The 1990s have remained a decade of peak nostalgia. From the iconic fashion choices and excellent television dramas to boy bands and pop music hits, the decade has become one of the greatest periods in entertainment.
Many stars from this era had their careers launched, or made, by their work in the ’90s.
Take a trip down memory lane and see what your favourite ’90s heartthrobs are up to now.
Before launching a successful solo career, Justin Timberlake was known as the frontrunner of the boy band NSYNC.
Timberlake began acting in the mid 2000s, playing his first major role in the 2006 film “Alpha Dog.” He has since starred in a range of movies, from “Friends with Benefits” to “In Time,” and played roles in critically acclaimed films like “The Social Network” and “Inside Llewyn Davis.”
Timberlake is now married to actress Jessica Biel, and the couple has a son together.
In fact, all members of NSYNC were certifiable ’90s crushes.
NSYNC formed in 1995, and originally consisted of members Justin Timberlake, Chris Kirkpatrick, Joey Fatone, Jason Galasso and JC Chasez. The band name is a play on the last letter of each original member’s first names.
The group released three studio albums, coming out with classic pop songs such as “Pop” and “Bye Bye Bye.” Their second CD sold 2.4 million copies in its first week, a record that, as of 2015 had not been broken.
Gwen Stefani first made a name for herself as lead vocalist of the band No Doubt, which experienced major success after their first studio album dropped in 1995.
No Doubt rose to fame with songs such as “Don’t Speak,” “It’s My Life,” and “Just a Girl.” When the band took a break in 2004,Stefani launched her solo career, releasing her debut album “Love. Angel. Music. Baby.”
She has won three Grammy awards, been a judge on “The Voice,” and has three children.
Before he became a huge movie star, Will Smith was best known for starring as a fictionalized version of himself in the “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.”
Smith’s successful rap career in the late ’80s under the name “The Fresh Prince” led him to star in his own NBC sitcom in the ’90s. “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” ran for six seasons, and earned Smith two Emmy nominations.
Since then, Smith has become a household name, starring in a wide range of films, from “Men In Black” to “Concussion.” He has been nominated for two Oscars, for his leading roles in “The Pursuit of Happyness” and “Ali” respectively.
He also has a pretty amazing Instagram.
Tatyana Ali is best known for her role as Ashley Banks on “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.”
Despite a flourishing acting career, Ali released her debut album, “Kiss the Sky,” right after “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” ended in 1999.
Since then, Ali got a degree from Harvard University in African-American studies and government. In 2008, she travelled the country as a spokesperson for Barack Obama’s presidential campaign.
Leonardo DiCaprio became a household name after receiving an Academy Award nomination for his role in the 1993 film, “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape.”
DiCaprio got his start doing commercials in the 1980s before becoming a film actor. He solidified his place as a ’90s dreamboat with his leading roles in “Romeo + Juliet” in 1996, and “Titanic” in 1997.
Since then, he has built one of the most colourful and extensive film careers in history. He has starred in a diverse range of movies, from “The Aviator” to “The Wolf of Wall Street,” and racked up four Oscar nominations before finally winning “Best Actor” in 2016 for his work in “The Revenant.”
He is also known for his environmentalism thanks to his documentary on climate change, “Before the Flood,” and his Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation.
Freddie Prinze Jr. developed a loyal fanbase after the “I Know What You Did Last Summer” films that came out in the late ’90s.
Prinze Jr.’s most popular films were the “I Know What You Did Last Summer” franchise, along with the “Scooby-Doo” movies. He acted alongside Sarah Michelle Gellar, whom he’s now married to, on both sets. They have two children together.
Now, he primarily does TV work, having appeared in shows such as “24” and “Bones.”
While Jennifer Love Hewitt also had a role in “I Know What You Did Last Summer,” her career took off after her role as Sarah Reeves on “Party of Five,” which aired from 1994 to 2000.
Hewitt’s role as Bailey’s girlfriend on the FOX show “Party of Five” boosted her career. Since then, it seems as though Hewitt has dabbled in everything: she’s starred in a number of movies and TV shows, had a stint making comic books, and has written a book titled “The Day I Shot Cupid.” She’s even tried her hand at a music career, releasing four studio albums over the years, though none really took off.
Now, Hewitt is married with two children.
Mark-Paul Gosselaar won everyone’s hearts as Zack Morris in “Saved By the Bell.”
