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Hubble Space TelescopeGulf WarOslo AccordsInternetDissolution of the Soviet UnionDolly the sheepDeath of Diana, Princess of WalesRwandan genocideSecond Congo War
From top left, clockwise: The Hubble Space Telescope orbits the Earth after it was launched in 1990; American F-16s and F-15s fly over burning oil fields in Operation Desert Storm, also known as the 1991 Gulf War; the signing of the Oslo Accords on 13 September 1993; the World Wide Web gains a public face at the start of the decade and gains massive popularity worldwide; Boris Yeltsin greets crowds after the failed August Coup, which leads to the dissolution of the Soviet Union on 26 December 1991; Dolly the sheep is the first mammal to be cloned from an adult somatic cell; the funeral procession of Diana, Princess of Wales, who died in 1997 in a car crash in Paris, and was mourned by millions; hundreds of thousands of Tutsi people are killed in the Rwandan genocide of 1994, which would become a factor in initiating the Second Congo War of 1998.

The 1990s (pronounced "nineteen-nineties", shortened to "the '90s" and often referred to as simply "the Nineties") was a decade that began on January 1, 1990, and ended on December 31, 1999.

Known as the "post-Cold War decade", the 1990s are culturally imagined by many as the period from the Revolutions of 1989 until the war on terror of the 2000s.[1] The dissolution of the Soviet Union marked the end of Russia's status as a superpower, the establishment of new independent soviet states, the end of a multipolar world, and the rise of anti-Western sentiment. Russia was in economic and political chaos due to neoliberal shock therapy reforms under President Boris Yeltsin until Vladimir Putin came to power in the next decade while China was still recovering from a politically and economically turbulent period under Deng Xiaoping and Jiang Zemin.[2] This allowed for the United States to emerge as the world's sole superpower during this decade after the Cold War, creating a time of relative peace and prosperity for many western countries during this decade.

The decade saw greater attention to multiculturalism as well as the advance of alternative media. In the built environment, the McMansion version of postmodern architecture remained strong throughout the decade. Public education about safe sex curbed the spread of the HIV virus in developed countries. Generation X young people often bonded over musical tastes. Humor in television and film was often marked by ironic self-reference mixed with popular culture references. Alternative music movements like grunge, Eurodance, and hip-hop, became popular with young adults worldwide, aided by the rise in popularity of tiered pricing satellite and cable television, and the internet. New music genres such as drum and bass, post-rock, happy hardcore, denpa, and trance emerged in the 1990s. The computer game industry was also booming as well, most notably the rivalry of music and film markets. Video game popularity exploded due to the development of CD-ROM supported 3DCG on platforms such as Sony PlayStation, Sega Saturn, Nintendo 64, and PCs.

The 1990s saw advances in technology, with the World Wide Web, the evolution of the Pentium microprocessor in accordance with Moore's Law, rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, the first gene therapy trial, and cloning all emerging and being improved upon throughout the decade. The Human Genome Project was formally launched in 1990, building of the Large Hadron Collider commenced in 1998, and Nasdaq (established 1971) became the first stock market in the United States to trade online, using the slogan "the stock market for the next hundred years".[3]

Environmentalism was divided between left-wing green politics, primary industry-sponsored environmentalist front organizations, and a more business-oriented approach to the regulation of carbon footprint of businesses. As more businesses were using information technology, the idea of the paperless office became a realistic long-term goal. The matter of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) was an ongoing concern. In 1995, the Governing Council of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) called for global action to be taken on these "chemical substances that persist in the environment, bio-accumulate through the food web, and pose a risk of causing adverse effects to human health and the environment". The Intergovernmental Forum on Chemical Safety (IFCS) and the International Programme on Chemical Safety (IPCS) then prepared an assessment of the 12 worst chemical substances, leading to the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants of 2001.

A combination of factors led to a realignment and consolidation of economic and political power across the world, such as the continued mass-mobilization of capital markets through the wave of neoliberalism, globalization, and the end of the Cold War caused by the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Network cultures were enhanced by the widespread proliferation of new media such as the internet, and a new ability to self-publish web pages and make positive connections on a wide variety of professional, political and hobby topics. The new medium was dubbed the information superhighway and soon used by the so-called 'tech savvy'. The digital divide was immediate, with access to the World Wide Web limited to those who could afford it and knew how to operate a home or business computer. The internet also provided a degree of anonymity for individuals skeptical of the government. Online anonymity and the semi-impersonal nature of communication by email and chat rooms led to the words troll and netiquette enter the English language. Online scammers and sex offenders scared many people off the idea of home internet, and traditional mass media continued to perform strongly. However, mainstream internet users were optimistic about its benefits particularly the future of e-commerce. Web portals, (such as AOL, Yahoo!, Yahoo! GeoCities and Lycos), a type of curated bookmark homepage, were as popular as searching via web crawlers. The use of country-specific web portals popularized the phrases netizen and global village. The dot-com bubble of 1997–2000 brought great wealth to some entrepreneurs before its crash of the early-2000s.

Many countries were economically prosperous and spreading globalization during the 1990s. High-income countries experienced steady economic growth throughout the majority of the decade during the Great Moderation (1980s—2000s). Using a mobile phone in a public place was typical conspicuous consumption in the decade. In contrast, the GDP of the states of the former Soviet Union declined, as a result of neoliberal restructuring. International trade increased with the passage of the establishments of the European Union (EU) in 1993, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1994, and the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1995. The Asia-Pacific economies of the Four Asian Tigers (Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and South Korea), ASEAN, Australia and Japan were hampered by the 1997 Asian financial crisis and the early 1990s recession (including the Lost Decades), resulted the May 1998 riots of Indonesia, the 1996 Australian federal election and the trials on Anwar Ibrahim, marked the dawn of the 32-year Suharto dictatorship, the Hawke–Keating government and Mahathirism in Malaysia.

Major wars that began in the 1990s include the First and Second Congo Wars, the Rwandan Civil War and genocide, the Burundian Civil War, the Somali Civil War, the Algerian Civil War, and the Sierra Leone Civil War in Africa; the Yugoslav Wars in Southeast Europe; the First and Second Chechen Wars, and the Tajikistani Civil War in the former Soviet Union; and the Gulf War and 1991 Iraqi uprisings in the Middle East. The Afghanistan conflict (1978–present) and Colombian conflict continued throughout the decade. The Oslo Accords at first seemed to herald an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but these hopes were in vain. However, in Northern Ireland, The Troubles came to a standstill in 1998 with the Good Friday Agreement, ending 30 years of violence.[4]

During this decade, the world population grew from 5.3 to 6.1 billion people. There were approximately 1.35 billion births and 525 million deaths.[5]

Politics and wars[edit]

Flag map of the world from 1992

International wars[edit]

Civil wars and guerrilla wars[edit]

Rwandan genocide: Genocide victims in Murambi Technical School. Estimates put the death toll of the Rwandan genocide as high as 800,000 people.


Terrorist attacks[edit]

The federal building that was bombed in the Oklahoma City bombing two days after the bombing, viewed from across the adjacent parking lot.

Decolonization and independence[edit]

Political trends[edit]

Prominent political events[edit]


Nelson Mandela voting in 1994, after thirty years of imprisonment.
  • African National Congress leader Nelson Mandela was released from prison on 11 February 1990, after thirty years of imprisonment for opposing apartheid and white-minority rule in South Africa. Apartheid ended in South Africa in 1994.[15]
  • Nelson Mandela was elected President of South Africa in 1994, becoming the first democratically elected president in South African history, and ending a long legacy of apartheid white rule in the country.[15]


During the late 1990s, a move was made to remove American president Bill Clinton from power following the Clinton–Lewinsky scandal. This impeachment attempt did not succeed, and Clinton continued to serve as president until the end of his term in January 2001.


Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, United States President Bill Clinton, and Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Chairman Yasser Arafat during the signing of the Oslo Accords on 13 September 1993.


