Guide to the 90’s Impact on Pop Culture

The 1990s was a decade of contradictions and extremes. Americans built bigger, drove expensive cars, and more elaborate houses, and worked for more hours to get paid more. Americans spent more, borrowed more, and took on more debt in the 1990s. The impact of pop culture on Americans in the 1990s made them drink more coffee, smoke cigars, and gambling as their national pastie. Children were not able to cope up with the pressure coming from the adult world, to which they were increasingly exposed. 

In the 1990s, guns reached more homes than any other decade. Men suffered a masculinity crisis because gays and lesbians were moving closer to the American mainstream. All these happenings came from the pop culture of the 1990s such as music, movies, TV dramas, etc. But there were some good impacts too because of light and charming movies, music, and sitcoms. 

1990s Music

Stuart SevastosJanes Addiction @ Steel Blue Oval (1 3 2010) (4416154323)CC BY 2.0

Popular music in the 1990s saw the continuation of the teen-pop and dance-pop trends that emerged back in the 1970s and 1980s. additionally, hip hop grew and continued to be successful over the decade. also, the continuation of the golden age of the hip hop genre was in the 1990s. Aside from rap, contemporary R&B, reggae, and urban music, in general, remained popular throughout the decade

The urban music of the late 80s and 90s was often mixed with the styles such as jazz, funk, soul, which resulted in the fusion genres such as g-funk, hip hop soul, neo-soul, new jack swing, etc. As in the 1980s, rock music was popular in the 1990s. 

However, unlike the era’s new wave and glam metal scene dominated by grunge, industrial rock, Britpop and other alternative rock music emerged and took over the music industry. The most popular rock music of the decade was nu-metal, ska-punk, and punk rock. They achieved a high level of success at different times over the years. 

Techno Music

Mark Remmers, Sasha front1CC BY-SA 3.0

Electronic music that gained popularity in the 1980s, became popular in the 1990s. In the 1980s, house and techno achieved international success during the decade as well as new genres of electronic dance trip-hop, smart dance, drum and bass, happy hardcore, rave, etc. In Europe, reggae, rave, and techno music were enjoyed and it was an enormous success. 

Also, the contemporary genre started in the 1980s was a big success in the 1990s. The 1990s was a decade of the resurgence of older styles in the new contexts. Mostly, notably third wave ska and the revival of swing were featured as a fusion of horn-based music with elements of rock music. 

Reflecting on the musical developments of the decade in Christgau’s Consumer: Albums of the 90s, music critic Robert Christgau declared that the 1990s was richly chaotic, highly subject to vagaries. In December 1999, Billboard magazine named Mariah Carey was mentioned as America’s Artist of the Decade. Also, Selena was named Best Latin Artist of the 90s and Best Latin Artist of the Decade. 

Pop Culture Artists and Music in the 1980s was as follows:

1990s Television

In the 1990s, television was one of the fastest-growing media. More TV shows were broadcast than ever before and ratings were at record highs. Viewers tended to be interested in the moments of laughter which is why sitcoms like Friends, Seinfeld, and Roseanne were the most successful TV shows of the 1990s. Comedies were hugely popular in the 1990s and procedural dramas reigned the supreme with shows like NYPD Blue, JAG, The Practice becoming popular with large audiences. 

The decade also spawned a few ambitious shows that were ahead of their time to reach mainstream audiences. These shows gained a significant cult following but the other shows struggled and never won the audience they were hoping for. Most of the popular shows of the 1990s were full-length shows. For example, ER ran for 15 seasons starting in 1994. On the other hand, Will & Grace ran for 8 seasons starting in 1998 and Friends ran for 10 seasons starting in 1994. 

The reality TV genre first emerged in the 1990s. It was after the massive ratings and critical success of The Real World of MTV. Also, children’s programming was popular in the 1990s such as Dinosaurs and Boy Meets World.