Gosselaar’s beloved role on “Saved By the Bell” has had many reprisals: in two TV movies, two spin-off shows, and with Jimmy Fallon on late night TV, to be precise.
Since then, he’s appeared in a number of television roles, most notably as Detective John Clark in “NYPD Blue,” and as an FBI agent on the Fox series “The Passage.”
Mario Lopez was token swoon-worthy jock A.C. Slater on “Saved By the Bell.”
Lopez had few television roles before making it on “Saved By the Bell” in 1989, which earned him numerous guest and recurring roles on television shows such as “Pacific Blue,” “Nip/Tuck,” and “Sesame Street.”
Since then, he’s been primarily on reality and competition shows, starting with his reality show “Mario Lopez: Saved By the Baby,” which premiered in 2010. He has also hosted many competition shows, including “The X Factor,” Animal Planet’s “Pet Star,” and the Miss America pageant.
Heather Locklear is best known for her role as Amanda Woodward on the ’90s TV show “Melrose Place.”
Before “Melrose Place,” Locklear played Sammy Jo Carrington on “Dynasty” from 1981 to 1989. Her role as Amanda Woodward, an advertising executive and one of the show’s primary villains, earned her a spot on Entertainment Weekly’s list, “The 100 Greatest Characters of the Last 20 Years.”
She’s had a decorated career as a TV actor, earning two Golden Globe nominations for her role as a rookie police officer in the ABC show “T.J. Hooker.”
Locklear has had a difficult past year, which included an arrest in June for allegedly attacking a police offer and an EMT. She temporarily checked out of rehab in December 2018 and is reportedly continuing out-patient treatment at home.
John Stamos played the charming Jesse Katsopolis on “Full House.”
Who didn’t have a crush on Uncle Jesse at some point? But before Stamos was a member of the Tanner family, he had a role as Blackie Parrish on ABC show “General Hospital.”
He has had a successful television career since, starring on NBC drama “ER,” FOX sitcom “Grandfathered,” and, most recently, occasionally reprising his role as Jesse on Netflix’s “Fuller House.”
Jennie Garth made her career as Kelly Taylor on the “Beverly Hills, 90210” franchise.
Garth first appeared on television in the ABC show “Growing Pains,” which ran from 1985 to 1992. Her success as spoiled teenager Kelly Taylor on “Beverly Hills, 90210” led her to star in many made-for-TV films, as well as get her own reality show, “Jennie Garth: A Little Bit of Country,” on CMT.
Luke Perry stole hearts as loner Dylan McKay on “Beverly Hills, 90210.”
Perry appeared in many different TV shows and movies since his work on “Beverly Hills, 90210” before landing the role of Archie Andrews’ dad, Fred Andrews, in the CW show, “Riverdale.”
Perry died in March 2019 after suffering a massive stroke.
The popular boy band, the Backstreet Boys, formed in 1993.
The Backstreet Boys have been a staple of American pop music since the ’90s, where they rose to fame with hits like “I Want It That Way,” “Larger Than Life,” and “Everybody.”
Despite breaks over the years, members AJ McLean, Howie Dorough, Nick Carter, Kevin Richardson, and Brian Littrell have reunited several times for new albums. Their most recent album release, “In a World Like This,” came out in 2013.
They have also made several appearances as a group outside of their work, including a cameo in the Seth Rogen movie, “This Is the End.”
Alicia Silverstone became an icon after starring as Cher Horowitz in the 1995 film “Clueless.”
Who can forget Alicia Silverstone‘s iconic portrayal of Cher in cult classic “Clueless?” Silverstone’s performance – and outfits throughout the film – have stood the test of the time.
Before “Clueless,” Silverstone was known for her appearance in the Aerosmith music video for “Cryin'” when she was 16, and her role in “The Crush,” for which she won the 1994 MTV Movie Award for Best Breakthrough Performance.
Since then, she’s best known as an outspoken environmentalist, vegan, and animal rights activist. She’s published a vegan cookbook, “The Kind Diet,” and cofounded a line of organic herbals.
“Clueless” cast member Paul Rudd became a ’90s heartthrob after he played Cher’s step-brother.
After “Clueless,” Rudd’s career blew up. He became known for his hilarious roles in big comedy films throughout the mid-2000s, such as “Anchorman,” “The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” and “I Love You, Man.”