Assassinations and attempts[edit]

Prominent assassinations, targeted killings, and assassination attempts include:

Yitzhak Rabin
A Dassault Falcon 50 similar to the one shot down in the assassination of Juvénal Habyarimana and Cyprien Ntaryamira
Date Description
September 9, 1990 Samuel Doe, 21st President of Liberia, was captured by rebels, tortured and murdered. His torture was controversially videotaped and seen on news reports around the world.[24]
May 21, 1991 Rajiv Gandhi, former Prime Minister of India, is assassinated in Sriperumbudur.[25]
August 7, 1991 Shapour Bakhtiar, former Prime Minister of Iran, is assassinated by Islamic Republic agents.[26]
June 29, 1992 Mohamed Boudiaf, President of Algeria, is assassinated by a bodyguard.[27]
April 13, 1993 George H. W. Bush, former President of the United States, is alleged to be the target of an assassination by Iraq per a report from the Kuwaiti government during a visit to the country.[28]
May 1, 1993 Ranasinghe Premadasa, 3rd President of Sri Lanka, is killed by a suicide bombing.[29]
October 21, 1993 Melchior Ndadaye, 4th President of Burundi, is killed during an attempted military coup.[30]
December 2, 1993 Pablo Escobar, leader of the Medellín drug cartel, is killed by special operations units of the National Police of Colombia.[31]
March 23, 1994 Luis Donaldo Colosio Murrieta, the Institutional Revolutionary Party candidate in the 1994 Mexican general election, was assassinated at a campaign rally in Tijuana.
April 6, 1994 Juvénal Habyarimana, 2nd President of Rwanda, and Cyprien Ntaryamira, 5th President of Burundi, are both killed when their jet is shot down in what is considered the prelude to the Rwandan genocide and the First Congo War.[32]
November 4, 1995 Yitzhak Rabin, 5th Prime Minister of Israel, is assassinated at a rally in Tel Aviv by a radical ultranationalist who opposed the Oslo Accords.[33]
April 21, 1996 Dzhokhar Dudayev, 1st President of Chechnya, is killed by two laser-guided missiles after his location was detected by a Russian reconnaissance aircraft.[34]
October 2, 1996 Andrey Lukanov, former Prime Minister of Bulgaria, is shot outside his apartment in Sofia.[35]
March 23, 1999 Luis María Argaña, Vice President of Paraguay, is assassinated by gunmen outside his home.[36]
April 9, 1999 Ibrahim Baré Maïnassara, 5th President of Niger, is assassinated by members of his protective staff in Niamey.[37]


Natural disasters[edit]

The 1999 İzmit earthquake, which occurred in northwestern Turkey, killed 17,217 and injured 43,959.

The 1990s saw a trend in frequent and more devastating natural disasters, breaking many previous records. Although the 1990s was designated by the United Nations as an International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction as part of its program to prevent losses due to disasters, disasters would go on to cause a record-breaking US$608 billion worth of damage—more than the past four decades combined.[38]

Hurricane Georges downed trees in Key West along the old houseboat row on South Roosevelt Blvd.

Non-natural disasters[edit]

The crash site of El Al Flight 1862 in 1992.
Miniature model from MS Estonia


Many countries, institutions, companies, and organizations were prosperous during the 1990s. High-income countries such as the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, and Western Europe experienced steady economic growth for much of the decade during the Great Moderation. However, in the former Soviet Union, GDP decreased as their economies restructured to produce goods they needed, and some capital flight occurred.

North America

US, Canadian, and Mexican dignitaries initialing the draft North American Free Trade Agreement in October 1992
The Dow Jones Index of the 1990s
  • The decade is seen as a time of great prosperity in the United States and Canada, largely because of the unexpected advent of the Internet and the explosion of technology industries. The U.S. and Canadian economies experienced their longest period of peacetime economic expansion, beginning in 1991. Personal incomes doubled from the recession in 1990, and there was higher productivity overall. The New York Stock Exchange stayed over the 10,500 mark from 1999 to 2001.
  • After the 1992 boom of the US stock market, Alan Greenspan coined the phrase "irrational exuberance", a reference to the overenthusiam of investors that typified the trading of this period, and warned of overvaluation of assets and the stock market generally.
  • The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which phases out the trade barriers between the United States, Mexico, and Canada, was signed into law by President Bill Clinton.


  • In the People's Republic of China, the government announced the major privatization of state-owned industries in September 1997. China entered the 1990s in a turbulent period due to the aftermath of both the Tiananmen Square Massacre and hardline politicians' efforts to rein in private enterprise and attempt to revive old-fashioned propaganda campaigns. Relations with the United States deteriorated sharply, and the Chinese leadership was further embarrassed by the disintegration of communism in Europe. In 1992 Deng Xiaoping travelled to southern China in his last major public appearance to revitalize faith in market economics and stop the country's slide back into Maoism. Afterward, China recovered and would experience explosive economic growth during the rest of the decade. Despite this, dissent continued to be suppressed, and Communist Party General Secretary Jiang Zemin launched a brutal crackdown against the Falun Gong religious sect in 1999. Deng Xiaoping died in 1997 at the age of 93. Relations with the US deteriorated again in 1999 after the bombing of the Chinese embassy during the bombing of Serbia by NATO forces, which caused three deaths, and allegations of Chinese espionage at the Los Alamos Nuclear Facility.
  • Financial crisis hits East and Southeast Asian countries between 1997 and 1998 after a long period of phenomenal economic development, which continues into 1999. This crisis begins to be felt by the end of the decade.
  • In Japan, after three decades of economic growth put them in second place in the world's economies, the county experienced an economic downturn after 1993. The recession went on into the early first decade of the 21st century, ending the seemingly unlimited prosperity that the country had previously enjoyed.
  • Less affluent nations such as India, Malaysia, and Vietnam also saw tremendous improvements in economic prosperity and quality of life during the 1990s. Restructuring following the end of the Cold War was beginning. However, there was also the continuation of terrorism in Third World regions that were once the "frontlines" for American and Soviet foreign politics, particularly in Asia.
Bush and Gorbachev at the 1990 Helsinki summit.
Boris Yeltsin and Bill Clinton share a laugh in October 1995.


  • By 1990, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev's reforms were causing major inflation and economic chaos. A coup attempt by hardliners in August 1991 failed, marking the effective end of the Soviet Union. All its constituent republics declared their independence by 1991, and Gorbachev resigned from office on Christmas. After 73 years, the Soviet Union had ceased to exist. The new Russian Federation was headed by Boris Yeltsin, and would face severe economic difficulty. Oligarchs took over Russia's energy and industrial sectors, reducing almost half the country to poverty. With a 3% approval rating, Yeltsin had to buy the support of the oligarchs to win reelection in 1996. Economic turmoil and devaluation of the ruble continued, and with heart and alcohol troubles, Yeltsin stepped down from office on the last day of 1999, handing power to Vladimir Putin.
  • Russian financial crisis in the 1990s resulted in mass hyperinflation and prompted economic intervention from the International Monetary Fund and western countries to help Russia's economy recover.
  • The first McDonald's restaurant opened in Moscow in 1990 with then-President of the Supreme Soviet of the Russian SFSR and future Russian President Boris Yeltsin attending, symbolizing Russia's transition towards a capitalist free market economy and a move towards adopting elements of Western culture.
  • Oil and gas were discovered in many countries in the former Soviet bloc, leading to economic growth and broader adoption of trade between nations. These trends were also fueled by inexpensive fossil energy, with low petroleum prices caused by increased oil production. Political stability and decreased militarization due to the winding down of the Cold War led to economic development and higher living standards for many citizens.
  • Most of Europe enjoyed growing prosperity during the 1990s. However, problems including the massive 1995 general strikes in France following a recession and the difficulties associated with German reunification led to sluggish growth in these countries. However, the French and German economies improved in the latter half of the decade. Meanwhile, the economies of Spain, Scandinavia and former Eastern Bloc countries accelerated at rapid speed during the decade. Unemployment rates were low due to many having experienced a deep recession at the start of the decade.
  • After the early 1990s recession, the United Kingdom and Ireland experienced rapid economic growth and falling unemployment that continued throughout the decade. Economic growth would continue until the Great Recession, marking the longest uninterrupted period of economic growth in history.
  • Some Eastern European economies struggled after the fall of communism, but Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania saw economic growth in the late 1990s.
  • With the creation of the European Union (EU), there is freedom of movement between member states, such as the 1992 and 1995 free trade agreements.
    • The Euro is adopted by the European Union on 1 January 1999, which begins a process of phasing out the former national currencies of EU countries.[40]

South America

  • A Latin American common market, Mercosur, was established in 1991. Mercosur's origins are linked to the discussions for the constitution of a regional economic market for Latin America, which go back to the treaty that established the Latin American Free Trade Association in 1960, which was succeeded by the Latin American Integration Association in the 1980s.

Science and technology[edit]


The compact disc reached its peak in popularity in the 1990s, and not once did another audio format surpass the CD in music sales from 1991 throughout the remainder of the decade. By 2000, the CD accounted for 92.3% of the entire market share in regard to music sales.[41]

The 1990s were a revolutionary decade for digital technology. Between 1990 and 1997, household PC ownership in the US rose from 15% to 35%.[42] Cell phones of the early-1990s and earlier ones were very large, lacked extra features, and were used by only a few percent of the population of even the advanced nations. Only a few million people used online services in 1990, and the World Wide Web, which would have a significant impact on technology for many decades, had only just been invented. The first web browser went online in 1993.[43] By 2001, more than 50% of some Western countries had Internet access, and more than 25% had cell phone access.

