highlights how people from different backgrounds navigate their own problems and come together to make things happen.
17 DOESN'T DESERVE IT: REN & STIMPY
There are some cartoons that are so firmly rooted in the 1990s that it is almost impossible to imagine them being a hit today, and Ren & Stimpy is just such a cartoon. The boundary-pushing show, created by cartoonist John Kricfalusi, was constantly on the radars of concerned parents for its gross and sometimes completely inappropriate content, especially for a show that was ostensibly meant for kids.
Ren & Stimpy already had one reboot, one that was more explicitly aimed at an adult audience, but it didn't last. This might be because part of the charm of the show was that when you watched it as a kid, it felt like you were peaking behind the curtain and doing something you weren't supposed to be doing. Making it into a movie now would invite all kinds of opportunity to push it even further, alienating the original audience that loved it for both its gross and cutely-comedic charm.
16 DESERVES IT: RECESS
Disney's Recess was one of the most creative, funny, and smart shows that came out of the late 90s era of animated Disney shows. The core group of friends at the center of each story were absolutely perfect; they all had unique personalities, but they weren't necessarily drawn as stereotypes. The show also drew on nostalgia without being too obvious about it.
If ever there was a Disney TV show that deserved a big screen reboot, particularly a live-action one, then Recess would be it. The show was absolutely brilliant in how it portrayed the playground as a sort of hierarchy of popularity (they even had a king!), and that sort of idea could get a lot of mileage in a live-action film, especially one that could explore what middle school is like heading into the 2020s.
15 DOESN'T DESERVE IT: JOHNNY BRAVO
Johnny Bravo was one of those animated TV shows that wanted viewers to like the main character, but at the same time, be happy when he was unsuccessful at things, and for Johnny Bravo, that meant trying to get girls everywhere he went. It was more fun to watch him get punched when he was being overtly unpleasant, and he was the kind of guy who never learned his lesson.
Unfortunately, that sort of dynamic for a character is not something that is going to go over well in today's media landscape. It would be hard to sell audiences on a character who constantly gives women unwanted attention and never learns to back off, even when they say they are not interested. Johnny Bravo was indicative of the time it was made, and it's better if it just stays there forever.
14 DESERVES IT: DARKWING DUCK
Darkwing Duck is an absolutely classic Disney animated show, one that almost every kid growing up in the 1990s watched at one point or another. The show followed the adventures of the titular hero as he defended Canard City from foes of all kinds. Aided by his niece and his sidekick, Launchpad McQuack, Darkwing Duck always put the bad guys in jail.
This is the kind of show that is just asking for a big screen reboot. If it was computer animated in the style of something like Zootopia, then it could be a real hit with new and old fans alike. Not only that, but Darkwing Duck had a rogues gallery that was just as impressive as any other legitimate comic book superhero.
13 DOESN'T DESERVE IT: DIGIMON
Depending on where you landed in terms of fandom, Digimon was either a glaring rip-off of Pokémon, or it was a thinking man's show about kids who were connected to monsters in a digital world. While the show wasn't exactly perfect, it did tell a somewhat compelling story about kids who were trapped in an unfamiliar world and were just trying to find their way home.
Does it deserve a big screen reboot, though? Probably not. The show was definitely indicative of its era, as it was the strange time before the early 2000s when everything had to be related to the digital world or the Internet because times were changing and the 90s were going to be left behind. That is not so with the world today, where a solid understanding of technology would make Digimon a bit of a laughing stock.
12 DESERVES IT: DRAGON BALL Z
There were two kinds of kids in the 90s: those who watched Dragon Ball Z almost religiously, and those who didn't watch a single episode at any time. The show had massively devoted fans, and the story it told, while focusing mostly on the fights between good and bad characters, was enough to keep people dedicated to it for a long time.
However, when the time came to adapt Dragon Ball to the big screen, Hollywood dropped the ball in spectacular fashion as the film stands as one of the worst adaptations ever made. It's too bad because a solid Dragon Ball Z adaptation could be a huge hit, especially if it was made more like a special effects-driven kung fu movie.
11 DOESN'T DESERVE IT: REBOOT
Just like Digimon was firmly rooted in the late 90s boom of Internet-related entertainment, ReBoot was an early 90s show that captured the sort of intrigue that was starting to take over with the growing prevalence of home computers. The show traced the lives of beings who lived inside a computer, which at the time, was a novel concept.
However, in an age where everyone has a miniature computer in their pocket at all times, the idea of living inside of one just seems somewhat antiquated. That might also be because we all take our almost-unlimited access to technology for granted. It just seems so normal now that trying to talk about life in a computer would be kind of silly to a tech-savvy audience.
10 DESERVES IT: DARIA
Daria was the epitome of generation X apathy, and it played that perfectly. From the show's catchy theme song, right down to its relatable main character, who couldn't muster up the enthusiasm for anything, it was the perfect viewing experience for a generation that was never really sure what was coming next for them.
It might seem like Daria is far too rooted in 90s culture to ever be brought to the big screen, but in yet another age where everything seems to be going wrong in every way, it would be nice to see a character on the big screen who shared the same kind of pessimism that many people are feeling today. It would definitely fit into today's culture, and it would still be hilarious to boot.