Most recently, Rudd played convict-turned-superhero Scott Lang in Marvel’s “Ant-Man” movies. Needless to say, his status as a heartthrob has been maintained over the past few decades. In fact, some say he doesn’t age.
Jonathan Taylor Thomas played mischievous teen Randy Taylor on “Home Improvement.”
Many remember Jonathan Taylor Thomas as the resident hottie on “Home Improvement,” which aired from 1991 to 1999. After the early 2000s, he stopped acting almost entirely, only briefly returning to act alongside Tim Allen again in the FOX show, “Last Man Standing,” from 2013 to 2015.
He told People that he stepped away to attend school, and studied at Harvard, Columbia, and St. Andrews in Scotland.
Danielle Fishel is best known as Topanga from “Boy Meets World.”
Fishel played Topanga in “Boy Meets World,” which followed her character’s life from middle school to college. She reprised her role years later in the 2014 Disney Channel spinoff, “Girl Meets World,” which is about Topanga and Cory, her high-school sweetheart, married with a daughter.
Since then, she has hosted a Style Network show, “The Dish,” and has been a resident reporter at Popsugar.
Rider Strong also captured hearts on “Boy Meets World.”
Rider Strong starred as Shawn Hunter both in “Boy Meets World” and the Disney Channel spinoff “Girl Meets World.” Strong has been acting since the age of nine, landing his first television role in 1992 as Julie Andrews’ son on the ABC show, “Julie.”
Since then, he’s been in a variety of film and television roles, most notably in “Kim Possible” and the “Cabin Fever” movies.
Keri Russell’s career skyrocketed after she played Felicity Porter on “Felicity.”
After starring as Felicity Porter, a college student in New York, Russell has gone on to star in films such as “Mission: Impossible III” and “August Rush.” She also played a young woman with an unwanted pregnancy in the film “Waitress,” which has now been adapted into a Broadway musical.
She is currently best-known as KGB agent Elizabeth Jennings in “The Americans” on FX.
James Van Der Beek carried the show as Dawson Leery on the hit WB series, “Dawson’s Creek.”
Van Der Beek began his career at age 16 doing off-Broadway work. When he landed the role of Dawson in “Dawson’s Creek” in 1997, his career took off. He had roles on numerous TV shows, such as “One Tree Hill,” “CSI: Cyber,” and most recently, FX’s “Pose.” He’s also had cameo appearances in several films, such as “Scary Movie” and “Downsizing.”
Usher’s second album, “My Way,” is what brought him to fame in the late ’90s.
Usher began participating in local singing competitions at the age of 12, before he was signed by a record label.
His second album, released in 1997, went six times platinum in the US, introducing the world to hits such as “You Make Me Wanna…” and “Nice & Slow.” When he released his 2004 album, “Confessions,” he became one of the best-selling artists of the 2000s.
Usher has now released eight studio albums, and was a coach on the fourth season of NBC’s “The Voice.”
Jennifer Aniston made a name for herself as Rachel Green on the ’90s classic, “Friends.”
She has since starred in dozens of movies, usually as the leading lady in a romantic comedy, and is now one of the highest-paid actresses in Hollywood.
Courteney Cox also became widely popular after portraying Monica Geller on “Friends.”
Before “Friends,” Courteney Cox appeared in various TV shows and music videos, such as Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark.” She also landed a role alongside Jim Carrey in the 1994 comedy, “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective.”
Her latest venture has been as the lead in TV show “Cougar Town,” which ran from 2009 to 2015.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt started out on “3rd Rock From the Sun,” which premiered in 1996.
Gordon-Levitt has had a very successful career that began with roles in big movies such as “A River Runs Through It” and “10 Things I Hate About You.”
After his recurring role as Tommy Solomon on “3rd Rock From the Sun,” which ran from 1996 to 2001, Gordon-Levitt took a break from acting to briefly attend Columbia University. He returned to acting in 2004, starring in films like “(500) Days of Summer,” “Don Jon,” and “Inception,” to name a few.
George Clooney gained widespread recognition for his role as dreamy Dr. Doug Ross on “ER.”
Clooney has long been a Hollywood staple, but all that began with his work on “ER” from 1994 to 1999.
He has starred in many huge films since, from “Ocean’s Eleven” to “The Ides of March,” and has become a longtime collaborator with director and screenwriter Steven Soderbergh. And somehow, he keeps getting more handsome with age.
Sarah Michelle Gellar became huge after starring as Buffy Summers in “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” which aired in 1997.