Electronics and communications[edit]

The logo created by The President's Council on the Year 2000 Conversion, for use on Y2K.gov
  • On 6 August 1991, CERN, a pan-European organization for particle research, publicized the new World Wide Web project.[44] Although the basic applications and guidelines that make the Internet possible had existed for almost two decades, the network did not gain a public face until the 1990s.
  • Driven by mass adoption, consumer personal computer specifications increased dramatically during the 1990s, from 512 KB RAM 12 MHz Turbo XTs in 1990,[45] to 25–66 MHz 80486-class processor at the start of the popularization of the World Wide Web mid-decade,[46] to over 1 GHz CPUs with close to a gigabyte of RAM by 2000.
  • Y2K spread fear throughout the United States and eventually the world in the last half of the decade, particularly in 1999, about possible massive computer malfunctions on 1 January 2000. As a result, many people stocked up on supplies for fear of a worldwide disaster. After significant effort to upgrade systems on the part of software engineers, no failures occurred when the clocks rolled over into 2000.
  • Advancements in computer modems, ISDN, cable modems, and DSL led to faster connections to the Internet.
  • The first Pentium microprocessor is introduced and developed by the Intel Corporation.
  • Email becomes popular; as a result, Microsoft acquires the popular Hotmail webmail service.
  • Instant messaging and the buddy list feature becomes popular. AIM and ICQ are two early protocols.
  • Businesses start to build e-commerce websites; e-commerce-only companies such as Amazon.com, eBay, AOL, and Yahoo! grow rapidly.
  • The introduction of affordable, smaller satellite dishes and the DVB-S standard in the mid-1990s expanded satellite television services that carried up to 500 television channels.
  • The first MP3 player, the MPMan, is released in the late spring of 1998. It came with 32 MB of flash memory expandable to 64 MB. By the mid-2000s, the MP3 player would overtake the CD player in popularity.
  • The first GSM network is launched in Finland in 1991.
  • Digital single-lens reflex cameras and regular digital cameras become commercially available. They would replace film cameras by the mid-2000s.
  • IBM introduces the 1-inch (25 mm) wide Microdrive hard drive in 170 MB and 340 MB capacities.
  • Apple Computer in 1998 introduces the iMac all-in-one computer, initiating a trend in computer design towards translucent plastics and multicolour case design, discontinuing many legacy technologies like serial ports, and beginning a resurgence in the company's fortunes that continues to this day.
  • CD burner drives are introduced.
  • The CD-ROM drive became standard for most personal computers during the decade.
  • The DVD media format is developed and popularized along with a plethora of Flash memory card standards in 1994.
  • Pagers are initially popular but ultimately are replaced by mobile phones by the early-2000s.
  • Hand-held satellite phones are introduced towards the end of the decade.
  • The 24-hour news cycle becomes popular alongside the outbreak of the Gulf War between late 1990 and early 1991, and is solidified with CNN's coverage of Desert Storm and Desert Shield. Though CNN had been running 24-hour newscasts since 1980, it was not until the Gulf War that the general public took notice, and others imitated CNN's non-stop news approach.[47]
  • Portable CD players, introduced during the late 1980s, became very popular and profoundly impacted the music industry and youth culture during the 1990s.


Rail transportation[edit]

The opening of the Channel Tunnel between France and the United Kingdom saw the commencement by the three national railway companies of Belgium, France, and the United Kingdom, respectively SNCB/NMBS, SNCF and British Rail of the joint Eurostar service.

Eurostar logo 1994–2011
A pair of Eurostar trains at the former Waterloo International since moved to St Pancras International

On 14 November 1994 Eurostar services began between Waterloo International station in London, Gare du Nord in Paris and Brussels South in Brussels.[48][49][50] In 1995 Eurostar was achieving an average end-to-end speed of 171.5 km/h (106.6 mph) between London and Paris.[51] On 8 January 1996 Eurostar launched services from a second railway station in the UK when Ashford International was opened.[52] Journey times between London and Brussels were reduced by the opening of the High Speed 1 line on 14 December 1997.


The 1990s began with a recession that dampened car sales. General Motors suffered huge losses because of an inefficient structure, stale designs, and poor quality. Sales improved with the economy by the mid-1990s, but GM's US market share gradually declined to less than 40% (from a peak of 50% in the 1970s). While the new Saturn division fared well, Oldsmobile fell sharply, and attempts to remake the division as a European-style luxury car were unsuccessful.

Cars in the 1990s had a rounder, more streamlined shape than those from the 1970s and 1980s; this style would continue early into the 2000s and to a lesser extent later on.

Chrysler ran into financial troubles as it entered the 1990s. Like GM, the Chrysler too had a stale model lineup (except for the best-selling minivans) that were largely based on the aging K-car platform. In 1992, chairman Lee Iacocca retired, and the company began a remarkable revival, introducing the new LH platform and "Cab-Forward" styling, along with a highly successful redesign of the full-sized Dodge Ram in 1994. Chrysler's minivans continued to dominate the market despite increasing competition. In 1998, Daimler-Benz (the parent company of Mercedes-Benz) merged with Chrysler. The following year, it was decided to retire Plymouth, which had been on a long decline since the 1970s. Ford continued to fare well in the 1990s, with the second and third generations of the Ford Taurus being named the best-selling car in the United States from 1992 to 1996. However, the Taurus would be outsold and dethroned by the Toyota Camry starting in 1997, which became the best-selling car in the United States for the rest of the decade and into the 2000s. Ford also introduced the Ford Explorer, with the first model being sold in 1991. Ford's Explorer became the best-selling SUV on the market, outselling both the Chevy Blazer and Jeep Cherokee.

Japanese cars continued to be highly successful during the decade. The Honda Accord vied with the Taurus most years for being the best-selling car in the United States during the early decade. Although launched in 1989, the luxury brands Lexus and Infiniti began car sales of 1990 model year vehicles and saw great success. Lexus would go on to outsell Mercedes-Benz and BMW in the United States by 1991 and outsell Cadillac and Lincoln by the end of the decade. SUVs and trucks became hugely popular during the economic boom in the decade's second half. Many manufacturers that had never built a truck before started selling SUVs. Fabrication during the 1990s became gradually rounder and ovoid, the Ford Taurus and Mercury Sable being some of the more extreme examples. Safety features such as airbags and shoulder belts became mandatory equipment on new cars.


Dolly the sheep is the first mammal to be cloned from an adult somatic cell.
Hubble Space Telescope.


The 1990s represented continuing social liberalization in most countries, coupled with an increase in the influence of capitalism, which would continue until the Great Recession of the late 2000s/early 2010s.

  • Youth culture in the 1990s responded to this by embracing both environmentalism and entrepreneurship. Fashion of the Western world reflected this by often turning highly individualistic and/or counter-cultural, which was influenced by Generation X and early millennials: tattoos and body piercings gained popularity, and "retro" styles, inspired by fashions of the 1960s and 1970s, were also prevalent. Some young people became increasingly involved in extreme sports and outdoor activities that combined embracing athletics with the appreciation of nature.
  • In 1990 the World Health Organization removed homosexuality from its list of diseases.[54] Increasing acceptance of openly homosexual people occurred in the western world, slowly starting in the early 1990s,[55] Biphobia towards bisexual men became somewhat fashionable amongst heterosexual women and gay men, while lesbians and bisexual women complained of being commodified by publishing and film industries to cater to heterosexual men.
  • Following the murder of actress Rebecca Schaeffer by a stalker, America's first anti-stalking laws, including California Penal Code 646.9 were passed in 1990. California also passed the first cyberstalking law in 1999 (§646.9 of the California Penal Code).
  • Transdisciplinarity in academia. The 1st World Congress of Transdisciplinarity, Convento da Arrabida, was in Portugal, November 1994.
  • Child abduction warnings on emergency broadcasting systems, such as Amber Alerts became standard in such cases.
  • Midlife crisis is a major concern in domestic violence, social implications and suicides for middle-aged adults in the 1990s.
  • Aggressive marketing tactics for psychoactive drugs and used to treat ADHD, inappropriate prescribing by doctors.


At the beginning of the decade, sustainable development and environmental protection became serious issues for governments and the international community. In 1987, the publication of the Brundtland Report by the United Nations paved the way to establish an environmental governance. In 1992, the Earth Summit was held in Rio de Janeiro, in which several countries committed to protect the environment, signing a Convention on Biological Diversity.

The prevention of the destruction of the tropical rainforests of the world is a major environmental cause that first came into wide public concern in the early 1990s and has continued and accelerated in its prominence.