9 DOESN'T DESERVE IT: ED, EDD n EDDY
Ed, Edd n Eddy was one of those cartoons from the 90s that was always being overshadowed by the other shows that aired around it. However, it really deserves more praise for its central trio of similarly-named preteens, as well as its creativity in telling stories that took place firmly in the world of neighborhood kids and all their weird quirks.
Does that mean it would be good for the big screen? Probably not. While it worked as a television show, there really wasn't enough going on with Ed, Edd n Eddy to give it a feature-length run time. The story would most likely end up being far too thin, and part of the charm of the show was that the main characters never seemed to learn or grow, which wouldn't really work in a film.
8 DESERVES IT: FREAKAZOID!
In an age of so many superhero movies being released every year, it would be really nice to have a movie that could skewer some of the more common conventions and tropes of those films while also being a superhero film itself. That could be done if Freakazoid!, the beloved, wacky animated superhero show created by Bruce Timm and Paul Dini (with executive producer by Steven Spielberg), was ever brought to the big screen.
Freakazoid! already did a great job being a parody of many of the animated superhero shows that were out in the 1990s, and its imaginative and hilarious main character would be the perfect foil for more of the serious superhero films that have come out in this era. It could be animated or live-action, but either way, it would be an amusing way to comment on the state of modern superhero films.
7 DOESN'T DESERVE IT: BEAVIS AND BUTT-HEAD
If there is a cartoon that is truly indicative of its era, it has to be Beavis and Butt-Head, the moronic duo created by Mike Judge. These two classless characters would spend their days getting into all sorts of trouble, while also taking the time to skewer the music videos of the day. Their names even became the shorthand for people who were not too bright.
Beavis and Butt-Head were brought to the big screen once already in the film Beavis and Butt-Head Do America. They were also rebooted on television, yet modern audiences just couldn't connect with the duo. It might be because they are just too incredibly dumb or unappealing to a modern audience that would rather cheer for characters than actively root against them.
6 DESERVES IT: ARTHUR
If you were a kid growing up in the 90s and you didn't watch Arthur, then you were truly missing out. This show was so hugely popular that it stayed on PBS for over a decade, following the life and trials of 8-year-old Arthur Read and his friends. It taught valuable and realistic lessons while also being humorous and connecting with kids in a real way.
Arthur is the kind of show that would make a perfect movie. That's because it was always educating its viewers, but doing so in a way that was not overbearing or too obvious. It didn't talk down to its audience and it featured plenty of cool guest stars. Also, everyone on the show was so pleasant that maybe the world just needs a reminder that Arthur exists.
5 DOESN'T DESERVE IT: ROCKET POWER
Rocket Power was a Nickelodeon show that followed the lives of four kids living in a coastal town who loved to skateboard, surf, and take part in a variety of other extreme sports. The show was designed to emphasize just how cool these kids were, and yet, the whole thing just reeked of older people trying to determine what kids were into.
This is exactly why Rocket Power could never work as a movie now. Despite appearances, kids are too smart these days. They will see right through the fact that the movie is simply trying to appeal to the most popular aspects of the culture today. It might have worked briefly for a TV show, but it would fall flat on its face as a film.
4 DESERVES IT: BATMAN BEYOND
If there was ever a Batman story that was perfect for the big screen, it would have to be Batman Beyond. This animated follow up series to the original Batman animated series traced the adventures of a new Batman who took over the mantle from an aging Bruce Wayne. In the era of superhero films, it would be a refreshing change of pace.
Obviously, telling the same old Batman stories on film isn't really working anymore. That's why there is so much anticipation for the new standalone Joker film. After so many movies were aimed to be familiar to fans, it would be nice to see a Batman movie telling a different story, even if it was just a standalone film.
3 DOESN'T DESERVE IT: CARE BEARS
If there is one show that should most likely be left in the realm of childhood memories, it's probably The Care Bears. These cuddly, saccharine bears, who lived in a land called Care-a-Lot, drove around in cloud cars and fought against the wicked No Heart with the power of caring. Yeah, it was all a bit much.
Such an earnest story about cuddly bears who cared so hard about things that they could weaponize their caring through the Care Bear Stare would be completely destroyed by audiences and critics in today's more cynical age. The Care Bears are a relic of another time, and they aren't really the right thing to be brought to the big screen.
2 DESERVES IT: GARGOYLES
Gargoyles is one of the best TV shows that Disney ever produced, and for some reason, it has been entirely forgotten by the company, left to be remembered only by those who watched it when it aired in the 90s. The show followed a group of Gargoyles, who were trapped in stone for hundreds of years before reawakening in modern day New York to fight villains.
This show is just begging to be rebooted for the big screen. If a live-action Gargoyles movie was ever in the cards, we can almost guarantee that there would be a palpable amount of excitement for it. The show was a lot more action-packed and deep than the average animated program, and it's more mature themes and stories would make for a great film.
1 DOESN'T DESERVE IT: TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES
Enough already. There have been far too many attempts to make a good movie out of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and it needs to stop now because it has never worked. The story about four irradiated turtles growing up to fight villains using karate is just too silly of a premise to keep trying to make into a serious film.
It's almost as if everyone forgot that the reason the turtles exist in the first place was to poke fun at Frank Miller's Daredevil run and how comic books were supposed to be serious and gritty now. Eventually, all of the satire was removed from their story, and if that's not going to be a part of it anymore, then there shouldn't be another film of the Ninja Turtles.