The Nineties

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

/wiki/The Ninetieswork

'Twas also a good decade for pop culture.

"Boy, the way Nirvana played
Songs that got Kurt Cobain laid
Guessing how much Biggie weighed
Those were the days!"

The Networking Nineties: The decade when the world was just starting to fear Y 2 K. All of the kids (of whom the older ones were of the cynical and disaffected Generation X) listened to Grunge bands, wore flannel, and watched Friends, Seinfeld and The X-Files. Or they listened to Gangsta Rap, wore their baseball caps sideways and routinely "capped" people who "dissed" them, or they were beaten up by police and taped. Everything was neon, colorful, and Totally Radical. Cowabunga!

The world at this time was awash in radical changes and catastrophes on a global scale. The Soviet Union collapsed in a Great Politics Mess-Up (resulting in more than a couple ethnic wars between the newly independent states), Iraq invaded Kuwait and Margaret Thatcher hung up her handbag.

Yugoslavia, Somalia and Rwanda exploded into savage sectarian genocide, and Sierra Leone faced a deadly civil war that was frustratingly difficult for other nations to stop, provided that they even cared. Radicals revolted against corporations in Seattle at the beginning and end of the decade. Japan came to terms with the end of its economic bubble and settled in for the long, frustrating stagnation of the Lost Decade. "Made in Japan" was replaced by Red China as the big outsourcing villain. HIV awareness grew, with drugs being developed to fight the disease. There were riots in Los Angeles and the OJ Simpson chase/trial/circus. The younger tropers might have been born at this time—possibly in the back of a white SUV.

The Reagan/Thatcher/Gorbachev era ended with a bang as "greed is good" got replaced by postwar recession ennui through the early 90s. In the U.S., Ross Perot led a political revolution of pissed-off independent voters; dissatisfaction with The Man became the norm and Conspiracy Theorist talk radio became the rage. Bill Clinton got elected thanks to Gulf War Syndrome, then impeached. Seattle coffee culture was all the rage as a Starbucks opened up on every street corner, driving fear into the hearts of Hipsters everywhere, who sought solace in Post-hardcore, Post Modernism, and other things with "post-" and "-core".

Everyone had the Jennifer Aniston haircut, and attended music festivals like Lollapallooza or Lilith Fair—or at least, claimed to their friends that they did, as they were just as likely doing either "Lambada" or "The Macarena". In the US Grunge dominated the real life soundtrack for five years, before collapsing into an identity crisis. Kurt Cobain continued chart-topping for two years after his death, alongside Alanis Morissette and Alice in Chains, eventually replaced by pop music during the latter half of the decade. Across the pond, meanwhile, Britpop and the Cool Britannia movement soared; Oasis and Blur had their famous chart war, while the Spice Girls became cultural icons. In academia, modernism was out and relativism was in; the magazine Social Text published the first computer-generated word salad hoax as the "Culture Wars" smoldered between scientists, anti-abortionists, and radical academicians. Raves and Ecstasy became huge, along with the Perishing Alt Rock Voice.

Then came the Dotcom Bubble of the late 90s, powering the biggest economic boom since the Roaring Twenties. As the Internet Browser was invented, garage entrepreneurs sold content-free websites for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Cars and electronics went from depressingly boxy to cartoonishly curvy thanks to computer-aided drafting and design. Internet dollars gentrified the inner city, turning what had been viewed as an irredeemable wasteland into a playpen for the rich. Every building, sneaker, and coffee shop was painted in pastel colors.

Seinfeld, after a shaky start in the '80s, shot to wild popularity. The Simpsons redefined both animation and the family Sitcom. Saturday Night Live's junior class became comedy superstars, including future senator Al Franken. Wayne and Garth parodied the dying years of Hair Metal. Brat Pack stars like Brad Pitt, Johnny Depp, Keanu Reeves and River Phoenix grew up and started making Indie films set in depressing, misty cities in the Rust Belt or Pacific Northwest featuring a belligerent, aimless, cynical and under-employed populace instead of cheerful or offbeat youth comedy, including My Own Private Idaho and Fight Club. Irony became synonymous with grittiness and pessimism about a corporate-dominated, post-industrial, and above all, rainy future.

Modern culture's obsession with electronics was born in The Eighties and became dominant in the Turn of the Millennium, but it really came of age in the last half of this decade as people switched out computer models every other year. Dolly the sheep was cloned. GPS became operational. Personal computers were more accessible than ever, setting up their dominance in the next decade. Cell phones became more common. Reality Television started. The Super Nintendo Entertainment System, Nintendo 64, and PlayStation were released and raised a generation latchkey kids. Sega as a brand came out and died within this decade, reflecting the increasing pace of technology.