The Chernobyl disaster had significant impact on public opinion at the end of the 1980s, and the fallout was still causing cancer deaths well into the 1990s and possibly even into the 21st century.[56] Well into the 1990s, several environmental NGOs helped improve environmental awareness among public opinion and governments. The most famous of these organizations during this decade was Greenpeace, which did not hesitate to lead illegal actions in the name of environmental preservation. These organizations also drew attention to the large deforestation of the Amazon rainforest during the period.

Global warming as an aspect of climate change also became a major concern, and the creation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) after the Earth Summit helped coordinate efforts to reduce carbon emissions in the atmosphere. From 1995, the UNFCCC held annual summits on climate change, leading to the adoption of the Kyoto Protocol in December 1997, a binding agreement signed by several developed countries.[57]

The 1989 EPA total ban on asbestos was overturned in 1991.[58]

In 1996, (Anderson, et al. v. Pacific Gas & Electric, file BCV 00300) alleged contamination of drinking water with hexavalent chromium and the case was settled for (US) $333 million, a new record for a direct-action lawsuit.

Third-wave feminism[edit]

Women's rights demonstration in Paris, November 1995

Baby boomers[edit]

Marketing campaigns aimed at young adults in wealthy English Speaking Countries were informed by unscientific theories about selling to so-called Generation X and Baby boomers. Few people embraced the labels Generation X and Baby Boomer as self-descriptors. Films with characters depicting the Generation X stereotype included Slacker, The Brady Bunch Movie and Austin Powers.

Substance abuse[edit]

  • In Western countries, Fashion and Music magazines embrace heroin chic.
  • Peak in numbers of heroin overdose deaths.
  • An estimated fifty percent of deaths of 15-54 in post-Soviet Russia are blamed on alcohol abuse.[59]
  • More restrictions on tobacco advertising in some countries.

Slavery and human trafficking[edit]

See: History of slavery, Global Slavery Index, Slavery in contemporary Africa, Slavery in Asia, Debt bondage in India, Child labour in Pakistan, Sex trafficking in China, Nike sweatshops

  • Pakistan

Pakistan's government passed laws to end caste based slavery: - 1992 Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act. - 1995 Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Rules.

Civil rights[edit]

  • Saudi Arabia: Women to drive movement. 6 November 1990, 47 Saudi women in Riyadh protested Saudi government's ban on women drivers.
  • United States: 1992 Rosa Parks: My Story, the autobiography of Rosa Parks is published.

Additional significant events[edit]

  • Worldwide New Year's Eve celebrations on December 31, 1999, welcoming the year 2000.


  • 1991 – January Events (Lithuania) – Soviet Union military troops attack Lithuanian independence supporters in Vilnius, killing 14 people and wounding 1000.
  • In Paris, Diana, Princess of Wales and her friend, Dodi Al-Fayed, were killed in a car accident in August 1997, when their chauffeured, hired Mercedes-Benz S-Class crashed in the Pont de l'Alma tunnel. The chauffeur, Henri Paul, died at the scene, as did Al-Fayed. Diana and an Al-Fayed bodyguard, Trevor Rees-Jones, survived the accident. The Princess of Wales died at a Paris hospital hours later. The bodyguard, Rees-Jones, is the sole survivor of the now infamous accident.[60]
  • Mother Teresa, the Roman Catholic nun who won the Nobel Peace Prize, dies at age 87.[61]
  • The birth of the "Second Republic" in Italy, with the Mani Pulite investigations of 1994.
  • The Channel Tunnel across the English Channel opens in 1994, connecting France and England. As of 2022 it is the third-longest rail tunnel in the world, but with the undersea section of 37.9 km (23.5 mi) being the longest undersea tunnel in the world.
  • The resignation of President Boris Yeltsin on 31 December 1999 resulted in Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's succession to the position.

North America

  • Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold kill 13 people and then themselves during the Columbine High School shooting in April 1999, which would inspire a number of future school shooters to commit similar offenses.
  • O. J. Simpson murder caseO. J. Simpson's trial, described in the American media as the "trial of the century", proceeds for nearly a year under intense media publicity. A majority of the trial was broadcast nightly during prime time television. On October 3, 1995, Simpson was found not guilty of the double-murder of ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend, Ronald Goldman.
  • With help from clinical fertility drugs, an Iowa mother, Bobbie McCaughey, gave birth to the first surviving septuplets in 1997. There followed a media frenzy and widespread support for the family.
  • John F. Kennedy Jr., his wife Carolyn Bessette and sister-in-law Lauren Bessette are killed when Kennedy's private plane crashes off the coast of Martha's Vineyard in July 1999.
  • Debate on assisted suicide, highly publicized by Michigan doctor Jack Kevorkian, surfaces when Kevorkian is charged with multiple counts of homicide of his terminally ill patients through the decade.
  • Beer keg registration becomes a popular public policy in the United States.
  • The 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus' purported discovery of the Americas in 1992 was popularly observed in the United States, despite controversy and protests against the victimization of Native Americans by Columbus' expeditions. The holiday was labeled by some as racist, in view of Native American experiences of colonialism, slavery, genocide, and cultural destruction.
  • Matthew Shepard is murdered near the University of Wyoming, purportedly for being gay. This sparks intense national and international media attention and outrage. Shepard becomes a major symbol in the LGBT rights movement and the fight against homophobia. Claims of crystal methamphetamine related "meth rage" as a contributing factor in the crime surfaced in 2013.[62]
  • Shanda Sharer was murdered on January 11, 1992. She was lured away from her house and held captive by a group of teenage girls. She was tortured for hours and burned alive. She died from smoke inhalation. Those found guilty and sentenced to prison were Melinda Loveless, Laurie Tackett, Hope Rippey, and Toni Lawrence. According to Loveless, she was jealous of her former partner Amanda Heavrin's relationship with Sharer Sharer.[citation needed]
  • Karla Homolka was arrested with her husband, Paul Bernardo, in 1993. Both sexually tortured and killed their victims. Their first victim was Karla's 15-year-old sister, Tammy Homolka. The second and third victims were Leslie Mahaffy and Kristen French. Karla told the investigators that she reluctantly did what Paul told her to do because he was abusive, and was given a plea deal. She was sentenced to 12 years in prison (10 years for Mahaffy and French, and two years for Tammy). Later, investigators discovered the crime videotapes, proving that Karla was a willing participant. But by that time the deal had already been made. In 1995, Paul was sentenced to life in prison. Karla was released from prison in 2005.
  • Polly Klaas (January 3, 1981 – October 1993) was kidnapped by Richard Allen Davis from her home during a slumber party. She was later strangled to death. After her death, her father, Marc Klaas, established the KlaasKids Foundation.
  • Jonbenet Ramsey (August 6, 1990 – December 25, 1996) was a child beauty pageant contestant who was missing and found dead in her Boulder, Colorado, home. The crime terrified the nation and the world. Her parents were initially considered to be suspects in her death but were cleared in 2003 when DNA from her clothes was tested. To this day, her murderer has not been found and brought to justice.
  • Lorena Bobbitt was charged with malicious wounding for severing her husband John Bobbitt's penis after she was repeatedly sexually assaulted by Bobbitt, for which he was charged. Both parties were acquitted of their respective crimes. The story was notable because of the use of Microsurgery to re-attach the man's penis.
  • Wanda Holloway was convicted of solicitation of capital murder when she attempted to hire a hitman to kill the mother of her daughter's junior high school cheerleading rival.
  • American singer-songwriter, guitarist, and actor John Denver died in a plane crash in Monterey Bay near Pacific Grove on October 12, 1997.
  • Scandal rocked the sport of figure skating when skater Nancy Kerrigan was attacked during practice by an assailant hired by Jeff Gillooly, former husband of skater Tonya Harding. The attack was carried out in an attempt to injure Kerrigan's leg to the point of her being unable to compete in the upcoming 1994 Winter Olympics, thereby securing Harding a better spot to win a gold medal.
  • 1992 Los Angeles riots – resulted in 53 deaths and 5,500 property fires in a 100-square-mile (260 km2) riot zone. The riots were a result of the state court acquittal of three white and one Hispanic L.A. police officer by an all-white jury in a police brutality case involving motorist Rodney King. In 1993, all four officers were convicted in a federal civil rights case.


  • Massive immigration wave of Jews from the Commonwealth of Independent States to Israel – With the end of the Soviet Union, Israel faced a mass influx of Russian Jews, many of whom had high expectations the country was unable to meet. Israel also came under an Iraqi missile attack during the Gulf War but acquiesced to US pressure not to retaliate militarily, which could have disrupted the US-Arab alliance. The US and Netherlands then rushed anti-missile batteries to Israel to defend the country against missile attacks.
  • The Spratly Islands issue became one of the most controversial islands in Southeast Asia.
  • The closing Mass of the X World Youth Day 1995 was held in Rizal Park on 15 January 1995, attended by more than 5 million people. This is the record gathering of the Roman Catholic Church.
  • The Philippines celebrates the 100th anniversary of Philippine Independence in 1998 with its theme: "Kalayaan: Kayamanan ng Bayan."