Gellar was discovered by an agent at the age of four, and has been acting ever since. Her most iconic role, as Buffy Summers in “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” turned her into a bona fide star in the ’90s and early 2000s. In 2002, she married fellow ’90s heartthrob Freddie Prinze Jr.
Most recently, Gellar has been pursuing her passion for cooking by co-founding a baking service that promotes consciously sourced ingredients called Foodstirs, as well as by writing a kid-focused cookbook called “Stirring Up Fun with Food.”
Jared Leto was everyone’s crush as Jordan Catalano on “My So-Called Life,” which premiered in 1994.
Most recently, Leto played the Joker in the DC film adaptation “Suicide Squad.”
Brad Pitt’s career gained traction after his leading roles in films such as “A River Runs Through It” in 1992, and “Legends of the Fall” in 1994.
Brad Pitt is one of the most widely recognised actors in Hollywood, but his small role as a hitchhiker in “Thelma & Louise” in 1991 helped him gain recognition, putting him on the map as a bona fide heartthrob.
He’s since been in dozens of films, both as an actor and producer, and has won awards ranging from an Oscar (as producer of “12 Years a Slave”) to Emmys and Golden Globes. He also founded his own production company called Plan B Entertainment.
He has six children with Angelina Jolie, though their divorce is currently pending.
Brandy Norwood became a ’90s fan favourite after releasing her first album in 1994.
Before Brandy‘s career took off, she worked as a backup singer. Her first album, “Brandy,” went quadruple platinum in the US, and earned her two Grammy nominations. She then won a Grammy Award for her second album, “Never Say Never,” which was released in 1998.
She’s also appeared in a few films and TV shows, as well as on reality TV in shows such as “Dancing with the Stars” and her own series, “Brandy & Ray J: A Family Business.”
Most recently, she was cast in the FOX drama, “Star.”
Before she starred on “Baywatch,” Pamela Anderson rose to fame as “Playmate of the Month” in February of 1990.
Men and women the world over were crushing on Anderson thanks to her 1990 spread in Playboy’s February issue.
After that, she landed roles on many popular TV shows, such as “Home Improvement,” “Baywatch” and “V.I.P.,” and has had a long and successful modelling career, which others, like Kim Kardashian, have now drawn inspiration from.
Anderson is also well-known for her animal rights activism.
Before he was Aquaman, Jason Momoa began his career as a swoon-worthy lifeguard on “Baywatch.”
Momoa looks nearly unrecognizable without his long locks and facial hair, but he was on the popular ’90s series for two years. He followed that up with roles in “Stargate Atlantis” and the sitcom “The Game,” but he shot to fame playing Khal Drogo on the hit HBO series “Game of Thrones.”
Since then, he’s joined the DC Comics universe as Aquaman in a standalone movie as well as in “Justice League.”
He married Lisa Bonet in October 2017 and shares a daughter and son. He also became a stepfather to Bonet’s eldest daughter, Zoë Kravitz.
Reese Witherspoon was on the rise with roles in “The Man in The Moon,” “Fear,” and the cult classic “Cruel Intentions.”
While Witherspoon is most known for her role as Elle Woods in “Legally Blonde,” the actress spent the early half of the decade cementing her status as a rising star. She starred in 1999’s “Cruel Intentions” with fellow ’90s stars Sarah Michelle Gellar, Selma Blair, and first husband Ryan Phillipe.
She became a leading lady in romantic comedies like “Sweet Home Alabama,” and took home a Best Actress Oscar in 2006 for her role in “Walk the Line.” Most recently, she made the crossover to the small screen in HBO’s “Big Little Lies.” The Golden Globe and Emmy winning series’ second season is slated to premiere in June 2019.
Ryan Phillippe was another ’90s star who had a role in “I Know What You Did Last Summer.”
One of the actor’s earliest roles was on the soap opera “One Life to Live” from 1992-1993. He moved on to films like “54” and “Cruel Intentions,” where he played Reese Witherspoon’s love interest. The two married in 1999 and had two children before divorcing in 2008.
Fans can currently catch him on the drama “Shooter” as Marine Bob Lee Swagger.
- Read more:
- THEN AND NOW: What all your favourite ’90s stars are doing today
- This artist uses Photoshop to re-imagine your favourite celebrities as ’80s and ’90s stars
- How 21 of your favourite ’90s celebrities have changed over the last 20 years
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.