Home Improvement 



Saved By the Bell


Sitcom, Children

Boy Meets World 



The X-Files 


Drama, Science Fiction




Star Trek: The Next Generation


Science Fiction, Fantasy, Adventure



Comedy, Animated, Children




Tiny Toon Adventures 


Comedy, Animated, Children

Other pop culture TV dramas of the 1990s are as following:

1990s Movies

The 90s in the film brought about many important developments in the cinema. From the 1980s, low-budget independent films steadily grew and maintained popularity in the industry throughout the decade. Later on, in the 1990s, thousands of feature films were produced. Many were shot or edited specifically for display on both cinema screens and smaller television screens. For example, by showing the close-up scenes during the dialogue rather than wide-angle scenes in a room. 

The home video market became a major factor in a film’s total revenue. The revenue was almost double than the previous decades. The 1990s is marked by both the rise of independent cinema and independent studios like Lions Gate and New Line, Miramax, and the advancement in CGI Technology. The movies like Jurassic Park, Terminator 2: Judgement Day, Forrest Gump, and Toy Story (1995) became the first successful computer-animated feature films. 

The Disney Renaissance began in late 1989 with The Little Mermaid peaked with The Lion King in 1994 and ended with Tarzan in 1999. Die Hard set in 1988 became a common slogan for many 90s action movies. It was a movie about a lonely ordinary man versus a colorful terrorist character typically holding hostages in a secluded setting. 

These films and their sequels are often known as Die Hard on a ___: Under Siege (battleship), Cliffhanger (mountain), Speed (bus), The Rock (prison island), Air Force One (presidential plane), Con Air (prison plane), etc. A resurgence of disaster movies dominated the box office with blockbuster movies such as Titanic, Independence Day, Twister, Armageddon, etc. 

Hong Kong Migrants

Georges Biard, Jackie Chan Cannes 2012 (cropped)CC BY-SA 3.0

Several prominent figures from Hong Kong action films from the 1980s to mid-1990s migrated to Hollywood with varying success such as Jackie Chan, Chow Yun-fay, Jet Li, John Woo, Michelle Yeoh, Tsui Hark, Yuen Woo-ping, etc. Martial arts choreographies and shootouts in American Cinema were upgraded and the films of such genre were Rush Hour, Lethal Weapon, The Matrix, Tomorrow Never Dies, Face/Off, Broken Arrow, etc. 

Some of the highest-grossing films of the 90s were:



Worldwide Gross

Titanic (1997)

Paramount Pictures/20th Century Fox 


Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999)

20th Century Fox 


Jurassic Park (1993)

Universal Pictures 


Independence Day (1996)

20th Century Fox


The Lion King (1994)

Walt Disney Pictures 


Forrest Gump (1994)

Paramount Pictures 


The Sixth Sense (1999)

Walt Disney Pictures 


The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997)

Universal Pictures 


Men In Black (1997)

Sony Pictures/Columbia Pictures


Armageddon (1998)

Touchstone Pictures


Other pop culture Movies of the 1990s are as following:

1990s Fashion

AirwolfberlinJonathan Brandis WikiCC BY-SA 3.0

Fashion in the 1990s was defined by a return to minimalist fashion unlike the more elaborate and flashy trends of the 1980s. one notable shift in the 1990s was the widespread adoption of tattoos, piercing in the body as well as ear piercings, etc. To a much lesser extent, body modification was another form of branding. 

In the early 1990s, various fashions of the late 1980s were still stylish for both sexes. However, the popularity of the grunge and alternative rock lock helped to bring the sloppy and simple grunge style into the mainstream in 1992. The unconventional approach to fashion led to the popularization of the casual-chic style such as hoodies, t-shirts, jeans, sneakers, etc. This fashion trend continued in the 2000s too. 