Popular culture[edit]


Live-action films

The highest-grossing film of the decade was James Cameron's Titanic (1997), which remains one of the highest-grossing films of all time.[63]

Dogme 95 became an important European artistic motion picture movement by the decade's end. Also in 1998, Titanic (released in late 1997) became the highest-grossing film of all time, grossing over $1.8 billion worldwide. It would hold this record for over a decade until 2010 when director James Cameron's Avatar (released in December 2009), took the title.[64]

Crime films were also extremely popular during the 1990s and garnered several awards throughout the decade, such as Wild at Heart, Goodfellas, Pulp Fiction, Fargo, L.A. Confidential, Heat, The Godfather Part III, Seven, Trainspotting, A Simple Plan, and many others.

Live-action films featuring computer-animated characters became popular, with films such as Casper, James and the Giant Peach, 101 Dalmatians, Men in Black, Small Soldiers and Stuart Little proving financially successful. Live-action/traditional cel animated film featuring traditional characters like Cool World, The Pagemaster and Space Jam were prevalent as well.

Animated films

In 1994, former Disney employee Jeffrey Katzenberg founded DreamWorks SKG, which would produce its first two animated films: The Prince of Egypt and Antz which were both aimed more at adults than children and were both critically and commercially successful. Toy Story, the first full-length CGI movie, made by Pixar, was released in 1995 and revolutionized animated films. In 1998, with the release of DreamWorks's Antz and Pixar's A Bug's Life, the rivalry between DreamWorks and Pixar began between the studios due to the similarities between both films.

Meanwhile, films by Pixar's parent company, Disney became popular once more when the studio returned to making family-oriented animated musical films. Disney Animation was navigating the "Disney Renaissance", through both animated theatrical films and animated television series on the Disney Channel (owned by Walt Disney Television). The "Disney Renaissance" began with The Little Mermaid in 1989 and ended with Tarzan in 1999. Films of this era include Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Nightmare Before Christmas, The Lion King, Pocahontas, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Hercules, and Mulan.

Japanese anime films remained popular throughout the 1990s with the release of Studio Ghibli films such as Only Yesterday, Porco Rosso, Pom Poko, Whisper of the Heart, Princess Mononoke (which became the highest-grossing anime film at the time) and My Neighbors the Yamadas. Other significant anime films which gained cult status include Roujin Z, Ramayana: The Legend of Prince Rama, Patlabor 2: The Movie, Ninja Scroll, Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie, Ghost in the Shell, Memories, The End of Evangelion, Perfect Blue, Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade, and the Pokémon film series, which started with Pokémon: The First Movie.

Other significant animated films have also gained cult status, such as The Jetsons Movie, The Princess and the Goblin, Happily Ever After, An American Tail: Fievel Goes West, Ferngully: The Last Rainforest, Tom and Jerry: The Movie, The Thief and the Cobbler, Once Upon a Forest, We're Back! A Dinosaur's Story, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, Felidae, The Swan Princess, A Goofy Movie, Balto, Beavis and Butt-Head Do America, Cats Don't Dance, Anastasia, Quest for Camelot, The Rugrats Movie, Kirikou and the Sorceress, The King and I, South Park: Bigger, Longer, Uncut and The Iron Giant. Family-centric animated feature films began to gain popularity through the late-1990s (1997, 1998, and 1999). Don Bluth's animation studio released a number of underperforming family animated films such as Rock-a-Doodle, Thumbelina and The Pebble and the Penguin and closed down in 1995.

In India,Shah Rukh Khan got rise in his stardom by Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge,Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and Dil To Pagal Hai.

Award winners[edit]

Award 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999
Academy Award for Best Picture winners Dances with Wolves[65] The Silence of the Lambs[66] Unforgiven[67] Schindler's List[68] Forrest Gump[69] Braveheart[70] The English Patient[71] Titanic[72] Shakespeare in Love[73] American Beauty[74]
Palme d'Or winners at the Cannes Film Festival Wild at Heart[75] Barton Fink[76] The Best Intentions[77] Farewell My Concubine and The Piano[78] Pulp Fiction[79] Underground[80] Secrets & Lies[81] Taste of Cherry and The Eel[82] Eternity and a Day[83] Rosetta[84]
César Award for Best Film winners Cyrano de Bergerac Tous les matin du monde Savage Nights Smoking/No Smoking Wild Reeds La haine Ridicule Same Old Song The Dreamlife of Angels Venus Beauty Institute
Golden Lion winners at the Venice Film Festival Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead Close to Eden The Story of Qiu Ju Short Cuts and Three Colours: Blue Vive L'Amour and Before the Rain Cyclo Michael Collins Fireworks The Way We Laughed Not One Less


The 25 highest-grossing films of the decade are:[85]

Films by worldwide box office
No. Title Year Box office
1 Titanic 1997 $1,850,197,130
2 Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace 1999 $924,305,084
3 Jurassic Park 1993 $912,667,947
4 Independence Day 1996 $817,400,891
5 The Lion King 1994 $763,455,561
6 Forrest Gump 1994 $677,387,716
7 The Sixth Sense 1999 $672,806,292
8 The Lost World: Jurassic Park 1997 $618,638,999
9 Men in Black 1997 $589,390,539
10 Armageddon 1998 $553,709,788
11 Terminator 2: Judgment Day 1991 $516,950,043
12 Ghost 1990 $505,702,588
13 Aladdin 1992 $504,050,219
14 Twister 1996 $494,471,524
15 Toy Story 2 1999 $487,059,677
16 Saving Private Ryan 1998 $481,840,909
17 Home Alone 1990 $476,684,675
18 The Matrix 1999 $463,517,383
19 Pretty Woman 1990 $463,406,268
20 Mission: Impossible 1996 $457,696,391
21 Tarzan 1999 $448,191,819
22 Mrs. Doubtfire 1993 $441,286,195
23 Dances with Wolves 1990 $424,208,848
24 The Mummy 1999 $415,933,406
25 The Bodyguard 1992 $410,945,720


Music artists and genres

Whitney Houston (left), Celine Dion (center) and Mariah Carey (right) were three of the highest-selling and popular female musical artists of the decade.

Music marketing became more segmented in the 1990s, as MTV gradually shifted away from music videos and radio splintered into narrower formats aimed at various niches.[86][87][88][89] However, the 1990s are perhaps best known for grunge, gangsta rap, R&B, teen pop; Eurodance, electronic dance music, the renewed popularity of punk rock from the band Green Day and their 1994 album Dookie (which would also help create a new genre pop punk), and for the entrance of alternative rock into the mainstream. U2 was one of the most popular 1990s bands; their groundbreaking Zoo TV and PopMart tours were the top-selling tours of 1992 and 1997, respectively. Glam metal died out in the music mainstream by 1991.[90] Grunge became popular in the early 1990s due to the success of Nirvana's Nevermind, Pearl Jam's Ten, Alice in Chain's Dirt, Soundgarden's Badmotorfinger and Stone Temple Pilot's Core.[91] Pop punk also becomes popular with such artists as Green Day, Blink-182, Weezer, Social Distortion, The Offspring, Bad Religion, NOFX and Rancid.[92] Other successful alternative acts included Red Hot Chili Peppers, R.E.M., Nickelback, Creed, Radiohead, Gin Blossoms, Soul Asylum, Third Eye Blind, Faith No More, The Smashing Pumpkins, Live, Everclear, Bush, Screaming Trees and Ween.[93]

Graffiti murals of Tupac Shakur (left) and The Notorious B.I.G. (right), two significant cultural figures throughout the 1990s who helped popularize the genre of gangsta rap.

Rappers Salt-n-Pepa continued to have hit songs until 1994. Dr. Dre's 1992 album The Chronic provided a template for modern gangsta rap, and gave rise to other emerging artists of the genre, including Snoop Dogg.[94] Due to the success of Death Row Records and Tupac Shakur, West Coast gangsta rap commercially dominated hip hop during the early-to-mid 1990s, along with Bad Boy Records and the Notorious B.I.G. on the East Coast.[95] Hip hop became the best-selling music genre by the mid-1990s.[96][97]

1994 became a breakthrough year for punk rock in California, with the success of bands like Bad Religion, Social Distortion, Blink-182, Green Day, the Offspring, Rancid and similar groups following. This success would continue to grow over the next decade. The 1990s also became the most important decade for ska punk/reggae rock, with the success of many bands like Smash Mouth, Buck-O-Nine, Goldfinger, Less Than Jake, the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Murphy's Law, No Doubt, Reel Big Fish, Save Ferris, Sublime and Sugar Ray.