Mystery Science Theater 3000 got really good, then was canceled twice. After people got the answer as to who killed Laura Palmer, Special Agents Mulder and Scully chased aliens, monsters, and other creepy creatures (and created enough UST to explode a good-sized planet). Surfing and going to the beach became even more popular thanks to Baywatch. This was also the heyday of modern-era Star Trek, with TNG, DS9 and Voyager all airing in the same decade. Furthermore, that franchise finally got real competition from Babylon 5 and Stargate SG-1. Movies that were entirely animated through CGI began to amaze people, and started to displace 2D-animated films. Meanwhile, The Disney Animation Renaissance dominated the movie screens, along with Titanic. And Steven Spielberg, blew our minds away when he brought dinosaurs back to life in Jurassic Park.

Adventure Games hit it big in the mid-1990s; Strategy Sim games with orthographic landscapes were invented. People bought games in boxes with elaborate supplements and funky midi music. Or pirated off their neighborhood BBS, along with the Copy Protection page. "The 3D revolution" meant vector graphics, which meant "virtual reality" and Castle Wolfenstein. Superman came back (albeit with a horrible game). Doom, Mortal Kombat, and Pokémon scared the Moral Guardians, with Doom as one of the perpetrators that triggered the Columbine High massacre.

Games like the Super Mario RPG, Chrono Trigger, and the Dragon Warrior and Final Fantasy series introduced Western gamers to the concept of the Japanese Role Playing Game, and with the arrival of Final Fantasy VII and Pokémon in the latter part of the decade, the genre went mainstream: Pokémon became a worldwide phenomenon of unprecedented scale; Square Soft became a household name for any video game enthusiast, and their games came to exemplify the cutting edge of innovation in graphics, sound and storytelling in games for years to come.

Kids and adolescents played Street Fighter in the arcade leading to a Fighting Game boom led by Capcom, SNK, Sega and Namco. On the PC side of things, Doom helped make the First-Person Shooter mainstream and StarCraft was starting to conquer Korea.

Digital pets, Pogs, yo-yos, laser pointers and Beanie Babies were all the rage with kids. A Razor scooter and roller blades were invented and quickly considered two of the must have items, and the Discman began to replace the Walkman. In Japan, we saw a farewell to the Darker and Edgier Metal Heroes and Kamen Rider as well as Ultraman as they went through an ice age while Super Sentai prospered and was beginning to be adapted for western audiences as Power Rangers. Boy bands and girl groups began to dominate the market, and two major Gangsta Rap stars were killed within months of each other following a war of egos between the east and west coasts. Indie heartthrob River Phoenix died of an overdose.

Michael Jordan reigned, retired, and returned. Mark McGwire and other beefy dudes beat out Roger Maris as home-run king, totally legitimately. The New York Yankees "dream team" inspired Americans with good old-fashioned teamwork from 1997-2001. David Beckham became a star.

The Dark Age of comics was going strong, and Rob Liefeld was at his peak of popularity, as comics became gradually Darker and Edgier, culminating in the death of Superman, before hitting the brick wall of the comics crash, while the likes of Kingdom Come killed the "Grim and Gritty" mid-decade.

Akira, originally released in Japan in 1988, became a surprise cult hit on home video in the West, ushering in an entire generation of Anime fandom and helping, along with The Simpsons, to mount a serious offensive against the Animation Age Ghetto. Following in its footsteps, Ghost in the Shell, Princess Mononoke, and Perfect Blue would go on to grab the attention of serious film critics the world over and signal the arrival of Adult Animation as an artistic presence. Meanwhile, Pokémon redefined "Cash Cow Franchise" for millions of children (and adults) around the world. Sailor Moon gave girls strong female heroes to idolize besides Wonder Woman;.[1]" on the flipside, Dragonball Z redefined "action cartoon", and would be responsible for more kids taking martial arts than anything since The Karate Kid;[2] Ranma ½ became the most famous and funniest show to never be able to be shown on US Television.[3] Slayers and Record of Lodoss War showed the D&D community that Japan was just as nerdy as we are. Neon Genesis Evangelion shook the anime world to its roots with its dark, contemplative Deconstruction of the medium, heavy postmodernist leanings, and themes of alienation and existential angst that hit a nerve in the zeitgeist of 90s audiences; its unprecedented (and unexpected) success ushered in a torrent of imitators attempting (with varying degrees of success) to copy its visceral mecha combat, psychologically complex cast, trippy plot, and unconventional use of Judeo-Christian symbolism. The Toonami Cartoon Network block was launched, bringing Anime to the viewing options of The Nineties children en masse. Even though it took almost a decade for it to be widely accepted as "mainstream" media in the United States (it was already mainstream in Latin America before that), its influence should be obvious by now.