Some of the fashion trends throughout the decade were recycled from the previous decades such as the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. The fashion trends in the 1990s were globalized because of two reasons; increased availability of internet and television outside the United States and reduced import tariffs under NAFTA. It became homogenous in the late 1990s and early 2000s. 


jusez from Hong Kong, China, LindaEvangelistaCC BY 2.0

Supermodels dominated the fashion industry throughout the 1990s. The best models of the 1990s were:

  • Linda Evangelista
  • Cindy Crawford
  • Naomi Campbell
  • Tatjana Patitz
  • Eva Herzigova
  • Nadja Auermann
  • Christie Brinkley
  • Christy Turlington
  • Kate Moss
  • Carla Bruni
  • Tatiana Sorookko
  • Helena Christensen
  • Claudia Schiffer
  • Karen Mulder
  • Yasmin Le Bon
  • Nadège, 
  • Stephanie Seymour
  • Carolyn Murphy
  • Amber Valletta
  • Shalom Harlow
  • Kirsten Owen
  • Kristen McMenamy
  • Yasmeen Ghauri
  • Guinevere Van Seenus
  • Alek Wek
  • Karen Elson
  • Michele Hicks
  • Stella Tennant
  • Audrey Marnay
  • Amy Rizer
  • Maggie Wesson
  • Erin O’Connor
  • Kirsty Hume
  • Bridget Hall
  • Milla Jovovich
  • Tyra Banks


Glamour Wear

photo by Alan Light, Jane Leeves (1995)CC BY 2.0

In 1994, grunge clothing declined as a fashion and became more fitted and feminine. Young women in the US started wearing tailored pants and skirts. Also, they started wearing doll dresses, shorts skirts and dresses, skater dresses, hot pants, animal prints, bright colors, skinny pants, long and shorts skirts with high heels

High-gloss fabrics such as metals, satin, microfiber, sequins, silk, and vinyl became important in workwear and clubwear. The most common look of young women in the 1990s was a short black dress with a tight or oversized white T-shirt. Black spandex leggings were of household clothing with oversized T-shirts or sweatshirts. For relaxing on weekends, loose sweaters or turtlenecks were the best options in the 1990s. 


Sry85Rivers Cuomo in ThailandCC BY 3.0

Like women’s clothing, men’s clothing became more casual in the 1990s. jeans with unbuttoned or untucked shirts became casual wear. It was because of the music trends in the 1990s of hip-hop and Britpop styles. 

In the mid-1990s, grunge fashion style disappeared and sportswear including jackets, shirts, hoodies, tracksuits, baseball caps, etc. popular among people. Also, flannel shirts were inherited from grunge were used over t-shirt and jeans. Converse shoes, ripped jeans, and cardigan sweaters were the mainstream fashion trends in the 1990s. 

Other pop culture fashions of the 1990s are as following:

1990s Sports

The 1990s was marked by some of the best athletes and athletic achievements of the century. Also, this decade saw a real flowering in women’s sport. Michael Jordan led the Chicago Bulls to the six National Basketball Association (NBA) championships over the decade. His team dominated the league as no team had in thirty years. 

On the other hand, Tiger Woods became the most dominant golfer since Jack Nicklaus. He was an admirable role model for minority athletes who were once excluded from sports. 

Two of Major League Baseball’s most sacred records have also fallen during the decade. Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire competed in the summer home run record with 70 runs. Cal Ripken Kr. Broke the record of Lou Gehrig’s fifty-six years of consecutive games by appearing in his 2,131st game in 1995. 

The 1990s was dominated by two teams of baseball, the Atlanta Braves in the National League and the New York Yankees in the American League.

Women in Sports

Jeff Kern, Brandi Chastain ESPN Weekend 2010CC BY 2.0

In the 1990s, women created a sensation in sports. The United States Women’s Soccer Team won the first Women’s World Cup in 1991. Then they won it again in 1999. In the last match, Brandi Chastain, an American Soccer player shot the match by winning the penalty and ripping off her jersey and revealing a sports bra. Also, she raised her fist in the victory. This image was seen everywhere which depicted that woman has entered the sports too. 

At the 1996 Summer Olympics, American gymnasts won the team gold medal. On the other hand, Hockey players won the gold medal at the 1996 Winter Olympics. In 1997, a professional women’s basketball league, The Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) was founded that continued to prosper into the 2000s. Two African American Sisters, Serena Williams, and Venus Williams dominated the tennis world and at the same time, they became stars of the media. 

