The 90s has been called the last great decade, and it’s no small wonder. The Cold War ended, the government ran a surplus, and more tech billionaires were being minted than ever before. Indeed, the rise of the Internet ushered in a revolutionary new era of communication, commerce, and entertainment. Nobody can blame a Gen X’er for having sappy, nostalgic feelings about their childhood. But warm fuzzy childhood memories do not necessarily equate to facts. To prove that the ’90s were better than any other decade, today’s list will look at how different life was – in all the best ways – back in the ’90s.
Here are 25 Reasons Why the ’90s Was the Best Decade.
In the 1990s, Americans were making more money and living better lives. Between 1990 and 1999, the average income of middle-class American households rose by 10%, according to the Pew Research Center. Since 2000, it has dropped by approximately nine percent. More people wanted to enter the job market in the 1990s than today, and the unemployment rate was lower. Adjusting for inflation, the average household in the 1990s earned around $56,895. Today, the average middle-class household earns only $51,939. Those figures speak for themselves.
Global What Now?
Sandwiched between communism and terrorism, the non-combative 1990s were also the final complete decade in which we were unaware of the true gravity of global warming. Not that we were in the dark: experts announced a near-consensus on greenhouse emissions and their impacts. We just thought it would take much longer before it became an issue.
During a decade of hope, ignorance was bliss, and time appeared to be on our side. Today, we know our time is running out.
The TV Shows
When discussing ’90s T.V., it’s hard not to think about the shows that raised us. They were funny, relatable, and upbeat. Our lack of options was remarkable, and we were all acquainted with the same shows as our classmates. Today, Hollywood is plagued by liberalism, and studio executives like to tell us what to think. Furthermore, everyone who has watched a Netflix Original in the previous five years can speak to how bad they are. They replaced credible working actors with desperate Influencers and now feature cringe-worthy, predictable scenes instead of good stories.
Today, entertainment remains an essential aspect of American households, just as it was in the ’90s. However, nowadays, a significant portion of it primarily serves as a platform for virtue signaling.
And, Sketch Comedies
The ’90s cast of Saturday Night Live included some of the most incredible comedy talents in the world, such as Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, Will Ferrell, Molly Shannon, and more. On Fox, Mad T.V. provided an alternative with its own hilarious sketches and memorable characters like Stuart and Miss Swan. In Living Color showcased the Wayans family’s brilliance and kickstarted the careers of Jamie Foxx and Jim Carrey. 90s kids truly had the best reasons to stay up late.
The prevalence of 90s nostalgia and the revival or remakes of so many films from that era can be attributed to its genius. It was a wonderful time when arthouse films and mainstream blockbusters shone together. The 1990s marked a transformative period that witnessed a resurgence of American independent movies and exciting blockbusters that didn’t rely on superheroes. It was a decade that provided ample opportunity for innovative and rebellious filmmakers to step out of the shadows and into the limelight. Aside from Quintin Tarantino, the decade saw debuts from Baz Luhrmann, Christopher Nolan, Guillermo del Toro, Sofia Coppola, Darren Aronofsky, and David Fincher, to name but a few. Just try to imagine what cinema without them would be like today.
The music industry in the ’90s undeniably showcased greatness across various genres, leaving a lasting impact. And it wasn’t limited to just one genre. For the pop-loving hearts, boy bands captured endless fascination. And for those seeking a bit of rock, Blink-182, and The Red Hot Chili Peppers provided the perfect rock-out numbers. We had real rappers who didn’t resort to Twitter beefs, such as Tupac and the Notorious B.I.G.
The charts were also dominated by talented women – artists like Christina Aguilera, Mariah Carey, and Celine Dion belted out powerful ballads and claimed their well-deserved place at the top. Oh yes, did we remember mentioning Grunge – Nirvana, Pearl Jam? Did we mention GRUNGE?
Hookup culture wasn't cool
Let’s talk about the ’90s purity culture, which you might have heard about if you grew up in church. Its initial goal was to promote sexual abstinence until marriage. Sadly, it mutated into something that caused much damage to developing teens’ sexual health. However, in the 90s, the concept of waiting until marriage became popular. Abstinence was taken seriously, even in sex education classes, and government-funded public service advertisements with compelling themes such as “Not me, not now” disrupted our MTV binges. Despite its flaws, purity culture led to zero chances of what we know today as hookup culture, sexual interactions that are equally dangerous, unhealthy, and risky.