Most Important, However, was the invention (by Al Gore) of the World Wide Web: porn, gifs of kittens, jokes about the Clinton sex scandal and evil overlords, and porn involving Clinton were widely accessible for the first time. Bulletin Boards hooked up, moving from dial-in systems to the web. People began to band together to discuss their opinions of Star Trek and Star Wars on UseNet, the original "message board" system. Soon, other people joined in to talk about other shows, too, and thus the seeds for the birth of this wiki were planted. So while in 1990 teenagers who "spent time on computer message boards" were nerds, by 1999 it was a social stigma among teenagers if you didn't have an e-mail address.

To distinguish from the "Turn of the Millennium", look out for the World Trade Center towers in establishing shots or title sequences of shows set in New York City.

Politically started with the fall of the Eastern Bloc in 1989, and ended on September 11, 2001. Pop-culturally, it started with the release of Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" on September 10, 1991 and ended with the rise of internet video and friending networks in 2002-03, making this one of the longest cultural decades. You might notice that its introduction here on the Wiki is one of the longest of all of the decades-that's because this (or possibly the Eighties) is the decade where most of the current Tropers spent their childhood and teenage years. Generation Y, represent!

Although one could argue it ended with the quashed Seattle rebellion of November 30, 1999; or the Great Internet Crash of March 11, 2000, which marked a jobless turning point for the new generation. Some take it all the way to September 11, which left people so stupefied that it functioned as something of a cultural reset button. Note that the word "Nineties" means a very different thing in post-Soviet Russia, a thing much more cynical on the Sliding Scale of Cynicism Versus Idealism.

Not to be confused with The Gay Nineties, which were a century earlier. But these Nineties were probably just as gay.

See Also: The Gay Nineties (and contrast/compare it with the 90s), The Edwardian Era (the 1900 to 1910 era), World War I, The Roaring Twenties, The Dirty Thirties, The Forties, The Fifties, The Sixties, The Seventies, The Eighties, Turn of the Millennium, The New Tens and The New Twenties.

Now has a totally awesome Useful Notes page!

Stop: Hammertime.

Tropes associated with the 1990s:

Naturally, a lot of technology tropes due to the rapid pace of technology and the Internet:

Many things were created or existed in the 1990s:

Anime & Manga


Eastern Animation


For films released in this time period, see Films of the 1990s.


Live Action TV




Other Musicians

Newspaper Comics

  • Doonesbury (started in 1970) and For Better or For Worse (started in 1979) both underwent Cerebus Syndrome in this era, signaling the rise of depressing comic strips. Doonesbury even did a strip about the sobering end of the 1980s for New Year's day, 1990.
  • Zippy the Pinhead. First appeared in 1971, went from 1980s Underground Comics to become a mainstream comic strip in the 1990s, suitably enough.
  • Calvin and Hobbes started in the 1985 and continued its run to 1995.
  • FoxTrot. Started in April, 1988. Continued its run through the decade.
  • Dilbert strips seemed to be taped on every cubicle in Corporate America. Debuted in 1989 and continued throughout and beyond the 1990s.
  • Outland, the Sunday-only 1990s Bloom County's Spin-Off. Both it and the 1980s strip were created by Berkeley Breathed. Debuted in 1989 and lasted to 1995.
  • Baby Zoe was born Sunday, January 7, 1990.
  • Over the Hedge. Started in June, 1995.
  • The Boondocks. Started in April, 1999.