The Most Memorable moments of 90s sports are as follows:

  • The 94 winter Olympics in which Harding’s career was ended and Kerrigan was in the spotlight. Both were attacked during the U.S Figure Skating Championships. 
  • The 99 Tour de France in which Lance Armstrong was the symbol of hope and courage. Armstrong recovered from cancer treatment in 1997 and participated in Tour de France in 1999. 
  • Yankees won numerous World Series Championships but it was important because of Derek Jeter’s first full season with the team. 
  • Tiger Woods wins his first masters in 1997. His achievement made him the youngest-ever winner of the tournament of PGA Tour. 
  • Scott Norwood’s missed the field goal. He had to make a 47-yard field goal but the ball sailed slightly right of the goal post. 
  • Tyson vs. Holyfield was a memorable moment in the sports because Tyson was losing to Holyfield. To save his reputation, he bit off the top of Holyfield’s right ear and spit it into the ring. As a consequence, Tyson was disqualified, heavily fined and his boxing license was temporarily revoked. 

Other pop culture sports events of the 1990s are as following:

The 1990s in Video Games

The 1990s was the third decade in the history of the video gaming industry. It was a decade of marked innovation in video games. The transition from sprite-based graphics to full 3D graphics spawned several genres of video games. They were not limited to the real-time strategy, first-person shooter, MMO, and survival horror. Handheld games were popular in the 1990s such as Game Boy. 

Fourth Generation Consoles 1987-1996

On the other hand, Arcade games were still popular in the early 1990s but they declined as the home consoles became common. Beginning in 1987 and ending in 1996, the fourth generation of video game consoles consisted of 16-bit programmed games and systems. During this generation, the 2D graphics were improved over the previous generation and experimentation was started on the 3D graphics. 

The 3D games were more prevalent on the PC at that time. For the first time, compact discs were seen as the viable port for video game retail sales with CD-i. Some of the notable systems released during this generation were:

  • Mega Drive/Genesis (1988)
  • Super NES (1990)
  • Neo Geo (1991)

As of the fourth generation, Nintendo’s Game Boy was released which became the popular series of handheld gaming systems in the 1990s. Also, a rivalry between Nintendo and Saga occurred during this generation. 

Fifth Generation Consoles 1993-1999

The fifth generation of consoles beginning in 1993 and ending in 1999 is best known for being the 32/64-bit era. The 1990s is the transitional period for video games to move into the third dimension. PlayStation (1994), Sega Saturn (1994), and Nintendo 64 (1996) were the major gaming systems of the decade. 

During this era, the cartridges were replaced by compact discs (CDs) because of PlayStation and Saturn. Nintendo continued to use cartridges with the Nintendo 64 due to CD loading times. Hence, it became one of the last systems in mass production to use cartridges instead of CDs.

Famous Video Games of 1990s


Video Game Company


Sonic the Hedgehog 



Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge 



Super Mario Kart 



Street Fighter II



Sensible World of Soccer

Sensible Software 


Resident Evil 



Pokémon Red/Blue




Id Software 


Gran Turismo 



Super Mario 64



Final Fantasy VII



Fallout 2 

Black Isle Studios 





Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 



The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 



Other pop-culture video games of the 1990s are as follows:

Guide to 90s Pop Culture – Everything You Want To Know

The beginning of the 1990s era brought forward some pop-culture impacts of the 1980s. They continued for a while but they declined over time. The change in the 1990s pop culture was inspired by the 1980s pop culture. It happened because of new pop culture events that changed fashion, music, movies, gaming, TV drama, sports, etc. 

The impacts of 1990s pop culture continued till 2000s but every decade is having its impacts with change and advancement in fashion sense and use of technology. The iconic fashion in the 1990s faded in the 2000s but up to some extent, it is still being continued in the 2020s. There are some 90s trends that are making a comeback in the new millennium and the majority is welcoming it. 

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