Today, 90s fashion is making a comeback. Every fashion blogger, celebrity, and Tik Tok girl we secretly watch wears the statement pieces that were popular throughout the decade. And if you believe that the fashion statements of the 90s are a thing of the past, prepare to be thrilled by the fashion trends making a comeback on the catwalk. Hair clips with bling? Thank the 90s. Chokers? Thank the 90s. Baggy jeans? You guessed it, thank the 90s. The best thing about the statement pieces of the 90s is that they weren’t just really cool; they were also really comfortable.
The Decade of the S.U.V.
The Sports Utility Vehicle (S.U.V.) became many Americans’ favorite car during the 90s. Over three million S.U.V.s were sold in 1998 alone, making it the most popular vehicle type ever produced. S.U.V.s were made more comfortable to improve their popularity and suddenly included new and desirable features such as CD radio systems, power steering, cup holders, and leather seats. By 1998, over forty different models were available, including vehicles from Ford, Chevrolet, Nissan, GMC, Jeep, and Toyota. Mercedes-Benz and Lexus, among others, marketed luxury versions for the more discriminating driver.
Tiny Toys (that could kill you)
There are something distinctly ’90s about teeny tiny little toys. Everyone’s favorite choking danger was a Polly Pocket because — gasp! — you could really put them in your pockets (among other places). And who could resist the charm of Littlest Pet Shop creatures, with their large eyes and adorable kittens, birds, and turtles? Let’s not forget the thrilling adventures on slip’ n slides, the trendy slap bracelets, and the excitement of launching exploding water rockets. Those were the days. Just pure joy and endless daily staying-alive fun!
Supersized McDonalds Meals
“Would you like to supersize that?”
In 1992, McDonald’s released their famous supersize fries and drink – where your serving of fries could be upgraded to something that could replace a dinner on its own. In fact, we could order a giant soda so large that you’d still be drinking it when you came home from McDonald’s. Unfortunately, Morgan Spurlock’s controversial 2004 film “Supersize Me” held a mirror up to junk food-loving Americans and basically caused the collapse of all Supersize options as fast-food chains scrambled to create healthier menu options and maintain their images.
The Best Ads
Television commercials have always been among the most captivating forms of entertainment on the planet. Let’s face it, in the ’90s, they often outshined most shows. Sure, the ’80s had their iconic “Where’s the Beef?” slogan, but we had the legendary “Wazzzzzup?” thanks to Budweiser. We also had polar bears drinking coke, for that matter. And let’s not forget that irresistible craving for Taco Bell that arose whenever we saw that adorable little Chihuahua saying, “Yo quiero Taco Bell.”
The Romances/The Breakups
If you think Kim Kardashian’s amorous expeditions are a spectacle, you really missed out. The 90s had its fair share of passionate relationships that sensationalized the tabloid headlines. Dennis Rodman and Madonna, Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, Brandy, and Kobe Bryant, Naomi Campbell and Robert DeNiro, Alanis Morissette and David Coulier (yes, the weird uncle from Full House inspired a hit song), and who could forget Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston. While many of these relationships didn’t stand the test of time, the captured moments in photographs remain eternally glamorous.
Do you remember fanny packs? How about Pogs or Napster? The 90s were a time filled with trends and crazes that took the nation by storm. Among them were Beanie Babies, those stuffed animals filled with who-knows-what, which became a must-have item causing mall frenzies as collectors believed they would someday be worth a fortune. And then there’s the Macarena, perhaps the most infamous of them all, as its hypnotic rhythm sadly continues to inspire anyone who hears it to jump up and shake it, proving that it’s truly the 90s gift that keeps on giving.
As an actor, Robin Williams was truly a supernova on both stage and screen. With his extraordinary talent as both a dramatic actor and a comedian, he took audiences on an enthralling journey, tearing their ticket, holding the door, and inviting them to experience a rollercoaster of emotions. Throughout his incredible career spanning decades, it was his ’90s movies that truly solidified his legacy. Films like Mrs. Doubtfire, Jumanji, Hook, The Birdcage, and the unforgettable performance in Good Will Hunting, which earned him an Oscar. Need we say anything more?
The Disney Renaissance technically began with The Little Mermaid in 1989, but speaking on behalf of all 90’s kids – we have claimed Ariel as our own. Disney truly flourished throughout the 90s. Beauty and the Beast achieved a groundbreaking feat as the first animated film nominated for a Best Picture Academy Award. Let us also pay homage to the enduring masterpieces: Aladdin, The Lion King, Pocahontas, and Mulan. These treasures are universally acclaimed as some of the greatest films ever created and transcend the boundaries of animation. They hold a special place not only in our own hearts but children’s hearts worldwide, leaving an impact that will last a lifetime.