Pro Wrestling


  • It was during this time that The Howard Stern Show started to become nationally syndicated and eventually became highest rated nationally syndicated morning radio show in most major radio markets the United States.
  • Chris Evan's (in)famous BBC Radio One Breakfast Show from 1995 until 1997. Initially credited with "saving" the station (the hugely-popular national station had suffered a drop in listeners following a serious shake-up under Matthew Bannister starting in 1993 in his attempt to re-position Radio One as a "youth" network following two decades of it being a "housewife's favourite"; Evan's show co-incided with an upturn in listener numbers) he increasingly became egotistical, dismissive of BBC and general broadcasting guidelines and often took what many thought was a bullying attitude to his on-air colleagues. Things eventually came to a head when he and the rest of his staff refused to come in for a Friday morning show leading to someone else having to cover for him. Evans was subsequently sacked and his career took a long, very slow nosedive which culminated in several flopped attempts at TV "comebacks" in the 2000s. He has now reached middle age, has regained much (if not all) of his former popularity and hosts the Radio Two Breakfast Show. He apparently regrets many of his past mistakes and behaviour.
  • During this time, Rush Limbaugh became a nationally syndicated star of talk radio who gave the medium an ideological bent that was unchallenged until the middle of the next decade. (Limbaugh also was popular in the mainstream media for a period in this decade.)
  • This was the decade in which shock-jocker Howard Stern became the "King Of All Media" from his radio base in New York; he set the way for many imitators. (The radio show was also broadcast on TV for a time; something which even Limbaugh could not claim.)
  • Neal Boortz began his show in 1993.

Tabletop Games


  • Beanie Babies. Introduced in 1993.
  • Furby, the scourge of the 1998 Holiday shopping season.
  • LEGO Space, the evolution of the Classic LEGO Space line, started on the tail end of the '80s but came into its own early in the new decade.
  • Mighty Max and Polly Pocket miniature playsets.
  • Playmates' Star Trek toyline. Notable for covering ALL of the franchise and for the sheer number (and detail) of the figures.
  • Tamagotchi and related digital pets.
  • Tickle Me Elmo, a cackling effigy of Sesame Street's rising star, was to Christmas 1996 what Furby was to 1998.

Video Games

Web Animation

Web Comics

  • Web Comics period, as the Internet first saw widespread use in the middle of this decade.

For Web Comics released in this time period, see Web Comics of the 1990s.

Web Original

  • The Legion of Net.Heroes, a superhero parody shared universe which is one of the oldest and longest-running online fiction projects.
    • The LNH also led to the creation of the rec.arts.comics.creative newsgroup for superhero comics-inspired online fiction. It hosted several other shared worlds such as the Patrol, Omega and Academy of Superheroes. Other writing fora from this period include alt.cyberpunk.chatsubo and
  • Neopets. First discussed in 1997, launched on November 15, 1999.

Western Animation

Works set, but not made, in the decade:

Anime and Manga


  • Black Hawk Down (made in 2001, set in 1993) sets the mood with a Stone Temple Pilots song.
  • Blood Diamond (made in 2005, set in 1999)
  • The Deal, partially (made in 2003, set between 1983-1994)
  • Definitely Maybe
  • The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (made in 2007, set in 1995-1997)
  • Escape from New York (made in 1981, set in 1997)
  • Hotel Rwanda (made in 2004, set in 1994)
  • The Fighter (made in 2010, set in 1993-2000)
  • The Informant! (made in 2009, set in 1992-98 - although the ads made it look like it was set in The Eighties or even The Seventies)
  • Into the Wild (made in 2007, set in 1990-1992)
  • Invictus (made in 2009, set in 1995)
  • Love and Other Drugs
  • Jarhead (made in 2005, set during the Gulf War)
  • The Queen (made in 2006, set in 1997)
  • Metropolis, made in the 1920's and set in the year 1999. As could be expected, there's plenty of Zeerust.
  • Recess Schools Out (made in 2000, released in 2001, and takes place in the summer of 1998)
    • The DTV sequel, Recess: Taking the Fifth Grade was released in 2003 and takes place in fall 1998.
    • The DTV prequel, Recess: All Growed Down was also released in 2003 and takes place in 1997 or 1998 for the framing material and 1993 for the kindergarten flashback segment.


Live-Action TV

  • Lost in Space, made from 1965–68, was set (apparently) in 1997.
  • Several flashbacks in Lost episodes
  • Several opening flashbacks in episodes of Psych, starting in Season 5 (2010).
  • Mocked in Portlandia, which is set in the 2010's but is all about Portland living the dream of the 1990's.


Video Games

Web Comics

  • Superego is set sometime in 1995, possibly June 1.

Web Original

Western Animation

"May the power protect you."


  1. while introducing many a young boy to *ahem* "mature" sensibilities. From Barenaked Ladies: "Gotta get in tune with Sailor Moon, 'Cause that cartoon has got the 'boom;' anime babes, that make me think the wrong things
  2. while also introducing many a teenage girl to *ahem* "mature" sensibilities. Buff, handsome, sweaty men slamming into each other every episode... this series alone could be cited for the rise of Yaoi in the US.
  3. [adult swim] once stated, when they said fans could request shows, "And before you ask... NO RANMA! THAT WILL NEVER BE SHOWN HERE! EVER!!!"