The rave movement that emerged in the late 1980s continued to grow in popularity. This movement spawned genres such as Intelligent dance music and Drum and bass. The latter is an offshoot of jungle techno and breakbeat. Popular artists included Moby, Fatboy Slim, Björk, Aphex Twin, Orbital, the Orb, the Chemical Brothers, Basement Jaxx, Todd Terry, 808 State, Primal Scream, the Shamen, the KLF and the Prodigy.

The rise of industrial music, somewhat a fusion of synthpop and heavy metal, rose to worldwide popularity with bands like Godflesh, Nine Inch Nails, Rammstein, Ministry and Marilyn Manson. Groove metal was born through the efforts of Pantera, whose seventh studio album Far Beyond Driven (1994) was notable for going number one on Billboard 200. Another heavy metal subgenre called nu metal, which mixed metal with hip hop influences, became popular with bands like Korn, Slipknot and Limp Bizkit selling millions of albums worldwide. Metallica's 1991 eponymous album Metallica is the best-selling album of the SoundScan era, while extreme metal acts such as Death, Mayhem, Darkthrone, Emperor, Cannibal Corpse and others experienced popularity throughout the decade.

Country music[edit]

In the 1990s, country music became a worldwide phenomenon thanks to Billy Ray Cyrus, Shania Twain and Garth Brooks.[98][99][100] The latter enjoyed one of the most successful careers in popular music history, breaking records for both sales and concert attendance throughout the decade. The RIAA has certified his recordings at a combined (128× platinum), denoting roughly 113 million United States shipments.[101]

Other artists that experienced success during this time included Clint Black, Sammy Kershaw, Aaron Tippin, Travis Tritt, Suzy Bogguss, Alan Jackson, Lorrie Morgan and the newly formed duo of Brooks & Dunn. George Strait, whose career began in the 1980s, also continued to have widespread success in this decade and beyond. Female artists such as Reba McEntire, Faith Hill, Martina McBride, Deana Carter, LeAnn Rimes and Mary Chapin Carpenter all released platinum-selling albums in the 1990s. Rimes, a teenager at the time, spawned a "teen movement" in country music; with fellow teen artists Lila McCann, Jessica Andrews, Billy Gillman, and others following suit; a feat that hasn't been duplicated since Tanya Tucker and Marie Osmond in the early 1970s. The Dixie Chicks became one of the most popular country bands in the 1990s and early 2000s. Their 1998 debut album Wide Open Spaces went on to become certified 12× platinum, while their 1999 album Fly went on to become 10× platinum.

Music from around the world

Blur (left) and Oasis (right) became some of the most internationally popular Britpop bands of the decade.

In the United Kingdom, the alternative rock Britpop genre emerged as part of the more general Cool Britannia culture, with Oasis, Blur, Pulp, Suede, Supergrass, Elastica, the Verve, Ash, Ocean Colour Scene and Kula Shaker serving as popular examples of this emergence. The impact of boy band pop sensation Take That lead to the formation of other boy bands in the UK and Ireland, such as East 17 and Boyzone. Female pop icons Spice Girls took the world by storm, becoming the most commercially successful British group since the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin.[102][103] Also, R&B artists Des'Ree, Mark Morrison and Sade became quite popular during this decade. Their global success brought about a widespread scene of teen pop acts around the world[104][105] such as All Saints, Backstreet Boys, Hanson, NSYNC, Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera who came to prominence into the new millennium.[106] 1991 also saw the death of Queen frontman Freddie Mercury from AIDS-related pneumonia. Many musicians from Canada, such as Celine Dion, Maestro Fresh Wes, Snow, Barenaked Ladies, Shania Twain, Len, Sarah McLachlan, and Alanis Morissette became known worldwide.

In Japan, the J-pop genre emerged as part of the more general Heisei Power cultural movement, with B'z, Mr. Children, Southern All Stars, Yumi Matsutoya, Dreams Come True, Glay, Zard, Hikaru Utada, Namie Amuro, SMAP, Chage and Aska, L'Arc-en-Ciel, Masaharu Fukuyama, Globe, Tube, Kome Kome Club, Maki Ohguro, Tatsuro Yamashita, TRF, Speed, Wands, and Field of View became more popular for Japanese youth audiences during the Lost Decades.

Contemporary quiet storm and R&B continued to be quite popular among adult audiences originating from African-American communities, which began during the 1980s. Popular African-American contemporary R&B artists included Mariah Carey, D'Angelo, Lauryn Hill, Whitney Houston, Brandy, En Vogue, TLC, Destiny's Child, Toni Braxton, Boyz II Men, Dru Hill, Vanessa Williams and Janet Jackson.

The Tibetan Freedom Concert, organized by Beastie Boys and the Milarepa Fund, brought 120,000 people together in the interest of increased human rights and autonomy for Tibet from China.


Blink-182 performing in 1995, whose 1999 album Enema of The State became a pivotal moment for contemporary pop punk

Controversy surrounded the Prodigy with the release of the track "Smack My Bitch Up". The National Organization for Women (NOW) claimed that the track was "advocating violence against women" due to the song's lyrics, which are themselves sampled from Ultramagnetic MCss' Give the Drummer Some. The music video (directed by Jonas Åkerlund) featured a first-person POV of someone going clubbing, indulging in drugs and alcohol, getting into fist fights, abusing women and picking up a prostitute. At the end of the video, the camera pans over to a mirror, revealing the subject to be a woman.

Deaths of artists

Freddie Mercury, Kurt Cobain, Selena, Eazy-E, Tupac Shakur and the Notorious B.I.G. were the most publicized music-related deaths of the decade, in 1991, 1994, 1995, 1996, and 1997 respectively. Richey Edwards of Manic Street Preachers was publicized in the media in 1991 following an incident involving Steve Lamacq backstage after a live show, in which Edwards carved '4 Real' into his arm. Edwards' disappearance in 1995 was highly publicized. He is still missing but was presumed dead in 2008.


Comedies and sitcoms

Seinfeld, which premiered on NBC in 1989, became a commercial success and cultural phenomenon by 1993.

TV shows, mostly sitcoms, were popular with American audiences. Series such as Roseanne, Coach, Empty Nest, Mr. Belvedere, 227, Cheers, The Cosby Show, Growing Pains, Night Court, The Hogan Family, Murphy Brown, Full House, The Wonder Years, A Different World, Amen, ALF, Perfect Strangers, Married... with Children, Family Matters, Charles in Charge, Saved by the Bell, My Two Dads, Major Dad, Newhart, Dear John, Designing Women, The Golden Girls, Who's the Boss?, Head of the Class, and Seinfeld, which premiered in the eighties, and Frasier, a spin-off of the 1980s hit Cheers were viewed throughout the 1990s.

These sitcoms, along with Friends, That '70s Show, Ellen, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Nurses, Living Single, Step by Step, NewsRadio, Blossom, The King of Queens, Fired Up, Jesse, Parker Lewis Can't Lose, For Your Love, The Steve Harvey Show, The Larry Sanders Show, Sex and the City, Arliss, Dream On, Grace Under Fire, Mad About You, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, The Naked Truth, The Jeff Foxworthy Show, The Jamie Foxx Show, Smart Guy, The Wayans Bros., Malcolm & Eddie, Clueless, Moesha, The Parent 'Hood, Unhappily Ever After, Roc, Martin, Hangin' with Mr. Cooper, In Living Color, Sister, Sister, Boy Meets World, Ned and Stacey, Becker, Veronica's Closet, Two Guys and a Girl, The Drew Carey Show, Wings, The John Larroquette Show, Caroline in the City, Sports Night, Home Improvement, Will & Grace, Evening Shade, Cosby, Spin City, The Nanny, 3rd Rock from the Sun, Suddenly Susan, Cybill, Just Shoot Me!, Everybody Loves Raymond, and Dharma and Greg from the 90s turned TV in new directions and defined the humor of the decade.

Furthermore, Saturday Night Live experienced a new era of success during the 1990s, launching the careers of popular comedians and actors such as Chris Farley, Dana Carvey, Phil Hartman, Adam Sandler, Will Ferrell, Molly Shannon, Mike Myers, Chris Rock, Norm McDonald, David Spade, Cheri Oteri and others.

Friends, which premiered on NBC in 1994 became one of the most popular sitcoms of all time. From left, clockwise: Lisa Kudrow, Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Matthew Perry, Matt LeBlanc, and David Schwimmer, the six main actors of Friends.

Drama shows

1993 saw the debut of the medicalmystery drama, Diagnosis Murder, a comeback vehicle for Dick Van Dyke, who guest-starred on an episode of its sequel, Jake and The Fatman, where the show got off to a rocky start and became one of television's long-running mysteries, that lasted until its cancellation in 2001.