So what was it about Nickelodeon that made it so popular in the 90s? The simple response to this question can be found in Nickelodeon’s goals to make television that kids wanted to watch and could relate to. Nickelodeon was THE channel for kids (mainly because the Disney Channel cost extra). Rugrats, Hey Arnold, Doug, Ren and Stimpy, The Wild Thornberrys, and Ahh! Real Monsters were among our favorite animated series. But there were other shows like Hey Dude and Salute Your Shorts. And game shows like Double Dare, Wild, and Crazy Kids.
Children’s entertainment was at the heart of everything Nickelodeon did; they recognized their audience, cared about us, and respected us enough not to talk down to us.
MTV may have started in the 1980s, but it became an absolute cultural phenomenon in the 90s. You might have been a lovely guy, but MTV made you jealous of your buddies who had cable. We were intrigued by the network’s larger-than-life characters, and despite gradually shifting away from music, it remained a must-watch destination. We were hooked by its straightforward and undemanding material, and it didn’t take long for MTV to become the guiding force for a generation, driving us to uniformity.
The snacks and beverages of the 1990s were incredible! We drank Crystal Pepsi, a caffeine-free cola that looked as clear as water. I bet you didn’t know that the ’90s also gave birth to energy sodas. And do any of you remember Orbitz? It was a clear juice drink with fascinating colorful dots that appeared to be magically suspended in the liquid, providing a hypnotic effect similar to a lava lamp. It was the embodiment of odd, unusual, and quirky. It didn’t taste half bad either.
Remember the Pokémon craze? We’re not talking about 2016; we’re talking about the late ’90s. It was absolutely electrifying! Kids frantically collected and traded cards, saying “Pikachu” faster than you could blink. Not only did we have a Saturday morning cartoon, but we also scored a full-length feature film. Today we might have swapped our trading cards for smartphones to play Pokémon Go! Unfortunately, we still can’t seem to catch ’em all. Poor Ash, the quest continues!
Technology didn't control us
The 1990s marked the dawn of the technological era. Steve Jobs made his return to Apple, forever changing what we knew about mp3 players and phones, and PlayStation had just altered the gaming landscape. Yet, despite our limited technology, we had a sense of freedom. People would speak face-to-face or phone each other on their landlines. Well, until Mom intervened, urging us to go to bed. We didn’t rely on texting to catch up and didn’t worry about which filter would make the sunset we enjoyed with friends look the best because we didn’t obsess over capturing and sharing every moment.
We could genuinely savor the present and live in the moment without the pressure of constantly documenting and sharing it.
Life was simpler
Numerous factors have contributed to an alarming rise of paranoia in our culture since the year 2000. We had so much freedom of movement. Boarding an airplane in the 1990s was not fraught with the same dread about terrorism or missing flights that it is today. Instead of being confined to a world dominated by electronics, children spent more time playing outside. People knew their neighbors and chatted amicably when walking their dogs late at night or in the morning.
Block parties were a genuine social event, and celebrating birthdays in class was a total blast.
Message boards and chat rooms have assisted hobbyists and like-minded people in congregating virtually since the Internet’s birth. However, since then, society has devolved in direct proportion to the evolution of cyber-technology and the Troll was born. High-speed Internet connectivity enabled us to stream videos, which we primarily use for porn or pets. Facebook made it even simpler to meet like-minded idiots, with algorithm-customized news streams and specialist communities fostering confirmation bias and widespread misinformation. Then Twitter came along, allowing us to vent our rage and engage in angry tweetstorms directed at anyone for any reason.
The nostalgia brought about by the untapped potential of the Internet in the 90s and its innocence is in stark contrast to what it has become today; a chaotic mess that is definitely making us more stupider.
Y2K! I never did lose all my student debt when we hit midnight on December 31, 1999…
As the 90s ended, many people believed that the Y2K bug would erase all our debt – and that the end of the world might be heading our way. People worldwide started stockpiling non-perishable food, water, and even beanie babies in preparation for a zombie apocalypse projected for the year 2000. The other 50%, however, took a different approach: we embraced the atmosphere of celebration as if it were still 1999. Regardless of our various strategies, we were able to weather the storm and keep the party alive.
The roughly forty-five million children of Generation X, born between 1965 and 1980, truly made their presence felt in the 1990s. These badasses not only partied through Y2k but also overcame perceptions of cynicism, aimlessness, and laziness. In contrast to the baby boomers, who grew up in relative comfort and expected wealth, Generation X met economic uncertainty. They suffered through recessions, witnessed soaring divorce rates, and lived under the shadow of AIDS. Upon entering a competitive job market, they demonstrated dedication, ambition, and self-assurance. They are extremely tech-savvy because they were the first demographic to grow up with personal computers. They are highly motivated by social causes and financial achievement, and today have a total spending power of $2.4 trillion, surpassing all other generations currently alive.