Medical dramas started to come into television in the 1990s. In 1994, ER, which originally starred Anthony Edwards, Noah Wyle and George Clooney, was a domestic and international success, lasting until 2009 and spawned similar series such as Grey's Anatomy (2005–present). It made NBC the most-watched channel in the United States. This show launched the career of George Clooney. That same year, Chicago Hope, that starred Héctor Elizondo, Mandy Patinkin and Adam Arkin, was also a popular series for CBS, lasting between 1994 and 2000.

Crime drama and police detective shows returned to the spotlight after soap operas died down. After the successful debuts of Law & Order, NYPD Blue, Homicide: Life on the Street, Fox debuted New York Undercover, which starred Malik Yoba and Micheal DeLorenzo, is notable for featuring two people of color in the main roles. Nash Bridges, a comeback vehicle for Don Johnson, lasting six seasons (1996–2001), dealt with escapist entertainment instead of tackling social issues.[107]

Beverly Hills, 90210 ran on Fox from 1990 to 2000. It established the teen soap genre, paving the way for Dawson's Creek, Felicity, Party of Five, and other shows airing later in the decade. The show was then remade and renamed simply 90210 and premiered in 2008. Beverly Hills, 90210, and its spin-off Melrose Place also became a popular TV show throughout the 1990s. Baywatch became the most-watched TV show in history[citation needed] and influenced pop culture.

Sex and the City's portrayal of relationships and sexuality caused controversy and acclaim, leading to a new generation of sexually progressive television shows in the 2000s.

Other television shows and genres

Fantasy and science fiction shows were popular on television, with NBC airing SeaQuest DSV beginning in 1993, which made Jonathan Brandis a popular teen idol, but was cancelled after three seasons. The 1990s saw a multitude of Star Trek content: in 1993, following the success of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Paramount released the follow-up shows Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1993–1999) and Star Trek: Voyager (1995–2001). Touched By an Angel, broadcast by CBS in 1994, was intended as the comeback vehicle of Della Reese, and also launched the career of Roma Downey. It wasn't an immediate success and was cancelled, but was revived the following year due to a fan letter-writing campaign, and ran for eight more seasons. At the end of the decade, the fantasy drama series Charmed gained a cult following and helped popularize the WB.

In 1993, one of the last westerns to air on television was Walker, Texas Ranger, a crime drama starring Chuck Norris as the title character. Running for nine seasons, the show tackled a wide variety of subjects and was one of few shows to feature an actor performing karate stunts at that time.

Reality television was not an entirely new concept (An American Family aired on PBS in 1973) but proliferated for Generation X audiences with titles such as Judge Judy, Eco-Challenge, and Cops.

The 1990s saw the debut of live-action children's programs such as the educational Bill Nye the Science Guy and Blue's Clues as well as the superhero show Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, the latter becoming a pop culture phenomenon along with a line of action figures and other toys by Japanese toy manufacturer Bandai. This can also be said for the British pre-school series Teletubbies, which was a massive hit loved by very young children. It also saw long time running shows such as Barney & Friends and the continuation of Seasme Street, both of which would continue in the following decades and so.

During the mid-1990s, two of the biggest professional wrestling companies: World Championship Wrestling and World Wrestling Federation were in a ratings battle that was called the Monday Night Wars (1995–2001). Each company fought to draw more viewers to their respective Monday night wrestling show. The "War" ended in 2001 when WWE bought WCW. In November 2001, there was a Winner Takes All match with both companies in a Pay-Per-View called Survivor Series. WWF won the match, putting an end to WCW.

The late 1990s also saw the evolution of a new TV genre: primetime game shows, popularized by the game show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, hosted originally by Chris Tarrant on ITV and Regis Philbin on ABC, as well as other first-run game shows aired in prime time on the newly launched Game Show Network.

Animated shows

An animated sitcom, The Simpsons, premiered on Fox in December 1989 and became a domestic and international success in the 1990s. The show has since aired more than 600 episodes and has become an institution of pop culture. In addition, it has spawned the adult-oriented animated sitcom genre, inspiring more adult-oriented animated shows such as Beavis and Butt-Head (1993–1997), Daria (1997–2001), along with South Park and Family Guy, the latter two of which began in 1997 and 1999, respectively, and continue to air new episodes through the 2000s and into the 2020s.

Cartoons produced in the 1990s are sometimes referred to as the "Renaissance Age of Animation" for cartoons in general, particularly for American animated children's programs. Disney Channel, Nickelodeon (owned by Viacom, now Paramount Global) and Cartoon Network (owned by Warner Bros. Discovery) would dominate the animated television industry. These three channels are considered the "Big Three", of children's entertainment, even today, but especially during the 1990s.

Other channels such as Warner Bros. Animation would create shows like Tiny Toon Adventures, Animaniacs, and the start of the DC Animated Universe with shows such as Batman: The Animated Series, and Superman: The Animated Series, as well as syndicated shows like Phantom 2040. Nickelodeon's first three animated series (Doug, Rugrats, The Ren & Stimpy Show) all premiered in 1991 along with shows such as Hey Arnold!, CatDog, The Wild Thornberrys, and in 1999 saw the debut of Nickelodeon's well known animated comedy series SpongeBob SquarePants. Cartoon Network would create shows like Dexter's Laboratory, The Powerpuff Girls, Ed, Edd n Eddy, Johnny Bravo, and Courage the Cowardly Dog. Disney Channel would made shows like Recess, Pepper Ann, Darkwing Duck, TaleSpin, and Gargoyles.

Japanese anime was popular in the 1980s and expanded to a worldwide audience by the 1990s for its expansive spectrum of story subjects and themes not limited to comedy and superhero action found in the US. It featured well-produced, well-written, visual, and story content that came to showcase animation's potential for emotional and intellectual depth and integrity on par with live action media to its viewers. Anime expanded to older and adult audiences in the medium of animation. Anime shows such as Sailor Moon, Digimon, Pokémon, Tenchi Muyo!, Berserk, Trigun, Cowboy Bebop, Gundam Wing, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Ranma ½, Yu Yu Hakusho, Slayers, Rurouni Kenshin, Initial D, Gunsmith Cats, Slam Dunk, Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water, Outlaw Star, to anime movies such as Akira, Vampire Hunter D, My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke, Castle in the Sky, The Castle of Cagliostro, and imports by various distributors such as Viz, AnimEigo, Central Park Media, A.D. Vision, Pioneer Entertainment, Media Blasters, Manga Entertainment, and Celebrity, helped begin the mid to late 1990s and turn of the millennium introductory anime craze in the US, and the Cartoon Network anime programming block Toonami in 1997.

Fashion and body modification[edit]

Significant fashion trends of the 1990s include:

  • Earth and jewel tones, as well as an array of minimalist style and design influences, characterize the 1990s, a stark contrast to the camp and bombast seen in the brightly colored fashion and design trends of the 1980s.
  • The Rachel, Jennifer Aniston's hairstyle on the hit TV show Friends, became a cultural phenomenon, with millions of women copying it worldwide.
  • The Hi-top fade was trendy among African-Americans in the early 1990s.
  • The Curtained Haircut increased in popularity in fashion and culture among teenage boys and young men in the 1990s, mainly after it was popularized in the film Terminator 2: Judgment Day by the actor Edward Furlong.
  • The model 1300 Wonderbra style has a resurgence of popularity in Europe in 1992, which kicks off an international media sensation, the 1994 return of "The Wonderbra" brand, and a spike in the push-up, plunge bras around the world.
  • Additional fashion trends of the 1990s include the Tamagotchi, Rollerblades, Pogs and Dr. Martens shoes.
  • Bleached-blond hair became very popular in the late 1990s, as were men with short hair with the bangs "flipped up."
  • The 1990s also saw the return of the 1970s teenage female fashion with long, straight hair and denim hot pants.
  • Beverly Hills, 90210 sideburns also became popular in the early and mid-1990s.
  • Slap bracelets were a popular fad among children, preteens, and teenagers in the early 1990s and were available in a wide variety of patterns and colors. Also popular among children were light-up sneakers, jelly shoes, and shoelace hair clips.
  • The Grunge hype at the beginning of the decade popularized flannel shirts among both genders during the 1990s.
  • Heroin chic appeared sporadically across film, fashion models and grunge music, but gave way by end of the US recession and the emergence of internet "geek" culture (a sassy tech-literate style centered on web searching and drinking coffee).
  • Grunge- and hip-hop-inspired anti-fashion saw an expansion of the slouchy, casual styles of past decades, mostly seen in baggy and distressed jeans, cargo shorts and pants, baseball caps (often worn backward), chunky sneakers, oversized sweatshirts, and loose-fitting tees with grandiloquent graphics and logos.
  • Svelte fashion was also popular from the beginning of the 1990s and into the 2000s, as the new millennium began. The rivalry of sloppy grunge fashion versus more expensive clothing made for fitter bodies was a repeat of the rock versus disco rivalry of a decade ago. Nineties fashion became darker, slinkier, and more futuristic-looking clothing in the late 1990s, with Keanu Reeves in The Matrix as a style icon.
  • Tattoos and piercings became part of the mainstream aesthetic. American model Christy Turlington revealed her belly button piercing at a fashion show in London in 1993. In the late 1990s, some females got lower back tattoos and men opted for tribal style arm bands or back pieces.

Video games[edit]

Video game consoles

Video game consoles released in this decade include the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, Neo Geo, Atari Jaguar, 3DO, Sega Saturn, PlayStation, Nintendo 64 and Dreamcast. Portable video game consoles include the Game Gear, Atari Lynx and Game Boy Color. Super Mario World was the decade's best-selling home console video game, while Pokémon Red and Blue was the decade's best-selling portable video game; Super Mario 64 was the decade's best-selling fifth-generation video game, while Street Fighter II was the decade's highest-grossing arcade video game.

The console wars, primarily between Sega (Mega Drive, marketed as the Sega Genesis in North America, introduced in 1988) and Nintendo (Super NES, introduced in 1990), sees the entrance of Sony with the PlayStation in 1994, which becomes the first successful CD-based console (as opposed to cartridges). By the end of the decade, Sega's hold on the market becomes tenuous after the end of the Saturn in 1999 and the Dreamcast in 2002.

Arcade games rapidly decreased in popularity, mainly due to the dominance of handheld and home consoles.[108]

Video games

Mario as Nintendo's mascot finds a rival in Sega's Sonic the Hedgehog with the release of Sonic the Hedgehog on the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis in 1991. Sonic the Hedgehog would go on to become one of the most successful video game franchises of the decade and of all time.

Notable video games of the 1990s include: Super Metroid, Metal Gear Solid, Super Mario World, Doom, Donkey Kong Country, Donkey Kong 64, Pokémon Red and Blue Versions, Pokémon Yellow Version, GoldenEye 007, Super Mario 64, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Gran Turismo, Mario Kart 64, Half-Life, Super Mario Kart, Radiant Silvergun, Rayman, Gunstar Heroes, Banjo-Kazooie, Soulcalibur, Star Fox series, Tomb Raider series, Final Fantasy, Sonic the Hedgehog series, Story of Seasons series, Tony Hawk's series, Crash Bandicoot series, Metal Slug series, Resident Evil series, Street Fighter II, Spyro the Dragon series, Commander Keen series, Test Drive series, Dance Dance Revolution series, Monkey Island series, Dune series, Mortal Kombat series, Warcraft series, Duke Nukem 3D, Tekken series, EarthBound, Fallout: A Post Nuclear Role Playing Game, and StarCraft.

Sony's PlayStation becomes the top-selling video game console and changes the standard media storage type from cartridges to compact discs (CDs) in home consoles. Crash Bandicoot is released on September 9, 1996, becoming one of the most successful platforming series for the Sony PlayStation. Spyro The Dragon, released on September 9, 1998, also became a successful platforming series. Tomb Raider's Lara Croft became a video game sex symbol, becoming one of the most recognizable figures in the entertainment industry throughout the late 1990s.

Pokémon enters the world scene with the release of the original Pokémon Red and Pokémon Green for Game Boy in Japan in 1996, later changed to Pokémon Red and Pokémon Blue for worldwide release in 1998. It soon becomes popular in the United States and Canada, creating the term Pokémonia, and is adapted into a popular anime series and trading card game, among other media forms.

Resident Evil is released in 1996 and Resident Evil 2. Both games became the most highly acclaimed survival-horror series on the PlayStation at the time it was released. It is credited with defining the survival horror genre and with returning zombies to popular culture, leading to a renewed interest in zombie films by the 2000s.

Video game genres

3D graphics become the standard by the decade's end. Although FPS games had long since seen the transition to full 3D, other genres began to copy this trend by the end of the decade. The most notable first shooter games in the 1990s are GoldenEye 007 and Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six.

The violent nature of fighting games like Capcom's Street Fighter II, Sega's Virtua Fighter, and Midway's Mortal Kombat prompted the video game industry to accept a game rating system. Hundreds of knockoffs are widely popular in the mid-to-late 1990s. Doom (1993) bursts onto the world scene, and instantly popularizes the FPS genre. Half-Life (1998) builds upon this, using gameplay without levels and an immersive first-person perspective. Half-Life became one of the most popular FPS games in history.

The real-time strategy (RTS) genre is introduced in 1992 with the release of Dune II. Warcraft: Orcs & Humans (1994) popularizing the genre, and Command & Conquer and Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness in 1995, setting up the first major real-time strategy competition and popularizing multiplayer capabilities in RTS games. StarCraft in 1998 becomes the second best-selling computer game of all time. It remains among the most popular multiplayer RTS games today, especially in South Korea.[citation needed] Homeworld in 1999 becomes the first successful 3D RTS game. The rise of the RTS genre is often credited with the fall of the turn-based strategy (TBS) genre, popularized with Civilization in 1991. Final Fantasy was introduced (in North America) in 1990 for the NES and remains among the most popular video game franchises, with many new titles to date and more in development, plus numerous spin-offs, sequels, films and related titles. Final Fantasy VII, released in 1997, especially popularized the series.

Massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) see their entrance with Ultima Online in 1997. However, they do not gain widespread popularity until EverQuest and Asheron's Call in 1999. MMORPGs become among the most popular video game genres until the 2010s.

The best-selling games of the 1990s are listed below (note that some sources disagree on particular years):


Prominent websites launched during the decade include IMDb (1993), eBay (1995), Amazon (1994), GeoCities (1994), Netscape (1994), Yahoo! (1995), AltaVista (1995), AIM (1997), ICQ (1996), Hotmail (1996), Google (1998), Napster (1999). The pioneering peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing internet service Napster, which launched in Fall 1999, was the first peer-to-peer software to become massively popular. While at the time it was possible to share files in other ways via the Internet (such as IRC and USENET), Napster was the first software to focus exclusively on sharing MP3 files for music. Napster was eventually forced to shut down in July 2001 after legal disputes over copyright infringement and digital piracy, though it would eventually be relaunched as a music streaming service in 2016.





Actors and directors[edit]




Musical trends of the 1990s decade are identifiable by its top selling pop songs as well as continuing the heyday for established genres such as gangsta rap, grunge, industrial rock and deep house. Alternative hip hop became visible at the start of the decade. The pulblic was sympathetic to independent music as a solution to the problem of payola in commercial radio stations.

See also[edit]


The following articles contain timelines that list the most prominent events of the decade:



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Further reading[edit]

  • Ash, Timothy Garton. History of the Present: Essays, Sketches, and Dispatches from Europe in the 1990s (2009) excerpts
  • Bender, Thomas. "'Venturesome and Cautious': American History in the 1990s." Journal of American History (1994): 992–1003. in JSTOR
  • Bentley, Nick, ed. British Fiction of the 1990s (Routledge, 2007).
  • Berman, Milton. The Nineties in America (2009).
  • Brügger, Niels, ed, Web25: Histories from the first 25 years of the World Wide Web (Peter Lang, 2017).
  • Cornia, Giovanni Andrea, Ralph van der Hoeven, and Thandika Mkandawire. Africa's recovery in the 1990s: from stagnation and adjustment to human development (St. Martin's Press, 1992)
  • Harrison, Thomas (2011). Music of the 1990s. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 9780313379437.
  • O'Neill, William. A Bubble in Time: America During the Interwar Years, 1989-2001 (2009) Excerpt, popular history
  • Parratt, Catriona M. "About Turns: Reflecting on Sport History in the 1990s." Sport History Review (1998) 29#1 pp: 4–17.
  • Rubin, Robert, and Jacob Weisberg. In an uncertain world: tough choices from Wall Street to Washington (2015), economic history.
  • Sierz, Aleks. Modern British Playwriting: The 1990s: Voices, Documents, New Interpretations (A&C Black, 2012)
  • Stiglitz, Joseph E. The roaring nineties: A new history of the world's most prosperous decade (Norton, 2004), economic history
  • Turner, Alwyn. A Classless Society: Britain in the 1990s Aurum Press (2013)
  • van der Hoeven, Arno. "Remembering the popular music of the 1990s: dance music and the cultural meanings of decade-based nostalgia." International Journal of heritage studies (2014) 20#3 pp: 316–330.
  • Yoda, Tomiko, and Harry Harootunian, eds. Japan After Japan: Social and Cultural Life from the Recessionary 1990s to the Present (2006)

External links[edit]